Guys, do you remember those courting days, when you and your wife-to-be couldn’t get enough time together? Remember when saying “I love you” to your sweetheart was as normal a part of your life as waking up each morning? Remember when she could do no wrong and everything about her was new, wonderful, and invigorating? Remember the laughter, the fun, and even the silliness of those days when a note, a call, or a text absolutely made your day?
And do you remember that special day, when you stood before a crowd of friends and family, and made this pledge:
“I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”
Well, if you’ve been married any amount of time since those days, it’s possible, if not likely, that the routine, burdens and grind of life has served to distort and distract all those initial thoughts, feelings and beliefs. You may have even forgotten the words you enthusiastically recited as you began your new life together.
Lori and I have been married for nearly 37 years and, while we have had our share of disagreements, and things have not always been rosy, I thank God that our love and commitment remains strong and unwavering. Yet, over the years, I’ve had a number of close friends confide in me that their marriages were struggling and that the “D” word was even coming up in conversations with their spouse. Many guys I’ve known have expressed their discontent, anger, frustration and second thoughts about the lady who they felt 180-degrees differently about just a few years earlier.
So what changed? How is it that something that was so hot became so cold; something that was meant “till death do us part” could now so readily be concluded?
There are a myriad of reasons and explanations for each one of these marital challenges. But one thing that might be missing in most, is the choice to love. And that choice to love is illustrated beautifully in these verses in Ephesians 5:25-29:
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”
Note that inherent in Christ’s love of the church is a choice that He made: to give up His life and to care for His church. No one could doubt Christ’s commitment to love. But as great as that commitment was and is, what is even more astounding is the object of Christ’s love, the church. Consider that the church is full of broken, sinful men and women, who routinely fail their Savior and turn their backs on Him. Yet, Christ’s love remains constant and immoveable, in spite of our frail and ugly selves.
Now, using the illustration of Christ’s love for the church, we husbands are commanded to “love our wives.” Period. That command has no qualifier, other than we are to love her as our own bodies. Furthermore, because of the illustration of Christ giving up His life for the church, we can also conclude that a husband should exhibit an unwavering commitment to sacrifice on behalf of his wife, even unto death if it were required. But since it’s unlikely most of us will be called to actually die for our wife, perhaps we should just strive to love her when she might act unloveable, which might be possible. (Of course, what’s more likely is that we husbands might be even more unloveable than her.)
Now this may be an odd sort of article coming from a guy who loves to write about politics, government, culture and philosophy. But if you believe, as I do, that as the family goes, so goes the nation, then there is no more important topic than marriage and the family.
My heart often grieves for the state in which we find our nation, cities and culture. Sadly though, I believe that we are reaping the severe consequences of what we have sown via our rejection of God and His founding values upon which our nation was built. And certainly there is no more important value than marriage.
So if you are a guy who is struggling in your marriage, and if you seemed to have lost the love and commitment that you once had for your wife, I encourage you to reconsider, recommit and begin to evaluate the kind of love that Christ showed for you. If you will do this, and then find someone you respect to walk alongside you as you seek to restore your marriage to what it was always meant to be, then there is hope. And where there is hope, there is potential that, with God’s help, and your willingness to follow His leading, your marriage can be healed.
So keep keeping on. Do right until the stars fall. Love your wife. And look to the ultimate example of love. Christ chose to love you, even while you were unloveable.
For the last several years I have watched in utter disgust as a steady stream of liberal groups have acted out violently in cities across our nation. Whether it was the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, or most recently the anti-Trump “protesters,” there is a common thread to all these anarchist-type leftists. While some of their grievances may have merit, what might begin as organized protests soon turns to threats, rioting, vandalizing, destruction, and assaults. Common to many of these violent events are clashes with police, tear gas, arrests, and injuries. Sadly, some of these criminal leftists have even killed those we entrust our safety to — our men and women in blue.
The media is quick to cover for these radical extremists, often comparing them to protests by the tea party movement on the right, as if there is some moral equivalence. But this comparison could not be more distorted, and intentionally fraudulent, by a media that is hell-bent on uplifting the radical leftist groups and marginalizing and misrepresenting peaceful conservative protests.
I founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in early 2009, and was present at the inception of the modern tea party movement. I’ve been engaged in this worthy and impactful conservative movement every step of the way. Our group in Chattanooga, just one of thousands across our nation, began as a protest rally on April 15, 2009 with patriotic songs, prayers, inspiring speakers, and more than 2,500 local citizens. The family-friendly protest was peaceful and consisted of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, professionals, blue-collar, white, black, hispanic, elected officials, clergy and more. As was the case in all of our rallies, we consistently left the locations we rented, as clean or cleaner than when we arrived. And not once did we have any clashes with authorities.
In the fall of that same year, more than a million tea party members and conservative groups traveled to Washington DC to protest the policies of our government. The protest was peaceful, patriotic, respectful and not one violent clash with authorities or citizens. In 2013, I had the opportunity to speak at the Audit the IRS Rally on the grounds of our Capitol in Washington DC. Many tens of thousands of tea party patriots attended and again there were no clashes, violence or destruction.
Most of us who led in the founding of the tea party movement had never participated in a grassroots political effort, particularly one that was focused on expressing the frustration and anger that had been simmering for many years. But while tea party members had little experience in leading protests, there was a common thread of love of country, respect for the law, and regard for our fellow citizens, even when we disagreed. Furthermore, our strategy was to use the power of citizen lobbying, persuasion and ultimately the ballot box, to affect change; not intimidation, violence and rioting.
To be clear, the tea party is not a perfect movement. We have had our share of struggles and some of our members have not represented us well. But those are the rare exceptions. And even in those instances, they do not include rioting, violence or worse.
But not so with many of our fellow citizens on the left side of the aisle. The record is one of consistent and regular rioting and violence over the last several years. Here are just a few examples of their detestable criminal activity, but there are literally dozens and dozens:
Black Lives Matter
While certainly there are millions of Democrats and liberals who would never protest by picking up stones, bottles or even guns to vent their anger, the truth is there are millions who would and tens of thousands who have. There is a quote that states,
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak.”
There’s a deafening silence from many Democrats/liberals as the behavior of many in their party can only be characterized as criminal. Most agree that our nation is deeply divided. But there is no doubt that the continued silence of the left when their own engage in violent acts, will only worsen the deep divide. So I call on my fellow Americans who may not identify with a conservative ideology, or even the unorthodox style of our new President, to reject the path of violence and anarchy. Protest if you feel the need, but do so in a peaceful and respectful manner. Convince your fellow Americans of the soundness of your views and values via your ideological arguments, not your violent acts. Only then can we hope “to form a more perfect union.”
Has Campaign 2016 left you feeling like you are about to drown in a barrage of fear and moral corruption? Have you experienced any of these emotions over the last few months? Angst? Anger? Worry? Uncertainty? Nervousness? Fear?
As I’ve engaged in political discourse, I have seen these emotions permeating the discussions. It’s clear that Americans are experiencing an extreme degree of angst. The level of fear that is expressed by conservatives, republicans, independents, and democrats seems to be off the charts.
Our future appears to have been boiled down to the choice that will prevail on November 8th. While there are monumental factors at stake that are driving the choices Americans will make at the ballot box, there have been other seminal moments for our nation.
If you think back over your life, you can no doubt identify times when your future was dire and bleak. Similarly, while our nation’s homeland has faced a relatively tranquil and prosperous series of decades, there have been periods in our history when citizens wondered if the Republic would survive.
I’m reminded of a passage in the gospels where the disciples were fearing for their lives. The story is found in Matthew 8 and highlights one day in the life of Jesus. Throughout that day, Jesus healed a leper, a paralytic child, a feverish lady, cast out a demon, and healed dozens of others. At the end of this “day in the life of Jesus” where the miraculous became almost commonplace, Jesus led his disciples into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.
Shortly after Jesus and the disciples embarked on the journey, a violent storm encompassed their boat. The disciples, terrified by the tempest that surrounded them, and the waves that were crashing inside the boat, yelled out in utter hopelessness, to a sleeping Jesus.
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Consider exactly what the disciples were revealing with those chilling words. First, they had completely forgotten what they had just witnessed earlier in the day, when Jesus performed miracle after miracle, reflecting His complete dominion over the physical and spiritual. Second, consider that this supernatural Man had led them directly into the boat. While they were unaware of what lay ahead, Jesus fully understood what that dark night held for them. Finally, while Jesus knew there was a storm directly in their path, He also knew that the storm was not the object of that night. Rather, a lesson that the disciples needed to experience and learn, was precisely what Jesus had in mind.
So Jesus awoke to the disciples’ screams of fear, panic, and hopelessness. He saw it in their eyes, heard it in their voices, and fully understood their emotions. But, He did not immediately deliver them from their greatest fears. Rather, as the waves were swirling around their knees, Jesus questioned:
“Why are you fearful?”
Did the disciples not understand what the purpose of the last twelve hours had been? Did they not remember that Jesus was the Son of God? Did they fail to comprehend that He delivered dozens from physical and spiritual oppression? Did they not realize the most obvious reality, that Jesus was in the boat with them? Could they perish with the Son of God at their side?
Yet they so easily forgot, just as we so often do. But notice Jesus’ next words.
“O you of little faith.”
The disciples had within minutes lost their trust in the very Creator of the universe; the God-man who had called them to follow Him, and told them things about themselves that only God could have know; the Nazarene who they were seeing live a perfect life, who had turned water into wine, healed the sick and lame, brought words to the lips of the mute, opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf.
Yet, fear gripped the disciples and they lost their faith. And what was drowned out that night by the storms that swirled around them was not their physical lives, but more importantly their spiritual faith.
But then, despite the fear and lack of faith by the disciples, we read these words:
“Then Jesus arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”
If Jesus can halt physical storms can He not conquer the storms in your life, and our nation? Of course He can. And although there are clear biblical principles that instruct us to not simply sit back and do nothing, we also learn from Matthew 8 that what we are often lacking is faith.
Faith that believes.
Faith that trusts.
And, as we learn in the book of James, faith that is revealed by our works, for we read that “faith without works is dead.”
Remember that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The same Jesus that saved His disciples from drowning that stormy night, is the same One who is fully aware of the storms in your life, and our nation. But will you and I acknowledge, trust, and follow Him, not just on November 8th, but more importantly on November 9th and forward?
In just a few days our nation will enter a new era. It could be a very stormy and tumultuous period. So we have two choices. Will we turn to the ultimate answer for a stormy future and return to the only One who can guide us through these storms? Or will we trudge on, in fear, disunity and hopelessness?
Politicians, their Parties and ideological movements are not our hope. There is only one Hope: Jesus Christ. Let’s turn to Him as we climb into the boat that will traverse a Clinton or Trump Presidency. It’s going to get rough, but we know that God Himself “will never leave us nor forsake us.“
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
Why is it that some who possess the greatest this world has to offer are the most ungrateful, while some who have the least in terms of worldly possessions are the most grateful?
Specifically, I’ve watched the antics of Colin Kaepernick over the last several weeks and been amazed at the choices and behavior of a man whose life could only be characterized as a dream beyond one’s wildest imaginations. With a stratospheric compensation contract totaling over $100 million, adoring fans, celebrity status, health, youth, a lifetime of opportunities ahead of him, and so much more, Kaepernick is blessed with an elite status that 99% of the billions of people around the globe cannot even begin to comprehend.
Colin’s biological mother is white and his father is black. But his mother, destitute and single, gave Kaepernick up for adoption to white parents. No one could have imagined that this child, who was likely destined for a very ordinary life at best, would achieve the status he has attained. Consider that Colin’s weekly compensation of nearly $300,000 is approximately six times the US annual median household income, and his annual compensation is nearly 300 times that same number.
I have always subscribed to the biblical principal that “To whom much is given, much is required.” And the truth is that just about any American has been given much, when compared with the other 7 billion citizens of our globe. Yet, there are a few ultra-elite who have been blessed with unfathomably more than their fellow Americans.
The opportunities that are available to them to use their status and the platform they enjoy is exponential, with the ability to speak positively about the struggles plaguing our society and culture as well as engaging in uplifting meaningful activity.
Yet, all too often, their approach is one of condemnation versus uplifting. Rather than playing a positive role model, they epitomize what is actually wrong with our society and culture.
There is a verse in scripture that says, “I have found that whatever state I am in, to be content.”
In this passage, we read that the Apostle Paul was an elite of his society, in terms of education, status and as a citizen of Rome. Despite his status, Paul often found himself maligned and persecuted, enduring oppression, injustice, incarceration, and actual personal harm. Yet he made a choice to be grateful and content, in spite of his circumstances.
Of course, Paul offers his secret as to how and why he was able to make such a choice two verses later when he notes: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Therein lies the secret. It is not in our own strength that we can exhibit gratefulness. But rather through Christ. And when we do so, we can truly begin to peel back the deception that can so often lead us to false conclusions about our status.
As Americans we truly are blessed, despite whatever circumstances in which we might find ourselves. This is not to say that we must simply roll over and accept unacceptable scenarios including injustice. However, we also should not become ungrateful for all the blessings that are available to us. But when we are tempted to resort to the negative, we can always seek Christ’s strength to express the proper gratefulness, regardless of our circumstances.
“No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous.” Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)
This week I am witnessing first hand the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As I’ve been observing the happenings within the Quicken Arena, the one theme that continues to pop up again and again, is Make America Great Again. Of course, that being the Trump campaign motto, it should come as no surprise. From t-shirts to ball caps, street vendors to banners, the motto is everywhere I look, here in Cleveland.
The brilliantly conceived message is one that plays well with disillusioned and disgusted voters, who have experienced the last seven years of an Obama Presidency and grown increasingly skeptical and angry with Washington DC. But to add to that anger, Republican voters have had to endure a party establishment who cares more about power and reelections than they do about upholding the Constitution, and fighting back against Obama’s all out assault on our freedoms, national security and economic revitalization. So Trump stepped into a perfect storm and has been a master at tapping into the base emotions of voters, with a message that sells to the disgruntled masses.
While the overriding theme of the Convention this week is Make America Great Again, the Trump campaign has played brilliantly off that theme to devise a relevant emphasis each day as follows:
Monday: Make America Safe Again
Tuesday: Make America Work Again
Wednesday: Make America First Again
Thursday: Make America One Again
I wouldn’t deny that these are all worthy topics and aspirations, but as I’ve considered Trump’s Make America Great Again theme, I believe the New York billionaire is attempting to place the cart before the horse. It’s as if Trump’s seeking to build one of his skyscrapers before digging the foundation. Sadly, many of the American people have eagerly embraced Donald’s message, believing they can simply don a baseball cap, elect a businessman, and the nation’s course will be reversed, with Great days ahead, absent any personal sacrifice or change.
In order for a business to achieve greatness, it requires a superior product or service, with a comprehensive approach and attention to the way it treats its employees, suppliers, investors and even its community. Similarly, a person will only be truly great, if that person possesses the inner qualities that lead to greatness: humility, service, wisdom, courage, forgiveness, trustworthiness, and more. In years gone by, the word that was often used to describe these qualities was virtue: “behavior showing high moral standards.”
So can a nation be Great, as in “superior in character or quality” without being Good or virtuous? Clearly Trump’s message suggests, by the use of the word “Again,” that America is no longer Great. And if that is accurate, which I believe it is, then what was it that led to America’s greatness in the past? Was it merely the desire or goal of being great, by those before us, that led to America becoming great? Or was it based on some other qualities our forefathers and grandfathers possessed, that led to our nation becoming the greatest nation this world has ever known?
I would suggest that to be great, America cannot simply seek to be great, anymore than wishing to be a great company can cause a business to excel. Greatness results from small, daily routines when others are not watching that flow from conscious decisions that ultimately develop into one’s character. Greatness is not the end goal but rather it is a by-product of other disciplines.
If America is to become great again, it will not be as a result of a mere focus on greatness but it will rather flow from a commitment to the individual attributes that lead to greatness. Those attributes must be developed in our lives, and consciously taught and passed on to the lives of our children. There is a famous quote that we have all heard before: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Sadly, the current destiny of our nation has resulted from the thoughts, actions, habits and character that we have developed individually and collectively as a people. Our fall from greatness will not be restored with mere political victories and cheap cliches that induce warm and fuzzy emotions. Rather, it will require each of us to take serious inventory of our own character to determine how and where we have contributed to the current course of our nation. And as we identify our own flaws and weaknesses, we must then be willing to make the hard changes in our own lives and thus begin the more difficult but absolutely crucial changes to right the course of our nation. Only when we do so can we #MakeAmericaGoodAgain.
“Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” Patrick Henry
In 1976 the film Network featured a scene in which a fictional TV anchor, in response to the overall decline in America due to inflation, unemployment, crime and a recession, encouraged his viewers to stand up, go to their windows, stick their heads out and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” While the movie was a fictional story, the plot highlighted the mood of a large number of Americans at the time. The relevant scene can be viewed here in case you’ve never seen it. (warning: some strong language)
Similar to the movie Network, if there’s one word that describes many voters 30 years later, it is anger. From the outset of this latest Presidential cycle, we’ve seen poll after poll affirm that voters are absolutely disgusted with politicians in Washington, and the sentiment isn’t limited to one party.
On the Democratic side, we have seen Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, garner 41% of the vote to date, as democrat voters dismiss the heir apparent, Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, on the Republican side we’ve witnessed voters reject candidates who have any ties to the elite establishment, opting to support Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. In fact, these two candidates have garnered two thirds of the votes cast to date in Republican primaries and caucuses.
It’s understandable that voters have grown angry and frustrated with politicians, particularly on the Republican side. When candidates at all levels campaign on principles that support limited government, promote fiscal responsibility, and champion life and family, voters expect them to govern according to those values, which are affirmed in the Republican platform. Yet, it has become the norm for politicians, once elected, to quickly turn their backs on their campaign promises. Shamefully, these men and women chose the party elite, special interests and big business over the will of the voters who elected them.
While anger is an understandable reaction to these self-serving men and women, is anger in and of itself a reliable response to such betrayal by politicians? Should we trust anger to guide us in our selection of the individual who would lead our nation, and even the free world, in some of the most crucial matters of our time?
There is a proverb that states, “A quick tempered man acts foolishly” and another warns, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” No doubt anger is a natural response when those who should be accountable to us show us such little respect while they trample our Constitution and seek their own self-interest. But it’s one thing to get angry and quite another thing to respond in anger.
Responding in anger leads to many unintended consequences, and as the verses above indicate, it places us in the company of fools, or at least leads to foolish behavior. Throwing a hammer after accidentally hitting your thumb might be a natural response, but it will likely damage a nearby wall. Likewise, choosing a presidential candidate who claims he’ll build a wall, just because we’re angry, without scrutinizing the substance of that candidate, borders on the same foolish behavior. Worse though, the repercussions of such an uninformed decision could prove catastrophic for our nation.
There are a host of decisions of much lesser consequence that we spend hours and even days, at times, deliberating over. When I recently purchased a television, I spent time on the internet researching which brand and features were the best and then made two trips to Best Buy before selecting the TV. And you no doubt have done the same when you purchased your last car, home or perhaps even a toaster. Yet it’s amazing, if not sad, that many in this election cycle are simply selecting a candidate that pushes all the right buttons and says all the right things, because they’re “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”
The challenge for all of us who are angry over what is taking place in Washington is to use our logic rather than anger to make choices. Logic can guide while anger seeks to mislead. Reason will prevail while rage simply destroys. But will Americans discipline themselves to resist their inner urge to simply “burn it down and start over” as the mantra of some is these days? Will anger reign or reason prevail? The answer to this question may determine what kind of nation we have a year or two from now.
Photo courtesy of Network movie