48 Years–This Old Guitar No. 10

1971—True Love

It has been 282 days since I last posted a song to This Old Guitar. Way way way too long. For those following who have not forgotten, I have been slowly (in this case very slowly) posting songs that I have written, or participated in writing, throughout the years. My father and I began writing this tune, True Love, in 1971. We finally finished fifteen years later, in 1986, two years before he passed away (miss you Dad). Another seventeen years passed and I found myself at my cousin’s house in Gainesville, Florida. It was there, in his in-home studio, that this recording was quickly slapped together. Don’t expect anything too serious. My dad, after all, didn’t much care for exceptionally probing conversation. One my favorite lines of his was, “Aww … we’re not gonna talk about any “deep crap” are we?” So expect for a smile or two to cross your face as you listen to this sorrowful ballad of love lost.

Boundaries

tfp.2014.04.06.BoundariesMy pastor, Jeff Ling, is preaching through the book of Luke. On Sunday, April 6th, Jeff began to open up and explore Luke chapter six. He was only able to get through the first two verses. But when early on in his message, Jeff proffered the word “boundaries,” my ears perked up and my cognitive wheels began to spin. I was also simultaneously reminded of a conversation I had last week with my boss. I will get to that conversation in a moment, but first, let’s look at Luke six, verses one and two, from the English Standard Version (ESV):

“On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

Jeff reminded us that historically, the Sabbath day has been reserved for rest. The Sabbath, to the Jews, is the seventh day of the week, or Saturday. We Christians take our rest day on Sunday, the first day of the week, or resurrection day. We set it aside not only for rest, but also to acknowledge God’s mercies displayed in Christ, and to worship and glorify Him.

The word “rest” in Hebrew, as Jeff explained, is shabath שאבאט which literally means “cease.”

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Genesis 2:2 ESV

Literally, God ceased His creation work after six days. Another way of looking at this passage is to say that God set a self-imposed “boundary” for Himself. “I will work for only six days. I will cease working on the seventh day.”

Boundaries can be found everywhere in our world. A door for example represents a simple and universally-understood boundary, while a door with a lock and a key represents a more serious boundary. A fence represents a boundary. And a fence with a gate represents a boundary that is meant to be crossed under certain conditions.

After God created mankind, he laid out certain boundaries for the first man and woman:

"…’You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 2: 16b-17 ESV

And when that boundary was breached, God set up another boundary.

“ … therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24b-24 ESV

Jeff read to us a few verses from Job, chapter 38, which tell us a great deal about God’s boundary-making ways:

“’Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” Job 38:8-11 ESV

We also learn from the book of Acts that God created the boundaries around the nations:

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place …” Acts 17: 26 ESV

I have provided but four examples of likely thousands of places in Scripture where boundaries can be found. For example, God’s Ten Commandments are certainly boundaries – not physical boundaries, but moral boundaries.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ time, with their pharisaical laws, created unnecessary boundaries – actually man-made add-ons to God’s laws. Theirs were burdensome and excessive boundaries, nearly crushing the Jews of their day, and that is why Jesus challenged them often.

But, I am drifting over into Jeff’s sermon now, and he is so much better at this than I.

So … on to my short story about the conversation I had with my boss last week. And for time’s sake, I won’t set the stage, I will just say that in the course of a conversation with another person in my office, I blurted out these words:

“It isn’t the government’s job to take care of the poor.”

Well, he heard this statement of mine and interjected from his office.

“Mark!? You don’t believe it’s the government’s job to take care of the poor?”

“No sir, I do not.”

After a few minutes of lively discussion, we mutually agreed to disagree.

Boundaries? Yes. A boundary has been crossed. It was actually crossed a while ago. Today, our civil government is now taking care of, not only the perpetually, multi-generational poor, but just about anyone who asks.

In February of 2012, I published a series of three short articles titled: The Government We Deserve. Here they are. Check them out and as you read, think about the theme of boundaries breached:

I’m Almost Back

tfp.2014.03.23.please stand by

Nearly twenty-five years ago, on the Friday evening of Memorial Day weekend, 1989, I went down to the ball field behind Marsteller School to assist my wife and daughters at a softball practice for our church’s ladies’ softball team. My job was to stand out in left field and shag fly balls. After successfully fielding a number of hits, a hard hit fly ball soared towards me and I knew it would be over my head. And so I backpedaled, trying desperately to make the catch.

But something went wrong. My feet slipped out from under me and I tumbled backwards, the back of my head colliding with the turf. The next thing I recall is standing at home plate with a small crowd gathered around me.

“We should get him to the hospital,” someone said.

Next, only a faint memory remains, one of my head being connected to a colorful menagerie of wires.

Then I was home, in a fog, my mind racing at 100 miles an hour. I talked and talked and talked, endlessly reciting my name and my social security number. I remember taking a shower at 2:30 in the morning, and finally heading off to bed about 3:30.

The next morning, Saturday, five old friends arrived, seating themselves around our small living room. They had come to help me reconnect.

You see, I had lost my short-term memory. I could not recall recent events. I was struggling to remember if my dad was still alive. He wasn’t. He had passed away that previous fall, but inside my brain, none of it was making sense.

The doctors told my wife, Sally, that my brain had been injured by the fall. “It will heal,” they said, “and in time, he will be back to normal. But for a little while, he will struggle to make sense of it all.”

A week passed and Sally thought it safe to take me out in public. She was mistaken.

Standing in the produce section of the Giant Food store at Manassas Junction Shopping Center on Liberia Avenue, I turned to a total stranger and quipped,

“I had an accident and my brains got all scrambled up. But I’m almost back.”

Well, that’s sort of how I feel tonight, sitting once again at my computer, typing out this blog post for The Famished Patriot, my first since August of 2013. Yes, it has been nearly eight months since I, The Famished Patriot, have published a single thought on these pages.

There is, of course, an explanation for my absence. I will provide it in due course. I am still sorting things out, you see. But for now, for my faithful readers who have surely noticed my absence, you will have to be satisfied with these words …

“I’m almost back.”

Home

tfp.2013.08.04.family-tree-printableFor a number of years I have been wanting to research my family history. In fact, ever since I learned at the age of 10 that my father was born in a log cabin in Brodhead Kentucky in 1926, I have nurtured an interest in learning more about my family history. It was around that same time that our family took a trip to Brodhead to see if we could find the actual cabin where my dad had come into the world some thirty-five years earlier. We found it. It was empty and uninhabitable but still standing. Somewhere in our family archives, buried deep in the bowels of someone’s basement or garage or attic, there is an 8mm, grainy, choppy film of that cabin. I have no idea where that film is.

I am the first-born son of a first-born son. Don’t ask me to explain why, but there is, in family terms, a certain burden that comes with such things. Real or imagined, I carry it.

A few days ago I decided to jump into some serious research on my family tree. So far I have found …

  • My 4th Great Grandfather on my Grandpa Weaver’s side, John Hamm, fought in the Revolutionary War.
  • My 4th Great Grandfather on my Grandma Weaver’s side, David Owen, fought in the Revolutionary War.
  • My 5th Great Grandfather on my Grandma Weaver’s side, Nicholas Coble, fought in the Revolutionary War.
  • My 7th Great Grandmother on my Grandma Weaver’s side, Joanna Jennings, was born in 1650 in Virginia.

I have only begun my research. In my early quest though I have also found some other pretty remarkable stories, but am still working on firming up an absolute, lock-tight connection to the people involved. If any of these connections pan out, I will have some remarkable (at least to me) news to report. If not, I have already found some pretty amazing stuff.

Born and raised in Ohio, my immediate family roots take me back to Kentucky. Three of my four grandparents were born there. Seven of my eight great-grandparents were born there.

All but one line of those seven great-grandparents came up into Kentucky from North Carolina. And prior to their moves to North Carolina, those same family lines sprouted in Virginia.

Though born a Buckeye in 1951, I came to live in the Old Dominion in 1971. Long ago I claimed myself as a Virginian and now, with my family history, I have a serious argument to substantiate that claim.

With its rich history, and its prominent role in the founding of our nation, I proudly claim Virginia as my home and now, as my heritage.

Most of my ancestors were pioneers, moving west to make new lives for themselves in sparsely populated parts of the country. They were what we would call “country folk,” living off the land, carving out meager existences by the sweat of their brow and the work of their hands.

As you might suspect from the log cabin story, my dad’s family were poor folks. Dad was the first of eight. The Weavers came to live in Lockland, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati, in the late 1920’s. Their raggedy old house was the tiniest house I had ever seen. Their bathroom had no tub or shower, just a toilet and a sink. And Dad and his seven siblings bathed, one at a time, in a washtub in the living room and shared the same bathwater. They were poor but happy, hammering out their lives in a sooty, dirty, factory town where my grandfather worked for nearly forty years in a paper mill.

Home. I nurture a deep connection to my family history, to their pioneer spirits, and to the land they cultivated. My roots run deep in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Even my birthplace and home for twenty years—Ohio—holds to some measure, my heart.

Knowing what I know today, with this fresh—though long suspected—information, I can understand more clearly why I feel a particular burden to defend my home, my country. So far, my family tree can already be traced back at least 363 years on American soil. Not too many today can make that claim. At least three of my ancestors fought in the War for Independence to break free from the tyrant, King George of England. My own family dug their spades and plows into the rich soil of the fertile, colonial land of Virginia. Some, through their military service, played a role in birthing our political liberty.

Can I do less in defending the political liberty they sacrificed to bring about?

Tonight I am at home, in Virginia, doing my best to hold the ground of liberty won by my forbears for those who follow after me.

Where Are You?

tfp.2013.07.20.firewx1As of today, I have 856 Facebook friends. Of that number, probably 150 or so are folks I have never met in person but became friends with on Facebook through a mutually shared interest, because they are a friend of a friend, or a high school classmate which time and geography has long kept us apart, or because they are a "several-steps-removed" family relation.

Add to that number at least 150 or so people I know who are not on Facebook (I’m guessing).

Now certainly all of my "friends" are not "friends" in the truest sense of the word. Many are simply acquaintances, friends of friends I met once or twice, business connections, or folks I have met along the path of life and maybe shared only a conversation or two.

Beginning in early 2007, I began to meet and cultivate a whole new collection of friends. These new friends came out of my renewed interest in political activism. That year, "Help Save Manassas" was launched in an effort to address the overwhelming flood of illegal aliens into our community. And I am talking about the menace of large groups of men hanging out all day in 7-11  parking lots, urinating in public, and showing little respect to the long-standing members of our community. I am talking about pregnant women with children in tow, pushing strollers along the gravel shoulders of the heavily trafficked Sudley Road with little regard for their own safety, the safety of their children, or the safety of the motorists. I am talking about folks darting across that same road, dodging cars and completely ignoring the crosswalks at signaled intersections. I am talking about men, young and old, on bicycles, weaving their way through traffic on this same Sudley Road—the busiest avenue of commerce in our greater Manassas community. I am talking about people who clogged our hospital’s emergency room and then walked out without paying their bill. I am talking women who brought their babies into the world in our hospital’s delivery rooms, left without paying, and rode off with their newborns in late model SUVs.

These people, or their parents, broke the law stealing across our Southern border. And our Manassas community had thousands of them. So a bunch of us began meeting in the spring of 2007 and planning how to influence our local governments to address the problem. I have collected a bunch of new friends from that season of my life.

In the winter of 2008-09, the bailouts of Wall Street, Fannie Mae, General Motors and Chrysler, the collapse of the housing market, and the election of Barack Obama and a full, Democrat Party led Congress, led to the emergence of the Tea Party movement. We feared a “government” run amok. Not that the “government” wasn’t already amok mind you. Our nation’s troubles had been slowly parboiling for decades, like the proverbial frog in a pot. It was just that with this new administration, and a Congress to aid it, we could see the heat under that lightly boiling pot, rising sharply.

It did. And I joined up.

Since then, I have been actively engaged in Tea Party work. My work has included some political activism, but I have come at things primarily from a teaching standpoint, offering classes on our nation’s founding, the principles of our Constitution and their roots in the Judeo-Christian Worldview. Many new friends of like mind have emerged from my engagement in this arena.

So, I have a lot of “friends.”

But I am sad. I am lonely. I have a broken heart.

Most of my new friends share my deep concern for the decline and the intentional, systematic unraveling of our great American republic. Most of my old friends … well I just don’t know. I have heard virtually no voluntarily-offered concern from most of them about the rapid decline of our nation, about the increased moral degradation amongst our citizenry, about the fast-paced stripping of our liberties.

Few of my old friends appear to be engaged in any efforts at all to stem the tide of tyranny sweeping our land. They just appear to be going about their lives as usual, as if nothing was going on.

Friends, America is aflame.

Do you not know?

Do you not care?

Do you see my Tea Party work, my engagements in the political arena, my passion for teaching America’s Christian history as Weaver’s nice little niche, something that I have found for myself to do, but something that has no real bearing on your life?

I work publicly. I weep silently.

Why is your voice not being heard?

Your country will soon be gone.

The Beautiful

tfp.2013.07.07.cartoon-lateI was involved in some conversations this week that got me to thinking. A few discussions occurred on Facebook. One discussion occurred face to face. All of the conversations boiled down to one simple question—a question that contains some very consequential implications. It is a question that I do not believe anyone can answer with absolute certainty. Nevertheless, I urge you, Dear Reader, not to allow that fact to quench your thirst to explore with me the ramifications that the question I am about to pose brings to the table.

OK. Enough of the buildup. Let’s get to the question. Here it is …

“IS GOD DONE WITH AMERICA?”

Please do not deny that you have not pondered this question in the privacy of your own thoughts. Every Christian in America who has any kind of serious relationship with God, and who considers the Holy Scriptures as His inerrant, unmitigated, timeless Word, must certainly have wrestled with this question internally in recent times.

Some readers may be tempted to take the Hillary-Clinton-Responds-to-Questions-About-Benghazi approach, reacting in frustration. “What difference … does it make?”

Well it does make a great deal of difference and here is why … First, a bit of background …

Christians who are serious students of American history, who look honestly at the facts, who read the writings of America’s founders, who consider the influence of the Church and of Christianity in general upon the colonial American culture, and who weigh the evidence, overwhelmingly conclude that God had a Providential hand in establishing this country we have come to call America. I will not again lay out, point by point, my arguments for this statement. I wrote about it nearly two years ago in a blog post titled Forum: Was America A Christian Nation? If you wish, pause here, click the link, and go explore my reasoning. But please, come back to this page and finish where you left off because what follows is equally important.

If, as I have come to believe, God did Providentially invest Himself in bringing this nation into existence, do we not, as His followers, have a responsibility to, at minimum, ask ourselves what His purpose might have been? Many of us Christian Americans have sadly never even pondered this question at all. I would hope, since you are reading this post and have made it this far down the page, that you are not among those who have never had this question cross their mind.

So then, if God did have a purpose in assisting in the birth of our American republic, can we with confidence now say that His purpose is absolutely fulfilled? There are some with whom I have recently conversed, that appear to believe that this is or might be the case. To a few of these I posed a question: “Has God specifically told you that He is done with America, that her purpose in history is fulfilled?”

One responder pointed me to God’s Word to Samuel regarding His rejection of Saul.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”          I Samuel 16:1

Another suggested that perhaps, even as God finished His work with Jerusalem in 70 AD, He might be likewise finished with America.

I do not in any way, mock or scorn these examples. They are legitimate renderings of God’s past dealings with kings and nations, and could, realistically, represent our current situation.

But for me, at this stage, I am not ready to presume that these examples, or others like them, truly and unquestionably represent God’s relationship with a country that He clearly had a significant role in establishing.

I submit to you that unless and until God specifically makes it clear to you that He is done with America, you still have, personally, a responsibility to “defend” your liberty, and, as Benjamin Franklin once admonished, to “keep” your republic in good working order.

But alas, across the vast plain of American Christianity, the “keeping” of our once strong Christian republic has, overall, been an extremely low priority on our list. Such is the reason we now see the dark clouds of tyranny beginning to break across our once bright horizon.

Friends, God gave us a nation – a nation founded on the principles of liberty, self-government, the rights of the individual, the separation of powers to protect the people from the terror of big government, and so forth. I could go on with a lengthy list of our Biblically-inspired American attributes, but I won’t because I have already covered so much of this, in so many other ways, and in so many other places in past postings of my thoughts, on The Famished Patriot blog.

I believe that God gave us this nation because He wanted to demonstrate to the world how, by following His principles, the individual, set loose in a land of near limitless possibilities and bound only by his internal commitment to honor God and His ways, would lead to unmatched blessing. I believe that God also helped birth America to create a platform for His Church to grow strong and to seed the world with the gospel. Thirdly, God also assisted in the birthing of our nation in response to the multitude of Christian believers who came to this land in colonial times for the very purpose of creating a “City on a hill.” And perhaps a fourth reason might be in order. Just maybe God helped form this American nation simply because He is a good God. I can, with bold confidence, say that these good things are God’s purposes because clearly, Biblically, they are revealed in His Word as His will, and because, for a number of generations, we Americans actually lived them out.

Having proclaimed all of this marvelous stuff, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that we Americans, at times, missed the boat. Slavery comes to mind as does the mistreatment of our land’s indigenous peoples. Both certainly sit at the top of our failure list. In recent generations—my own to be specific—we have, I think, been a bit too busy sticking our noses into the affairs of other nations. This last acknowledgement is a relatively recent conclusion of mine and has come about for a number of reasons which I won’t go into here.

Regardless … and back to the point … the idea of our nation, as conceived, was a rather beautiful idea, I think. The ideals our Founders sought to elevate and the principles they endeavored to employ are unmatched in history – a marvel to behold and even celebrate if you ask me. And I have celebrated them and I do now mourn their fading from the American scene.

The America I seek to restore is the one where, first of all, God is loved, honored and obeyed. Secondly, I hope for a return to a time where government is limited, where the individual, under God, is free to be all that God made him or her to be. I do not seek a return to the America of my youth—my halcyon days—the post-WWII era—where a triumphant America sat as a world power, and where the military-industrial complex, as Dwight Eisenhower dubbed it, became a dominating force in American government. I explain things this way for some of my readers who I think have subconsciously categorized me, and many like me, as Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Republican Party worshippers. I am not.

So then, if God Providentially guided the birth of our republic and did so with a clear purpose, who are we to now give up on a work that God Himself began? Is this not presumptuous on our part? Should we not, instead, be working to right the ship? Is that not a part of our responsibility as Christians? Or are we called by God to sit by and allow the wicked and the evildoer to fully and completely assume control of our country?

Yes. It is late. But you are still welcome. Don’t just be a bystander. Jump in. God wants to use you in ways that you have yet to imagine. And personally, I believe that caring for our country—our home—is simply part of the stewardship with which God has entrusted us.

So, all week I have been turning the above, bold-lettered question over in my mind. “Is God done with America?” I am happy to report that the week ended for me on an upturned note which involved a conversation this past Saturday at a friend’s 60th birthday party with a woman I had never had the privilege to meet until the moment we began to converse. Bear in mind as you read, that what I am about to report is a second hand account. I had no personal experience with any of what follows. I am just reporting.

Back to the birthday party … As the celebrants poured into my friend’s home I found myself seated next to a woman I had never met before. Let’s call her Joyce (not her real name). Joyce, as it turns out, is one of those intercessory prayer types. She prays up to three to four hours a day. Consequently, as it is with most of these types of prayer warriors, Joyce frequently converses with God and He, at times, talks to her.

Joyce told me about something she experienced at a recent event held at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Dale City, VA called “Awaken the Dawn 2013.” At the event, while in the presence of the Lord, Joyce heard the Lord speak to her. He said, “I am not finished with The Beautiful.” Later in the evening, during the keynote speaker’s message, the speaker proclaimed from the podium, “God is not finished with The Beautiful.”

Hmmm. Two witnesses to the same word—Joyce and the speaker, independently. Again … second hand info here. Just reporting what was shared with me.

And the moment Joyce spoke those two words—“The Beautiful”—I knew what she meant. I am taking this internal knowing as a witness of the Holy Spirit within my own spirit, so I guess I do have a small piece of first-hand stuff going on here after all. Nevertheless, I wanted to confirm and so I asked. “The Beautiful?”

“America, The Beautiful,” she replied.

Joy lifted my heart.

Now I cannot say with certainty if this was indeed the word of the Lord. And I can only hope that He views our country as “The Beautiful.” But I will continue to pray to Him for her.

48 Years—This Old Guitar No. 9

1970—Sweet Sorrow

Well it has been a while since I posted any music to This Old Guitar. I have been going through some of the songs I have written through the years and posting them here. Sweet Sorrow was written in 1970, early in my walk with Christ. According to my count, Sweet Sorrow was the 34th song I wrote since I received my first guitar as a present for my 14th birthday in 1965. It has been one of my favorites down through the years, and one of my wife’s favorites, too. I hope you like it!

His Kingdom and My Country

tfp.2013.07.04.70-Reasons-To-Mourn-For-AmericaOn this Fourth of July, 2013, I am mourning the loss of my country. And I mourn for several reasons.

1. I mourn first and foremost that so many of my American countrymen have rejected the God whose merciful goodness secured liberty for so many generations in our land.

2. I mourn because those who have foolishly cast aside God, His Ten Commandments, and His gracious offer of salvation through Jesus Christ are, at this moment, hell bound – not something to be taken lightly.

3. I mourn because God is responding to our national rejection of Him by withdrawing His hand of blessing and protection on our land and, in essence, letting us have what we want. (Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Romans 1:24-32)

4. I mourn because the precious liberties that we have taken for granted for so long, are being systematically stripped away.

5. I mourn because our Constitution is being shredded by our Congress, our Chief Executive, and our Supreme Court – yes, all three branches.

6. I mourn because my children and grandchildren will, barring a supernatural intervention from God, suffer under the hand of a greater and greater tyranny.

7. And I mourn greatly because so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ seem completely oblivious to what is going on.

Toward point # 7 I add that many well meaning brothers and sisters in the Lord are quick to remind me that we are citizens of God’s kingdom. To that odd reminder, I respond …

“Yes. Yes, I am aware of this. So what is your point? Is it that my country doesn’t matter? Is it that God has no concern for things here on planet earth, or for that matter, no concern for or interest in things political? Is it that the liberties and countless blessings we Americans have enjoyed for so many generations are merely an illusion, something insignificant, unimportant, irrelevant maybe? What? What is your point?

“Or maybe you are suggesting that I am not as spiritual as you, that somehow I am not seeing the big picture, that I am too earthly minded.

“May I suggest to you that … if things continue on the course whereupon we find ourselves … that the day will likely come when most of your liberties – the liberties you now appear to take for granted – will be gone. In that day you will yet remain here, on terra firma, still citizens of God’s kingdom, and yet you will have to scratch out your flesh and blood existence on this planet earth with far less of everything that you enjoy today, including the most important blessing of all—your freedom. In this state, where the blessings you have long enjoyed as an American are now much diminished, you too might begin to long for the political liberties you now chide me for defending.

“Just some thoughts for you to consider.”

I do not yet know what it is like to live under tyranny, although I am beginning to get a slight taste of it. Because I tend to be outspoken in my defense of political liberty, and the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, I deal with the fear that the things I write and speak and communicate are being read and listened to by the “watchers” in Washington. Yes, I might be considered “an enemy of the state” – a “small potatoes” one compared to some, but an enemy nonetheless. It is no secret anymore. They are listening in. And I suppose if I were to give it a great deal of thought, I might cower back, retreat, quiet myself, second-guess.

But it is too late. My “fingerprints” are on too many things already.

Be careful. If you are reading this, you might eventually be connected to me.

No. I still do not know what it is like to live under tyranny, under the jack-boot of a control-driven, heavy-handed national government, drunk on its own power. For the moment, this kind of tyranny is in our minds – our fears perhaps – but not yet fully materialized. But as we are seeing, the machinery for such oppression is now largely in place. Does this not trouble you?

Many others in ours and our parent’s lifetimes have known this kind of tyranny. The Jews and other undesirables in Hitler’s death camps. Conscienced Russians in Soviet gulags. Enemies of Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, and countless other tin-pot dictators throughout recent history.

Yes. God’s Kingdom is alive and well. Our King sits confidently upon His throne in heaven, managing the nations, achieving His will every day in our time-space world. It is a marvel to behold – this nation-managing-kingdom-raising-up-and-bringing-down-thing that our God does so well. Watching it unfold strengthens my faith in Him and fuels me to strive with all my being to live with His kingdom in mind. I am grateful for it. And I look forward to heaven more every day, to be delivered from this earthly, decaying shell which is both my home and His temporary temple as He lives in me.

Today, my 61st Fourth of July, is without question, a most painful one for me. This Fourth I celebrate the privilege of being born-again into His unshakable kingdom, while at the same time, I mourn the loss of my earthly country. Celebrating God’s kingdom and mourning for one’s country are NOT mutually exclusive by the way, and those who try and pretend that they are only fool themselves.

As a kingdom citizen, I yet remain earth-bound, living in a fallen and darkened world. However, it is a world that has been made a bit better by a nation that came into being exactly 237 years ago today – in 1776. This new nation codified its essential ideas and ideals of liberty and self-government eleven years later – in 1787. What ensued brought about an amazing leap forward in technology, material wealth, political philosophy, and above all, a leap forward for the gospel to be carried into all the world.

No. America is not, nor was it ever, the kingdom of God. Nor will it ever be. Nor could it ever be. However, whether we acknowledge it or not, God’s kingdom has, despite our country’s blemishes, historically flourished in our land. Perhaps here more-so than in any other place or time in human history.

Today, the kingdom of God is sadly diminished in America. It is diminished because His ways, His laws, His divine principles for good and healthy living – including self-government on both the personal and community level – have been rejected on a large scale. And so I say to those who take their God-given American liberties lightly, those who look at folks like me with a slight touch of “I know better,” those who cannot, or will not mourn with me for America’s demise, I mourn for you.

Garden of Republic

2013.005.26.20120531-bbqday1Every year, on the final Monday in May, Americans pause to honor all of those who “died while in the military service.” There is no greater gift one can give to his or her country.

From the brave ones who fell from the first shots fired at Lexington-Concord, to the latest American casualty brought home in a “pine box” from Afghanistan, the willing surrender of ones life in the defense of ones country is the profoundest of sacrifices.

Foreign Armies on American Soil. America has long contended with enemies. But due to our unique geographic setting, we have remained relatively free from the threat of foreign armies on our soil. We beat back the British a second time in the War of 1812. We brought Japan to her knees after her assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941. And we kept vigilant watch for German U-Boats along our eastern shores in WWII. It has been almost twelve years now since the Islamic Jihadist assault on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11 was met quickly with the taking out of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Americans have always been quick and decisive in their reactions to armed assaults from our enemies. But we have been very slow to grasp the more insidious invasion—that from within. Abraham Lincoln once wisely intoned,

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

Foreign Enemies in our Midst. Following the events of 9/11, when then President George W. Bush identified Islam as a “religion of peace,” I reacted to his wrongheaded mantra. In that same piece—found on my old blog Kingdom>>Church>>Culture—I also called out President Bush for his failure to deal with the lawless invaders from south of the border. And I called his reckless insistence on passing his beloved “Immigration Reform Bill” a “.. load of CRAP!”

Today, radical Islamists, disguised as genuine Americans, occupy government offices, make major policy decisions, and even advise our highest ranking governmental appointees. Meanwhile, millions of illegals, just walking into our country without permission, sap our precious resources, take advantage of our largesse, and chide us for our “racism.” And we just say … OK.

In hindsight, it is now clear to me that the long-maligned Democrat Senator Joseph McCarthy was far more on target with his claims of communist infiltration than we ever knew. Today the communist/socialist/progressive mindset is pretty much mainstream thinking in America. Two generations since McCarthy, the foreign invaders have almost achieved their goal.

Keeping Our Republic. Let us step back in time for a moment. On a hot September afternoon in 1787 Philadelphia, the day our Constitution’s framers finally finished their masterful work, Benjamin Franklin stepped out onto the cobblestone street for a breath of fresh air. He was met by a woman, purportedly a Mrs. Powell, who asked him a question.

“Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?” she inquired.

“A republic, madam, if you can keep it,” was the sage’s wise reply.

Keeping our republic has always been our biggest challenge. As Lincoln, and so many of our founders warned, the greatest threat to our liberty has never been an external military force, but rather a threat from within, fed by our own weakness of character. America’s greatest asset—the idea of genuine personal liberty—has also been her greatest weakness. When fallen humans are given the freedom to choose their own way, eventually, even with the inestimably magnificent Constitutional framework provided by our founders, we weak men fail. No longer bolstered by the founders’ recommended triad of “religion, morality, and virtue,” we weak-minded Americans have succumbed to the sweet-sounding, once-whispered but now trumpeted wicked and deceitful promises of those who seek our demise.

Keeping Our Garden. Yesterday morning, my pastor, Jeff Ling, began a series of messages built around the theme of the Biblical mandate for work. Yes, you read that correctly. I wrote “work.” Putting our hands to the proverbial plow as they say.

Biblically speaking, work is not a part of the curse that came after the fall. For Adam was given the charge of tilling and keeping the Garden (of Eden)—that’s work in case you had not noticed—before sin ever entered the human equation. What was cursed, Jeff explained, was the “ground,” not man’s work upon it and with it.

Keeping the garden was also a part of Adam’s responsibility. Jeff explained that “keeping” means “protecting.” In my telling of the Ben Franklin story above, I have always interchanged the word “keep” with the word “maintain.” But the idea of “protecting” clearly adds a new dimension to the conversation.

Jeff then threw out a question to us that he did not answer. Rather, he let it hang there for us to ponder. He asked, “If Adam’s job was to “protect” the Garden, how then did the serpent get in?” Hmmm …

Honor and Dishonor. Today, we rightfully honor those in uniform who gave their lives to “protect” our republic. But sadly, while these honored ones laid their lives on the line in order to “keep” our republic—and continue to do so—those of us in civilian clothes at home have utterly failed to “keep” the crafty, deceitful, lying serpent out of our Garden of Republic.

So today, as we remember those who surrendered all, let us ask what we have given. The great American patriot and soldier, General Douglas MacArthur, admonished us that,

"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation."

Six Questions: Question 2

tfp.2013.05.17.tower_of_babel.170113154Today I am publishing the second in my series of six questions. These questions and their commensurate answers will help us better understand how Worldviews shape our lives. In answering, I will be comparing the response from two Worldview perspectives:

1. The Judeo-Christian Worldview

2. The Statist Worldview

If you missed the first question, “How Did We Get Here?” you can find it here.

The second question is What Went Wrong?”

The Judeo-Christian Worldview. The Christian understands that mankind’s troubles began long, long ago in the Garden of Eden, when our first two parents decided that they could do life better without their Creator as their Lord. All that is broken in the world can be traced—according to those who espouse and hold to the Judeo-Christian Worldview—back to that fateful day when Adam and Eve chose to pursue knowledge and wisdom outside of God.

Those first two souls rejected their transcendent Designer and Maker and stepped out on their own, in hopes of finding their own way absent of His principles and laws. They also expected to be made into gods themselves.

How crushed they must have been to discover that their Maker did not approve of, or excuse their foolish choice. They quickly realized that their act was an act of rebellion against a just God, and that there would be consequences—serious consequences—for their choice. They were not just slapped on the wrist and sent to sit in the corner for a while. No! Everything they had, except their breath, was stripped from them. They were cast out of their beautiful garden-home, sent packing basically, with virtually nothing in their bags, and thrust out of their garden as the gate was locked behind them.

And that was the good news. The bad news presented itself in the reality of their now broken, severed relationship with their Maker. What’s more, they came to understand that their God’s promise of an unending life of bliss was now lost, and one day death would take them.

The first hard evidence of human dysfunctionality arrived when their son Cain murdered their son Abel. Oh what grief must have been theirs! And so it has been, down through the millennia, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, right into the present, when foolish men still believe that they can reject their Maker, live under their own rules, and create their own utopias outside of God. It has never worked. And it never will.

For more detail read Genesis two through four and Romans one and two.

The Statist Worldview. State worshipers, having rejected the creation story and the idea that man is made in the image of God, for a purpose, and with a plan, must, by default then also reject the story of man’s fall as told in Genesis chapter three. After all, if there is no God, how can there be rebellion against Him?

The statist then, must turn to other explanations for the general dysfunctionality of the human race. And it would seem he has settled on one that really works for him. It does not take long to understand that men have, almost since time began, been seeking to build the perfect society. Because you see, in the statist’s Worldview, it isn’t the people that are broken, it is the systems under which people organize themselves that need fixing.

We begin with the Tower of Babel, the first recorded quest for the human utopia.

“Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”” (Genesis 11:4 ESV)

God had told both Adam and Noah to disperse, to spread out across the globe. But the wisdom of men directed the opposite. Let us gather ourselves together and get organized in a single place, they said, under a singular government and for a singular purpose—to make a name for ourselves.

Whether merely imagined places, like Plato’s Republic and Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, or one of the hundreds of actual attempts to flesh out the perfectly-ordered society, man’s quest for happiness in the flawlessly-structured community has been pursued pretty much since the beginning of time. Even here within our own country we find such failed utopias as New Harmony Indiana (1814-1824), Oneida, NY (1848-1878), Amana, Iowa (1855-1932), Ephrata, Pennsylvania (1732-1813), and the more recent debacle known as Jonestown (1956-1978), which began within our American borders but ended tragically in the South American Republic of Guyana. Most of these utopian communities have, at their core, an overt religious component.

The above, small-scale, American examples all failed. Except for Jonestown, these experiments in the pursuit of the perfectly ordered society, left minimal damage in their wake compared to other, more deadly, national-scale, utopian quests. The most deadly utopian experiments exist at the national level and involve some form of socialism. Among them we find the failed, socialist, utopian experiments known as The French Revolution (1789-1799), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) (1922-1991), and Nazi Germany’s National Socialist Worker’s Party Movement (1933-1945). All produced large, tyrannical, centralized governments, and left millions dead in their wake.

This is the legacy of the statist, the one who would pursue the perfect society at the national level, outside of God’s plan and clear instructions.