The Wisdom of the Ages: My Grandfather’s Example

The Wisdom of the Ages: My Grandfather’s Example

It was early 1943.  The war in Europe and Asia waged on.  The nations of the world were embroiled in an epic battle of good versus evil.  Tens of millions of lives were being lost and hundreds of millions more were grieving those losses.  Hell had unleashed its fury in a manner that had never previously been experienced.  The utter depravity of man was center stage and no human soul remained untouched.

As the victory by allied forces at Guadalcanal against Japan had just been realized, half way around the world, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was selected to command the Allied armies in Europe.  

At the same time in March 1943, thousands of miles from both Guadalcanal and Germany, a German immigrant was marking his 50th birthday in Chicago.  As a teen, Oscar Werner, son of German parents, had immigrated to America from Ukraine.  In the years since he immigrated, my grandfather had established himself as a professional musician, a concert flutist and a member of several area orchestras.  He was also a successful entrepreneur, owning a music store in Chicago.

On this day though, as Oscar was reaching a half-century, he recognized the utter turmoil the world was enduring.  But rather than despair, he looked upward for help and within the pages of a Book that had become his regular companion.

In keeping with his custom, Oscar boarded the Chicago El, the elevated train that he rode to work each morning.  His routine was to move to his favorite seat, pull out his worn and tattered Bible, and continue reading through his favorite book.  This day was different though.  Halfway to 100, Oscar began to consider what the next 25 years of his life might hold.  He had accomplished a lot since he first set foot on Ellis Island.  But he knew that there would be more challenges in the years to follow. More battles to wage.  And he would need God’s wisdom and counsel to prevail.

He opened his Bible, and began to read from the very first words of the book he so loved.  

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.   And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light…”

As he read that last word, the jolt of the El train startled him.  He looked up as the train rounded the bend.  The brilliant rays of the rising sun flashed in his eyes.  

Light…  

Spirit of God…

Oscar stopped.  He had read that verse so many times before.  But all of a sudden those words brought another verse to his memory:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Oh, how he desired the wisdom of the ages to light his path and give him the understanding he would need to navigate the next 25 years.  And then, the idea that would come to dominate the remainder of Oscar’s life surfaced within his mind, as if the Spirit of God planted it there. 

He would read through the Bible on average four times per year over the next 25 years so that in 1968, on his 75th birthday, he would complete reading through God’s Word a total of 100 times.  His pulse quickened.  He knew that this would be an immense commitment to God.  He realized that he would have to sacrifice so many other “good” things in his life.  But he also believed that the wisdom and direction he longed for in his life would be forthcoming.  Saturating his mind with the counsel of God could only mean that. 

And so on that day in 1943, as the rest of the world was in an epic battle for its very existence, Oscar experienced the peace that can only come from God.  He knew that no matter what happened in the years to come, he would always have his Bible with him.  The words he would read over and over again would permeate his life in such a way that they would transform him.  And by doing so, they would direct him on a path that would honor God and bring blessing to Oscar and the rest of his family.

The El train came to a stop.  Oscar disembarked and made his way to his business.  But there was a confidence in his step that he had not known the day before.  

Oscar Werner reading his Bible

Twenty five years later, Oscar sat on his sofa, where he had positioned himself every evening.  As he did so, he read these final verses in Revelation 22, the last book of the Bible:

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.  He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Oscar clasped the tattered and worn Bible to his chest.  He smiled as he remembered he had purchased several copies of the Bible over the last twenty-five years.  His constant use of the Book took its toll on each of the previous copies.

Oscar had done it.  His one hundredth time reading through the Bible.  Of course there was great satisfaction in having completed the goal he had set twenty-five years earlier.  But greater than any feeling of success, he was reminiscing over the many times in his life when a verse he had read jumped off the pages and offered him the answer he needed to the challenge, struggle or battle at hand.  He remembered Isaiah 55:11 at that moment:

“So shall My word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to Me void. But it shall accomplish what I please. And it will prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

Oscar Werner’s Bible Tallying His Readings

That verse had been proven true so many times over the last twenty-five years.  As Oscar had committed God’s Word to his heart, he realized that it had not been for naught.  It had not returned void.  Rather, there had been exponential return for the time he had invested in reading his dearest treasure. 

As I think back to the years my grandfather was with us, one of the memories I have is of him sitting on his favorite sofa with his Bible on his lap.  And while he read his Bible over 130 times in his life, he did have other past times.  In front of his sofa was his black and white TV where he would watch his favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.  (While I’m no great baseball fan, I had to watch this year’s World Series in honor of my grandpa, knowing that he would be ecstatic to see his Cubs finally win!)

Grandpa Werner was an incredible example to me and so many others — of the commitment to a goal, the power of discipline, and the priority of God’s Word.  The Bible was Oscar’s constant companion.  It was his most powerful ally in every battle; his wisest counselor when facing difficult decisions; his most understanding comforter in times of sorrow. And my grandpa’s commitment to reading it has been an encouragement to me to do the same.  

I share all of this not to simply highlight Oscar Werner, although he is a great man who I will meet again someday.  But more importantly, my goal is to challenge you and me to consider, who are our counselors?  Does your list include God’s Word?  Are you regularly ingesting the Wisdom of the Ages into your life?

Whether you are a Christian, atheist, agnostic, Muslim, or unsure, I encourage to commit to reading through the Book that has traversed thousands of years and offers hope and peace to anyone who is willing to seek them. 

In this era of technology I would encourage you to select an app to begin reading the Bible or even listening to it audibly.  My app of choice is at bible.com where you can find several Plans that enable you to read through the Bible in a year.  Last year I completed the “As it Happened” Plan which daily takes you through the Bible over the course of a year, in the chronological order in which the Bible was written.  My preferred version for reading or listening is the New Living Translation (NLT) as it is in modern, easy to understand English.  

I trust you will join me in reading through the Bible in 2017.  If you will, I’m confident that your investment will not return void and you will find it to illuminate your path in this new year.

Footnote:  While the specifics of the train ride, what Oscar was thinking and and how he came to his decision, stem from my own creativity, the decision to read through the Bible 100 times in 25 years is not.  As reflected in the photos above, my grandfather kept meticulous records of when he completed each reading.  He daily read the Bible, both on the El train on the ride to work as well as on his favorite sofa.  When Oscar passed away at age 84, he was working his way through his favorite Book for the 132nd time, with his wife Esther reading it to him in those final days.

Do You Know How to Protect Yourself If…?

Do You Know How to Protect Yourself If…?

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Do you know how to protect yourself in the event of an attack at your home or office?

Are your home and office hard or soft targets?

If an attacker grabbed you or your loved one, what is your fastest and most effective response?

If you were caught in a surprise attack at close range, are you confident that you can protect yourself and disable your attacker?

In the event of a natural disaster, how do you help yourself or those in need?

Earlier this year, my wife, Lori, and I, teamed up with Executive Operations Group, to build a private shooting range at Liberty Ridge Ranch, our 125 acre property just a few miles outside Chattanooga in Bradley County, TN (Cleveland).

Executive Operations Group (EOG) was founded by my friend Dr. Omar Hamada, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Special Forces (Airborne) who is an accomplished physician and business executive living in middle Tennessee with his wife and four children. 

special-forces-desertThe EOG instructors are world-class, combat-hardened ex-Special Forces, Delta, SEAL, and CIA veterans. They include martial artists and MMA coaches and champions. These are not your ordinary NRA-Certified Instructors or your average self-trained survival guys. These are the best in the world combat-experienced guys who have real world life and death experience. They have fought for our country and their passion continues to make our world a better and safer place. And that means getting you the training you need. Each trainer has an estimated $1 Million+ worth of training invested in them by the US government.

pistol1-1024x681EOG will be holding the following two courses at Liberty Ridge Ranch in the next few weeks:

Pistol Training Program:  October 28-29

Executive Operations Survival Training:  November 16-20

To find out more about each program, including cost, visit EOG’s website at http://executiveoperationsgroup.com/

Each class is limited to 15 students so don’t delay.  They are sure to fill up fast.  

Come with a desire to learn and the passion to make your life and the lives of those around you better and safer.

If you want Hands-on personalized training from Special Operators — the most elite warriors in the world — experienced in real world military engagements, then EOG will give you the skills necessary to protect you and your family in the event of a terrorist or criminal attack, a natural disaster, or other real life emergencies.

Don’t delay.  Be sure to check out their website and consider signing up today.  

Mark

If You Reject Hillary & Trump Here are Some Options

If You Reject Hillary & Trump Here are Some Options

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In my post earlier this week, I attempted to make the case for what happens when one votes for the lesser evil and how that ultimately results in a continued race to the bottom of the barrel.  If this year’s election proves anything, it should affirm that truth, with a couple of candidates who may be amongst the most depraved and immoral ones in our nation’s history. 

In the same article, I also attempted to lay the groundwork for why the Bible affirms that when confronted with evil, of any kind or in any setting, the Christian is called to reject it, have no fellowship with it, and to even expose it.  I often hear the response, “well, we’re not electing a pastor in chief” to which I respond, “ok, but where in scripture does it limit our rejection of evil to simply when we are selecting a pastor?

That said, if you’re reading this post, then I assume you may either 1) be curious about more of my rants and ramblings,  2) you truly are interested in exploring your options because you find both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton unfit to serve as President of the United States, or 3) you want to see just how crazy I am.

Consider these statistics about the feelings of Americans:

  • 57% of Americans believe a 3rd Party is needed (up from 46% in 2012) and 51% of Republicans agree, according to Gallup.
  • 33% of Americans believe Hillary Clinton would be a good/great President while 25% believe the same about Donald Trump.  Gallup
  • Trust in political leaders is at an all time low, with just 42% of Americans having a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust.  Gallup

Given these numbers, it’s highly likely that we will see a record number of voters either stay home, vote only the down ballot, or vote third party or independent.  

So in the chart at the bottom of this post, I have attempted to layout just a few of the other “credible” alternatives that are available for those interested.   While I started with a larger slate, as I continued my research I narrowed it greatly.  I have presented the positions on key issues from these final candidates primarily from their websites and/or platforms.  But in a case or two I have gone to the internet to quote their positions from interviews they have given.  If you want to see the more than 400 Presidential candidates, you can find them here.  

Wasting Your Vote

I am told by some that voting for a candidate other than the Republican or Democrat means you just wasted your vote.  There are several responses to that perspective but first, if you follow that logic, then voting for any loser was a wasted vote.  So if my vote for a candidate who did not win is a waste, then it must stand to reason if you vote for Trump and he loses then your vote is a waste as well.  Furthermore, under that line of reasoning, if you voted for Romney four years ago, or even your local dog catcher (if he lost), you wasted your vote as well.  That hardly makes sense. 

I would never assert your vote is a waste, regardless of who you voted for.  I may disagree, but it’s rather presumptuous of me to assert that your vote, cast from your personal values and beliefs, is a waste.  That’s the height of mocking and belittling someone’s deeply held convictions and a very arrogant attitude to assert that someone else must vote as you believe.  In fact, it may border on the kind of elections that Saddam Hussein would have expected you to participate in.  Vote as he demands or else!

But let me move to a different angle.  While as Americans we are conditioned to win, voting should not be about just winning.  Fundamentally it should be about expressing your values.  Where those values can align with a candidate and actually win, that is the best outcome for you and your values.  But when one wholeheartedly sacrifices those values, particularly when those values are deep, fundamental and non-negotiable, one’s character is diminished, and ultimately the character of the nation devolves.  Many of our founding fathers spoke about voting and I think their views are worth being reminded of.  I’ve included a few below:

Founding Fathers on Voting

Noah Webster

In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate.  Look to his character. When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.”

Samuel Adams

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men.

John Witherspoon

Those who wish well to the State ought to choose to places of trust men of inward principle, justified by exemplary conversation. . . .And the people in general ought to have regard to the moral character of those whom they invest with authority either in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches.

James Garfield

Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. . . . If the next centennial does not find us a great nation . . . it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

Frederick Douglass

I have one great political idea. .  .  That idea is an old one. It is widely and generally assented to; nevertheless, it is very generally trampled upon and disregarded. The best expression of it, I have found in the Bible. It is in substance, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; sin is a reproach to any people” [Proverbs 14:34]. This constitutes my politics – the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics. . . . I feel it my duty to do all in my power to infuse this idea into the public mind, that it may speedily be recognized and practiced upon by our people.

What’s at Stake

I am fully aware of what is at stake in this election.  As someone who has been on the front lines of the battle for our Constitutional Republic politically and culturally for the last decade, I can recite very succinctly the threats that are posed to you, me and our nation.  The loss of religious liberty.  The loss of the second amendment.  The loss of free speech.  The further encroachment on civil liberties and property rights. The increasing attack on Life and Marriage.  The further opening of our borders and national sovereignty.  Increasing terrorism.  And more and more.  

Yes, our nation hangs in the balance.  But as bad as that is, or perhaps because it is so bad, I must turn to God and His Word for instruction and direction.  And if one is willing to study, search and dig, it’s not only amazing, but encouraging to find how much is in the Word of God that speaks to the very issues we are facing.  Truthfully, doing so will give you peace in the midst of this Cat 4 storm we appear to be in.

One story in the Old Testament stands out in particular, that is no doubt familiar to you.  Recall the three Hebrew young men, millennials perhaps, living in the Babylonian empire as captives.  They were faced with a dire choice.  That choice was not on par with losing their right to bear arms, or their freedom of speech, or even simply religious liberty.  It was actually much, much worse.  They were threatened with the loss of their very lives in a fiery furnace if they refused to obey the king.  And yet, read their response:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

While these exemplary young men knew their God could save them, they also understood He might not.  But they trusted Him with their lives nonetheless.  And God delivered them.

So this is the question I ponder:  Is it to much for me to do something lesser and trust God with my nation? 

Biblical References

Let me close with some references from the ultimate source for me, God’s Word.  For right or wrong, my default is to seek God’s views on all matters of life. Given that He created it all, and we are navigating through His world, I subscribe to the notion that one should look to the owners manual for instruction.  For me, that owners manual is the Bible.  As you read the passages below, I encourage you to continue to seek God in prayer, asking Him to make your decision clear.  He promises to do so, if we will ask, and when He does, you will gain a supernatural peace.

“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness…”  Exodus 18:21

“And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”  Daniel 2:21

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, have a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  2 Peter 3:1-5

“Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”  I Thessalonians 5:21-22

“And why not say, Let us do evil that good may come?”  Romans 3:8

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  I Corinthians 10:31

“The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”  Proverbs 29:25

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

My Vote

I have had a number of readers ask me about who I plan to vote for so I will share that openly.  While I am in agreement with many of the positions for each of the candidates below, I have some non-negotiable values as well.  And given those non-negotiables, two of the candidates disqualified themselves for me.  So the individual I plan to cast my vote for, barring any other “new information” that might come to light, is Darrell Castle with the Constitution Party.  The Party’s website is extensive with a strong and very detailed description of their views on all of the salient issues of our day.  And while there are a couple I may not agree with wholeheartedly, on the fundamentals for me, the Constitution Party is solid.  (In Tennessee where I live I will have to write-in the name Darrell Castle as may be the case in your state as well.)

Finally, consider the down ballot as you go to the polls, regardless of your Presidential pick.  At the end of the day, the many lesser positions can have a profound impact on our lives as well, particularly in your local community.  So I encourage you to apply the same standard to those other choices as you diligently and prayerfully make your selections.

As indicated in my previous article, I welcome your thoughts, critiques, and feedback. This continues to be a learning and growth process for me so your perspective is always valued and respected.

Mark

NOTE:  Chart below works best on computer or to view on your phone click here.

Should a Christian Vote for the Lesser Evil?

Should a Christian Vote for the Lesser Evil?

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Over the course of my years of engaging in politics, I have often heard the phrase “the lesser of two evils” used about the choices offered up to voters.  But never has that phrase been used more than in the 2016 election.  One wonders if all the “lesser evil” choices of prior elections have ultimately culminated in the two worst choices of our lifetimes?  Time will certainly tell.

As I’ve witnessed the ongoing debate on the Republican side of the discussion over Donald Trump, supposedly the lesser evil, I have seen two arguments arise.  The #NeverTrump side asserts that they must follow their conscience, drawn from a biblical/absolute moral standard.  The other side argues that in doing so, one would invariably allow a greater evil, in this case Hillary Clinton, to prevail in our nation.  This second group asserts that selecting the “lesser evil,” in this case Trump, is a better choice, even a good choice, because it would lessen or slow the advance of evil.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that under a Trump administration, evil would in fact advance at a slower pace. If that were true, then is a vote for someone who has a lifetime of the behavior below someone a Christian should vote for, regardless of the evil character of the other option?

Three wives

Serial adulterer

Affiliated with Strip clubs

Rejects his need of God

Utilizes racial and misogynist slurs routinely

Acknowledged his propensity to prey on women, including those married

Routinely defrauded individuals out of monetary claims

Pride, arrogance and greed are prominent character flaws

And so much more…

To be clear, as I enumerated Donald Trump’s behavior, lifestyle and choices, I struggled doing so.  The struggle was not because I was unsure as to whether those things are morally reprehensible.  Rather, I struggled because I too am a sinner and were my life laid bare, there would no doubt be many choices of which I would be ashamed.  So I do not enumerate Trump’s choices and lifestyle to suggest I am better.  However, there is a distinct difference between Trump and someone who embraces the Christian message.  

A true Christian acknowledges his sinful choices and routinely seeks God’s forgiveness for his actions that violate God’s standard.  And because his faith rests in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he has forgiveness from God, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.  So repentance and forgiveness are key to a Christian’s relationship with God.

When Trump was asked in 2015 about whether he had ever asked God for forgiveness, he stated the following:

“I am not sure I have.  I just go on and try to do a better job from there.  I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right.  I don’t bring God into that picture.  I don’t.”

I do not share this to condemn Trump but merely to explain the man.  With a philosophy as Donald revealed, it is no wonder that so many of his choices are immoral.  But worse, it does not appear that Trump sees any need to correct or improve on his degenerate behavior. To be fair, in the last few months, there have been unsubstantiated reports that perhaps Donald has turned to God.  I can only hope and pray that this has in fact occurred.  If so, it would be an earth shattering development that could at the very minimum eternally secure the soul of Donald Trump.  

But back to the original discussion.  Is Donald Trump someone a Christian should vote for, simply because he is the “lesser of two evils” in the minds of some?

In tandem with that question though, and perhaps of greater importance, is this question:

In a world of lesser evils, are God’s principals universal?  

We can no doubt find countless examples of choices that are both evil, but one is lesser.  So what should a Christian do in these instances?  

In America we are sheltered and removed from the reality of the rest of the world.  But for too many Christians around the world, the lesser of two evils is a dramatic reality, and results in their rejecting both options. 

Christians & The Egyptian Election

Take for instance the runoff election in 2012 in Egypt that pitted the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, a holdover from the former strong-armed President Hosni Mubarak.  If one delves into the backgrounds of both of these men, and what they supported, there can be no doubt that their views, values and track records were at extreme odds with biblical values.  So in that instance, should an Egyptian Christian have selected a Muslim, tied to a former dictator, or should the Christian have chosen the second candidate, someone who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a known terrorist group?  Neither choice is a good one.  Truthfully, they are both evil.

God’s standards and principles must be universal and timeless or they are not of God. 

If one must resort to solely human logic, reasoning or even situational ethics, that should be the first clue that the conclusion one is coming to is likely not of God.  Secondly, if the conclusion one is coming to would not work in another place or in another era, then that conclusion must also be suspect.  

As Americans, and Christians specifically, have continued to chose “the lesser of two evils” over the years, we have seen the quality of the candidates continue to degenerate.  This approach has led us to the point where in 2016, the two major options presented to Americans are the two most debased and immoral options perhaps our nation has ever seen.  But rest assured, if Americans willingly, and in many cases gleefully, select one of the two options, you can be confident that the choices that will presented in 2020 and beyond will be even worse.  Contrary to the theory of evolution, things do not naturally get better.  Rather, it’s clear that the world is continuously devolving, absent God’s intervention through spiritual revivals.

Consider this truth.  If we continue to follow the path of the “lesser of two evils” where might that lead us in the future? There will always be a lesser of two evils, no matter how low on the scale the candidates descend.  We could one day be faced with voting for one candidate that believes in abortion while the other believes in euthanasia, or both could believe in such.  So it should be clear that at some point the “lesser of two evils” falls apart.

So, what should you do if you are a person that has a gnawing feeling that something is not right? Or perhaps you have a quiet voice pricking your conscience to reject both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, even though your human logic or friends suggest that Trump would be better because he will do this or do that.

If this is you, then I would encourage you to turn to God.  As a believer, every consequential decision in your life should have a foundation in and be supported by God’s Word.  If not, then question that decision.  So if you are a follower of Christ, consider these passages, pray earnestly and seek God’s direction on November 8.

“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, have a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  2 Peter 3:1-5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

I believe that fear is one of the greatest motivators of this election.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of Hillary.  Fear of the Supreme Court.  Fear of our borders opening up further.  Fear of increased corruption.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear.  But consider this:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7

Do you feel powerless?  Do you feel anger and even hatred perhaps?  Is your mind clouded?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, then perhaps fear is motivating you.  Turn your attention back to God, particularly in this election cycle.  Trust Him.  Refuse to succumb to your own logic.  And God will direct you to the proper choice in just a few days.  

It may be that God is leading you to reject both candidates and to either not vote, or to select one of the 3rd party or independent candidates.  Life is not about winning, in a worldly sense, but about doing what is right from a divine perspective.  Personally I find both Trump and Clinton objectionable, one perhaps more than the other, but both a shame for a country that was founded upon biblical principles.  So I have been challenged to pray for Trump and Clinton.  That I can do.

Next Blog Post: Voting Recommendations

In my next blog post later this week, I will provide my thoughts on what to do if, like me,  you cannot vote for Trump or Hillary.  Rest assured there are other candidates that, while they will not win politically, they will provide you with the option to follow your conscience in a way that reconciles with Scripture.  And when you do this, I would suggest that you have won in a manner that trumps any American political battle.  (Here’s the post:  If You Reject Hillary & Trump, Here are Some Options)

Obviously, my thoughts  are not the “final word” on this subject matter.  I continue to seek out God and the spiritual perspectives of others.  So if you disagree with my thoughts or have some other ideas about this, please email me, or comment on social media.  I relish your input.

Mark

There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven

Chaos.  Crime.  Corruption.  Shootings.  Terrorism.  Political upheaval.  Racial strife.  Economic catastrophe.  Family breakdown.  Societal unrest.  Moral disintegration.

Does it feel like our communities, culture, nation and world are coming apart at the seams?  Does it seem like everyday we wake up to another crisis that threatens you, your family or our nation?  If you are a business owner or an employee, does it feel like even your livelihood is at risk?

Are there any solutions to the seemingly insurmountable and existential problems facing us?

Is there anyone who can really bring the dissension, turmoil, chaos, and violence to an end via some new solutions that have yet to be revealed?

Has this kind of scenario ever been experienced by our nation in the past?  If so, when and how did our countrymen respond?

Truthfully, our nation has faced similar challenges in the past, including what seemed like overwhelming cultural degradation and moral depravity, with men and women showing little care or respect for others or God. 

Specifically, in the early 1700’s Americans were living in darkness.  Political leaders were corrupt. The King was oppressive. The culture was coarse.  Morals were exceedingly low.  The Church was weak and anemic with those Christians who did attend church having little impact on those around them, preferring to keep their beliefs to themselves and within the four walls of the church. 

The outlook for the colonies was bleak.  

And yet, a group of men and women, seeing the moral and spiritual condition around them, began to earnestly pray for revival in the colonies over the course of years.  They understood the truth that there is no political or economic solution for a heart problem.  There’s so much more to the story of the First Great Awakening, led by men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John & Charles Wesley.  But the truth is the entire course of our nation was changed because people prayed, God moved and individuals responded.  In fact, millions of individuals and families were transformed because of the restoration of their hearts back to God.

But it was less than 100 years later, and once again Americans fell back into their old ways.  Quoting from Joel Rosenberg’s book Implosion we see this:

“Following the Revolutionary War, America experienced a period of moral decline.  Spiritual devotion waned and social problems proliferated.  From the late 1770’s until the late 1820’s, per capita consumption of alcohol in America rose dramatically, to about four or five times what it is today… The social consequences were predictable.  Illegitimate births were rampant. Thomas Paine was proclaiming Christianity was dead — and certainly the body of faith appeared to be in a coma.  Yet even as church rolls were shrinking and greed, sensuality and family breakdown were becoming widespread, America was about to experience a great spiritual revival.

“Slowly at first, then building over the next several decades, one wave of spiritual renewal and religious rededication after another swept the country, in what historians now call America’s ‘Second Great Awakening.’  In one community after another, people began to wake up from their moral and spiritual slumber as though saying, ‘If we’re going to have a self-governing nation, it must be occupied by self-governing people.’  Within one generation, alcohol consumption fell by two-thirds.”

It’s worthwhile to note that the common thread between both the First and Second Great Awakenings was prayer.  Men and women, recognizing that there is a God in heaven who cares infinitely about the affairs of men, began to call out to Him in prayer with great diligence, urgency and consistency.  And as they prayed and followed God’s leading, He answered their prayers in a glorious and supernatural manner, and the hearts of Americans were turned back to God.

As we fast forward to 2016, we see a nation whose future is becoming more and more bleak.  Just as in our past, greed, sensuality, family breakdown, racial strife and violence characterize our nation.  Political leaders, whether democrats, republicans or independents, all profess to hold the magic ointment to heal all of our woes.  And yet, as we continue to place our hopes in a political figure or party, we see how consistent they are in failing us. 

Following this week’s shootings of eleven Dallas police officers, with five of them dying, the video interview below of Kellon Nixon, a witness of the shootings, is particularly relevant to this discussion.  I would encourage you to listen to the entire video but here are a few highlights of Kellon’s thoughts:

When asked by the MSNBC reporter, “How are you today?” Kellon responded:

“Today I am recovering spiritually.  Last night, when you start to see the shooting… you start to think, ‘It’s me against the world.’ But with that type of mentality we’ll implode as a people, not as ethnicity, but as a people, period.  We’re all one race at the end of the day… We have to be a Christian nation. We have to be governed by a higher authority. We can see what governing ourselves has proved… The best thing we can do is to value lives over the economy. I think that is one of our biggest problems in America.  The economy is stronger than our moral fiber.  Our desire for prosperity is so much greater than our desire to be moral, to be humane, to love, to care, that we’ll risk our children or the sanctity of marriage, just for money, just to stay on top as a nation. When we lose our hearts, when we lose our souls, we’re really at the bottom.  We’re the worst of people, no matter how materially rich we are.”

Did you catch that?  Losing our hearts and souls?  I believe Mr. Nixon has hit on the crux of the challenge we face.  We as a people have lost our heart and soul, and consequently we have seen the crumbling of a once great nation.  

But just as our countrymen of prior centuries realized, there is a path back to God.  And it begins in Prayer and a change of my heart and yours.  

Our political leaders have no answers to the unsolvable problems of our day.  Given that the root of the problem is the heart and spiritual in nature, we will remain disillusioned if we simply look horizontally for fixes.

The only solution to the vexing problems of our day is to bow our heads while directing our hearts upward towards heaven.  

Psalm 20:7 instructs us of this truth:  “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”  

What is your chariot?  In what are you trusting?  Who are you looking to for the solutions to your problems?  If it’s someone other than God, then you will remain disappointed and unfulfilled, with no hope.  

As the famous revivalist Gypsy Smith would say, “Do you really want to see a revival begin?  Draw a circle around you on the floor. Then get down on your knees in the middle of the circle and ask God to convert everybody inside that circle.  When you do that, and God answers, you are experiencing the start of a revival.”

So how about it?  Must we wait for more lives lost?  For more economic collapse?  For more violence?  For more dissension?  For more political corruption and disappointments?  For more moral decline?  

Or can you and I, individually, persistently and urgently call out to the God in heaven with this prayer:

“God, forgive me.  Change me.  Revive me.  Show me.  Strengthen me.”  

And then get up, go out and begin to share our commitment with others, encouraging them to join us in their own personal restoration with God. 

And when we do this, we will know this truth from Daniel 2:28:  “There is a God in heaven… and He holds the answers to our deepest problems and struggles.

Mark

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge

 

In this day in time, there’s hardly a week that passes where some major moral issue isn’t being debated in the court of public opinion.  Whether it’s via the courts, primetime TV or social media, it seems more and more of the values that many of us and our parents and grandparents grew up with are now on trial and under full attack.  From marriage and abortion, to homosexuality and transgender facilities, the standards that have been in place for generations are now being undermined in an ever more intense manner.

At the same time as these cultural and political battles are taking place, there is an effort by the same elite to stamp out all dissent, whether via political correctness, so-called tolerance, or even through courts, legislation and government regulation. One other popular method that those attacking our most fundamental values are fond to employ is by using the Bible itself to silence Christians.  In particular, those who frequently despise the Holy Book, are all too eager to use select passages to either advance their agenda or hush poorly informed Christians, who may not dust their Bible off that often. 

A passage that is continuously misquoted, perhaps more than any other in the Bible, is in Matthew 7 where we read, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  And so it would seem that with one short verse, the entire Christian argument on any of today’s difficult issues is silenced.  As the passage goes on to say, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

No one wants to be a hypocrite, even though, if we are honest with ourselves, there are areas in our lives where we all say one thing and sadly live another.  So doesn’t this passage clearly say we must remove the plank out of our eye before we can remove the speck out of someone else’s eye?  So how can we ever speak out or “judge” any matters of any importance that involve our “brothers” or even our friends or neighbors?  

The truth is that if you and I are the judge and it’s our own law, then we clearly cannot judge others.  If the standard by which we evaluate others and their actions is a subjective, personal standard, then who are we to tell someone else what is right or wrong?  In fact, if the standard is my own, and thus subjective, then you likely have your own as well.  And so then there is no objective, absolute standard, and thus no right or wrong.

But there are in fact absolutes, contrary to today’s prevailing philosophy.  We all know this both inherently and because we have experienced these absolutes.  The law and even nature are both quick to remind us of them.  Break the speed limit, and blue lights will remind you of certain absolutes.  Leave a few dollars off your tax return, and the nation’s favorite governmental agency will send you a bill with interest and penalties for forgetting that income.  Strike someone with malice, and a man in a black robe may sentence you to years behind bars.  Walk off a building, and you’ll quickly learn that nature itself attests to absolutes.  So it’s clear we live accountable to absolutes all the time, whether we like them or not.  

But back to the “judge not” passage.  The Bible is a book of history, prophecy, morality and spirituality, but it is ultimately God’s message to mankind.  The Bible instructs mankind on matters of morality and from those precepts, man is then able to discern right and wrong.  He is not the judge, as God established the law.  Man is simply one who discerns right from wrong, good from evil, based on God’s absolute standard.  So God judges.  Man discerns.

When you or I speak out on a moral issue that is delineated in Scripture, the judgment being made is not merely our own, but it is one based on a moral standard that supersedes our own.  In this case, it is God’s.  The Bible is clear in its admonition to reject evil, embrace good and expose darkness, as these passages clearly illustrate:

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”  Isaiah 5:20

Depart from evil and do good.”  Psalm 37:27

Putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.”  Ephesians 4:25

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

Finally, we are called in John 7:24 (just a few verses after the “judge not” passage) to actually “judge with righteous judgment.”  This passage clearly suggests that when “judging” is done righteously, meaning according to God’s perfect standard, then that judgment is not only appropriate but it is commanded.

So the next time you hear someone misquote Matthew 7:1 by telling you to stop judging, consider that they are doing so out of either ignorance, or worse, they seek to simply silence you.  But now you know better.