The Powers that Were

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Tertullian (160–225 AD)


The apostles lived in evil times. At the Jerusalem temple, seven weeks after Jesus was crucified, the apostle Peter preached, “Be saved from this corrupt generation.” (Acts 2:40). About 3,000 were moved by Peter’s preaching and by God’s Spirit to face their own sinful corruption and submit to life-changing baptism. Jesus’ church was born on that day!

Severe persecution took off against Jesus’ church right after the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Forced to scatter (Acts 8:1), Jesus’ followers carried the gospel far and wide. The apostles faced exile, prison, and/or death at the hands of people in power. Yet, their legacies live on in their writings, in Jesus’ church, and in our hearts.

Political conflict permeates the Bible. Jesus dealt with it and it killed Him. It continued against Jesus’ church for centuries. Yet, the powers that were did not prevail in the end—not even the mighty emperors ruling in Rome!

CaligulaThe Roman Emperor Caligula reigned from 37 to 41 AD, when Jesus’ church was in her infancy. He was known for his extravagance, cruelty, sadism, sexual perversions, big-spending, tyranny, and his alleged insanity. He killed for amusement and appeared in public dressed as various gods. He wanted a statue of himself erected in the Jerusalem temple for worship. He was so reviled that after he was assassinated by his own guards, nearly all public images of him were destroyed.


Claudius (reign, 41 to 54 AD) signed an edict to expel Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2) and this included Christians like Aquila and Priscilla. Still, a Christian church sprouted there even before Paul arrived.

Nero (reigned 54 to 68 AD) blamed Christians for a great fire and found creative ways to torture and kill them, like covering them with the skins of beasts to be torn up by dogs, or burning them on crosses to serve as illumination at parties.

After Nero’s suicide in 68 AD, four emperors came and went, leaving Vespasian to rule Rome from AD 69 to 79. He was preparing to besiege Jerusalem when Nero died but returned to Rome and sent his son Titus to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. Of course, Jewish Christians suffered from this destruction along with others. Eventually, Titus ruled as emperor from 79 to 81 AD.

Domitian (Titus’ brother) ruled from 81 to 96 AD as a cruel and paranoid tyrant. He revived the imperial cult to elicit worship for himself and past emperors, and resumed persecuting Christians. He commanded that all the lineage of David be put to death. The apostle John reportedly survived being boiled in oil and was exiled on the island of Patmos. In 96 AD, Domitian was assassinated in a palace conspiracy.

Nevertheless (I love that word), Jesus’ church survived all this and more. The rulers who persecuted Jesus’ church are all gone. So is their power. God’s purposes will always trump the plans of powerful men and women, and Jesus’ church will never be destroyed by corrupt politicians.

“I Know Not What Course Others May Take!”

Delegate Patrick Henry (1736 –1799) rose to speak his mind to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. He proposed that his fellow delegates act to organize volunteer companies of cavalry and infantry in Virginia to prepare for the military conflict he knew was coming.

The British army was building up its troops on the continent and Mr. Henry asked his audience, “Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?” He answered his own question; “They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other.” He reminded the Convention of their repeated supplications and petitions to the English throne, all of which had been slighted, rebuffed, and answered with military threats. Henry declared, “There is no longer any room for hope.”

It is often said that discretion is the better part of valor. Granted. Still, the details of discretion are debatable. Henry was fed up with debates and petitions. Caution certainly has its place, but for Henry, freedom was on the line and it was time for courage.

Henry respectfully acknowledged that “different men often see the same subject in different lights.” He had felt the pressure to hold back his opinion for “fear of giving offence.” Rising to reject that fear, he said, “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”

Heating up for his conclusion, he cried out, “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” He continued, “Our chains are forged… Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?”

Then came the finale: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Mr. Henry delivered his grave-over-slave address with all the dramatic choreography that our imagination can muster. When he sat down, the convention sat in silence for several minutes. His message moved his audience powerfully, but of course, debate did continue. And war did ensure.

Henry’s conviction lived on. In 1790, John Philpot Curran said, “It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” A generation later, in 1834, Daniel Webster, another great American orator, said, “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.” More recently, President Ronald Reagan declared, “The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave.”
give me liberty
Today, Patrick Henry’s resolve seems lost on a comfortable culture that hardly remembers him. We have a huge media complex geared to dilute and discredit his kind of rhetoric. We have a marketing industry to shape our interests and an entertainment industry to dismantle critical thinking. We have an educational establishment to willfully ignore the Henry’s of history. We have powerful political machines to get us to hate some groups, love others, and vote according to passions they instill in us. We rely on the power of money rather than the courage of conviction to solve our problems, creating a national debt so irredeemable that we just keep adding to it! We have seen the definition of marriage decomposed to the point where it is so genderless that motherhood and fatherhood are disposable. We have devalued human life to the point where an abortion giant like Planned Parenthood can destroy babies at tax-payer expense, sell body parts for profit, and destroy those who tell the truth about what they do.

In short, we are choosing slow death over liberty.

God is…
Jonah’s Theology Under Construction

The big fish in the biblical book of Jonah is just a detour in the drama. The British preacher G. Campbell Morgan (1863 –1945) once said, “Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God.” Unlike the self-willed prophet Jonah, the big fish was simply following God’s command. The main character in Jonah is Yahweh, the God of Israel. Here’s a short list of twenty lessons we learn about God from the book of Jonah.

Each point below teaches that God is…

1. …A Sender (He uses flawed sinners to reach sinners). “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it…” (Jonah 1:2).

2. …Outraged by Wickedness. “…for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:2).
3.…Powerful!“The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.” (Jonah 1:4) In addition to being omnipotent, the Psalmist illustrates God’s omnipresence: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139.7).

4.…The Creator! “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9).
5.…Willing to Hold the Guilty to Account. “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? …What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?” (Jonah 1:8,11).
6.…Free! “For You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.” (Jonah 1:14).
7.…Fearful and Awesome! “Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.” (Jonah 1:16, their greatest fear was when the storm suddenly stopped).
8.…In control of nature and nature’s creatures. “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17).
9.…Attentive to our Prayers. “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me.’” (Jonah 2:1-2).
10.…A Savior / Rescuer. “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD… Salvation is from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:7,9).
11.…Persistent (He gave Jonah a second chance). “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it…” (Jonah 3:1-2).
12.…The Author of the Missionary Message. ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” (Jonah 3:2).
13.…Responsive to Repentance. “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10).
14.…Patient. “But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.” (Jonah 4:1).
15.…Gracious and Compassionate. “For I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God,” (Jonah 4:2).
16.…Slow to Anger and willing to change His mind.“…slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jonah 4:2, from Exodus 34.6-7).
17.…A Provider and Comforter. “…so the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort.” (Jonah 4:6, from Exodus 34.6-7).
18.…One Who Gives & Takes Away. “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.” (Jonah 4:7).
19.…Conversational. “Then God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” (Jonah 4:9).
20.…Concerned for the Lost. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).

Jesus identified with the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish, saying, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). And our Lord was much impressed with the Ninevites because they responded to Jonah’s preaching with repentance (Matthew 12:41).

Perhaps, Jesus saw parallels between the Jonah story and his Prodigal Son parable. In both tales, a stubborn young man ran away, came to his senses, and turned back from his rebellion. Like the prodigal son, Jonah had to learn things the hard way. God put their attitudes under construction. Happily, both stories feature repentance and forgiveness. Like the elder son in Jesus’ story, Jonah resented the Father’s forgiveness for his disobedient younger brother. Still, in both stories, God’s forgiveness stood (see point #13 above). Let it stand in your story too.

Farsighted Faith

My wife and I purchased a small devise with an amazing capacity to direct us to wherever we want to go on the map. It’s called a GPS (Global Positioning System) and our friends say, “It’s about time!” Okay, it’s also about space. Anyhow, I will miss the sheer pleasure of having to stop and ask strangers for directions.

Welcome to the 21st century! We’ve come a long way from having to, as Paul said, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Or have we?

The apostle Paul understood that appearances are not everything. Some of life’s most important principles cannot be reproduced in a lab, deciphered in a computer, or seen with human eyes.

Context matters. The verse just before Paul’s challenge (above) to live more by faith than by sight affirms our “confidence” in the Lord rather than in the flesh (vs. 6). Keep reading. So does the verse right after it (vs. 8). Then verse 9 defines our ultimate goal (to please the Lord) and verse 10 points to our ultimate destiny. Here it is:

    “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

My eyes are too weak to see justice in all its beauty. It’s too far away. When I pursue it by sight, I get angry and lose my way. When I walk by faith, rusting the Lord with true justice, I begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. My rash attempts to assess justice have taught me to trust Jesus on His judgment seat, not myself. And judge He will.

Walking by faith does not mean closing your eyes. Rather, it means trusting the Lord with all your heart and not leaning on “your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). It is relying on God more than your own perceived preferences.

Our culture pushes the self-centered notion that one’s perception is reality. It is seductive to believe we can create our own reality. Nonsense! Reality is much bigger than our perceptions and it has already been created! We just don’t see it. My perception is not the end-all—be-all. Things are not always as they seem:

  • On a vertical slope, it seems prudent for climbers to cling closely to the rock. Actually, those who lean away from the rock get better leverage.
  • It seems like soccer goalies who can jump high are best suited for that role. Actually, those who hold their ground do better.
  • The more the government tries to fix poverty, the higher our poverty rates climb.
  • The most decent people are those who understand and admit how indecent they know they are.

Fact: we humans are great at fooling ourselves. In the flesh, we’re short-sighted. When you feel stuck in a terrible turmoil, it is not a GPS you need to get through it, nor is it perfect eyesight. It is faith—farsighted faith!

On the surface, the cross looked like a failure. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear. Nevertheless (I love that word), God was doing something they could not see in the moment. He was implementing His farsighted plan to save sinners from the just judgment we deserve and grant forgiveness and eternal hope to those who repent. So, when you feel like a failure, you can still trust that God is doing His best work in you to guide you to a place no GPS can—a place where faith, hope, and love loom large, and ultimately, to an eternal home in heaven.

Who is Indispensable?

According to George Washington’s biographer, James Flexner, he was the “indispensable man” of US history. While other statesmen were signing documents, Washington was in the field training an army in the courage, stamina, and skill required to stand behind those documents. Outnumbered by the enemy, Washington’s ability to keep his troops together under dire circumstances was indispensable. In securing our Independence, he did the impossible against all odds and against the most powerful military force on earth.

Washington lived in an era of tyrants; like King George III, Robespierre, and Napoleon. He had enough popularity and prestige to become America’s first king, but he refused! He symbolized the American spirit at its best with his personal virtue, integrity, perseverance and sacrifice. In exile, the power-hungry Napoleon whined, “They wanted me to be another Washington.” Despite his military genius, Napoleon was incapable of that. Even King George III called his nemesis “the most distinguished man alive.”

In his Farewell Address on September 19, 1796, Washington told us what he considered as indispensable, and it was not himself:

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

At Washington’s funeral in 1799, Henry “Light-horse Harry” Lee famously said the father of our country was: “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Still, despite his passing, America survived.

There comes a time in every human life when politics, science, entertainment, education, money, and romance can no longer hold the hope we need to carry on. Yet, we often see this hope rise in brave hearts facing desperate circumstances. Where do they get it?

Funerals present a unique challenge to ministers like me who are no less human than those we are called on to comfort. So much is lost when death takes its toll. Devoted moms and dads seem indispensable. Loving wives and husbands, irreplaceable! Priceless legacies of faith, patriotic gratitude, and family values are often buried along with breathless bodies. As the minister, I try to bring the perspective of eternity to help mourners cope with the inevitable dispensability of our bodies. I also work to keep young people hinged to the positive, often indispensable, life legacies of the dear departed.

On February 13, 2016, the passing of a great American once again seemed to rob us of an indispensable man. In nearly 30 years of service on the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia (1936 –2016) became the single greatest defender of the US Constitution in an era when America needed it most.

Justice Antonin Scalia

Scalia graduated from high school in 1953 as the valedictorian, first in his class, and then from Georgetown University, summa cum laude, in 1957. While at Harvard law School, he met Maureen on a blind date and married her in 1960. She bore him nine children and they were together for 55 years. He graduated from Harvard magna cum laude and then served as a law school professor at the University of Virginia and at the University of Chicago. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Scalia as judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Four years later, Reagan nominated him for the Supreme Court where he gained a unique reputation for a firm commitment to Constitutional textualism and originalism. He respected the Constitution as a binding legal document that meant what it said, not what power-players wanted it to say.

Our first President would be proud. Washington once said, “The Constitution which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”

Alas, too few of America’s most powerful leaders today share Washington and Scalia’s convictions on the US Constitution. Thus, Scalia’s passing left the impression on the hearts of millions that an indispensable defender of the Constitution was gone. However, Scalia himself understood the folly of thinking that a seat on the bench is somehow essential to the preservation of the society. He cited the time when Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970), President of France, was told he could not resign because he was indispensable. The French leader said, “The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”

American Individualism

Politicians profess great love for the common man while promising to use government wealth and power to take care of commoners. Sadly, this works like a charm in the new America that sees rugged individualism as a vice, not a virtue.

Rugged individualism is a tremendous force for good when it takes shape as a selfless advance toward accepting personal responsibility. Virtuous individualism calls up the courage to emerge from the crowd to play a self-reliant productive role in in the world as a grown up. You can take it to a detached or arrogant dark side, but that is your misunderstanding.

I enjoy movies with a message. In Frank Capra’s 1939 classic film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a young senator named Jefferson Smith gets his idealism tested in the face of relentless political corruption. Many of his new colleagues on Capitol Hill had long ago surrendered their dignity to the collective to ride the tide of popular power. Smith is overwhelmed by cynicism until he finds his spine and realizes he cannot stay free and decent without it. Finally, he rises up as a lone individual to face down the corruption, come what may.

In Mr. Smith, the American ideals and symbols we treasure take on meaning only when a man stands up all alone as a brave individual willing to live or die for his convictions. Sentimental patriotism is fine but without the courage of one’s informed conviction, it’s nothing.

American movie director, Frank Capra (1897 –1991) was an American by conviction, not by blood. Coming to America from Italy, he saw Lady Liberty with torch in hand for the first time at age five. His father exclaimed, “That’s the light of freedom!” The boy believed it. He learned that being an American had nothing to do with one’s race, gender, class, group, or social status. It has to do with seeing individual worth and dignity in all human beings endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and liberties. Capra went on to win three Best Director Oscars.

Its a Wonderful Life
In another Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), George Bailey watches his personal life fall apart. He is tempted to sell his entrepreneurial aspirations short and take a cushy job working for a heartless rich competitor. He resists this easy option, affirming his character as a self-reliant risk-taking American individual. George had always used his independently owned business to enable others to fulfill their dreams, while his dream remained on hold. When things went from bad to worse, he considers suicide, losing sight of his worth as an individual. An angel comes along, not to change his circumstances but to enlighten his perspective. He is shown a bigger picture of the good he had done for his community and his worth as an individual is reaffirmed.

Authentic American individualism is not about rejecting mutual association with others or running from commitments to family, church, community, or nation. We need each other. An English cleric named John Donne (1572 –1631) wrote: “No man is an island.” We get that. But belonging to a family, church, state, and country should never mean forfeiting your individual worth, personal integrity, or moral responsibilities.

Frank Capra’s films embody the plight of the individual against power politics, mass production, collective greed, mass media, lazy dependency, and mass conformity. He dedicated his art to keeping the principles and virtues he valued alive in the common man, not to make him/her weak and dependent but to cultivate strength and liberty. To this day, Ivory tower cynics scoff at Capra’s virtue-centered, freedom-loving worldview and it seems the scoffers are winning.

Having demonized rugged individualism, many Americans today seek cradle-to-grave care from our government. Self-reliance is belittled as coldly unrealistic. The desire for dependency is swallowing up nearly every virtue upon which the American character was built. The clamor for politicians to provide for our wealth, health, and happiness has yielded astronomical debt and unprecedented corruption. This is no fiction. There will be no way out of America’s debt-ridden state of dependency without some real rugged individualism, leaving all the selfish and arrogant stereotypes behind.

Finding Philip!

There are three Philips in the New Testament, all mostly forgotten. None were mentioned in the great faith chapter in Hebrews (11) but two out of three lived with a faith in Jesus worth finding.

Philip the Apostle.

First, there was a Philip from Bethsaida (a fishing village) among the 12 disciples. He was the pragmatist who calculated how much it would cost to feed a crowd (John 6:7). Later, Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father and Jesus replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip?” (John 14:9). Philip had missed Jesus’ teaching point that seeing Him amounted to seeing the Father. But after the risen Jesus ascended to heaven, Philip was among the apostles devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:13) and, presumably, much more.

Philip the Tetrarch.

Another Philip in the Bible was a son of Herod the Great, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis. He married a woman named Herodias who left him to marry his brother, Herod Antipas. John the Baptist had the moral courage to stand up to Herod Antipas (tetrarch of Galilee) and say, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matthew 14:4). Herod was not amused.

Philip the Evangelist.

The third Philip emerges from three passages that reveal several wonderful qualities of faith worth finding and keeping:

  • Acts 6:1-7. Not long after Jesus’ resurrection, the number of His followers in Jerusalem increased rapidly. The early church attracted both native Hebrew and Hellenist disciples. When some Hellenist widows in the Jerusalem church were being slighted in the daily serving of food, Philip was among the seven servants chosen to resolve the dispute that ensued. Each humbly deferred to the apostles decision. They were “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The result of this practical table-waiting ministry was that “the word of God kept on spreading.” (vs 7). Even some priests in Jerusalem obediently believed.
  • Acts 8. As the early church learned how to handle her internal disputes, persecution quickly rose from outsiders. Christians scattered abroad and preached Jesus wherever they went. Philip went to Samaria where his energetic preaching (and healings) attracted enthusiastic crowds and inspired great rejoicing (vs. 8). A former magician named Simon saw great power in Philip and came to believe and was baptized. Simon’s sincerity, however, turned out to be questionable. Later, on the south road from Jerusalem to Gaza, Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch (court official to queen Candace) and clearly explained a passage in Isaiah that pointed to Jesus the Messiah. The Ethiopian confessed faith and was baptized. Then, the Spirit of the Lord “snatched Philip away” and he ended up in Caesarea. The persecution of preachers back then was real but it did not deter the early church from amazing growth because bold but humble preachers like Philip were still willing to go wherever the Spirit led.
  • Acts 21:7-14. When the missionary Paul arrived in Caesarea, he was welcomed into the house of Philip the evangelist, a family man now with four faithful virgin daughters who were prophetesses. Twenty years previously, Paul presided over the brutal stoning of Stephen, one of the seven servants mentioned above. No doubt Stephen had been Philip’s friend. Yet, now he was hosting his friend’s killer in his own home. Philip trusted fully in Paul’s forgiveness. He understood the transforming power of grace. Now, fearing Paul would come to great harm in Jerusalem, Philip and others did their best to beg Paul not to go. They cared but Paul persisted. They submitted to God’s will.

Points of Inspiration!

The first Philip may have been a slow learner but Jesus saw great things in him and we see him as a man of prayer. The next Philip had power, but not enough to keep his wicked wife. The third Philip can be found in the following 12 points of inspiration:

  • He served the early church willingly, humbly, and unselfishly.
  • He helped resolve social and racial tensions in the church.
  • He submitted himself under the authority of the apostles.
  • He enjoyed a good reputation.
  • He was filled with and led by the Spirit.
  • He was known for his wisdom.
  • He was willing to be uprooted and spread the gospel as a refugee.
  • His healing and preaching ministry inspired great joy.
  • He was a powerful preacher, baptizing many regardless of skin color.
  • He knew his Bible well.
  • His outreach to strangers did not hinder his ministry to his family.
  • He preached forgiveness in Christ and practiced what he preached.

“The Survey Says…”

The gospels tell us that Jesus tangled with demons during his days on earth. Things did not go so well for the dark side in those conflicts. Okay, I don’t know much about demons, but this much I do know: they believe in God! The apostle James wrote:

    “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19)

If a survey-taker asked me if I believe in God, I would say “Yes!” If he asked me if I shudder, I would say, “Sometimes.” Nevertheless, the Bible indicates that this is not enough.

Surveys tell us that a vast majority of Americans believe in God. This is like saying most politicians believe in “the future.” Actually, believing in God has little to do with how we answer surveys, what we verbally claim, labels we wear, or what we post on Facebook. It has more to do with what we do.

Long ago, the apostle Paul knew people who claimed to know God, “but by their actions they deny him” (Titus 1:16). Brace yourself for what follows. Paul continues; “They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”


Paul was not writing to Titus about avowed atheists or agnostics. He was referring to people who would tell a survey-taker that they believe in God, but still live on terms (spiritual and moral) of their own making—as if God were non-existent. For many of us, believing in God means having someone to be angry at when things go wrong. Some of us focus more on our disappointment with God than on God’s disappointment with us.

Faith must run deeper than all this. James also said, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22). Our eternal hope is not rooted in what we claim but in what Jesus did and what we do about that.

Motherhood and Apple Pie!

Years ago, people generally spoke of motherhood and apple pie as quintessential qualities that would always define America. Okay, baseball sometimes gets pitched in too. Today, sadly, America has descended into a strange antipathy for motherhood. The evidence:

  1. With great vigilance, America’s government and culture defends the “right” to kill innocent babies at will in a mother’s womb. America even uses the force of politics to ensure that taxpayers play a part in subsidizing this atrocity against motherhood. Planned Parenthood provides for some 327,000 abortions per year and government grants, funds, and reimbursements account for 41% of their income. I know of no greater evidence of a nation’s rising antipathy for motherhood than this.
  2. America has radically altered the legal definition of marriage itself to marginalize motherhood. If any two males (or three or five) can now constitute a “marriage” and adopt children into their redefined “family” on fully equal terms, then motherhood has been legally regarded as disposable. The sacred and specific qualities of motherhood and fatherhood are devalued when “marriage” is redefined in a way that displaces either one.
  3. As of 2015, America can officially send young moms into active combat with lethal enemies. This is a natural result, in my view, of our growing disregard for the significance of motherhood and the ongoing emasculation of vast numbers of American males. There are other good reasons to oppose women intentionally being placed into lethal combat on front lines but the motherhood factor is the most important one to mention here.

None of the three national pathologies above could possibly flourish free of serious opposition in a nation that seriously honored motherhood. British author G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936) once said, “This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.”

As multiple free-for-all definitions of marriage and family “evolve,” culturally and legally, such terms as “husband”, “wife”, “father”, and “mother” become increasingly less meaningful. Some states have already passed measures to cleanse public documents from such allegedly horrific and hateful terms as “husband”, “wife”, “father”, and “mother.” Genderless definitions (forced on us from the top down) mean that “motherhood” and “fatherhood” must morph into an amorphous and neutered form of “whateverhood” in an anything goes culture.

In her speech at The King’s College in New York (March, 2010), Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of The Ruth Institute, said, “For the state to make a proclamation that mothers and fathers are intrinsically interchangeable and that nobody’s allowed to say otherwise, that is not really true.” Sadly, truth may be one principle in America today that gets even less respect than motherhood.

But take heart, most Americans still love apple pie!


    Book Review: Eisenhower
    Author: Paul Johnson (Penguin Books, 2014)
    Review by Joel Solliday

The twentieth century was filled with tragedy and triumph. Defeating fascism and communism called for incredible statesmanship and great leaders like Churchill, FDR, Reagan, and Thatcher. Paul Johnson’s concise biography of our 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) inclines me to add him to this list of leaders. He was not profoundly dynamic but he was the leading force on the ground (rather than in speeches) bringing defeat to Hitler in World War II. And later, in the Oval Office, he helped made America strong enough to eventually outlast the Soviets in the cold war.

Eisenhower (or “Ike”) was raised in Abilene, Kansas, to embrace small town Mid-Western values like personal industry and self-reliance. His German heritage combined militarism with Mennonite pacifism and his family read the Bible daily. As a student, Ike loved American history and excelled in English, geometry, geography, and engineering. His one black mark at West Point was for smoking. He quit cold turkey years later.

In the army, Ike proved to be an efficient staff officer, a flexible problem-solver, and an able administrator. He worked hard and rose in the ranks without ever seeing combat.

In 1916, he married Mamie Geneva Doud. They lost their first son “Icky” at age three to scarlet fever. Their second son, John, graduated from West Point on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) and he retired as a brigadier general. Throughout Ike’s army career, he and Mamie moved 25 times and never owned a home until after he retired. However, they soon had to move again—to the White House.

Of all the Allied generals in World War II, Ike probably had the least interesting personality. Still, he was the right man for the Supreme Command. He knew how to get along with strong-willed often egotistical officers with drastically divergent views. His analytic intelligence and his ability to communicate clearly enabled him to keep the other generals on mission—essentially, to destroy the German war machine, eliminate Nazi tyranny, and provide security for the free world.

The plan on the ground for getting this done was called Operation Overlord, It culminated in the largest air, land, and sea operation ever undertaken–the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 (D-Day). Ike was prepared to take the blame for failure, but Overlord turned out to be a successful turning point in the war. The Allies suffered some 10,000 casualties, including 4,414 dead. German casualties that day were far fewer but they failed to repel the invasion. By the second day, 250,000 Allied troops were ashore in France.

Elaborate deception strategies were required to successfully fool the Germans into thinking the landing would take place at Pas de Calais. Phony reconnaissance flights, massive pseudo building projects, Patton’s diversion, fake air-raids, and misleading bombing patterns served to keep twenty German divisions in the wrong place at the right time. The deception even included planting a dead body containing fake plans in a place where Germans would find it.

As the war drew toward its arduous end, Ike took pains to minimize casualties, refusing to race with Russia for the prize of taking Berlin—an unpopular decision. He made sure that Nazi atrocities were documented and available as evidence in war-crime trials. In the end, Gen. George Marshall congratulated Eisenhower, saying, “You have completed your mission with the greatest victory in the history of warfare.”

I Like IkeDuring the 1952 campaign for the presidency, Ike had his critics but they underestimated him. Millions of Americans sported “I like Ike,” buttons and he attracted more votes than any candidate in American history.

President Eisenhower understood war and the stakes for war. An early priority for Ike was to make peace in Korea without abandoning the cause or leaving a free people vulnerable to brutal communist imperialism. He succeeded. Ike’s military experience helped set his aim for the establishment of NASA and for the Interstate Highway System, which proved to foster tremendous economic advantages as well. Domestically, he tended to meet emergencies with patience, presuming that rising prosperity would cure ills better than political solutions. But patience is not always good politics. Both mid-term elections during his presidency secured gains for the Democrats.

Ike’s America in the ‘50s was prosperous, solvent, and calm. Inflation and unemployment remained low while the GNP consistently rose, as did purchasing power and the average family income. Fiscal restraint was applied across the board, including in the military. Still, our nuclear stockpile increased under Ike who used it to our advantage in diplomacy. International trade increased and the US rose as an industrial giant. Results like these were unprecedented.

Ike’s life spanned a tremendous era in history. Yet, his presidency seems anti-climactic in light of his previous accomplishments as a five-star general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WW II and later as the Supreme Commander of NATO. After nine years in retirement, Ike passed away with the first moon landing only four months away.

Underestimating Ike was common both then and now. He is not remembered as an intellectual and rightly so. He once said, “An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.” That’s not Ike. He was more a man of experience than education, patience more than passion, and results more than rhetoric. Yet, in his quiet way, he succeeded as a leader because his education, passion and rhetoric were exceptional. They just weren’t all that noticeable.