How To Choose a President

We are rapidly approaching what could be called the most contentious election of the last century.  The effects of the pandemic, civil unrest, the vitriol, and now – an open seat on SCOTUS – have turned this election into a political knife fight. Some have even floated the horrible possibility of a civil war after the election. 

         With all this in the mix, we need to keep a level head as well as a watchful eye. We know in our hearts, and have heard everywhere, the results of this election will have profound consequences. Who should we choose when we walk into the voting booth on November third (if you haven’t already voted)?  What should we look for in a candidate?  We are constantly besieged with advice, slogans, and appeals from both sides.  Is there an objective standard, one far removed from the drama of the present day, we should use when making our decision?

         I have found one. It is about 3,000 years old – given by one of the most famous kings in history, King David, on his deathbed.  It is found in 2 Samuel 22:3,4:

The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me,

He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth,

even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth

by clear shining after rain. (KJV)

         With these words David was sharing God’s own direction to him years before, when David was given the task of leading His people.  Let’s look at this standard a little closer.

         He rules over men. The word for “rule” (Hebrew – masal) means to have dominion over.  The President of the United States does not exercise total dominion over the country but, as the Chief Executive, he is the most powerful and influential single person in our government.  From the man or woman that holds that position emanates all of the power of the Executive Branch. We have been one of the few countries in the history of the world to have the great privilege of actually choosing the person who holds this power and influence.  We make our choice by voting. It is imperative that we exercise that right to choose and choose well.  You may not be enthusiastic about either of the candidates but vote anyway, after weighing your choice by these standards.

         He must be just. Although the president does not make the laws in our country they cannot be enacted without his signature (unless there are enough legislators to override his veto.)  That is a lot of power. How will he use his power of the veto? What type of legislation will he promote? 

Is it possible for legislation to be unjust?  Of course it is – our nation’s history bears witness to this.  The “Jim Crow” laws and some Supreme Court decisions, such as Dred Scott, all supported the “legal” injustice of racial inequality and slavery even though these are evil. How do we know if a law is just or unjust today? There is an objective standard – the Law, God’s law, the principles that come out of the Ten Commandments – by which a president can evaluate proposed legislation.  

         In choosing a president we need to consider whether or not he will execute his duties justly.  Will that man weigh the matters before him – whether signing (or vetoing) legislation, developing foreign policy, or choosing a Supreme Court justice – by the transcendent principles of the principles of God’s Law or by the fickle trends of political convenience and the whims of his donors? Even more importantly, does the candidate really believe there is an objective standard for right and wrong, or does he or she think that post-modern “narratives” that proceed from the press, Hollywood, and academia should decide our course? Consider his record – what has governed his decisions in the past?

         He must rule in the fear of God. Not only should a president be guided by the Law but he also should conduct his administration believing he will be held accountable to the Law-Giver.  He should have a sense of responsibility, not only to history but to the God of history. This will include considering the impact his decisions will have on the people they affect.  God is the Father to the fatherless and the Judge of the widows – the most vulnerable in out society (Psalm 68:5). Today we could also include those with disabilities and the unborn.  A good candidate will understand that God is the Defender of those least able to defend themselves. Even more than that, a president should see himself as God’s instrument in executing that defense and work hard to fulfill his duties for those who he leads. 

         I don’t know any leader of any nation who has ever completely lived up to these high standards. We are all flawed people living in a fallen world. David himself did not live up to them, but we do have the promise that someday his descendant, the Messiah, will when He returns to earth. Until then, in the United States, it is our privilege and solemn responsibility to choose the candidate who we believe comes the closest to these two standards.

         What will be the effect of such leadership? According to David, it would be much different from the gloom that today’s pundits predict. According to him it will be the promise that comes with a bright and clear morning – a new growth everywhere and a clarity that is like the fresh air after a rain shower. 

Could this be a new morning in America? Possibly.

“For Real” Repentance

It’s no secret that repentance can look real even when it isn’t. We have all met Christians who have “repented” but, in reality, only switched the track on which their selfishness runs. Worse than that, we can remember when we have done the same thing! 

Repentance is not a one-time act in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. As mentioned in a previous post (“Repentance”), we are aiming for a horizon (lined out in the Beatitudes.)  As in any flight, this requires frequent “course corrections” and adjustments to keep our course aligned with that horizon. 

How do we know our repentance is real and not just a product of our emotions or an effort to save our reputation? How can we keep from only shedding “crocodile tears” when we should be seeking real life change?

The answer lies in the stories of Saul and David.  Both were kings. Both had committed serious sins. Both were confronted by prophets for their sins but only one of them repented for real.  The other king produced and directed a touching repentance show – crying “crocodile tears” – putting his life into a shallow dive from which it never recovered. The story this second king is told in 1 Samuel 15.

A few years after being anointed king of Israel by Samuel the prophet, Saul was busy establishing the kingdom of Israel and fighting its enemies on every side.  This included the nations of Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. He also had some skirmishes with a group called the Amalekites (1 Samuel 14:47-48). After this, Samuel the prophet came with a message from the Lord to Saul that he was to utterly wipe out the Amalekites – men, women, children, and all livestock – because of what they did to the children of Israel when they were wandering in the wilderness.

At first Saul obeyed, gathered an army, and then destroyed the almost all the people – he kept the Amalekite king and the best of the animals alive. God quickly informed Samuel about Saul’s disobedience and the prophet went to confront Saul with his sin. When confronted, Saul protested that he did obey the command of God by bringing the king of Amalek and allowing the people to bring the best of the animals to sacrifice to the Lord. 

After Samuel rebuked Saul with the declaration that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” Saul raised the curtain on his repentance drama. His opening lines were spot on – “I have sinned” (1 Samuel 15:24) as he confessed that he trespassed against God’s commandment and feared the people more than God. But the plot took a twist as Samuel prepared to leave Saul – never to see him again. Saul begged the prophet to go with him as he returned to the people to worship the Lord.  Samuel refused and started to walk away and, as he did, Saul grabbed Samuel’s robe in desperation and it tore. Samuel used this as an illustration of how God was going to tear the kingdom away from Saul and give it to someone better. Saul continued to beg Samuel help him save face and return with him to worship the Lord in front of the people. Samuel finally relented and returned with Saul to worship and then went on his way, leaving the king to his stubborn and rebellious ways.

On the other hand David, who was Saul’s successor, committed two sins that were much worse than Saul’s (see 2 Samuel 11,12).  First, he committed adultery with Bath-Sheba.  After he found out she was pregnant with his child, he tried to hide his sin by calling her husband, Urijah, back from the war under the guise of getting news of how it was going.  When Urijah chose to lodge with David’s servants instead of going home to be with his wife, David conspired to have him killed in battle. 

David was confronted by the prophet Nathan – and through him, God pronounced a severe judgment on David ‘s family because of his sin.  When confronted, David responded like Saul – “I have sinned” (2 Samuel 12:13) but the similarity ends there.  David’s repentance was real and is on full display in Psalm 51.  You might call this psalm an “Anatomy of Real Repentance.” It is worth some serious study – there is a lot to learn there – but let’s look at a few key points.

  • David approached God on one basis alone – Yahweh’s lovingkindness and tender mercies.  All of David’s past victories and virtues are forgotten here – they do not matter. These two sins outweigh them all (vs. 1).  No matter how “big” or “small” – our sin is still sin. When we really repent, we approach God the same way – on the basis of His mercy alone.  Forget your past successes.
  • Unlike Saul, David did not try to escape the consequences of his sin. He did not try to save face – just the opposite!  He wrote this whole psalm about his sin and there are fifty-two verses in 2 Samuel detailing the sordid affair. In Psalm 51:2 he asks God to “wash me thoroughly from my sin.”  The word for “wash” (Hebrew – kabas) is not the word for taking washing your hands or taking a bubble bath.  It is the word for washing clothes. It literally means to trample because trampling the clothes with the feet was the “agitation cycle” in ancient times. Not only was David not seeking to escape the consequences of his sin, he was inviting them! “Trample over me many times because of my sin.” In other words – “Work this filth out of me, no matter what You have to do!” is the attitude of a repentance that is for real.
  • He was very aware that he had trespassed into forbidden territory. He grasped the seriousness of his sin – he did not seek to minimize it. He saw it for what it was – not a mistake or a weakness – but a slap at a holy God.  In the New Testament, the word for “confess” is homologeo which means to “agree” or to “say the same thing.” This comes when we see something the same way as someone else.  Somebody who has truly repented has taken the time to see his sin the way God sees it (vs 4).
  • He knew the only remedy for sin was blood.  Hyssop tree was a bushy plant whose sprigs were used to strike the posts and lintels of the doors of the Israelites when the death angel visited the Egyptians the night of the Passover. The blood of a lamb without spot or blemish was the only thing that saved them that night.  A repentant heart knows that forgiveness can only come through the blood that Jesus shed for us (vs. 7,9; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:22).
  • Finally, David prayed for restoration.  He did not pray for the restoration of his reputation – he prayed for a restoration of his relationship with God. He asked for a clean heart, a right spirit, the privilege of living daily in His presence, the joy of his salvation, and that God’s Holy Spirit would not be taken from him.  He did not ask for restoration just he could feel good and sleep at night.  He prayed for this so he could teach his fellow transgressors God’s ways and turn back to Him.  When we repent “for real” we seek God’s restoration so He can use us to restore others.

To truly repent is the beginning of eternal life.  It opens the door to a relationship with God Himself – the Creator of heaven and earth!  The blood of the lambs and bullocks of the Old Testament were God’s “placeholders” – speaking of the blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus – cleansing us like David was cleansed.  

Look over Psalm 51 for yourself.  Study it.  Ponder it. Pray it to God from your heart. Real repentance is the most important thing you can do in your life.

Repentance

Today is the central day of “The Return” – a movement for national repentance led by Rabbi Jonathan Kahn – held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Along with other churches, the church I attend will be joining with the march virtually and I am looking forward to it.

         What is repentance?  I have heard it explained as a “180 degree turn” in one’s life. “I was once going south and now I am going north” – a radical directional change in one’s life.  I maintain that this is what resultsfrom repentance – but repentance is more than just a change in direction. Repentance comes from a change in our hearts. 

In the New Testament the word “repent” is first heard from the mouth of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1,2).  It is also the first word we hear Jesus speak in His public ministry (Matthew 4:17)!  The Greek word for “repent” is metanoeo which is defined in Vine’s Expository Dictionary as to “change one’s mind or purpose.”  I have heard it described as a change in one’s moral center – a change from my morals centering around what best pleases me, to my morals centering around what best pleases Him.  This change leads to another change – in my disposition, or my state of mind, toward different areas of my life.  The way I look at myself, others, sin, my “rights,” my relationships, and the needs of others, are all changed when I repent. All of this brings about that “180 degree turn” in the way we live.

How do we know if we have repented, or need to repent? That is why the next words we hear from Jesus in the New Testament are the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).  These describe the man or woman who has truly repented.  They are the picture of a repentant heart. 

I like to describe them as the horizon by which we need to orient our lives.  I am not a pilot, but have always been interested in aviation. Before computers were able to consolidate all the information a pilot needs to know into a few screens, a key indicator of how a flight was going was the “attitude indicator.” This is a circular dial that had a line (representing the wings of the airplane) that seemed to  “float” above a stationary line (representing the horizon). If the floating line dropped below the stationary line – you were in a dive. If it rose above the horizon, you were in a climb.  If the floating line leaned to the right or left – it showed that the plane was turning. The whole purpose of the attitude indicator was to show the plane’s disposition to the horizon. This is especially important during times when the real horizon could not be seen.  

The Beatitudes are our “attitude indicator.” They provide a “horizon” for our lives and help us gauge our disposition to that horizon.  Are we in a slow dive, or are we in too steep of a climb and heading for a stall?  Are we beginning to roll? We should be visiting the Beatitutdes often to keep ourselves level and right-side-up in an upside-down world.  

How to Treat Your Enemies

In our everyday life it is normal to encounter those with whom we have disagreements or even personality conflicts.  However there are a few times in life when we encounter people who not only dislike us – they hate us.  They do not just want to avoid us – they want to destroy us politically, socially, financially, or even physically.  Enemies are not just people who treat you bad because they are having a bad day, they are people who just want you gone and are willing to do what they have to do to see it happen.

Sometimes we have an enemy because of something stupid or sinful we have done.  If that is the case it is time to “leave your gift at the altar” and do whatever is needed to seek reconciliation. When we acquire an enemy we should first stop and ask ourselves if they are hating us because we did what was right or what was wrong. 

I have only encountered one or two real enemies in my life.  I expect that will change for all who willing to live as a Christian in this post-modern world. That is why it is important to revisit Jesus’ teaching on how we are to treat our enemies and even those who are just having a bad day (it is good practice for the day we meet a real enemy)! 

 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,  Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.  And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.  Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.  And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.  And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Luke 6:26-36

  First of all, we see that it should be unusual for a Christian not to have an enemy at least sometime in their life. As followers of Christ in a fallen world it is inevitable that we will  meet a few people who will hate us.  As the world system doubles down on its rebellion against God, this hatred of us will increase.

This doesn’t mean we should not defend ourselves or those for whom we are responsible. Like Paul the Apostle, we should avail ourselves of whatever rights as citizens that are left to us, and do so in the spirit of our Redeemer. In this passage (and in a parallel one in Matthew 5: 43-48) Jesus gives us four steps to follow to help us do just that. 

Love your enemies. In Matthew – Jesus puts this command in direct contradiction to the conventional wisdom of the day – to love your neighbor but hate your enemy. Why should we love our enemies? We must love our enemies because hating them does not destroy them – it destroys us.  Returning an enemy’s hate increases their influence over you and destroys your soul. 

Another reason to love your enemy is because there is a reward for doing so.  Apparently loving our enemies pays very well – mostly in the influence you will have on others. John tells us in 1 John 3:1 that we are the sons of God – but those around us do not know that yet.  But Jesus tells us that loving our enemies transfigures us (in a sense), so those around can recognize us for who we really are – the children of the Highest. This moment comes when we love our enemies. 

But how do we love someone who is out to destroy us? Jesus follows this command with three others that, if followed, makes this impossible task not only possible but inevitable.

Do good to them which hate you. Having an enemy is a powerful opportunity to demonstrate what the love of God really looks like. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus tells us that His Father does not withhold what people need because of their faults and neither should we.  When confronted with one who hates us we need to intentionally look beyond their efforts to destroy us and see their needs.  This introduces a paradigm shift in our attitude that is the first step to truly loving our enemy.  

When we do good to an enemy by meeting his or her physical needs with our “treasure” (time, money, energy), we are also investing in them emotionally.  In Matthew 6:21 Jesus said regarding giving, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This helps us to truly forgive and even love those who hate or offend us in some way.  A note of caution here: Timing is essential. An attempt to help may be perceived by an enemy as only an attempt to placate his anger if it is offered at the wrong time. If your help or generosity is rejected – do not be discouraged, but keep praying about the matter. God will open up opportunities that will amaze you!

Bless them that curse you. A curse does not have to be a “four-letter word.”  It could be an angry insult, a whispering campaign to sully the reputation of another, or just plain trash-talk. It is using our mouth to strike back at our enemy in some way.  However, gracious words spoken to or about  a foe can go a long way in extinguishing the fire of an enemy’s wrath.  Solomon tells us that tender words sends wrath into retreat while painful words only stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1). He also tells us that soft words go a long way to breaking down barriers (Proverbs 25:15).

How can we bless those who are cursing us? First, we must make up our mind to do so – this a command, not a request.  It is our duty,  as followers of the crucified One, to always render blessing for cursing (1 Peter 2:20,21).  Second, we need to look for ways we can give a good report about our enemy. Is he a good father, or is she an efficient secretary?  Do they work hard?  Don’t lie or flatter – but pray about the matter, and seriously think about their good points.  I can assure you – even the meanest enemies will have some!  Also, beware of the talebearers . . . the gossips who will try to bait you into cursing your enemy “secretly” so they can carry the news back to them to hear their response.    Some people just love a good fight – don’t give it to them!

Blessing an enemy has an effect on us as well. As we consider their good qualities, they suddenly don’t look like the monsters we thought they were.  Blessing an enemy humanizes them in our eyes. We begin to see that they really are not that different from ourselves.

Pray for them who despitefully use you. It really stings to be on the business end of a threat. Jesus makes it clear our first response is not to pray against our enemies – but to pray for our enemies.  Why should we do this?  First of all, we do not need to pray against our enemies because God already said that vengeance is His – and He has already promised to repay (Romans 12:19-21).  When He does repay – that is our opportunity to help! Second, praying for our enemy gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to keep our hearts soft toward that person so we will joyfully seize that opportunity to help when it presents itself.  Third, we are to pray because that physical enemy we have is God’s reminder to us that we have a much greater enemy who is always at war with us (even when everything is going well).  Flesh and blood enemies wake us up to the reality that we are always wrestling against principalities, powers, the rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places whose whole purpose is to destroy us (Ephesians 6:12). Your physical enemy is only a pawn in a much larger game and if you respond to his hatred in kind you become a pawn as well!  Praying for your enemy is the remedy.  A proper response to an enemy actually begins with praying for them.

As you will see in my next post, enemies can be a mighty blessing if we respond correctly.  God has a social economy that operates differently than ours in every way.  As we walk in His ways (which are much higher than ours) the doors open for Him to show His glory and draw people to Christ.

The Last Laugh

One of my favorite TV shows as a child was “Hogan’s Heroes.”  The comedy portrayed a crew of cunning saboteurs (aka: “POW’s) who were always able to pull the wool over the eyes of a group of bumbling Nazi’s.  A few years ago, I was wondering how many of the cast were still alive and what they were doing.  I found out that their present was not as interesting as their past.  Here is a brief synopsis of what I found:

Otto Klemperer (Colonel Kink) was the son of another Otto Klemperer – a world famous Jewish German conductor who had been discharged from his post at the State Opera in Berlin by the Nazis and went, with his family, into exile in the US during World War II.

John Banner (Sergeant Shultz) was a young Austrian Jewish actor who was touring Switzerland with an acting company when Nazi Germany and Austria united in 1938. Unable to return to Austria, he emigrated to the US as a political refugee.

Howard Kaine (Colonel Hochstedder) was born in 1926 to a Jewish family in Nashville, Tennessee and began acting when he moved with his family to New York City.

Leon Askin (General Burkholder) was born into a Jewish family on Yom Kippur in September of 1907. He became a famous actor in the “Louise Dumont Playhouse” in Dusseldorf until he was thrown out of the theater as a Jew. About a month later he was arrested by the SA, taken to the SA barracks and beaten by a member of the SS.  After his release, he emigrated to Paris where he eventually ended up in an internment camp in 1938. He remained there until he emigrated to New York in 1940.

Robert Clary (Corporal Louis LeBeau) grew up in a French Orthodox Jewish family as the youngest of 14 children.  In 1941, when the Nazi’s took over in France he endured the isolation, the curfews, the ghettoes, and the mistreatment of the Nazis. In 1942, at the age of 16, he was interned in a concentration camp (see .  It was the last time he would see his mother and the eleven other family members who were imprisoned with him (see here).  As the war wound down, he was transferred to other camps until he, along with his fellow prisoners, were liberated.

I find it interesting that for six funny years these six men were given an opportunity to stand back and have, in a sense, the “last laugh” on the regime which had murdered their family members and threatened their very existence just because they were Jewish.

The Bible tells us of another who will have the final laugh at those who rise up to destroy the Jewish people and the heritage they represent – God Himself.  To those rulers who would set themselves against Him, and His anointed, the Bible tells us:

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, And vex them in his sore displeasure.         (Psalm 2:4,5)

From the ancient Egyptians, to the Babylonians, and on to the Nazis, history is littered with societies who have opposed, conquered, and oppressed the Jewish people. Once world leaders, now they do not exist, are shadows of the societies they once were, or have become mere by-words illustrating human arrogance and cruelty.

As a Christian I believe God still looks at the Jewish people as “His people.”  He still has a plan for them, and that plan is intertwined with the return of Jesus, the Messiah, to earth.  Until that time, God’s promise to Abraham to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him is still very much in effect.  As an American, I believe that our nation should always take that promise of blessing and cursing very seriously.  Although many do not see it this way – it is God’s mercy that the Trump administration is pursuing a more positive course with Israel than the presidents who came before. It is my prayer that this course will continue through future administrations as well.

There is a saying that “He who laughs last, laughs best.” The Bible tells us that God will have the last laugh – and it will be at those who opposed Him, His people, and His Christ.  

On which side of the laugh will you be?

Legal Evil

“You can’t legislate morality.” You have heard it said time and time again – usually when a law is passed that serves to enforce a moral standard of a culture.

And it is true.  You can’t legislate morality. True morality comes from changed hearts, not from changed laws. But laws are still important in moral matters because they define what is moral, just, and good.  They bring sanctions designed to deter and hold back the evil that lies dormant in every heart.

While it is true that you cannot legislate morality – it is also true that legislation can legitimize evil in a society. We shudder at the horrors of evil inflicted on whole societies over the last one hundred years alone – the forced starvation of millions in the Ukraine, the efficient assembly-line-like murder of six million Jews in Germany, and the imprisonment of a whole country in North Korea – and we forget that all of it was perfectly legal.

Evilly legal.

All of these atrocities were (are) committed in accordance with the laws of the countries where they occurred.  We may take issue on how those laws came about – but they came about and they codified evil.

It is important that we recognize the difference between “legal” and “lawful.” In reference to our right to exist as a country in the Declaration of Independence, our founders referred to the “laws of nature and nature’s God.”  They recognized there are unalterable laws in nature and those laws did not just happen – they were put in place by a Law-Giver – God Himself.  In the next sentence they tell us that this same God also endowed all people with rights that could not be taken from them – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With these words, they set the stage, not just for the rest of the Declaration, but for the proper conduct of our nation up to the present day.

In other words, legislation is only lawful if it does not infringe on these rights.  If a law codifies the taking of any of these rights, it is our duty as citizens to protest and resist that law.

The first of those rights is life.  There are times when the government must judiciously and carefully take life, such as in the case of taking the life of another. However, to codify the taking of innocent life, however nascent, is to codify evil. It is legal evil.

Abortion has always been abhorrent.  It has become especially so in the light of recent videos exposing the sale of fetal body parts and the perverted abortion practices of practitioners such as Kermit Gosnell. However nothing has so repulsed, shocked, and grieved so many as the decision of our own governor in New York signing a statute that codifies the murder of innocents from the time of their conception until seconds before their birth. The Reproductive Health Act was signed into law on the 45thanniversary of another legally evil milestone – Roe vs. Wade. This was followed a week later by a bill proposed in Virginia (as well as some deeply disturbing comments by the pediatrician governor of that state) that went even further into the dark realm of infanticide.

Evil has consequences.  Evil that has been codified into law has consequences for cities, states, or nations who have started down that dark road.  In his second inaugural address, while the Civil War was still raging – President Lincoln reminded the nation the war was the divine sanction for codified evil:

“The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

           The Civil War was not “Karma” for the evil worked in the lives of the slaves. It was the reaping of a harvest from seeds of evil sown.  No American desired it then and no sane American desires one now – but evil always has consequences and they can come in many ways. The prophet Hosea, speaking about a wayward Israel who were well into a form of ritual infanticide themselves, said “they have sown the wind, and they shall inherit the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7a). It was not long after they were carried away captive by the brutal Assyrian Empire.

I truly love New York. My family has been here since before the Revolutionary War. My great grandfather served in the elected office of Sheriff in Herkimer County. I grieve over the failing economies of the towns and the shrinking population in this once thriving state.  I am concerned about the consequences to come, if God so wills, and have been praying for mercy upon this state and my fellow citizens.

What do we do then? It is for us who believe there is a God as the ultimate arbiter of good and evil to speak and work for the good and against the evil. It is our duty to pray that truth and the right will prevail in the narratives of our media.  It is to make our disgust, anger, and fury known to our legislators through letters and the ballot box.  It is to pray for changed hearts in the Governor’s office as well as in the Senate and Assembly chambers. If the hearts refuse to change, it is our duty to pray for and work for, the election of new leaders who will overturn the legal evil in our state.

Read more in Dave’s blog  “Musings of an American” (amermusings.wordpress.com)

A Happy Ending

It has been more than three months since my last posting – “Our Love Story” – on Valentine’s Day.  That is because the wonderful love story that Wendi and I shared came to a sudden end when she passed away, unexpectedly, on March 7th.  In a manner of speaking, my life, and the lives of our family also came to an end at the same time.  The past months have been spent grieving, helping each other through sorrow, while navigating all the twists and turns of funerals and “post-mortem” adjustments.

It doesn’t sound like a happy ending to a love story but in many ways it was.  Wendi went the way she had told me she wanted to – quickly, quietly, and before me.  As far as I can tell she did not suffer in her passing.  She also did not have to deal with all the complicated and perplexing events and duties that come in the wake of the passing of a spouse. 

Most of all, it was happy because it wasn’t really the ending.  

Wendi had grown up in a home that eventually broke apart with a divorce when she was a teenager.  She always said that experience taught her to hate sin.  Eventually she came to hate her sin and found a Savior in Jesus Christ.  He saved her and kept her until she passed from this life to be in the presence of One who loved more than I ever could.

But that is still not the ending.

Jesus rose from the dead some 2000 years ago, and because He did – all those who believe in Him will rise again someday as well.  The Easter following Wendi’s passing was the sweetest Easter I had ever experienced.  The truth of His resurrection and the hope of our resurrection had never been so real.  Because He rose again, I know that both Wendi and I will rise again as well.

I know the center of attention for Wendi then will not be me.  I know that we will not be married (to each other) in heaven – we will be there together as part of the Church – the Bride of Christ.  I don’t know anything more about our relationship when all this unfolds – but I do know that our lives in heaven are described in the Bible as something greater than our eyes have ever seen, our ears have ever heard, or even anything beyond our wildest imaginations. I guess I can’t ask for anything more than that!

Every love story has an ending, This was ours.  It was a happy ending for one reason – and that reason is a Person – Jesus Christ.  He redeemed us from sin and brought us together. Through our years of marriage He knit us together and He blessed us with a wonderful family.  He took Wendi home and I know He will take me home as well.  

In these things I rejoice. 

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Explore on your own!

These are scriptures that are alluded to in this post. Take some extra time and look up these passages. Read them in context. Do some word study with an expository dictionary, follow cross-references, and even invest some time memorizing and meditating on some of them. Write down what you learn – you will be surprised how this will “congeal” Scriptural principles in your heart and mind!

1 Corinthians 15:1-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Corinthians 4:7-18; Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 20:5,6; Daniel 12:1-4; 1 Corinthians 2:6-12.

Our Love Story

It was a warm, pleasant afternoon at my family’s camp. We were on a vacation during the summer between my freshmen and junior year at a Bible institute. The rest of the family had gone to the lake to swim while I stayed up at the cottage to spend some time praying. I had a habit at that time of praying for mission fields and missionaries and was daily working through a list I had made up for that purpose.  This day, however, was going to bring an unexpected twist – a REALLY unexpected twist. When I was praying for the Philippines you might say that the Lord “spoke to me.” It was not an audible voice but rather a kind of knowing that suddenly popped into my heart.

He “said” that I was going to be in the Philippines and Wendi was going to be with me.

Wendi was the treasurer of our class at the Bible institute I was attending. I had noticed her, admired her prayer life, and the fact that she had a heart for people. She was a beautiful girl with a calm, easy-going demeanor. But I had never, before that moment, thought of her as a potential mate.

To make a long story short, the following year Wendi and I DID start going together. The following year we were engaged. We married shortly after graduating from that Bible institute and arrived in the Philippines five months later for a 20-year stint as missionaries in that wonderful country. Thirty-seven years of marriage, five children and 7 grand-children later we are still married, and I am still amazed, day after day, just how perfect she is for me – and I for her (or so she says!)

I had not been looking for a wife at that time He “spoke” to me. Having had some bad experiences in the past (largely due to my selfishness and immaturity), I had determined not to look for a girlfriend or a wife. I wanted to be married but I put that desire on the shelf so I could direct my attention to seeking the Lord instead. If He wanted me to marry – He would make it clear when the time came.

And He did. On our first “social hour” (really only a half hour in the evening our school allowed couples to meet) we prayed, read our Bibles and shared our testimonies. As time went on, and we got to know each other, our fellowship grew deeper and richer.

But we did not fall in love.

We held our hearts until we knew we were what God wanted for each other.

Then, we chose to love each other.

You might say we have fallen in love since then – it certainly feels like it. But we still know that our love is a choice – a daily choice to put the other first. It’s a choice that keeps us trying even when we don’t understand each other. Yes, there are tough times but we have found that He who brought us together is more than able to keep us together.

Every couple has their “How We Met” stories. This is ours. For those of you who are still writing yours – I hope this story encourages you to seek first the One who loves you most and let Him guide you in your quest. God always chooses the best when we leave the choice to Him.

For Official Use Only

When we were missionaries in a southeast Asian country in the ‘80’s most of the people were not wealthy enough to own their own vehicles. However, if they needed a vehicle for their work, the company or government agency they worked for would provide a “service.” This was a vehicle marked “For Official Use Only” that they were to use only for business related tasks.

However, as we would return late at night from an evangelistic outreach or other events, we would sometime pass a discotheque or a bar and see at least two or three of those vehicles that were “For Official Use Only” parked in front. One time we saw a vehicle that sported a more honest “For Official Use Also” emblazoned on its door!

In his first epistle, Peter repeats for his readers the command God gave His people in Leviticus 11:44 – “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). The semantic field for “holy” (hagios in the New Testament and qudas in the Old Testament) gives the idea of something that is ceremonially clean or separated for use in the temple.

You might even say that being “holy” is being “For Official Use Only.”

“Holiness” is a term that has unjustly inherited a bad reputation in modern Christianity. It’s centrality to the Christian life has been clouded by accusations (sometimes justified, but in my experience not so much) of “legalism.” But when it comes down to raw holiness – holiness in its most basic form – it is living our lives, in every area, for “official use only.”

In the past, the High Priest was commanded to wear a mitre with a gold plate that proclaimed “Holiness Unto the Lord” – setting him apart from all other pursuits. Through Jeremiah, the Lord reminded a backslidden Israel they were once “Holiness unto the Lord” like a woman who was engaged to her husband and had eyes only for him. The prophet Zachariah prophesied that in the future (during the millennial reign of Christ) that same inscription was going to be on everything because, at that time, everything will be be for “official use only”(even the bells on the horses and the pots in the kitchen!)

But what does “being holy” look like today? It is a lifestyle that reflects a decreasing “Me” and an increasing “Him.” It is a personality that buds and blooms with what Paul calls the “Fruit of the Spirit.” It shows itself through lips that speak life not death, ears and eyes that are simple concerning evil while being wise about things that are good, and a body that comports itself modestly.

Holiness is not something we achieve, it is something the Holy Spirit produces in our lives through His Word. As we obey the light we have – He gives more. As we trust Him through the crises of life, we find a strength is manifested through a growing sense of quietness and confidence.

And it all begins with a simple decision to change one word in the motto of our lives from “For Official Use Also” to “Official Use Only.

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Explore on your own!

These are scriptures that are alluded to in this post. Take some extra time and look up these passages. Read them in context. Do some word study with an expository dictionary, follow cross-references, and even invest some time memorizing and meditating on some of them. Write down what you learn – you will be surprised how this will “congeal” Scriptural principles in your heart and mind!

Leviticus 11:44-47; 1 Peter 1:13-16; John 1:19-28; 3:25-36; Jeremiah 2:1-8; Zechariah 14:20,21; Exodus 28:36-38; Galatians 5:16-26; Romans 16:17-20; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; Romans 12:1,2; 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1; Isaiah 30:15-17.

 

 

 

 

The Danger of the Nest

Luke 9:57-58: And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. 

I have come to the conclusion that most of the problems I have had as a Christian arose whenever I refused to embrace two basic truths.

The first truth: Salvation is not only a rescue – it is also a calling.

If we are not careful we will look at our new life in Christ as just that – our new life in Christ. Like any rescue – it is a new beginning – but once we are rescued, our lives are no longer our own. The sooner we realize this, the happier we will be.

The same Rabbi who told an erring woman “Neither do I condemn thee” also commanded her to “go and sin no more.” The Christ who invited the weary multitudes to come to Him also invited them to come under His yoke and learn. The same Jesus who came to save the lost also made it clear they had to lose their lives for Him if they were to save them. In writing to a pleasure craved church, Paul reminded the Corinthians that the price that freed them also bought them for a specific purpose: glorifying God with their spirits and their bodies.

It took me a while to get the point that Paul got immediately – “Lord, What wilt THOU have me do?” When we realize the price that was paid, and Who paid it, we cannot respond any other way.

The second truth is this: Salvation is a process that begins with an event.

The event is being born again. It is receiving Christ – granting Him full access to all of our life.

But as wonderful as it is to have our sins forgiven, and becoming a new creation, it is only the beginning of the work of His grace.

In talking about eternal life in Matthew, Jesus mentioned two necessary elements – the strait gate and the narrow road. The gate truly is constrictive – Jesus is the only way to salvation, there is none other. But we must not forget that this gate also places us on a road. A road different from the one most people follow. It is a road that demands attention and vigilance.

Like traveling on a road, the process of salvation is not static – it is dynamic. Like being born again, it is a work of grace – and like being born again – it requires our cooperation . . . a daily “denying ourselves and taking up our cross” kind of cooperation. It beseeches us to work out, with fear and trembling, what the Holy Spirit works in us.

It is nothing less than following Jesus – and that is where the danger of the nest lurks. Following Jesus through life necessitates leaving our comfort zones and stepping into new territory on a regular basis. That “new territory” may be a new way of doing things, a new friendship (or breaking off of an old one), starting a new habit (or breaking an old one), or even a new location. It is “putting off” the old ways of doing things and “putting on” a new way of living. But sometimes we hesitate, we pull back, we resist, or just say, “No.”

Why? Because we love the comfort and security of our “nest.”

And that is dangerous. It is dangerous because it frustrates the grace of God. It hinders the work of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to do His work in our hearts. Don’t misunderstand, nests are good. We need nests and Jesus promised to graciously supply “nests” (homes, support systems, income streams, etc..) wherever He leads us. The danger is not in the nest itself – but our attitude toward it. The danger of the nest is loving it more than the One who provided it. 

The man who wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went was thinking he could do it from the comfort of his nest. He couldn’t do it, and neither can we.

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Explore on your own!

These are the scriptures alluded to in the post. Take some extra time and look up these passages. Read them in context. Do some word study with an expository dictionary, follow cross references, and even spend time memorizing and meditating on some of them. Write down what you learn – you will be surprised how this will “congeal” Scriptural principles in your heart and mind!

Luke 9:57-62; John 8:1-11; Matthew 11:25-30; Luke 11:1-27; Mark 6:34-38; 1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20; Acts 9:1-9; John 3:1-21; John 1:1-14; Matthew 7:13,14; Luke 9:23-27; Philippians 2:12,13; 4:20-32; Colossians 3:8-17; Luke 14:25-35; Mark 10:28-31