Complaining, griping and fretting. This has become the overarching theme of a nation which has been blessed in such extraordinary ways. Yet, Americans live to grumble.
We breathe in fresh air. And exhale polluted expletives.
We inhale God’s gift of life. And exhale words of death, for to hate is to kill. And there is a pandemic of hate in the hearts of Americans.
How can this be? Why have we become such an ungrateful people? Why do we feel we must make every wrong right? And why do we arrogantly believe that everyone else is wrong, and we are right?
Have we become so self-righteous that we are fooled into believing that our neighbor’s sins are greater than ours? Or worse yet, that we have no sins?
Could it be that Jesus was wrong? Is the speck in our neighbor’s eye actually bigger and worse than the log in our own? Should we fix the other guy’s eye first so we can see our own blindness better?
Is it possible that we have it all wrong? Has the enemy (Satan), that old serpent also known as the father of all lies, deceived us so greatly that we define wrong or right, by the color of one’s politics, or perhaps even their skin? In so doing, have we forgotten the truth of the passage that reminds us that “man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart?”
If the heart is where God looks, should we not also look at our own hearts? Should we not continuously examine ourselves? Should the mirror not be one of our greatest allies in identifying our greatest enemy, and seeking to control and master him or her first?
As parents we do our best to give our children that which will make their lives better, in order to give them the greatest opportunity for success and happiness. Yet, if the response of our children was continuous grumbling and complaining about everything that was imperfect in their world, would we not undoubtedly feel hurt, disappointed, and even dejected by their attitudes?
Now consider God, our Heavenly Father, the model of perfection. He has given each of us so much, and yet we so often respond in such an ungrateful way. Rather than thanksgiving, we are full of grumbling about our circumstances, griping about our neighbor, complaining about our government, or boss, or culture, or anything else that is less than what our unrealistic expectations demand.
How must God feel? What must His response be? Could He grow “weary” with our thankless attitudes, despite the fact that we live in the midst of one of the greatest array of options, freedoms, and wealth in the history of mankind?
Can you imagine what the billions of other people on this globe must think about our pitiful attitudes, as they scratch out a meager existence in squalor, dirt, and mud?
What shame we should feel. If that shame were to lead to guilt, perhaps we would fall on our knees and confess our sin to our Creator, the One who has freely given us innumerable blessings, unknown to all of mankind before us.
Could you and I turn our ungratefulness into true, lasting thanksgiving? What if every time we were tempted to complain, about literally anything, we instead broke out in song? What if we simply understood that while we will undoubtedly have struggles, even in the midst of plenty, that God is still with us, that He will never forsake us, and that He is using our struggles to better refine us into the men and women He can use for His glory, and our good?
So could we change course? Could we be thankful instead of grumbling? Could we express gratitude instead of griping? And could we love in place of hate?
The answer is a resounding Yes. But it will only happen if we exchange our broken spirits with the Holy Spirit. Because to love is not natural. Only as the God who is love invades our minds and hearts, can we overcome that which is natural for us, with that which is natural for God.
So will you join me? Let’s transform our nation, beginning with the one we see each day in the mirror. After all, he is the only person I can control, and he is the only one for which I will ultimately be held accountable someday, as I stand individually before God.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”Philippians 2:14-16
Privilege. It’s a word that has become mainstream today. But before we examine how this word is used today, let’s visit the definition, from the Webster’s Dictionary in 1828:
In its simplest definition, privilege is an “advantage, favor or benefit.” But, in a more detailed explanation, privilege is “a particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company or society, beyond the common advantages of other citizens… Any peculiar benefit or advantage, right or immunity, not common to others of the human race. Thus we speak of national privileges, and civil and political privileges, which we enjoy above other nations.”
So “privilege” is not necessarily bad. But neither is it something that we normally bring about for ourselves. Rather, most often, privilege is something we are given by others, or inherited, or find ourselves enjoying apart from anything we have explicitly done.
For instance, I am an American, and you probably are too. Most of us never did anything explicitly to become an American. It was a privilege we were given as a result of our birth in this land. And with that birth, and nationality, come innumerable “privileges.” If you doubt this, travel outside our borders, and you will quickly understand the inherent privileges you and I enjoy as Americans.
But all Americans are not equally privileged. My last name isn’t Gates, or Bezos; nor is it Rockefeller, Bush, or Obama. But on the other end of the spectrum, neither was I born to a single mom, living on government subsidies, and my father wasn’t AWOL in my life either.
I’m grateful for my family, my upbringing, and the “privileges” that have been afforded to me, through little doing of my own.
I also recognize that my skin color may advantage me in some ways over other skin colors, at least in this present era. But again, I had nothing directly to do with that reality. Of course, neither did you choose your skin pigmentation. Rather, God, in His perfect wisdom, decided our skin color before the foundations of the world. And He knew the privileges we would enjoy, or lack, stemming from our skin color.
So privilege is real. But it is also subjective to some extent. But what do I mean by subjective? As I said earlier, many, or most, privileges are things we enjoy in spite of our own doing: our nationality, skin color, the family we are born into, etc. But how we perceive privilege is often through our own subjective responses.
In this present era, privilege is frequently used to shame and even punish folks. The most common use of the word, that has grown in popularity in our nation, is “white privilege.” This phrase is regularly used as a hammer to beat those whose skin is white, to make them feel ashamed for certain realities in our nation, and privileges they might enjoy.
Those realities exist. And they may “advantage” certain folks over others. Of course we should seek to level playing fields, as much as possible. But employing shame as one’s preferred strategy is not likely to convince reasonable people of the need for change. Sometimes forests need to be cleared. But using a dull ax is a very poor way to tackle the job, both for the tree, and the one swinging the ax.
No Political Solutions
So what is the solution?
Whenever I look at societal problems, my immediate response is to discount the solutions being proposed by politicians, or activists, or the media. This is because most societal struggles flow from spiritual realities. And there are no political solutions to spiritual problems.
So because of this truth, I choose to look to God, and His strategies, to solve what man cannot.
Responses to Privilege
When we see someone else enjoying a privilege we don’t enjoy, what is our first response? Do we envy them? Do we shout “unfair?” Do we demand those same privileges? Do we attempt to shame others for benefiting in ways we wish we could? Or do we at least stop and look at the privileges we enjoy, compared to others who don’t enjoy what we do?
We all know folks who enjoy privileges that vastly exceed the ones we do. But if we are honest with ourselves, we too have received privileges that exceed those of others as well, no matter who we are. Do we ever ask ourselves what will we do with the privileges we have been given, through no merit of our own?
As I read God’s Word, there are many responses a follower of Jesus should have when thinking about the reality of privileges others enjoy and we don’t, or privileges we enjoy and others don’t. Here are a few to consider:
Contentment. As a Roman citizen, the Apostle Paul theoretically enjoyed the privileges of that citizenship. But he was routinely deprived of those privileges, in the most brutal and inhumane ways. However, Paul’s response in Philippians 4:11 is a classic lesson for those who claim “Christian” as their identity: “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
Don’t show favoritism ourselves. It’s easy to see the sin in others, while we are often blind to our own sin, or rationalize it away. So if we are upset about privileges offered to others, do we do the same ourselves? Note what we read in James 2:3-4, 9: “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
Don’t envy others. The Bible is full of verses that warn against envy. While many privileges are unjust, if our hearts are envious over privileges that others enjoy (because we don’t) then we have sinned. Note what Titus 3:3 says: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, …spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
Don’t hold grudges but rather forgive those who might mistreat you, or grant advantages to others over you. In one of the greatest examples of forgiveness ever, Jesus cried out to his abusers and murderers, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” But, in our human frailty, we might look at Jesus as “super-human” since he was both God and man. So let’s consider the response of Stephen, just a short time after the ascension of Jesus. This man had been called upon by the early church leaders to assist in settling some claims by the early believers that certain widows were being discriminated against (in essence other widows had greater privileges). The relevant part of Stephen’s story though is that he was falsely accused by unbelievers. As he was being stoned to death, his last words were “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” What amazing forgiveness, even while being mistreated and martyred.
Don’t be a rabble rouser. Followers of Jesus should never be known as people who create dissension, seek retribution, or gripe and grumble. The Apostle Paul again reminds us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…” (Philippians 2:14). Also, in Titus 3:2 we read: “They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.” Finally, James 3:18 says this: “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
Consider the needs of others before your own (because Jesus did). This is a hard thing to do. We all have needs of our own. But Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” And again in Titus 3:14 we read this: “Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive.”
Seek Justice by doing what you can in your own “world” to level things. You may not be able to rectify the injustices of the world, your nation, or society, but you can examine your own heart and actions to see where you might be able to offer justice to those you personally touch. The Apostle Paul once again reminds us of this principle in 1 Timothy 6:17-18, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” Regardless of the relative value of our portfolio, we can all be “rich in good works” to those whose privileges are fewer and who might have been victims of injustice.
Don’t flaunt the privileges you might enjoy. In a world that elevates “self” and thrives on selfies, and boastful achievements, it’s easy to fall under the spirit of pride. Yet, God reminds us over and over that He puts down the proud and elevates the humble. If God, in His sovereign ways, extended privileges to us that exceed that of others, we should be careful to remain humble, and make every effort to share the blessings that come from those privileges.
The Perfect Judge. God is aware of every injustice that exists, and as the Perfect Judge, He will meet out the perfect response, in His own perfect time. “Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9) If you possess privileges that exceed that of the average person, realize you will be judged by God in how you invested those privileges. “To whom much is given much will be required.”
A Privileged People
In the Bible, the Jewish people were known as a “privileged” people when God, for His unique reasons, chose them, a small, insignificant people, and made of them a great nation. Through them God chose to bring forth His Son two thousand years ago. While we are told God does not show favoritism, we do know that He singled out Israel for some very unique blessings and purposes. But God also extended innumerable blessings to the rest of mankind, through the unique relationship He forged with Israel.
Privilege is something that has existed from the beginning of time. We all will never enjoy equal privileges. But if we are followers of God, we are called to “act justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)
As we think through God’s role in privileges, and how we are called to respond, I pray that the above thoughts will not provoke anyone to anger. Rather, I trust we will consider how God expects us to live in the face of privileges that we don’t enjoy, while considering those we do. May we always seek the good of others above our own. May we humble ourselves in the way Jesus did as He left His heavenly privileges behind. And may we extend mercy to those undeserving, knowing that we ourselves could not take our next breath without God’s infinite, undeserved, mercy extended to us.
Trump. WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Facebook. Fake News. Truth.
You might ask what do all these disparate subjects have to do with each other. Honestly, I could have listed a host of other subjects that, at first glance, might have appeared to have had absolutely no correlation. But hang with me and hopefully I’ll tie them all together.
During the Presidential campaign in 2016, and the years leading up to it, Donald Trump, the candidate and citizen, made a number of claims that, now as he is President, appear to have been untrue… or else Trump just changed his mind. While there are many promises one could point to, the most recent example is Trump’s views of Syria over the years. To be clear, this article is not about whether launching a strike on Syria was a good decision or not, but rather about the reality that a politician will tell you one thing when seeking your vote, but once elected, those promises are worth as much as the money the Federal Reserve prints.
So what is the truth?
A number of years ago the phrase, “Bush lied and people died” was regularly leveled at our 43rd President. The basis for this view was the perspective that President George W. Bush lied about WMD’s as a pretense to invade Iraq. The left, the media, and even many republicans and libertarians, asserted that there were never any WMD’s in Iraq. While the intent of this article is not to re-litigate this decade old debate, it should be noted that there are numbers of reports that purport to validate that WMD’s were indeed in Iraq, including the notion that many of them made their way to Syria.
So what is the truth?
Facebook touts nearly 2 billion active users. That’s a lot of people sharing photos, personal tidbits, recipes, and untold other stories. But Facebook has become a major purveyor of articles that are either totally false or are highly suspect. In fact, Facebook has now set up a manner for its members to report false stories to them. So if you are suspicious, report the post to the Facebook police, and they’ll investigate the authenticity of the article you reported. Which doesn’t mean you’ll get the truth. Rather, you’ll simply get what Facebook wants you to believe is the truth.
So what is the truth?
Over this last year, a new phrase has become commonplace: Fake News. One news source asserts another one is false. Websites now evaluate the claims of others and rate them with Pinocchio noses; the more noses, the greater the lie. And even our President has become accustomed to referring to media outlets he views as his adversaries, like CNN, as “Fake News.”
So what is the truth?
It seems that in the age of Google, Siri, instant access, and terabytes of data, man is no closer to understanding the truth of a matter, than when man was carving images on cave walls.
And that’s the tie between all these seemingly unrelated topics. TRUTH.
So what is the truth? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves over and over. Regardless of where we read or hear a story reported, we should be skeptical, in a good way, of claims we hear in our polarized world today. There is nigh a person, group, party, or nation, who doesn’t have an agenda to push, or a perspective that they cling to.
We all want the truth. But do we have it? And even more importantly, do we present the truth in what we live out everyday in our lives? This is a question I am asking myself in my own personal life.
I’m reminded of these verses in Isaiah 59 that seemingly foretold this present age:
We know we have rebelled and have denied the Lord. We have turned our backs on our God. We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies. Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. Yes,truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice.
If you take the time to read the entire chapter in Isaiah, you will find a myriad of societal problems that flow from a rejection of Truth. When we reject Truth, we are in essence rejecting God. Our problems now, as they were in Isaiah’s day, are pervasive. No, they are not limited to Donald Trump, or WMD’s or Fake News. If our government merely reflects its people, what does that say when our politicians routinely distort the truth?
So is there a solution to our Truth problem in America? Well, you and I cannot change Trump, or the Fake News sites, but we can individually commit to pursuing Truth in our own lives. As we do that, we will have taken the first step in the direction of Truth. And as we do, “the Truth will set us free.”
If you’re 50 years old or older, you might remember an era when Home Economics class was a normal part of school curriculum. While boys were attending Shop Class, the girls were busy in Home Ec, learning about sewing and cooking. It was good practical info that many girls used later in life as they began their own families.
Today though, the term Home Economics has a very different meaning, as presented in the book,“Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Structure” by Nick Schulz. In the book, Schulz lays out a detailed and documented analysis of the deterioration of the American family over the last five decades. The statistics are not only alarming but undoubtedly have contributed to much of the social breakdown we have seen in our nation since 1960, as well as rising government budgets.
Consider these troubling statistics, comparing 1960 to today, which sadly, in every instance, represent human lives:
* Fewer people are marrying. * Those who do marry will marry later and divorce more frequently * Births to unmarried mothers have climbed dramatically. In 1960 they were just 5%. Today the number exceeds 40%. And in the black community, out of wedlock births account for 70% of all newborns. * The percent of children raised by single parents in 1960 was 9%; today it is more than 25%. * Married family households earn 40% more than single parent households. * Only 5% of married family households are considered poor vs 30% for single parent households. * Poor children are two times as likely to climb the economic ladder if their parents are continuously married versus the children of broken or single parent homes. * According to the Brookings Institute, if young people finish high school, get a job, and marry before having children, their chance at landing in poverty is only 2%. But if these factors are not in place, three-fourths of young people will enter poverty.
Of course, politicians, social scientists, and many media pundits can quote these statistics at length. But the problem isn’t knowing these numbers, but rather quantifying them, and then identifying real solutions to address this undeniable national crisis.
As we think about our nation’s abundance, and the extraordinary success we have had over our 200+ year history, there is little doubt that our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, extraordinary documents, contributed to our nation’s greatness. But I would suggest that they do not singularly account for our exceptionalism.
Foundational to these two documents was our Judeo-Christian values, and in particular the Family — an institution that undergirds any thriving society.
Recall that “In the beginning…” when God created the heavens and earth, He created man and woman, and He told them to be fruitful, multiply, and become one flesh. And several thousand years later, Jesus, the Creator, entered our world as Jesus, the Redeemer, and He affirmed the institution of the Family when He shared these words, in Matthew 19:4-9:
“And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
So God established marriage and the family, consisting of one man plus one woman and their children (which sadly today we must now define what a family is). In addition to the Family, God also ordained the Government & Church. But the fundamental building block of any society and nation is the Family. Because of this, we can conclude that “as the family goes, so goes the nation,” establishing a correlation between the strength of the family and the strength of a nation’s economy.
There are two numbers that create a direct correlation between the decline of the family and our nation’s fiscal woes. They are:
These two numbers come directly from a study entitled “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing” that was issued in 2008 using data from 2006. That report, conservative in its estimates, found that the cost of family fragmentation for ONE YEAR in Tennessee was $757 million and nationally was $112 billion. Even using these 10 year old numbers, we can calculate a 10 year cost to taxpayers of over $1 trillion for family fragmentation in America.
Are you shocked? Don’t be. Note this quote from the report that attempts to identify the far reaching impact of a broken home:
“Divorce and unwed childbearing create substantial public costs, paid by taxpayers. Higher rates of crime, drug abuse, education failure, chronic illness, child abuse, domestic violence, and poverty among both adults and children bring with them higher taxpayer costs in diverse forms: more welfare expenditure; increased remedial and special education expenses; higher day-care subsidies; additional child-support collection costs; a range of increased direct court administration costs incurred in regulating post-divorce or unwed families; higher foster care and child protection services; increased Medicaid and Medicare costs; increasingly expensive and harsh crime-control measures to compensate for formerly private regulation of adolescent and young-adult behaviors; and many other similar costs.”
As I was doing some research on this topic, I came across a statement from former Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge, the late Bob Moon (in Chattanooga, TN). Note his highly relevant remarks from several years ago:
Government will never solve the inner origins of crime, or gangs or reverse the complex origins of the problems. The primary source of the problems is the family and inside the homes where government cannot go or control without a search warrant or responding to a crime after the fact. In fact, the closest that government usually gets inside of the home for assistance is a sustenance check or food stamps in the mailbox.
Government can do some things and some programs are commendable, but in the big picture, gangs and juvenile violence can only be reduced by committed and responsible parents, teachers and our community working consistently together.
The focus should not be just on money, programs, gang czars, summits and speeches. The focus should be the one that mothers, fathers, teachers and community leaders should be placing on themselves individually.
Marcus Aurelius succinctly stated that “All great nations fall from within before they fall from without.
In the past, our ancestors utilized various ineffective approaches to treat diseases and injuries. In particular, blood-letting used to be a common medical practice. The idea was that by cutting a patient and releasing amounts of their blood they could heal the individual, believing they were “bleeding” a person to health. But after 2,000 years, the practice of blood-letting was finally abandoned. It likely killed many more patients than it ever healed. Yet, it was the commonly accepted practice.
Fast forward to 2017. For over 50 years now, we have seen the American family continue to decline while rates continue to skyrocket for births out of wedlock, percent of children in single homes, percent of children in poverty, divorce rates and more. Yet, bureaucrats, social scientists and entire political parties, believe government programs can fix the problem. But these programs seldom if ever focus on the root of the problem. Instead they seek to put a bandaid on a festering wound.
It’s time to try something new rather than continuing to bleed red ink in our state and federal budgets. Taxpayers have a right, and an obligation, to weigh in on family policies since they are footing the bill to the tune of a Trillion Dollars per decade when marriages fail.
So what should our response be? Should we only be concerned with this issue because it affects our wallet via our taxes? Or are there bigger reasons to motivate us? Can we reverse the dangerous and destructive trend that we are seeing as it relates to the Family in America?
I think so and here are just a few quick ideas. While they may seem small, remember that every structure is built upon a solid foundation that is made up of individual bricks. And there is not one of those bricks that is not important. So consider these ideas:
Marriage — Is your marriage strong and will you commit to keeping it strong? When you said your vows, “in sickness or health, for better or worse, ’til death do us part” did you mean them? Will you vow to never abandon your marriage… and children? Will you allow your marriage to demonstrate to others what the family should look like… and what Christ can do in your relationship if you are a Christian?
Encourage others in their marriages. Come alongside other couples, particularly if they are young and struggling. Show them the way to work through the bumps that we all have along the way.
Don’t buy into the false narrative that the family doesn’t impact our economy. The fact is, our families drive our economy. Broken families equal a broken economy. Be willing to speak out when the opportunity arises.
Embrace programs that are really making a difference in the inner city, where the marital statistics are at a red-alert level. One such program in Chattanooga is the Y-Cap program, that my friend Joe Smith and his son Andy have given thousands of hours to. Their inner city boxing program comes alongside the most vulnerable children and broken homes to provide tutoring, mentoring and life skills. Additionally, they train young boys in the art of boxing. In fact, one of their shining examples, Ryan Martin, just fought his first fight in Madison Square Gardens on HBO last week and successfully defended his WBC Continental Americas title. And he credits Joe and Andy Smith for much of his success. This is the kind of program that truly makes a difference in the lives of boys and girls who are otherwise destined for a life of poverty and likely crime.
Be willing to educate your friends and family on the two numbers that were shared in this article, since they likely have no clue about the dramatic costs of broken families on our budgets: $757 million: the annual cost of family fragmentation in Tennessee $112 billion: the annual cost of family fragmentation in America
Challenge your church to step up to support the family, particularly broken ones. Too often government will assume what the church has abandoned. And for many years, the role of the church, as pointed out in James 1:27 has been lost: “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble.” We have an epidemic of orphans and widows, via our single-parent homes where daddy has gone AWOL. Sadly the church has gone AWOL as well. So are we surprised that big government is waiting to step in with their big government programs, that are certainly capable of running up a big tab, but are incapable of producing permanent good results?
Remember, government is seldom neutral. If it is, it won’t be for long. So government is fully engaged in this issue. But do they have the solution? My belief is they do not. So unless you speak up, the failed solutions of the last decades will continue to be the failed ones of the future.
Ultimately, there is no political solution for a spiritual problem. And this is at the heart of this issue. What God created as a spiritual union, cannot be replaced with government programs. So the only genuine solution will occur when we see hearts transformed in America. And as they are, and they are turned back to God, only then will we see the family restored, and our nation made great again.
Earlier this week I returned from a two week trip to Nepal with a team of five guys. Our adventure flew us from Atlanta to Doha, Qatar and on to Kathmandu, Nepal. I’ve been to quite a few countries over the years, and oftentimes my travels have taken me to a number of places with very low standards of living. But as soon as we ventured from Tribuhaven International Airport into the streets of Kathmandu, I knew that I was in for an experience like none other.
While cell phones were everywhere, basic standards of living, like flushing toilets, potable water, dependable electricity, paved roads, and even something as ordinary as hot water in hotels were rare in Kathmandu, even more so in the mountains, where we were headed the following day.
The next morning, we boarded a short flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar, a very small town sitting alongside the Arun River. Out the left side of the plane, as we flew east, rose the Himalayan Mountain Range, with its crown jewel, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet. In fact, eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world reside in Nepal.
The following days would test our bodies and psyche as we departed Tumlingtar. With backpacks on our shoulders, we headed for a canoe ride across the Arun River, a jeep ride we’ll never forget over some of the dustiest, deeply rutted roads imaginable, and many miles of hiking up mountains and through tiny little villages in some of the remotest parts of Nepal. Everywhere we went over the next several days we were met with continuous stares, acknowledging the fact that in some of these little villages, no American had ever been seen.
As we traveled throughout Nepal over the near two weeks we were there, the word “thanksgiving” came to mind over and over. As I compared my life back in the United States with that of the Nepalis, I couldn’t help but thank God for His providential blessings. Whether it was our standard of living, the liberties our Constitution affirms to us, or the spiritual truths that were a part of our nation’s DNA, the American experiment is something we all too often take for granted.
Americans like to acknowledge our many blessings annually on the 3rd Thursday of November with turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie and football. But truthfully, as we look around the world, we should celebrate Thanksgiving this very day, for our blessings are too numerous to count. Whether one lives in a penthouse overlooking Manhattan, in a suburban middle class neighborhood, or subsidized housing in an inner city, each one of us is part of an elite body of citizens, even with our diverse socioeconomic levels. As “Americans” we are all afforded unlimited opportunities and the freedoms to pursue them. But lest we become puffed up, we should remember that the status we enjoy has been bestowed on us by a merciful and loving God, and that there is nothing inherent in us that would merit such blessings.
As we think of the many nations of the world, we should remember that God established the times and boundaries of each nation (Acts 17:26), and He also blesses those nations who affirm Him as their God (Psalm 33:12). But as I was abroad these last couple of weeks, I came across this verse in Psalm 9:17 — “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” There is no doubt in my mind that America is rapidly forgetting God, and the division, turmoil, instability, and even violence we are seeing across our land suggests that we are beginning to reap the consequences of such forgetfulness.
There is really only one solution to restoring our Republic. And it begins with thanksgiving and humility. I pray that we will all begin to reassess our relationship to Almighty God, and as we do, also count our many blessings. And let’s make everyday a day of thanksgiving.
I recently purchased a DJI Mavic Pro drone, a state-of-the-art technological wonder. It’s a unique compact drone, designed so that the arms can be folded down and transported with ease, but still possessing some of the most highly sophisticated features available. I was able to take the drone on the trip to Nepal and captured many incredible aerial views. Below are just a few of the videos that will give you just a little sampling of our team’s experience. I trust you enjoy them.
Recently I had the opportunity to spend ten days in Nepal, with several of those days hiking through the mountains below the Himalayas. As our group of five guys trekked through village after village, we found the Nepali people to be filled with curiosity and astonishment. Witnessing tall, lighter skinned guys hiking in their midst was a rarity. In fact, some of the villagers had never seen an American. But as we acknowledged them with the traditional Nepali greeting “Namaste,” the locals were quick to respond in like-kind, clasping their hands together with a quick bow, almost as if praying.
On day two, as we made our way through many villages along the steep and dusty trail, we ultimately arrived in Bhojpur, Nepal, a little town of approximately 10,000. We were led by our two guides to a local congregation of believers and their little one room church. Prior to sharing time with the believers later that night, we took a quick tour of the town. As we walked, Nepali eyes everywhere locked on us, as if we were from an alien planet. But once we offered a quick “Namaste” greeting, a smile would often spread on the lips of those gawking at us.
We made our way to one of the highest points in the town, where we found a large dirt soccer field. But as we looked beyond the field, we saw what initially appeared to be a fort. Upon closer inspection though, we detected the towering concrete walls with guard towers and barb wire running around the secure facility. We were confronted by Bhojpur Prison.
Directly adjacent to the walled compound was a large group of people who were making quite a commotion. We were drawn to the lively crowd only to find a competitive ladies volleyball game. The onlookers were cheering them on.
As I stood there watching the Nepali’s laughing, playing, and enjoying life, I couldn’t miss noticing the cold and ominous walls of Bhojpur Prison directly next to them. And as I did, my heart grew sad, as the reality of what I was really seeing sunk in.
On one side of those prison walls were men and women whose physical lives seemed hopeless. They had broken the law and were appropriately paying the penalty for their crime. Their physical freedom had been sacrificed and their future was bleak.
On the other side of those threatening walls, though, were a few hundred Nepali’s. They didn’t appear to have a care in this world. Their life, according to Nepali standards, was fine. They were laughing and playing. Their physical freedom was not threatened. Yet spiritually they were captive. Whether they were followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, or simply a-religious, spiritually they were without hope. The walls of Bhojpur Prison were like Lego blocks compared to the walls of their sins that separated them from a holy God. And their breaking of God’s law required a penalty with eternal consequences.
What hope did these teenagers and men and women engaged in an afternoon of volleyball have? Truthfully none. Or at best, very little.
The truth of the gospel has been embraced by fewer than 100 people in Bhojpur, Nepal as the believers there meet in an 800 square foot, one room church. To be clear, it was a blessing to meet brothers and sisters in Christ in this remotest part of the world, but it was also sobering to realize that Bhojpur was merely one of hundreds of towns and villages around Nepal where the light of the gospel is dim, or perhaps completely extinguished.
As the volleyball match concluded and the players were shaking hands, we turned our backs to the walls of that dark and foreboding compound, Bhojpur Prison, and set off in the direction of the church. And it struck me. That’s all that was necessary for each one of these Nepali’s to be unbound from the walls of sin that was holding them captive: turning from their sins and embracing the Gospel, the Good News that salvation can only be found in and through Jesus Christ. He paid the penalty for their sins, and yours and mine as well.
But this Good News will only be known to the Nepali’s if someone shares it with them. That is their only hope.
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15