Tough Decisions

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.    1 John 4:18

Drazen Erdemovic had a choice to make in July of 1995.  He was a member of the Bosnian Serb army, attached to a non-combat unit.  He only joined to provide for his family.  He had no desire to fight and kill anyone.

That July he and others were pulled to another unit, whose task was to slaughter civilians as they came in by the busload.  They were to shoot them as they were lined up next to a pit.  Horrified, Drazen told the CO he couldn’t do it.  The choice he was given was stark; either shoot them as ordered or line up and get shot with them.

What would you do?  How would you decide?  Would you, like most all of us, decide based on fear or love?

Fear says, “I don’t want to die!”  Love says, “I can’t kill innocent people in such an act of evil.”

Fear doesn’t want to lose anything, most of all our very body, our life.  The love of Jesus tells us that to die in His name is gain.  Do we fear going through the door of death to meet Jesus face to face?  Enough that we balk at it?

Those of you who’ve been with me for a while know that I’ve almost died three times.  I’m not going to tell you it was ever fun, but neither was it as horrible as I might have imagined.  If I’m told I have x number of weeks to live, I think I’d be OK with that.  I’d make plans and start the countdown.

Would I ever leave a firing squad and join the condemned.  I would hope so!  I go to God innocent of murder, having stood up for what is right, even if the slaughter would go on without me.  Maybe that sacrifice would not go unnoticed.  Maybe whoever shot me would have to look me in the eye as they took aim.

What did Drazen do?  He figures he killed about 70-80 people that day.  In an effort to bring that genocide to light, he found himself on trial for war crimes at the Hague.  The defense tried to use the defense of being under duress.  A split court denied that defense.  He was convicted of manslaughter and given a relatively light sentence.

What was his reaction in the end? He ended up pleading guilty before the trial ended.

His initial decision to kill was his concern for the fate of his wife and kids.  His final statement to the court, however, is very telling.

“I (pled guilty) because of those victims, because of my conscience, because of my life, because of my child and my wife, I cannot change what I said…because of the peace of my mind, my soul, my honesty, because of the victims, the war and because of everything.”

His initial decision based on fear didn’t hold up for him!  Even though it was at least in part based on providing for his family, he eventually realized that providing for them through morality was more important.  This from someone who perhaps didn’t even know God.  He knew he had to have faith in what’s right, even if he didn’t know it was God.

Thanks to Jesus and the Father’s mercy, we can make decisions, large and small, based on love and not fear.  We can look death in the face, as we all must someday, smile at it, and say, “Take me home.  I don’t fear you, because Jesus defeated you.  He transformed you from a grave into a door.

So open wide, ‘cause I’m coming through!

What’s the Point?

Matthew 24, selected verses

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many…11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold…24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect…37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be…42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

I write on a wide variety of topics from personal observation to science to obscure news items that don’t get mainstream coverage.  All of this from a Christian blogger.

What’s the point?  Salvation.  As simple and as difficult as that.

It’s simple, because salvation is the free gift from God through Jesus.

It’s also difficult, because we live on earth, Satan’s backyard.  He’s beaten.  He knows it.  But before the great final judgment day, he wants to wreck creation as much as possible.  He particularly hates us and will do anything, absolutely anything to shake us out of our faith.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.  1 Peter 5:8

Dealing with the difficult part is what I’m about.  It’s scriptural.  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.    Ephesians 6:10-18

It seems to me that organized religion, be you Lutheran like me, Roman Catholic like my friends, or some other Christian denomination, preaching and Bible studies stay with the nicer part of Christianity; salvation, heaven, love, mercy, etc.  But Paul tells the Ephesians that this is bloody war!  It isn’t about just love and mercy. It’s also about surviving in our faith during our journey on earth.  The immediacy and reality seem to be missing, not urgent.

Matthew 24 is also known as The Olivet Discourse.  Think of it as a mini-Revelation; it parallels the last book of the Bible.  It contains warnings and signs to watch for.  Jesus tells us in verse 42 to keep watch, because no one, not even Jesus, knows when His second coming will be.  The Father alone knows.

For example, most of the chapter warns against being deceived by false prophets, claiming to be the Christ.  Great signs shall be performed.  Will those signs be magic or technology?  Or some of each?

Magical/supernatural deceit?  The Vatican is on record as saying that they are preparing for an alien race of superior, created beings that may well visit us soon and “enlighten” us on what God’s Word really means.  IF that happens, my automatic assumption will be that they are demonic in nature.  The Vatican even has what they call – I’m not making this up – the L.U.C.I.F.E.R. devise to help spot the alien UFOs coming.  See the article and supporting data for yourself: https://jeffreyhking.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/its-a-real-fight/

Technology?  It exists to project seemingly real, solid images which can even return a radar signal.  There is also technology to influence people’s thoughts, make unseen voices audible.  These could conceivably be used to project images of Jesus to counterfeit His coming and lead people astray.  See my article If Possible:  

Something less fantastic; simply understanding scripture better.  This morning I read St. Paul’s account of his conversion on the road to Emmaus .  He became an Apostle.  To be an Apostle along with the other original 11, one had to have seen the resurrected Jesus and have been taught by Him.  Paul saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus, but was he taught by Jesus Himself?

From Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.  18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

Verses 17 and 18 are the key here.  Apparently, Paul was three years “in training” before coming to Peter and beginning his apostleship.  But here’s an added piece of information.  It says he went to (Saudi) Arabia, then Damascus.  Why is that possibly significant?

According to the book The Exodus Case, Mt. Sinai is located in Saudi Arabia.  The ancient historian Josephus also places Sinai in Saudi Arabia.  See my article at https://jeffreyhking.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/the-exodus-case-mt-sinai/

It makes sense, yes?  Paul would have gone to the mountain of God for at least some of his education in the Gospel.  Paul’s contemporaries would have understood, this, but we are trying to keep up 2000 years after it all happened!  We need to try a bit harder to be sure we understand.

There are two things we need to do; study the Bible to know God’s Word and to watch and study the world around us.  We are in enemy territory here on earth, and we need to know the lay of the land so as not to be caught unawares by the tricks and snares of the enemy.

And what IS the point?

Salvation.  We are all broken by sin, regrets, and sorrow.  We know we are empty and we need to be filled.  Jesus and His Holy Spirit are the only filling that will satisfy.  They are the only ones that can heal our souls and mend our minds.

If you have accepted Jesus, you need to watch and understand just how this world can deceive you.  If you don’t watch and take care, it will!

If you are empty, if you hunger for fulfillment in your soul, in your life, pray to Jesus.  Don’t worry about whether you know how to pray.  Just call on His name.  He knows it when He hears it.  He’ll answer. 

Psalm 51:17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Once you’ve accepted Jesus, read the Bible.  All of it.  Be aware of the world and don’t let Satan or his angels strip you of your newfound faith.

If we can all make it through, if we all resist the craftiness of the enemy and stay true to Jesus, there will be an eternity of rejoicing and comfort.

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.  Isaiah 25:8

THAT’S the point!

Another Result of Rejecting God

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.     2 Thessalonians 3:10-11

Our country has been suffering the consequences of rejecting God and His ways; laziness.  The government, which outlawed prayer in schools has made another blunder, and we’re all suffering for it.  The overly generous and long payments to people who don’t work has created a big problem.

Workers sit at home collecting government subsidies when jobs are available and businesses struggle to stay open.  I call on a lot of retail parts houses who are having trouble keeping their doors open for lack of help.  A sign at a local Red Robin advertises $15/hour wages plus a $400 signing bonus!  Similar signs are popping up at fast food places like McDonalds.

The government, instead of relying on God for their governing principles, decided they know better and have flipped God’s Word on its head.  The government has declared, “If anyone will not work, well… what the hell.  Here’s a bunch of cash.  Pig out!”

C. S. Lewis made a great analogy in his book Mere Christianity.  God is like a factory that produce people.  The Bible is the operator’s manual.

America has ditched the operator’s manual and is running people in ways God did not design them to be run.  Is it any wonder we’re having problems?  From abortion to shoplifting to riots and raves we’re seeing the results of operating ourselves outside of our designed parameters.

The only question is how much worse will things get before we decide to start doing things right?

Hung Up!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…    Hebrews 12:1

I had some older friends decades ago who told me about a trip west perhaps in the 50’s.  They were driving across the Great Plains on a two-lane road with nothing but sand around them.  This was before our modern interstates and infrastructure.  It was disorienting, because there were no phone poles or anything else that you could judge your speed by as you passed them.

At one point they saw an odd cloud in the distance.  As they closed on it, they started to realize it was some sort of dust cloud.  As they came upon the scene, they realized that there was a very old car hung up on a sand dune that had drifted across the road.  Its rear wheels were spinning without enough contact to get traction and could only stir up the dust.  They pulled up next to it to see if they could assist.

The elderly man in the driver’s seat had a death grip on the steering wheel and was hunched over in concentration.  He noticed them and gave them a quick wave before returning to his “driving.”  With no frames of reference around, he had no idea he was standing still!  All he knew was he had his foot on the accelerator, and the dust of his “passage” surrounded him.

They couldn’t help laughing at the look of shock on his face when they exited their car and walked over to him!  All humor aside, what might have become of that gentleman if no one had come across him?

We all are hung up on things.  They keep us from making any real progress in our lives.  Sometimes the dust, the mental noise from them blinds us to what is really happening around and to us!  This is true of earthly matters, but it is also true of spiritual, eternal matters!

Worry is a big hang up that generates enormous amounts of “dust.”  The last part of Matthew 6 is Jesus explaining this to His disciples.

 “Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”    Matthew 6:31-34

Worry can blind us to solutions to problems.  Worse, it can blind us to God’s love and providence!

I was just listening to a podcast that dealt with a man’s struggle against spirits of oppression.  He was under attack one night, and demons had him pinned to the floor.  He struggled to more, even talk to rebuke them in Jesus’ name, but he could not.  He realized the battle was not his, and he stopped resisting them.  Instead, he prayed to Jesus to deliver him.  A golden glow started spreading in the room, and the demons fled.

I could argue that he was initially worrying about how to get out of this attack, how he could respond and solve this dilemma.  It was when he stopped worrying and gave it all over to God that things got better.

He still has instances of demonic forces trying to derail his ministry.  God’s deliverance does not mean he will be free from troubles.  God’s deliverance does mean that we can count on Him to get us through our next trouble!  He will either remove it or He will give us the strength to endure it, but it is His providence we can count on.

When you think about how little we can control in our lives, you know this is true.  You can understand how important it is to not worry and have faith in God.

All the Old Testament prophets are who I call The Prophets of Babylon.  They either forewarned the Jewish nation of their impending doom, issued God’s prophecies to get them through their Babylonian exile, or to guide them through their rebuilding when they returned to Judah.

They foretold how God would eventually heal their earthly wounds.  They also delivered His promise of eternal victory at the end of time.  Those same prophecies hold true for us.  God cares for us in our earthly needs, and He promises victory with Him in eternity.

Whatever you might be hung up on, look to God’s promises and teachings to get off it!  It might be worry.  It might be questions about Biblical teachings and one church’s viewpoint vs. another.  With prayer, faith, and open-minded study of God’s words with others of faith, we can rely on God to point us past our hang-ups…whatever they might be!

Asking and Offering

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.    Genesis 18:6-8

Abraham was a great man; wealthy and powerful.  His possessions were so great that he and his nephew Lot had to split up, because the land could not support them both in one place.  As we know, Lot went toward Sodom, the better part of those plains.

In this light, something caught my eye in these verses.  That he simply stood by them as they ate.

Abraham voluntarily took the role of a lowly servant to the three men who had come to his camp.  Those three men represented the Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  At ninety-nine years old, Abraham hurried to Sarah to have her make some cakes.  He ran to the herd and selected a young calf on his own to be sure it was the best and had one of his servants prepare it.

Then, after all that effort, he simply stood by, patiently waiting for them to eat and be satisfied.  He still hadn’t eaten or drank himself.  Abraham asked for nothing.  He simply offered his service to God.

What do you and I do with that account today?  How do we interact with God?

We tend to be “askers” more than “offerers.”  God is often placed on a shelf until needed.  He’s our universal Vending Machine where we push our prayers into the slot and hope, maybe even expect, to get what we “paid for.”

How often do we offer anything to God?  Perhaps we dutifully drop our monetary offerings in the plate at church…like paying a bill.  We might even do it grudgingly.  Is it really an offering, submitted with the humility of a lowly servant?

It strikes me that an offering is a request of sorts – “Will you please take this from me?  I’m offering it to You.”

A prayer I pray too seldom is a request and offering together – “God, please use me in your kingdom as you see fit.  Guide me to use my talents for the glory of Your kingdom.”

Make no mistake; God, our Father, wants us to come to Him with the needs and wants of our hearts just as we want our own children to do.  I’m not trying to discourage asking.

I’m encouraging offerings of any type.  For me, writing this blog is my offering to God.  I thank Him for what He gives me to write, and I pray He uses it for His purposes.  Please.

Other offerings might be gathering your courage to share your faith with someone.  It might be gathering the courage to take a moral stand on an issue because of your faith and letting that action be a witness to God.  It might be trying to be part of your community with something as simple as holding the door for someone, letting another driver in your lane, or complimenting a parent on their child’s good behavior.

Everything you do because of your faith is an offering to God!  Let us all be motivated by His love and Jesus’ saving sacrifice to be conscious of making offerings to Him every day, doing things for the glory of His kingdom!

Ruled by Violence

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;    Philippians 2:12

Tonight’s thoughts were prompted by something I read in How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything by Rosa Brooks.

She used the phrase “The Myth of Civilization” in one section, and that caught my attention.  Who says civilization is a myth?  We live in cities with plenty of food, clothes, luxuries, technology, and more.  It doesn’t look at all mythical to me.  But she made a believer out of me.  Here’s roughly how she explained it.

The entire world is ruled by violence.  Even here in America, we are ruled by violence…or at least the threat of it.  Gauging the need for violence is the trick for any government or ruler.  Too much violence, and the populace revolts.  That includes legal violence, punitive measures to motivate people to obey.  That’s anything from fines, imprisonment, and even capital punishment.

For example, our Founding Fathers finally had enough of the legal violence from England and decided it was time for a revolt.

On the other hand, too little violence brings about lawlessness in the general population.  The current situation in New York City and other places are fresh examples of what happens when the threat or use of violence decreases to the point where citizens feel they can get away with something.

The myth of civilization exists at the balance point of those two extremes on the teeter-totter of governing.  It’s a hard balance to get right, and the balance point tends to change depending on societal conditions.

This has been true since Adam and Eve sinned and brought this whole mess on us all!  Cain wasn’t aware of any possible repercussions and so killed Abel.  God eventually went full legal on the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, starting with the Ten Commandments.  He then proceeded to give them an entire set of laws governing virtually every behavior expected of a “civilized” people.

God used a lot of violence in the Biblical accounts, otherwise known as “smiting!”  He uses violence on earth and eventually eternally for those who reject Jesus’ saving sacrifice.

This is a very important lesson for us today.  We are in a feel-good society.  Many churches preach a positive message and even what is sometimes called a gospel of prosperity.  The fire and brimstone sermons of the past is missing today.  But that was and is part of God’s message.  Without that violence waiting for us, we have less reason to come to Jesus.

23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese is his story of how God took him to hell to see it’s horrors for the express purpose of reminding people of what awaits them for rejecting Him.  When Wiese started trying to figure out how to spread that message, he discovered a whole community of people with the same experience and the same instructions from God!

We are indeed ruled by violence, because that is ultimately the only thing our sinful natures understand.  Do you believe?  Good if you do!  Don’t forget the horrors of rejecting God.  St, Paul knew what he was talking about when he urged all Christians to work out their own salvations with fear and trembling.  Never get complacent!

Derailed Faith

not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.    Hebrews 10”25

Louis de Bernieres led an interesting life from early on, according to a recent article in The London Daily Mail.  It started when he joined the army to fulfill his parents’ ambition that he would serve in the Queen’s Dragoon Guard, his father’s former unit.

It was not to be.  He wasn’t a match for it and managed an honorable discharge before he got very far.  His parents disapproval reached the point where he couldn’t stand the tension at home and took off.  He taught English for a white farmer in Columbia.  The other side of the world was as far as he could get; I imagine he would’ve gone farther if possible.

He returned home after a year and quickly realized he’d never really be “British” again.  He dealt with being in Britain by “remaining in Columbia in spirit.”  He writes that Columbia changed him regarding his faith also.

His father had been high Anglican and his mother sort of protestant.  Going to a church-related school didn’t do him any favors:

At my prep school (pre-Columbia) we had Chapel twice a day because the headmaster liked to dress up as a priest and parade his piety, in between bursts of his fondling and thrashing.

Still, he felt close as to Jesus as his friends.  It was divinity school that drove another nail into his faith’s coffin.  He was taught to read the Bible in a critical and scholarly manner as opposed to being the Word of God.  That’s where the seeds of his doubt were sown.

The last thing that happened to snuff out his faith was a train trip in Columbia.  His seat mate was a flirtatious young woman, and he was enjoying her interest in him.  She was beautiful and full of life. 

What I remember most about her was her smiling warmth.  I was slightly embarrassed. I was not at all experienced in flirtation with women from other cultures, and not remotely adept in it even with women from my own.  Maria didn’t mind. She liked me, it was fun flirting with me, and for her that was enough.

He left her to get drinks for her and himself.  While he was gone, she tried to get to another car in the train.  There was no safe walkway between cars, and she mistimed her step, falling on the between the cars.  She didn’t die right away.  All he remembered was her shredded body where there was once a beautiful woman.

All I could think was that if God did exist he either cared about nothing or was a sadist. I have always wanted to meet God on a dusty highway somewhere and challenge him to justify Himself.

In a perverse sense I need God, so that there is someone to blame. I told God to leave, and He did, like someone walking down the garden path to the gate, opening it and striding away without a backward glance.

I miss being religious. Religion makes you feel at home in the world and gives you the reassurance that there is some point to your life.

Religion.  Therein lies the problem, yes?  Religion is what his parents apparently practiced only half-heartedly.  Religion was what his school’s headmaster practiced, and that even more poorly.  None of them seems to have had a relationship with God.  Certainly, none of them knew the Bible past a cursory familiarity with it.

As one reads the article, one can see where Christianity was a feel-good safety net.  There was no understanding of God, which can be found in Scriptures.  Once the religion’s ability to maintain emotions loses its power, God takes the hit.

He obviously took his frustrations with others and the world out on God.

His headmaster was an obscenity, not God.  His parents were at odds with him over his choices, not God.  Yet, he blames God for their unchristian behavior.

Mostly, he blames God for the young woman’s death.  That was the final nail in his faith’s coffin.  If only he had truly understood Scripture!  If only his divinity classes and taught God’s Word instead of making it an academic exercise!

What was there to be understood?  Sin entered the world through one man and death through sin.  Adam gave the keys to the kingdom to Lucifer when he and Eve listened to the father of lies instead of a loving God.  The evil of the world is not God’s fault but humanity’s.

God throws us a line in the Person of Jesus.  God gives us hope to last through the evil days we spend on earth.

How do we keep our own faith from being derailed?  Read God’s Word.  Study it with other Christians who seek to study and learn from it, not dissect it.

Live your faith in a community of faith, not religion.  Don’t try to walk your path alone, but draw from the strength of others of faith.

Here’s What They Are Getting Wrong

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.    Psalm 139:13

I read a headline last Thursday that President Biden wants a mandatory 14 years of education for every American.  In other words, everyone gets at least an associate’s degree in something.  Indiscriminately.

To be fair, he may have some education in trades in mind, which wouldn’t be bad.  However, not everyone is suited to college level work.  Even if it includes the trades.

I taught at a small Catholic college for four years, and I can tell you that some people just aren’t going to get it no matter what.  I had students who had no business being in a college classroom.  No amount of coaching and coddling made a difference.

I never liked college instructors who played games and tried to trip people up.  I always believed in being quite straight on what they were expected to learn and then testing them on that.  I would even give them the mid-term and final exams just prior to exam day and title them as the mid-term or final review.  We’d go over it in class and give answers.  For exam day, I’d simply change the header from “Review” to “Exam.”  Exact same questions in the exact same order.

Guess what – I consistently saw a perfect bell curve in the grades; a few A’s, a few F’s, and most people getting C’s.  This went on for years.  I tracked grades every term to see if there was an indication of people sharing the tests from term to term or at least giving later students a heads-up on how I operated.

Nothing.

In a class on research writing I would spend class time individually reviewing progress with each student to give them every opportunity to do well.  Some people still chose to plagiarize entire sections from sources.  The vocabulary was no where close to their capacity.  Some people showed themselves to be functionally illiterate.

I don’t know how much of all this was a matter of genetic capacity or a failure of our education system, but the results I saw were undeniable.

President Biden may be well-intentioned, but he is misguided in this push.  If he’s going to do anything with education, he needs to forget woke education and direct schools toward reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic.  Just like it was in my good old days.

We were drilled on math tables in grade school.  I came to hate those sheets of paper with 0-10 across the top and down the left side.  We had to fill in the entire matrix for either addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Those came at us multiple times throughout the year.

We had the same drills in English.  We were given a paper with what was essentially a one-page run on sentence.  We’d have to put in punctation, paragraph breaks, and identify nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.  Again, this was a regular assignment.

Outside of learning to play without fighting, we were never educated on our inherent victimization or fault connected to race.  We were taught to be polite, not politically correct.  We teased each other on our foibles and grew closer friendships for it.  We learned to laugh with and at each other without hate.

“All men are created equal.”  I believe this phrase is about human worth, about regarding each man and woman as being worth respect and courtesy.  It is not about the myth that anyone can grow up to be president.  That’s a lie.  Not everyone has the mental horsepower to do that.

I certainly don’t!

Some of us are functionaries, by capacity and/or temperament.  Some of us are leaders, again, by capacity and/or temperament.  Some of us design and engineer buildings and machines.  Some of us build from those designs, and some merely live in or operate them.

President Biden and his ilk are trying to engineer society just as the communists of Russia attempted and failed at decades ago.  It is doomed to failure.  It removes the freedom necessary for people to find their own way.  Some may fail, but all have the same opportunity in a free society.  The more anyone tries to engineer a population’s behavior, the less successful that society becomes.

This was brilliantly demonstrated in the book, Carnage and Culture; Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power by Victor Davis Hanson.  The great wars of history were won by societies that experienced the greatest freedom.

First, unoppressed people fought with a vested interest in the outcome.  They had the autonomy to fight as situations dictated.

Second, a free society is more innovative and produces better technology to fight wars.  They are not constrained by a government that dictates behaviors.

While the point is made in the context of armed conflict, freedom is what produces the best attitudes and the best results.  The biggest example of this is the success of NASA’s Apollo program that got to the moon.  Russia came close, but failed, because the scientists responsible for getting there were hamstrung by government politics.

Finally, going back to my teaching experiences, some students didn’t succeed simply because they were rudderless in their lives.

Without a moral society, we are doomed to fail.  God is the One who designed and created us.  He is the One who knows best how we should “operate” ourselves.  C.S. Lewis made this point in Mere Christianity when he compares God to a factory producing human beings and the Bible to the Operator’s Manual.

Our country has ignored and even actively rejected those loving instructions on how to treat ourselves and each other.  Without that no amount of education will do us any good.

Israel learned that thousands of years ago in the Babylonian Exile.  They rejected God and His loving pleas to return to Him and His ways.

What “Babylonian Captivity” awaits America?

Whatever form that takes, 14 years of education won’t make any difference.

Reading History

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.    Philippians 4:8

This past weekend saw any number of articles about how warped the Fourth of July celebration is, how screwed up the Founding Fathers were, and how flawed the Declaration of Independence is.  There’s a mistake that most of these criticisms have in common; not recognizing context.

But let me first point you back to my 7/4 article, The Miracle of America.  It is based on an article by the same title, which was linked in the post.  Yes, America is a miracle, but it also has its sordid, ugly sides.  I will not make any excuses for past bad behavior, but I want you to think about this…

One of the first things to understand about studying history is to look at it through its own time.  If you truly wish to understand what happened or was written at a certain point in time, your first job is to look at it in the context of its time!  Anything else is just trying to argue against something before you fully understand it.

Have you ever conversed with someone who only listened to argue?  Maybe you’ve done it yourself.  That person constantly interrupts by playing a game of “gotcha” with almost every syllable you utter.  You never have a chance to completely paint the picture of whatever it is that you advocate.  Nothing of substance never happens in such conversations.  All that matters at the end is who scored the most and biggest points.  Truth becomes a casualty.

That’s what everyone was doing this year.  Without belaboring all the criticisms and dirty laundry of America, please allow me to give you what we can truly take from our Founding Founders, the Declaration, and the birth of our country.

I will not excuse the hypocrisy of “All men are created equal” when laid next to slavery.  It can’t be done.  But here’s what we can understand.  The Founding Fathers were men of their time.  Slavery was a fait accompli before they were born.  They were “in the chute” of history without even knowing it, riding that slide to its conclusion.

Slavery was not right, but for them it was normal.  It’s like a dog who has been chained to a stake in the ground its whole life.  It knows nothing else.

Of course, there were those Founders who didn’t like slavery and were becoming enlightened.  Still, they were unable to discover a way around it as they wrestled with the idea of independence from Britain.  It was a tough nut to crack, as the massively destructive Civil War was to prove.

Thomas Jefferson

What, then, did they do?  They wrote a Declaration of Independence that sounded all the right notes, even if the Founders themselves were unable to play them all in their time.  They were flawed men aspiring to bring about something great, even if at least some of them knew further greatness would be beyond their lifetimes.

But it was a start!

And let’s remember this – we are all flawed!  We all, even in our best efforts, miss things and produce flawed results.  I’ve been in leadership roles and been close to top corporate leadership in corporate planning meetings, and I can tell you that leading and governing invariably draw criticisms and attacks.  We must thank God who has blessed us with leaders in every capacity who have the vision and courage to forge a trail.

No one in our current time as had the need to summon enough courage to start a completely new country based on principles no one has ever use.  How dare we denigrate the Founding Fathers for laying a foundation that produced a world leader!

If someone wants to critique their efforts in founding a brand-new country, let’s lead with what they got right.  Let’s lead with what the long-term results are.  Let’s write articles with headlines that call attention to what got done right instead of vilifying our country and its foundations.

One doesn’t heal a wound by picking at the scab and constantly reopening old scars.  Healing comes from nurturing the healthy parts of the body that contribute to healing the damaged parts.  In dealing with our mixed history, let’s cling to the foundations which grew a country that, more than any other, people clamor to enter.  Let’s continue to grow the good of America, which people risk death to arrive at.  Let’s prune away the damaged parts and heal those pruning scars.

We must put aside past hurts, however foul, and proceed together in unity.  We must always focus on the good even as we address the bad.  That is true for people, and what is a country but a large group of people?

The Miracle of America

I just read this article, The Miracle of America, on the Real Truth magazine website.  It outlines the improbable success of the War for Independence, national expansion, and subsequent rise to superpower.

It also marks the parallels between our growth as a nation and ancient Israel’s, a comparison made by many others throughout our history.  It’s an interesting article and deserves a read.

The one caveat to my suggesting you read it is that it is also a whitewash of our history.  It lauds the expansion of Manifest Destiny with no mention of the displacement of American Indians.  There is much in our history to proud of and much to hang our heads at.

Ancient Indian prophecies foretell of foreigners in great canoes that will bring with them “talking leaves” to enlighten them about the Great Spirit.  The great canoes were the European sailing ships that landed on our eastern shores.  The “talking Leaves” were the Bibles containing God’s Word with pages made of tree pulp!  The prophecy included a warning that the newcomers would also do them great harm.

There is much evidence that Indians worshipped the same God as we do, calling Him the Great Spirit.  They also referred to Him as Creator.  Not the Creator…just Creator.  One chief even had a vision of Jesus on the cross given to him by a spirit.  The chief asked the name of the man who was to be killed for their sakes.  The name given translates to “Son of God.”

I highly recommend the book That’s What the Old One’s Say by Chief Joseph River Wind.  It will break your heart in some places and inspire you in others.

But for all our skeletons, the United States is a country God has blessed and used for His purposes.  There was a telling episode I read in George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Jerry Newcombe and Peter Lillback.  Actually, two connected episodes.

The first was before the Revolution when Washington was still in the British army.  His troops were ambushed by Indians, and he was the only one to escape without any wounds at all, despite a bullet passing through his coat as he rode the line on his horse, directing the battle.

After he became president, a contingent of Indians came to him, saying their chief wished to speak to him.  That old chief was one of those who attacked Washington and his troops that day.  He told of how they concentrated their fire on him as the leader, but even his best marksmen could not touch him!  Soon after, he received a prophecy that told him Washington was protected by the Great Spirit.  His destiny was to start a nation that would endure for centuries.

Satan is not omniscient, so there was no way that was a demonic prophecy.  Satan would have no way of knowing!  The only logical conclusion was that God Himself gave that prophecy.

The United States of America is a country deigned by God to be great and to lead the world in His light.  We brought it about by an embarrassing combination of hard work and great sins, not unlike the growth of Israel in the Bible.  We have abdicated that role in favor of writing our own rules and worshipping at the alter of wokeness.  Who knows how dark our future lies for that?

As Christians, we still live in the greatest country the planet has ever seen even though it is not as great as it once was.  People still risk much to come here for freedom and prosperity!  We must do our part every day to preserve as much of that original greatness as possible.  We must let our lights shine during increasing risks to do so.

On this Fourth of July, let all Christians resolve to be great Americans in the tradition of our best days!