Category Archives: Culture

So-Called Citizens

FeinsteinA New Class of American Citizens

This week, at the confirmation hearings for John Brennan, we learned much about the Obama administration justification for the use of drones, even to kill American citizens.  Senator Dianne Feinstein, an Obama mouthpiece, even created a new class of American citizen…”so called.”

Senator Feinstein was questioning Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for C.I.A. Director, about the justification for killing Anwar al-Alwaki in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.  Believe me, I do not approve of al-Alwaki’s activities, beliefs, or words, but he was born in New Mexico and that fact makes the following exchange between Feinstein and Brennan most disturbing.

Addressing Brennan on the subject of al-Awlaki Senator Feinstein said, “One of the problems is, once the drone program is so public, and one American is caught up, people don’t know much about this one ‘American citizen’—so called.  They don’t know what he’s been doing, they don’t know the incitement he has stirred up. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about Mr. Awlaki and what he’s been doing.”

When Brennan didn’t answer her quickly, fully, or loudly enough, the Senator continued her defense, “See, that’s the problem. When people hear “American,” they think someone who’s upstanding. And this man was not upstanding by a long shot.”

John Brennan agreed with her statement with a simple, “yes,” so she persisted in her statement, “And maybe you cannot discuss it here, but I’ve read enough to know that he was a real problem.”

Finally Brennan involved himself agreeing that al-Awlaki “was intimately involved in activities that were designed to kill innocent men, women, and children, mostly Americans. He was not just a propagandist.”

What caused my jaw to drop was the Senator’s summation at the end of the exchange with Brennan, “And, so, Mr. Awlaki is not an American citizen by where anyone in America would be proud.”

The Proud and Upstanding Standard

In the instance of Mr. al-Awlaki, I may, personally agree that he was “worthy” to be assassinated, however, I am flabbergasted, appalled, and frankly, scared to death that this administration has granted itself unchecked authority to kill American citizens.  My reaction is exacerbated by the fact that one of the administration’s greatest supporters, Senator Feinstein describes, and the current C.I.A. Director nominee allows, that the executed was not, “upstanding” or a citizen of whom we could be “proud” and therefore, his execution is justified.  His citizenship was reduced to “so-called” by unilateral decree.

What constitutes the standard of “upstanding” or “proud” put forward by Ms. Feinstein?  I am certainly not “proud” of this President nor am I “proud” of the Majority Leader in the Senate, and the Speaker of the House is not at the top of my list either.  I find the people who made the backroom deals that were done in order to pass Obamacare, far less than “upstanding.”  However, I do not consider them worthy of a drone strike.  I don’t like the socialistic tack this administration is pursuing.  But, however much I may disagree, their citizenship is not “so-called” just because I decide that they don’t meet my standards.

What I find most distasteful and frightening is that no one in the administration has made any attempt to distance themselves from Senator Feinstein’s remarks.  If allowed to stand unchallenged, who is to say what group, what theology, what individual that the government finds challenging won’t be summarily stripped of their citizenship and executed?

Should I Be Afraid?

I am a Christian.  I am a small-government conservative.  I own weapons according to my Second Amendment rights and WILL NOT give them up, nor allow the government to know where they are located.  I write this blog and other articles with the express intent of influencing the thinking of other people.  Am I on a “hit-list?”

President Obama has made his contempt for Christian absolutes extremely obvious.  Mr. Obama and the liberals that support him believe that government is god.  The President’s actions have made clear his total disdain for our Constitution and its roots.  He and his supporters rewrite history whenever necessary.  Christians do not call this behavior “upstanding,” we call it lying and we oppose it.  My role is publicly calling for truth and disclosure.  I do it regularly.  Should I be afraid?

Sorry, Senator Feinstein, but Mr. Alwaki was an American citizen.  I, like you, find his behavior reprehensible, but I find yours not much better.  Mr. Obama, nor you, have the right to rescind his citizenship and execute him without restraint.  Nor would I rescind yours and remove you even if I could.  That is what sets The United States of America apart as a nation.

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My Sensible Solution For Immigration Reform

A Nation of Immigrantsveteran-300x263

Immigration reform is a hot topic of conversation at the moment.  It was a key issue in the last election cycle.  There are many who argue passionately for amnesty being extended to illegal aliens already in the country and there are many who argue passionately that the word “illegal” still has meaning.  Unfortunately, there is far more heat than light being generated in most of the debates.

Politically, both parties seek to get an advantage with a growing voting bloc.  Both parties want to be seen as the champion for Latinos.  Both parties want to be able to trumpet that THEY are responsible for Hispanics gaining political clout in the United States.  And both parties risk losing part of their base voters who live in border states.  We live in interesting times.

Displayed on a plaque on the inner pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, is the poem, The New Colossus¸ written by Emma Lazarus.  It was a donation by Lazarus to a fund-raising effort to construct the base of the Statue.  She initially declined to contribute the work, but a good friend convinced her that her work would be of great significance to the immigrants who would sail under Liberty into New York Harbor.

While Liberty was not conceived and sculptured as a symbol of immigration, Lazarus’ poem has become exactly that.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

We are a nation of immigrants.  Unless you hail from Native American roots, your ancestors “came” from somewhere.  As you read the history of our nation, people came here looking for a better way of life.  People came here looking for freedom.  People came here longing to worship in whatever manner they saw fit.

As a matter of historical fact, Native Americans were treated poorly and duped into questionable treaties by the Western Europeans due to naivete on the part of the Native Americans and European cunning and overwhelming firepower.  Some argue that the current political situation and argument is hypocritical at best.

Into the secular dispute, Christians must include a discussion of Biblical, Kingdom principles.  As Christians, which side of the debate should we support?  If it comes to a vote, how should we vote?

A Nation of Laws

Illegal immigration is a personally difficult subject.  I have good friends on both sides of the debate and even more importantly, I have personal who were born in the United States, but whose parents came here illegally.  The parents have never violated the law, have held jobs and (I assume) paid taxes, and lived quiet lives.  The entire family has a deep, personal, and active faith in Jesus Christ.  Each of them attends and supports the church with time, energy, and substance.  For me, simplistic answers are insufficient.

If I take the position that mercy should be shown to illegal immigrants and amnesty and citizenship should be given to those who arrived here illegally, but have not engaged in criminal behavior since their arrival, I compromise the rule of law and make it anecdotal.  The problem with anecdotal law is that it can change at the whim of any ruler.  The basis for the establishment of our nation was to escape anecdotal law and launch a system based on the concept that “all men are created equal.”

Illegal immigrants steal American taxpayer dollars through Medicare, Medicaid, and other governmental programs that provide “free” benefits and do not require citizenship as a basis for receipt.  “Theft” does not always happen at the point of a gun or result in an arrest and conviction.  Robin Hood is celebrated in folklore, but in history, he was a common thief.  Does then that immigrant family I know actually participate in “criminal behavior?”  And should the parents be deported?  Does anything less threaten the rule of law in America?

Those who argue for amnesty always use “grace” and “mercy” as their arguments.  Those arguments are not without merit.  Jesus had little use for the Pharisees and Sadducees who were the lawyers of His day.  He chided and condemned them for creating regulations that no one could keep and called them, “hypocrites” regularly.  Does that mean that we should lay aside our laws and simply welcome all who find themselves within our borders no matter how they arrived?

Mercy without a standard is meaningless.  If anyone who can geographically locate himself within what are now our borders, then our borders are meaningless.  What purpose do they serve?  If our borders are to be protected, if lives are put at risk and tax money is spent to do so, then our borders must be significant and citizenship must be significant also.

A Sensible Solution

I wonder what would happen if politics were removed from the debate?  Would there be so much name-calling and vehemence if illegal aliens who became citizens could not vote…ever?  It seems to me that caring for all those who are genuinely in need is a Christian mandate, but as a legal American citizen, I resent having my vote diluted and my resources reallocated to people who have broken laws without my consent.

The situation seems a dilemma until political advantage is removed.  Christians are, I believe, more than willing to assist those less fortunate.  It has been proven again and again, that America responds to needs from a disaster more generously and more quickly than any other nation.  I don’t think caring is the problem.

Don’t confuse a secular debate about law with a spiritual debate about “care.”  Jesus was clear that His Kingdom was not of this world.  He also said that while we are not “of” this world, we are “in” it.

I believe that if the church is allowed to be the church and the government stops playing god for votes, the debate between Americans becomes a profitable discussion and not a screaming match to gain an advantage.

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“The Miracle Moment” 20 Years Later

January 17, 1993

William Jefferson Clinton was preparing for his inaugural, the Cowboys beat the 49ers, and God showed Himself powerful and contemporary in a Sunday School class at Houston’s First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

The lesson that morning was from Psalm 103, primarily verses 1-5.  David is talking to himself and instructs himself to “Bless the Lord” which means give praise or thanks to God.  He then lists some reasons for himself to do so.

He (God) forgives all my sin; He heals all my disease; He redeems my life from the grave, the pit, destruction; He crowns me with love and compassion, loving kindness; and He restores my youth like the eagle.

I stood to teach the class of 150 or more on that morning.  I had never been more emotionally drained than I was that morning.  I had never had less faith than I did that morning.  The pit David described was swallowing me.

But God (aren’t those great words from the Scripture?) changed everything.  Let me explain…

The Back Story

In 1990, I was serving as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas and had been for some time.  First Baptist was a great church and an historical Southern Baptist Church. In January, I contracted a flu virus that ultimately penetrated the mylan sheath of my vocal folds and damaged the nerve tissue beyond repair.

Over the next three years I was seen by over 63 specialists and their teams (totaling over 200 doctors) as they tried to diagnose and treat me.  I had been left with a voice that sounded like the worst case of laryngitis you have ever heard, and could only make that if I screamed at the top of my lungs.  My daughters were both students at Baylor and I could not even call their dorm because I sounded like an obscene phone caller.

Though the congregation had been incredibly patient with my disability, I had resigned for obvious reasons in 1991.  Everything I had ever done to earn a living had been connected to my ability to speak and suddenly my “tool kit” was gone.

We had moved back to Houston and my wife had become the primary breadwinner in our family.  A dear friend gave me a job as a private investigator working in an area where my voice was unimportant, but I ached to do the ministry to which I had been called.

The Catacombs Class

First Houston had a Sunday School class that had first met in the basement of the church, hence “The Catacombs.”  A wonderful group of folks that I had been privileged to teach before I went to Brenham and with whom contact was never lost.  When they learned that we were moving back to Houston, they came to Brenham with bodies and trucks and moved us…or, as one of our directors said, “Retrieved” us.

It was to Houston’s First Baptist Church that we returned and to that class as members.  Their support and fellowship was (and is) more valuable than words can express.

In April, 1992, the teacher of the Catacombs had to take some time away for personal reasons.  Our directors (a husband and wife) asked if I would fill in while a permanent replacement was sought.  I protested that I was too hard to understand which was met with “we’ll listen REALLY carefully.”  I have come to understand that they asked, not because I was such a profound teacher, but because they loved me and knew how desperately I needed to teach.

The female half of our director team was persistent about me becoming the permanent teacher even when the educational staff of the church expressed their reservations because of my voice.  She told them that she was as certain that God wanted me to teach that class as she could possibly be and they ultimately relented.

Little did she, they, or me truly know what God was preparing.

The Moment

As I mentioned before, I was in a horrible pit as I took to the platform that morning.  Two days previous, I had sat for hours in my living room with a shotgun in my mouth and I had come to the end of myself.  “Blessing the Lord” was difficult for me.  In truth, the only reason I was there was because I could not find a substitute and I could not simply not show up.  So my teaching that morning was perfunctory, nothing more.

As I began the outline I discussed the word “all.”  It literally means “every single one without exception.”  Christ’s forgiveness of all my sin is what makes the Good News GREAT.  I had no problem with that discussion.

But, when I began to talk about healing, my words were, “I still believe God heals,” while my thoughts were, “but why not me?”  I moved through that discussion as honestly as I could and began my third thought…”He redeems my life from the pit.”

I began my discourse, “I have had, and you have had, in times past, pit experiences.”  On the word, “pit,” the pressure that had been in my throat for three years was gone as if someone had removed their hand from choking me.  I continued, startled, “We’ve all had times when our life seemed to be in a pit, in a grave, and we didn’t have an answer for the pit we find ourselves in.”  While I was speaking, I was swallowing choke-free, and I’ll never forget my thought…”is that what I think it is?”

Since Then

Doctors confirmed that it was what I thought it was when I saw them the following days.  My voice has been totally restored, and to quote my lead physician, “I can’t find any evidence that you ever had a voice problem.”

The event happened on January 17, 1993, the third Sunday of the month…today.  The event was caught on tape in the most casual way.  The event changed my life and has affected literally millions of people worldwide.

The Catacombs Class started recording lessons decades before that Sunday.  In a large group, 100% attendance is impossible.  In order to be of service, a cassette recording was made no matter who taught, and one or two copies would be made available the following Sunday.  The cassettes would simply be on the back table and if you wanted one, it was there.  When I say, “no big deal,” I mean, “no deal at all!”  But in that church with over 20,000 members that was the only class that recorded their lessons.  Anywhere else would not have had the impact that God intended.

I didn’t ask to teach the class, our director fought to have me teach.  I didn’t write my own material, I was using what used to be called, “Bible Book Series” material that was used Convention-wide.  And, don’t forget, I didn’t want to be there.  Coincidences?  I think not.

From that day to this I celebrate the restoration of my vocal ability.  I wrote of the experience the following week and described it in terms that likened it to Lazarus coming from the grave.  My gratitude and my emotions have not waned in 20 years.

I have crisscrossed this country and the world telling the story of that moment.  God has used me as an object lesson of His grace and power.  I have appeared on the Oprah show and have shared my story with one little lady in a nursing home who could not speak, but wept as I related the timeless story of His Goodness.  I still go wherever the opportunity is given to share the story and I will do so until I am physically unable to do so.

If you would like to hear The Moment for yourself, go to our website, www.nuvoice.org.  It can be heard on our Home Page.  Listen and believe this…if God could do that for me, He can solve whatever problem you have in your life.  He loves you every bit as much as He loves me.

We’ve been saying it for 20 years….and counting.

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Therefore, Be It Resolved…

Resolve

We’re a week into the New Year. How many of your resolution are still unbroken? Resolutions are easy to make, but difficult to keep. Most of us make go through the exercise of making resolutions for the New Year. Based on last year’s performance, we resolve to do better. We resolve to lose weight, to get in shape, to make more money, to be kinder, to give more to charity, and many others. Unfortunately, most of our resolutions don’t last more than 24 hours, if that. We don’t make the commitment necessary to achieve the success we wish in whatever area.

“Resolved!” The word just feels strong. By definition, resolve is, “to make clear or understandable.” In legal documents, the word heads the paragraphs that follow the “Whereas” clauses. What is resolved is what is decided and promised based on the stated premises. Resolved indicates a commitment to a particular course of action. The key word is “commitment.”

The word “resolve” has another definition that may not be as familiar to you. It is, “to break up, to separate, to change by disintegration.” We observe both definitions on display when Jesus stood before Pilate. Pilate did all in his power to make Jesus dis-integrate, but Jesus made Himself very clear and understandable. He kept-it-together when it most mattered. As we face a new year, we I challenge you to exhibit the same kind of resolve that Jesus had.

Expediency Lacks Resolve

After listening to the charges against Jesus, Pilate announced, “I find no fault” in the man that stood before him. The trial was illegal under Roman law. The charges were falsely filed and prosecutors were corrupt. But political expediency clouded Pilate’s judgment and the execution of an innocent man proceeded unabated.
We see expediency in politics every day. The recent “fiscal cliff” was a manufactured crisis that created an expediency issue for Congress. The phrase “kicking-the-can-down-the-road” is a description of what elected representatives do in order to avoid hard choices that will be unpopular and therefore not expedient. The motivation for their choices is no different than that of Pontius Pilate.

Businesses use profits as an excuse to cut corners and make expedient rather than principled decisions regarding the contents and safety of their products. Jobs are sometimes shipped overseas because manufacturing costs can be reduced even though the quality of the product suffers.

Teachers’ union leaders are more interested in protecting the jobs of the members who keep them in office than they are in providing the quality educators that our children deserve. It is more expedient for the leadership to “fight” for their members than to improve the professionalism of their members.

Let’s face it, the resolve that allows one to stand in the face of adversity and not flinch, not dis-integrate, is a rare commodity these days. The resolve that Jesus showed is based on integrity and personal commitment. Jesus knew who He was, why He was there, and was prepared to “endure” the moment for the “joy set before Him.” The resolve He demonstrated is principled, and principle is rarely expedient.

More Than Conquerors

Many challenges and opportunities await you in 2013, anticipate them. Some of the God’s best opportunities will come disguised as overwhelming problems, expect them. You will be tempted to make compromising, expedient decisions because the alternative, principled decision will be “hard.” I dare you to trust God and show your resolve.
When the crisis comes, when the decision choice is hard, when you have the opportunity to do the right thing, you will if you have committed beforehand to allow Christ to rule in your life.

Paul told the believers in Rome that no matter the challenge before them, that an “overwhelming victory” belonged to them through Christ. The promise is still valid.

Whereas, He has loved us with an everlasting love, and,
Whereas, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and,
Whereas, nothing can separate me from His love,
Therefore, be it resolved, that I commit my life, my decisions, and my eternity into His Almighty care.

Have a great 2013!!!!!

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A Nation Grieves

A Nation Grieves

Words to adequately describe the events in Newtown in the past few days do not exist.  For the heroes who did their best to protect the innocent children who were massacred, “grateful” is a woefully insufficient description.

It was an almost immediate response for many to politicize the tragedy, but this is not the time for the political discussion.  Whether the fault lies with “guns” or with the “moral decline” of this nation is a dispute in which we will gladly engage at another time, but it is appalling to use these beautiful, innocent, babies and their families to make points.  This is a time for compassion and support for those who have suffered the loss.

Today, we grieve.  We grieve for what the shooter did to others, but we also grieve for his family, who lost son, brother, and mother in the shooting, and must carry the family name for the balance of their lives.

I have a two adult daughters and a 9-year old granddaughter.  As I watched and listened to the news reports this past week, all I wanted to do was embrace all of them.  I wanted to tell each of them, one more time, how much love I have for them and that nothing else in the world mattered.

We know who, we know how, we know what, we know when, and we know where.  We will never understand the why.  The shooter’s personality and mental condition will be sliced and diced by the pseudo-experts over the days and weeks ahead, but, at the end of the day, their opinions may be “educated,” but they are just guesses.  Only he knew why he did what he did

Death is never an easy subject to grasp, even for adults.  The death of a child is, emotionally, even worse.   King David was a man of war.  He was accustomed to men around him dying.  But, when the death of Absalom, his son, was reported to him, the Scripture says he was “shaken.”  He wept, and cried out what every parent of every child who dies has said, “If only I had died instead of you….” (2 Samuel 18:33).

This tragedy comes in the midst of the celebration of the birth of a baby, a unique child, the Son of God.  He, too, was killed senselessly and without just cause.  But, His death was part of the plan of God, and he rose after three days as He had promised he would.  Paul reminds us that believers in Jesus Christ do not “grieve as those who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  Note that he did not say we would not grieve.  The separation, the hopes, dreams, plans and futures that will not be realized, the senselessness of an untimely death, cause us to hurt, to grieve, to mourn.

It is right and appropriate that we do, however, because we believe that because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we have hope that we will be reunited.  It is that hope to which we cling.  It is that hope we offer as comfort to grieving parents.  Innocent children were slaughtered, they are with God, and we live in HOPE.

To all in Newtown, and to all who grieve, we offer a prayer from the famous Christmas Carol, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace.”

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