Three Days: Then What?

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. 
Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh God is an everlasting rock.”
Isaiah 26:3-4

With an “election” just three days away, listen to the pundits: it will either be a landslide for Joe Biden or Donald Trump; or it will be a razor thin win that will be contested in courts all the way up to the day the Electoral College convenes on December 14 . . . or beyond!

However, what will be our response as Christ-followers to the election? Evangelicals, as a voting group, have put their hat in the ring with Trump; other Evangelicals, such as John Piper and leaders in Christianity Today have questioned the wisdom of voting for a candidate so far removed from a Christ-honoring life-style; as if “Catholic” Joe Biden represented a better option?

Perhaps disciples of Jesus should be less focused on this election, and more concentrated on how our witness is affected by aligning with any political party. That is not to say we should not vote, nor do I mean that we should not participate in the discussions and debates about the directions of our nation. However, those discussions should always bring us back to sharing the preeminent love of Jesus for those with whom we disagree. It should not result in a withdrawal to “our corner” with only those who agree with us.

There is a sovereignty of God that will not yield to Democrat or Republican propaganda; He will determine our next president no matter how hard we pray for a particular outcome. This is not an abdication of faith. I can tell God as forcefully as possible that I want a certain candidate elected, and if that is not God’s will, I will join Peter when Jesus told him to stand down, calling the conspicuous lead disciple a devil! “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23)

This is where too many North American “Christians” are today! We want our comfortable middle-class religion that is easy-living and does not disturb us with issues of turning the other cheek, loving the poor, inviting the disenfranchised into our homes, giving more than merely “out of [our] abundance.”

How many of us support missions in Kenya but will not invite a black family to supper; too many of us do not even know a black family to invite! Who among us has befriended a Muslim family that needs more than Mohammad can offer? What about the college students who are living together unwed? Are we so offended by their lifestyle that we cannot show them how much we and Father love them? How much strain do you think an abortion assistant must go through before becoming calloused to the disposed “body parts?” When was the last time you talked to anyone about their eternal soul and what will happen if they have not accepted Jesus?

What really matters to us? Consider how much time do we spend praying for our lifestyle choices and comforts to continue? Compare that to how much time we pray for our president or his successor. Now, let’s get meddlesome: How much time do we spend praying for friends who do not know where they will spend eternity!? Have we inadvertently bought into a “prosperity gospel” that promises we should never have to suffer because God loves us? He will “fix” whatever we find disagreeable?

Jesus went to the cross in God’s will and by Father’s plan. Three days later He came back from the dead; yes, think about that – we believe even death could not destroy Him who is before all things and by whom all things hold together. But He could not have risen from the dead unless He first went to that cursed cross!

And do not think that we will be spared affliction, just as Peter warned those first century followers of Jesus: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

So now with three days till the “election,” if it is even finished then, what will we do with these three days? Hole up in our hidey-holes and pray that God will give us the elected officials we want? Or can we find or make an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with someone who may not even realize they need Him?

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Say A Prayer For The President

Prayer should be such a constant part of following Jesus, at first I thought I would pass on passing this along. But then Scripture continually exhorts us to pray and Jesus set this as our example. So I offer this guest blog in hopes that we will join Ms. Kristian (yes, that is her real name 🙂 ) in praying for our president whoever may occupy the White House. Christianity Today is an excellent resource for perspectives on issues of faith and practice; well worth the subscription! c.a.
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Politics should not  matter when it comes to lifting up our leaders.
Bonnie Kristian – October 20, 2020

Though I have never contributed to a time capsule, penning this column seems a curiously similar exercise. As I sit down to write, summer is blazing. Joe Biden handily leads President Donald Trump in the polls, but I can’t claim to know who will win.

When you sit down to read this, the presidential election may or may not be over. The results may or may not be announced. Between pandemic occasioned mail-in ballots and the lawsuits and recounts I expect will follow, this column seems to me a distant, ominous smear on the calendar of a helter-skelter year. What can I write to such a future?

There is one certainty, however the election ends: A president of the United States will be chosen, and he will be in dire need of prayer.

Calls to pray for political leaders are familiar to evangelicals. We know Scripture requires it: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone,” writes the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1–2, “for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (NRSV throughout). We know, too, that prayers are commanded no matter what we make of our leaders’ politics. We pray for their prudence and success for the sake of our neighbors, even if we would never give them our vote.

But I think we can pray more. Here are four ways to pray over a president, whoever he may be:

Pray honestly, but with mercy.
Around the time of the 2012 election, billboards appeared in several states, urging passersby to pray Psalm 109 for then-President Barack Obama: “May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow. May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit” (Ps. 109:9–10). Imprecatory Psalms like this appear in Scripture because God wants us to speak truthfully to him (Job 42:8). We should not conceal our emotions in prayer, as if we could fool God. But at the same time, as bitter honesty is preferable to decorous pretense, so mercy in our prayers is better than cruelty.

Pray for winners and for losers.
The Covid-19 pandemic; a summer of police brutality, protest, and riot; and Trump’s cunning omnipresence in our political conversations have combined to intensify what is already the most intense date on the political calendar. For many Americans, this election feels apocalyptic. I don’t think forecasts of widespread violence over its outcome are correct, but neither can I confidently dismiss their possibility. For those whose candidate lost, we should pray for calm, endurance, and comfort in what may be a moment of real fear. For those whose candidate won, we should pray for responsibility, humility, and grace. Insofar as conscience permits, let us “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

Pray for wisdom, peace, and justice.
Every presidency is much shaped by its staff, and the space between Election Day and Inauguration Day is a crucial time for the selection of presidential advisers. “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls,” says Proverbs 11:14, but bad guidance can take a nation down also. Prayers for peace are needed, because our Constitution assigns the president perhaps his most unfettered power in the conduct of war — and its conclusion. And some policies of every presidency, whether at war or at home, inflict unjust harms. We should pray for our president’s victims, for their receipt of justice and restoration.

Pray for perspective and discipleship.
The presidency, we must remember, is not everything. Who occupies the Oval Office cannot singly determine every course of the next four years. In the smaller scheme of things, many policies that most affect our daily lives are set at state and local levels. There is good to do in our communities, whatever happens in Washington. In the bigger picture, the president is not our true king and America is not our true kingdom. Our hope is in Christ, not “in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help” (Ps. 146:3). Neither is the president our exemplar, the life around which we conform our own. Still, let us pray that discipleship will cultivate in us any of his virtues we admire — and that sanctification will excise from us any of his vices we revile.

Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today.

Since All These Things Are Thus To Be Dissolved, How Should We Then Vote?

The title of this blog comes from 2 Peter 3:11 with a little tweaking: How should we then vote?  I received constructive criticism from a dear friend after sending out an email encouraging everyone to vote.  He strongly suggested I should have instructed each to vote as a Christian: against abortion and same sex marriage, and for freedom of religion … and a life free from mob rule, etc.

However, John Piper recently wrote, “I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only “toxic” for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as “deadly.” Both are deadly.”

You have heard it said “If you find the perfect church, do not join it as it will not be perfect anymore!” 😮  There is no perfect church and there are no perfect candidates.  So we are always left with the choice of the lesser of two evils, no matter who is running for office.  Randy Alcorn in Heaven said (the book, not the address 😇) “Christians should be involved in the political process, and we can do much good, but we should never forget that the only government that will succeed in global reform is Christ’s government.”  We are called to be “salt and light” in this ever-darkening world, and part of our witness is that our neighbors see how we apply our Christian worldview in deciding for whom we vote.

Another friend, though, perhaps the wisest and most influential in my life, expresses remorse that the Evangelical community has so strongly embraced President Trump that we have alienated half of the nation to our witness for Jesus.  Their reasoning is understandable if our allegiance to a political party seems to take precedence over our allegiance to another King.

Jesus and His followers were not very attached to this present world, and it was that “other-worldliness” that brought on suspicion, persecution and even martyrdom, not their allegiance to any earthly ruler.

Perhaps the worst day in history for Christianity was when Emperor Constantine became a Christian.  Suddenly it became “popular” to carry the Name.  Meetings in homes were no longer viewed as subversive; it rapidly became politically, economically and socially advantageous to be “Christian.”  The result was the Christ-following communities were infiltrated by pretenders and like “sheep in the midst of wolves,” their innocence quickly became overrun with those who were CINO (Christian In Name Only).

What the enemy could not accomplish by persecution was achieved by subtler means, getting half-hearted “disciples” to mimic the words and practices of the Christians until one could not be certain of any faith.  Like many in churches today, if they showed up for the meetings, paid some offerings and generally supported the Church, they became accepted to even lead.

This is not to say the Church was entirely corrupt and of no value.  Like “weeds among wheat,” Father allowed the Church to continue growing.  Many good things came from this acceptance into general society, such as Constantine’s call for a Council of Nicaea to clarify certain issues of doctrine, as well as other Councils.  Many church “fathers” such as Irenaeus, Jerome and Augustine explored great truths for the Church, exhibited both by their lives of commitment and their extensive writings.  However, the Church continued to slide gradually into political and societal priorities and became less interested in the other Kingdom, “not of this world.”

Alasdair MacIntyre ended After Virtue with a warning of “the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.”  We in our generation may well take care to prepare for renewed persecution and ostracization if we espouse that there is another King to whom we are allied, not the Republican nor Democratic parties (nor any fringe parties, either).

“Love your neighbor. Love the stranger. Hear the cry of the otherwise unheard. Liberate the poor from their poverty. Care for the dignity of all. Let those who have more than they need share their blessings with those who have less. Feed the hungry, house the homeless, and heal the sick in body and mind. Fight injustice, whoever it is done by and whoever it is done against. And do these things because, being human, we are bound by a covenant of human solidarity, whatever our color or culture, class or creed.
“These are moral principles, not economic or political ones. They have to do with conscience, not wealth or power. But without them, freedom will not survive. The free market and liberal democratic state will not save liberty, because liberty can never be built by self-interest alone. I-based societies all eventually die. Ibn Khaldun showed this in the fourteenth century, Giambattista Vico in the eighteenth, and Bertrand Russell in the twentieth. Other-based societies survive. Morality is not an option. It’s an essential.”
Jonathan Sacks, Orthodox Rabbi, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times

These are instructions such as Jesus gave.  My only point of divergence from the good Rabbi would be the expectation of the Holy Spirit empowering us to fulfill such behaviors.  We who follow Jesus must, I say MUST, exhibit that same love of our Lord that prayed over his crucifiers, “Father, forgive them for they do not understand what they are doing.”

Anita and I already voted and my friend and critic would approve, but I did not vote to please him or you.  And if you think you voted for someone other than I did, let’s sit down and talk about our rationales.  There should be no hate, no antagonism, no animosity.  Even if you were my enemy, even if you were my crucifier, my Master calls on me to show you love; and that we voted differently hardly makes you an enemy just because we disagree politically.

So finally, how should we then vote?  Do not vote as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, etc., but vote as a Bible-believer, a follower of Jesus; one who takes this responsibility very seriously.
And what else?  Pray, pray, pray for the coming elections.  Yes, “pray without ceasing.” Also “pray for all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And pray, pray, pray for your country.

Guest Blog: Good News: Tomorrow We Die

This was not intended to be a guest blog.  I have several writings on death that I would like to share – as a healthy senior citizen, though.  With six strokes behind me (the first was at 49 years old; the last was in 2007) and a couple of “near misses” (May 8, 2018, January 14, 2015), I feel like I have some perspectives worth sharing about the “shuffling off of this mortal coil.”

However, even with that history of vascular events, one cannot tell my medical risks by looking at me, and I function very highly as an active and able-bodied not-yet-silver septuagenarian.  Anita and I walk about 3.5 miles a day and I still do odd jobs of construction (no more ladder work, though!).

But then this blog came in my email from Christianity Today (good reading; worth subscribing) and so I put my ideas aside and thought this 47 year-old might have a better way of convincing you of what this old man wanted to say.  So read Todd’s essay of knowing better than most of us how much longer (or shorter) he has on this earth.  Sobering considerations.

Good News: Tomorrow We Die
Why dwelling on our mortality may be good for us.
by J. Todd Billings, September 21, 2020

2020-10-17 Good News Tomorrow We Die

I used to assume that God owed me a long life — to pursue a vocation and family with full strength, to live long enough to become a grandparent. Then, at 39 [2012], I was diagnosed with incurable cancer. The expected storyline of my life was interrupted. Now, as a cancer patient, my expectations have changed. The cancer is likely to cut decades from my life; I experience daily pain and fatigue that drain my strength. While my former expectations of God may seem reasonable, I’ve come to see how I had unwittingly embraced a form of the prosperity gospel. I believed that God owed me a long life.

This assumption is widespread.  Among those in the United States who believe in God, 56 percent think that “God will grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith,” according to a recent Pew study.  In other parts of the world, the percentage of Christians who hold this view is even higher.

In some ways, this belief fits with Old Testament teachings about reaping what we sow.  “Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things,” Proverbs 13:21 says.  The prosperity gospel takes nuggets of wisdom like this and combines them with the healing ministry of Jesus in a way that explains illness in a clear axiom:  Since God loves us, he doesn’t want us to be sick.  So if we don’t have good health, it must be a consequence of personal sin, or at least a lack of faith on our part. One way or another, the ill person is to blame.  While many evangelicals would reject this “strong” form of the prosperity gospel, many of us accept a softer version, a corollary:  If I’m seeking to obey God and live in faith, I should expect a long life of earthly flourishing and relative comfort.

Recently, a friend told me about her work as a counselor with middle school youth at a Christian summer camp.  On a designated day, campers participated in an activity designed to help them develop empathy in some small ways for people living with physical disabilities.  Some students were blindfolded, others had their ears covered, and others sat in a wheelchair for the day’s activities.

Partway through the day, one girl ripped off her blindfold and refused to put it back on.  “If I became blind, God would heal me,” she said.  She had faith in Jesus and was trying to obey God.  Like a predictable transaction, she knew that if she did her part, she could count on God to give her a life she considered to be prosperous.  If she became blind, God would fix that.

The problem with this approach is not the belief that God can heal and that God loves us.  The issue is that the God of Scripture never promises the type of prosperity this camper so confidently expected.  Certainly, when healing comes, including through the means of medical treatment, it is a good gift from God.  When we feel like we are in a dark “pit,” like the psalmist (Ps. 30:1–3), we can and should lament and petition for deliverance, including in our pain and illness.  We rightly ask God for healing, just as we ask the Father for our daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer.  Yet healing, like our daily bread, is ephemeral, passing away.  Whether we live only a few years or several decades, Ecclesiastes reminds us that, viewed through a wide-angle lens, “Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart” (5:15).

Every one of us will eventually be struck down by death, a wound that no medicine can heal.  Though Proverbs is right to point us to the general wisdom of reaping what we sow, it’s not a divine law of how the universe always works.  Job was “blameless and upright” yet suffered great calamity with the loss of his children, his servants, his wealth, and his health
(Job 1:1, 13–19; 2:7–8).  The apostle Paul served Christ and the church sacrificially in faith yet was not granted deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7–10).  When it comes to mortality and the losses that come with it, none of us will be exempt.  Although we tend to push away such basic human realities in our daily life, I’ve discovered something surprising:  For us as Christians, embracing daily reminders of our mortal limits can refresh our parched souls.

Good News Worth Dying For
Our lifetime is “fleeting,” our days like a “handbreadth” in relation to the eternal God, Psalm 39 reminds us.  Until the Lord of creation comes again to make all things new, we join the psalmist in praying: “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.  You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.” (vv. 4–5, NRSV)

This prayer contrasts with commonly shared cultural assumptions today.  Our tendency to construct tales about ourselves on Facebook and Instagram, for example, is part of a larger cultural liturgy — a set of practices shaping our desires — that subtly leads many of us to assume that we are at the center of the universe and that our story, if not our actual number of years on earth, will never end.  The COVID-19 crisis has exposed these assumptions as illusions.  The fact that refrigerated trucks were required to gather the bodies of the dead in cities like New York and Detroit is jarring testimony that highly developed nations are not immune to unexpected death.  Moreover, as protests about the killing of unarmed black people have disclosed, the assumption that “my storyline will never end” is a culturally privileged one.  The black church and other marginalized communities are painfully aware of the fleeting nature of human life.  “Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus,” the Negro spiritual intones.  For “I ain’t got long to stay here.”

Our mortality was not so easy to avoid in earlier generations.  Beyond the reality that life-threatening communicable disease was an ever-present threat, the culture of death in America was more communal.  Funeral services served as consistent reminders of human mortality as whole congregations attended, including children.  These services traditionally focused on how we are not our own but belong to Christ in life and in death.  In contrast, it is more common now to have personal memorial services tailored to the particular life story of the deceased, with only family and friends attending.  We may care about someone else’s death, but only when it’s meaningful for our own story. Our own story counts the most.  Death is something that happens to other people.

Psalm 39 cuts through such illusions, yet it is charged with hope.  Though we are temporal creatures, we can still find true flourishing by investing our deepest loves in the one who is everlasting, the Lord.  Peter Craigie, a particularly insightful commentator on the Psalms, notes how life’s value must be understood in light of its finitude.  “Life is extremely short,” Craigie once wrote.  “If its meaning is to be found, it must be found in the purpose of God, the giver of all life.”  Indeed, recognizing the “transitory nature” of our lives is “a starting point in achieving the sanity of a pilgrim in an otherwise mad world.”  Craigie penned these words in 1983, in the first of three planned volumes on the Psalms in a prestigious scholarly commentary series.  Two years later he died in a car accident, leaving his commentary series incomplete.  He was 47 [the age of this author].

Craigie’s life was taken before he and his loved ones expected, before he could accomplish his good and worthy earthly goals.  Yet in his transient life, he bore witness to the breathtaking horizon of eternity.  He bore witness to how embracing our mortal limits goes hand in hand with offering our mortal bodies to the Lord of life.  We’re not heroes of the world, and we can’t do much.  But we can love generously, and we can bear witness to the one who is the origin and end of life itself — the everlasting Lord, the Alpha and the Omega, the crucified and risen Savior who has accomplished and will bring about what we could never do ourselves.

The Antidote to Death Denial
Our faith should not be used as a buffer to shield us from the sobering reality of our own mortality.  Indeed, this death-denying attitude, so common in the “soft” prosperity gospel today, is unnecessary because of our hope in God for the resurrection of the dead.  In the end, a faith unable to cope with our mortal helplessness is not worth having.  The apostle Paul admits this openly:  “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” he says in his famous chapter on Christ’s resurrection.  “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:14, 19).  Daily admitting our impotence before death can be a way of giving ourselves over to the risen Lord rather than depending upon our own attempts to manufacture a “prosperous” earthly life.

Strangely enough, admitting our powerlessness over death in this way can free us from slavery to the fear of death.  Sociologists, in a school of thought inspired by Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Denial of Death, have documented how cultures tend to idolize political heroes or national fortunes as a way to deny their mortal limits.  When we humans deny our mortality, we become defensive, trusting only our own political tribe or own racial or cultural groups.  But living in resurrection hope displaces the need to idolize flawed leaders or whitewash sinful ideological causes.  We can openly admit that we cannot defeat death. Instead, we live in trust that on the final day, “when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’ ” (1 Cor. 15:54).  That day has not yet come — we long for it in the coming age, when Christ’s kingdom comes in fullness.  Our hope for it, and in God’s purposes rather than our own, makes a great deal of difference in how we live each day now.

In light of resurrection hope, Paul believed that though “outwardly we are wasting away,” our bodily decay will not have the final word (2 Cor. 4:16).  Moreover, even our bodily afflictions are incorporated into the reality that holds us: our union with the crucified and risen Lord.  “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (v. 11).  Whether or not we have sight or mobility, whether we live 5 or 40 or 90 years, our bodies belong to the Lord, and the process of outwardly wasting away can be a testimony to the humble love of our Savior.  Amazingly, the Spirit enfolds bodily failings into his work in the world.  As we are witnesses to Christ, the very crumbling of our bodies makes it “clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (v. 7, NRSV).  In this way, the anchor of our hope is not deliverance from the process of decay but union with the crucified and risen Christ.  This union with Christ will fully blossom in the coming resurrection, sharing in “an eternal glory that far outweighs” our present troubles (v. 17).

The Gift of Mortality Reminders
According to Martin Luther, even when our bodies feel vibrant and dying seems to belong to a far country, we should make death a frequent acquaintance.  “We should familiarize ourselves with death during our lifetime,” he wrote in a 1518 sermon, “inviting death into our presence when it is still at a distance and not on the move.”  Why does Luther advise this?  His reason is not a morbid proclivity but rather the same reason the psalmist refers to life as merely “a few handbreadths” before God:  Death punctures our hubris, our sense that the world is a drama in which we are the focal point.  Reminders of our death can point to the God of life — the God who put flesh on dry bones — as our only hope, both now and in the age to come.  As Luther reminds us, “since everyone must depart, we must turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads and directs us.”

On hard days and easier days, amid joy and pain, I’ve come to embrace mortality reminders as strange but good gifts.  They can ground me as a mortal before God.  We live in hope that the frailty and decay of our bodies will not be the final measure of our lives.  We live in hope that the central drama of the universe is not our own life story.  Instead, living as small creatures, we can rejoice in the wonder and drama of God’s love in Christ.

Our present life will end when, like Job, we as creatures are stripped of family and fortune and worldly future.  But even in light of this mortal end — indeed, especially in light of it — we can join the apostle Paul in being “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. His latest book, The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live is available at bookstores and on Amazon.

Guest Blog: The Greatest American Battle Is Yet To Be Won!

by Dennis Prager, PragerU

2020-10-10 Race and Ethnicity
Race and ethnicity have defined every nation on earth except one: the United States of America.  This nation is defined by VALUES.  So to understand America, you have to understand American values.   They are:
1. E Pluribus Unum
2. Liberty
3. In God We Trust

2020-10-10 Amercian Values

I call this the American Trinity.  I made up the name, but I did not make up the values.  All three are on every American coin.

The first, E Pluribus Unum, is Latin meaning “Out of many, One.”  When first adopted as the American motto, shortly after the American founding in 1776, it referred to the thirteen American colonies becoming one nation.

Over time, however, most Americans understood the motto to mean “One people from many backgrounds.”  To quote the E Pluribus Unum Project funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities, “Over the years, ‘E Pluribus Unum’ has also served as a reminder of America’s bold attempt to make one unified nation of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.”

In other words, America does not care about your national or ethnic origins.  This explains why people who immigrate to America assimilate faster and more fully than immigrants to any other country.  Most of those who immigrated to Europe from, for example, Turkey, as millions have, are not considered fully German by fellow Germans, or fully Swedish by fellow Swedes, or fully Spanish by fellow Spaniards.

This is even true of the children and grandchildren of those immigrants.  And just as important, few of those immigrants or their children or grandchildren will ever feel fully German or Swedish or Spanish.

However, a Turk who immigrates to the United States will be regarded as fully American as any other American the moment he or she becomes a US Citizen.   And they, and certainly their children, can feel fully American.  Of course, America has not always lived up to this “E Pluribus Unum” ideal, but the ideal was always there and it was applied to virtually every immigrant to the United States.

2020-10-10 LibertyThe second component of “my” American Trinity is Liberty.  Now, one could ask, “Did not the French revolution also enshrine Liberty as a central national value?  Was not its motto: ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’?”
And the answer is, Yes.

America is hardly the only country to enshrine Liberty!  However, it is the ONLY country to enshrine Liberty along with E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust!   What is the difference?

The difference is this: The moment you affirm Equality the way the French revolution did, you will lose Liberty.  The basic American VALUE is that all human beings are born equal, and all must be treated equal before the Law.  But ending up equal is a French and European value!  If you want people to end up equal, you must deprive them of liberty, which is exactly what happened right after the French revolution!  This is also true in every other society that made Equality its national goal.

America gives people the liberty to end up where ever their abilities, work ethic and fortunate opportunities take them; meaning UNequal outcomes!   Therefore, professional athletes will make more money than teachers or doctors.  That may be unfortunate but that is what Liberty allows! 

A nation that wants equal outcomes will tell people how much they are allowed to earn, and that means the end of Liberty.

Our third VALUE is “In God We Trust.”  Unlike almost every other country, the United States never had a State Religion.  But it was founded on the principle that God, specifically the God of the Jewish and Christian Bible, is the source of moral values.

As our Declaration of Independence phrased it, “All [people] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  In other words, rights come from God, not from humans.  If rights are given by humans, humans can take them away!

This American Trinity, as I have named it, is the reason the United States became the world’s freest and most prosperous country.  Many Americans want to, in the words of former president Barack Obama, “fundamentally transform it.”  They wish to replace American values with European values including equality of outcomes and an ever-expanding State (which will greatly reduce individual freedom), a celebration of ethnic and racial identity (which is the opposite of E Pluribus Unum), and the removal of the Judeo-Christian God as the source of morality and rights.

Which set of values Americans adopt will determine whether America remains free, prosperous, and the force for good in the world that it has been.  With the exception of the Civil War, we are faced with the greatest internal battle in American history.

Dennis Prager, PragerU
https://www.prageru.com/playlist/civics/

For What Will You Be Ready In The End?

2020-10-03 Socrates
A University photo of Socrates taken by Plato, his student

Among an older generation there is always a sense that the world is getting worse than it ever was before. Take this quote attributed to Socrates somewhere between 469-399 BC: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love gossip in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Sounds like what I heard my parents’ friends saying at church when I was in grade school. And what I’ve heard my peers say about Generation Z, the 5-25 year olds born after 1996. And what I suspect Socrates’ grandpa said about his group of young “useless philosophers.” 😉

Many generations have heard prophecies of end time events leading some to expect the Apocalypse in their lifetimes. The warnings of impending doom on civilization become more vociferous with each passing year, especially after that Half-Century mark of 50 years old. The clamor of loud music and the boisterous noise of the younger generation impinges on the ears of the older one, whether they are students in 400 BC or 2020 AD. And amid the noise, the wondering of us oldsters, “How long can this go on? How much worse can the world get? When will The God Who Is There say ‘Enough’!?”

It is an error to say history repeats itself, but as some have said, it does rhyme. This is evident from prophecies about Israel going into Babylonian captivity in Jeremiah 31 and the slaughter of innocents in Bethlehem about two years after Jesus was born. And there are many other examples of “double” or even “triple” fulfillment of prophecies in the Bible.

This is not because the prophets misunderstood what Father was saying to them, nor is this a case of applying a literary picture after the fact. This is simply the evidence that “history does rhyme.”

Taken out of context, one can assume there is no difference between the youth of Socrates’ day and ours. On the microcosmic level of particular events this is true, but at the macrocosmic level of world events there is a huge difference. Socrates’ students did not have twenty-four hundred years of youthful rebellion about which to read. Ours do. Thus, history rhymes but actually never repeats itself. Every event that appears to be a repeat has one more event preceding it than its predecessor.

History is not repeatable and really is progressing to an ultimate destination! That destination pictured in our minds depends heavily on our view of prophecy and of The God Who Is There. If you do not believe in His prophets nor prophecies, you may picture humankind progressing into space and exploring and colonizing new worlds before our sun finally implodes millions of years hence. You may picture an extinction event that will wipe out life on earth, or a dystopian future of self-annihilation from damaging the environment beyond its ability to sustain us.

If you have experienced The God Who Is There as He has revealed Himself through Jesus, called the Christ (i.e. the Anointed One, the Messiah), then you will likely be reading the Bible to get to know Him better. And there you will find explicit guidelines for the “end of the age.”

Matthew 24 is the clearest and most comprehensive description provided by Jesus, and expanded by Paul, Peter and John in their letters. But be careful in reading what Jesus said would be signs of “the end of the age.” Many people point to “wars and rumors of wars” or “famines and earthquakes in various places” as if these were signs of the end times. But they are NOT. Jesus explicitly says, “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:8)

He was intentionally vague about when the signs of the end would be fulfilled so as to prevent people from relaxing like the virgins and servants in Matthew 25! His focus was on Be Ready! like in my blog on September 12, 2020.

Within the next 60 to 70 years, very few of us alive today will still be here on earth; possibly none of us! It is most important that we keep foundational principles of Scripture in front of us while we anticipate our end or the world’s end, whichever may come first.

  1. God will wrap up the end of this world someday; maybe tomorrow, maybe quite a few years from now . . . but it will happen. (2 Peter 3:9-10)
  2. We will not know the day or the hour; possibly the “seasons,” but be very careful .  It may be farther off than we think, or it could be just around the next turn of events. (Matthew 24:26-36; Matthew 16:2-4)
  3. The identity of The Antichrist (according to John there are many smaller ones) is a mystery; i.e. we will not know until he is revealed. (I John 2:18; Revelation 13:1-8) Thus using numerology to decipher the mystery of his number, 666, only leads down rabbit holes with no end and no value.
  4. Do not become obsessed with end time events.  They will happen whatever we believe about them.  Our only responsibility is to be faithful to Him who has called us to live as lights in an ever-darkening world. (Revelation 2:10; Joshua 24:14-15)
  5. Jesus instructions on future prophecy is very clear:  “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:29)   In other words, He did not tell us what was going to happen so we could make accurate predictions about what was going to occur next week.  However, He did give us prophetic words so that we could recognize the times when they occur.

So how close is the end? Well, closer than it was when the young people around Socrates acted up; closer than when the author of Hebrews said, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Yet we could be decades away, but in view of the macrocosm of history, it is very difficult to imagine another century. So how soon? It really doesn’t matter if one is ready.

Then this came in my email from a friend, just yesterday, Friday, October 2, 2020: https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2020/september/amazon-rolls-out-new-hand-scanner-and-its-already-being-compared-to-revelations-mark-of-the-beast

It’s NOT “the” mark of the Beast, but it is getting us ready for it.

So, for what are you ready?