Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Hampshire Vote Totals Look Troubling for Democrats

There was little suspense with the winners in the 2016 New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Just after the polls closed, the winners were known. Donald Trump easily won on the GOP side, and Bernie Sanders handily defeated Hillary Clinton. Most pundits are most interested in the second through fourth place finishers on the GOP side--especially where Cruz, Rubio, and Bush fall. (See results here.)

However, as of about 11:30 p.m. I believe there is even more interesting news. In 2008 the last time both parties had seriously contested NH primaries, the total GOP vote was 234,851. The total Democrat vote (which saw Hillary beat Barack) was 284,090. Tonight, with 71% of GOP vote in, the republicans have a total of 190,975 votes. With 72 % of the democrat vote in, Bernie and Hillary have totaled 166,516 votes.

This appears to be a major vote total decline for the democrats. Two states into the U.S. Presidential primary process, enthusiasm is not on the democrat side.

(Updates to follow.)

Update (7:10 a.m.): With 88% of the vote counted, GOP total is 258,354. With 89% of the vote counted, Democrat total is 227,543. This looks like its going to be a complete reversal of the vote totals from the 2008 New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Since 1992, New Hampshire has gone for the Democrats in the presidential general election five out of six times (the exception was 2000 when Bush beat Gore). I'm not sure how important is the vote turn-around in the primary (almost no one is reporting on this) and how exactly that will translate to the general election, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Update (9:20 a.m.): The Washington Times is now reporting on this. Its headline:
"GOP shatters its turnout record; Democrats lag behind."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

“Live Free, Live True”

Recently, in a broadcast entitled “Why I’m Not an Atheist,” renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias expounded on what he described as the three levels of philosophy. In the midst of discussing the second level (“drama, music, novel, and the existential struggle in your imagination”), Dr. Zacharias notes that, “It is most intriguing to me that the moral philosophers of the late 18th century were really the romantic poets and the writers.” Zacharias then quotes Andrew Fletcher—Scottish writer and political activist of the late-17th and early-18th century—who said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, I don’t care who writes its laws.”

A modern translation of this proverb might read: “If you want to change the culture, don’t raise your son to be a senator, raise him to be a television executive.”

Similarly, in God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis writes, “I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent.”

Sadly, there’s been little Christian interruption, either latent or overt, of the “enemy’s line of communication.” Whether attacking the meekest or most entrenched forms of Christianity, the forces of the enemy have long demonstrated themselves very capable of painting the path to destruction as a mellifluous, magnificent, and noble journey. Recently, my wife and I encountered just such an example of deviant artistry.

Season three of the highly regarded British television show Ripper Street dealt with, among other things, the issue of abortion. Set in Whitechapel in the East End of London during the late 19th century (just after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders), Ripper Street is largely a crime drama. Episode seven of season three (see a printed transcript here) is deceitfully entitled “Live Free, Live True.”

At the beginning of the episode, a chemist who provides women seeking abortions a poisonous lead-laced concoction (that does much more damage than kill the child in the womb), is found murdered. Detective Reid, the main protagonist of the series, visits Obsidian Clinic—a clinic providing charitable health care to the women of Whitechapel—and questions the female doctor (Dr. Frayne) there about whether or not they may have treated any women mutilated by the dead chemist.

Dr. Frayne hesitantly admits, “These women, these unhappy creatures, they come to me for help, this is their word for it. And like any doctor in this city, I could end their troubles safely, easily. (Notice, a child in the womb is “trouble.”) But it is illegal, so I must turn them away to be mangled and shredded by these quacks, criminals of the backstreets and side alleys. And then they come to me after, and I must make good the wretched work.”

Thus, the writers of Ripper Street would have us believe, that even in nineteenth century England, the cry for “safe and legal” abortions was a common (and noble) refrain, which, if ignored, leads to the back-alley butchering of women. Later in the show Dr. Frayne introduces her friend and “mentor,” Dr. Rolle, to Miss Hart, the director of the Obsidian Clinic. Dr. Rolle is revealed to be a member of the Malthusian League—a (real) nineteenth century British organization devoted to fighting the “scourge” of overpopulation.

Appealing to Miss Hart to bring the practices of Dr. Rolle to Obsidian, Dr. Frayne pleads, “Everyday it seems, I mow down the noxious weeds, but the roots remain, and the plant only grows again…I would give my women the information they need, but I would give them more. I would give them the help they beg for: safe procedure.” Miss Hart clarifies for the audience: “You mean to offer abortion at the clinic.”

Miss Hart—no paradigm of virtue, as her main role in the series, up until the third season, was as the Madam of a whore house—rejects Dr. Frayne’s proposal outright, declaring “Absolutely not. It is illegal.” Sounding as if she got her talking points from Gloria Steinem, Dr. Frayne boldly retorts, “The law is an ass.”

Not content with being a cheerleader for abortion, this episode also paints an ugly picture of marriage and motherhood. A few scenes after rejecting Dr. Frayne’s ideas on abortion at her clinic, Miss Hart speaks with Rose Erskine, a now famous local singer and reformed prostitute who was once employed at Miss Hart’s previous business venture. Rose is being romantically pursued by Bennet Drake, a regular detective in the series.

Miss Hart asks, “My Rose, your Bennet, you sought him out? Do you wonder still at his intentions?” Rose replies, “I have no doubt, he means to make me his wife.” Miss Hart condescendingly replies, “This is a sad smile, indeed…[Because] of course, as song bird of Blewett's, she shall sing no more. She shall be in her nest, feeding her chicks.”

Attempting to defend the future she now longs for, Rose asks, “And can a woman not be a mother and a singer?” Miss Hart solemnly concludes, “I think that must depend on the husband.”

To further paint marriage and motherhood as a prison, the episode soon takes a strange twist with a character (George Tait) who was the caretaker for a still living victim (Mary Tait) of the chemist abortionist found murdered at the beginning of the show. George Tait, in jail for assaulting the man he accused of seducing (and impregnating) Mary, is questioned about the dead chemist.

The investigators reveal to Mr. Tait that there are no records of him or his Mary. Inspector Reid asks George, “You are a brick setter, Hm? An ordinary man.” George replies, “Yes, sir.” Reid responds, “No, Mr. Tait, not ordinary. For you do not officially exist. You are a convict, perhaps. But I see no mark. Or an absconder, fled from the army. Navy?” George answers, “No, sir. A convict I never was. Though a prisoner, surely...but escaped.”

We later find out that George Tait is really Sarah Elizabeth James. Confronting “George” Inspector Reid reveals her past to the audience: “You fled the bounds of a woman’s life. You put on a man’s clothes. You were free to do as you please, go to places you would not else be welcome. And Mary…you meant to save her, too, from the perils of a woman's existence. But they caught her nonetheless. The injustice of it, that she should fall into the hands of a man like Currie (the abortionist). And just as you’d built your own life, so you served your own justice on him.”

Thus, not only does the audience get a sympathetic picture of abortion, but of transgenderism as well. Caught, (and sounding much more grim than Cosmo Kramer) “George” confesses, “You have unmanned me. Oh, my mother. Twelve children she had. Year on year, they ripped their path through her and into the world. My father unheeding, insisting on his rights. I ask you, who would be a woman? Who would be a wife?”

Dismayed that her “father” is adorned in a gown (I suppose “George” didn’t have the foresight and the lawyers as did Bradley Manning.), as “George” is led away to the gallows, Mary—still ignorant of her caretaker’s deception—mournfully exclaims, “Oh, George. Oh, my George, my father.” Her “father” yells, “You make me this promise. You live a brave, bright life for yourself, whatsoever it may be. You choose it…You live your life full. Live free, and live true (the title of the episode). Mm. Promise me that…Live true, my baby!”

One of the more alluring lies often chanted by the enemy (which completely contradicts the message of Jesus) is to “Be True to Yourself!” In other words, according to those devoted to the “theology of self,” to find real happiness in this life, one must rule his own world. Of course, the “theology of self” is at the heart of the abortion debate. As author and philosopher Michael Novak puts it, “To such women (those seeking an abortion), having an unplanned child represents a threat so great to modern women that it is perceived as the equivalent to a ‘death of self.’”

Later in “Live Free, Live True,” Miss Hart reveals herself to be rather self-devoted. She tells Dr. Frayne, “My thinking has changed. Has met your own. I will match your courage, Dr. Frayn. (Get that? It takes “courage” to kill the most helpless and defenseless among us.) I will fund this endeavor. You have taken the wind from my sails…I am pregnant, Dr. Frayn, and unmarried.” (We also learn that Dr. Frayne has relieved Miss Hart of such an affliction before.)

Excited, Dr. Frayne announces the good news to her mentor, Dr. Rolle. Dr. Rolle then reveals his “perfected” planned procedure for the women who will seek to end their pregnancies at Obsidian. “The patient suffers few complications. The treatment is absolute,” declares Dr. Rolle. Reading over Dr. Rolle’s plan, Dr. Frayne is aghast. “W-what you describe here... it is sterilization. We spoke of safe treatment, contraception, but you intend sterilization.”

Explaining himself, Dr. Rolle asks, “The prevention of unwanted pregnancy is our common aim, is it not? I-I thought we understood one another. If we are to staunch this rascal multitude, this overrunning, we must then eradicate the breeding population. And is it not logical, that the most careless should be the first?” Blind to her hypocrisy (I wonder if the show’s writers realized such.), Dr. Frayne indignantly declares, “I would remind you, sir, that you speak of human beings.”

The dehumanization of the unborn has been a familiar and very successful tactic of those wishing to justify the killing of humans in the womb. No doubt that successful use of the media in spreading such propaganda has played a great role in tens-of-millions of Americans either enthusiastically embracing this lie, or at least turning a blind eye to it. The tables must be turned. Christians appropriately gifted must use their creative talents to tell the world of the eternal truths—on life, marriage, manhood, womanhood, fatherhood, motherhood, charity, sex, creation, salvation, and so on—that will actually provide their audience with the hope and peace that they so desperately seek.

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Friday, January 29, 2016

It’s Time for Christians to Go to Jail over Marriage

Over two months prior to the Supreme Court of the United States forcing the legalization of a perverse redefinition of marriage on the whole of the country, I declared that when it comes to the foundation of every lasting culture the world over, the oldest institution in the history of humanity, and one of the earliest truths revealed by God, we can NEVER surrender.

As Churchill inspires us, we must fight the tyrannical menace that is the modern homosexual agenda, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. We must fight strong to the end, we must fight for the churches, we must fight for the chapels, and we must fight for the children. We shall fight in the media, we shall fight in the legislatures, and we shall fight in the courts. And if necessary, as Dr. Martin Luther King inspires us, we must go to jail.

The courts have ruled, thus some may ask, “Why break the law?” As King revealed in his letter from the Birmingham jail, “[T]here are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. And we agree with Dr. King, who agreed with Saint Augustine that, “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Dr. King also reminds us of the difference: “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.”

If a law forcing a nation to accept as normal men having sex with men and women having sex with women is not a violation of natural law, then nothing is. If a law forcing a nation to accept a perverse redefinition of marriage is not a violation of natural law, then nothing is.

We should go forth with the same boldness and surety as did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, though faced with the fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, refused to bow down to his golden idol. The biblical account of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego recorded in the book of Daniel are great examples of a faith that run counter to the culture—even the legal code of the culture, and even when it means facing the harshest of consequences. Though such faith is required in many parts of the world today, few Americans have ever had to make life or death decisions because of whom or how they worship.

However, as most sentient Americans now well know, as they refuse to bow to the homosexual agenda, some Americans are facing massive fines, the threat of lawsuits, the threat of having their businesses shut down, the loss of their jobs, death threats, and so on. Fines and other financial penalties seem to be the current favorite weapon of those targeting the individuals or businesses who are determined to hold to the biblical view of marriage. In every case of which I’m aware, when facing fines, generous Americans, through various “crowd-funding” efforts, have literally bailed out their like-minded brothers and sisters. It is time for this to stop.

I’m not saying that there’s anything immoral about helping someone pay an unjust fine. However, paying these fines, through whatever means, sends the wrong message. What’s more, in many cases it lines the pockets of those who stand behind these immoral laws.

I’m a public school teacher in a conservative state (Georgia), in one of the most conservative congressional districts in the country (GA-9). As I’ve said before, I will NEVER affirm homosexual relationships as normal and healthy, and I will continue to take all opportunities to live and tell the truth on marriage and sexuality. Currently, I cannot imagine a scenario where my positions on marriage and sexuality would result in criminal consequences, including a fine. However, how many of us just a few years ago thought the idea of legalized same-sex “marriage” absurd?

How many of us were told that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enough to protect states from a forced (and perverse) redefinition of marriage? In fact, barely a decade ago, some conservatives, including the author of DOMA himself—then Georgia Representative Bob Barr—told us that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one women was unnecessary. It’s likely that many of us who now think ourselves safe from the menacing reach of the homosexual agenda will soon find ourselves in the position of the bakers, photographers, florists, and the like, who have been targeted by those seeking revenge upon Americans seen as standing in the way of sexual “progress.”

I now go on the record: If fined I will not pay it, and I will allow no one else to pay it for me. In other words, I will go to jail. In the spirit of John Bunyan: I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of the truth.

What’s more, I call upon all defenders of the truth on marriage and sexuality to take the same positions. As Dr. King taught us, we must obey God rather than man. And as Dr. King reminds us, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”

In today’s America, there are few things more “antireligious” than same-sex “marriage.”

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Friday, January 22, 2016

America Shouldn’t Gamble With Donald Trump

As many of you probably well know, for over 17 years now, my wife Michelle and I have been on an unusual financial journey. (In case you haven’t heard, we’ve penned a book on the matter.) In short, about 17 years ago we committed to living our lives completely debt free. We built our home without a mortgage. We haven’t had a car loan in 16 years. Our four children attend a private Christian academy. All this, and we’ve never made more than $100,000 in any single year. We budget. We save. We invest. And we never gamble. Ever. We’ve never even purchased a lottery ticket. (Even when the payout is north of $1 billion.)

We consider ourselves financial disciples of the late-great Larry Burkett. The greatest lesson he taught us is the principle of stewardship. In fact, stewardship is the most important financial principle taught in Scripture. The Bible reveals that none of us really “owns” anything. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” We are merely stewards, or managers, of God’s property. Until we come to grips with this, we can never truly understand money and wealth.

If nothing else, gambling is poor stewardship. However, Larry had a lot more to say on the matter. Larry notes that, whatever the reason one gambles (an attempt to supplement or replace income, as entertainment, because of compulsion), all gamblers are guilty of the same thing: materialism. What’s more, gambling is “the ultimate in ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes since it fits all the criteria: Participants are encouraged to risk money they usually can't afford to lose; they know little or nothing about what they are doing; they're forced to make hasty decisions; and the idea operates on the ‘greater sucker’ theory. (That is, when you dump money into a slot machine, you believe there was a greater sucker who risked money and then quit just before the big jackpot.)”

On whether gambling is a sin, Larry writes, “In the strictest sense, gambling is a sin as much as false weights and measures. Enticing someone to gain money at the certain loss of another violates virtually every principle Christ taught. It not only breeds selfishness, greed and covetousness, but, in fact, promotes them: ‘For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things’ (Phil. 3:18,19).”

As we are now just days away from the beginning of the primary season, the practice of gambling has weighed on my mind more than usual. I’m no more tempted by it than usual, but the fact that one of the leading candidates for President of the United States has made a significant portion of his billion dollar fortune from casinos is indeed a troubling matter.

Donald Trump has been involved in multiple casino ventures in his lengthy financial career, and though he has made tens-of-millions of dollars from casinos, his investors have not been so lucky. In 1990 Trump opened the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City with typical Trump showmanship. (As the Boston Globe describes, “Trump strode onto a stage as ‘Eye of the Tiger’ blared on loudspeakers. He rubbed a giant replica of Aladdin’s lamp and a genie appeared on a large video screen, promising the young casino mogul, ‘Your dream is our command.’”) One year later the casino was $3 billion in debt and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Trump has had four bankruptcies related to his casinos.

On Trump, Phillip Sternberg, a former Trump investor who was part of a committee appointed by shareholders to negotiate with Trump during one of his bankruptcies, said “He’s the biggest [jerk] I’ve ever known…There’s nothing nice I can say about him. He hurt so many people. He bankrupted families that were two-and three-generation electricians, plumbers.” This is quite ironic for a man that many see as the hero for the American working class, and a savior of the U.S. economy.

Trump’s unscrupulous ties to casino gambling alone should be enough to give any conservative serious pause when considering him as a presidential candidate. However, there is also the matter of his three marriages, his adultery, his previous support for abortion (even partial-birth abortion), his glaring ignorance of basic Christian doctrines and practices, and so on. (Matt Walsh chronicles many of Trump’s moral shortcomings here.) In other words, for most of his life, Trump has lived out well his “New York values.”

Trump’s tough comments on immigration have perhaps drawn him the most enthusiastic support. However, tough talk (something at which Trump seems to excel) is cheap. How can we trust that he will do what he says? Even the shallowest of political observers knows well that Washington, D.C. is one of the most difficult places in the world to remain a principled person. The temptations for corruption are rampant. What is there in Trump’s life that tells us that once he gets to D.C. he will act according to conservative principles? Nearly nothing.

On gambling and the government, Larry Burkett wrote, “When governments resort to enticing citizens to gamble to raise funds, we know the state of our society.” What does it say about our society if we elect a casino mogul as President of the United States?

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Woe to You, President Obama

In the spirit of Matthew 23 and Luke 11:

After Islamic terrorists shot up San Bernardino, President Obama stood before the American people to discuss his plans for guns. Knowing the President as we do, few were surprised.

Now then, when it comes to guns and violence, in a supposedly “real and relatable moment,” outwardly Obama weeps in public, but his politics is filled with bloodshed and wickedness. You foolish liberals! Did not the One who made the citizens of San Bernardino, the school children at Newtown, and the soldiers at Fort Hood, also make those in the womb? Are not the most innocent and defenseless among us worthy of protection?

You sit in the highest office in the land, President Obama, and many must do most everything you tell them. But they must not do as you do, for you do not practice what you preach. Whether Obamacare, taxes, your gun-control efforts, and the like, you put heavy burdens on the shoulders of American citizens, and you see a child in the womb as a “punishment.” You do many things merely for men to see. You make long speeches and seek important seats all over the world.

Woe to you, President Obama, because you have been educated at some of the highest institutions of learning in the world, and have taught constitutional law, yet you neglect true justice, and the love and law of God. You love your legacy so much that you will say almost anything to get your legislation passed.

Woe to you President Obama, teacher of constitutional law, you hypocrite! You travel over land and sea seeking solutions to problems that don’t exist. Yet, as the real problems of our culture loom large and clear, you ignore the Truth and go your own way.

Woe to you, blind liberal fools! You say that gender is however one wants to define it, yet you support the right to kill children in the womb based on their gender. You say the science that looks to the past—Darwinian evolution—and the science that looks to the future—man-made global warming—is clear and “settled,” yet, in the present, you ignore what is right before your eyes. You shed tears for dead children, yet support their slaughter in the womb.

Woe to you, liberal law makers, you hypocrites! You love to give away other people’s money, but you are not very generous with your own. In order to win elections, you promise to make things “free” (healthcare, education, child care, and the like), all the while piling up trillions of dollars in debt. You shed tears for dead children, yet you ignore that this is debt that our children, and grand-children, and great grand-children will have to repay.

Woe to You, President Obama, teacher of constitutional law. You claim to know the law, yet you wish to redefine the oldest institution in the history of humanity, and you ignore one of the earliest truths revealed by God. You shed tears for dead children, yet you undermine the institution so important to the wellbeing of all children.

Woe to You, President Obama, teacher of constitutional law. You appoint judges who pervert the eternal and unchangeable laws of the One true Law Giver.

Woe to You, President Obama, teacher of constitutional law. You ignore, or attempt to rewrite the law that our forefathers labored so diligently to give us. You work in the shadows of their memorials, yet you trample their legacy of liberty and justice for all.

Woe to You, President Obama, you hypocrite! You shed tears for the victims of gun violence, yet you did not cry for Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya. On the contrary, you and your administration lied about the events surrounding the attack.

Woe to you, President Obama! Did you cry for the hundreds of victims of gun violence this past year from your home state of Illinois? Where are your tears for the tens-of-thousands of Middle Eastern Christians who are victims of violent Islamic extremism? Did you cry for the victims of Islamic extremism in Paris? Do you weep for the young girls kidnapped and made sex-slaves by violent Islamic extremists in Africa?

Woe to you, President Obama! You condemn the Crusades from centuries ago, yet you ignore the violent and oppressive nature of modern Islam. As millions the world over suffer and die under the wicked oppression of Islam, you refuse even to utter the word “Islamic” when describing the most violent and extreme cases.

Oh America, America, how long will we languish under the lies of liberalism? How long has our Creator longed to provide us refuge under his wings? We say, “In God We Trust,” but as we live our lives, far too many of us look to our own knowledge, wisdom, and power. We say we are free, but we have become slaves to sin and unrighteousness. We refuse to repent, and instead attempt to redefine sin. For America to be truly great, Americans must get off of the throne of our lives and give way to Him who reigns forever and ever.

Copyright 2016, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Monday, January 11, 2016

Roger Fitzpatrick is (again) Challenging Doug Collins in GA-9

Today, Roger Fitzpatrick (full disclosure: my wife's uncle) announced that he is going to challenge Republican Representative Doug Collins in Georgia's ninth congressional district. Collins is finishing up his second term in congress. Four years ago, Fitzpatrick ran against Collins in the republican primary for the newly formed GA-9. Mr. Fitzpatrick is again going to challenge Mr. Collins in the republican primary.

When asked about why he's decided to challenge Collins in the republican primary, Fitzpatrick said, "He's voting with establishment, he's voting with leadership and that's not what we sent him up there to do."

Roger is a strong Christian constitutional conservative. He's a former marine, and a retired middle school teacher and elementary school principal. He formerly served as president of the Lanier Tea Party Patriots, and currently serves on the White County school board. Win or lose, our district will be better off because of his candidacy.

"Brother Let Me Be Your Shelter"

"Brother" has been one of my favorite songs for months. It's by the Christian group "Needtobreathe." Lead vocals are performed by brothers Bear (named for football legend "Bear Bryant") and Bo Rinehart. Below is the official video, which includes vocals by Gavin DeGraw. Below that is an interesting acoustic version of the same song.

The acoustic version:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The World’s Greatest Gift Meets Humanity’s Most Desperate Need

As the parents of four young children (ages 13, 11, 9, and 7), my wife and I have had many years of joyous celebration at Christmas time. Interestingly, we’ve done this without ever “doing” Santa Claus. In other words, we have never pretended with our children that the gifts under the tree and the goodies in their stockings were the result of the magical efforts of a jolly fat-man.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t shun Santa. As the above implies, we embrace most of the traditions surrounding Christmas. We have a Christmas tree with presents underneath. We decorate the house inside and out with wreaths, bows, Nativity scenes, and the like. We have our “stockings hung by the chimney with care.” We send and receive Christmas cards (one of our best efforts from a couple of years ago is below), and so on. We’ve taught our children that some families, even Christian families, use the Santa Claus myth as a means of enhancing the joy and fun of the Christmas season.

Have a Merry Christmas...Or Else!

Of course, we work hard at keeping Christ the center of Christmas. We’ve cautioned our children that “traditions” often can distract us from the profound Truth that Christmas presents. Those who hate the real meaning and message of Christmas will go to great lengths to keep us from this Truth. 

The unexpected death of my beloved father-in-law David earlier this year has made this Christmas season by far the most difficult that our family has faced. As an important court date looms for David’s killer just a few days following Christmas, our family is tragically reminded of the true meaning of this season.

The man who killed David has a long criminal history. He soon will stand before a judge to be sentenced for probation violations associated with the crash that took David from us. Though he will face the hard consequences of our criminal justice system in this world, because of what was given at Christmas, David’s killer, like all of us, has an amazing opportunity for eternal redemption. In other words, though he may be in prison, he could be “set free.”

As the piece from the previous link indicates, whether or not we are ever unjustly responsible for the death of another human being in this world, in one way or another, we have all “offended” the One Judge before Whom we must all give an account. In other words, we are all “criminals” desperately in need of a pardon.

In fact, there is no greater need in this world. As Charles Sell put it, 

“If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.”

In Christian circles, it is often told that, early in the twentieth century, The Times (UK) either invited essays on, or ran a piece entitled, “What’s wrong with the world?” Noted theologian, author, and apologist G.K. Chesterton replied,

“Dear Sir,
I am.
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

None of us is “innocent.” We have all gone our own way and done our own thing with disastrous results. In spite of the foolish notion often portrayed by some, no nation, no culture, no individual is “basically good.” This world is filled with evil, and at one time or another, we’ve all had a hand in it. As the prophet Isaiah puts it, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah wasn’t merely painting a picture of sinful humanity. The above Scripture was a prophecy of the coming Messiah. Ultimately the world doesn’t have a poverty problem, or a crime problem, or a sexual problem, or a terrorism problem, or even (and of course) a climate problem. The world has a sin problem, and Jesus is the answer.

The most quoted portion of the Bible, John 3:16 declares, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Emphasis mine.) Less well known is the verse immediately following. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

The Red Cross offers “Operation Save-A-Life.” Those wanting us to donate blood or organs do so by imploring us to “Give the gift of life.” With Christmas, God gave “the gift of life” as it has never before been given. How many dying individuals would say no to a lifesaving medical procedure made possible through the efforts or generosity of another? Yet how many reject the amazing gift of everlasting life that God offers through Jesus?

There’s no escaping this all important eternal truth: we are all in dire need of a Savior. Your life can be filled with treasures and pleasures, but if you ignore Jesus and His message, you will regret it for eternity. Your life can be riddled with poverty, sickness, and strife, yet if you repent and believe in Christ, the magnificent riches of eternal life await you. And whether rich or poor, sick or well, imprisoned or free, in good times or bad, we all need the gift that was given on that first Christmas. Merry Christmas!

(See this column at American Thinker.)

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Sunday, December 20, 2015

We’ve All Waged a “War on Christmas” (Updated)

There are few things that reveal the hedonistic, sexually depraved sin so prevalent in our culture more than a recent display on the second floor of the Georgia Capitol. It’s even more shameful that this display was done specifically to target Christmas. As my Christmas column (available in a few days) this year notes, those who hate the real meaning and message of Christmas will go to great lengths to keep us from the Truth.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Humanity Fund, a pro-homosexual organization, was granted a petition to mount a “Gay Pride Festivus Pole” in the Georgia Capitol. (The idea of “Festivus” comes from an episode of Seinfeld.) According to its website, The Humanity Fund is “an advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of speech and religion, especially the separation of Church and State. The Humanity Fund believes in equal rights for all, with a focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.”

The obvious sexual innuendo of the “Festivus Pole” evidently escaped Georgia’s political leaders who occupy the Capitol. Few should’ve been surprised that those promoting homosexuality would attempt to distract us from the birth of Christ with something sinfully sexual. Chaz Stevens, the director of the pro-homosexual Humanity Fund, wasn’t shy about the pole’s meaning. In an email he said, “If anyone in the South could use an erection, it’s those Confederate flag waving lunkheads.”

Reveling in his “religious freedom victory” Stevens also gleefully exclaimed, “I officially declare victory in our gay war on Christmas.” You mean there really is a “war on Christmas?” I thought the “war on Christmas” was another right-wing myth dreamed up by Christian conservatives.

And why wage a “war on Christmas?” What’s so scary about Christmas? Is the birth of Jesus really that scary? Yes, it is. In fact, whether we would admit it or not, each of us, whether privately or publicly, at one time or another, has waged a “war on Christmas.”

What does Christmas really celebrate? An exasperated Charlie Brown wanted to know when you loudly asked, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” Quoting perfectly from Luke chapter two, Linus answered Charlie Brown, “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

And that is precisely why Christmas can be so scary. Christmas celebrates the birth of a savior—of the Savior. Of course, God sending His Son as a Savior implies that we need “saving.” The most quoted verse in the Bible, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Less well known, but just as important, is the very next verse. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” This begs the question, “From what or whom do we need to be saved?”

In John chapter 8, Jesus says, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” What does it mean to “die in your sins?” Romans chapter 6 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In other words, we need to be “saved” from the eternal consequences of our sin. There is eternal life with Jesus, and apart from Him, death and eternal separation from God.

This is why so many Christians are so celebratory at Christmas time. Yes, there are presents, and parties, and time off from work, but for Christians who truly understand what was done for them on that first Christmas day, nothing compares to the gift of eternal life through Jesus. Those who reject the need for salvation, or reject the miracle of Jesus, or reject their sin for what it really is, are “offended” by Christmas.

Such people don’t want to hear that Jesus came to die for their sins. They don’t want to hear of the many miracles that surround the birth of the Savior. They don’t want to hear that their greed, or lust, or pride is sin. They want to go their own way, thus they display “Festivus Poles.” And again, we’ve all been there. May God empower those of us who see Christmas for what it truly is, who see Jesus for who He really is, to spread His message of hope, love, peace, and salvation to all we encounter, all year-round.

Update: By "war on Christmas," I don't mean to imply that we've all openly displayed hostility to the "Christmas season" (protested Nativity scenes, shunned saying "Merry Christmas," and the like). And almost certainly most of us have not displayed a "Festivus Pole," but we've all, at one time or another, thumbed our nose at God and gone our own way. In other words, as Augustine alluded, at some point in our lives we turned our back on the City of God and firmly planted our feet in the City of Man.

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Saturday, December 12, 2015

To Really “Fix Things,” We Must Pray

Early in C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, admonishing his demonic protégé Wormwood on the matter of prayer, Screwtape said, “The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether.” In light of the latest round of radical Islamic terror in the U.S., it seems that many Americans burdened with a liberal worldview—especially those at the Daily News—have decided to listen to the demons whispering in their ears.

I shouldn’t be too harsh. Many of us Christians have given prayer a bad name. Too often we’ve made prayer all about ourselves—our wants, wishes, and desires—with little regard for what is really needed in the world around us. Thus too many of us often pray, “babbling like pagans,” as if we’re ordering from the worn-out menu (that we’ve practically memorized) at our favorite restaurant.
Of course, this is not to say that it’s wrong to ask for things, even for ourselves, when we pray. “The Lord’s Prayer,” which Christ used to teach us how to pray, contains more than one personal request. Three times, and significantly, to no avail, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked that “this cup be taken from me.”

Virtually every serious and significant Christian scholar throughout history has made note of the importance of prayer in the life of a believer. Prayer changes the world. More importantly, prayer changes us. As C.S. Lewis notes, “one must train the habit of Faith… That is why daily prayer and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.” Thus prayer doesn’t so much lead us to “getting” as it does to us growing.

As Lewis also notes, prayer reveals our “bankruptcy,” or, put another way, our powerlessness. Prayer helps us understand who we really are, and who God really is. (Note how the Lord’s Prayer begins: “Our Father in heaven, holy is your name…”) And when necessary, prayer leads us up to the vital moment at which we “turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can’t.’”

Jesus warned us that without Him, we would accomplish nothing in this world—at least nothing of any lasting and good eternal consequence. Usually, it is only when we spend a significant deal of time with Him that we realize such. By nature, we humans are quite stubborn and full of pride. Any parent who has spent much time with their infant and toddler children knows this well!

We often think ourselves quite wise, smart, and capable. However, it is one thing for a two-year-old to demand cookies and Kool-Aid for lunch; it is quite another when a drunk 21-year-old man decides that he is sober enough to drive, or when a 30-year-old woman decides that her two children will be fine if she leaves her husband for another man, or when a 40-year-old man decides that the world owes him something and it is time to take it.

As tragic as the sinful, selfish choices of an individual adult can sometimes be, they often pale in comparison to a pastor, a politician, or a CEO who is “wise in his own eyes.” As the prophet Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” In these times, much “darkness for light and light for darkness” has resulted from those who’ve ignored the eternal truths of our Creator.

As did the Israelites (noted at the end of the book of Judges), a culture “wise in its own eyes” does what is “right in its own eyes.” Currently, the disastrous results of such “wisdom” are frequently revealed throughout the United States. From the beginning of this nation, many of our founders warned us against such foolishness.

Reflecting on the victory over the British and writing on the hated Stamp Act which helped to launch the Revolutionary War, Patrick Henry noted, Whether this will prove a blessing or a curse, will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings, which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation.” (The last sentence is a direct reference to Proverbs 14:34.)

On April 30, 1789, in his Inaugural address to both Houses of Congress, President George Washington declared, “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency…We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…”

Daniel Webster, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and “Defender of the Constitution,” was born just after the American victory over the British. Arguing before the Supreme Court (on behalf of the government!) that a school could not exclude the Bible, said “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; If we and our posterity shall be true to the Christian religion, if we and they shall live always in the fear of God and shall respect His Commandments...we may have the highest hopes of the future fortunes of our country;...But if we and our posterity neglect religious instruction and authority; violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”

Additionally, burdened with the problems and challenges that come with leadership, many of our national leaders—even political leaders—have encouraged, openly called, and themselves engaged in, prayer.

In 1787, as the Constitutional Convention was on the verge of collapse, 81-year-old Ben Franklin—considered by most a very secular-minded man—arose and gave a speech that helped changed the course of the Convention. In the speech he declared, “In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.

“To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?

“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

“We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.”

Franklin’s rebuke and call for prayer were powerful and authoritative. Franklin was a man respected by every delegate at the Convention. Following the address, James Madison moved, and Roger Sherman seconded the motion that Franklin’s appeal for prayer be enacted. However, because the Convention had no money to pay for a minister, Franklin’s motion did not pass. However, Edmund Randolph, a delegate from Virginia, further moved “that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on the 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; and thenceforward prayers be used in ye Convention every morning.”

As historian David Barton notes, “As it turns out, after the Convention, and nine days after the first Constitutional Congress convened with a quorum (April 9, 1789), they implemented Franklin's recommendation. Two chaplains of different denominations were appointed, one to the House and one to the Senate, with a salary of $500 each. This practice continues today, posing no threat to the First Amendment.” (It’s also interesting to note that, as author Tim LaHaye points out, Congress has opened both houses with prayer ever since.)

President Washington issued two Thanksgiving Day Prayer Proclamations. In the first one, in 1789, he declared,

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

In September of 1862, just after the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Lincoln penned his Meditation on the Divine Will (which his secretaries would later reveal were originally written for Lincoln’s eyes only):

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.

“I am almost ready to say that this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

On September 17, 1862, the bloodiest day in U.S. military history, Union forces defeated Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies at Antietam in Maryland. At the battle’s end, approximately 25,000 American men are killed, wounded, or missing. The victory held special significance for Lincoln.
A few days later, in the cabinet meeting on September 22, Lincoln announced his decision to issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The best account of the event comes from the diary of Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles.

According to Welles, Lincoln “remarked that he had made a vow, a covenant, that if God gave us the victory in the approaching battle, he would consider it an indication of Divine will, and that it was his duty to move forward in the cause of emancipation. It might be thought strange, he said, that he had in this way submitted the disposal of matters when the way was not clear to his mind what he should do. God had decided this question in favor of the slaves. He was satisfied it was right, was confirmed and strengthened in his action by the vow and the results.”

Imagine that. American slaves were freed, in no small part, because the President of the United States saw it as a matter of “Divine will.” (Of course, because of their relationship with their Heavenly Father, millions of other praying Americans already well knew how God saw the matter of slavery in the United States.)

In spite of the vain and foolish protests by liberals, as even politicians throughout American history demonstrate, praying Christians are almost never do-nothing Christians. Quite the contrary, the more time we spend with our Creator, the better we get to know Him. The better we know Him, the more we trust Him. The more we trust Him, the more we want to do what He says. And of course, if we want real and lasting change from the problems that afflict us, we will do as He directs us.

(See a version of this column at American Thinker.)

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World