FILTER BY:

Although it’s been a couple of months since we’ve been immersed in news coming from Japan about the 2020/2021 Olympic games, it’s still worth considering how these events are understood in the modern worldview of our country. The “Top Story of the Day” on Monday, August 9 (at least according to my newsfeed), was how the US athletes “restored the soul of America” through their performances at the Olympics. The phrase came from President Joe Biden addressing the American athletes, speaking about how proud he and all Americans are of their accomplishments. Specific references were made to the standout stars and teams who won the most medals or who broke world records. There was nothing too surprising in the address to the athletes; all in all, it was a refrain of common clichés you would expect from any president congratulating those who represented their country in a global effort.

 

During the Tokyo Olympic Games, the US won the overall medal count—pulling in 113 total medals, with 39 gold, 41 silver, and 33 bronze. This makes the eighth consecutive Olympics in which the United States took home the most medals. The 39 gold medals were also the most of any nation, beating out China’s total (38 gold medals) in the last hours of the Olympics. Such a narrow victory is thrilling, especially when it comes over rival nations China and Russia (or more correctly, the “Russian Olympic Committee,” since Russian athletes were banned from directly representing their country for two years due to illegal doping). With “God Bless the U.S.A.” ringing in the background, we are tempted to stand alongside our president, waving the number one sign in the air and making proud remarks about how we are always the best. We could then go to sleep at night thinking that everything is right in the world because those representing freedom and liberty prevailed against our Communist foes yet again.

 

That’s how many in our country would like us to view the Olympics, but there are other lessons for us to learn from Tokyo. Significant worldview implications are at stake in how we view and celebrate the games and its athletes. The Olympics are a grand spectacle, for sure, open to all nations. For Christians, it is a grand spectacle that clearly showcases a fallen world that is bereft with sin, a world and its peoples that are looking for fulfillment, recognition, endorsements, and assurance that their whole life’s focus up to this point has not been in vain. The Olympics, in part, remind me of the final hours of the Tower of Babel, where the nations of the world were assembled with a singular goal yet worked against each other in its pursuit. Like the Tower of Babel, the proud Olympic village is soon abandoned as spectators and athletes disperse and a site once teeming with activity, chatter, and laughter becomes a desolate place, often never used again.

 

For those who followed this summer’s Olympic events, you would do well to think deeply about the stories that came out of the Olympics and how the news media reported them. Consider, for example, how the secular media presented the stories of transgender athletes, or how it framed the issue of mental health after one prominent athlete pulled out of the games for a time. Though wrapped in an American flag and cloaked in the language of virtue, these stories tell us a lot about the priorities of this world and how they are becoming the norm in our country.

 

Much can also be learned from watching the athletes and their responses to victory and adversity. Covering these personal stories of triumph and tragedy is what the Olympic broadcasts do well when they choose to do so. From some of these stories a young person can readily observe the selfish response of athletes when they did not win a coveted gold medal, some of whom openly blamed others for cheating as an excuse for why they lost. But we can also learn from the proper responses of athletes that took place this year. Examples in this category include stories not of triumph but of failure while doing their best, of those who help others on the track at the expense of their own medal chances, of those who give up spots on a relay to someone who is more deserving, of teams who can celebrate with their teammates but also congratulate the opponents throughout the match, and of those who win gold but remain humble and contrite. The Olympics are a spectacle of human nature at every level.

 

More importantly, however, consider the declaration that the American athletes “restored the soul of America” through their performances. What does that even mean? Most Americans will forget who medaled in a specific event by the time of the next Olympics. Case in point, the most Googled phrase during the whole of the Olympics was “medal count.” Maybe that is what the “soul of America” means. We send the most athletes of any nation, we train more athletes in our country than any other, and we leave the game with the most medals (eight times in a row). But we are less interested in who the athletes are or even what event they won their medal in—we just need to know that our country emerged with more medals, preferably gold, than any other nation. The Olympics are over and we are free to move on to the college and professional athletes of specific sports we enjoy and hope they represent us well by winning a title too. Triumph and victory above all else!

 

Child of God, may we not be so shallow in our view and appreciation of sports and athletes. Whether in viewing or participating, may we strive to receive the prize, but not to obtain a corruptible crown. Our goal in all of life must be the incorruptible crown that cannot be attained by physical exertion (1 Cor. 9:24–25). Our soul cannot be restored through an athletic achievement, through the attainment of a medal, or by one representing us as a member of an earthly nation. Consider the wording of 2 Timothy 4:7–8, wherein we are called to run the race set before us (not always the one we chose, Hebrews 12:1) and be confident that through him we have fought a good fight, we have finished the course, and we have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for us a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give at that day: and not to us only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. Deep truths for us to consider as we reflect on the Olympic events that have now finished and our calling to run a race for the glory of our Lord.

 

Originally published Vol 80, No 11 November 2021

Our brothers and sisters in the Lord are being hunted down! No news this past month has been more heartbreaking than the news coming out of Afghanistan. The Taliban has seized control of Kabul and of the entire country. What this exactly means in the long term relating to stability in the Middle East is anyone’s guess, but in the short term it means that Christians are being hunted down and killed through house-to-house raids.

A brief timeline highlighting how and why the United States entered Afghanistan is in order. For most of the readers of this magazine, the US involvement in the Middle East began before you were born. After what is now referred to as 9-11, or the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States began a war on terrorism. The goal in 2001 was to defeat Al-Qaeda, the militant Islamic group responsible for the attack, and the Taliban, a militant Islamic group who provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden in southern Afghanistan. Roughly two years later, President George W. Bush announced that the major combat operations were complete and that the United States was shifting to reconstruction. The United States used military means to support the Afghan government, helping them write a pro-democracy constitution and hold a democratic election resulting in Hamid Karzai being elected as president. The Taliban forces remained in southern Afghanistan but were held in check.[1]

Subsequent presidential administrations have swung back and forth between policies intended to strengthen the position of the United States in Afghanistan and those meant to withdraw American presence in the region. During the presidency of Barack Obama, an initial surge in troops eventually led to a successful Navy Seal raid, which was able to locate and kill the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Believing the major threat to be removed, the United States handed over security responsibility to the US-trained Afghan military and announced a timeline for US withdrawal. This news, however, seems only to have revived the Taliban forces.[2]

US policy under President Donald Trump took a similar twofold path. Though he initially stopped the withdrawal policy and promised a “fight to win,” it gradually became clear that the president was more interested in making a peace treaty with the Taliban and bringing our troops home. After several unsuccessful attempts at this, he finally announced the terms of a brokered peace in February 2020. Promises to cease hostility and exchange thousands of prisoners were made between the US government and the Taliban. The Afghan government, however, was largely left out of negotiations and therefore had little interest in enforcing the terms of the deal.

With no threat of enforcement from the Afghan government, the Taliban recognized immediately that this was a clear victory for them. When President Trump lost the presidential election in November, it was up to new president Joseph Biden to oversee the withdrawal effort put in place by his predecessor. With the Taliban moving in as the US troops moved out, President Biden had only a few choices: continue with the approved deadline of May 2021 set by the Trump administration, alter the deadline again, or rescind the deal and send in more American troops. He went with the second option, moving the deadline to August 31 as the final date for all American troops to be out of Afghanistan.[3]

How does that bring us to today? The Taliban patiently waited, and then pounced swiftly and decisively. With limited US troops on the ground, the well-armed but ill-prepared Afghan military fell to the Taliban almost overnight. Sickening for some are the images of the Taliban smiling and waving around American firearms while driving the Humvees, tanks, drones, and armored trucks we left behind. Sickening for others is the blame game that both parties seem to be relishing in by blaming each other for a failed twenty-year involvement in the Middle East. Ironically, both sides can clearly see the missteps of the other party. But there are conclusions they both can agree on. The Taliban is a group of unusually good fighters, and the US never really trusted the Afghan government.

Young people, this is truly disturbing news. Yes, the United States has lost yet another conflict wherein we tried to bring peace, stability, and democracy. But this issue is not primarily about our street cred on the global scene. This is sad and disturbing news for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Lord who now face a radical Islamic government that has committed itself to the removal of all Christians. With the Taliban going door-to-door, looking for Bibles on their shelves or Bible apps on their phones, Christians are being tried and often executed on the spot as infidels.[4] Young Christian girls are being pursued by the Taliban. Known Christian leaders have received letters stating that the Taliban knows who they are and where they have been performing illegal church meetings.[5] Christian missionaries and volunteers remain trapped in a country that is committed to resurrecting the Islamic State caliphate that collapsed in 2019 (a caliphate refers to a region governed by a Muslim ruler as both a political and religious “state” that is not bound by national borders).[6] Even more horrifying is that the US government has refused to take in any refugees from Afghanistan or Pakistan and has deemed it unwise to send in enough US troops to secure the safe passage of the thousands left behind. Almost exactly twenty years later, the Taliban is more secure, better armed, and more committed to ruling Afghanistan as a Muslim-only state.

How has the rest of the world responded? India has announced that they will prioritize evacuating Hindus and Sikhs, the dominant religious peoples of their nation. Germany has vowed to evacuate and bring into their country as many as 10,000 people, and the UK is in the process of prioritizing those “most in need” by aiding the evacuation and placement of refugees throughout Europe.[7] The Nazarene Fund, a nonprofit group headed by prominent Mormons whose stated goal is “to liberate the captive, to free the enslaved, and to rescue, rebuild and restore the lives of Christians and other persecuted religious and ethnic minorities wherever and whenever they are in need” has already raised over $22 million and has rescued over 400 Christians from Afghanistan.[8] There are many others, and probably more that we will never hear about due to the nature of rescue operations. Throughout the world Christians have been asked to pray, and they have. Their prayers and their songs have been shared to the saints abroad.[9]

Christian young people, my worldview is not a political worldview, it is a biblical Christian worldview. Important as it might seem to be informed about whose fault it is, or how this chapter of world history reflects my political party’s reputation, it is far more important that I have my eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ and his church. Our nation as a whole, the majority of our news media, and many of our religious organizations have forgotten this. Yet the Lord continues to use means for the protection of his people in every nation. Remember your fellow saints in Afghanistan and pray for their safety, but also for the strength to endure persecution. Don’t be consumed with arguing whose fault this is. Rather, see the Lord’s hand in drawing the strings of history to a close and ushering in the second coming of his Son. When you do this, you will see that there are more Christians in need of prayers than just in Afghanistan. You will also see more clearly how the Lord is calling us to prepare, even in this country, for persecution, for we are in a nation that has rejected God, and now too, the willingness to help his people worldwide.

 

Originally published October 2021, Vol 80 No 10

 

[1] Camille Squires, “A Timeline of US Engagement in Afghanistan,” Quartz, August 16, 2021, https://qz.com/2047556/a-timeline-of-us-involvement-in-afghanistan/.

[2] Squires, “A Timeline of US Engagement in Afghanistan.”

[3] Dion Nissenbaum, “Who Are the Taliban and How Did They Conquer Afghanistan?” The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2021.

[4] Dr. Jim Denison, “The Taliban Are Killing Christians with Bibles on Their Cellphones,” Denison Forum, August 20, 2021.

[5] Kelsey Zorzi, “Afghanistan’s Christians Are Turning Off Phones and Going into Hiding,” The Hill, August 23, 2021.

[6] Robin Wright, “Afghanistan, Again, Becomes a Cradle for Jihadism—and Al-Qaeda,” The New Yorker, August 23, 2021.

[7] Wright, “Afghanistan, Again, Becomes a Cradle for Jihadism—and Al-Qaeda.”

[8] The Nazarene Fund, “The Nazarene Mission,” accessed August 23, 2021, https://thenazarenefund.org/about-us/#leadership.

[9] Caleb Parke, “Pray for the Saints: A Song for Afghanistan,” accessed August 30, 2021, https://calebparke.com/pray-for-the-saints-a-song-for-afghanistan/.

Florida led the nation in tragic news and events in the last weeks of June. There were shark attacks, a condo complex collapsing into a pile of twisted metal and rubble, and a truck careening through a parade route killing one, critically injuring another, and almost hitting a convertible that was to drive Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. These stories ran for days thanks to the sensationalized titles that served as clickbait offering details of tragedy, death, and blame.

Looking more closely at the final story, I believe there is something for us to learn in how the news relates stories and how we feast on the sensationalized tragedies of others. When the news first broke about a white Dodge truck careening through an LGBTQ parade, the news stations were calling the event a “massacre,” a cold-blooded act of homophobic revenge, even a deliberate attempt by right-wing radicals to kill Congresswoman Schultz. Emotional responses and irrational fears fed this news story for days and put everyone on edge in the Fort Lauderdale area. The official police report, offered days later, tempered these emotions, calling it an “unfortunate accident at the start of the parade.” The driver, a member of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, struck his own colleagues who were pedestrians in the parade, killing one and seriously injuring the other. His truck continued onward crossing all lanes of the road and crashed into a fence on the opposite side of the street where the congresswoman’s car was waiting to join the parade route. The seventy-seven-year-old driver, being unable to walk, had been chosen to have his truck lead the parade. Inching into the parade route, he suddenly accelerated, and the tragedy unfolded before everyone’s eyes, dutifully recorded on multiple phones and etched in the bystanders’ memories.

The slow pace (two days!) at which the actual facts in the story unfolded serves as a reminder to us to be careful in rash assumptions and knee-jerk reactions. Emerging information was reported and logical conclusions were drawn. The story continued to grow and change as more and more facts were made known. Dozens of different accounts were written before the police presented their official report.

Facts disabled the unfounded bias and irrational fears with which the initial accounts began. One fact, a truck careening through a parade route, made this story newsworthy. Additional facts made it sensational. It was an LGBTQ parade. The victims were part of the Gay Men’s Chorus. A congresswoman’s car was almost hit. There were facts, eyewitnesses, and videos, everything necessary to understand the event. Except the truth. There is no magic number on the quantity of facts needed to come to the truth, but the basic questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how get you awfully close most of the time. In this case, we had the who (the victims, potential victim, and the driver), the where, the when, the what, and the how. We were missing the why. Without waiting for the why, readers and observers filled in the blank themselves, something that we are very comfortable with doing as rational creatures.

This story reminded me of an assignment I had during graduate school. The internet was not the vast treasure trove of information it is now (yes, I pre-date Google!), but there was sufficient information online to do quality research. The assignment was to write down facts on a note card and circle the one where you went “Oh, wow! I did not know that!” or “Wait! Is this true?” The purpose of the assignment was to show that we rarely know all the facts and that our initial understanding rarely fits with all of them. The topic given to me was George Washington’s teeth. My notecard read as follows:

  1. George Washington had dentures
  2. He had his first tooth pulled when he was twenty-four
  3. In his late fifties he started wearing dentures
  4. His dentures being made out of wood is a myth!
  5. He had multiple sets of dentures, but only one remains (on display)
  6. These dentures are made of gold, lead, ivory, horse teeth, and donkey teeth
  7. A second known set was made from human teeth: from slaves and poor people!
  8. George Washington was a slave owner (three hundred slaves at the time of his death)
  9. Washington purchased nine teeth from his own slaves (nine British pounds, about $100)

Number six was my “Wow” fact. Can you imagine having animal teeth in your mouth? Number seven was my “Wait a minute!” fact. I have not revisited this topic in twenty years, and some of the “facts” might have changed, but the principle remains. The more information I found, the more my thoughts on the topic and my understanding of the time period grew. I could have gotten by with only the first four or five facts for the assignment. Everything made sense and fit within the reasonable thoughts I had of our first president and the time period. Facts seven through nine made me both gasp and want to dig deeper into the story. I read one article after another on the topic of a man’s teeth! It was no longer about his poor oral health or his wealth, but now it was about slavery, the true cost of human life, and the conditions wherein people sell parts of themselves just to make ends meet. There is nothing new under the sun, and I should not have supposed the beginnings of our nation were any different, but the textbooks had not portrayed the time period so fully.

Young people, consider the news you read and how carefully and fully the news is presented. We are to be understanding of the times and to live in accordance with the proper understanding of what is happening around us. Learn from these examples, ask the right questions, and continue to dig for facts before coming to a conclusion. The truth is worth the effort.

 

Originally published September 2021, Vol 80 No 9

In March of 2002, my former colleague Mr. Cal Kalsbeek was approached by a member of the Standard Bearer editorial committee to write a column for their magazine aimed at evaluating current events in our world. The end result, forty-plus articles later, was not only a regular series for subscribers of the Standard Bearer to enjoy, but the creation of a textbook for the Worldviews course he was developing for Covenant Christian High School. Mr. Kalsbeek not only provided a course for me to teach after he retired, he inspired me to evaluate the times in which we live as part of God’s perfect plan in history. Now, in 2021, I have been asked to write articles for the current events rubric of Beacon Lights. The guidelines for this rubric mirror the principles and goals Mr. Kalsbeek set forth almost two decades earlier. It is with nervousness that I accept this role, for truly I have some big shoes to fill.

Mr. Kalsbeek was a wonderful colleague, a classroom neighbor, a mentor, a godly counselor, and a friend in Christ. In my formative years as a young teacher, he modeled faithfully what it means to be a Reformed, biblical teacher in our own Christian schools. Consider carefully the meaning of those words. When I came out of college in 1998, I believed that I had been well-prepared to serve as a Christian high school teacher. I am thankful, however, that the Lord directed me to receive and accept a teaching position at Covenant Christian High School in Walker, Michigan. It was here that my colleagues, especially my classroom neighbor, instructed me in how to be a Reformed and biblical teacher, not merely a Christian who happened to teach high school students. I hope you appreciate the difference. I see now that much of my classroom etiquette and management, my work ethic, and even my devotions have been inspired by Mr. Kalsbeek. I am humbled to be given the opportunity to take up the banner and continue the march onward with the present generation of young people.

More important than the size of any man’s shoes, however, is the grand topic of understanding the times. It is grand because it is both a blessed gift and a directive from God himself. Like Mr. Kalsbeek, I will be using 1 Chronicles 12:32 as my topic verse for this rubric: “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” How important it was for King David to have men within the land of Israel upon whom both he and all of Israel could rely. And how much more so today does the church of Jesus Christ need young men and women, from the spiritual line of Issachar, to know what they and the church of God ought to do in these perilous times.

Using the rubric of Current Events, I intend to unfold biblical principles that we should use to properly understand the times in which we live. This topic is by nature ever-changing, but the principles in scripture that guide our understanding are not. Before we delve into the specifics of what is going on in the world around us, consider briefly with me a few principles that I hope you noticed in the above scripture passage. First and foremost, the children of Issachar were given the ability to know and understand God and God’s will. The spiritual descendants of the children of Issachar are not defined as “smart people” who read a lot of books, who watch a lot of documentaries, or who listen to the news all the time. God alone gives understanding, and he does so by his word and Spirit through the means of preaching, teaching, edifying, and instructing one another (2 Tim. 3:16–17). God gives this understanding to his people alone. The wicked do not and cannot understand God and his perfect will. Their hearts are hardened, and their eyes are dimmed so that they see only themselves and their desires.

The second principle to keep before our minds is that true understanding is not simply the accumulation of knowledge. This is very important for believers who seek to understand the times, for both the wicked and the Wicked One oftentimes know the events of history better than the saints of God do. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon wisely instructs his sons to avoid the foolish thinking that earthly knowledge alone is the solution for a happy and fulfilled life. Such knowledge is not only vain, but a “vexation of spirit” (v. 26). Our calling is not to have our minds satiated with the presentation of news and opinions from any singular talking head or cable program of today. Instead of simply knowing what is going on in the world, we are called to understanding. Understanding is much deeper and broader than knowledge in that it seeks to provide meaning and application of facts to our lives in the light of God’s word.

The final principle to consider based on 1 Chronicles 12:32 is that understanding implies a call to action. Mr. Kalsbeek was correct when he signed off his articles with the phrase “understand the times and live!” Understanding, guided by the Spirit through the principles of God’s word, compels us to live our lives before the face of God in wisdom. Wisdom is the actual putting into action of biblical understanding in our day-to-day walk as students, teachers, children, parents, and grandparents. The children of God who are given true understanding by their Lord are also given the inclination and ability to follow his will in time and history. Our calling is to understand the times, and then to live unto him!

This is why we all have big shoes to fill. Understanding of the times is not something that I will be able to explain to you with facts, with carefully crafted prose, or with humorous anecdotes. Understanding—true understanding—will require work for both you and me. Together I hope we can walk this road using the scriptures as our guide to understand the times in which we have been called to live. Our prayer remains, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Until that time is fulfilled, give us understanding of thy footsteps, for thou alone art the One who guides, governs, and sustains all things. We naturally see the footsteps of men and nations. Guide us to see thee in, through, above, and behind all things.” Amen!

 

Originally published August 2021, Vol 80 No 8

In 2006 it is apparent that man truly is a lover of the flesh and revels in that which is unseemly. As Christians we antithetically strive to remove ourselves from the lusts of the world only to have it shoved down our throats by every mass media enterprise. The latest and “greatest” that is being dished up for us to choke on originates within the esteemed halls of our Congress. More specifically, it flashed across the computer screen of Senator Foley (R-Fla.) as he sent sexually graphic electronic messages to one of his pages (volunteer helper). While the media, and his spokesperson, continue to paint the picture for us with every garish color on their palette, we must remove ourselves from the front line and take notice of what is going on surrounding this whole circus. In particular we need to focus on seven aspects of this story that are conveniently being ignored, discarded, and watered down.

  1. Psalm 81:12 reads “So I gave them up unto their own heart’s lust: and they walked in their own counsels.” Without knowing, or needing to know, all of the details of this case, it is clear that Senator Foley (and many associated with him) is actively walking in the way of his own counsel and desires. As a senator he has been elected to serve the people of his state and to represent the core democratic ideals of his party within the legislature. His job is to be a servant of the people. Within this context it should strike us as to how powerful and persuasive Satan is in the hearts of men who reject the living God. Senator Foley became so wrapped up in his own lustful thoughts that he rejected his position as a servant of the people and began to use his workplace, and time, as an instrument for his desires. As I Timothy 6:9 prophesies “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Here the Word of the Lord makes a startling distinction for us. Those that desire to be rich and have power will fall. Why? Because they have rejected the Lord and are following after their own counsels. Senator Foley is no more depraved than you or I, but by God’s grace we have not been given over to the desires of our heart nor allowed to drown in perdition. Our prayer should be for the Spirit of Christ to work within him according to His will to release him from the snares of this world. We should not feel empathy for the man who has given himself up to his own sin, but we must give thanks and rejoice in the fact that outside of the grace of God we too would be ensnared in our own folly.
  2. The fallen nature of man is predictable and consistent. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, Senator Foley is seeking an excuse for his sin outside of himself, and like unto Pilot he is attempting to wash his hands of responsibility for the consequences that have transpired. “I’m an alcoholic.” “I was sexually abused as a young man.” “It is the Church’s fault!” How many more excuses can he come up with in the next few days? The progression of the excuses mirrors that of our society. Each excuse gains a foothold within the empathetic hearts and minds of more and more Americans. From that position, first as an alcoholic, he is able to get some to empathize with him because of his addiction, and then more for his abuse, and finally he is able to bring in hatred against others, the Church, for making him be this way. And Americans buy the excuses and blame. Why? Because as a whole we prefer not to stand in judgment of individuals whose faces we see, whose faces closely mirror that of ourselves; we are more content to cast blame on society, or an organization at large, that is abstract, non-descript, or can be labeled with a single word. For anyone to evoke the judgment of the Word against the actions of the senator is perceived not only as an affront to Senator Foley’s past experiences, but also the American psyche.
  3. Perhaps the excuse that is most disheartening for the Church to hear is no excuse at all. “He was 21 at the time!” Instead of focusing on his sin, I mean error in his judgment, all must be swept under the rug now because it was all legal. The young man was an adult and therefore there was no impropriety on the Senator’s behalf. How carefully crafted is Satan within this whole process that the sting of God’s Word is removed from the equation because the laws of the land allow such conduct. The number of the young man’s days now dictates that the sexual lusts and homosexuality were not sin and Senator Foley is innocent of wrong doing.
  4. Stepping back still further we see the frenzy that has been created within the rest of Congress itself. Politicians, using the media, are capitalizing on someone else’s misfortune. Now his actions can be called a sin again, not because the Word of God says so, but because it is to the political advantage of others 30 days before another election. These too are the modern day Pilots who are washing their hands of impropriety in fake innocence. While the spotlight is on someone else, they desire to gain a political advantage and deny their own temptations and snares that they are entangled within—juxtaposed to the man of God who is continually humbled in the sight of sin and made more aware of our sinful natures, these men become bold in themselves. Rather than appealing to God’s grace and mercy to save us all from our sinful natures they bellow out “Vote for me!” because I have not done that sin (at least not that you are aware of) and I can save this country. In man’s shallowness they appeal to the truth of the Word by correctly calling these actions sins, but they pervert it for their own ends.
  5. Expanding upon the last point we cannot forget about how corporate responsibility is being ceremoniously dragged into all of this. As Christians we understand the nature of being part of the body of Christ and the responsibility that comes from such membership. We have a duty to work together and to hold one another accountable before God. In a perversion of this idea we see the broad strokes of corporate responsibility being painted for political gain of an entire party. Overnight Senator Foley became the spokesman for the entire Republican Party and mainstream Christians. All Republicans are under attack because they belong to the same party as him (this is the same tactic oftentimes used against the president’s party when his poll numbers are low). Rather than challenging the individual, this has resulted in an attack on the entire party. True, responsibility is there for those that knew about this and did nothing, but do not be fooled for a moment that this responsibility is defined by party lines. Furthermore, responsibility for “sins” should be demanded at all times, not just months before an election cycle.
  6. Broadening our scope even more we must be impressed, and yet tremble, at how the realities of our economic age are being exposed. What got Senator Foley in trouble? His Instant Messaging posts that he was writing from his personal computer, late at night, years ago. The electronic and digital age is truly revolutionary, especially in the amount of information that can now be stored and collected. Our every stroke on the keyboard can be monitored and recorded. How easy it will be then for anti-Christ to find and persecute the Church, and even much easier to cut us off from how we communicate one with another. It is not so much that we are being watched now as it that we can be watched right now three years into the future. Hopefully such knowledge will extrinsically encourage us to live antithetically and be careful with what e-mails we send, what pictures we post, what blogs we respond to, what sites we “visit”, and how much general time we dedicate to the world-wide web. May the Lord use even this to admonish and restrict us in our daily walk.
  7. As Christians the most troubling aspect about this whole ordeal (and it is being made into an ordeal) is the complete denial of God’s judgment. Sin is accursed in God’s sight and He will deal justly, burning them up leaving neither root nor branch (Malachi 4:1). Just punishment is not a slap on the hand, a well-timed resignation, or even defeat at the polls, but rather an eternity in hell-fire. The iniquity of man makes this event an ordeal as men ladened with their own sins attempt to deal with fellow sinners in a mock display of justice. As God’s children we may not so casually dismiss God’s righteous judgment in this, and against all those that actively tolerate such wickedness. Rather than having a cavalier attitude towards this sin may we pray that the Lord’s judgment be done and be done quickly. As for ourselves we rest assured in the saving knowledge that our sins of youth He remembers not (Psalter #217) as they are washed clean through the blood of Christ.

In the days and weeks ahead more news will continue to be force-fed to us as it is “uncovered”. While it is being so, may we not lose the spectacles of scripture, nor the view of the whole picture and its context within the depravity of man.

Ever since Betsy Ross penned the Star Spangled Banner and the twelve original colonies drafted our Bill of Rights, Americans have demanded that their popularly elected leader(s) uphold the religious freedoms that this great country was founded upon. Are you one of them?

Hopefully you were able to recognize the errors in the above paragraph readily. If not, you are in the “good company” of 60% of America’s students. Recognizing that there are mistakes in the above paragraph is one thing, knowing the correct answers is another. What is Betsy Ross most famous for? Who did write the Star Spangled Banner? How many original colonies were there? Who drafted our Nation’s Bill of Rights? Why was it necessary to amend our Constitution ten times immediately after writing it? Do Americans directly vote for all of their leaders? Is there religious freedom in this country? What were the reasons people formed the United States of America (not why they came, but why they formed a nation)? These are all history trivia questions you might argue, yet they are standardized questions that need to be properly answered for those desiring citizenship in this country. Those legally applying for citizenship take a test where these questions, and many more, are asked of them. How many of us could become citizens of our own country if we had to take this test?

Legally we might not be able to become citizens of our own country based upon today’s standards, but, by God’s grace, we do not have to worry about that. Our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents came to this country to escape economic hardship and religious persecution. They came because America was a land of freedom, a land of opportunity. Sailing under the maternal gaze of a statue in Ellis Island they were welcomed into our country and given the opportunity to make it on their own. There were hardships here, there was corruption and deceit waiting for them, and there were other economic and political hardships to endure, but they survived through it all. They called America their home and planted themselves, their culture and their faith in our land. Together, with all of the other plantings from abroad, our nation has blossomed and grown on the world scene. Can we now deny that opportunity to anyone else? Have things drastically changed over the past 100 years that makes this impossible?

“But our ancestors came here legally! Those Mexicans are just coming over the border, having babies and stealing our jobs.” There is truth in those commonly heard sentiments, and they do need to be addressed, but other, underlying, sentiments remain our focus in this article as reformed young people. Briefly, in the first place, we need to ground ourselves in a proper historical perspective of the issue. Secondly, we need to honestly identify our true impetus for dissatisfaction. Thirdly, we need to see how we are to view this issue as Christians, and finally, we need to realize that we need to be careful what we wish for in light of all three.

The United States of America is an immigrant nation. The terms “melting pot” and “salad bowl” represent theories that historians have used for years to describe our cultural and ancestral makeup. Why did explorers come to the New World? Who did they find already here? The imperialist nations and explorers were greeted with a land already occupied wherein the inhabitants had little use for the valuable resources that they themselves craved. The European white man came with hungry appetites, diseases and slaves. Mix in with them a little revolutionary spirit, a handful of imperialist countries, a healthy dose of economic and religious persecution, a couple of tyrannical rulers overseas and bake together with the concepts of Liberty and Freedom for about 250 years and you get our current situation.

Knowing our history is the easy part. Truly knowing ourselves is another. As Americans we understand what the concepts of Liberty and Justice are supposed to mean. We also appreciate the concept of religious freedom better than others. So why is there dissatisfaction, mainly against the Mexicans, over their immigration into our country? I commonly hear “because they are doing something illegally.” Let us take a look at this statement more closely. As Christians we are supposed to be offended at the breaking of a law and find justice only when laws in place are enforced. That is why we always pay our taxes to our federal government and never try to hide any of our income. That is why we always drive the speed limit and wear our seatbelts while we do so. That is also why we never shoplift, or try to steal time or resources from our employers. It is abnormal for us to be smoking and drinking underage, and never do we use the Internet for improper means. Our hypocrisy may know no bounds but illegality is not the underlying cause for all of the dissatisfaction. The fact of the matter is that “Americans” have preferences for those who they like and will tolerate. It is not an American thing; it is an aspect of our depraved human nature.

As Christians this attitude must never be found among us. Christ does not consider race, culture or skin color for membership within His body and neither should we. If our attitude is anti-Mexican, or even anti-Arab, how do we embrace our evangelism work as a church? We are opposed to them being in “our” country but we would feel comfortable sitting next to them in church for true worship? What about our mission work? We don’t want them coming into our country but we are willing to send a missionary to work among them? This does not make logical sense. By turning to God’s word we are guided in a proper Christian attitude and perspective on this issue. Ezekiel 47:22 immediately comes to mind. The Israelites were given a land rich in resources as part of the promise from the Lord. This land was their land, yet the Lord was informing them that there would be strangers in their midst. Verse 22 instructs the Israelites that these strangers in the land who live among them and have children in their midst were to be received as fellow countrymen that “have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel”. This was an Old Testament picture of the universality of Christ’s church being composed of both Jews and Gentiles. Rejecting them from the Promised Land was akin to attempting to remove them from God’s grace. Does this verse apply to our situation today? I believe it should: this land is not my land, nor your land, this land is the Lord’s. We are called to be wise stewards of it, to take care of it and to maintain it. Our goal is not an earthly goal of kingdoms and national strength but rather giving glory unto the Lord and to His church.

Knowing our own history and the prophesy of scripture should cause us to caution our own thoughts and words on this issue. Pushing for a country with rights only for the “true Americans” will soon be at the expense of the church. Once America begins to make a check list of those who are worthy to be called a citizen of this land, the tables will be turned on the church, for the church is an intolerant body that undermines the current societal trends of abortions, divorce, gay acceptance, wontonous living and vulgar language. How much longer will reformed persons be tolerated and considered profitable citizens in this land when we reject almost every aspect of it? More startling then is to where could we flee?

As we reflect upon the issue of citizenship in this country, let us not be moved out of fear of the tables being turned on us. We have the comfort and the hope of salvation that transcends any earthly power or situation. Rather, we must let the scriptures guide us in our attitude toward others. We are called to help others, especially those of the household of faith. I am not arguing for a careless disregard for the law, but neither should we argue for the adherence to the law as a facade to our hearts desires and in rejection to the blessings we have received, not earned. May we lean on the Lord to guide us as His servants in the application of this issue and in all of our dealings one with another.

In the days, months and years to come continue to discuss this issue with one another. This article is not intended to give you answers, nor limit your thoughts on this issue. Turn to the Bible to guide you and instruct you on how you are to respond as a pilgrim and stranger yourself here below. May many profitable discussions arise as you continue to see how His word applies to every situation and event in our lives.

 

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