It’s July 4th. Again. Every year this day rolls around. And as Americans we relish the privilege to celebrate the day our nation declared its independence from an oppressive master. It was a momentous day. But that first day in 1776 wasn’t the end of the struggle. Rather it was merely the beginning.
What that declaration launched was not an easier life, but in many ways a more difficult one. Freedom does not just happen. No, freedom demands an extraordinary price. That price can even require one’s life. But even if freedom does not demand the ultimate cost, it will still require an extreme sacrifice, if it is to be kept.
As I’ve thought about these truths, relative to our nation and our freedom, there are so many parallels to the Christian life. All of us are born into bondage, and our master from the time of our birth was an opressive, evil one. His dominion extends around the world as he has enslaved the masses since the beginning of time. The price he demands is greater than a portion of your earnings, or even your firstborn. This master demands your very soul.
But, we have a Founding Father, who penned His own Declaration of Independence 2000+ years ago. He sealed His Declaration with his blood. This new Master, known as the King of Kings, is a benevolent king. He is a just man. He is a loving ruler.
But as any Master, this Lord of Lords, also demands our all. He does not accept second place. He does not allow His followers to ignore His requirements. But because He was once just as us (but without sin), He understands our weaknesses and He promises to strengthen us in our time of need. He will be with us, when the evil master and his minions seek to pull us back into their dark dominion. Our King of Kings will walk with us, even in the midst of the fiery trials in our lives.
So as we celebrate America’s Independence Day again, how many more July 4th’s will you celebrate? Could this be your last one? Could it be mine?
But more importantly, have you embraced the eternal Declaration of Independence that was authored when God’s Son, the Prince of Peace, hung on the cross, bore your sins and mine, defeated death, and rose again? Jesus’ death for you and me is the only way we can have true independence from the grip Satan has on all of mankind. But we must embrace Jesus as our Lord, Master, and Savior by acknowledging our own sinfulness and need of Him.
Embracing Jesus is the most important choice you can ever make. And if you chose Jesus this July 4th, you will eternally remember our nation’s birthday as the day you were born anew.
“If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36
This last weekend the nation’s elite journalists came together at the White House Correspondents Dinner, for an evening of roasts and toasts, all under the guise of humor. But while the night featured laughs at the expense of others, Michelle Wolf, the comedian hosting the WHC Dinner, stooped to a new low as she belittled Americans whose crime is simply supporting life over abortion.
While Wolf’s attack was crass and deplorable, what was likely lost in her comments was an inadvertent admission that few pro-abortionists have been willing to make publicly.
It has been a long standing argument from those supporting the taking of innocent life, that the child in the womb isn’t really a child… rather it is simply tissue, just a “fetus” or some other “sub-human” entity. However, those standing on the side of life have accurately referred to the child in the womb as simply that, a child or a baby. Logic would suggest that if a child is a baby outside the womb, she is also a baby inside the womb. And since this is true, then the baby in the womb is as deserving of the right to life as she is the moment she’s in her mother’s arms.
So here’s what Ms. Wolf said:
“He (Mike Pence) thinks abortion is murder,” Wolf said, “which, first of all, don’t knock it ‘til you try it — and when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you’ve got to get that baby out of there…”
Webster defines “baby” as “a very young child.” By her use of the word baby, Wolf acknowledged what her own conscience had no doubt already informed her of. I have no doubt that millions of other pro-abortionists, if they were honest, would also admit the same. That little body inside a mother’s womb is a baby, receiving the same gift of life from her Creator as every other individual walking the face of this earth received.
So on this I agree with Michelle Wolf. The baby outside the womb is also a baby inside the womb. The life held in the mother’s arms moments after birth is also a life moments before, when she is held in the mother’s womb. So if we can agree on this truth, then can we not also agree that all life is deserving of protecting and nurturing?
Finally, God’s Word, the Bible, has something to say about what Michelle Wolf did this last weekend when her words spoke what her conscience knows. In Romans 2:15, we read, “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
At the end of the day, God has made each of us so that our own internal conscience affirms to us certain basic truths. What could be more basic than the truth that a baby is deserving of love and life, regardless of where she makes her home?
Easter… A week has passed since the day that people around the world celebrated the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It was a day of victory and triumph. But unlike other holidays, which come and go until a year later, the truth of Easter is one that followers of Jesus should acknowledge and celebrate every day of the year.
The disciples had spent nearly every day with Jesus, for the three years leading up to the crucifixion. He had become not just their constant companion and Friend, but also their Teacher and God. So when Jesus fulfilled His own prophecy, and arose from the dead three days after His death, the disciples’ grief turned to joy and exhilaration.
The example of the disciples over the next several weeks following the Resurrection, is one from which we could all learn. As we read in the Gospels of the interactions between the followers of the Messiah, and Jesus, we see men and women who were continuously joyous at being reunited with their Savior. But their joy and celebration was not limited to a singular day or even those few weeks. Rather, “He is Risen” became the Truth that defined the rest of their lives.
That Truth also became the reason that fishermen became apostles, uneducated men became giants in the faith, and those dozen men ignited a worldwide spiritual flame that would never be extinguished. Even agnostics and unbelievers who heard them were astonished at these unlearned men, who had spent three years with the Author of Life. Within years though, that truth of the first Easter morning ultimately sustained them as they were eventually martyred by a world who rejected them and their risen Savior.
Fast forward though a couple thousand years to our present day. We just finished up another Easter week. But is Easter over for you? Was it just another holiday? Was it merely a time to spend with family and friends, and perhaps a quick visit to an Easter service somewhere? Or are you like the early disciples, whose lives were forever changed by their resurrected Savior?
If you profess Christ, then remember that He is Risen today too, and He is ever present with you as He was with His disciples, regardless of the circumstances or trials that might momentarily overwhelm you. But if you are walking this life apart from the Messiah who defeated death when He arose from the grave, then I urge you to open your life and heart to the One who not only died for you and me, but who also arose to give us that same victory over death.
He is Risen… Today too!
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” I Corinthians 13:11
If you have a child you can clearly identify childish behavior. It’s not pretty. But you understand and tolerate such behavior because you know that as that child matures, and he learns from instruction, his tantrums, pettiness, selfishness, and other childish behavior will become less and less prominent. And as he grows into adulthood, he will likely become well adjusted. He will respect others. He will learn that to achieve his goals, he must often help others achieve theirs. And ultimately, he puts away childish behavior.
I was present at the inception of the tea party movement, having founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in April 2009. It wasn’t my first rodeo, but the challenge of organizing and leading a grassroots movement was new. So I came of age so to speak with this movement. And I met a lot of wonderful people. Many of those people are dear friends today. Those who joined the movement were ordinary Americans who simply loved their communities and nation, and were worried that their future was gray and bleak. And the facts and stats affirmed their concerns.
The tea party movement accomplished a lot in its early years, when enthusiasm was high and strategy was limited. But as the years wore on, it became obvious that strategy and thoughtful deliberation would become more important. No longer could the movement sustain itself on raw emotion, anger, or passion. Rather, to succeed, it would require that we learn from our mistakes and failures. Sadly though, nearly ten years later, the movement continues to struggle with the same blunders.
As is the case with most elections, there are often several candidates who could be split into various tiers. The first tier is the “perfect” candidate who might have a near unblemished track record, and his/her fidelity to tea party values is unquestioned.
The second tier includes candidates who, while their voting record may not align perfectly with tea party values, and there may be other “complaints” some in the movement will lodge, they do have redeeming qualities. Ultimately, if elected, they would advance many values the movement supports.
Then there are the third tier candidates. These are the ones who are so offensive or wrong in their policies, affiliations or track records, that most tea party members would likely never support them. What we find though is that the candidates in Tier 1 are typically underfunded and thus not electable, while Tier 2 & 3 often have sufficient funds to mount a credible campaign.
These three tiers expose one of the greatest flaws of the tea party movement: its unwillingness to coalesce together. Independent elements, personalities, and egos are rampant in the movement, and unwillingness to tolerate the slightest variance from “perfection” is the norm.
Sadly, many tea party members are unwilling to consider anyone outside of Tier 1. Because of this reality, what invariably happens is that other credible and acceptable candidates in Tier 2 are maligned and rejected. Additionally, because Tier 3 candidates not only have sufficient funds, but they typically garner the establishment Republican voters, Tier 1 & 2 voters split all the other remaining votes. Consequently the Tier 3 candidate often wins. In every case this has been the worst case scenario for the movement, our state and nation. We saw it with Romney in 2012. And in Tennessee, we saw it with Governor Bill Haslam. And Lamar Alexander. And Bob Corker. And others.
Now again in 2017-18, tea party members in Tennessee are repeating the same old mistake. The fidelity by many to their “perfect” but unelectable candidate is blinding them from the reality that there may be another “acceptable” candidate who is both credible and electable.
Let me digress for a moment to state that there are times when one may not, for conscience sake, be able to vote for anyone in Tier 2 or Tier 3. If that is the case, I would never attempt to judge someone else’s conscience. At that point, it’s a deeply personal decision and no one should ever question someone’s deep rooted beliefs when they enter the voting booth.
But in the absence of a moral reservation, the movement is missing another opportunity to help influence, and ultimately select, the next Governor in Tennessee. It may require some to select what they consider to be a Tier 2 candidate. But if they do, they will be selecting a candidate who can actually win, and they would be revealing a maturity that heretofore has been missing in the movement.
Growing up requires that we oftentimes sacrifice perfection for good. Maturity understands that we don’t always get what we want. Honesty enables us to look into the future and predict what will likely occur and use our best efforts to influence that future. Conversely, dishonesty keeps us glued to our own narrow-mindedness, trapped in our own little echo-chambers.
Sadly though, if a movement never grows up, it ceases to be relevant. And once it’s no longer relevant, it doesn’t have long to live.
The tea party movement in Tennessee is at a crossroads. It can stay on its present course and drive over the cliff, never to influence again. Or it can take a right turn, and begin to coalesce around principled pragmatism, which is simply recognizing reality and attempting to win as many battles as possible by remaining as true as possible to one’s principles.
Losing elections never advances one’s principles. Winning elections with imperfect candidates can advance some of our principles.
So will the tea party movement put away childish attitudes and grow up, or simply fade away?
“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
If you’re alive, troubles will come. If you’ve been alive long, you’ve seen a lot of troubles. Some are our own doing and some are simply a part of life, and may be completely unrelated to anything you or I have done. How you or I prepare for and respond to those troubles though, can make all the difference in the world.
Do you just float along, and deal with troubles as they come?
Do you dread troubles, fearing them, as a howling storm headed your way?
Or do you understand that troubles, like the setting sun, will come? If so, you prepare yourself properly; building your character; developing relationships; drawing close to God; cultivating that one-on-one time with the One who sustains everything by His very Word.
If you do prepare for life’s storms, you will be like majestic hardwood trees that stand strong and erect, driving their roots deep into the soil, finding the water far below. It’s a known fact that as the wind blows against a tree, the tree responds by driving its roots deeper into the soil.
Because of their years of preparation, these trees can and will withstand the storms that will undoubtedly come their way; winds, rain, storms, lightning. Sure, they may bend during their times of trouble. They may sway. They may even lose branches. But if they are tied into the very foundation that enables their strength, they will stand to see another sunny day, and grow even stronger from these storms, preparing them for the next trials that will certainly come.
Are you and I going deep in our relationship with God? Do we seek the “living water” that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ? Are we tied into Him daily? Do we drink the nutrition that only He can give us, that will strengthen us like only God can do?
When we do this, we will be prepared to not only withstand the trials that come our way, but we will thrive in the midst of life’s storms. And as we do so, we will not only grow stronger for the next storm, but we will also be an encouragement to those around us who may not be preparing as they ought.
Go deep. Grow strong. Don’t fear. Drink Him in. God is your Hope and Confidence.