Tag Archives: United States

Complacency: A Death Trap

Complacency. A business that grows complacent loses customers. A husband who grows complacent loses his wife. A nation that grows complacent will not survive.
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Amos 6:1 NIV

As I read about Israel’s history in the Old Testament I am often amazed at the parallels I see between ancient Israel and modern America. In this chapter of Amos, the prophet describes a people who are celebrating their self-reliance and wallowing in their wealth. They perceive no need for God as they lead their increasingly decadent lives at the expense of the poorest among them. Amos goes on to describe the dire circumstances that such an existence will yield.
 
We study history for a reason. We are to learn from it and seek to avoid the mistakes that those who have gone before us have made. Amos could be describing the United States of America in 2016. While it is not a pretty picture, it is not too late to wake up. My prayer each morning is that God would lead our nation and those who seek to lead it to a realization of its sin and bring us to a place of confession, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We must rise up from our place of complacent pride and seek the face of our loving God.
 
Soli Deo Gloria!

Godless Chatter – Who, Me??

A kind person blocked me on Facebook a few months ago in response to my sharing some memes that were aggressively critical of President Obama. That got my attention. After a thorough review of my posts I realized she had a point, and since then I’ve made an effort to temper my Facebook posts to avoid mean-spirited political jabber. Instead, I try to focus more on encouragement, the Lord, and the good things of life. Each morning I scroll through my posts from the day before, pleased to some extent with the progress I see but sometimes reminded of how easy it is to be sucked into the pit that Paul calls “godless chatter”. I still post politically from time to time, as it’s important to be engaged, but hopefully with factual and thought-provoking content.

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2 Timothy 2:14-16 NIV


We Christians must be wary of being drawn in to “godless chatter”, but with the immediacy of social media, it can be easy to fall into that trap. Note Paul’s warning here: those who indulge in such chatter will become more and more ungodly. As I scroll through Facebook and Twitter I can see that. We Christians must strive to be salt and light in all aspects of our lives. We are to be Christ’s workers in the harvest field, speaking and living a life that points straight towards our Savior. When we indulge in the “godless chatter” Paul speaks of here, our witness is tarnished and we become ineffective.

Christian friends, let us seek to honor God in all that we do – and in all that we post.

On Donald Trump, Terrorism, Divisiveness and Change

Trump

Photo credit: slate.com

Donald Trump sure has struck a nerve. Today I read a news article reporting that Trump now has a 20-point lead over his GOP rivals according to the latest CBS/NY Times poll. Here is a link to the story. Although I am not a Trump supporter, I get it. There is a perception by many of inaction by the current Administration. There is frustration and concern among many Americans that we have a government that is completely out of touch with mainstream America, as it appears to operate primarily for the personal benefit of those holding office. I share many of these perceptions. Donald Trump is challenging the status quo and the status quo doesn’t like it.

San Bernardino should have been a huge wake-up call to the nation, for San Bernardino proves that there are terrorists living among us. They have blended into society. They act and behave as you and I do, at least in public. They hold jobs. And they wait for their time to strike. In these trying times, Americans want strong leadership from Washington. We want a president who is clearly tuned in to what’s going on and who has a plan to address it. We want to be assured that our government has our safety and well being in front of mind. Unfortunately, many of us perceive just the opposite from President Obama. Trump’s proposals for dealing with terrorism, albeit controversial, are at least proposals of some sort of action. And, while I disagree with his proposals, I get it.

obama speech

Photo credit: foreignpolicyblogs.com

But let’s pause for a moment. Even among my doubts and concerns, I believe that our government is hard at work trying to address this problem. The United States has some of the best intelligence gathering forces in the world, and I believe our government has information that is probably quite rich. I trust that there is a plan, or at least a plan in the works. Is it realistic, or even prudent, to think that the president will call a press conference, take the lectern, and cite chapter and verse of all this work and our plans for defeating terrorism? Of course not! Setting my perceptions of governmental inaction and ineptitude aside, I really don’t believe that the president and his advisors are sitting on their hands on this issue. That just doesn’t make sense. I think it’s time for those of us who have been so critical of Mr. Obama to cut him a bit of slack. This is not an easy problem to solve.

I also think it is time for we Americans to take a collective deep breath. We are divided, and our divisiveness does not help matters; it makes them worse. My Facebook feed is replete with what I call “Facebook Pundits”: These are people who are self-declared experts on what the government should or should not do to address terrorism and other issues facing our great nation; People who refuse to listen and consider opinions and statements by those with whom they disagree; People who demonize the liberal or the conservative whose views and opinions differ from their own; People who post half truths, and even blatant lies, in sorry attempts to forward whatever agenda they’ve chosen to support. Mark my words: this divisiveness will bring down our country long before ISIS or any other enemy does. It must stop, and it must stop now.

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Credit: usvotefoundation.org

America was founded on several wonderful principles, one of them being the fact that we are not subjects of our government; our government works for us. We have a process of electing individuals to serve at our will from the President through Congress; from state governors through local town councils. Whether we voted for the individuals in office or not, we must unite around them. We must lift them in prayer. We must join together and present a united front against those who would threaten our national and personal security. When we disagree with our government or with one another, we must do so civilly and respectfully. And as we do so, we must hold those whom we have hired to represent us accountable for their actions or lack thereof by becoming informed, offering constructive feedback, and exercising our right to replace under performers via the power of our electoral process.

Which brings me full circle, back to Donald Trump. I’m glad he has the government establishment and the elitists in the mainstream media in a tizzy. I’m glad he’s calling them out and speaking his mind. But I cannot support him because Trump epitomizes the divisiveness and name-calling that I believe is very problematic for our country. I believe he could do considerable damage representing America to the world in his style and demeanor. Under the current Administration, our country has become more divided than ever. We need a leader at the helm who will set the tone I described above; one who will seek to unite our divided nation and lead us to a brighter and more prosperous future. Based on what I’ve seen from Mr. Trump to this point, he is not that man.

Right now things are looking rather grim. We need change. How about taking the lead? Let’s resolve together to be the change we seek. Let’s resolve not to continue to throw gasoline on a fire that is nearly out of control. Rather, let’s resolve to treat others – all others – with the dignity and respect each deserves as a child of our Creator. If each of us will do so, we won’t have to wait until January 2017 for change. The change can start right now.

Syrian Refugees – Where Do You Stand?

This is a tough one. On one side, we have those who believe ISIS is using the Syrian refugees as camouflage for smuggling operatives into the United States. On the other side we have those who dismiss that idea, citing similar fears in American history; think Nazi infiltrators blending with Jewish refugees and the rounding up of Japanese Americans into concentration camps to mitigate the threat that they supposedly presented – both of these during WW II and neither, as far as I know, actually posing a threat in hindsight. They also cite a lack of hard evidence that ISIS does, in fact, have operatives hiding amongst the Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

Sadly, in the middle, we have thousands of people who have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people pose no threat to anyone, yet because of a perceived threat to local and national security, many Americans including several candidates for president and 31 state governors oppose their entry into our country.

My Facebook feed is rife with strong positions on both sides of the issue. I get it. People are scared, and rightfully so given the tragic recent attacks on innocent people promulgated by ISIS. But are we too scared? Are we, in our fear, playing right into ISIS’ hands?

Personally, I don’t believe that ISIS needs the refugees to help them smuggle operatives into our country. They are already here and in touch with ISIS leadership. Don’t believe me?

Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson told CNN on February 8, 2015 that there are individuals living in the United States today who have contact with ISIS and other terrorist groups who have “a desire to conduct an attack” on U.S. soil.” http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/02/08/homeland-security-chief-terrorist-sleeper-cells-us-poised-attack

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, not normally a pundit I cite, reported on May 7, 2015 that “ISIS says it has sleeper cells in 15 states, ready to strike.”  http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/watch/is-isis-setting-up-cells-in-america–441764419625

CNN quoted Michael Steinburg, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division on February 3, 2015, “there are individuals that have been in communication with groups like ISIL who have a desire to conduct an attack.” He further said that those people are living in the U.S. right now, but the term “sleeper cells” is too simplistic, because the threat is much more complicated and diffuse. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/politics/fbi-isis-counterterrorism-michael-steinbach/

Google “United States Sleeper Cell” for a plethora of additional examples.

So what’s my point? Simply this. No one can dispute the fact that thousands of innocent people have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people need help. They need compassion. And I believe we Americans ought to offer it to them. I do not believe, based on what I have read and heard thus far, that accepting some of the refugees into our country presents a plausible threat to the point that it is reasonable to turn them away. ISIS does not need them to carry out its mission. In fact, I would venture to say that ISIS probably welcomes the distraction that this argument offers, given the news reports cited above.

As a Christian I am called to love my neighbor. When asked to define who is our neighbor, Jesus told a parable in which a Samaritan, loathed and despised by the Jews of that time, was the neighbor to the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead alongside the road. (See Luke 10:25-37).

I choose to honor Jesus by loving those who are in need, and I trust that God will protect us as we do so. For I know that the war is already won through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let us dispense with the fear. Let us look upon these people with the same level of compassion we would want if we were in their position. Let us be Jesus to those who need to see Him through us.

While we’re at it, let’s dispense with the personal verbal attacks on those with whom we disagree. I see both sides of this dilemma; I have chosen the side on which I stand. You are free to choose yours, too. Let’s not attack each other just because we happen to disagree. Never forget that we Americans are all in this together.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2015 Photo-A-Day 1.27.2015

The Grand Entry was just about finished when I snapped this picture from about 20 feet away from this rider and our American flag. As the flag enters the arena, guests stand as the rider passes before them, then are invited to sit and enjoy the grand entry procession of stock show dignitaries. Sisters Megan and Summer Gay have presented the Colors each of the four years I’ve been involved with the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo and they do an outstanding job.

If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under. ~ Ronald Reagan via BrainyQuote.com

Our flag at FWSSR, 1.27.2015

Our flag at FWSSR, 1.27.2015

Santa is Real!

NOTE TO THE READER: This is the text of the speech I offered last night at my Toastmasters Christmas party. I hope you enjoy it!

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Each of us is familiar with this famous line penned by NY Sun editor Francis Church as he replied to a query from little Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897. Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, honored Guests, I stand before you this evening to share with you the truth that Santa Claus is, indeed, real.

Who is this Santa Claus? In American culture he is portrayed as that jolly old elf with the rotund torso donned in his famous red suit trimmed in white fur. His hair and his beard are snowy white and he laughs with a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho!” He lives in the perpetual winter of the North Pole and has a troupe of elves building children’s toys year round for Santa’s Christmas deliveries. He magically appears simultaneously in innumerable shopping malls and town squares all across the land as he welcomes children onto his lap to hear their Christmas wishes. He tours the world in a single night in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer as he distributes toys to good little boys and girls. That is how culture portrays him; but is that who he is, really?

According to History.com, the notion of Santa Claus has its origins way back in a 3rd century Turkish Monk named St Nicholas. St Nicholas was known for his piety, his kindness, and his charity. Let’s briefly examine these three traits of Saint Nicholas.

Piety, according to Websters dictionary, is the quality of being religious or reverent. Nikolas was a monk, and monks typically live lives of religious ritual and repetition as they seek to connect with and relate to God. Reverence is a deep respect for something. It’s more than just going through the motions of some ceremony or ritual; it that complete, internalized honor, respect, and love for the One behind the ceremony or ritual. His reverence for God is likely the catalyst behind the other two traits for which he was known.

Websters Dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. History tells us that Saint Nicholas traveled the countryside helping the poor and the sick. In this, he reminds me of Mother Theresa, a nun who lived a life of self-deprivation as she dedicated herself to helping the poor and needy. Both Saint Nicholas and Mother Theresa are excellent examples of individuals who dedicated their lives to showing true kindness to others.

Charity, according to Websters dictionary, is benevolent goodwill towards or love for humanity. One of the best-known stories about Saint Nicholas involves his encounter with a very poor family. The family could not afford to put up a proper dowry for its three daughters so they could be married. So, instead, the girls were going to be sold into prostitution. Saint Nicholas gathered the resources necessary to put up a dowry for each of the girls so they could be married instead of being sold into prostitution.

I would be willing to bet that each of us in this room has, at some point in life, been the recipient of unsolicited kindness or charity. When I was in college, I was driving home to Katy from Austin late one night. I dozed off as I drove down a dark farm to market road just outside of Bellville, Texas. I woke up as my car careened off the road and into the ditch. Fortunately, I was not injured. As I stood by the roadside at about 1:00 in the morning, I wondered what I would do next. (Remember, this is 1983, long before we all carried cell phones.) It didn’t take long for a car to come along and stop. A man and his wife took me to their farmhouse, which was close by. The man retrieved a tractor and the three of us drove back to the site of my accident where he proceeded to pull my car out of the ditch. The man and his wife offered to let me spend the rest of the night as a guest at their home, but I told them I was within 20 minutes of my own place. I offered him a $20 bill, all the money I had on me. He would accept no payment for his effort; he told me that he hoped I would take the opportunity to help somebody else someday. You know what? On that night, at that time, that man and his wife were Saint Nicholas to me.

Several years later I was standing in line at a Houston BBQ restaurant, waiting to order my lunch. As I approached the register, a man came stumbling towards me. At first I assumed he was drunk, but once I looked directly at him I knew something was wrong. His eyes were bulging out from his face and he held his hands to his throat in the universal sign for choking. He was obviously in distress. He was rather large, but I moved behind him, wrapped my arms around his torso, and delivered the hardest Heimlich maneuver I could muster. The piece of brisket that had lodged in his throat flew several feet through the air, over the counter, and landed at the feet of a very shocked cashier. As he gasped for breath, he managed a soft “thank you” as he headed to the men’s room. You know what? On that day, at that time, I was Saint Nicholas to that man.

Saint Nicholas, the original inspiration for our modern day Santa Claus, lived a life of kindness and charity towards others in honor of his faith in God and his love for humanity. So you see, my friends, Santa is real. He exists as the spirit of Saint Nicholas lives on through each act of kindness and charity that we receive and through each act of kindness and charity that we pay forward. As we celebrate this holiday season, let us seek to view every person as Saint Nicholas viewed them – worthy of our respect, worthy of our time, worthy of our kindness, and worthy of our charity. Merry Christmas!

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:28-31

On Phil Robertson and Freedom of Speech

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ~ The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

We all need to step back and take a long, deep breath. Many who have voiced their opinions concerning A&E Network’s suspension of Phil Robertson for statements made during his recent interview by GQ magazine have staked their position based on a perceived violation of Robertson’s right to “freedom of speech”. While I agree with Robertson’s position, I disagree that his right to freedom of speech was violated. On the contrary, this whole flap is, in a way, “freedom of speech” on full display.

Phil Robertson photo credit: harvest.orgFirst, consider Phil Robertson, who offered an honest, albeit not eloquent, explanation of his view of homosexuality in response to a question posed to him by a reporter for GQ. Phil has the right to his opinion, and he enjoys the constitutionally protected right to express it. He was not arrested, nor has he been charged with a crime. A&E, however, suspended their relationship with Robertson because the network has taken a position contrary to Robertson’s.

Second, consider A&E. In suspending Robertson, A&E said in their public statement, “His (Robertson’s) personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.” In so doing, A&E chose a side. Some, of course, are pleased with their decision while others clearly are not. In any event, A&E’s executives have the legal right to take this action. A&E is not a governmental authority; therefore their suspension of Robertson is not a fundamental impediment to Robertson’s Constitutional right to freely speak his mind.

Finally, consider the People’s response. Some are advocating a boycott of A&E. Others have posted reprimands on A&E’s social media sites. Some have praised the network for standing up for the LGBT community. Boycotts, reprimands and praise are all expressions of opinion; and as far as I know, none of the individuals offering this feedback have been charged with a crime for expressing their views. They are freely expressing their opinion and the government has not intervened.

So, in a nutshell, Robertson expressed his opinion, A&E spoke by their action, and the People are speaking out in response. Constitutional freedom of speech is alive and well in the USA!

The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...

The Newseum’s Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment ot the US Constitution. 1. Freedom of Religion 2. Freedom of Speech 3. Freedom of the Press 4. Freedom of Assembly Peaceably 5. Freedom to Petition the Governement for Grievances (Opening April 11, 2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now it’s my turn. As a Bible-believing Christian, I agree with Robertson’s statements. I would have stated it differently, but I agree with the substance of what he said. I also support A&E’s right to take action; after all, they are a proponent of gay rights and Robertson appears on their network. With that said, A&E’s suspension of Robertson reeks of hypocrisy. I enjoyed several episodes of Duck Dynasty last night – aired on A&E and starring Phil Robertson. While they’ve taken a position, their financial bottom line still rules the day.

A&E’s tagline is “Be Original”.  I’m sure they paid some public relations expert a lot of money to come up with that. I wonder what their meaning is behind those two words? What was it about those two words that struck a chord with A&E’s executive team? You see, no matter what position an individual adopts on homosexuality or any other moral issue, a person’s position is grounded in something. On the issue of homosexuality, Robertson’s position, and mine, is grounded in Scripture; A&E’s is not. Perhaps A&E should modify their tagline to something like this: “Be Original. Unless your Originality differs from ours. In that case, Be Quiet.”

(Phil Robertson photo source: Harvest.org)

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