In the Shadow

“The Greatest Love of All”

“Love” has so many different meanings in English; it’s easy to get confused.  To cut through the fog, let’s distinguish the greatest love of all so we can lift it above the many lesser forms of love that attract our attention.

Here is one attempt, captured in the lyrics of a hit song in 1986, titled, The Greatest Love of All:
The greatest love of all is happening to me.
I have the greatest love of all inside of me.
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve.
Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
(Witten by Linda Creed and Michael Masser, 1977)

The greatly talented Whitney Houston made this song a big hit and once called it her favorite.  Later in the same song, she sings, “I never will stand in anyone’s shadow.”

Christianity and popular culture do not see eye to eye when it comes to the greatest love of all.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).  He also told us to deny ourselves… “daily.” (Luke 9:23).

But the self-denial Jesus demands has nothing to do with self-hatred.  It simply rises from knowing where not to place our hope.  Looking inside, Christians see helplessness and hopelessness.  We are glad that God has not left us to ourselves.  We are eternally grateful that He reached out to us first with His sacrificial love—the greatest love of all.  Ask Jesus if that was “easy to achieve.”

In-reaching love has its place, but out-reaching love is greater.  There is genuine greatness in soldiers, spouses, parents, grandparents, teachers, nurses, pastors, missionaries and many others giving their all in unselfish service far from the spotlights of our popular culture.



Jesus came not to be served, “but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28).  His followers also seek to serve with hearts willing to live in the shadow of another, always standing in the shadow of Jesus’ cross.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Heading Off Repentance at the Pass

President Barack Obama, using the full power and prestige of his political high office, issued the following signed declaration on June 1, 2009:

Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.



He does this every year with hardly a peep of dissent from Christians or from churches.  I wonder how much dissent there would be if he had declared…



Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the USA, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the US, do hereby proclaim January 2012 as Christian Repentance Month… or Traditional Marriage Month?

I realize this is impossible, but why?  What has happened to us?  Do we really value “transgender pride” over traditional marriage or Christian humility?

As a Christian, I have a serious beef with President Obama’s pride-full declarations every year.  Christians know that lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender behavior is sin.  We also know that such sins can be forgiven.  But we tremble in dire trepidation when we see willful pride wedded to such sin.  It’s not the ‘L’, ‘G’, ‘B’ or ‘T’ that will keep such sinners out of heaven for eternity; it’s the “pride!”  Sinful pride is the slave master that keeps us shackled to our sin.  It prevents the humble repentance that could turn LGBT sinners (and any sinner of any kind) back to God and true freedom.

Yes, LGBT people who repent can go to heaven.  Such people were among those in first century Corinth who were washed and sanctified in the name of Jesus and became members of that early church instead of LGBT people (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), by God’s grace.  We will see them in heaven!

Why would the President use his high office to manifest such a declaration on us?  Does he not understand that Christianity renders the pride he seeks to impose on us unthinkable?  As Christians, we are called to love LGBT people and minister to them as Jesus would.  We treat them kindly and respectfully as human beings capable of free-will choices just like we are.  We love them regardless of our disagreement with their choices.  But we are NOT called to honor their sin or engender pride in it.  That is Satan’s mission, not ours and certainly not a President’s.

Pride in sin is the deadliest of all spiritual poisons on the tips of Satan’s swift arrows.  There is nothing the devil hates more than a sinner repenting, which is why he loves sinful pride.  It undermines the Christian gospel at its core.  Satan’s mission is not just to get us to sin.  He knows that those who sin (you and me) can still get into heaven if they (we) humbly repent.  His main mission is to get us to be proud of our sin, thus heading off our repentance at the pass.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Top 10 Westerns

The Western movie is a uniquely American invention.  I like them, in part, because I like sermons.  In their own way, most Westerns preach on such themes as justice, courage, right over wrong, manliness, protection and a pioneer spirit—qualities we see in decline today.  They honor the rugged individual, but often in ways the call that individual to self-sacrifice for the good of the family or community.  The selections below are merely my own favorites, in reverse order.  Some gems were left out, but such is the nature of top ten lists!


10. True Grit (1969 – Director: Henry Hathaway), starring John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell and Robert Duvall.  A tale of revenge and justice, with a daughter’s love for her dad setting the stage.  Kim Darby shows youthful wisdom when she says; “Enough is as good as a feast.” Also, great music and lousy acting from Glen Campbell.



9. High Noon (1952 – Dir. Fred Zimmerman), starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges.  This film features the courage of a solitary hero contrasting the cowardly townspeople.  Evil does not go away when people hide from it.  Key line: “You’re a good-looking boy: you’ve big, broad shoulders. But he’s a man. And it takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man.” (Helen Ramirez to the young passionate Lloyd Bridges character).



8. Comanche Station (1960 – Dir. Budd Boetticher), starring Randolph Scott and Nancy Gates.  A man saves a woman kidnapped by Comanches, then struggles to get her home alive.  The conclusion gives cynicism a kick in the back side.




7. Man From Snowy River (1982 – Dir. George Miller), with Tom Burlenson, Kirk Douglas and Sigrid Thorton.  Manhood on the make!  Set on a horse ranch in Australia with awesome scenery.  It also deals with old secrets coming to light and the challenge of forgiveness.




6. Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1960 – Dir. John Ford), with John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine and Strother Martin.  The significance of an old man who dies is lost on the townspeople until a Senator and his wife come to his funeral.  I like the line: “”You taught her how to read, now give her something to read about.”  There’s a difference between living life and reading about it.



5. Shane (1953 – Dir. George Stevens), starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin and Jack Palance.  One of the toughest tools used by evil forces is intimidation.  The viewer wonders if the forces of decency will be safe and flee, or take a stand.  Memorable line: “A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.” (Alan Ladd).



4. How the West Was Won (1962- Dir. Henry Hathaway and John Ford), starring Debbie Reynolds, Karl Malden, James Stewart, John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Henry Fonda, Robert Preston and Richard Witmark.  A family-friendly epic musical from the sixties that found a place in my heart as a child and never left.  Dealing with inevitable change presents many heart-rending challenges over time.



3. Destry Rides Again (1939 – Dir. George Marshall), starring James Stewart, Brian Donlevy and Una Merkel.  Gun slinging is not the only way to handle bad guys.  The townswomen step up too.





2. Ride the High Country (1962 – Dir. Sam Peckinpah), starring Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott and Mariette Hartley.  Honesty meets up with greed and a longtime friendship is tested.  Key line: “All I want is to enter my house justified.” (Steve Judd, played by Joel McCrea).


My clear favorite:


1. The Searchers (1956 – Dir. John Ford), starring John Wayne (as Ethan Edwards), Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood and Ward Bond.  We see an unshakable resolve seasoned with patience in the John Wayne character, all rising from a deep family loyalty in the heart of a rugged individual.  Near the end, a man says to Ethan, “I thought you gave up.”  He answers, “That’ll be the day.”



Honorable Mention:

The Plainsman (1936 – Dir. Cecil B. DeMille), with Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Gary Cooper and James Ellison.  An adventurous Western that concludes with the following text on the screen:




It shall be as it was in the past…

Not with dreams, but with strength and courage,

Shall a nation be molded to last.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Welcome! –Currents of Living Water

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“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.” Psalm 46:4

I invite you to pull up to this stream of thoughts and insights and relax a moment from your travels. I hope you find salient information and inspiration in the essays, sermons and book reviews below. Enjoy! (Image Credit: “River landscape with Deer,” by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1847-1928).

Presidential Greats

This February, let us honor three great Americans who profoundly define the American spirit.
President Ronald Reagan’s birthday – February 6, 1911
President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday – February 12, 1809
President George Washington’s birthday – February 22, 1732

Ronald Reagan's official portrait

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)

In the 1990s, I saw an unforgettable display at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, featuring many heart-rending letters from or about prisoners of conscience and persecuted missionaries around the world. Each letter moved President Reagan to specifically act on behalf of freedom and justice. Not every story had a happy ending but our 40th President took great pains behind the scenes to use the power of his office to win the freedom of imprisoned and forgotten missionaries. Perhaps he was inspired by this ancient admonition:

[callout1]Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3)

With deep conviction, Reagan cared about human freedom for individuals and nations. His legacy goes far beyond mere caring–he also got results. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without firing a shot.” Reagan understood the moral reprehensibility of communism and the moral necessity of replacing it with institutions of liberty.

Lech Walesa, co-founder of Solidarity and past president of Poland, called Reagan a “friend” and said, “His policy of aiding democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe in the dark days of the Cold War meant a lot to us. We knew he believed in a few simple principles such as human rights, democracy and civil society.” Walesa added, “…we owe him our liberty.”

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday used to be a national holiday but today’s children have no memory of that. Charles Darwin was born on the same exact day as Lincoln and, sadly, our secular culture is increasingly turning toward Darwin and away from Lincoln in terms of informed honorable memory. Of these two, one believed that “all men are created free and equal” (Lincoln speech, 1858) and the other that the races of humanity are not equal because they are differently evolved.

Lincoln faced many disappointments and failures in his personal life. As our 16th President, he inherited a bitterly fractured nation wherein liberty was illegal for many black Americans. Leading our nation through its darkest hours, he endeavored to ensure that our “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863). During the Civil war, Lincoln said, “The times are dark, the spirits of ruin are abroad in all their power, and the mercy of God alone can save us.” After the war, he called for binding up our nation’s wounds without malice (Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865).

President Lincoln, 1864, with youngest son, Tad

In his early years, Lincoln was not so religious, but during the darkest days of the Civil War and when his son Willie died suddenly, he began to turn to the Bible and prayer. Before his first term was over, Lincoln had declared more days of prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving than any president before or since. Under him, our Thanksgiving celebration became an annual national holiday. Today, he still stands as an example for how to find strength during the terrors and tragedies of our lives, both as a people and as persons.

George Washington (1732-1799)

Finally, let us never let a February pass without honoring the father of our country. While all other founding fathers were signing founding documents, General Washington was in the field training an army in the courage, stamina and skill required to stand behind the words on those documents. Just keeping his army on the field under harrowing conditions was incredible. Only a man of his stature and dignity could have commanded the respect of his men under the conditions they faced.

The power-hungry French Emperor, Napoleon, in exile, whined, “They wanted me to be another Washington.” Napoleon was incapable of such greatness. Washington lost more battles than Napoleon, but he hung tough until he won his last one. Napoleon won nearly every battle he fought, except his last. Napoleon had genius, but Washington had moral character and strength of conviction. Big difference!

Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Emanuel Leutze, 1851, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The American Revolution was one of the few in history that did not end in tyranny, as did the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions. George Washington was a primary reason why American freedom persisted and thrived. After winning a nearly impossible victory against the greatest military power on earth, Washington presided over the drafting of our Constitution and then served as our nation’s first President. But his greatest deed may have been to step down from his powerful perch. Washington lived in an era of tyrants; like King George III, Robespierre, Napoleon, and others. Washington had enough popularity and prestige to become the first American king. In those chaotic times, calls for him to rule for life were frequent and loud. Nevertheless (I love that word), he gave up his power and returned to his farm, refusing to trade our hard-fought freedom for the personal prestige of wearing a crown. For over 2,000 years since Cincinnatus returned to his plow, no leader in similar circumstances had willingly done what Washington did. He symbolized the American spirit at its best with his personal virtue, renowned integrity, undying perseverance and unselfish sacrifice.


The American heroes above all combine greatness with imperfection. So does our country. But greatness can be squandered. Consider the warning of our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge:

When the reverence of this nation for its great men dies, the glory of the nation will die with it.<>/b


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.