"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

A Defense of the Enid News & Eagle's Endorsement of Hillary Clinton on the Basis of a Higher Principle


I voted for Donald Trump.

For many people, including some of my own family members, the fact I voted for Donald Trump is upsetting. But as an American citizen who participates in the political process, I vote for a President every four years. This year I voted for Donald Trump.

I live in Enid, Oklahoma where the editorial board of the Enid News and Eagle, Enid's city newspaper, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. In the 2012 Presidential Election, not one of Oklahoma's 77 Counties voted for Obama. Very few people in the city of Enid were going to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. One would assume the newspaper's editorial would know this fact. 

I pastor a large, conservative evangelical church in Enid. I preach the good news of Jesus Christ every Sunday and dare not stain the gospel with politics. However, in our day of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, a pastor would have to be blind and deaf not to know the preferences and personal biases of church members, whether it be about politics, entertainment or religion. I'm well aware that many people in the church I serve have been upset with the Enid News and Eagle's endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times recently reported on Enid's newspaper's endorsement of Hillary Clinton with the headline "It Hasn't Been Forgiven." The Enid News and Eagle lost at least 162 annual subscriptions and nearly a dozen business advertisers over its support of Hillary Clinton. A few people angered by the endorsement are quoted in the New York Times. These offended folks may be strangers to many, but they are friends of mine. 

In the early 20th century, a young man named Marquis James left his work at the newspaper in Enid, Oklahoma and went on to become a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author, eventually moving to New York, to help establish The New Yorker magazine. Now a New York newspaper is coming back to Enid suggesting that the people of Enid "have not forgiven" its local newspaper for the endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

I suggest there is nothing to forgive.

There is a greater principle at stake for all of us.  The freedom of expression, or better known in America as "the freedom of speech," is at stake. This fundamental principle guarantees that all people live in true freedom. The First Amendment to the United States Consitution states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." 

ABC News is reporting that at least 1,656 people have been arrested in Turkey for posting on social media their support of political candidates other than those already in power. That's what happens in a country where there is no freedom to speak one's mind. 

Some might object by saying, "But we are angry at a newspaper, not a government!" Yes, but we the people are America's government. That's what our Founding Fathers made very clear in America's Constitution.

If "we the people" force a newspaper to endorse only those whom we want them to endorse, or if a newspaper writes only those articles that we the people want them to write, then that newspaper ceases to operate in perfect freedom and becomes a public relations magazine for a community. The city of Enid has a Public Relations firm. We need our newspaper operating differently than a PR firm. 

It matters not if the weapon is a bullet or billfold, for a government (people) to exert tight control over what a person or institution is allowed to write or say is a loss of freedom to any community. None of us should want a newspaper who sacrifices its institutional integrity on the altar of community comfort. There is a higher principle at stake, and that's why I will defend the Enid News and Eagle and their endorsement of Hillary Clinton. 

A few years ago our church leadership made a decision on the basis of principle. We knew that for the good news of Jesus Christ to reach more people in an ever changing world, we would have to change our methodologies. Some older methods of conveying the gospel were shut down. New methods were begun. The truth didn't change, but the manner in which it was communicated did. Our leadership knew that if our methodologies didn't change, people would wake up one day, look around, and ask "Where did everybody go?" The answer is "New people were never reached." 

So changes came to the church I pastor.  New methods meant discomfort to some. But church leadership pressed forward because there was a higher principle at stake. We exist for the purpose of reaching the most people with Good News, not for the comfort of those people who already know the news. Our church is now reaching more people with the Good News than ever before. Some members uncomfortable with the changes left, taking their money with them. The cost of living by principle is sometimes steep. Yet, in the end, all of us must respect any institution which places higher regard on fundamental principles than community comfort.  

So, Enid News and Eagle, this subscriber who voted for Trump will keep my subscription out of respect for the higher principle of freedom of speech.

POST PUBLISHING EDIT (Again): Jeff Funk, Publisher of the Enid News and Eagle called me and told me that the editorial endorsement for Hillary Clinton was written by him using bullet points from CNHI, and after discussing the issue with Jeff (who was very gracious), I believe Jeff and Rob wrote the editorial reflecting their personal beliefs. Without the encouragement of CNHI, Jeff Funk would have most likely not endorsed anyone, but any implication that the editorial was not Jeff's opinion and expressed his personal beliefs is off-base. I stand by this article that we should defend freedom of speech. 

The Greatest Gifts Are Those I Receive from God


Merry Christmas! 

As we open our Christmas presents, we would do well to pause and consider that the Bible teaches the greatest gifts we'll ever receive are the gifts given to us from God. A general meditation on these unique gifts will bring some real Christmas cheer.

1. "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!" (II Corinthians 9:15).

This inexpressible gift from God is His Son Jesus Christ. Understanding when God gave us His Son ("while we were still sinners" - Romans 5:8), how God gave us His Son ("freely and graciously" - Romans 8:32), and why God gave us His Son ("for God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son" - John 3:16) becomes our incentive to love freely and give generously to someone unworthy. Until I find my soul's satisfaction in God's inexpressible gift, I'll never never be able to give my soul to someone else in unconditional love. Talking about this inexpressible gift on Facebook is not the evidence I have it, for it is inexpressible.  Jesus gives us the evidence we truly have received Him as a gift when He said,  "By this will all men know that you are My disciples, when you love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

2. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

When is the last time we've heard a sermon on "life eternal," or immortality? Some of the best Hollywood movies are about man's search for immortality, but for whatever reason, Christians wrongly assume that all men are inherently immortal. Not so, according to the Bible. Immortality is a gift. As Martin Luther put it, "We shall sleep, until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, "Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment and be with Him forever." (The Christian Hope, 1594, p. 37). Immortality is a gift to those with faith in Christ. The wicked will be raised, judged for their sins, and then handed over to "the second death" (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:14). "Only one life, twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last." (C.T. Studd). Thinking about my life for eternity puts into perspective some of my low points in history.

3. "For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8).

R.C. Sproul tells the story of walking the streets of Philadelphia and being stopped by a young man who asked, "Sir, tell me, are you saved?" Sproul, realizing the young man was a Christian street evangelist, asked him "Saved from what?" The young evangelist stammered and stuttered, not quite sure how to answer. Let's be clear about it.  God told His people in Leviticus 26:27-28 - "But if you walk contrary to Me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury." Let's be very clear. We all need deliverance from God's righteous fury against our selfish sins. We have it. It's a gift. Deliverance from God's righteous fury for walking contrary to God's will in this world is a gift of grace through faith in Christ's work, not my own works. The greatest evidence that I have received this gift is that I continually give this same grace of forgiveness to others who walk contrary to me (Matthew 6:15).

4. "...you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God is indeed a great gift. At salvation, God grants His Spirit to abide in me, for I become "the Temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit's indwelling presence in me brings forth "the fruit of the Spirit," which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Notice, this gift of the Spirit brings the "fruit" (singular) of the Spirit. I can't be good without love; I can't be gentle without self-control, I can't be patient without kindness. In other words, I can't pick and choose among "nine fruits," for it is but one "fruit of the Spirit." The fruit becomes my character. The evidence I've received this great gift is in the fruit-pudding (pardon the pun).

5. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). 

All the good things in my life come from God. The difference between good and perfect is important. Good means "that which is benevolent in its character." Perfect means "something which is complete, or whole." Here is the remarkable thing "good and perfect gifts" in my life. Some things that come my way that are not good. They are evil and painful, not good and comforting. Yet, my Father is able "to work all things for my good" (Romans 8:28), In times of seemingly awful problems and unbearable pain, I need to remember that the complete story of my life has not yet been written by my Father. Everything that comes my way (even the evil that does not originate from Him),  God perfectly orchestrates (that's the Greek word for "works" in Romans 8:28) for my ultimate good.

These five gifts from God are the greatest gifts I'll ever receive. 

And they make for a Merry Christmas indeed.

The God Who Blinds Works Within Human Minds

"The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see 
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (II Corinthians 4:4)




Orthodox Jews call the fallen angel who deceived Adam and Eve by the name "Samael" - a compound name which means "the god who blinds." Paul, a teacher of the Jewish Law, may very well be referring to Samael in his second letter to Christians living in the city of Corinth when he mentions "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving" (II Corinthians 4:4).

We may think we understand physical blindness, but what does it mean for someone to be "blind in the mind"? 

If a physically blind person has never experienced the ability to see, he's hard-pressed to describe the pain of his blindness. Those who've first tasted of sight before going blind can easily describe their pain over the absence of light. 

So too, the person blind in the mind from birth has little ability to understand "the light of the glorious good news in Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:4). He can't describe what he doesn't have because he doesn't know what it is he's missed.

So how does the "god who blinds" keep a person from seeing the beauty of this life through receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?

A blind mind remains blind through a shared apathy. When blind people get together, they help and encourage one another, and convince themselves nothing else is needed, particularly any talk about a cure. Life is what it is. Those apathetic about Christ often gravitate toward others apathetic about Him. The blind in the mind don't care about any alleged good news. They're blind. They don't know they are, and the last thing they want is for someone to feel sorrow for them.

Then a blind mind continues in blindness through a strong enmity. When the good news of Jesus Christ is mentioned to one "blind in the mind," apathy turns  quickly to enmity. Anger toward the message of Christ is only secondary to animosity toward the person sharing the good news of Christ. Blind in the mind people don't like it pointed out they're blind and need the Light.

Finally, a blind mind remains blind through a substitute ecstasy. This, to me, is the most tell-tale sign of blindness. When I get my joy, my happiness,  my purpose,  my identity, or my hope in something other than Jesus Christ and the love of God for me in Christ, then I am "blind in the mind." However, when the anchor of hope for my life is Jesus Christ, I see this life the way it's meant to be seen, for I have found my source of contentment from the One thing I will never lose - a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius had a servant follow him around and whisper in his ear, "Remember yourself mortal," when people became effusive in their praise of the emperor.

I wonder if every time we have apathy toward the Person and work of Jesus Christ, or when we find ourselves angry over the teachings of Christ, or during those times we lose ourselves in the idolatry of finding our happiness and security in things other than Christ, if God might send someone to whisper in our ears, "Remember yourself blind."

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel - Jacob

Someone recently pointed out to me that years ago in small groups, whether it be Sunday School or independent Bible studies, Christians would talk openly about the dangers of living like a Pharisee. It seems, however, that many of us in evangelical churches struggle with a subtle rise of Pharisaical feelings toward sinners who cry for mercy from God. Jesus taught on this subject very clearly in Luke 18:9-14
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Some might ask, "But is not the shame and guilt of sinners such that God would want us not associate with them, even if they cry out for mercy from God?"

I am reminded of the story of Jacob. He lied and deceived the people closest to him. He sought instant gratification instead of patiently finding contentment in his relationship with God. He failed his family, including his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. He was by adulthood, in almost every sense of the word, a failure. 

Yet God loved him, and God pursued him.

In a wrestling match with God, Jacob found the very thing upon which he relied (his own strength), God broke. God crushed Jacob's hip. Literally, Jacob became a cripple. Yet, it was in his brokenness and through the crippling process that an utterly crushed Jacob "met God face to face." So it is that often in our brokenness and pain caused by sin we really meet our God. 

Interestingly, after the breaking, God changed Jacob's name to Israel. The lying, deceiving, and self-absorbed man God pursued became the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel, the chosen people of God in the Old Covenant.

Yet, throughout the Old Testament, when the prophets would urge the nation of Israel to repent, they never identified God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Why? It seems God Himself wished to be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Listen to how God revealed Himself to Moses and the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai - at the very moment of entering into a covenant with them.
"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Exodus 3:6
Israel is who Jacob became, but God kept Jacob's name before His people to remind them that He loves and pursues sinners. I believe it is always helpful for us to remember that God identifies as the God of sinners who cry for mercy.

He is the God of Jacob.

Giving Others Endless Mercy and Unrelenting Love

We sing a song in REFUGE written by our friend Lauren Daigle. It's entitled Dry Bones, and it's much easier to vocalize with our singing mouths than it is to actualize in our sinful lives.

God of endless mercy,
God of unrelenting love.
Rescue every daughter,
Bring us back the wayward sons.


God of endless mercy. "The Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10), and therefore, "We approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we will receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of our need" (Hebrews 4:16).

God of unrelenting love. Unrelenting is defined as "never softening, or never letting up in vigor." The Scripture tells us God demonstrates His unrelenting love for us "In that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). We who are wayward sons and reckless daughters (Dry Bones) are made alive "...because of His great unrelenting love for us and His rich mercy" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

We will often hear the word "godly" at church. "He's such a godly man," or "She's such a godly woman," or "They live such godly lives." We use the word, but I'm not sure we understand it. A godly person is one whose life mirrors God's endless mercy and unrelenting love. That's godliness. The Apostle Paul begs us in Ephesians 4:1 "to live a life consistent with our calling." Paul has spent the first three chapters of Ephesians describing God's endless mercy and unrelenting love toward us while we were yet still sinners.  Paul then begs us to live our lives consistent with (Greek: axios) our calling.

A few years ago a young man in our church left his wife. For a few weeks he pointed his finger at his wife as the cause for the break-up of their marriage, but he hid the fact that he had a secret girlfriend. When he finally revealed to me that there was another woman in his life, we asked him to step down from his leadership position at Emmanuel. He totally stopped coming. His shame was intense.

In a few months his divorce was finalized. This young man moved in with his girlfriend. His weight ballooned. He was in hiding from his former friends and from his former life. By his own admission, he was severely depressed. He eventually married his girlfriend, and he became the topic of conversation around many dinner tables, coffee shops, and community groups. People talked about him, but not to him.

I disciplined him.

The word discipline is rooted in the word disciple. For a year I discipled this young man. I texted him words of encouragement. I sent emails letting him know I missed him in church. Monthly I would ask him to lunch. Over barbeque sandwiches I would talk with him about his sin and how to reconcile with those he'd harmed. I was unrelenting in my love and endless in my mercy toward him. Discipline is not punishment; it's the same word used by the Greeks when mending a broken limb. After the mending, the broken bone is stronger than before it's brokenness.  

People might ask, "But did you disciple the people he'd harmed?"

People in pain don't need discipline, they need healing. Unrelenting love and endless mercy is for sinners. Those who see themselves as innocent victims and believe that the source of their pain and trouble is the sin of others need "the balm in Gilead" and "the leaves of the Tree of Life" (Jesus Christ) to bring healing.  So, the answer to the question is "Yes," I encouraged those wounded by the actions of this young man to find their security, identity and happiness in Christ alone. I desire always to be compassionate, patient and encouraging during the process of their healing. When life brings a left-hook that knocks us flat, the process of getting back up is seldom easy.

God seems to allow hurtful and painful events to bring me to the place of finding my personal security, identity and happiness solely in Him. When people I love, material possessions, or possibly even my stellar reputation is lost, I am forced to find my source in Christ.  The good news is that after Christ brings me healing, His power begins to flow through me. When my cups is truly filled up by Him, I find His endless mercy and unrelenting love for me beginning to spill out from me toward others.

When I am in pain, I will sometimes mistakenly attribute my healing to the actions of another person (e.g. the sinner).  "If he would only truly repent..." or "If she would only change her ways." For this reason, unrelenting love and endless mercy toward sinners sometimes will sometimes offend me, particularly if it is toward someone whose hurt me. It feels right (and natural) to run and shun. But God's ways are different than my ways. He's a God of endless mercy and unrelenting love.

My father recently shared with me that he tells people that "we should say what needs said, do what needs done, and live the way we ought to live with our focus "Never About The Outcome" (NATO)."  If we focus on the outcome - for example, whether other people are really changing, or whether my terrible circumstances are improving, or whether the sinner is sincerely repenting - then our focus is misplaced. Our gaze should always be inward, looking to see if we have within us  "His divine power that has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3). If I can't give unrelenting love and endless mercy to sinners, as well as patience and compassion to the wounded, then somethings out of kilter within me.

One year ago, over lunch at a restaurant in North Enid, I asked this young man where he and his new wife were attending worship. He told me that recently they'd begun praying together, but they weren't attending corporate worship anywhere. I invited him to Emmanuel.

He looked at me intently and said, "Wade, if I walk in those doors, people will be offended. I've caused a lot of hurt."

I told him that worrying about the reactions of others is to ignore what is needed in his own life. Then I suggested, "When you come, walk down to the front of the church and you and your wife sit in the first three rows of the center section."

He looked at me incredulously. "Wade, people will be upset that we are even in church, not to mention we have the gall to walk to the front and sit."

I responded, "We bring prisoners to church every Sunday - we call them offenders. They sit on the first three rows. If anyone says anything to you about where you are sitting, just tell them, 'Wade invited us to come and we are sitting where the offenders sit.'"

Last Christmas this young man and his wife came - and sat where the offenders sat.

The process of bringing this man to repentance has been long and arduous. I have encouraged him to take ownership of his sin - quit blaming others for it - and seek forgiveness, resting in God's forgiveness of Him.  He has, but of course, there will be some who question whether his repentance is real or sincere. We can only live our lives consistent with our calling. God is responsible for the outcomes.

At least from my observation, through endless mercy and unrelenting love, this wayward son's dry bones have come alive.

Dry Bones should be more than just a song we sing on Sunday.


Christmas, the Trinity, Husbands and Wives

I have written before on the doctrinal error of the eternal subordination of the Son, but my father (Paul Burleson) has recently written an excellent post that shows how one's view of the Trinity affects your understanding of both Christmas and marriage! Read ... and enjoy!

Image result for Christmas garland

Christmas, the Trinity, Husbands and Wives
Paul Burleson

Christmas is coming. It's a celebration of Jesus coming to do a redemptive work. It's a mystery, but some things can be ruled in OR out of that mystery.

Some Christians have mistakenly applied a subordinate relationship to the persons of the Trinity in their eternal nature. I.e., even before the Logos became incarnate as Jesus born in Bethlehem, He was subordinate [they say] to God the Father, though the Persons of the Godhead were equal in essence or nature. Thus, [they say] a relationship of authority and submission, a kind of chain of command if you will, is present within the Trinity by nature. If the Son IS eternally begotten by the Father, then, they would say, His very existence in some way depends on the Father, thus the submission.

So the concept of eternal subordination would seem to be a natural corollary with this kind of thinking. And, for them, this leads to an interpretation of marriage that would make the husband LIKE the Father, ruling, and wives LIKE the Son, in submission, because [they say] the Son's submission is an ETERNAL thing. [But they're also forgetting that marriage has no eternality about it as there is no marriage in heaven.]

In my judgment this is NOT a correct understanding of the Incarnation. The many passages that could be cited that certainly do show the subordination of Christ to the Father are to be understood as a reference to the role of SERVANT which the Logos VOLUNTARILY assumed as a result of the incarnation. [Which, by the way, is to be the role of BOTH husband and wife to each other, SERVING one another. See Ephesians 5:21 resulting from the imperative in 5:18] There is no relationship of subordination among the three Persons of the Trinity before the Incarnation to be found in the scripture. It has to be ASSUMED because of our human view of Parent/Child relationships transferred on to an eternal level.

Assumptions cannot be allowed that would present a Son or Spirit with anything LESS [even authority] than the Father. Thus, the subordination of the Son to the Father is to be seen as FUNCTIONAL ONLY and ONLY for His earthly sojourn and not ONTOLOGICAL at all. [Within the nature of the Trinity] It has to do with the Son’s office and work on EARTH and not his PERSON in pre-time or post-time. [Eternity]

What we have in scripture is an Eternal-Sonship that is totally UNLIKE any sonship we have on planet earth. So whatever "submission" Jesus experienced on this earth to the Father was assumed and limited to His earthly sojourn. Jesus Christ the God-man, as the Son of Man, is the Father’s servant, and he does the will of the Father; but this is an aspect of the humiliation that he freely chose to endure for the sake of our salvation. It is NOT a testimony to His Eternal Nature OR FUNCTION as there is Eternal Equality in the Three Persons of the Godhead.

Castro, the CIA, and Christ's Second Coming

There are true stories so bizarre they read like fiction.

This is one of them.

Fidel Castro died this past week (November 25, 2016). This brutal communist dictator had been an enemy of the United States government since he seized power in Cuba in 1959. President Kennedy attempted to overthrow Castro by promising military support for Cuban exiles who would launch a coup against Castro. In the greatest failure of Kennedy's administration, the Cuban exiles invaded Cuba on April 27, 1961, but were left to die at the Bay of Pigs without the promised U.S. support ever materializing.

On November 30, 1961 a second attempt to overthrow the Cuban dictator commenced. It was called Operation Mongoose, and was led by U.S. Air Force General Edward Lansdale of the United States Department of Defense (DOD). Lansdale worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to implement the 33 individual phases of Operation Mongoose. The end goal was the overthrow of Castro.

Here's where it gets weird.

General Lansdale and his agents designed a plan to try and convince the people of Cuba that:
  1. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ had arrived.
  2. Fidel Castro was the anti-Christ.
  3. Jesus wanted the people of Cuba to overthrow the anti-Christ.
How the DOD and CIA proposed to execute a fake Second Coming of Jesus Christ to overthrow Castro is revealed by Assistant Deputy Director for National Intelligence Programs Thomas A. Parrott in his 1974 report to the United States Senate.
"Lansdale's plan consisted of spreading the word that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that Christ was against Castro who was anti-Christ. And you would spread this word around Cuba, and then on whatever date it was, that there would be a manifestation of this thing. And at the time – this was absolutely true – and at the time just over the horizon there would be an American submarine that would surface off of Cuba and send up some star-shells. And this would be the manifestation of the Second Coming and Castro would be overthrown.”
Star-shells are powerful pyrotechnic flares designed to fill the skies at night with widespread illumination. Parrott reported to the Senate that Lansdale intended for a U.S. Navy submarine to project images of Jesus Christ onto low lying clouds off the coast of the Cuban capital of Havana. While the image of Christ appeared over Havana, a crew from a U.S. military plane - camouflaged by the clouds and using new technology that muffled the plane engines - would broadcast  messages from Jesus Christ over a loudspeaker to the people of Cuba (in Spanish of course), ordering them by the authority of God Himself to overthrow Castro the anti-Christ and renounce communism.

The operation was never executed out of fear that either the submarine or the airplane might actually be discovered by the Cuban military and the potential loss of American life was too great a risk.

Castro's death and the 45th anniversary of Operation Mongoose this week have led me to some reflection. I realize that today's America is mostly pagan and we are ruled by many pagan political leaders. 45 years ago we had many professing Christians in government leadership, including General Lansdale. Which America is more conducive to the growth of true Christianity?
  1. An America where the government and political leaders are hostile to the message of Jesus Christ and to those people who follow Jesus? or
  2. An America where the government and political leaders concoct a covert plan to fake the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in order to overthrow a communist dictator.
I think the former.

Grateful


Jim has given me permission to share his story.

He's a big reason why I'm grateful this Thanksgiving 2016. Jim illustrates why a Kingdom focus is so important for churches like the one I pastor. The Lord calls us to be transformational, not comfortable. Salt and light, that's who we are. Yet, too often, we preachers are more interested in pleasing people and making budgets than we are in pleasing God and making disciples.

Jim reminds me of the power of God's grace and the transformation through Jesus centered ministry.

7 years ago Jim came to see me. He told me he didn't wish to live. Every day Jim would get up and tell his wife, "Today's the day I'm going to kill myself."  His threats were real. He had attempted suicide seven times. When you hear his story, you'll understand why. He came to see me at the request of his wife.

Jim was beaten by his mother beginning at the age of 3. Not spanked; beaten. The physical abuse intensified over the years. At age 12, after his mother caught him at an R-rated movie, Jim was told to remove his pants and underwear and bend over the kitchen counter. His mother removed Jim's metal three-pronged belt from his pants, and she proceeded to beat him with the metal end on his bare buttocks.

She told Jim she would keep beating him until he cried. "I'd been beaten so much by her I was determined to die before I cried," Jim told me. The beating didn't stop until Jim's older sister finally intervened and grabbed the belt out their mother's hands. Enraged that her pre-puberty son had not yet cried, Jim's mother yelled, "You two clean up this mess." It took more than an hour to clean Jim's spattered blood spots from the floors, countertops, and ceilings.

The physical abuse was nothing compared to the sexual abuse. From age 8 to age 11, an older male cousin repeatedly sexually violated Jim. Unless you've experienced sexual abuse, it's difficult to imagine the soul-crushing agony. At the age of 12, Jim's mother began sexually abusing her son too. It would be inappropriate for me to detail how his mom sexually abused him, but Jim's psychosis began around the time he grappled with why his drug-addicted mother crossed over from inflicting physical pain to demanding sexual pleasure.

At the age of 13, Jim began to get in trouble with the law. The police arrested him for setting fires and other acts of vandalism. "I was arrested too many times to count," Jim said.  The fights were frequent and fierce. "I once put a boy in the ICU for bashing his head with a brick on our way home from school." Jim's anger was uncontrollable. On those occasions he managed to suppress it and not express it, Jim plunged into deep depression. He turned to drugs and alcohol for relief but found none.

That's when he began to have actual mental breakdowns. "I've been institutionalized nine times. I've been diagnosed as bi-polar. All I know it's been difficult to even want to live." His suicide attempts were frequent and often the cause of his institutionalization.

Seven years ago, when I first heard Jim's story, my heart went out to him. Jim could barely look me in the eye. His voice was so quiet I strained to hear him. I knew he was a wreck inside. I encouraged Jim as best I could. I recommended that Jim begin attending a new recovery program that Emmanuel Enid was beginning.

Fast forward to this evening, Thanksgiving week 2016.

I went with Jim to a local mental health facility that Jim visits each week.

He is no longer a patient. Jim goes every week to minister to patients. Jim is now Emmanuel Enid's recovery minister.

I listened as Jim shared his story of abuse, addiction, psychosis  and recovery through Jesus Christ to the patients in the mental health facility. I watched the mental health patients listen intently as Jim shared his story. I mean, they really listened.

Jim captivated them with the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ. One man wore a shirt that said, "Nothing to fear, but the loss of beer." But in listening to these men open up to Jim after, I realized that they all feared so much more. Many of them had been sexually abused like Jim. All of them faced addictions like Jim. These men connected with Jim because he was one of them; the walking wounded.

I too listened intently as Jim explained to the men how he began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery program seven years ago at my request. Four weeks into the step recovery program participants are asked to pick an accountability partner. The recovery leader at the time asked everyone to stand and look around and find someone to be their accountability partner.

"I ran to the bathroom and hid," said Jim. "I did what I always did. I withdrew. In that bathroom, I committed to taking my life that night. I determined to kill myself, and this time to make it a successful suicide. I washed my face and walked out of the bathroom. That's when two men in Emmanuel's recovery program were standing there in the hall waiting for me. 'Jim,' they said, 'We want you to be our accountability partner. We love you.'"

Jim cried all the way home. "If these men actually loved me, maybe God could love me too." That night, Jim gave his life to Christ. Jim surrendered to Christ everything; his life; his hurts, his hang-ups, and his habits. Jim's recovery was beginning.

The last seven years have been transformational for Jim. "Jesus Christ has worked miracle after miracle within me."

I saw the transformation in Jim tonight. As Jim spoke, he looked men in the eyes. As he shared, the hesitant, embarrassed man full of shame that I met seven years ago was gone. The Spirit of God was now in control of Jim.

It was my privilege to pray with the men tonight as we finished our time together. I couldn't help but get emotional as I prayed for Christ's power and love to transform these men's lives, just as He had transformed Jim's life. The men all hugged Jim and me before we left.

As we were leaving the hospital I said, "Jim, it's absolutely amazing to see the impact you had on these men tonight. You are so totally transformed from the man I first talked to seven years ago."

Jim smiled and said, "We serve a very big God, don't we?"

As an adult, Jim didn't avoid the mom who'd inflicted so much pain. Christ gave him the power to love her, in spite of her sins. Jim's now aged mother recently sought forgiveness of Jim. The power of God's grace in Jim has been seen in his ability to forgive.

When you and I walk the halls of the church building on Sundays, there are many people just like Jim who are walking those same halls. They are unimpressed with outward appearances because everything inside them is falling apart.

I'm grateful to pastor a church who thinks about everything we do, with the primary focusing on being transformational rather than comfortable.

I'm grateful for friends like Jim who continually remind me that the grace of God makes us all "more than conquerors through Him who loved us."

I'm grateful that after 35 years of vocational ministry, I'm finally learning that the measurement of a great ministry is the people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ.

I'm just simply grateful today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Chisholm Trail Should Be Called Black Beaver's Trail: The Amazing True Story of an American Hero

Something caught my attention in today's Enid News and Eagle newspaper (Nov. 19, 2016). A news photographer took a photo of a mural that is being painted on the side of Garfield Furniture "to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail in 2017." 

I saw two mistakes immediately. The Oklahoma portion of the famous trail known as "The Chisholm Trail," was actually blazed in May 1861, not 1867, Further, it was the famous Delaware Indian Chief and U.S. army scout named Black Beaver who blazed the trail, not Jesse Chisholm. Black Beaver, Jesse Chisholm's good friend, led 750 Union soldiers and some civilians (including Jesse Chisholm) on a dangerous route north out of Indian Territory at the beginning of the Civil War. Four years later, Jesse Chisholm followed Black Beaver 's Trail south as he left Wichita to return to Council Grove (Oklahoma City) to open again his trading business with the Indians. The story of how Black Beaver came to blaze this trail in May 1861 is the culmination of The Civil War's First Secret Mission.

After the Confederate bombing of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, which officially began the Civil War (1861-1865), President Abraham Lincoln and United States General-in-Chief Winfield "Old Fuss and Feather's" Scott, sent U.S. Cavalry Lieutenant William Averell to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) with orders to evacuate the 750 Union officers and troops stationed in Indian Territory. The soldiers were to evacuate to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and then move to Washington Capital. Lincoln needed these troops - the finest in the United States military - to protect the vulnerable nation's capital from what the President called "the insurrection."

Dressed as a Confederate, Lieutenant Averell made his way from the nation's capital to Arkansas, and then entered Indian Territory (Oklahoma) through Fort Smith. The Union fort called Fort Smith had been captured just hours earlier by the Confederates. Observed by a Confederate commander who thought he was up to no good, Averell was chased by Confederate cavalry through Oklahoma Territory in one of the greatest horse rides in American history. Averell eventually made it to Fort Arbuckle, the Union's headquarters in Oklahoma Territory, where he presented to Colonel William H. Emory the order from Lincoln and Scott to evacuate.

The Cherokee Outlet (Yellow)
The problem the Union troops faced in fulfilling this order was the route out. The Union soldiers had come into Indian Territory through Fort Smith - now controlled by the Confederates - and the Union commanders had no experience traversing the Cherokee Outlet to the north. This land was Indian land, given by the government to the Indians as "an outlet to the hunting grounds of the west." However the soldiers stationed at Fort Arbuckle did know a man who was acquainted with the Cherokee Outlet - it was Black Beaver. He had worked as a scout for the United States Army during the Mexican War (1846-1848), and he had also been the personal guide for John James Audubon (1785-1851) during exploratory expeditions of Colorado. Black Beaver had crossed the Rockies and made his way to the Pacific many times, and he was very familiar with Indian Territory, including the Cherokee Outlet. Black Beaver was considered to be the best guide on the western frontier. He was now retired and living about 30 miles from Fort Arbuckle on his farm near present day Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Black Beaver 
On May 3, 1861, just hours after Averell had reached Fort Arbuckle, a Union cavalry party was sent to entice Black Beaver to guide the Union troops north through the Cherokee Outlet. Black Beaver was disinclined to help. He was 55 years old - an age considered elderly in his day - and he didn't want to leave his family alone on the farm. The Union troops appealed to his patriotism, and added to their enticement by promising the United States government would pay him for his services. Finally, Black Beaver agreed.

On May 4, 1861 the flag was lowered at Fort Arbuckle. For the next 27 days, Black Beaver guided a mile-and-a-half long train of troops, supplies, dependents and livestock on their way to U.S. Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Black Beaver knew exactly where to stop along the route north, allowing for the people and horses to drink deeply from the natural springs that dotted the landscape. Black Beaver also knew where to ford major east/west rivers in Oklahoma (Washita, North Canadian, Salt Fork, and the Arkansas). The Union troops made it safely to Fort Leavenworth on Friday, May 31, 1861. Of the 750 troops that Black Beaver led to Fort Leavenworth, at least seven went on to become Union Generals during the Civil War, leading the United States to ultimate victory against the Confederate States of America. In addition, two of the men would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism and valor.

Black Beaver would not return to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) until after the Civil War. He couldn't. The Confederates placed a bounty on his head - dead or alive. In addition, news reached Black Beaver while in Kansas that the Confederates who had come north from Texas into Indian Territory and had destroyed his crops, burned down his house, and taken his family as prisoners. Black Beaver stayed in Wichita for the remainder of the Civil War with his good friend Jesse Chisholm. Black Beaver and Chisholm had been friends for more than thirty years/ Both of them had been part of the historic Leavenworth-Dodge Expedition of 1834, the first meeting between whites and the southern Plains Indian tribes, which occurred at the present site of United States Army Military Post Fort Sill

Jesse Chisholm
Jesse Chisholm (1805-1868) was a remarkable cowboy, Indian trader, hunter, guide and scout in his own right.  Chisholm's father, a Scotsman, married Chisholm's mother, a Cherokee in Tennessee. Chisholm came with his mother to future Oklahoma in the early 1820's from their home in Polk County, Tennessee. Fluent in 14 different Indian dialects, Chisholm made his money trading product with Indians in Indian Territory. However, during the Civil War, he stayed in Wichita (Kansas) with his good friend Black Beaver. After the war was over, Chisholm asked Black Beaver the best route to go back to Chisholm's trading post on the North Canadian River (future Oklahoma City). Black Beaver responded, "Follow the trail I blazed with the Union troops four years ago." Chisholm followed that trail. It was Black Beaver who had pointed out the water holes in 1861. It was Black Beaver who had marked the river crossings to avoid the quicksand. Chisholm followed this trail. When cattle drovers from Texas followed the same trail beginning in 1867, they called it Longhorn I-One, a name initially applied to the entire trail, from deep in the heart of Texas to the Kansas rail heads. After Jesse died in March 4, 1868, near Geary, Oklahoma the Longhorn I-One trail was renamed the Chisholm Trail in his honor.  Without detracting from the remarkableness of Jesse Chisholm, the trail should have been named Black Beaver's Trail from the very beginning.

Wade with Black Beaver's family 
Black Beaver moved back to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) after the Civil War and rebuilt his house, replanted his crops, and re-united with his family after a long absence. Black Beaver was not fully reimbursed by the government for his services in guiding the Union army out of Indian Territory. His financial loss was $20,000 - a vast sum in his day. The U.S. government, after forceful urging by Colonel Emory, gave Black Beaver $5,000 for his services.  In Black Beaver's later years he converted to faith Christ and became a Baptist preacher among the Indians. A direct descendant of Tamanend, Black Beaver was the keeper of the original Great Treaty which William Penn had signed and given to Tamanend (or Tammany), the Chief of the Delawares in 1682, the first treaty between white man and Indians. Before Black Beaver's death, a newspaper reporter asked him if he had any regrets guiding the Union Troops north out of Indian Territory in 1861. Black Beaver paused, then said "The only regret I have is that when the Confederates burned my home, the Great Treaty which I kept above my mantle was destroyed." Black Beaver died May 8, 1880 at his home on the outskirts of present day Anadarko, Oklahoma

On August 10, 1975, the United States military exhumed the body of Black Beaver and with full military honors, reburied Black Beaver on the grounds of U.S. Army Military Post Fort Sill, Oklahoma. As Black Beaver's coffin was lowered into the ground, a 21-gun salute fired. Then, Lieutenant General David Ott, base commander, gave a moving tribute to Black Beaver's legacy, closing with these words:
"It is with a great deal of pride that Sill accepts Chief Black Beaver."
Unfortunately, the name Black Beaver is mostly unknown to Americans. Were the Chisholm Trail properly named, Black Beaver's contributions to our nation's heritage would be front and center.

Miley Cyrus, Cyrus the Great and Natural Law

Miley Cyrus gave an interview in 2015 to Paper magazine where she revealed disdain for people who view life differently than she.  Though raised in a Southern Baptist home and baptized in a Southern Baptist church, Miley Cyrus now rejects her parents' beliefs.

According to the magazine, Miley calls herself "the least judgmental person ever.” However, she maintains a "particular contempt" for Christians.  Those people," meaning those she feels are more judgmental than she, "shouldn’t get to make our laws."

The 22-year-old singer went on to slam anyone who believes that Noah and the flood is a true story. “That’s f***ing insane,” she told the magazine. “We’ve outgrown that fairy tale, like we’ve outgrown f***ing Santa and the tooth fairy.” The former Disney Channel star also criticized her parent’s political views, calling them “conservative-ass mother-f***ers.” Cyrus revealed that she views her gender identity as “fluid,” and told her mother that she was attracted to women when she was just 14 years old.

In the course of the interview, one sentence from Miss Cyrus struck me:
"Those people shouldn't get to make our laws."
Miss Cyrus, it seems, has at least a limited understanding of government.  She refers to laws. She understands people "make laws." She may even know the formal definition of law.
"The system of rules that a particular country or community recognize as regulating the action of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties."
In an Islamic country ruled by Sharia Law, Miss Cyrus would be whipped, stoned or beheaded for her violations of Sharia Law, In reading through Sharia Law myself, I'm confident Miss Cyrus is guilty of capital offenses.

In a monarchy (e.g. "a country ruled by a king or queen"), the laws change according to the character of the monarch. For example, one of the greatest kings of all time, a Persian monarch named Cyrus the Great (600 - 529 B.C.), a man referenced by the prophets of the Bible as "God's anointed one" (Isaiah 45:1), allowed the captive Jews to return to Jerusalem and worship and live as they please under Persian rule. The Babylonian king that Cyrus conquered in 539 B.C. was a wicked king named Belshazzar. The laws of Cyrus were good. The laws of Belshazzar were bad. In a land ruled by kings, the character of the laws reflect the character of the king.

In a land of anarchy, there is no law. The very word anarchy means lawlessness. Though Miss Cyrus seems to think that the people who "make laws" should be her kind of people - people who are non-judgmental - it seems to me she hasn't reflected well on the end result of anarchy. It seems she's advocated a country of "no laws" and no "penalties" for personal behavior.

But should someone be allowed to steal Miss Cyrus recordings without paying royalties? Should someone be allowed to enter Miss Cyrus' home and kidnap and torture her? Should someone be allowed to cut off her head because she is refusing to pray to Allah?

Of course not.

So what kind of laws do we need in the United States to protect people like Miss Cyrus and others?

Answer: Natural Law. Natural Law is the foundation of the United States Constitution and the basis for all laws of the United States. Natural Law as a term of politics and jurisprudence may be defined as:
A knit body of rules of action prescribed by an authority superior to the state. These are rules from Nature and Nature's God that govern the operation of the universe, including everything and everyone.
Natural Law is not exclusively Christian or Jewish or any other religion. C.S. Lewis in his classic work The Abolition of Man traces Natural Law throughout history, in all civilized nations. For a great read, go to the Appendix in The Abolition of Man called Illustrations of the Tao and read Lewis' description of the eight points of Natural Law.  They are as follows:

1. The Law of General Beneficence (eg. kindness)
2. The Law of Special Beneficence (eg. kindness)
3. Duties to Parents, Elders, Ancestors
4. Duties to Children and Posterity
5. The Law of Justice
6. The Law of Good Faith and Veracity
7. The Law of Mercy
8. The Law of Magnanimity

If you wish to learn a shorter description of Natural Law, memorize these seventeen word from Richard Maybury:
 "Do all you have agreed to do and do not encroach on other persons or their property."
Killing another person is encroaching. Stealing from another person is encroaching. Forcing another person to worship the Creator in a prescribed way is encroaching. Laws that violate Natural Law are not Divine.

Cyrus the Great was not a Jew, and obviously not a Christian. He was a Persian magistrate. Yet, the Creator called him, "My anointed one" (Isaiah 45:1). Anyone who lives by Natural Law and leads others to live by it is "anointed." Miss Cyrus, any country in which we live must have laws, or we will descend into anarchy. Natural Law is good for government. Without it
"They shall take who have the power, And they shall keep who can."
Russell Kirk writes that Natural Law only works in a country where individuals - regardless of their religion, race or creed are individually governed by it. He writes:
Permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to repeat here that the natural law is more than a guide for statesmen and jurists. It is meant primarily for the governance of persons -- for you and me, that we may restrain will and appetite in our ordinary walks of life. Natural law is not a harsh code that we thrust upon other people: rather, it is an ethical knowledge, innate perhaps, but made more clearly known to us through the operation of right reason. And the more imagination with which a person is endowed, the more will he apprehend the essence of the natural law, and understand its necessity. If such a one, despite his power of imagination, offends against the natural law, the greater must be his suffering. So I have discovered in the course of a peregrine life. And over a good many decades I have found that most contemners of the natural law are dull dogs, afflicted by a paucity of imagination. As Adam Mickiewicz instructs us:
"Your soul deserves the place to which it came, If having entered Hell, you feel no flame."
Miss Cyrus, your interview with Paper magazine violates Natural Law. This has nothing to do with Christianity or religion, and everything to do with right reason, imagination, and honor.

Raymond English has written:
Natural law cannot be understood except through the elements of poetry and imagination in the soul. The poetic and the moral imagination are parts of human reason. For the man who does not feel himself in some sense a child of God, who is not possessed by the "desire and pursuit of the whole," and for whom words like honor are meaningless, the notion of natural law must be a Mumbojumbo, a bogle to make children behave tolerably well, a fantasy from the adolescence or the childhood of the race. Poets, James Elroy Flecker says, are those who swear that Beauty lives although lilies die; and the natural law is the poetry of political science, the assurance that Justice lives though states are imperfect and ephemeral. Justice is to politics what beauty is to art; indeed, beauty and justice become almost identical at the highest levels of human aspiration.
It seems a generation of Americans, epitomized by Miss Cyrus, have lost what it means to be individuals of dignity, honor and magnanimity.

We need less the spirit of Miley Cyrus and more the spirit of Cyrus the Great.

The Dangerous Desire to Remove the Electoral College

After Hillary Clinton won America's popular vote, but Donald Trump won more state electoral votes and is now the President-elect, many millennials on social media are asking to get rid of the Electoral College.

This is dangerous. Our Founding Fathers feared a pure democracy, and for this reason they created a Constitution that established a democratic Republic, which includes a system whereby representatives (electors) would be the only people who would actually "vote" for the next President of the United States. Donald Trump won more "electoral votes" than Hillary Clinton. These electors will gather at their respective state capitals on Monday, December 19, 2016 and make official Donald Trump's election to the office of President of the United States.

Why did the Founding Fathers establish the Electoral College? For a very important reason:
Our Founding Father's understood the rule of the mob is deleterious while the rule of the law is meritorious
That's right. The Founding Fathers feared a pure democracy.  

When the invalid eighty-one-year-old Benjamin Franklin was carried out of Philadelphia's City Hall at the conclusion of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, it is said that a woman stopped the caravan carrying the most famous American of the 1700's and asked "Mr. Franklin, do we have a monarchy or a republic?" The response came:
"A Republic, Madame, if you can keep it."
I'll never forget my fourth grade teacher asking us if the United States was a democracy or a republic. Most of us didn't know what either term meant, but the majority of us answered "A democracy."

Our teacher then asked us to stand and face the American flag, place our hands over our hearts, and cite the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands..."
Our teacher stopped us..., "Listen to what you just said - 'and to the Republic.' Boys and girls, never forget the United States of America is a Republic, not a democracy."

After we sat down, a boy raised his hand and asked the question, "How is a Republic different from a democracy?"

Our teacher rightly responded - "A Republic is a rule of law, governed by representative leadership. The ancient Roman Republic was the model our American forefathers used in establishing America's republic form of government. Democracy was feared by our forefathers, not favored."

That little exchange when I was ten years old began a lifelong love for governance based on Natural Law. I began to learn what our forefathers believed. For example, during the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph described the multiple discussions the Constitutional Convention delegates had during the four months of debate regarding "evil" in governments and political systems. He reflected...
 "...that in tracing these evils to their origin, every man (at the Constitutional Convention) had found the origin of evil in the turbulence and follies of democracy."
It was unanimous at the Constitutional Convention that pure democracy was evil.

In our age when everyone thinks that the most Twitter followers, the most Facebook "Likes," and the most popularity is always the best, it's difficult to fathom why the rule of law (e.g.  Natural Law) is always better than a governance by opinions of the most people. The Founding Fathers understood that any government of pure democracy will eventually collapse.

John Adams said,
"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
John Marshall, who later became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court observed,
"Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."
If America keeps the rule of law established by the Founding Fathers, then the Electoral College will remain. If the Constitution is abandoned and we move toward a pure democratic (popular) vote, then the United States will become a government ruled by the majority wishes of people (i.e. "a pure democracy").

The Electoral College means that each state elects representatives (electors) who will go to their respective state capital and cast their vote for the next President of the United States. 538 electors are sent by the people of the United States to cast their votes for the President.

An elector can become a "faithless" elector and not vote on Monday, December 19, 2016 as obligated by his or her state. But that is a very rare thing indeed (with penalties). If there is a tie when the electors cast their votes (269 vs. 269), then the United States House of Representatives will cast the tie breaking vote. This is why when a Presidential candidate receives 270 electoral votes - even if he or she doesn't win the popular vote - that candidate will become the next President of the United States.

The Founding Father's could have said from the beginning, "The candidate that receives the most number of popular votes will be elected President." But they didn't. Why did the Founding Father's not want the popular vote to elect our President?

I realize it is difficult for people in America today to understand why America needs to preserve our democratic Republic. Instead of quoting the Founding Fathers, I'll give you a simple explanation as to why the Electoral College is needed.
If America were a pure democracy, the Presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in the major metropolitan areas of the coasts will always win the election. The Electoral College gives representation to people who live in the heartland of America. The farmers, ranchers, small businessmen, and others who live in rural America - the people who feed our country and fuel our country - are guaranteed a voice through their electors. The fact that the smaller states in population have greater proportional electoral representation to more populated coastal states insures that the people who live in 95% of the land mass of America are not swallowed up by the masses who live in 5% of the country. In other words, the Electoral College - established by the Constitution - means our country is a democratic Republic, and keeps a pure democracy at bay.
The reason Benjamin Franklin responded, "A Republic, Madame, if you can keep it" is because he--along with the other Founding Fathers--believed that a republic could eventually descend into a democracy, a democracy would always eventually dissolve into anarchy, and anarchy would ultimately lead to totalitarianism.

Again, the Founding Fathers believed through their study of governments throughout world history that a pure democracy will soon descend into anarchy, and that anarchy will soon devolve into totalitarianism, For this reason, it is best, at least according to our Founding Fathers, to avoid pure democracy and "keep" a democratic Republic - if we can.

Weeping and Singing and Forgetting His Kingdom

Have you ever been in a situation where older people mourn the loss of the way things "used to be"? Are you familiar with the tension between generations over change, when young people rejoice with excitement over the future while at the same time older people mourn with sadness over the past? Sometimes the hardest part of ministry is helping both older and younger generations understand that God is more interested in us building His kingdom than He is with us resting in our comforts.

The people of God living in Judah went through traumatic changes. In 586 B.C. the Temple of God in Jerusalem was literally demolished and burnt to the ground by Nebuchadnezzar (II Kings 24). Built by Solomon four hundred years earlier with no expense spared, and dedicated to God by the Israelites with great pomp and ceremony (II Chronicles 7), the Temple in Jerusalem had been at the center of Jewish identity. When it disappeared, the Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians where the Jews "hung their harps in the willow trees" (Psalm 137:2). They'd rather the wind vibrate their stringed instruments because there were no more songs in their hearts.

After seventy years of exile, God raised up the Persian King Cyrus, who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and let the Jews return to Jerusalem to rebuild their city and their Temple (Ezra 1). Within two short years, the Jews laid the foundation for the new Temple. In Ezra 3 we read the different responses of the old men and of the young men when they laid the final foundation stone of the new temple:
"Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord... people sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And the young people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many others shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away."(vs. 10-13).
The old people wept and wailed while the young people celebrated and sang.

Why did the old people weep?  They remembered the first temple, and the second temple wasn't like the first (Ezra 3:12). Here were some of the differences between the two temples:
1. The footprint of the foundation of the second temple was much smaller than the footprint of the first.
2. The appearance of the second temple was much plainer - no silver and gold in it - than the fabulous appearance of the first temple which glittered with gold and silver. 
3. Everything associated with second temple - whether it was the amount of sacrifice, the number of priests, or the people who gathered - when compared to the era of the first temple was much lesser in grander, influence and power. 
Smaller. Plainer. Lesser.

Why did the young people celebrate and sing? They were excited about the future! They had no memory of the past. Most of the young were born in a culture that was pagan (Babylon), and just the ability to dance and sing to God in freedom was enough to bring tears to their eyes.

However, the old people who were at first sad, soon got mad. They stopped working on the temple of God. "If we can't do it the way we remember it, then we aren't participating at all."

When the young people saw their elders lose interest in the work of God, they turned to the Samaritans for help. The Samaritans were "enemies of God" (Ezra 4:1-2). As one might expect, the Samaritans provided no help in building the temple. Instead, they sought to destroy Judah from within. When the young people of Judah finally saw the Samaritan threat for what it was, they spent so much time fighting the Samaritans, they left the temple of God unfinished.

For 18 years, the old people of Judah and the young people of Judah took the wood they were going to use as framework for the temple of God, and instead they paneled the walls of their own houses (Haggai 1:4). The people of God would rather sit in comfort and security in their own houses than work together for the Kingdom.  The temple was left unfinished.

Enter the prophet Haggai.

In August of 520 B.C. Haggai, inspired by God, told the people to "give careful thought to what they were doing" (Haggai 1:5). In an attempt to only do those things comfortable and secure for themselves (e.g. "living in paneled houses," and "seeking their own comfort"), they have neglected the Kingdom.

Haggai's prophetic word "stirred up the spirits" of the old and the young, the governor of Judah (Zerubbabel), and the high priest (Haggai 1:14). They began to work together for the Lord.

But even after they began to build the framework of the temple on the foundation they had established 18 years earlier, the older people still complained  (Haggai 2).

1. "Lord, we have no gold and silver like when we built You the first Temple!"
2. "Lord, this temple is really, really different than the first one we built You!"
3. "Lord, we don't like what we are seeing; it's not the way it used to be!"

God interrupted their complaining by giving to Haggai three additional prophecies (see Haggai 2). The Lord gives the people a promise:
"On that day" (Haggai 2:23), - a day which refers to the coming of Messiah, the son of Zerubbabel (see Matthew 1:12) -  "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:9)
Haggai 2 is probably my favorite chapter in the entire Old Testament. In Haggai's encouragement to the people to build the second temple in Jerusalem, he tells them that the Messiah will do something far greater, far grander, far more glorious than anything seen in the days of the first temple.

God will bring peace to sinners through Zerubbabel's descendant, the Messiah, who will create a temple far more glorious than Solomon's.

For we know that "we ourselves are God's temple, and the Spirit of God dwells in us" (I Corinthians 3:16).

APPLICATION:

If you are weeping over the loss of buildings, programs, and traditions of the past, and because of this sadness you sit in your home and seek personal comforts, then you are guilty of the sin of the old people of Judah. Leave your paneled walls and seek His Kingdom. You seem to have lost your perspective. It is far more glorious when a sinner finds peace with God through Good News of Jesus Christ than remembering the glorious days of Levitical singers performing on the gold encrusted steps of the former temple.

Likewise, if you are celebrating and singing because you are unaware of the traditions of the past, and you're are simply rejoicing over freedom to build His Kingdom, be aware that the Samaritans lay in wait to trap you into believing that they can offer you help by blending what the world cherishes with God's Kingdom. Come out, you young people of God, and be separate from the Samaritans who worship many gods.

Let's build the Kingdom together.

Principle, Courage, and Will Equal Real Leadership

The age of mass communication has led to domination by the masses.

Cool rules.

"Where have all of America's great leaders gone?"

They've been crushed by the masses.

It's not that great leaders themselves are crushed, for real leaders are never dominated by their environment. But the ability to lead is thwarted by the false reality of those needing leadership. What the masses perceive is what the masses receive.

I don't think that England would have survived World War II without Winston Churchill. Churchill, a man of principle, knew Nazi Germany presented an existential threat to western civilization. Churchill fought Germany on the basis of his principles, which fueled his courage, and ultimately forged an "iron will" in him and the nation he led.

When Adolph Hitler turned his sights on England, promising to bomb the English to hell and back, Churchill took to the airwaves on June 4, 1940 and gave his famous speech "We shall fight them on the beaches." He said,
"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.
And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
I believe that if Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other forms of social media existed in Churchill's day, one look by the masses of England at the bombed out buildings and horrific bloodshed of men, women and children in London during the 1940 London Blitz would have been enough to lead the English people to capitulate to Germany. Even with only newspapers and black-and-white photos of the Blitz available to the masses in 1940, the pressure by the English to relent and join European capitulation to Nazi Germany was intense. Had it not been for the great leadership of Winston Churchill, England and America today might be very well teaching their school children the German language.

Great leaders arise in times of crisis. Mass opinion, mass desires, and mass thought are not as important in existential crisis as are principles, courage and iron wills. When a nation is in trouble, great leaders lead because the masses become increasingly irrelevant.

This is why America's Founding Father's feared democracy. The Founding Father's knew that democracy prevents great leaders from taking the stage. The only principle that guides politicians in a nation dominated by the masses is "Do others like me?" The only principle that guides the masses of people in a nation dominated by democratic rule is "What has the government done for me?"

Only world war, world conflict, or unthinkable natural disasters give the needed opportunity for a new set of great leaders  to arise - leaders who live by principle, courage and will. In those nations accustomed to domination by the masses, great leaders sit on the sidelines. 

It seems to me that the path of the United States is spiraling toward worldwide conflict. The only good news from this prediction is that the door may be opening for a restoration of great leadership in America.