Trump. WMD’s. Facebook. Fake News. & Truth.

Trump. WMD’s. Facebook. Fake News. & Truth.

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.  

Obamacare Repeal: Broken Promises By a President, a Party, & Its Politicians

Obamacare Repeal: Broken Promises By a President, a Party, & Its Politicians

It was March 23, 2010.  One of the most contentious political battles in recent American history was over. President Obama had just signed into law his signature legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. House Republicans immediately introduced legislation to repeal Obamacare, and over the next six years, Republicans would introduce more than 60 different bills to repeal all or parts of Obamacare.  

In 2015, the House and Senate, both under Republican control, passed HR 3762, a bill that repealed the most significant parts of Obamacare. (President Obama would veto the Repeal bill.)   It’s noteworthy to highlight that support for the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare was near unanimous by Republicans with only 7 House Republicans and 2 Senate Republicans voting Nay, or against it. (239 Republican Representatives and 52 Republican Senators voted Aye, in favor.)  As a side note, my Congressman Chuck Fleischmann and both of my Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, all voted for the Repeal Bill.

During the three election cycles (2012, 2014, 2016) following the passage of Obamacare, Republican House and Senate candidates, challengers and incumbents alike, would nearly unanimously, and repeatedly, promise that if voters would elect, or reelect, them, they would Repeal Obamacare.  And based on those promises, Republican, moderate, conservative, tea party, and independent voters entrusted their vote to these elected officials.

Then the 2016 Presidential cycle happened.  While the Republican Primary was one of the most crowded field of candidates in memory, with each of them offering their own ideas and promises, there was one issue on which all the candidates agreed: Their unanimous commitment to the Repeal of Obamacare.  

Following the Primary, and with the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for Presidency, the GOP’s nominee promised to Repeal Obamacare.  And the 2016 GOP Platform further reiterated the Party’s commitment to a full Repeal of Obamacare.  Note this quote from the Republican Platform (page 36):

“Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare. It weighs like the dead hand of the past upon American medicine. It imposed a Euro-style bureaucracy to manage its unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions. It has driven up prices for all consumers. Their insurance premiums have dramatically increased while their deductibles have risen about eight times faster than wages in the last ten years… We agree with the four dissenting judges of the Supreme Court: ‘In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.’

To that end, a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.”

Let that last sentence sink in.

Is there any question that the full Repeal of Obamacare was promised, ad infinitum, by the Party and all of its candidates?  

But if there’s one thing that seems to be synonymous with politicians, it is broken promises.  There is nigh a profession that has a lower credibility rating than that of a politician.  I have met many politicians including local, state and federal ones. And one thing I’ve noticed about most of them is that they are fond to commit to the voter in order to gain their vote.  But once they are elected, there is something that flips in the politician’s mind; something that quickly turns the page on those campaign promises, as they jet off to Washington or their state capitol.  Whether it’s a character flaw in the type of individuals that are attracted to the profession of governing, or whether it’s that as they leave voters behind, they can also leave promises behind, it’s a rare instance when politicians are willing to fulfill the promises they make.  

Sadly that’s what American voters once again witnessed this last week.  When the Republican health care plan known as RyanCare, TrumpCare, or the American Health Care Act, was put forward, a promise was broken.  And it wasn’t just one promise. The Repeal of Obamacare was promised by:

    President Donald Trump,

        each Republican Senator,

            each Republican Representative,

                Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, and

                    the Republican Party in its 2016 Platform.

And as already noted, nearly every Republican Representative and Senator voted in favor of the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare as well.

I once heard someone ask the question, 

“How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: When their lips are moving.”  

Of course, this is a very cynical, over-generalization of an entire profession.  But when the overriding theme of a political party and their nearly 300 elected officials is the Repeal Obamacare, for six long years, and when they are ultimately entrusted with the power and authority to do so, what should voters conclude when such a material promise is broken?

What is also commonplace amongst politicians is to deflect blame when they’re under pressure, rather than simply owning up when they break their promise. Once again, this week we saw the blame game, from Trump to Ryan, and from House Representatives to the Republican Party. That blame was heaped on 40 or so Representatives who, unlike Ryan, Trump and an entire party, resolved to keep the promise they made.  This group, known as the Freedom Caucus, had a simple message: “Let’s keep our promise. Let’s Repeal Obamacare. Let’s simply vote as we did in 2015.”  

But they became the villains. The scapegoats. And many voters are falling for Trump and the Republican Party’s blame game, forgetting that those doing the blaming are the ones breaking the promise.  

The 2015 Repeal bill, supported by nearly every Republican member, was actually introduced by Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan last month.  But Ryan and Trump and a couple hundred other elected officials, effectively affirmed Obamacare and all of its destructive regulations, by refusing to honor their promise.  Had they simply taken up the Repeal Bill that was passed by each of these Congressional members in 2015, Obamacare would be history, with a two year phase out period.  This time frame would have been ample time to pass common sense healthcare reform.  

Beyond keeping a promise, the reality is that only a full repeal of Obamacare will insure that the virus that has infected our government will be extricated from our healthcare system.  Anything less will simply insure that the destructive nature of Obamacare will be allowed to remain.

So what’s next? My guess is that politicians will be politicians, and do what they do best: Promise the world but deliver a sack of IOU’s. And their credibility will sink even lower than Trump’s favorability ratings. But my hope is that for once, these men and women will honor their promise, and just do the right thing. 

Our nation’s future, and your healthcare, hang in the balance.  

Let your Yea be Yea and your Nay be Nay…”  (Matthew 5:37)

The Impact of Broken Families on our Economy

The Impact of Broken Families on our Economy

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.

AMERICA’S FOUNDATION

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.

FISCAL IMPACT

There are two numbers that create a direct correlation between the decline of the family and our nation’s fiscal woes.  They are:

$757,000,000
$112,000,000,000

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.

FAILED PROGRAMS

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?

SOLUTIONS

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.

“If the foundations are destroyed…”

Thanksgiving in Nepal

Thanksgiving in Nepal

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.

Footnote:

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.

 

 

 

Bhojpur Prison, A Volleyball Match & Hope

Bhojpur Prison, A Volleyball Match & Hope

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

There is No Political Solution to a Spiritual Problem

There is No Political Solution to a Spiritual Problem

As a people, Americans are accustomed to solving most any problem that confronts us. Whether it was leading a world coalition to defeat the Nazis or responding to Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, as a nation we have consistently risen to the occasion when we were faced with an existential threat.  And, by the grace of God, over our 240+ year history, our nation has weathered even the worst of those threats.  

A few days ago, Donald Trump held a press conference in which he described what he inherited from Barack Obama as a “mess.”  Specifically, he had this to say:

“As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy.  To be honest, I inherited a mess!  It’s a mess!  At home and abroad.  A mess!”

He went on to describe some of that mess in his comments. And he spoke of these problems frequently during his campaign:

Loss of jobs
Our economy
National security
A weakening military
Crumbling infrastructure
A broken healthcare system
Spiraling, unsustainable debt
A broken immigration & refugee system

President Trump is right that our nation is in an absolute mess. Many have been saying this for a long time.  But with the election of Trump, and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the power to address the “mess” has shifted to the GOP.  They now possess the authority and ability to implement whatever solutions they deem appropriate to deal with the many crises America faces.  

Granted, it’s possible and likely that Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress will implement some sound political approaches and pass worthy legislation that will attempt to address these problems.  If this battle was being played out on a football field, Republican efforts might advance the ball a few yards towards the goal line of greater prosperity, security, efficiency, lower taxes and more.

But lest we get too excited, the root of our nation’s problems does not stem from a dysfunctional Congress, an activist judicial branch, or even an unorthodox or confrontational President.  Their behavior is merely a symptom of a much deeper struggle in our nation.  

There is an old adage that goes:  “Never bring a knife to a gun fight.”  Fighting spiritual battles with political weapons will never offer a permanent solution.  If fans attend a football game and they grow excited by their team moving the ball a few yards, but that team doesn’t possess the plays to score a touchdown, then those fans will be continuously frustrated, despite the brief exhilaration if a first down is achieved.  

Likewise, using a knife to carve out a political strategy simply offers the exhilaration of a few short term victories.  And while I would not diminish the importance of such wins, from a grander perspective of the battle our nation is embroiled in, these “wins” will be akin to a solitary first down, only to see the ball fumbled to the other team.

The fight our nation is embroiled in is a much deeper fight; one that has spiritual and eternal implications.  The Bible speaks of this battle in Ephesians 6:12“For we wrestle not 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.”

While I acknowledge it is not the role of government to solve spiritual problems, it is possible for rulers or elected officials to compound those problems.  And we have seen this occurring for many decades now, through legislation, regulation and policy.

In years past, there was a list of transgressions known as the “7 Deadly Sins” which originated shortly after the time of Christ.  That ancient list, drawn from the Bible itself, is a modern day indictment of our own nation:

Lust
Gluttony
Greed
Sloth
Wrath
Envy
Pride

Think through this list and see how they perfectly describe many of the ills our nation is facing.  

Lust is front and center nearly everywhere you look: TV, movies, magazines, billboards, internet.  It’s nearly impossible to escape.

Gluttony is epidemic in America with more than 1/3 of our citizens obese.  And by 2020, it’s estimated that nearly 3/4 of Americans will be either overweight or obese.

Greed
is typically associated with Wall Street, business owners, and multi-millionaires.  But truthfully, greed is rampant at all socio-economic levels.  The entire American culture has been organized around our insatiable desire to accumulate more and more.

Sloth
or laziness is synonymous with millions of Americans.  While certainly there are many who are unemployed who desire to work, there are literally tens of millions who would prefer to live off the welfare state.

Wrath
is seen from DC to small town America.  There is no shortage of anger in our nation today.  While Donald Trump tapped into a lot of anger, we are seeing different types of anger displayed now that he is our President, and some of that anger is turning violent.

Envy
is what drives many in our nation.  We lack contentment because we desire what others have.  And that desire is not limited to material things but can include status, abilities, and even desiring the characteristics of others.

Pride
is seen by some as the worst of the seven deadly sins. By reciting such phrases as “if you believe it, you can achieve it” and other similar concepts, we remove God from the equation, exalting self to the position that only God should occupy.  

If you’re like me, I can look through the list above and feel like I’m looking in the mirror for many of these.  Sure, none of us are perfect.  But how many of us can honestly acknowledge our shortcomings and say we are actively engaged in addressing those shortcomings, through God’s help, on a routine basis?

You see, our nation is a composite of its 330 million citizens. It only reflects what is in the hearts of its people.  While we may bemoan the actions of our elected officials, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that they merely reflect what is in our hearts.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. 

So, if we want to solve the many political solutions America is facing, it starts at the most fundamental level — looking in the mirror and beginning to address the spiritual problems in our own individual lives.  As we do that, and only when we do that, can we ever hope to solve the seemingly insurmountable political problems facing our nation.

So what say you?  Are you ready to start?  If so, then get up, walk to the nearest mirror, and join me in saying:  “Let’s change America… starting with me!”