Memorial Day- Intermezzo Blog

IMG_2530Memorial Day is often marked as only the beginning of summer.

On this first long weekend of the season, gather with your friends and family and remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.  To mark this holiday, the Hillsdale College produced a Memorial Day tribute video honoring American soldiers who died in defense of our liberty.

The video features remarks from President Ronald Reagan.  It is set to the Hillsdale College choir singing the moving hymn “Mansions of the Lord,” which was also sung at President Reagan’s funeral. You can watch the video using this link: https://lp.hillsdale.edu/memorial-day/.

Be sure to read the excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that shows up at 3:23 minutes near the end.
And spend some time praying for families of service members who recently joined the ranks of those who have valued our freedom more than their very lives.

Guest Blog by Päivi Räsänen, Member of Finland’s Parliament

2021-05-01 Finland Parliament Building

The following is a news release by a Finnish Member of Parliament.  Whether you follow the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Tipitaka, the Gathas, the Jain Agamas, the Dharma Wheel, the Bible or any other religious literature, this case before Finland’s Court can affect any religious practice by which people try to guide their lives.
Finland is a democratic republic along the lines of the US, but closer to Israel in number of parties and coalition type management of the government.  And since becoming part of the EU, it is anyone’s guess as to how EU diktats will affect their historically egalitarian governance.
Since Finland is part of the EU, the following bears watching as it may impact laws and policies continent-wide, and could spill over the Pond to challenge the US and Canada to follow suit.  “No man is an island.”
I encourage you to pray for Ms. Räsänen and the nation of Finland as they waddle into dangerous waters which may well be a watershed moment for religious freedom around the globe.  Ms. Räsänen has kindly put me on her email list and I am confident she would welcome any message of support from any place in the world (email below), and most of all, that we who follow Jesus are praying for Finland. 
Jesus is coming soon.  “Even so, Lord Jesus, come!”

Press Release April 30, 2021

Three charges filed against a Member of Parliament, Dr. Päivi Räsänen.
“I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as it needs.”

Yesterday morning, I received by phone the information that the Prosecutor General has decided to prosecute me in three cases. The application for summons has been delivered to the District Court of Helsinki. I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group, which carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years. The three charges filed against me are about the following cases. Firstly, a pamphlet I wrote in 2004 “Male and female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.” A charge has also been filed against Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland published the pamphlet.

The second charge is about a tweet I published 17 June 2019 in my social media accounts. In addition to Twitter, I published my tweet in Facebook and Instagram. In the tweet, I questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019 and accompanied my publication with a photo of Bible verses from Romans 1:24-27.

The third charge is about my views presented in one program of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, when I visited a talk show series hosted by Ruben Stiller and discussed the topic “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”.

The decision of the Prosecutor General is surprising, even shocking. I do not think I have committed threatening, defaming or insulting actions against a minority group. In all these three cases, the question is about the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches. I would not have in any way defamed homosexuals whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend. The Bible’s teaching is, however, very clear in the teaching that marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.

The Apostle Paul’s teaching is not only about defending marriage between man and woman, but about how a human being is saved into eternal life. If the teachings of God’s word about sin are rejected, the whole core of Christian faith is made empty: the precious sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sake of everyone’s sins and the way He opened into eternity.

There is a difficulty here far greater than a sentence of a fine or an imprisonment: a demand for censorship; an order to remove my social media postings or a ban on the publication of the pamphlet. If one defies the court’s verdict, it leads to demands of penalty payments. This sort of judgement would open up an avenue leading to further publication bans for similar texts and modern book burnings.

It is noteworthy that with regard to the pamphlet case and the tv episode with Stiller, the police stated that there was no reason to suspect a crime. The pre-trial investigation should not have even commenced according to their decision. The police stated in their decision: “if some of the views in the Bible were to be regarded as per se fulfilling the criteria of an agitation offense, the dissemination of or making the Bible available would in principle be punishable as an offense of agitation.” This has deeply to do with free speech and freedom of religion.

I will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected. A conviction based on the Christian faith would be more than a superficial opinion. The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a court room. I will not step back from my conviction nor from my writings. I do not apologize for the writings of the Apostle Paul either. I am ready to defend freedom speech and religion as far as is necessary.

The offense of agitation requires intentionality. In our Criminal Code the concept of intentionality is placed as criteria regarding the purpose of the author and the fact that the author perceives the nature of the act as a culpable legal infringement. In evaluating guilt, one must strive to genuinely understand the background and purpose of the author. As a Member of Parliament, I have been involved in the enactment of this precise amendment to our legislation.  It did not even come to mind that my tweet or my opinions based on Christianity could be defamatory or insulting in any aspect.

I want to encourage others to use their freedom of speech and religion. This indictment shows that right now is the time to defend these foundational freedoms and rights.

The Prosecutor General has previously publicly said that she has, because of my cases, received inappropriate messages. I hope that no insulting messages would be targeted against her.

Contact:
Ms. Päivi Räsänen
Member of Parliament, Finland
paivi.rasanen@eduskunta.fi

Evamaria Kyllästinen
evamaria.kyllastinen@eduskunta.fi
Assistant to MP

Finland Persecutes Christian Lawmaker

As recommended in The American Conservative blog, consider writing a polite but firm email to Ms. Raija Toiviainen, the Prosecutor General: valtakunnansyyttaja.syyttaja@oikeus.fi and to the Finnish Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Mikko Hautala, at sanomat.was@formin.fi.

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Will Vaccine Passports Control Your Daily Life?

Former Clinton Adviser: Mandatory Vaccine Passport Could Lead to ‘End of Human Liberty in the West’ – by Jack Phillips  March 29, 2021

Former Clinton adviser Naomi Wolf said that mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passports that have been proposed in recent days would be the “end of human liberty in the West if this plan unfolds as planned.”

“‘Vaccine passport’ sounds like a fine thing if you don’t understand what those platforms can do. I’m [the] CEO of a tech company, I understand what this platform does,” Wolf, who’s also an author, told Fox News on March 28. “It is not about the vaccine, it’s not about the virus, it’s about your data. Once this rolls out, you don’t have a choice about being part of the system. What people have to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.”

Wolf said such data can be “merged with your Paypal account, with your digital currency,” adding that “Microsoft is already talking about merging it with payment plans.”

Wolf noted that it happened in Israel, “and six months later, we’re hearing from activists that it’s a two-tiered society and that basically, activists are ostracized and surveilled continually. It is the end of civil society, and they are trying to roll it out around the world.”

“It is absolutely so much more than a vaccine pass, it is — I can not stress enough that it has the power to turn off your life, or to turn on your life, to let you engage in society or be marginalized.”

Going a step further, Wolf likened such plans to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) surveillance of its population and promotion of a “social credit score.”

2021-04-02 Vaccine PassportsA handout image shows the Excelsior Pass, a platform that lets New Yorkers present proof of COVID-19 vaccination at events. (Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)

“How does [the CCP] keep a billion people under the thumb of a totalitarian regime?” she asked. “The CCP can find any dissident within five minutes, and that can happen here literally within months.”

Wolf referred to reports about Biden administration officials proposing the idea. The Washington Post and CNN — citing anonymous, unconfirmed sources — have suggested that the administration is working toward developing a national vaccine passport standard. New York state has proposed its own “Excelsior Pass” that would be used in large-scale venues such as Madison Square Garden. The plan has been lambasted by civil liberties groups and proponents.

On March 29, White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the claims, saying the administration doesn’t see a federal mandate for vaccine passports. “We believe it will be driven by the private sector,” she told reporters.

In other countries, such passports have already been created. Israel set one up in February to grant people access to gyms and hotels, Iceland now uses a passport to allow foreign travel, and Saudi Arabia has an app-based passport for people who are inoculated.

“The thing underpinning all of this is, what are you going to use it for?” said Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Is it for international travel? Is it for getting a job? Is it for buying milk?”

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Leninism 4.0

The Woke Movement is Leninism 4.0: Political Commentator Dr. James Lindsay
By Gary Du and Jan Jekielek

Dr. James Lindsay, an American-born author and political commentator, called the “woke” movement promoted by Black Lives Matter and other left-wing activists Leninism 4.0. Lindsay, author of six books on subjects ranging from religion, the philosophy of science, and postmodern theory, said he’s not a Trump fan or right-wing, but strives to uphold liberty.

“Now we have the attempt to apply Leninism to the American context, using corporations as part of the toolset, for example. And so we call this movement the ‘woke’ movement. We talked about woke capital with all the corporations … the woke movement is Leninism 4.0,” Lindsay told Jan Jekielek, host of The Epoch Times’ American Thoughts Leaders program on Jan. 13.

Lindsay explained that the first three versions or flavors of Leninism through Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, each tried to fix the problems from the previous version. The “woke” movement that has evolved today focuses on the issues of social and racial justice and has become a catchword used by Black Lives Matter activists on the streets.

Lindsay described the movement as “the idea is that you have some enlightened party of people who are probably part of what Marx would have identified as the bourgeoisie, who understand the problem of the proletariat better than the proletariat does and is going to shepherd them through the revolution that they need to have that’s for the greater good or in their best interest.”

For people on the left, being “woke” means siding with social justice advocates focused on contemporary political concerns, but for people on the right, it is often interpreted as an aspect of “political correctness” or “cancel culture.” Lindsay said he’s been studying “woke” culture and its historical and philosophical antecedents for a number of years.

“At present, what’s happening in the United States [is] we have ‘repressive tolerance’ at the end of a narrative, which is a significant difference [of] 4.0 versus 1.0. So we should point that out, at least for the moment, that the way that they are, you know, Lenin went around and killed dissidents, they are instead canceling dissidents here,” he said.

But he noted that there are some encouraging positive developments. “We’ve had attorneys general already file antitrust suits against these big tech companies. We’ve seen people pushing back in big legal ways that might have a significant impact to scare these big tech companies into rethinking the way that they’re operating,” Lindsay added.

The January 6th Incident
Lindsay said the people who broke into the Capitol building on January 6 might have had the “intention of some kind of insurrection,” but that video footage showed that they were “wandering around being interviewed by journalists” and did not have a plan of action. He doesn’t think President Donald Trump incited violence there and that the narrative that he did does not add up.

He warned against the “consensus view” built up on what happened at the Capitol and a “pseudo-reality” that misleads people. “Why is everything so fractured? Why is everything so polarized? We actually live in a world, at the moment, where we have two consensus views,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay also called out hypocrisy from the left as they try to get “sharp prison sentences threatened on these people [who broke into the Capitol]” and make them unemployable, even calling on Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to be removed from their offices. “You see Cori Bush calling for them to be removed and then we compare that to what we saw with Kamala Harris saying: here’s the link to bail people out of jail for the riots in June. We see Ocasia-Cortez saying repeatedly that the summer riots are necessary,” he said.

Lindsay offered advice to people who may feel confused about the current rapidly-changing narratives surrounding politics: “take a bit of a step back from the news. Try to regain your perspective. Try to regain your calm and then start asking questions. Be more skeptical. Start to perceive that maybe the thing you’re being shown is something that people want you to see rather than something that is actually happening.”

Note from c.a.: the Twitter link to one of the authors was here, but thanx to Twitter’s “cancel culture” attitude, I have left Twitter in the dust, and encourage everyone else to do so, unless there is a significant change of heart on Dorsey’s part. “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”  Benjamin Franklin

Are We Free?

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (Peter, the Apostle)

One of the most disconcerting features of our society is the “celebrity culture” into which too many Christ-followers have bought. Mega-church pastors, television evangelists, or best-selling authors (or bloggers) all beguile us into thinking, “Oh, if so-and-so said it or did it, it must be right.”

But when one of them falls from grace, the message of Jesus gets blamed as if HE was the culprit. Paul warned the Romans, “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.‘” But this is not just a problem for prominent religious leaders.

If any of us who name the Name of Jesus as our Lord hate our enemies and only love those who look like us, act like us, talk like us and vote like us, we will embarrass our Lord. If we fail at the most basic principles of living in the Spirit, the Name of God will be blasphemed.

In our current time, the election of our president is pressing us to take sides, to declare if we are Trumpers or Bideners. Will Trump’s legacy be one of lying, cheating, and disgracing the Constitution or will Biden’s potential presidency be one of destroying the Republic and advancing communism against half of the country?

Let me suggest we are FREE. We who call ourselves Christ-followers are free from the politics of the Democrats or Republicans because our citizenship is higher and more secure than anything either party can offer. I am not proposing that we ignore political issues, and some may be called specifically to follow Jesus into the fray of civic rivalries. However, most of us are needed on a different “front” of battle: the contention for the souls of our families, neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Unless God has called us to join a political party, we are commissioned to a much freer and better task than merely getting a temporary “master” elected. We must trust the Maker that He has chosen our next president (see Daniel 2:21) and we will still be called to live as free men and women under whatever earthly rulership He has chosen for us.

This was true of Paul when he was in prison for The Name. It has been true for many martyrs and believers throughout history since Jesus ascended. And it may even come true for some of us if we hold to His call with grace and composure, refusing to obey men rather than God.

No one is truly free unless he is free in his spirit. It never ceases to amaze me that some foolish people think conversions to ideas can be forced.  No heart or belief is changed by holding a gun to one’s head and demanding the victim to say words.  However, “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed!”  If our citizenship IS in Heaven, then no power on earth can constrain us from doing what is right for our Master.

And His call is clear, one by one we must persuade, inform, and demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is for freedom that He has set us free, “for you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14)

So I challenge you (and myself), are we free?

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/

Guest reply to last week’s invitation.

2020-07-04 Flag
I always wish to go to America.  I have seen your pictures of your home and Kentucky is beautiful.  The thing I admire most of your country is your freedom.  Here in . . . if I say bad things about our leader I and my family will have to go hide.  It would not be safe.  In the USA many people say bad things about your leaders even if the leader is good or bad.  Some of your leaders are bad but they still give up power when you hold your elections I think so.  Our elections I do not know if the one elected we really choose or he clings to power to stay in power.  I think it is the last.  He stays in power because after he gets in power it is very difficult for another to get in and we people cast ballots and we do not know if the count is real or not.  So I pray that America will solve your problems because it is great nation and best in the world for freedom.  You are blessed to call America home.  Pray for my country but do not say where I am from. RAS

Well, I am disappointed that so few responded to my invitation to write about what living in America means to you or about appreciation for police or other first responders.   The only response is from an international friend, similar to comments he made when we were both “strangers in a strange land,” away from both our home countries. 

But his view as an outsider is telling.  Like someone told me once, the USA is kind of like Noah’s Ark: some animals you wish were not on board, kind of smelly at times, noise that keeps you awake, rough waters bouncing you about, feeling like you do not know where or when you will land, but all things considered, it’s still the best ship afloat; better than any other option!

And another reply, better late than never, as my Mom used to say:
After living overseas for 40+ years, I appreciate the freedoms and liberties my home country [USA] gives. From the CULTURE of my host country, Bangladesh, I appreciate that they accept me, are always respectful to me (especially as I get older!!).
Blessings, Sharon

Larry and Sharon Smith
BANGLADESH: Rd. 71, Hs. 11, Apt. 303A, Dhaka
PO Box 493907; Redding, CA 96049
www.hopegeneration.com

Independence Day – What Does It Mean To You?

I invite you, dear reader, to share briefly, 250 words or less, why you are a glad you live in the USA.  Now, more than ever, we need to remember that ours is a nation that strives for the highest ideals of liberty and integrity, and we are privileged to live under a Constitution that affirms the inherent dignity and God-given rights of every individual.  We are blessed to call America home.

Share what living in this nation means to you.  You may want to read about America’s founding principles, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence.  Consider what each word in the attached documents means: allegiance, liberty, justice, a more perfect union, all men, the consent of the governed, usurpations, despotism, sacred honor.

I encourage you also to express gratitude for those who have served in the Armed Forces as well as for your local police officers, firemen, and first responders.

I will weigh and post appropriate replies in the next week before July 11.  You are welcome to specify your essay “Anonymous” and I will not publish your name.  I reserve the right to edit without your permission any essay.  I will certainly try to not misrepresent your views.  Please understand I may not be able to publish everyone who responds.  You can do your own blog if you do not approve of my edits or exclusions.

Teach these principles to your children, discuss them with your friends, be open to divergent opinions, and avoid listening only to voices that agree with you (FB likes, etc.).

2020-07-04 Independence Day
The Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.  The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

[…]We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare,

That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.  And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

My Old New Year’s Resolution

If this seems a bit premature to be writing about New Year’s Resolutions, just read on, and it will make sense by the end.  I made a New Year’s Resolution in 1969 that I have faithfully kept since starting my freshman year of college.  My old New Year’s Resolution:  “Resolved, I will never make another New Year’s Resolution!”

As we approach the end of 2016, it is appropriate to look back on the year and see what we have accomplished . . . or not.  If you made a New Year’s Resolution last January 1, it is more likely that you broke it than not, thus my commitment of 1969.  In fact, most resolutions do not make it to January 31!  And the “ghosts” of the past year can haunt us far beyond the end of December 31 even of the next year.  As William Faukner said, “The past is never dead. In fact, it is not even past.”

We still ate that extra doughnut, looked at that sexy magazine cover too long, slept when we should have risen, and lost our tempers inconsiderately.  We need to look back and consider what we should have done differently, and if we are honest, to repent of all the self-centeredness that dominated our lives through 2016 . . . even if we did not make nor break a New Year’s Resolution.
“Time is free, but yet priceless.
     You cannot own it, but you can use it.
You cannot keep it, but you can spend it.
     Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” (
Harvey MacKay)

But the more significant direction to look is always forward.  We can only rejoice over or regret the past.  We can do nothing to change it once that train has left the station!  That is why Bruce Koenig said, I’m going to try to look more toward the future and less at the past.  Where I am going is far more important than where I’ve been.”  And this lines up with what the Bible teaches about priorities.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

This is the wonderful grace of God: that He forgets our sins and really forgives us, never to hold them against us again.  We must not presume upon God’s grace, and simply go on sinning as though it did not matter.  We must not say in our hearts, “If I sin, I do not have to worry; after all, God will forgive me.”  This takes us into dangerous ground of unrepentance and hardens our hearts so that we become unable to receive the forgiveness He offers.  But when we do sin, we have this assurance that as soon as we turn from that sin and to Him, He is more willing to forgive us than we usually are to receive His forgiveness.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
     so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
     so far does He remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
     so Yahweh shows compassion to those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame,
     that we are but dust. (Psalms 103:11-14)

So let’s talk about what lies ahead, with hope that we will be better than we were last year; that we will be more sensitive to His Spirit and more aware of His Presence at our elbows, whispering into our ears. (See August 20, 2016)
“Stand by the roads, and look,
 and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
(Jeremiah 6:16)

Someone once said, “If you plan nothing, you are sure to succeed!”  One of the problems with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are plans that reach out too far ahead, without considering the intermediate steps.  So let me suggest a plan based on The Best Way to Plan Your Day by Edward Dayton and Ted Engstrom.  No matter how old we are, it is never too late to begin!  Write down your completion of these sentences:

  1. My greatest goal in life is to . . .
  2. Five years from now, I would like to be . . .
  3. By the end of 2017, I hope to . . .
  4. The first week of 2017 I will . . .
  5. On January 1, 2017, I want to try to . . .

This will take us from daily planning to life goals that can take us far past 2017, if we live that long.  Bruce Smith said, “We cannot recover wasted time. We cannot know how time well spent would have changed us or others for time or eternity. It is sobering.” (Living Translation)

So if this seems a bit premature to be thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, begin planning now what goals you will set for 2017, and begin adjusting your life style to meet those goals, by planning one day, one week, one month at a time.  And see if you may have more rejoicing and less regrets at this time next year.

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but I am not what I used to be. (John Newton)