Our Toxic U.S. Senate

tfp.2017.02.08.maxresdefaultSenator Elizabeth Warren had to “sit down” last night in the middle of her speech about Attorney General candidate Jeff Sessions. She broke rule XIX of Senate protocol which forbids any U.S. Senator from making disparaging remarks about a fellow Senator.

I write not to examine Warren’s words, the Republican response, or even the current toxic climate of the U.S. Senate in these tumultuous times. Rather, I write only to set up what follows – a fictionalized version of the true story of U.S. Congressman Preston Brooks’s (SC) assault on U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (MA) on May 22nd, 1856.

The following is an excerpt from an upcoming novel that John Jenkins and I will be publishing in the near future. It is titled Horsemen in the Sky.

You think the Senate is toxic now? Ha! You ain’t seen nothin’.

In chapter 8, Bloodshed in the Capitol, our fictional character, Sam MacDonald, a reporter for the Charleston Observer, tells the true story of the beating of Sumner on the Senate floor.

Date: 31 May, 1856
Time: 8:15 P.M.
Source: Personal Journal of Sam MacDonald
Location: Sheppard’s Boardinghouse, Washington City

Madness has seized the hearts and minds of my countrymen!

So my Lord, grant I pray, the grace to write upon the pages of this journal, the thoughts and feelings that so engulf my soul. Let the words and phrases flow from my heart even as the ink flows from my pen on this warm, late spring evening. And now, seated here at my window, pen in hand, ink well nestled against the windowsill, I attempt for a third time to capture the unutterable groanings within my soul over the events my eyes have witnessed and my ears have heard.

Two aborted pages lay on the floor by my boots. For three days running I have not been able to finish a full page, and I fear I have entered again into another bitter season of writer’s block.

O Lord let it not be so, let not my heart become so filled with grief and fear that Your Spirit cannot accomplish His work through this pen! So, O my soul, we will start once again to record the account of that bloody week in May.

Bloodshed in the Capitol

In the beginning I did not recognize the madness as such, but it was there all the while. I ignored The New York Herald’s report that our Senators and Congressmen had begun carrying knives and guns on their persons in the halls of Congress, considering it both slanderous and preposterous, something that the outrageous James Gordon Bennett and his muckraking journalists had contrived in a smoky back room to sell editions.

So I had continued to hope for a peaceful resolution to our national differences. It was here, in this same window seat, late in the afternoon on May 22nd, that I sat and attempted to pen an article urging our leaders to moderation and compromise when I heard a commotion out in the street below my window.

Leaning out, I saw several men on horseback and a carriage pull up in front of our boardinghouse. The passenger in the carriage sat back into the corner, his shirt and coat front doused with blood. As the others leapt from their horses and helped this gentleman from the carriage, I heard Mrs. Sheppard call from the doorway.
“I feared this would happen. Hurry him in—the room is ready.”

At that moment, I recognized the bleeding man, but someone spoke his name even as it formed on my disbelieving lips.

“Senator Sumner—you must sit down and let the doctor fully examine your head wound.”

I remembered stepping back from the window and planting one hand against the wall for support, my head spinning wildly with fear. Had The Herald’s report proven true? Had someone shot the Senator from Massachusetts?

Though I had yet discovered the perpetrator’s name or the means of his crime, I had already deduced his motives for the injurious assault on the Senator–for at that time I, too, cherished similar motives in my heart.

‘Murderous robbers and hirelings picked from the drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization,’ Sumner had bellowed just two days ago from behind his desk on the Senate floor, heaping condemnation upon the absent, Senator Butler from South Carolina. Sumner suggested that the whole history of South Carolina be blotted out, for its ‘shameful imbecility toward slavery confessed throughout the Revolution.’ He scurrilously compared Butler to a whoremonger whose whore was slavery, and that Butler, like the Egyptians, ‘worshiped divinities in brutish forms.’

How well I recall those and many other words from May 19th as I sat and took notes of the Senator’s speech from the gallery above the Senate floor. How scandalized I felt by each and every word, how red my cheeks burned as I listened to his slanderous barrage against Senator Butler, South Carolina and all of the South.

I had been used! I was possessed with anger as strong and wild as the day I walked into Seth Beaumont’s office with a pistol following Victoria’s murder!

How justified I had felt as I watched from my boardinghouse window as Sumner was helped down from the carriage, his head and clothing matted thickly with blood!

Less than two weeks earlier, Senator Sumner had granted me an extensive interview, playing me for a tool, convincing me that his attitudes had changed, now desiring moderation and positive dialogue between the sections. He urged me to have the article published in The Observer!

Full of naïve hope, I had pushed Mr. Pitkins as hard as my conscience allowed, and the article ran without delay. My story detailing Sumner’s changing views had hit the streets of Charleston on May 17, just forty-eight hours before his outrageous speech.

And standing by that window, I knew the cup of my heart overflowed with the same bitterness and resentment as the man who had injured Sumner. O my Soul, how quickly I had forgotten the lesson of the nails!
My Soul, do you remember how I dropped to my knees on the wooden floor and repented of my sin? Do you remember the sublime sweetness of that moment when I surrendered my anger to the Lord? And will the lesson of forgiving one’s enemies finally be learned?

As the aides moved the wounded Senator into the boardinghouse, I proceeded downstairs, compelled I suppose by a curiosity stimulated by my two years of medical training, and perhaps from a new-felt concern for the Senator’s health and safety.

I watched them bathe and suture his wounds. The cuts did not appear to be life-threatening, although I must admit I was somewhat shocked at the sight of his scalp laid back all the way down to the skull. Nevertheless, he was quite coherent after the stitching. Both of the doctors agreed, and I as well, that he should recover quite nicely and soon return to his desk in the Senate.

As the Senator was helped back to his carriage, I took one of his aides by the arm and learned of the Senator’s brutal encounter with Preston Brooks, the distinguished Congressman from South Carolina and nephew of the slandered Mr. Butler.

It had not been by a gun or knife that the Senator’s scalp was split, but a stout walking stick. Brooks had entered the Senate chambers and beat the Senator until he was nearly unconscious, pinning him helplessly between his desk and chair.
O the power of words, how they can destroy and tear down! How they divide and separate, breeding violence and bloodshed!

By supper time, all physical evidence of Sumner’s visit had been removed. His divisive spirit, however, remained behind and became the source of conflict at Mrs. Sheppard’s dinner table. Clarence, the young stonemason who hailed from North Carolina, and Toby, the free Negro and wagoner, had to be separated, having come to the point of raising fists during dinner over the propriety of Brook’s assault on Senator Sumner.

Mrs. Sheppard, in an angry, unexpected show of her political inclinations, informed Toby that he was terribly wrong to support Senator Sumner and that he would have to find another boardinghouse. He was gone within the hour. I shall miss Toby, he was a good conversationalist and a true friend.

As the week progressed, I did some investigative work into the circumstances surrounding this bloody affair. One thing I learned to my surprise was that Congress had prearranged with several boardinghouses, Mrs. Sheppard’s being one of the closest to the Capitol, to have a spare room maintained for emergency medical treatment required by some violent incident. A second discovery came as the result of speaking with several of my friends and colleagues in Congress .The attack on Senator Sumner had not been spontaneous; Brooks had planned his retaliation for two days.

The final incident unearthed by my investigation began after a brief conversation with Dr. Timothy Whitefield, the Senate Chaplain. He claimed to have seen a tall, goateed man with a long scar across his left cheek speak privately to Preston Brooks in the doorway to the Senate chambers just prior to his attack on Sumner.
No other Senator or any of their aides remembered having seen a man of this description, even those who were in the Senate chamber at the time Brooks entered the room.

The War on Poverty: 50+ Years and Still Going

tfp.2016.12.13.164401_10151244670276275_1275388048_nOn January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced his plan for a “War on Poverty.” It had been less than two months after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I was in the 7th grade.

I remember the “War on Poverty,” the grand plan of the newly sworn-in leader of a country still reeling from the tragic death of JFK. Federal money (nothing more than taxpayer’s money) was to be invested in all kinds of wonderful programs to help the poor, the disadvantaged, the discriminated against.

So, here we are, almost fifty-three years later. How well has it worked?

According to Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, we taxpayers have invested $22 Trillion dollars in the war on poverty since its inception in 1964.

That’s $22,000,000,000.00!

I recently engaged in a Facebook conversation with a Christian friend of a Christian friend on the topic of poverty. This Christian “friend of a friend” claimed that the “American Mindset” is that “we shouldn’t care about the needy, getting ahead is all that counts.”

Hmmmmm? Didn’t we Americans just invest $22,000,000,000.00 to help the poor? I’m confused. That doesn’t sound like “not caring” to me.

The dollar investment alone no doubt sets us above all of the nations in the world as far as caring for the poor. Or at least as far as spending money on federal programs that somehow are supposed to lift people out of poverty. And we have not even accounted for who knows how many billions of dollars we have shipped overseas to help other countries. That figure is probably also in the trillions.

Somehow we got "upside down" here in our country regarding caring for the poor. That role is now pretty much owned by the state – not completely I concede, but largely.

Technically, Biblically, shouldn’t caring for the poor be the job of the Church? Jesus commissioned us to do that. He didn’t tell us to turn that task over to the state.

As you know, I am a strong conservative. But on this matter, I do agree with my Christian friends on the left or progressive side. The poor need to be cared for. It’s the how and the who that have me very concerned.

By our general neglect of the poor, we (the Church) have relinquished our role, a role given to us by our Lord and Savior. In our relinquishment, we have ceded power to our civil government that is supposed to be ours.

By surrendering the responsibility of caring for the poor to our civil government, we have missed countless open doors into people’s lives and abdicated our ability to build relationships with the needy.We have lost millions of opportunities over these last 50+ years to reach souls for Christ, to make disciples, all while meeting basic needs.

But wait … shouldn’t the primary goal be to meet their basic needs? Initially, yes. But true love dictates that we also help them get on the path to a life that is rooted in Christ, a life where a unique purpose can be discovered and pursued, something beyond just day-to-day survival. How well can government-run programs do that? I concede that some have escaped the ravages of poverty and risen to do great things. But far too few.

Our efforts as the Church in this arena today are meager compared to the state’s massive budget and programs and people. Let’s face facts. The state is pulling the heavy load here.

How did this happen?

Fifty-three years ago, our American parents and grandparents rushed madly toward what they saw as the easiest and quickest fix to poverty in America—government money (no, the people’s money), government programs (hundreds of them now – probably thousands), and government workers, most well-meaning no doubt, but few with the mission—or even the freedom or ability—of bringing souls into the kingdom of God.

I was thirteen years old when this happened. Many of you reading this were not even yet born. This system is what we inherited. We did not create it.

Don’t you think it’s time we Christians stop and take a serious, hard look at what we Americans have created, this whole system of caring for the poor? It isn’t Biblically principled, it isn’t functional, and it is above all things, at $22,000,000,000.00 ($22 TRILLION), a massive waste of resources.

I, for one, see this government-run, poverty-fighting, massive, bureaucratic American juggernaut, as a prison in which all of us (rich, poor, and in-between) are being held captive.

Let’s have the courage to sit down Christians, left and right, and have a genuine, civil conversation about this mess our parents and grandparents left in our lap.

Down in the Slime Pit

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a Women for Hillary event at the New York Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan one day ahead of the New York primary, Monday, April 18, 2016, in New York.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Jeremiah 17:9 King James 2000 Bible

Generally speaking, when Donald Trump opens his mouth to talk about people who have spoken ill of him or people who oppose him, and I am in earshot, I feel slimed.

Whenever Hillary Clinton opens her mouth to becloud and skirt the charges of her mishandling of classified government documents, or Benghazi, or (insert random scandal here), I feel slimed.

Last night on Facebook, discussing the election on more than one thread with Christian friends, many of whom are choosing not to vote next month or vote third party, I felt like I was dragged down into the slime pit. No wait … let me clarify that. I willingly jumped in, I was not dragged down.

Don’t misunderstand me. They were generally civil conversations. It’s the whole idea of arguing politics with Christian friends (or friends of friends) that is so disturbing to me. And that (not Donald or Hillary) is what made me feel slimy last night.

On the news (and in Facebook conversations), I hear from (and read about) pastors who are disgusted with our top two candidates. Who isn’t? I hear them bemoan the current state of affairs and make statements about why they cannot vote for the Republican candidate because of his foul mouth and crude behavior. Like I said above, I myself often feel slimed when that man speaks.

I had a rough night sleeping last night and woke up with a very troubled spirit. Distressed, I reached up toward heaven. “Lord help me, I prayed. Help us.”

And then it hit me.

Our top two candidates have arrived and they represent the visible manifestation of America’s wicked heart, now at the top of the heap. And what a heap it is!

Yes! America has a heap of a wicked heart. Since 1973, Americans have slaughtered (according to one source) over 58 million unborn in the womb. Yes, that is wickedness. We now go out of our way to embrace homosexual behavior as normal. Some stores and even some schools no longer distinguish between male and female on their bathroom doors in order to accommodate the “transgender” people.

Let’s not fool ourselves. We Americans have been down in the slime pit for several decades now. And that is why the sudden outrage or disgust offered by many Christians over Trump’s recently exposed eleven-year-old, sexually charged comments is, frankly, baffling.

Have none of you been watching film or television, listening to music, or reading lately? The slime pit has been slowly growing right beneath our feet for well over a generation now. Where have you been, pastors? Why the sudden affront to your sensibilities? Have you been asleep all this time?

Our public schools and most of our colleges and universities are now cut loose from our nation’s original Judeo-Christian moorings. God has essentially been removed from the public square and the public classroom. And because of that, the public has essentially cast off restraint. Yeah … it’s dark out there.

This morning, in my mind’s eye, after I woke up disturbed and then prayed, an image came to play in my mind. I saw the ground’s surface, bubbling and oozing. Then I saw Donald and Hillary being forced through the ooze up to the surface, and slowly coming into view before my eyes.

Yes, all that crap down below, crap that American pulpits have essentially been turning a blind eye to for as long as I can remember, has finally made its way to the top.

Many pastors refuse to publicly align themselves with a candidate. But guess what? They would not be in that position today if they had done their job in the first place.

If American pastors en-masse, across the land (and not just a few here and there) had long been speaking boldly with a prophetic voice against the creep of immorality into our culture, and the murder of the unborn in the womb, America would not be in this position today.

If American pastors had used their pulpits to teach and instruct their parishioners on the Biblical fundamentals of civil government, and had been doing so all along, we likely would not be in this position today.

But as things stand, many in our church congregations are confused, disillusioned, and most importantly, ill-equipped for this hour. We are ill-equipped because Church leaders have not equipped us.

So let’s quit our moaning and groaning. This is the bed we made. Now we must sleep in it.

I will be voting for potty-mouth Trump. I will do so not because I think he is some kind of hero or savior, but because he is (despite many uncertainties and unknowns about him) our nation’s last opportunity to stop our country’s rapid run toward the cliff and into the abyss.

A Hillary presidency will ensure the end of the republic as we have known it. The central government (the state) will grow to become all-powerful and essentially unstoppable in their quest to control and manipulate just about everything and everyone. The Supreme Court will, with their decisions, nullify what’s left of our Constitution. And the holocaust upon the unborn will continue.

God’s full-blown judgment may very well be just around the corner. The day is coming soon when we will no longer be able to continue to worship our small “g” god of comfort.

I don’t want God’s judgment to fall in full force upon my country. And I am certainly not going to use my vote (or a non-vote or a third-party vote) to place a person in the White House who has promised to enforce policies that will turn my country further away from God, turn the state against the Church, open our borders even wider to who knows who, strip us of what few liberties we have left, and invite God’s judgment in full upon our land.

I honestly cannot understand how a Christian would willingly vote (or not vote) in a manner that would enable the continued murder of the unborn, and unleash the state to persecute the Church. Seriously, why would anyone do that? One pastor in our Facebook conversation last evening offered the reasoning that state empowerment and church persecution would create a “learning experience” for the Church. What? You can’t be serious! Where in Scripture do we find that kind of thinking? My Bible tells me that we are to pray for those in authority in order that we could lead “quiet and peaceable lives,” not that we invite the judgment of God! I mean I’m no pastor and I have no seminary training, but even a hick like me knows that is just plain stupid talk.

Yes, the alternative is a foul-mouthed rube who in my book is saying many of the right things policy-wise (although usually not that artfully), but is shrouded in some measure of mystery. The alternative however is well known and is utterly unacceptable. I will go with the rube who at is at least saying mostly right things and who has surrounded himself with some good people. I’ll take that chance. It’s the last one I may have.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

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Tribute to a Man of God

PepperIn November of 1972, I met the woman who, nine months later, would become my wife. Not long after our first encounter I was introduced to her brother. His name was Richard Aubrey Pond (1946-2016), although everyone knew him as Pepper.

It did not take long at all for me to realize that I really, really, liked this man.

My wife, Sally, was the third of four Pond siblings. Pepper was the second of four, born about four years ahead of her. Of the four siblings, Sally was the first to turn her life over to Jesus, a decision she made, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, in 1970.

These were days and times in which the Holy Spirit was moving in large, dynamic ways across our land. Many of us “baby-boomers” found ourselves in the midst of the “Jesus People” Movement, an era of millions of “new birth” experiences and the release of many gifts of the Spirit including miracles, signs and wonders, and healings.

Prior to this backdrop, Pepper grew up as a rowdy youth, a young man of passion, often wild and uncontrollable. He was so wild that his mother once remarked that she would be grateful if he managed to survive to the age of twenty-one.

Even as a child, Pepper’s rebellious ways manifested themselves in dramatic fashion. As a young boy of four or five, he climbed to the top of a telephone pole and refused to come down. His mother could not coax him, and the police and firemen on the scene were unable to persuade him to vacate his high perch. Finally, in desperation, his mother cried up to him. “Pepper, come down. Santa Claus is on the phone.”

HIs response? “What the h*#% is he doing on there?”

So, that was Pepper.

His wild, crazy behavior continued, and after managing to graduate from high school (his mom considered that to be a miracle in itself), he joined the U.S. Air Force and served four years, including a stint in Viet Nam.

Following his return, he remained a raucous young man, drinking and carousing, getting into trouble, and causing general mayhem. Little did he know that his life was about to turn.

Sally was still very young in her faith, but she had been so radically impacted by the love of God and the change that her new birth experience had wrought, that she desperately wanted her big brother to meet this same Jesus who had so completely upended her life.

She introduced Pepper to some of her new Christian friends. The gospel was shared, prayers were offered up, and Pepper began to realize that he was a man being hunted down by “the hound of heaven.” He tried desperately to escape, but found it increasingly difficult to break “the pull” toward the kingdom of God that he had begun to feel.

Everywhere he turned he seemed to encounter the God who would soon become his Lord. He went into a 7-11 to purchase some beer and on the glass door of the beer cooler he saw a yellow, smiley-face sticker that read, “Smile, God Loves You.”

Pepper slammed the door shut and, looking up toward heaven declared angrily, “A man can’t even get a beer around here!” and walked out empty handed.

And so it went, day after day, week after week, that relentless pounding, that slow drip of the call of God on one’s life that cannot be broken. One night in a dark, back alley, Pepper and God had a verbal wrestling match. Pepper knew he was losing ground in his fight to remain his own master.

Then one evening, Sally invited him to a Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International meeting. The gospel was proclaimed. An invitation was given. Sally had closed her eyes, appealing to heaven on her brother’s behalf. Then she turned toward him, wanting to encourage him to take the step, but he was no longer in the seat beside her.

She looked toward the front and there he was, hands raised in surrender, praising the God of heaven.

And then, everything changed.

Well, not everything. He maintained his passion for life, but now that passion was re-directed toward the King and His kingdom. And that passion never faded on this earth until his very last breath.

Pepper was one of those rare kinds of Christians who actually walked out in faith and power the things he claimed to believe. When he entered a room, one could sense that the room had suddenly brightened. He carried within himself the life of Christ, the presence of God and the joy of the Lord.

Almost every conversation included a story of what God had been saying to him. He never lacked for a word or a thought that had come down from heaven and brought life to the hearers.

He became a walking witness for the gospel message, a proclaimer of truth, an evangelist in the truest sense.

He married Linda. They brought a son and a daughter into the world, and life moved on. They built a new home in Manassas and Pepper did a lot of the work himself.

One day, after the foundation had been constructed, Pepper was operating a Bobcat, backfilling the dirt around the foundation wall. The track on the Bobcat lost its footing and the machine slid into the wall, and with the impact, nearly severed Pepper’s finger.

Alone, he managed to extricate himself, climb up out of the hole, walk over to his truck, unhitch the Bobcat’s trailer with his one good hand, get into his truck and drive himself to the hospital, spilling blood all the way.

Doctors managed to save his finger.

So, that was Pepper.

Pepper worked for his Uncle John, the owner of Buhl Electric. He mastered his trade, looked forward to the solid career path ahead of him, and a very bright future. But something began to tug at his heart.

In 1985 (or perhaps ‘86), Pepper and Linda sold their house, the house they has just recently constructed, pulled up stakes, and moved to Long Island, New York. Christ for the Nations was their destination. There, Pepper devoted himself to the teaching and instruction, and began to prepare himself for a higher call.

Two years later, upon graduation, Pepper became a co-founder of New York City Relief. He moved his family into an old hotel under renovation in Elizabeth New Jersey. Two hotel rooms was all they had, one for Pepper and Linda, and one for Michael and Amy. We discovered their sparse accommodations when we visited them one summer.

You can read about New York City Relief by clicking on the link. But in a nutshell, it is a ministry to the homeless of New York City. In those early years, two busses, each retrofitted with a soup kitchen in the middle, a counseling center in the front, and a clinic staffed with a couple of nurses located in the rear, headed out from headquarters in Elizabeth and made their way to the homeless communities in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and elsewhere.

Pepper made countless trips. He served food, directed the needy to the other services the bus provided, mingled, chatted, and befriended. But mostly, he simply listened. Listened and prayed.

Five years of his life he gave to this work. All the while tending to other important things like fatherhood, and maintaining his husbandly duties and responsibilities. Meanwhile, he touched hundreds of lives.

The time came for Pepper and Linda to move on to the next phase of their life.

Although Virginians, they elected to remain in New Jersey where they continued to raise their children, now well into their teens.

Pepper went back to work as an electrician and eventually launched his own company. They lived a modest life, but a good life, walking quietly, humbly with Jesus.

They found a church home where they served God faithfully for over twenty years and found ways to bring life and hope and encouragement to so many.

Pepper served as a deacon. He became fast friends with the pastor. Depending on where one might cross paths with Pepper, he could be found worshiping, praying, sharing a word, prophesying, but always, every day, allowing the life of Christ within him to spill out and touch others.

That was Pepper. Unstoppable. Unrelenting. Ever pressing forward.

And yet, even into his later years, some of his wild, raucousness would occasionally manifest.

Several years ago, Pepper and Linda moved into a small cottage (and I mean small) on a farm. Part of their rent payment included the care of the farm animals. One day Pepper found himself at odds with a stubborn ram. The ram would not follow his instructions. But Pepper would not have any of that. So he took him on. Imagine Pepper, at the age of 69, physically wrestling with a ram. Pepper lost. But the story exemplifies the tenacity of this wonderful, beloved man of God.

A few days ago, we said our final goodbyes to Pepper. The pastor, referenced above, closed the service with a few reflections about this man. He said that Pepper was probably his closest friend. He said that Pepper spent as much time at the church as most of the paid staff. He said that Pepper could be seen walking the church’s halls praying and doing small things to help keep the facility in good working order.

And then he went on to tell a story that I will never forget as long as I live.

One Saturday night, said the pastor, he was in his office, putting the finishing touches on his sermon for the next morning. It was late, probably close to midnight. He happened to glance out the window. There was Pepper he said, hiding behind a bush, in the dark of night, praying, not wanting to be seen.

That was Pepper. Man of God. Faithful servant of Christ. Friend to uncounted numbers. Father to many. Humble. Unassuming. Kind. Tender-hearted.

As the memorial service concluded, I noticed that two objects rested upon his casket. One was the U.S. flag, representing his military service to his country. The other object was Pepper’s tambourine, representing his unmitigated love of praise and worship.

In the hospital, as his strength continued to fail, Pepper maintained a positive, upbeat attitude. Breathing through an oxygen tube and very short of breath, he entertained the nurses, making them laugh. He continued to share the gospel, and prayed for them. They loved him.

So, that was Pepper.

My brother, you impacted the lives of so many. Mine included. I loved you like my own flesh and blood. You will be missed. You have left a hole in our hearts. But we know that your battles are now over, that you rest in the arms of our Savior, where we will soon join you. We will spend eternity enjoying the company of one another and the millions of others who, too, have received the gift of salvation and embraced the One who suffered the wrath of God so that we might be redeemed.

Well done, good and faithful servant!

The Seedbed of Liberty

temp.coverI posted something on Facebook today that received fairly positive comments. All were positive actually. But some did question my premise that the American seedbed of liberty was planted and cultivated by the colonial church. This is a premise I have long held and I am going to take a few minutes to share a few things I have learned.

Before I jump in, I wish to note that there is a caveat to my premise, and that caveat will be revealed at the end of this short dissertation.

First, let me begin by explaining that I have been studying America’s Christian history since the early 1980’s. If you wish to learn more about my journey, I have a collection of short blog posts laying out my journey. If you are interested, they fall under the title of The Quest.

For well over thirty years now I have been reading, studying, and examining the founding of our nation, from the Pilgrims and Puritans, right on up through the writing of the Constitution. I have countless books on the subject in my library, many of which are reprints from that era. I have not read them all in toto, but I have read enough to come away with the unshakeable belief that, despite the many claims that America was founded by Deists, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I am currently working on a book titled Constitutional Apologetics: Discovering Judeo-Christian principles in our Nation’s Founding Documents.

  • George Washington. One of the books in my personal library is titled George Washington’s Sacred Fire. I’m not saying it is the final word on Washington’s core beliefs, but it certainly provides ample evidence of Christian faith in the man. His strong character is likewise evidence. Frequent references to “Providence” in his writings, and his service as a vestryman, along with neighbor George Mason, at Pohick Church (Episcopal) lend more evidence to his Christian faith.
  • James Madison. Madison is credited with writing the Constitution of our United States. While not overtly expressive of his Christian faith, he held to strong, core, Christian beliefs. In The Political Philosophy of James Madison, another volume in my personal library, author Garret Ward Sheldon makes the case that it was Madison’s deeply Protestant education that led him to understand the Christian principles of liberty – particularly “the tyranny of the majority” – which led Madison to fight for a republican form of government (read republic as opposed to democracy). Under the soon-to-be president of Princeton John WItherspoon – the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence – Madison received a strong Judeo-Christian worldview vision, rooted in Biblical principles.
  • Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is the American poster child for deism. And I am not at all disputing his deistic beliefs. But a deist does not believe that God is involved in human affairs. Why then was it Franklin who asked for prayer at the Constitutional Convention of 1787? His request, after many conversations and discussions, eventually led to the idea of appointing a chaplain to both the House on the Senate of the newly formed government. It is also a little known fact that Benjamin Franklin was a huge supporter and friend of George Whitfield, the tireless and fiery preacher whose ministry, along with that of Jonathan Edwards, fueled the First Great Awakening. None of this proves that Franklin was a Christian, but he certainly understood the importance of religion in the life of a nation – especially in his later years.

Having explained all of that, and honestly it isn’t worth all that much on the big scale, I am now going to tell you why my belief that our nation grew out of a Christian seedbed is unshakeable. And it has not a wit to do with these three men. Let’s look at some Biblical principles found in our nation’s core political ideas.

  • Transcendence. Is there a sovereign God who rules over all?  The Declaration of Independence testifies that as God-created beings, no one can be alienated from their most basic human rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” God is the court of highest appeal, sitting in judgment over everything, even the state. This Christian idea in pre-Constitution America, came from the writings of Christian leaders William Blackstone and Samuel Rutherford who fueled the minds of our Founders with Biblical ideas.
  • Individuality. Nowhere in the world, or in human history, has the primacy of the individual been so celebrated and respected as in America. That God made us in His image and that He redeemed us by offering His own Son, is evidence that the individual is more important to God than any state or kingdom of institution of man. Our Founders understood this and that’s why we have a separation of powers and a Bill of Rights (see below).
  • Self-Government. In the personal sphere, self-government is quite simple. Every individual is charged with the responsibility of governing and managing their own life. Management responsibilities include our relationships, our personal health, our finances, our time, our skills and talents, and our overall behavior. Our Founders understood and often proclaimed that America would only survive if she remained a moral and religious people, and if personal virtue were in practice on a large scale. Only moral, religious and virtuous people can govern themselves. Ancient Israel was given opportunity to govern themselves, under the Ten Commandments. They failed and ended up with kings, “like the other nations.” When internal, personal, self-government fails, external government kicks in. Like Ancient Israel, we Americans have failed. Now the individual is shrinking as the state grows.
  • Liberty of Conscience. Many refused to accept the new Constitution unless a “Bill of Rights” was attached to it. Virginian George Mason was one of them. Virginian Patrick Henry was another. During America’s colonial period, this land became a refuge for millions escaping religious persecution in Europe. This is where the idea of “tolerance” first originated in America. But note it wasn’t a tolerance for wickedness or sinful behavior, only a tolerance for the many sects or expressions of the Christian faith and to a lesser degree, the Jewish faith. Note: at the time of our founding, 98% of Americans were Protestant, 1-½% were Catholic, and ½% were Jewish. Liberty of conscience is protected by the first amendment.
  • Separation of Powers. For thousands of years, until Christ arrived to be precise, ancient Israel functioned under three primary forms of leadership. They were the prophets, the priest and the kings. These three ministry offices served as checks and balances to one another. Power was held in check and not held solely in the hand of one party. In Isaiah 33:22, we read, “For the Lord is our judge, Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king …” What do you see here? I see our three branches of government. Our founders understood this principle and sought to protect the individual from the tyranny that occurs when too much power gets concentrated in one place.

     

I could go on. In fact I am writing a book about this (see above). But I don’t have time here to tell you about Covenantalism, Republicanism, Federalism, and several other Biblically-rooted American ideas, like the ones above, found in Holy Scriptures. Nor do I have time to tell you about the many early state and local government constitutions and governing documents that reference Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Scriptures. Nor do I have time to report on the countless other writings and documents from our new nation’s earliest decades where Christian thought and principle were found in abundance in almost every corner of the country.

The truth is, and I know this from my many years of personal research, that the Colonial American church did indeed lay in these foundational principles and ideas long before The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution came into existence. This was the seedbed from which our political liberties emerged.

Caveat. I promised a caveat and here it is.

Despite our strong Christian beginnings, the seeds of our eventual failure were also present at our founding. Slavery, the betrayal and mistreatment of the native American, and later, the foolish notions of the “White Man’s Burden” and “Manifest Destiny,” all created cracks in our foundation (I’m switching metaphors here) which is now crumbling to pieces before our eyes.

“What have you given us?” asked the woman in the late Philadelphia summer of 1787 as Benjamin Franklin stepped out onto the cobblestone street from what would become Constitution Hall.

“A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it,” came his reply.

We have not

“Trust in the Lord”

tfp.2016.03.19.trust-in-the-lordWe have entered a season in history where the light is dimming, where the darkness is increasing, where wrong has become right, where no has become yes, where black has become white, where the lie has become the truth. The weights and measures that we as a culture once relied upon, have seemed to disappear. Uncertainty about our future (and the future of our children and grandchildren) abounds. Our political landscape is fraught with deception, infidelity, unreliability, and for some, even fear and trepidation.

So many things swirl around us that we cannot control, things much bigger than our own tiny sphere of influence. Therefore, we must learn to “Trust in the Lord.”

How easily said. How utterly difficult to do!

“Trust in the Lord” has almost become a cute little cliché, something to quip about, something to throw out in a conversation to calm fears. But how? How can we come to truly trust in the Lord?

I am going to share with you four things that I have learned, things that have, for me, created a path toward truly trusting in the Lord, and brought an ever-deepening peace and calm into my life. Oh how desperately we need our Lord. Here’s what I have discovered. May they help you.

1. Seek the Lord. Seek His face. Cry out for Him and pray that God stirs a longing in you to know Him and to know Him intimately. Pursue your knowledge of God. Don’t assume that a few short scriptures here and there are sufficient to carry you through this life. God has provided for us His whole Word, His whole counsel, from Genesis to Revelation. Read and study and get to know God.

How can we learn to trust God, how can we dare to trust God, unless we truly know Him? And how can we get to know Him unless we seek after Him and study His Holy Word? (Psalm 27:8; I Chronicles 16:11; 2 Kings 22:8-20; Jeremiah 9:23-24).

2. Worship God. Set aside time every day to declare back to God, His glory. Worship Him. He is glorious, beautiful, magnificent, splendorous, wise, powerful, magnanimous, merciful, forgiving, tender, gracious, kind, righteous, holy, wrathful, vengeful, judgmental … there are not enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe Him. Begin with thanksgiving, continue with praise, enter into worship. (Psalm 100). Read the Psalms aloud. Sing them. Read and sing them back to the Lord. (Psalm 150; 2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 95:6). Learn how to enter into His presence (Psalm 27:4).

Don’t feel like worshiping God? Don’t let that stop you. Decide to worship Him and then worship Him (Psalm 103:2). He is worthy. That should be all that matters. Worshiping Him takes the focus off of me.

3. Wait on God. Yes, wait on the Lord. Learn to wait on Him. Don’t get out ahead of Him. Follow His lead. Let Him take the wheel. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). God moves slowly. That is a fact. He is slow to anger. His wrath burns slowly (Psalm 103:8).

He works on His own timetable (John 11; Luke 8:41-56). Noah prepared and waited 120 years. Abraham waited 25 years for a son. Joseph waited 14 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Moses waited 40 years in the desert before he encountered God in the burning bush. Then Moses learned to ascend Sinai and wait for the Lord to show up. Learn to wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).

Consider the server (waiter) in a classy restaurant. He/she stands away from the table, waiting and watching for an opportunity to serve. Be like the waiter. Learn to sit quietly and wait for God. There is a rest that awaits those who learn how to enter His presence and wait quietly there, a rest that enables us to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him (Hebrews 4:9-10). I can tell you from first-hand experience it takes work and discipline, but God does show up.

I heard of one man who arose faithfully every night, in the middle of the night, to wait quietly upon the Lord. Finally, eighteen months later, God made His manifest presence known. Wait on the Lord.

4. Finally, pray in the spirit. This means praying in our prayer language. Our prayer language (speaking in unknown tongues or glossolalia – Acts 2; I Corinthians 12:4-11) enables us to communicate directly from our spirit to God (I Corinthians 14:2). I know this is a controversial topic for some. I know some of you will read this and think I have gone off the deep end. But if you are a faithful follower of Jesus, I ask you to hear me out. Here’s my story:

In late March of 1971, as I stood with my thumb out along an on ramp to Interstate 65 heading south out of Gary, Indiana, I began speaking in tongues. The gift did not come as a shock or as a surprise to me. I had been asking God for it for several months. In the forty-five years since, I have exercised that gift in the privacy of my own prayer closet, sometimes quietly and sometimes boldly. Just me, with the aid of the Holy Spirt, communicating to my Lord, sending up thoughts and burdens I can’t even fully understand, yearnings I don’t know how to express in my own language. Over the decades, as I have exercised this gift, my inner man, my human spirit, has been quickened, strengthened, enlarged and empowered in its influence.

My inner man, my spirit, is where Christ dwells through His Holy Spirit. The stronger my own human spirit becomes, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the more I am able to seek God, to know God, to worship God and to wait upon God. All I can offer is my own testimony about the working of this wonderful gift in my life. Praying in tongues, praying in the spirit, has utterly changed my life. What I have provided here is but a very limited and brief synopsis.

If you do not have this gift, ask Him for it. Then exercise it. You will not be sorry.

So, in conclusion, we as a nation, are moving deeper into a season of chaos and confusion. We need now, more than ever, to connect with God, to grow more intimate with God, to know Him, to love Him, to depend upon Him, to let Him be the God He wishes to be for us, the One who carries our burdens, provides for our needs, guides us through dark passageways, and leads us into the light. Seek, worship, wait, and pray in the spirit. The trust will come.

Thoughts About the Times (Written in 2010)

tfp.2016.03.10.abandoned-church-edward-petersonI was searching for some files in my computer this afternoon and stumbled across this piece I penned on 4/23/2010 – nearly six years ago. It still rings very true. With only minor modifications, I submit it for your consideration below.

………..

God is slow to anger. But the murder of over 40 million (now 54 million) unborn children in their mother’s wombs since our Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, has finally worn thin with our Creator.

 The American Church has failed miserably. We have allowed the secular culture to enculturate us. We are barely distinguishable from the world. I believe the recent, rapid unleashing of the power of the state is the beginning of God’s hand of judgment upon our nation. I believe things will get worse before they get better.

Yet true Christians will never stop living their faith. I still believe very strongly in American DNA, and the more I read and research the more I see that that DNA is rooted in the Christian faith, and until that faith is reawakened in America, no Tea Party, no state’s declaration of sovereignty, can save us.

I recently heard a woman say, “I want my country back.”

Apparently God is not ready to give it back to us. A loving God is disciplining us. He knows we have more to learn and more to changing to do.

For generations, Americans were a “good” people. Alexis deToqueville is said to have written “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Within our lifetime, America ceased being good. Thus the troubles we see on our horizon.

Our fight is not with Congress or the President. Our fight is with our selfish selves, and with God’s archenemy, the devil, who wars against us.

God will achieve several things through the difficulties that await us.

  • First and foremost, He will judge His church and set it right again.
  • He will judge all of us Americans, rich and poor, for our worship of self and for our quest for things.
  • He will judge our political leaders.
  • He will judge the greedy business magnates, and the politicians who are in bed with them. These are the pillaging barbarians of our day.
  • He will judge the abortionists and those who promote their bloody craft.
  • He will judge those who flaunt their homosexuality along with their vocal supporters.
  • He will judge the hedonists who prey upon our children.
  • He will judge Hollywood for their peddling of hedonism and violence.
  • He will judge the media who prefer the lie to the truth.
  • He will judge the educators who teach falsehoods and enslave young minds.
  • He will judge those who make their living off of bitterness and envy.
  • He will judge those who cultivate their own bitterness and envy and use it as a political tool.

The Scriptures teach us that people are judged by God following their death, and that they are dispatched to either heaven or hell. Nations, however, are not eternal in nature. They must be judged in time. Just as God has done with other nations throughout history, He will squeeze us until our hearts return to Him or until our rebellion brings us individually to His final judgment. Jesus taught us that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it cannot bring forth fruit. I do not know how long this purging will take. I cannot say how long the seed will remain until its shoots begin to break through the soil afresh.  Israel was held captive in Babylon for 70 years. Perhaps we will be long gone before God’s work with America is done. Perhaps this truly is the time of history when God begins to wrap things up and bring His final judgment to bear upon all of mankind.

 We must be faithful to God. And we must depend utterly upon Him for the power to remain faithful.

 One thing we can count upon. He IS faithful.

The “Unprotected”

tfp.2016.02.26.trump4Please take a few minutes and read Peggy Noonan’s insightful article linked below. In it, she divides America into two groups. She calls them the “Protected” and the “Unprotected.”

The “Protected” group includes those in positions of political power, the media elite, the wealthy, and those whose wealth and power insulate them from the consequences of the policies and ideas they foist upon the rest of us.

The “Unprotected” group includes basically everyone else, people like you and me who are far more impacted by economic ups and downs, and feel essentially at the mercy of those in positions of power and influence on a large scale.

In today’s political climate, she says, we are witnessing the rise of the “Unprotected.”

In my view, this is both good news, and bad.

The good news is, we Americans appear to be awakening. The bad news is, I don’t think the everyday American is really equipped to make wise choices as to what to do with this new-found power of the “Unprotected,” rising.

Ahead of us, I see three paths:

1.       The Socialist Path. Will we continue to follow the same course we are already on, but with an even greater intensity? When we look at other nations and people down through history, we see other “Unprotected” groups who chose to empower the few to take care of the many. These decisions have never ended well. In America, it is the foolish utopian dream set into motion by the likes of Woodrow Wilson, strengthened by FDR, sent into high gear by LBJ, nearly metastasized by Barack Obama, and now, with the candidacy of Bernie Sanders and his socialist shadow, Hillary Clinton. This foolish utopian dream (read nightmare) could very easily be coming into full play. Be careful what you wish for.

2.       The Populist Path. This is the path chosen by those who look for a savior to deliver them. “The Donald” is the face of this movement. In Trump, the “Unprotected” see a hero, one who can fix what ills the nation. For me, the unexplainable, almost impenetrable popularity of this candidate, exposes the intellectual weakness of many in the American conservative ranks. Even many evangelicals are captivated by this bully of a man who has given us little of substance amidst a great deal of bluster. The danger here is that we do not really know who or what we are getting with this candidate. His bold proclamations speak the words (though sometimes crassly) that we wish to hear. Although he himself is extremely wealthy and privileged, he has become, for many, the “voice” of deliverance that we have been yearning for. He is to America, what King Saul was to ancient Israel – a man “handsome and head and shoulders” (figuratively speaking) above the crowd. Can you not see the connection between the Socialist and the Populist Path? In both cases, the “Unprotected” wish someone other than themselves to fix what is wrong. Be careful what you wish for.

3.       The Historic, Constitutionalist Path. This now leads me to the only path that will take us out of this nightmarish American train wreck we are now experiencing. “We the People,” we the “Unprotected,” must rise and fix this country ourselves. We must wrestle away power from the “Protected” and restore that power to its rightful owner. We don’t need a nanny state. We don’t need a savior (many of us already have the true Savior, Jesus). We need a restoration of the understanding of the true, historic, American, Constitutional principles of liberty. Sanders, Clinton and yes, even Trump, have not a clue about them. I wonder how many of Trump’s avid fans can actually articulate the principles of Historic American Liberty? Ted Cruz, though not that photogenic or affable, is the one, in my view, with the strongest credentials. He not only knows the Constitution, he has fought uncompromisingly for it in many halls of government. Behind him, Rubio, Kasich, and Carson are all men I could likewise cast a November vote for if I had to. I think, to a lesser degree, they are far closer to my way of thinking than the three clownish aforementioned office-seekers in Nos. 1 and 2 above. The Historic, Constitutionalist Path is what I wish for.

So, read Noonan’s piece, contemplate mine, and choose your own path prayerfully and wisely. Do you want a nanny state, a savior to fix everything for you, or historic, Constitutional, American self-government from the bottom up?

http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-and-the-rise-of-the-unprotected-1456448550

 

The Culture of Death

tfp.2015.07.17.culture.of.death

1973. Abortion is legalized. America invites the “culture of death” into the mainstream. From that moment forward, the “culture of death” carried on its nasty business right in our midst, quietly, silently, with only minimal disruption, the count now at 57 million lives snuffed out in their mother’s wombs. Deaths most often for convenience sake.

1995. Timothy McVeigh blows up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City,Oklahoma, killing 168 people.

1999. Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold take the lives of thirteen high school students in Columbine, Colorado.

2001. Four planes are hijacked and used as weapons. Over 3,000 Americans lose their lives in a morning of terror. The “culture of death” visits America from afar. In the years that follow, many smaller acts of terror ensue as the “culture of death” continues to visit America (Fort Hood, Boston, Oklahoma, etc.)

2002. John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo snuffed out the lives of 17 innocent victims in a multi-state killing spree that spanned eight months and ended at a rest stop on Interstate 70 in Maryland.

The list of other killing sprees in America is too long to list here, But a few of the more notable ones include the Amish schoolhouse murders in Lancaster, PA, the killings at VA Tech where 32 students died, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and many others. Let’s jump ahead to the present …

2015. A lone gunman slaughters nine people in a prayer meeting in Charleston, SC.

2015. A criminal illegal alien who had been deported five times, returns again and murders a young woman in San Francisco. We have also learned that thousands of criminal illegals have been released back into our communities over the last several years, and that according to Mark Thiessen of the Washington Post, there have been 121 murders by illegal aliens released by the current administration since 2010. The “culture of death” unleashed on our home soil.

2015. A Muslim extremist murders four Marines and a sailor at a recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The “culture of death” visits America once more.

2015. Over forty-two years after the US Supreme court ruled that it was legal to murder a baby in the womb, a video surfaced exposing the sale of body parts of the unborn, by Planned Parenthood. Are Americans beginning to finally see the unseemly fruit of the “culture of death?”

Yes, America has embraced the “culture of death.” We invited it in, in a legalized, wholesale way, in 1973. Is it any wonder now that tragic, violent, terrorist-bred deaths, are becoming more commonplace?

I think Dr. Nucatola’s detached rendering of what goes on in wombs in Planned Parenthood clinics, is actually the “tell” in this game we’ve been playing with death here in America. The silent, swept-under-the-carpet, nothing-to-see-here-let’s-move-along-people mindset of the pro-choice crowd, just showed its ugly head. Sickening isn’t it, what really goes on in these dark, secret places?

Yes, America is in a spiritual battle. Death is death, whether in the womb, or in the terrorist’s weapons of war. We wanted it. We wanted death quietly, and for convenience, and we called it choice. Now we have few choices left but to hope death by terrorist doesn’t come knocking in our community, or on the doors of our family members or friends, or anywhere really, we just want this bloody mess to go away. But it’s here, on our our doorstep. We’re staring it in the face in broad daylight. Death-by-terrorist is lurking in the shadows, stealing our peace and our sense of security here at home. And there’s little we can do but pray. God has a way of bringing nations to this kind of place. And frankly, I don’t think that on the whole, we’re even close to that place where we as a nation cry out to God. It will most likely come to that at some point. But by then, how much will the “culture of death” have stolen from us?

”It could happen any place at any time,” we are told.

Death is stalking us, not on a battlefield, not in some far off distant place. But here, in our schools, our churches, our strip malls, our workplaces, at our sporting events, just about any place where people gather.

Some will scoff at this connection between violence in the womb and acts of terror. Some will say that America has long had a “culture of death.” Look what we did to the Native Americans. And then there’s slavery and the Civil War and …

No arguments here. America has had a hand in some horrifically bad things on our own soil over the last nearly two-and-a-half centuries.

It is my position however, that when we legally opened up the womb to eliminate (in most cases) the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy, and legalized the murder of the most innocent and helpless among us, we invited terror upon ourselves.

The rollout of this visible, broad daylight terror has been slow, and, with the exception of the most heinous (9/11), we’ve quickly learned to tune out the stories a few days after they pass from the headlines.

But now it seems, with jihadists living among us, and many being freshly radicalized all the time, even through their home Internet connections, that the “culture of death” is stalking us more and more.

If we wish, we can separate the foreign, or even native-born Muslim jihadists, and the illegal immigant, murdering criminals, from the American, home-grown Adam Lanzas, Timothy McVeighs and Dylann Roofs. But in the end, they are all delivering the same darkness, the same fear, the same curse – DEATH!

America, have we finally obtained what we’ve sought? Have we worshiped our own selves to such a degree that the lives of our unborn children no longer matter? I believe we have. I believe we are seeing God’s judgment upon our land, for the reckless, devil-may-care approach we have taken with millions of unborn Americans. Crimes this wicked – the murdering of unborn, innocent children – cannot go unpunished by a righteous God. Mock me if you wish, belittle my arguments, reject my conclusions. God will still have the final say in this matter. I mean read your Bibles for crying out loud!

Now Jesus said, “I came that they may have LIFE and have it abundantly.” He can forgive the most heinous of sins, even abortion. He’s good like that. But we must repent and ask, and “go and sin no more.”

Consider my thoughts please. America will not be fixed by politics or new laws. It will not be fixed by stripping our guns from us, or taking down the Confederate flag, or anything else that “offends.” The truth is, God Himself is offended by America. And she can only be fixed by facing up to the truth of what she’s done, by repenting for it, and by seeking the face of God. He truly is our only hope.

Please post your comments on my Facebook post of this blog, not here. Comments on this blog are not monitored.

 

Yes, We Failed

tfp.2015.07.03.new.wine.magazine

In my previous post I made the bold declaration that we evangelicals have failed. For that statement I was challenged by an old and dear, and highly respected friend. So here, today, I intend to defend that statement. “Yes, We Failed.” Please indulge me.

In that post I mentioned briefly a Christian group that I was involved with for a twelve-year stretch (1973-1985). It was known under several names, among them The Discipleship Movement, The Shepherding Movement, and The Covenant Church Movement.

There were many positive elements of this movement within the Charismatic/Evangelical community in America during that time period. Unfortunately there were also many bad things that happened. Sadly, pastoral authority was often abused and misused, and many people suffered wounds, some of them very deep. Marriages were destroyed. The faith of some was shipwrecked.

Fortunately for me, and for our little band in Northern Virginia, we escaped, for the most part, the really, really bad stuff. For that I am very grateful.

Well, as the saying goes, “You don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” I haven’t.

There is much more to this story. You can Google “Shepherding Movement” and you’ll find all kinds of stuff, most of it negative. And I’ll be telling much more about my personal involvement with this movement in a several episode arc in my podcast project, NightWatch. The episodes are already in the can as I continue to build my collection for kickoff.

Anyway, the image above is a cover from the September, 1977 issue of the magazine published monthly by the leaders of this movement. The magazine was called New Wine. You can see the title of the month—Lawlessness. It’s a pretty heady title. But these were the kinds of themes that our leaders taught us about.

Let’s leap from 1977 to 2015. Thirty-eight years. In one sense, the theme of the New Wine issue shown on this page, pretty much sums up the state of our nation today.

OK, that’s some background. In my previous post I rattled off a litany of Biblical topics that are, for the most part, no longer being taught in America’s evangelical churches. If you don’t remember them or you didn’t read my previous post, go back and take a look. These Biblical topics are, in my view, musts for every serious Christian.

Two-hundred and twenty eight years ago, in the summer of 1787, our founders crafted our U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia. As the convention was wrapping up, Benjamin Franklin stepped out onto the cobblestone street. He was approached by a woman who asked him a question.

“Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?” came the query.

“A republic Madam, if you can keep it,” came the reply.

We have not. However, we did keep it for a good number of decades. Our founders, the crafters of this document, this Constitution, made it very, very clear that this new republic could only work if the people for whom it was created remained a moral and religious people. Here are some direct quotes from them regarding this necessity:

  • John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
  • John Adams: “It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted. For example,—if exorbitant ambition and venality are predominant, ought they not to warn their hearers against those vices? If public spirit is much wanted, should they not inculcate this great virtue? If the rights and duties of Christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain them, show their nature, ends, limitations, and restrictions, …”
  • James Madison: “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical (unrealistic, fanciful) idea.”
  • Thomas Jefferson: “When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.”
  • George Washington: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim tribute to patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness–these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”
  • Benjamin Franklin: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
  • Patrick Henry: “… Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed . . . so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger.”

Are we not today seeing the consequences of neglecting this high call and responsibility?

Before some of you say what I have so often heard when I try and tell this story in some form, please allow me to just say it for you and let’s get this never-ending mantra part of this exercise out of the way. Here goes:

Yes, Benjamin Franklin was likely a Deist. John Adams was a Unitarian. Thomas Jefferson cut out parts of the New Testament he didn’t like and he, too, was probably a Deist. George Washington was probably a Deist too …

Blah, blah blah. I am so sick of hearing people tell me this. Like I don’t know. So I decided to beat them to the punch and just say it myself. Thanks. I feel better now.

And you know what? I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. Whether the founders named above were actual Christians or not, their ideas were shaped greatly by the Bible. And that is what counts as far as I’m concerned because it is the ideas, the truths, the principles that matter, not whether the people were actually Christians. Biblical ideas. Put into play. In all arenas of culture. This is what made America great. Not whether George Washington was actually a born again Christian, or not. Why is this so hard for some people to understand? So, for those of you who might have been inclined to offer those comments in the comment section on Facebook, I’ve taken care of it for you.

tfp.2015.07.03.BKH-5708If you would like to learn what matters to me on this topic, and get a better handle on what I am trying to communicate about the Christian character of early America, may I suggest a book? Get The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States. It was written by Benjamin Franklin Morris and published in 1864. In it, Morris provides a detailed account of the many, many civil institutions and leaders in our land who were shaped and molded and guided by Christian ideas and beliefs.

For generations, the Church in America pretty much kept up her part of the bargain. Not only was the Church invited to the table in governmental affairs, the Church often sat at the head of that table. For generations, the Church did her job in America and kept Americans in a relatively moral frame of mind. Not that all was wonderful. Some of us held slaves. We fought a civil war. We broke treaties with native Americans. So we certainly were not perfect.

But neither were we as lawless and morally bankrupt as we are today.

So, if as I have postulated in my title above that we have failed, how did we fail? To answer that question, we must go back to the mission statement:

“Go therefore andmake disciples ofall nations,baptizing theminthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching themto observe all thatI have commanded you. And behold,I am with you always, tothe end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

We did just that for decades in America. Again, not perfectly, not without problems, not without failures. But even as I was growing up in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, America could be considered, relatively speaking, a nation of moral and religious people. Not all were born again Christians. Not all were saved. Not all were regular churchgoers. Nor were all moral and religious. But for the most part, Americans were generally people of decent character.

Marriages and families held together. People generally agreed on what was right and what was wrong and tried their best to follow the ten commandments even though they knew they were sinners. Churches were not necessarily vibrant and exciting, but they still held sway and influence in communities and in people’s lives. People in government held outwardly to the standards and mores of the Christian way of life and didn’t shrink back from quoting from the Bible from time to time.

Even if things were relatively dead on the inside (and we’re still talking about my growing up years, here), the outward practices still reflected Christian ideals. Call it a residue from generations past. It was still a part of our lives, and even in her fading decades, the Church in America still exercised a fair degree of influence.

Now, jump ahead to the present. Godless, socialist ideologues control just about every institution in America, wielding their vain, secular, anti-God philosophies and trampling upon Christianity and Christian ideas.

  • Who controls Washington? Godless, socialist ideologues.
  • Who controls Washington’s bureaucracies? Godless, socialist ideologues.
  • Who controls public education? Godless, socialist ideologues.
  • Who controls institutions of higher learning? Godless, socialist ideologues.
  • Who controls the news media? Godless, socialist ideologues.
  • Who exercises the greatest influence on pop culture? Godless, socialist ideologues.
  • Who controls big business? Vain, morally bereft, soulless manipulators.

Yeah … I’m generalizing. There are, of course, exceptions.

Let’s recap:

  • “A republic if you can keep it.”
  • “Only for a moral, religious and virtuous people.”
  • “Make disciples of nations.”

 

  • Our republic is pretty much in shambles.
  • Virtue, morality, and true religion have, in a large way, fled the scene.
  • The godless socialists now hold the seats of power and continue to disciple our nation.

Yes Church, we have failed. The evidence is right before our eyes. Obama isn’t the problem. The Democrats aren’t the problem. The wayward Republicans aren’t the problem.

We, Church, are the problem.

We had it. We had America. We counseled presidents and congressmen. We held many positions across the land in the judiciary. We sat at just about every table where important decisions were made. We ran a good number of the universities. We shaped the minds of Americans. Bibles could be found in almost every American home. We discipled the nation. We led. We were venerated.

And we lost it. America has slipped into depravity, from bottom to top. The Church no longer casts a vision or leads the way. We are now the tail on someone else’s dog, reduced to reacting to the decisions and actions of others. If that isn’t failure, I don’t know what is.

Allow me to clarify with one last point. Again, yes, I am speaking in generalities. Not all in our time, or over the last fifty or seventy-five years (however you’re counting) have failed. Many have been faithful to the call to make disciples and teach and preach the whole counsel of God. Just not enough of us to keep our country from marching blindly towards hell.

Why am I being so direct, so negative, so bold with my observations? Because if America is ever to return as the land of liberty, it can only begin with the Church taking stock of herself, and getting herself back into the mission laid out by our Lord – making disciples of nations. And if America does not return as the land of liberty, then what will become of our children and grandchildren? What will we have left them? A wasteland.

I have debated internally whether or not the tone of this article is too harsh, and whether perhaps I should soften it. I decided no. Consider this the extreme swing of the pendulum, meant to pull some toward the center.

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