Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Terrible UN Resolution - A Legacy of Hatred Affirmed

This past Friday may go down in history as one of the darkest days in American foreign policy.  On the day before the start of the Hanukkah celebrations in Israel and the start of Christmas Eve in the United States, the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution that declared that the nation of Israel was a foreign occupier of lands won through wars in 1948 and again in 1967.  Samantha Powers, our Ambassador to the United Nations, knowing the language of the resolution, decided to abstain from voting thus allowing the resolution to pass with a 14-0 vote. 

Before we look at the consequences of that vote, I want to remind you that when the United Nations was created following World War 2, five nations were granted a permanent seat on the Security Council: the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China.  These were the Allied Nations against Germany and Japan during the War.  (The other nine nations are appointed to specified terms on the Security Council).  Those five member nations have incredible powers on the Security Council.  A veto from any of them stops a resolution dead in its tracks.  In the past the United States has used that veto power to protect Israel from resolutions that threatened the sovereignty of Israel.  When the resolution condemning Israeli settlements in what was deemed "occupied territories" was first introduced last Thursday by the Egyptian representative on the Security Council, immediately Israel spoke out strongly against the resolution as did President-elect Trump, so the Egyptians withdrew the resolution.  But on Friday, four nations - Venezuela, New Zealand, Senegal, and Malaysia -  reintroduced the resolution.  It was at that point that Ms. Powers, under authority from the Obama Administration, abstained from voting. 

What does this resolution say?  It basically condemns the continuation of settlement creation by Israel in those lands Israel achieved through victories over the Arab States in 1948, again in 1967, and again in 1973.  These lands include Judea and Samaria - commonly called the West Bank - and East Jerusalem which is home to the Old City, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount.  When one reads the resolution with a deeper resolve, one finds that the intent is to declare that Israel has no right to East Jerusalem, Samaria, and Judea.  There should be no Jews living in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City - which is the way it was from 1948 to 1967 when the Jordanians controlled East Jerusalem.  There should be no Jews living in Judea and Samaria as well.

The reactions from our Congressional members was strong and bipartisan.  Why would the outgoing administration take such a drastic measure against our strongest ally in the Middle East?  Immediately questions were asked as to how this resolution could be undone.  But, that is just the fact - it cannot be undone.  Why? Because Russia and China have veto power over any resolution that would seek to overturn the one passed on December 23. 

Yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry, in a 70 minute speech, sought to explain why the United States had abstained from voting on the resolution.  He explained that the United Nations vote was about preserving the two-state solution.  He went on to say, "If the choice is one state, Israel can be Jewish or Democratic - it can't be both."  Let me remind Secretary Kerry that on more than one occasion, dating back to the days of Yassir Arafat, Israel has agreed to the creation of a Palestinian State, even to acceding land for its purposes.  Each time such a proposal has been made, the Palestinian leadership has rejected that proposal - wanting more.  Here is the question that should be asked, Secretary Kerry: Why don't the Palestinians want to live in a peaceful way with their Israeli neighbors?  Instead of Israel being condemned, I believe it is time that the nations of the world wake up and realize that it has been the Palestinian leadership that should be condemned.  It is their leadership that keeps the people stirred up.  It is their leadership that honors those who die as supposed martyrs.  It is their leadership that trains children to grow up hating Jews and those who live in Israel.  Mr. Secretary, why aren't those questions being asked? 

Furthermore, Palestinian President Abbas has stated strongly that in a Palestinians state there would be no room for any Jews.  Really?  Does that mean that Israel should retaliate and say that in Israel there would be no room for any Arabs?  Does anyone think that Israel would do that?  Of course not, Israel is a democratic state and welcoming. 

Following Secretary Kerry's long speech, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a rebuttal.  As part of that rebuttal he made this statement: "We have it on absolutely incontestable evidence the U.S. organized, advanced and brought the resolution to the Security Council."  He promised that the evidence would be shared with President Trump following his inauguration.  If such evidence does occur and can be produced, it will be a condemning act of a desperate out-going Administration seeking to leave some kind of legacy behind. 

What can a President Trump do?  First of all he can join with members of Congress to defund the United Nations.  Right now, the United States funds 22% of the expenses of the UN, so hitting them in the pocketbook would be a good place to start.  Second, he can affirm his strong support for Israel by visiting there early in his administration or by inviting the Prime Minister to come to Washington.  Third, he can move forward with a peace initiative - not dictating the terms, but being the silent partner in the negotiations. 

Before I close this final blog for 2016, I want to make one comment concerning the timing of the resolution last week.  It strikes me that the resolution was aimed not just at Israel as a political state, but at both the Jewish and Christian communities.  Hanukkah is an Israeli celebration of peace over anarchy.  You can read about this story in the First Book of Maccabees.  We know it as the Festival of Light.  Christmas is a time of peace and hope because the Messiah has been born.  Let us remember that Jesus Christ was a Jewish Messiah.  Perhaps I am reading too much into the timing of the resolution, but it just did not seem coincidental that it came when it did.  So the attack upon Judeo-Christian beliefs continue.  And, as we enter into a new year, I believe those assaults upon biblical foundational truths will continue.  The world is coming apart at the seams and the hatred being shown against Christian principles is becoming more intense than at any time I can remember in my lifetime.  Perhaps 2017 will be the year "the trumpet blows!"  With that thought I can say, "Hallelujah!"

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas - "It's the most wonderful time of the year" - at least that is what the song writer expressed.  For those of us who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Christmas is one of the most meaningful times of the year, second only to Good Friday and Easter.  But, come to think of it, if there had not been a Christmas, there could not have been either a Good Friday or an Easter. 

It seems that the attacks of Satan become more pronounced this season of the year.  It is almost as if by attacking Christmas  he is attacking Christ Himself.  Just this week, a terrorist drove a large truck into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring scores of others.  These people were there in that marketplace preparing themselves for the joys of the upcoming Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations with family and friends.  Suddenly those happy lives were snuffed out.  And you remember it was a year ago that two terrorists in San Bernadino opened fire in an office Christmas party killing scores of people.  Christmas has become a target, not just of the active jihadi terrorists, but of the more subtle, yet as dangerous, liberal secularists.  Let me cite one more example before I share with you the good news of Christmas.

Todd Starnes writes this week in his column about an elementary school in Pennsylvania who canceled a decades old tradition of a Christmas play.  The article can be found at   "The fifth graders at Centerville Elementary School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania have been performing 'A Christmas Carol' for decades.  But this year that tradition came to an abrupt end.  Parents told local reporters the play was canceled because two parents complained about a line in the Charles Dickens holiday classic.  The unnamed parents took offense at the words uttered by Tiny Tim, 'God bless us, everyone,' television station WHTM reported.  'I was very surprised because it's going on for decades and it's a tradition at the school that everyone looks forward to,' resident Jane Burkhart told the television station.  Like many in this deeply religious community, she was saddened by the cancelation.  'One little line shouldn't ruin it for every kid,' Burkhart said.  ' Charles Dickens is a class author, not a religious author.'

"Principal Tom Kramer addressed the controversy in a message posted on the elementary school's website.  (You can access his letter at  'We understand that some parents are upset that the play was cancelled, but we have heard from families on both ends of the spectrum, including those who expressed appreciation that the play, as it had traditionally been prepared and delivered, was cancelled,' he wrote.  Kramer went on to reject reports that their decision was based on one or two families.  'That's just not true,' he said.  He did not specifically address the parents' allegations that the play was cancelled because of the line, 'God bless us, everyone.' But he did seem to hint at some sort of issue.  'Our decision is rooted in the desire to be respectful of the many cultural and religious backgrounds represented by the students attending Centerville Elementary,' he wrote.  That's a mighty big clue, folks.  In order to be tolerant and diverse, public schools have to eradicate any mention of God.

"But to be fair - the school administration says their decision was mostly because of the amount of time it took to produce the show (about 20 hours).  'Given the changes in state standards in recent years, we could not defend the commitment of this kind of instructional time to something not part of the fifth-grade curriculum,' he wrote.  Heaven forbid the teachers try to introduce the children to the world of performing arts.  The principal also pointed out that 'producing and performing a play is not part of the written curriculum for fifth grade.'  So, after more than 40 years of Christmas productions featuring Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge, he's just now figuring that out? 

"Randy Wenger is the chief counsel for the Independence Law Center in Harrisburg.  He's also a longtime resident of Lancaster County.  'As a constitutional attorney I hate to see traditions taken away in my own community,' he told me.  'What does this communicate to our kids?  It says that anything religious is really not appropriate in public life.  It's something you're supposed to keep to yourself. ... It seems like people are trying to take away our traditions left and right.  We need to do something to push back.'  But this year, I'm afraid Tiny Tim's goose has been cooked - done-in by the Ghost of Christmas Intolerance.  Bah, humbug, indeed."

Now allow me to share with you another story.  This past weekend our church held its annual Living Nativity.  Because of the unseasonably cold weather - Sunday morning's low was 25 below zero - most of the Living Nativity was moved inside for both Saturday and Sunday night.  We have scores of volunteers who help to make this Christmas-gift to the community a reality.  I wandered over the pen where some goats were devouring bales of hay, when a young boy, dressed as a shepherd, came to me and asked if I would like to hear his story.  I agreed to listen and for the next few minutes he shared with me the story from Luke 2.  My heart rejoiced.  Dressed as a shepherd, this young boy began to understand what happened that first Christmas Eve so long ago. 

Friends, Christmas is a fact of history.  Jesus Christ came.  He was born.  He lived.  He died.  He rose again.  Jesus Christ is an historical reality.  The attack upon Christmas today is almost as if Satan would have us believe that if Christmas is destroyed so is the message of Christmas that God came in the flesh to redeem us to Himself.  But, erasing Christmas can no more erase Christ than destroying statues of Robert E Lee can erase the American Civil War.  Christmas is Jesus Christ.  He and He alone is the reason for the Season. 

And so, in the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, everyone."  And I wish you a very Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas: Light Exposing Darkness

Christmas is just a few days away.  We have watched in amazement as boys and girls have retold the Christmas story through drama and song with an excitement that many of us adults have lost.  It is almost with a reverence they gently rock the baby Jesus in their arms as they sing "Away in a Manger."  Our Lord must truly smile upon them. 

We have sung many of the great songs of Christmas, somehow never tiring of those timeless melodies or the even more timeless words.  How could one ever grow tired with "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and its powerful, yet reverent refrains, "Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord?"  Or how could one not be amazed with those marvelous words, "O little town of Bethlehem...the hopes and fears of all the years are instilled in thee tonight?"  And there are those almost immortal words, "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright... sleep in heavenly peace."  Generation after generation has never grown tired of singing those carols. 

And yet not everyone is excited over the music of Christmas.  I share the following story from the pen of Todd Starnes.  It can be found at  This is another one of those attempts by one or two individuals whose desire in life seems to be to attack the person of God.  The article begins, "School children in Wake County, North Carolina will no longer be allowed to sing Christmas carols at an annual Nativity celebration after they received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers."  Let me just add that the day will come when these people will be privileged to live in a world that will be completely devoid of the presence of God.  As joyous as they might think that would be, I highly doubt, that when it happens, there will be much joy.  Now, back to the article.

"The Freedom from Religion Foundation said the performance at the annual Apex Christmas Nativity Celebration were unconstitutional and could not continue.  'The whole purpose of the event is to display and honor nativity scenes, which highlight an exclusively Christian aspect of the holiday season, rather than a secular Christmas celebration,' FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott wrote in a complaint to the district last year.  'Students are intentionally brought to the church to be exposed to hundreds of depictions of the Christian legend of Jesus' birth.'  Legend?  Well, if that doesn't jingle your bells...

"Anyway, the school district decided it would be best to ban student choirs from taking part in this year's celebration - most certainly breaking the hearts of children who wanted to spread a bit of Christmas cheer.  'No one was particularly happy with the outcome of this,' school district spokesman Tim Simmons told The News & Observer.  'Some schools had been participating for several years.'  The annual event is a three-day 'celebration of the birth and ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus  Christ,' sponsored by the Church of Latter-day Saints in Apex.  ...  I reached out to Steven Bodhaine, who oversees nine Mormon congregations in Wake County - a very nice gentleman.  He assured me there has never been any proselytizing at the celebration.  'There's never been a single incident or concern in the past 13 years,' he said.  'In fact, these schools often look forward to this because it's such a beautiful venue to perform.'" 

Mr. Starnes concludes his article this way: "The Freedom From Religion Foundation says they are dedicated to the 'separation of church and state.'  But in reality they are a bunch of mean-spirited Christophobic agitators who prey on small towns and innocent school children. ...  What a heartless thing for someone to do - setting loose a bunch of godless Grinches so they could bully children.  Folks, if that doesn't curdle your egg nog, I don't know what will."

It seems that we encounter this agnostic, even atheistic, attitude every Christmas Season.  Just as His birth created an uproar in Jerusalem when King Herod heard of it through the magi, so His birth continues to create an uproar with many who have turned away from Him as had King Herod of old.  The only recourse for King Herod was to eliminate Jesus, thus his insane order to have all the baby boys under the age of two in the area surrounding Bethlehem killed.  So also the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and their partner in crime, the ACLU, seek to destroy those venues where the story of Jesus is proclaimed.  Herod could have sought the Truth that Jesus came to bring...but he did not.  Those who belong to the FFRF would be welcomed by Jesus...but they, too, have walked away.  How sad to miss the real Reason why we celebrate Christmas.

But let me share some great news.  This article was written by Bob Unruh and can be found at:  You might remember earlier this fall I had written about a push both in Iowa and in Massachusetts that would force churches to have all their bathrooms be gender neutral because their buildings were seen as being places of public accommodation.  This designation came because a church might host a fund raiser for a youth initiative and invite the city to come for a spaghetti dinner or an ice cream social.  But, in the State of Massachusetts, state officials reversed their decision after being sued over alleged constitutional violations.  "The Alliance Defending Freedom says four Massachusetts churches and their pastors are voluntarily dismissing their lawsuit after the state changed its 'Gender Identity Guidance.'  ADF brought its complaint in October against Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination commissioners Jamie R. Williamson, Sunila T. George and Charlotte G. Richie, and Attorney General Maura Healey.  Massachusetts makes 'gender identity' a special class, granting more protections than ordinary citizens.  Under the measure, the attorney general had claimed 'houses of worship' are places of 'public accommodation,' and members, therefore, cannot even express ideas concerning 'religious expression regarding biological sex and gender identity.'  The complaint alleged state officials decided to interpret the law 'to force churches to open church changing rooms, shower facilities, restrooms, and other intimate areas [to people] based on their perceived gender identity, and not their biological sex, in violation of the churches' religious beliefs.' 

"Now the case is being dismissed, because the state has retreated.  State officials admitted the First Amendment protects a church's freedom to operate consistently with its faith even when engaged in community outreach activities, such as spaghetti suppers."

This decision is a huge one for churches.  I am grateful to the lawyers and staff at ADF for their tireless work on behalf of the Christian community to help safeguard our rights to proclaim the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. 

When the light of Jesus Christ penetrates the darkness of this fallen world, one of two reactions occur.  People either retreat more deeply into the darkness or they cautiously approach the light.  King Herod and those who identify with today's Freedom From Religion Foundation retreat into their darkness, while others, like the magi and those with the Alliance Defending Freedom, approach the light and have lives forever changed. 

So, how has Jesus Christ impacted your life this Christmas? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Remembering 75 Years Ago Today

"December 7 - a day that will live in infamy."  That is how President Franklin Roosevelt described this day seventy-five years ago.  What had begun as a quiet Sunday at Pearl Harbor soon became a scene of death and destruction as squadron after squadron of Japanese fighter planes attacked and bombed the U.S. Naval fleet that was anchored there and the Army Air Corp planes hangared at nearby Hickam Field.  Over two thousand soldiers, sailors, and airmen died that day, some of whom are still entombed within the ship that they were stationed upon.  Not since the British invasion of our country in 1812 had our nation experienced an attack by a foreign enemy upon its shores.  The consequences of this Japanese attack were swift with the United States Congress declaring war upon both Germany and Japan just days afterwards.  America was now at war.  Young men enlisted to join the fight against America's enemies in Europe and in Asia.  America had not been called upon to fight a war on two battle fronts since the days of the American Civil War.  America's factories began to turn out war materials.  People began united with the one goal of winning this war.  The war on both fronts was a slugfest with devastating casualties on both sides.  Yet, the American soldier, sailor, and airman prevailed. 

I just finished reading a remarkable book titled, "The Killing of the Far East."  It is another in a series of "Killing" books written by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugan.  Within the pages of this book, the authors relate the story of the development of the atomic bomb and explain why it was used as an instrument of last resort to force the Japanese into an unconditional surrender.  The book does not avoid the awful pictures of the devastation those bombs wrecked upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki - the details are graphic; the images stagger our imaginations.  Yet the authors also do not avoid the conflicted emotions of President Truman and General MacArthur over such a plan.  The dropping of the atomic bomb indeed shortened the war and, as a result, saved many American and Japanese lives.  And, gratefully, it was America who developed the atomic bomb first; we know the Germans were working on creating a nuclear device as the war in Europe was winding down. 

Only two atomic bombs have ever been unleashed against an enemy nation - both occurring in August 1945.  Would some nation dare to use even more powerful bombs today?  Some would say that any sane nation would not, but, perhaps that might have been the thinking in 1945.   But what about a rogue nation like North Korea or Iran; would they dare to use such an instrument of destruction?  One would hope not.  What was to America's advantage in 1945 - no other nation had a nuclear weapon - is no longer an advantage today with nearly a dozen nations possessing nuclear capabilities.  So, perhaps there might be more caution exercised before the nuclear option would be exercised.  One would certainly hope.

Seventy-five years ago today, our nation entered into a new era.  Yes, the War was won, but a lasting peace as a result of that War has never been achieved.  The "wars and rumors of war" that Jesus related to His disciples there on Olivet's Hill, have been the daily reality in our lifetimes.  In fact, we have seen an escalation in those "wars and rumors of war."  America's confidence in World War II was in its military superiority which did prevail.  But where is our confidence today?  Where is your confidence?  Yes, I am grateful for a strong military and I am hopeful that a President Trump will strengthen our military even more.  But my ultimate confidence can best be expressed with these words from the Psalmist David: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses (horses and chariots represented the military might of the ancient world), but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7). 

Jesus Christ came that first Christmas to offer us a new hope, a new confidence, a new purpose for life.  Yes, my confidence is in Him because I know that He has all things under His authority.  Christmas is the reminder that this is His Story.  How wonderful it is to know the Christ of Christmas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Christmas Book "Wish" List

Thanksgiving Day may now be only a memory, but let's not forget that everyday should be a thanksgiving day.  God has blessed us so incredibly that we should never fail to have a note of thanksgiving upon our hearts and lips. 

And one of the things for which we should give praise and thanksgiving to God is the birth of the Lord Jesus - the reason for this Advent Season.  As hard as the world tries to push Jesus away from Christmas, the fact remains that without Jesus there would be no Christmas.  The old cliché is true: He is the Reason for the season. 

One of the important aspects of Advent is the giving and receiving of gifts from family and friends.  I have never been a person who created a long "wish-list" for Christmas.  I remember when I must have been in second or third grade that all I wanted was a Roy Rogers holster set.  Roy Rogers was one of my childhood heroes and I wanted to be just like him.  Wow!  I can still remember opening up that gift on Christmas morning and there was my Roy Rogers holster set. 

I have to be honest, now my list is even shorter - just ask my kids what I want for Christmas and they will tell you: "Dad just wants gift cards to his favorite book store."  Yes, books make me a "happy camper."  And, through the years I have read many books that I highly recommend to others.  So, perhaps a book or two might be on your "wish list."  Allow me to add a few that I think you would find interesting and meaningful.

The first book is titled, Rescuing the Gospel, and was written by Erwin Lutzer, pastor at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago.  The book was published by Baker Books in 2016.  The year 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of his 95 theses on the chapel door at the Castle of Wittenberg beginning which has come to be known as the Protestant Reformation.  Dr. Lutzer has done a remarkable job in helping his readers to better understand the times of Martin Luther and John Calvin and the legacy they have left behind.  I know there will be many other titles available in 2017 on Luther, but this would be a good place to begin.  I found the book to be very readable and insightful.  If you can read only one book on the Reformation, this would be the one I would recommend.

The second book is titled, The Emmaus Code, and was written by David Limbaugh who is the brother of Rush Limbaugh.  The book was published by Regnery Publishers in 2015.  This book begins with the account of Jesus walking on the Emmaus Road with two of His disciples that first resurrection morning.  Luke records that "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).  Mr. Limbaugh seeks to address what that conversation might have been like.  How does the Old Testament prepare us for the story of Jesus?  I bought this book because I thought it would help me with some sermon preps in the series of messages I have titled, "Thru the Bible: The Thread of Redemption."  I found the book to be fascinating.  If you are interested in your own study of how Jesus is portrayed in the Old Testament, this book should be a must reading for you.  Perhaps you could even use this as a small group study.  After reading this book I began to better understand that Emmaus Road conversation.  Perhaps Jesus will share that conversation with us in glory.

A third book is titled, The First Congress, and was written by Fergus M. Bordewich.  It was published by Simon & Schuster in 2016.  For the past few years I have been drawn into knowing the hearts and minds and stories of our Founding Fathers.  I have read, and in some cases reread, many of the books written by Joseph Ellis, who in my opinion, is one of the best and most readable historians of this period.  I have highly recommended two of his books in the past: The Founding Brothers and An American Creation.  I found Dr. Bordewich's book difficult at first, but as he began to portray the scenes of the first Congress meeting in New York City the excitement began to build.  Many of the same men who helped win the War of Independence and later wrote the Constitution, were there for this remarkable first Congress.  They were charting new waters for no one in history had created the kind of government that they had.  There were conflicts over the separations of powers.  There were struggles over how to bring 13 colonies into a unified national interest.  There was the shadow of slavery that lingered over their deliberations.  And the agonizing questions of how a young nation was to pay for its enormous wartime debts needed to be resolved.  There were clashes of personalities - a James Madison vs. a Alexander Hamilton, for example.  There was the bored expressions of a John Adams who disliked being Vice President.  And, over all and probably holding it all together, was the peaceful presence of George Washington, filling that role of our first President.  The story of the First Congress continues the story of God's miraculous hand upon our nation in its infancy.  If you bear with the first couple of chapters, you will be richly rewarded at the end. 

A final book I have read this past year that I recommend is titled, If You Can Keep It, and was written by Eric Metaxas, who is becoming one of my favorite authors.  (If you have not read his powerful biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you really need to add that to you list.  It is a fascinating and definitive study of the life of a martyr of the Church in the dark days of Nazi Germany).  The book If You Can Keep It was published by Viking Press in 2016.  This book concerns the history of the writing of the Constitution of the United States.  The author tells that story through the stories of those who were involved in that historic moment. 

For those who enjoy historical and biblical fictional stories, I can recommend the new series by Lynn Austin titled The Restoration Chronicles.  There are three volumes in this series.  The first is the story of Zechariah and titled, Return to Me; the second is the story of Ezra and titled, Keepers of the Covenant; while the third and final is the story of Nehemiah and titled, On This Foundation.   The author does an excellent job of staying with the story as told in the Bible, yet she has a way of bringing the story into incredible life - you will feel like you are actually there within the story yourself.  If you begin reading one of these, you find it difficult putting it down.

Finally, there are those classics which never are outdated.  These include the classic on Christian living by C.S. Lewis and titled, Mere Christianity.  By the way, this book would make for an excellent small group study; it generate a lot of discussion about our society and culture and how it views Christ and Christianity.  A second classic was written by A.W. Tozer and titled, "The Knowledge of the Holy."  If you are interested in a readable, yet powerful, study of the character of God, this is absolutely must reading. 

With the long winter evenings lying just ahead, one can never go wrong to put a fire in the fireplace, grab a steaming cup of hot chocolate or coffee, and take a good book off the shelf.  Take a trip back into time and discover people and events that still impact our world. 

Happy reading, everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Word of the Year: Post-Truth

I love playing and using words.  I guess when you are called upon to preach and teach you desire to master the use of words. Words are an essential part of our communication process.  Most of the time we simply use words without really giving those words a lot of thought.  But there are those times when words take on a new purpose.  They become special words.  I woke up this morning and while reading my morning newspaper - yes, I still get a newspaper - I read an article about the 2016 "word of the year." 

According to the Oxford Dictionaries organization, the 2016 international word of the year is "post-truth" which is defined as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."  According to the article, published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and first published by Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times, "The term, whose first known usage in this sense was in a 1992 essay in the Nation magazine, does not represent an entirely new concept.  But it does, Martin (Katherine Connor Martin, the head of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford University Press) said, reflect a step past 'truthiness,' the Stephen Colbert coinage that Merriam-Webster and the American Dialect Society chose as word of the year a decade ago.  'Truthiness is a humorous way of discussing a quality of specific claims,' she said.  'Post-truth is an adjective that is describing a much bigger thing.  It's saying that the truth is being regarded as mostly irrelevant.'"

Emotions and personal opinions now take precedent over truth.  But we see this over and over.  Let's just take a recent example.  Following the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the President of the University of Virginia sent a letter to students and other campus leaders in which he quoted from Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University.  That letter sent many who received it into an angry spirit.  Several hundred signed a petition asking the President to rescind that letter omitting the quote from Thomas Jefferson.  Their rationale: Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, thus making what he had said offensive.  Emotions and personal opinions taking precedent over historical truth. 

History cannot be erased.  What happened did in fact happen.  You cannot go back and undo history.  (I think we all would like to go back and rewind the clock and make some changes even in our own history, but we can't).  The facts of history may not agree with my personal opinions today or even with the way that I am feeling today.  Slavery was part of our nation's past.  Yes, it left a stain that is still felt today.  But, removing the statues of Robert E Lee of Nathan Bedford Forrest or Jefferson Davis will not remove that stain.  The same can be said of any truth statement that we do not like - we simply cannot erase it.  Truth is truth.  If it is not truth, then it is mere opinion and mere opinion can provide no foundation for anyone else to build upon except the person with the opinion.  I will respect your opinion but not necessarily make those opinions my own.  But truth is both yours and mine. 

So, how does a Christian live in a "post truth" world?  First, we need to reaffirm that the Bible is God's Word - it is inerrant; it is inspired; it is the final authority for faith and life.  You should be able to answer this question: Why do I believe the Bible is God's Word? 

Second, we need to know what the Bible has to say.  If it truly is God's Word, then, don't you think it is important enough that we should at least read it and probably should spend some time studying it so that we know what it teaches?  And this begins with knowing the stories within the Bible - those of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Rebekah, of Jacob and Esau, of Joseph and Egypt, of Moses and the return of the Israelites, of Joshua, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, the prophets, the disciples and the stories of Jesus.  These stories contain truth statements God desires for us to know. 

Third, we are to live out that truth before others.  Knowing the Word of God is not some academic experience.  We describe college as being an academic experience, but, truth be told, that experience only becomes realized when a person begins to work in that field for which he/she has trained.  So it is with our experience in the Word of God.  That experience becomes realized only when we begin to live out those truths in our own lives and before others.  Then we do we being to live with incarnational truth. 

The world has declared that truth is not as relevant in the public square as it once was.  Perhaps it is not relevant at all.  But a culture cannot exist on the beliefs only in emotions and personal opinions.  So, friends, let's cling tightly to truth - God's truth. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


What an amazing week this has been!  A week ago tonight, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, a team that had not won any championships since 1908 (that was 9 years before America entered into World War I!) finally achieved baseball's highest prize - the World Series Championship.  I have rooted for the Chicago Cubs for many years and it seemed that, not too long into many of those seasons, I could be heard saying, "Wait until next year!"  But now the wait is over!  A young team believed in themselves even when their backs were up against the wall to a very good Cleveland Indian team.  They were a fun team to watch.  They played with enthusiasm.  I think Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Jack Brickhouse, and Harry Carey would have approved of the 2016 Chicago Cubs team.  They won a title, not just for themselves, but for a city and for a group of legendary players who had donned a Cubs' uniform but never knew the thrill of a game 7 in the World Series.  November 2 was a very fun night!

Then, what about last night?!  Wow!  Political pundits are speechless.  Pollsters are wondering what happened.  The main-stream media is scratching its head.  Establishment leaders on both sides of the aisle are regrouping and trying to decide what the next step is.  It was sort of fun watching their consternation last night.  To be honest, I went to bed before the final call was made, but it appeared that Donald Trump had the election secured. 

So, how did it happen that a man who had absolutely no political experience could be elected to the highest office in the land and the most important office in the world?  Here was a man who did not have the endorsement of many within the Republican establishment, even after he had won their party's nomination.  Many sought to distance themselves from him.  And Trump certainly was the target of the main-stream media from the very beginning.  His life was put under the microscope, and, yes, there were some things that caused disappointment and embarrassment.  But those same media-pundits were not as quick to examine Secretary Clinton until Wikileaks began dumping huge quantities of revealing emails into the public's lap.  From a logical perspective, there was no way that Donald J Trump should become the 45th President of the United States let alone would become that.

So, again, how did it happen?  Let me share with you two reasons that resonate with me.  I will share the lesser important one first.  Donald Trump had a message that, from the very beginning of his campaign, appealed to the common people who had come to feel very disenfranchised by politicians.  He echoed their concerns.  It was almost as if he had peered into their hearts and saw the anguish that was there.  He saw that most politicians would only talk about issues...he wanted to do something about those issues.  When you look at the map of the popular vote, it truly is amazing.  Michigan - predominately red.  Wisconsin - predominately red.  Iowa - predominately red.  Even Minnesota - predominately red.  Farmers, auto workers, coal miners, textile workers, day laborers found a hope in the message Donald Trump offered.  He was not a politician.  He was a very successful businessman.  Perhaps he could get things moving in a right direction.  And, when Secretary Clinton described those who followed Trump as being a basketful of deplorables and unredeemables, well that just increased the momentum.  People truly believed those words of Trump, "What have you got to lose by voting for me?" 

But, as I still process the result of this election, I believe we have seen a miracle from God because many of us were driven to pray diligently for this election - perhaps as we have never prayed for an election before.  Franklin Graham called people to pray yesterday.  Others did as well.  It was almost as if there was this feeling that America was running out of time.  We pleaded with God for one final opportunity to have a "Josiah" experience - a national turning to God.  And God heard our prayers.  But now is not the time to stop praying.  It really is time to continue praying for God's healing to be upon our land.  Wouldn't it be great if God would get hold of Donald Trump's heart?  He has invited some very outspoken evangelicals to be part of his team as a candidate; let's pray that those same men will be invited to give counsel now that he is president-elect.  And how we need to pray that our new president will surround himself with men and women of strong convictions and not just swayed by the winds of cultural change.  Wouldn't it be great if those advisors really had a heart for a nation envisioned by our Founding Fathers?  And how we need to pray that our new president will cultivate a strong working relationship with the Congress - that he would not see them as adversaries, but as team members to work together to accomplish some great things for America.  We see such scenes in the Old Testament: the stories of Hezekiah and Josiah come to mind, as well as those of Nehemiah. 

These are historic days.  I believe God is giving America one last chance.  The spiritual battle will rage more intensely...but let's join hands and hearts to claim the victory through Christ Jesus.

Finally, over the weekend I went to see the new movie directed by Mel Gibson.  "Hacksaw Ridge" is one of the most intense movies I have seen - possibly since "Saving Private Ryan" or "The Passion of the Christ."  The movie follows the story of Desmond Daws, the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The film is not for the weak-in-heart.  If the sight of blood and mangled bodies makes you squeamish, then this is not for you.  Gibson does not pull any punches with regard to the horrors of war, nor of the courage of one young man to risk his own life to rescue those of his comrades, many of whom had been hostile toward him during basic training.  As I left hat theater after seeing what so many of our young men went through in order that I could enjoy the freedoms that I have, I became very angry at those NFL players who have decided to dishonor our flag and our national anthem.  I would like to roundup all those players, strap them in theater seats and show them this movie and then explain to them that those young men fought and died to defend our nation's flag and the anthem that represents us.  I highly recommend this movie.  Its story needs to be told.  Its spirit needs to be resurrected in our nation's psyche. 

Yes, it has been a pretty incredible last few days.  Praise God He is still in control.  He continues to be our hope.  Even so come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

More Police Officers Murdered - Why?

Overnight it happened again, this time in Des Moines, Iowa, where two police officers were gunned down while sitting in their patrol cars.  At this time a suspect has been identified but not yet apprehended.  With these two deaths, fifty law enforcement officers have been murdered while in the line of duty this year.  To put on the blue uniform seems to also include putting a target upon your back.  Now law enforcement officials have always been targeted.  The stories of the gunning down of sheriffs and marshals in the Old West are legendary.  And then there are those horrific stories that appear during the days of Prohibition and the rise of the gangsters who took out their wrath upon those who wore the badge.  But it did not seem that even with those stories that law enforcement officials were hunted down just because they wore a badge as they are today. 

Why is this happening? is a question we all are asking.  I am not sure I have a definitive answer but I believe it stems from a society and culture that has a blatant disrespect for authority.  When I was a child growing up my parents taught me to always respect those who wore the badge of law.  I was to be courteous to them if I was pulled over for a traffic offense.  And, what my parents taught me was also amplified with what I was taught in school. 

But all that changed when I went away to school.  For two years I worked as part of the campus security team at Wheaton College.  It was a great job and I loved the hours and the people with whom I worked.  But I kept noticing a lack of respect on the part of many students for the position that I held.  (And this was a Christian college).  I think I was called every name possible that reflected disrespect for the badge that I wore and for the authority that was vested in me and my fellow officers.  That generation includes in its historic landscape such events as Woodstock and the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  Now that legacy of disrespect has found roots in their children and in their grandchildren.

And look at our presidential candidates, one of whom will become President of the United States next Tuesday.  One candidate has willfully broken the law by lying to Congress and by defying the subpoenas that were issued.  There is a ruthlessness about that campaign that almost staggers our imagination.  And the other candidate may have violated laws regarding his taxes, although those have not yet been substantiated.  Where is the demonstrated respect for authority?

Interestingly enough, I have found a time very similar to what we are experiencing today within the Bible.  It certainly is not a time that ancient Israel was particularly fond of.  But it did happen.  And I am speaking with regard to the time of the judges.  The attitude of the people can be summed up with this scriptural passage (in fact, it is repeated twice): "In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit." (Judges 17:6, 21:25). 

Let me see if I can paint the picture.  There was no national leadership.  It was "every tribe for itself" as best seen in those closing chapters of Judges.  It seems that even the religious leadership was corrupted and incapable of truly leading under God's banner.  And, in the absence of God, truth becomes at best marginalized, if not abdicated altogether.  And, when truth is cast aside, personal opinions become dominate.  And, when personal opinions take priority, then everyone is right and no one is wrong.  Therefore, respect for authority collapses.  Those who seek to enforce laws become targets.  Thus, police officers are murdered at the rate of over one per week. 

But, let's draw this even wider.  In the absence of God, not only does truth become marginalized, respect for others becomes marginalized as well.  Take the city of Chicago for example.  This past weekend 17 people were murdered in Chicago within the space of just over 48 hours, making a total of over 600 people murdered on the streets of this amazing city over the past ten months - 60 people per month; 2 people per day.  Staggering.  And this could be added to with one city after another.  What has happened?  We no longer show respect for one another as we should.  And  believe it all stems from the direction our culture has gone in walking away from God and from God's truth.  The consequences are overwhelming.

Is there any hope for our nation?  That is the question I have been asked on several occasions these past few weeks.  My honest response is, "I don't know, but I think the answer will become clearer on November 8."  As I shared with you last week, I am NOT voting for a personality, I AM voting for an ideology and the contrast could not be clearer, at least in my mind.  Will I vote?  Absolutely as it is not only my Constitutional privilege, but it is my Christian obligation.  God is not calling us to stay at home.  God wants you to be involved in this process.  So, I will vote and I will pray, knowing that, whatever the outcome God is still on the throne and that the world will continue to move toward that ultimate purpose for which God has designed it.  And that gives me great peace!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Real Issue of This Election: Nationalism vs. Globalism - Why Does It Matter?

We are now less than two weeks from one of the most crucial elections of my lifetime.  This is one of those elections where many people are saying, "How can we vote for none-of-the-above?"  Yet, vote we must.  The future of our nation is dependent upon it.  Really this election is not so much about personalities as it is upon ideologies.  We know what America has become over the past years.  Since 1973 we have witnessed the legalized slaughter of millions of unborn children, many of whom have been killed because they were an inconvenience to a mom and a dad and their plans.  We have witnessed the escalation of the racial divide to a height we have not seen in many years.  We have also witnessed the continued attacks upon our law-enforcement officials and upon others who are in authority.  Our morals have deteriorated to the place where amorality has even surpassed immorality.  We have redefined marriage.  We have redefined gender.  We have multiplied the confusion among people as to who they really are.  And, above all, God has been totally abandoned within the marketplace.  Those few businesses that seek to continue to stand for principles and for God are maligned and often forced out of business. 

Let me share a couple of articles with you that illustrate that this election is about ideology, not personality.  This past weekend Todd Starnes wrote a piece titled, "ACLU: School's Salute to Cops Sends 'Ominous, Frightening Message.'"  It can be found at:  Let me quote briefly from this article.
"A patriotic, pre-game celebration honoring law enforcement and first responders at a high school football game has drawn the ire of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.  New Jersey's Middletown High School South saluted more than 100 police officers and military personnel on Oct. 21st.  The celebration culminated with teenaged football players and police officers unfurling a massive American flag  before singing the national anthem.  'A star-spangled celebration,' is how the Asbury Park Press described the festivities.  But the ACLU of New Jersey exploded with fury - accusing organizers of sending an 'ominous, frightening message.'

"In a letter to school leaders, the ACLU-NJ and the local chapter of the NAACP said the school was using the salute to 'intimidate and ostracize people who express their views about systemic racism and social justice.'  The controversy stems in part from some comments Middletown Police Deputy Chief Stephen Dollinger made to the Asbury Park Press.  He reportedly told the newspaper that the salute was prompted by the behavior of San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  'It's okay to stand up for social justice, inequality and reform,' he told the newspaper in advance of the football game.  'It's another thing to not stand up for the national anthem.'  Dollinger later said his remarks had been 'twisted' and the event had nothing to do with the disgraced NFL quarterback or Black Lives Matter.  'I said we respect the rights of everybody to stand up for social justice and equality and reform, but we also respect our country and want to celebrate the first responders, the national anthem,' he told the newspaper.

"Regardless, the idea of honoring those who protect and serve rankled the ACLU and their minions.  'The criticism the deputy police chief expressed for people who decline to stand for the national anthem in protest serves to erect walls between police and the communities they serve,' said ACLU-NJ policy counsel Dianna Houenou.  'The people police are sworn to protect and serve should not have to fear that the value officers assign to them is determined by the beliefs they hold,' she added.  ...  Jasmine Crenshaw, another ACLU lackey, raged over the deputy chief's behavior.  'The statements made by the deputy police chief and the event's ostentatious show of power send an ominous, frightening message: that, as an official stance, law enforcement will not tolerate expressions acknowledging our nation's history of unequal treatment and systemic oppression,' Crenshaw said.  'The magnitude of this event chills the belief that police should be held accountable when they abuse their power or discriminate against people of color, and pressures student athletes to act as props of the police,' she added."  Starnes concludes, "I've grown extremely tired of these anti-American agitators who have hijacked our sporting events and turned them into platforms to spew their hatred for the red, white and blue."

Friends, the clash between racial injustice and law enforcement is an ideological problem.  I have been listening to what the candidates have said about how they will begin that healing.  One candidate wants to revisit the past attempts which have failed to bring solutions; the other wants to move forward and try something new.  I am looking past personalities to ideologies.

Allow me to share portions of another, longer article that was posted on October 21 by World News Daily.  It can be found at  The article begins with a key sentence that should grab each of us: "It's the key choice of the 2016 election: nationalism versus globalism."  Friends, that sentence alone should cause you to click on the link and continue reading.  One candidate has said from the very beginning that he wants to "make America great again."  The other candidate has gone on record in a speech given to a group of business people in Brazil that she favors open borders and globalism.  Now I do not know who will win in two weeks, but I am hoping that many of us will begin to look beyond those personality issues - which, by the way, the main stream media has continually focused upon - at least for one candidate - and look at the vision those candidates have for our nation.  One candidate desires that we continue to become just like all the other nations in the world.  Our armed forces will continue to become less strong.  Our economy will become lessen as the focus will be upon all of us being equals, thus eliminating any incentive to get ahead.  Justices to the United States Supreme Court will be chosen that will make any laws that Congress fails to make, or at least interpret laws so that the desired impact will be felt.  The other candidate envisions a strengthening of what made America great in the first place.

Let me return to this article just briefly as it explains why this choice between nationalism and globalism should impact us as believers.  "'Globalism is not a biblical concept,' says pastor Carl Gallups, an expert in eschatology.  He argues there is deep spiritual significance in the contemporary push for one world government.  'The only attempts at achieving "globalism" presented in the Bible were destroyed or dispersed by the Lord,' he said.  'We are also informed through warnings of biblical end times prophecies that a globalist spirit and leader will be the defining characteristic of the days of great tribulation that are to come upon the whole Earth.  And this "Antichrist" system, which includes globalism, is presented to us as the epitome of evil which is ultimately destroyed by the second coming.'"

Friends, these are critical days for us.  If you are contemplating NOT voting because you strongly dislike the personalities of the two people at the top of the tickets, I would encourage you to look beyond those personalities - which I agree are very dislikeable - and examine the ideologies that are representative.  In doing so, look beyond those 10-15 second sound-bytes of the main stream media and do some research on your own.  Carefully and prayerfully make your decision and then go and vote for the candidate of your choice.  The future of our country is depending upon your vote! 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A UN Resolution and a State Lawsuit - Both Are Bad

It seems that the mainstream media does not do an adequate job of sharing with us the happenings of the various agencies of the United Nations.  For example, did you know that the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) recently passed a resolution denying any ancient Jewish connection to the Temple Mount or the Western Wall?  Well, they did.

The resolution was initiated on behalf of the Palestinians.  It states that the Temple Mount, the place where the First and Second Temples stood, is holy only to Muslims.  In response to the resolution, Israel's permanent delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador Carmel Shama HaCohen, said, "Israel and the Jewish people do not require UNESCO's or any other country's confirmation of the special connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel and Jerusalem in general, and the holy sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular.  There is no connection of another people to another place in the world that comes close to the strength and depth of our connection to Jerusalem from a religious, historical and national perspective, a connection that has stood the test of 2,000 years."  (  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, "To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that the Chinese have no connection to the Great Wall of China and the Egyptians have no connection to the pyramids.  By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it had left."

Friends, the Jewish roots associated with the Temple Mount go back to the time of David, some ten centuries before the time of Christ, or some 17 centuries before the time of Mohammed.  David selected this site for the construction of the Temple, a project that he left in the capable hands of his son, Solomon.  Artifacts discovered in and around the Temple Mount bear the historicity of the strong Jewish claims to this place.  I have seen many of those artifacts in the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem.  But it seems that the world wants to negate those many centuries of Jewish history.  But you cannot erase history.  It is there.  It is part of our past.  And it seems that anti-Semitism now must go back into that ancient history.  But, according to the scriptures, this city of Jerusalem will become the capitol city of the world when Jesus Christ returns. 

I would like to share a second article with you.  It can be found at  "For a second time in just weeks, a state finds itself on defense in a legal action triggered by its attempt to dictate what ministers and others say inside their churches.  In America.  Home of the First Amendment's protection for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  The newest case was filed against Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination commissioners Jamie R. Williamson, Sunila T. George and Charlotte G. Richie and Attorney General Maura Healey.  It's over a new 'gender identity' definition adopted in Massachusetts.  The measure makes 'gender identity' a special class, with more protections than ordinary citizens.  Under the provision, the attorney general has claimed 'houses of worship' are places of 'public accommodation' and members therefore cannot even express ideas concerning 'religious expression regarding biological sex and gender identity.'  The case was launched by the Alliance Defending Freedom after Healey and the state commission both decided to interpret the law 'to force churches to open church changing rooms, shower facilities, restrooms, and other intimate areas [to people] based on their perceived gender identity, and not their biological sex, in violation of the churches' religious beliefs.' 

"'Under [the law] places of public accommodation may not discriminate against, or restrict a person from services because of that person's gender identity.  For example, a hotel or motel may not refuse to book a room for a person because of the person's gender identity,' the state threatened.  It continued, 'Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.'  The demands include having church officials, and even members, use whatever pronouns a person would demand, irrespective of their actual gender."

Friends, this case mirrors one that occurred recently in the state of Iowa, specifically the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.  "At issue is the state's nondiscrimination requirements that specify any 'public accommodation' can be ordered not to say anything that might make a homosexual or a transgender feel 'unwelcome,' such as even reading from the Bible a condemnation of such behavior."

So, a pastor cannot even preach from such texts as Romans 1 or  First Corinthians 6 for fear of offending someone in the audience.  A church is fearful of opening its doors to a fund-raising dinner for its youth because they do not want to have "open bathrooms."  What has happened?  The bottom line is this: we do not want to hear about sin!  We don't want to be told that we are wrong!  We don't want to admit that we need help!  And, thus the First Amendment is trampled upon.  Those freedoms which are cited in that First Amendment were foundational to the reasons why our nation was created in the first place.  These were essential rights.  Without those, our nation ceases to exist - or, at least, ceases to exist as our Founding Fathers envisioned this country they were giving birth to. 

So, what is your church going to do?  What is my church going to do?  How is your church going to respond to this threat?  How is my church?  We want to be biblical in all that we do.  We want to mirror both truth and grace.  But, if it means going to jail or losing our tax exempt status, so be it.  We will not waver from the Truth. 

Friends, it is time to prayer and to study as we have never prayed and studied before.  It is time for us to be bold as we have not been bold before.  The proclamation of the Gospel is dependent upon it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Of Flags, Baseball, Hot Dogs and Ancient Toilet Seats

Last week I shared with you about the protests taking place in many of the athletic venues across our nation.  The focus of those protests of racial injustice is directed at a lack of respect toward our flag and our national anthem. 

But I want to share with you what I experienced last week during the time Marlys and spent with our kids in Texas.  Greg, Beth, and their two boys Ethan and Max are big fans of the Texas Rangers baseball team.  And so, after Texas made it to the American League Playoffs, Beth called and wanted to know if I would be interested in joining Greg and my two grandsons for an afternoon at Globe Life Park for a playoff game.  Who can turn down tickets for a baseball playoff game?  We have not even come close to such an event in Minnesota for several years. 

So, this past Thursday, it was off to the ball park in Arlington.  It was one of those very late summer days in Texas - rather warm for October, but really perfect weather for baseball.  The game, itself, from a Ranger-fan-point-of-view was not very exciting.  But what I wanted to share with you is what happened in the pregame.

Both teams were introduced and lined up along the third-base and first-base lines.  Someone sang the Canadian National Anthem, as the team the Rangers was playing was the Toronto Blue Jays.  Then a color guard presented the colors.  And a team of men and women in uniform marched out onto the field with a gigantic American flag.  As our National Anthem was being played, this giant flag was unfurled, literally filling the entire outfield.  Quietly those men and women in uniform began to wave this giant flag and at that moment a C-130 Transport Plane flew over head.  It was a scene that I will never forget.  And following the singing of our National Anthem, the crowd, announced at over 47,000, burst into the chant "USA! USA! USA!"  There was a thrill of that moment.  We were all there to root for the Rangers - yes, there were a few Blue Jays fans there as well.  We had white skin and black skin and brown skin and yellow skin.  We were old; we were young.  We drove Fords; we drove Ferraris.  We were Republicans; we were Democrats; we were Independents.  But, for that moment - which lasted into several minutes - we were all Americans.  And, as I stood there with my Texas Rangers cap over my heart (I know I should have taken my Chicago Cubs hat, but I was in Texas) I thought to myself: This is what our Founding Fathers envisioned.  Perhaps not a baseball game, but a coming together of Americans from all walks of life to celebrate our nation and what it stands for.  And then it was time for baseball in Texas.

And after the game was completed with the home team losing badly, I did not see anyone assaulting those fans who wore the blue of the Blue Jays.  We were disappointed, but realized that there would be a game tomorrow that would hopefully bring a different result.  It was a great afternoon with my son-in-law and my two grandsons and my first "broomstick" which is a 24-inch, I did not eat it all by myself,  Nothing like a hotdog at the "old ballpark." 

A couple weeks ago I received an article whose headlines grabbed my attention: "Archaeologists: 2,700-year-old-toilet confirms Scriptures."  The article was written by Jay Baggett.  You can find this article at:  "Archaeologists in Israel have announced the discovery of an ancient commode unearthed during excavation of the First Temple-era gate complex of the city of Lachish in the Judean foothills that they say confirms the Bible."  According to the article, the gates of Lachish were also excavated and during that process a gate-shrine room was discovered.  And it was within that room that this ancient toilet seat was found - a sign that this shrine-room had been desecrated.  We know from the Bible and ancient history that during the reign of King Hezekiah, the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib marched into Judah and lay siege to Lachish, one of the fortress cities guarding the route to Jerusalem.  It was during that time the city was destroyed.  The article reminds us that King Jehu of Israel once destroyed a shrine dedicated to Baal by making it into a latrine (2 Kings 10:27). 

The article continues by quoting Ze-ev Elkin, Minster of Jerusalem and Heritage and Environmental Protection: "The fascinating new discovery at Tel Lachish is a typical example whereby excavations and further research of heritage sites show us time and time again how biblical tales that are known to us became historical and archaeological stories.  Before our very eyes these new finds become the biblical verses themselves and speak in their voice.  We in the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage will continue to lead the effort whereby as many Israelis as possible will be exposed to the enthralling experience of ancient stones that speak to us of the Bible in their own unique voice." 

Once again I was reminded of how the stories within the Bible are viewed with suspicion until the archaeologist's spade and trowel validates those stories.  Friends, the Bible does not need validated in order for us to believe it.  The Bible is an accurate record of history whether the archaeologist affirms it or not.  But a toilet seat can give this Old Testament heart some excitement.  I think I will have to add Lachish to my next Israel tour agenda. 

Today is Yom Kippur, the high holy day in Israel.  It is a day of introspection, reflection, and repentance.  Soon the joyous celebration of Tabernacles will begin.  May we also join in remembering God's faithfulness to us in the past and in the present.  And may we look forward with joy to what God has ahead for us. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Respect for Our Flag and Our National Anthem

There was a time when a person attending a sporting event stood with respect when the National Anthem was played prior to the beginning of a ball game.  I remember attending high school football games when my grandkids were members of a large marching band.  The band did their pregame routine and then we were all invited to stand, remove our caps, and join in the singing as the band so elegantly played our National Anthem.  Even those of us who could not sing joined in with hands held over our hearts.  This was in reverence and respect for our flag and for our country. 

Then, in late summer, one member of the San Francisco 49er's football team, decided that he would protest what he viewed as discriminatory policies by our governmental leaders by not standing for the playing of our National Anthem.  The next week he not only did not stand, but he knelt down as it was played. Soon other players from other teams were joining in this protest; a few even raised the "black power fist" as the Anthem was being played. 

Unfortunately, their example is now being emulated by college and high school players across the country.  And this past week, several members of the East Carolina University Marching Pirate Band refused to play our Anthem and knelt when it was played.  Later University leaders, in answer to the outcry against such demonstrations, replied that, although the University respected the rights of students to declare their beliefs, using a Saturday afternoon college football game was not a proper place to demonstrate those beliefs.  They promised that it would not happen again.

I ask myself this question: Exactly what are these individuals protesting?  Many do not know why, they are just going along with the crowd.  There is a very interesting verse in Acts 19 which seems to apply to the situation of many today.  The context of the passage is the unrest in Ephesus over Paul's proclamation of Jesus Christ.  So many people are being impacted by the Gospel that the merchants who made a profit off the sale of merchandize of the goddess Diana or Artemis were concerned that they would lose customers.  So a riot ensued.  But here is what Luke records: "The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another.  Most of the people did not even know why they were there" (Acts 19:32).  If you were to ask those members of the East Carolina University Marching Band why they were protesting, I am pretty confident that they could not give you an answer.  They are simply caught up in the moment. 

So, what started this showing disrespect toward our flag and our National Anthem?  Mr. Kaepernick, the 49er football player who initiated it, said that he was trying to show how much injustice there was in our country toward black people.  And, what promoted this demonstration?  The seeming increase in the number of black youths who have been shot by white policemen.  "Black Lives Matter" - yes they do, but not just when a black teenager is shot by a white police officer.  "Black Lives Matter" every day in our nation's cities.  "Black Lives Matter" in Chicago where daily blacks kill other blacks with a violence that almost seems unabated.  But I don't see a huge outcry when those innocent lives are taken - a mother walking her baby down the streets in a stroller, a teenager just sitting on the porch of her house, another teenager just walking down the street to a store.  Do not these "black lives matter" as well? 

And what of those homes in our nation's cities where children grow up without a father.  Mom is stressed to the point of breaking as she seeks to manage her children, a job, and a home.  Do not those "black lives matter?"  Those children hunger for male leadership and find that substitute for a father within the gang.  And the rest of the story is a tragedy that is repeated far too often.  Do not those lives matter?

Is there injustice in America today?  Yes, there is.  But, is showing disrespect to our flag and our National Anthem to way to correct that injustice?  Absolutely not!  That flag and that Anthem represent what so many others have fought and died for.  My own father served in the Army Air Corps in World War 2.  My uncle served in the Army during the Korean War.  I had friends from high school and college who served in Vietnam, several of whom did not return.  As I stand at attention with hand-over-heart as the National Anthem is played, it is a sign of respect for those who have made our country what it is.  I believe that our flag and our National Anthem should not be instruments of protest.  You may march in front of police stations.  You may demonstrate in front of court houses.  You can even block major highways.  But show respect for our flag and our National Anthem. 

Perhaps we lack respect because our children do not grow up reciting the Pledge to the Flag everyday.  "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  Perhaps it is good for all of us to recite this from time to time so we remember. 

As I close I want to wish my Jewish friends a "shana tova" as you enter into a new year 5777.  May this be a year of special blessings from God to you and your household. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Three-Parent Child - Really Now!

This coming Sunday I will be preaching from Genesis 6-9 on the story of Noah and the Great Flood.  There are so many questions that arise within those chapters, questions that probably will await answers only when we stand before the God of the story.  Of course the main focus of the message will be on Noah's story - but that, in itself, is an amazing story. 

As Genesis 6 begins we come to understand that the world has rapidly descended into some type of moral abyss.  It is interesting to speculate on who the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" are and just who are the Nephilim.  One can do his or her own study on these questions.  But I believe it is safe to say that there were a lot of unnatural creatures during those days.  Creatures that defied the natural boundaries that God had established.  And, in the light of the growth of that which was unnatural, God stepped in and brought destruction through the flood.

Just this morning I read an article from the publishers of New Scientist magazine.  The article was written by Jessica Hamzelou and can be found at:  The article begins: "It's a boy!  A five-month-old boy is the first baby to be born using a new technique that incorporates DNA from three people. ... The controversial technique, which allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies, has only been legally approved in the UK.  But the birth of the child, whose Jordanian parents were treated by a US-based team in Mexico, should fast-forward progress around the world, say embryologists. ... Dr. Zhang took a different approach, called spindle nuclear transfer.  He removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed.  The resulting egg - with nuclear DNA material from the mother and the mitochondrial DNA from a donor - was then fertilized with the father's sperm."

Over the past years we have seen a dramatic increase in technology in the field of embryology and reproductive science.  It began with IVF which was hailed as the solution to the problems of infertility.  And IVF has helped hundreds of thousands of families to experience the joys of having children.  More recently, with the mapping of the human genome, it is now possible to genetically alter an embryo to achieve a result that is more pleasing to parents.  Yet with both IVF and genetic alterations, you were still working with the DNA material from two parents.  This is still the natural way that God described back in Genesis 1 and 2. One half the your chromosomal account comes from your mother, the other half from your father.  This is how God intended it.

But now a child has been born whose DNA structure is not fit a normal pattern.  Now a third type of DNA has been added.  I have seen pictures of this little boy and he appears to be very normal.  Perhaps those children born to the union of "sons of God" and "daughters of men" appeared normal at first, but we know that something went very wrong.  Could that be the case with this little boy?  I guess time will tell.  But I get a sense that this is very unnatural.  It is not what God had intended. 

And to that is added the increasing and expanding role of robotics in our world.  Soon your surgery will be performed by a robotic team of surgeons.  Robots will wait upon your tables at leading restaurants.  You might engage a robot in a quiet conversation some evening.  And perhaps you might even commit adultery with a robotic partner.  The advancement of robotics and the sister science of artificial intelligence is alarming.  Computers were created to be tools to assist man to live a better life.  There is a danger that computers may become the masters over men. 

So the question begs to be asked: How much longer will God permit this descent into the world of the unnatural to continue?  The only definite response is to say, "I don't know."  Will God allow man to develop the ability to replicate themselves so, in essence, you could live forever?  Will God permit man to develop the ability to create "designer" children - those who will run faster, hit the ball farther, play the piano better, write a story better, do studies in class better?  Will God permit man to design a machine that gives the scary indications of almost being human?  "I don't know" but I do know that we are standing right on the edge of those thoughts becoming a reality. 

When the world that God created became one absorbed with the unnatural, God stepped in and brought about its destruction through a worldwide flood.  We do know from the Scriptures that God will step into His world and bring about its destruction through wars, famines, disease, and wild beasts (Revelation 6:7-8) and through earthquakes and powerful storms (Revelation 16:17-21).  Then Jesus will come to establish His kingdom here on earth (Revelation 19:11-21). 

Friends, I do not have an answer to the "how long before" question.  But I do have a confidence in knowing that God is in control and that mankind, with all his intellectual abilities, will only be permitted to go so far.  And, with the announcement today of the birth of a child with three parents' DNA, I am wondering if we are getting near that point where God says, "enough is enough."  And so I just keep looking to Him.  I trust you are as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The "Uglies" Continue to Crawl Out

On June 26, 2015, in the case known as Obergefell vs. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 opinion that same-sex marriage was the "law of the land."  The outcry from many churches, including some evangelical ones, was tepid at best.  I heard many say, "Well if they love each other, why shouldn't they get married?"  As you may remember my response was, "This has nothing to do with love; it has everything to do with God's commands."  But, love won out and God's commands, as recorded for us in Genesis 2:24, were cast off as one would shed a worn-out and useless coat.  With that one decision the definition of marriage was forever changed. 

I shared with you that the lid was now off Pandora's Box and soon all the "uglies" would come crawling out.  Next in line seeking affirmation would be polygamy and incest.  Allow me to share just one case reported last week.  "In New Mexico, Monica Mares recently rediscovered the son she put up for adoption 19 years ago, but instead of rekindling a typical mother-son relationship, she allegedly initiated a sexual relationship.  The pair face up to 18 months in prison if convicted and have court dates later this month.  In Oklahoma, investigators arrested Patricia Spann, 43, and Misty Spann, 25, mother and daughter.  The pair were married in March 2016, court records show.  Misty and her brothers were raised by their grandparents and was reunited with her biological mother two years ago.  According to Patricia Spann, the pair 'hit it off' and got married.  In 2008, she married one of her sons. That marriage was annulled in 2010." (

Friends, if the only basis for marriage is that one person loves another person, then no loving relationship should be denied marriage.  If two women, who truly love one another, can get married, and if two men, who truly love one another can get married, then what is to prevent a mother who loves her son from being married to him, or a father who loves his daughter from being married to her?  The answer is "absolutely nothing!"  But you will say, "Max, those relationships of a mother and a son or a father and a daughter simply do not feel right."  You are absolutely correct, but neither does a relationship between two women or two men feel right.  Any relationship that is outside of the boundaries created by God are wrong!  And God's boundaries are described in Genesis 2:24: one man, leaving his family behind + one woman who is joined to her husband = one new family, a one flesh.  Anything that deviates from that description certainly does not feel right because it is not right. 

This past week I received an email link to an article written by Bob Unruh.  It is a rather lengthy article.  It can be found at:  This article is alarming and disturbing.  The author highlights a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights titled, "Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties." Basically this report is an attack upon the freedom of religious expression granted in the First Amendment to our Constitution. 

This amendment really does not fit the liberal agenda.  If only they could change that amendment to read "freedom of worship" rather than "freedom of religion."  Worship can be carefully controlled.  Worship belongs to a space and to a time.  It belongs in a church or a synagogue or a mosque or a meeting house.  But religion is a culture.  It is a worldview.  It is a way of life.  And, as such, religion - especially evangelical Christianity - is a threat of the liberal agenda.  This article is a must read. 

Finally, this past week the NCAA acted on their threat to the state of North Carolina that unless the North Carolina legislature repealed its law stating that in public places men and women were to use the bathrooms and locker rooms associated with the gender listed on their birth certificates, then they would remove all NCAA championship events from the state.  Tim Wildmon, President of the American Family Association, wrote in a letter sent to the AFA's constituency, " Along with punishing North Carolina, the NCAA is forcing all potential championship host sites to fill out an 'Anti-Discrimination Policy' questionnaire that assures men have access to female bathroom facilities.  Question number six from the policy reads, '...does your institution have provisions that interfere with any person's choice of bathroom or locker room?'"  And so this push to become a non-gender society continues.  One can only wonder how much longer will God withhold His hand of judgment. 

Friends, I am convinced that if we are going to survive in the coming days we need to do two things.  First, we need to study the Bible more carefully and diligently than we ever have in the past.  It is imperative that we know what God has said to us.  This will mean more than just listening to a sermon on a Sunday morning; that is a good starting point, but it is simply not enough.  It will involve personal study, small group studies, and one-on-one conversations.  It will mean that we have discussions as families about the Word of God.  But we need to know the Bible.  And, second, we need to study the United States Constitution more carefully and diligently than we ever have in the past.  And that means that we will need to read it.  I am saddened with the reality that so many Christians have not ever read the Constitution.  In my estimation it is one of the most important documents that have ever been written.  I put the Bible first, followed by the Constitution. 

Both the Bible and the Constitution are under assault by the leftists and liberal elitists.  Their world would be so much brighter if somehow the Bible and the Constitution would just disappear forever.  Without a biblical foundation, the Constitution of our great nation would not stand as strong as it has.  These are days when God desires His Family to take a bold stand for Truth.  I am grateful that our Founding Fathers created an avenue through which that Truth can be shared in the public arena.  How we need to guard that avenue carefully for others are seeking its destruction.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

God's Promises are Irrevocable

I was reading this morning in that incredibly difficult to read book known as Jeremiah.  I have always found this book to be a "hard read," probably because there is a lot of pain and suffering experienced by the prophet and forecast of impending exile for the people because of their disobedience.  But I saw something this morning that just jumped off the page and into my heart.  And it was later amplified when I read in the paper that former Prime Minister and former President of Israel Shimon Peres had suffered a severe stroke yesterday.  Prime Minister Peres is 93 years old, but what makes this such powerful news, is that he is really the last surviving leader of Israel's founding as a nation some 68 years ago.  He is the last of what might be called Israel's "Greatest Generation" to borrow a phrase from Tom Brokaw. 

So, you are asking, what does a passage in Jeremiah have to do with a former Prime Minister's stroke?  Before we look at the passage in Jeremiah, I want us to briefly revisit the reason for the establishment of Israel as a nation in those years immediately following World War 2.  First of all, the desire of the Jewish people for their ancient homeland never escaped their imaginations or their dreams no matter where they were driven.  For those of you who have attended a Jewish Passover Seder, you will remember that each Seder closes with these words: "Next year in Jerusalem."  There was always a hope.  Second, in the later part of the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century, a movement arose under the leadership of Theodore Herzl and known as Zionism.  Its aspirations were to see the creation of a land for the Jewish people in Palestine.  Although Herzl never lived to see that dream become a reality, a reality it did become in 1948.  It would take a war to bring that dream to fruition. 

So, why is an event that happened in 1948 still important for us today?  Why should a believer in Jesus Christ care about what happens in Israel?  The answer to those questions is found in that passage in Jeremiah 31: 35-37 where the prophet writes, "This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar - the LORD Almighty is his name: 'Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,' declares the LORD, 'will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.'  This is what the LORD says: 'Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,' declares the LORD."

Please bear with me for a moment or two.  God made a promise or a covenant with Abraham many years ago.  It is recorded for us in Genesis 15:1-21.  There were two parts to God's covenant with Abraham: 1) the promise of innumerable descendants - as the stars of the heavens or the dust of the earth; that is a lot of descendants; and 2) a particularly well-defined land that would be Abraham's descendants forever; this was not to be some spiritual place, but an actual piece of property one could walk upon and build upon and live within.  Furthermore, God reiterated this promise to Isaac, Abraham's son (Genesis 26:2-6) and to Jacob, Abraham's grandson (Genesis 28:13-15).  This covenant promise is foundational to understanding the Old Testament. 

Can God ever break His promise that He made to Abraham?  According to what we have read in Jeremiah 31, the answer is an assured "no!"  There is only one way in which that promise can be voided and that is if what God established at the very beginning of time is voided.  If ever the moon shines during the day and the sun shines during the night - only then will God break His promise to Abraham's descendants.  Now, honestly, what are the chances of that happening?  If ever the tides of the sea would reverse their flowing going from the seashore to someplace in the middle of the ocean - only then will God break His promise to Abraham's descendants.  Now, honestly, what are the chances of that happening?  If ever man can measure to the very ends of the universe - only then will God break His promise to Abraham's descendants. 

My heart was gripped this morning with the magnitude of God's promise that He made to Abraham.  It simply cannot ever be broken!  The Roman Legions tried to destroy God's promise when they expelled the people from the land at the end of the first century and into the second.  The Arab hordes tried to destroy that promise when they persecuted those Jews who remained in the seventh and into the eighth centuries.  The Nazi leadership in Germany tried to destroy the people of the promise in the 20th century.  But all failed.  Why?  Because God's promise cannot be broken - ever. 

Whenever I walk the streets of Jerusalem I get a sense that I am walking into one of God's amazing promises.  And, in fact, I am for that city is part of God's great covenant promise to Abraham.  It is central to that particularly well-defined piece of land God gave to Abraham's descendants (read Ezekiel 5:5).

Shimon Peres may pass away because of his stroke, but that vision and dream that he helped to create in the 1940's will not pass away.  Why is that?  It is because the vision and dream have roots that are deeper than just one or two generations.  Those roots lie deeply embedded in the character of God Himself.  And God made a promise based upon His own character not that of Abraham or his descendants. 

And, friends, if God's promise to Abraham cannot ever be broken, what great solace I find that God's promise concerning my salvation cannot be broken - ever.  When Jesus says that if a person believes in Him that He will receive eternal life - I believe that promise is a forever promise.  It cannot ever be broken.  When the Apostle Paul proclaims that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, I believe that promise is a forever promise.  It cannot ever be broken.  Friends, the promises of God are irrevocable.  God cannot lie nor does He change His mind (Numbers 23:19).     And to that incredible truth I will say a rich "Hallelujah!"