Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Xmas, Everyone!

"Xmas???" you ask in disbelief. Isn't that disrespectful to our Lord? Shouldn't we say (and write) "Christmas" instead, to avoid the world's effort to "X out" Christ from this over-commercialized holiday?

My father-in-law, one of the most truly-dedicated Christians I've ever known, abhors the term, and I must admit I'm not comfortable with using it myself. However, I learned a couple years ago that the "X" is actually a reference to Christ's name in ancient Greek! In fact, this article from HowStuffWorks enlightens Christians with some very interesting facts about this oft-maligned term:
  • "X" is not English or Latin, but the Greek letter chi. It is pronounced "kai", as in "kaiser".
  • The illustration above (copied from the article) is the Greek symbol "chi-rho", an amalgamation of the Greek letters chi and rho (pronounced "row"), which represent the Greek word "Christos", which means "Christ".
  • "Xmas" dates back to 15th century Europe, as a reverent abbreviation of "Christmas."
  • Other variations of the term can be traced as far back as the year 1021.

Now on the other hand, we are to avoid even the semblance of evil. Just as words found in the King James Bible are now considered profanity, we should avoid the use of "Xmas", if we feel it would offend other Christians in our presence. However, we should also make an effort to set the record straight, in the pursuit of truth and peace.

And before you ask, the name of Egypt's capital, Cairo, has nothing to do with Christ or Greek, but is derived from Arabic.

Merry Christmas, everyone! And have a joyous Advent Season!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review: The 5000 Year Leap

Posted by Farrah

Last December, while gathered with relatives to celebrate Christmas, my uncle generously gifted each family with a copy of The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. Inside the front cover was a note scrawled in my uncle's hand, “May you find the principles contained in this book enlightening and refreshing and may you find them great teaching legacies.” I remember him commenting that this and the Bible are the only books an American needs. The Bible will take care of our souls, and this book will take care of our country.

I delved in soon after the holiday season but did not finish until recently, nearly a year later. Why so long? Virtually every square inch of print is informative. You see, it was designed for the classroom. In fact, at the bottom on the front it says, "Principles of Freedom 101." I rarely got through more than a few pages per day, and at times didn’t pick it up for a month. Yet, I am glad I stuck it out!

All in all, the book is excellent. It provides wonderful insight into the thoughts of our founding fathers and the various circumstances that molded their opinions. They felt enormous responsibility in forming a new nation and sacrificed tremendous time and money in the undertaking. They looked on public office as a calling rather than an outlet for fame or fortune.

Many heavy questions needed answering. What form of government is best? What does freedom mean, and how do we preserve it? They drew knowledge from the sources available to them in the areas of history and philosophy, and they had the examples of other nations. After observing firsthand the mistakes being made elsewhere, they did not want to repeat those. In their minds, America SHOULD and WOULD be a blessing to peoples everywhere.

I found this quote by one reader quite profound:
    I am especially delighted that this volume emphasizes that the Constitution is not out of date. It is no more out of date than the desire for peace, freedom, and prosperity is out of date. The Founders were not custom-building the Constitution for any particular age or economy. They were structuring a framework of government to fit the requirements of human nature. These do not change. What protected the freedom of George Washington will protect freedom for you and me.
Is it not so? Though technology advances and borders are altered, the heart of humanity deviates but little. We are ever pursuing, building and destroying in much the same manner as our ancestors with the same dreams and desires. In fashioning a Constitution (a set of laws to bind down our rulers), the Founders were seeking to address the problems of flawed humanity for the sake of peace and prosperity. Our constitution will not be outdated, so long as man is unchanged in essentials.

The book is separated into two parts, the first being extremely short and brimming full of important, interesting background information. The second is broken down into 28 chapters reflecting 28 fundamentals that our Founders believed are necessary for society to thrive. The author writes,
    There was hardly a single idea which the American Founding Fathers put into their formula that someone hadn’t thought of before. However, the singularity of it all was the fact that in 1787, when the Constitution was being written, none of those ideas was being substantially practiced anywhere in the world. It was in America that the Founding Fathers assembled the 28 great ideas that produced the dynamic success formula which proved such a sensational blessing to modern man.
There is definitely a great abundance of quotes, both by the Founders and by others who were influential.

The book also does a fine job of dispelling some myths. No one who reads the words of Thomas Jefferson could believe the rubbish that is often stated about his beliefs, especially by those who oppose religion. They are fond of pulling out isolated quotes and using them to justify all sorts of things that he would be completely against. Benjamin Franklin, too, has been tarnished over time, as have probably all the founders in one way or another. I find that in every area of knowledge there is an effort to distort and corrupt. It is present in science, history, literature, politics, and everything in which man has a hand.

There is one point on which I differ with the founders (and author). A chapter on foreign relations has the quote: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none.” The author concludes with his own comment,
    The United States has been involved in three major wars, including the holocaust of World War II. Looking back, one cannot help wondering how much happier, more peaceful, and more prosperous the world would be if the United States had been following a policy of “separatism” as the world’s great peacemaker instead of “internationalism” as the world’s great policeman.
It looks good on paper, but the founders were not forming a country during World War II. There were no nuclear bombs that could destroy vast areas of land and kill thousands within a few seconds. In addition, our country was but a baby struggling to take its first steps. We had more pressing matters here at home than to worry about the rest of the planet. But once we became strong, I believe we had more responsibilities. With great power comes great responsibility, does it not?

The author asks how much better off the world would be had we not intervened. If we had ignored the Holocaust and closed our eyes to the attack on Pearl Harbor, would the world indeed be better today? Would it be happier, more prosperous and peaceful? I don’t think so. I am not one for standing idle, while millions of people are being slaughtered by dictators who want to take over the world. Though I believe the Constitution is timeless due to the unchanging nature of the purpose it serves, I disagree that the separatist philosophy can be applied to our present day.

For the most part, I agree with the rest of The 5000 Year Leap. It is a fantastic volume on political philosophy, definitely worth buying. I’d like to see every student in the United States read it as part of U.S. Government classes. Actually, it would be nice if everyone serving in public office would read it too and take its lessons to heart!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Glowing Glory

One of our family's Fall highlights is carving pumpkins. I've already blogged about where we stand on Halloween, but I thought I would show you what we did this year.

To celebrate this new blog, I did my own rendition of the Betsy Ross flag. At first, I was going to use my newfound scraping technique, which allows far more detail than traditional carving, but that was going to be way too much work. So I carved everything, except the rope and thin outline around the flag. The "swan" at the top of the flagpole is supposed to be a bald eagle.

The middle pumpkin is my wife's, who went with a heart theme. Now that I look at it, her final product kind of looks like a face, but I'm sure that wasn't the intent.

The last one is our young son's effort. You might interpret his design as an expression of his indecisionism, regarding choice of design, but most Nintendo fans should recognize it as a surprise block, from the Super Mario series of video games.

You can look here, for examples of our past work. Who knows what next year will inspire us to create....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pray for Maine

On November 3, Maine voters have the opportunity to strike down a 6-month-old law that allows same-sex marriage. Organizations on both sides have invested much time and money to sway the votes their way, but we all know that God is still in charge. He helped Truth prevail in California last year, and I believe He can do it again in Maine.

And as if that's not crazy enough, Maine is also voting to legalize "medical" pot.

Please pray that God grants Maine's voters wisdom, for we know what the Bible says about "they which do such things."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

America: Nation of Christians or Christian Nation?

Before I get too much into our country's modern moral quagmires, I want to lay some sort of foundation, a background, if you will, to explain where I'm coming from. I'm fully aware that even within the Christian community, debates rage on, from our founding fathers' beliefs, to whether or not we even have any business getting into politics at all.

Even though I've decided to use the American flag as the recurring theme in my blog, and I will often bewail the sad moral degradation in this, my adopted country, I do not hold to any claims that the U.S. is or should be a nation of Christians or a Christian nation. Nor do I believe that it is destined to be the political embodiment of God's Kingdom.

With respect to the former, whether one serves the One True God is an intimate issue between that person and God. While I believe that nothing but good things can come from a society whose members are born of the Spirit and live according to Christ's two commandments, it is contrary to the teachings of Jesus that anyone (or any government) should shove a belief system down anyone's throat. (More on that, in posts to come!!!)

Regarding the latter (God's Kingdom), if when Jesus returns, He decides to establish an earthly kingdom, it will most likely be an entirely new entity. The U.S. was founded by men; God's Kingdom was founded by God. BIG difference there. :)

So how do I view the U.S.? I see it as a country that was founded on Biblical principles, by men and women who, for the most part, believed in and lived according to those principles, and that without them, we will see the moral decline of the past hundred years continue. But, as I mentioned in that tract, if we Christians stand up for that we know to be right, and lead others to the Savior, this country may yet turn around. I hope and pray that this blog will reach out, past my usual circle of like-minded readers, and serve as a beacon of light, toward that goal.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In the Beginning... (Conclusion)

Interesting how inverting the colors on the Iwo Jima picture makes the soldiers look like white knights of righteousness, amid a darkening sky of sin.

Without further ado, here is the conclusion of the tract that inspired this blog:

The First Amendment also guarantees freedom of speech and of the press, that the government cannot restrict or censure what people can say or report. This was written to prevent the tyranny that so permeated the Old World, at the time of its writing. But with any freedom comes the responsibility not to abuse it. This freedom extends to the entertainment industry, which has been getting progressively worse since its inception, more and more boldly pushing the envelope of “good taste.” It is sad (and scary) to admit, but since almost everyone watches television, goes to the movies, and listens to music (add to that a growing number of those who surf the net and play video games), the media has the awesome power to dictate what is morally acceptable. And as it continues to push the limits, moral decay continues to worsen.

There is no greater example of this than modern society’s views on sex, sexuality, and marriage. Sex before marriage is promoted in every form of entertainment that there is! Homosexuality, once considered an unmentionable sin, is now being promoted on television, in movies, and in magazines. Even some churches, considered by many to be the last bastions of morality, now accept and support openly gay priests and ministers, in absolute defiance of God’s opinion on the matter. The epidemic is sweeping the country, and the debate on the legality of gay marriages is raging. Its proponents argue that it’s an issue of human rights, similar to the civil rights movement of the middle twentieth century. But we must distinguish between “rights” and “what is right.”

Let’s not deceive ourselves: the reason why the U.S. and state Constitutions do not explicitly define marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman is that, until recently, the idea of men marrying men and women marrying women was considered ludicrous! Genesis 19 recounts the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by the Lord, for the sin of homosexuality. In Romans 1:18-32, the Apostle Paul condemns the act as “vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” And again, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” These are not the words of a stubborn bigot; they are the inspired Word of God!

God loves His creation. He loves all people, no matter what they do. That’s why He chose to come as a man and die on the cross. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romand 5:8). Jesus freely gave His life, as payment for our sins. Though He loves all people, he hates all sin. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Likewise, we should love everyone, but hate what they do. If you have children, do you not love them unconditionally? Would you not give your life for them, if need be, just like Jesus did for you? But do you like it when they disobey or do something they know is wrong? Do you hug and kiss them and say, “That’s all right. Go do that again, and encourage your friends to do it, too?” No. If you want to do right by your children, you will discipline and instruct them. You will teach them to do good and eschew evil. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Likewise, we cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that is all around us. We need to take a stand for what’s right, even at the risk of being scorned and harassed.

Society today confuses love with acceptance. God loves us all, but will all make it to Heaven? Certainly not. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8). “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:18). “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 1:8). “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:6-7). “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Our courts have gotten into the habit of interpreting laws with their own eyes, instead of the eyes of those who wrote them. They say with pride that the Constitution is a living document, which changes to adapt to the changing times. The Bible is a living document, too. Though it never changes, it continues to address the fundamental issues that have plagued humanity since its creation. Technology changes. Country borders change. Diseases change. But the everyday problems that every person has to face from day to day never change. The conflict between man’s desire to reach God and his fleshly propensity to sin is as old as the eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. The answers are in God’s Word: the Bible. Our founding fathers knew that. They read it. They memorized it. They taught their children by it. They even built a country on it.

If you agree that this country is morally going into the gutter, do not sit idly watching. Do not rely on others to do the right thing. Do not convince yourself that this is all about politics, and that should be left to the politicians. Don’t let a vocal minority set the course for the quiet majority. We are a democracy, a government formed of the people, by the people, and for the people. So, get involved! Let your voice be heard, for righteousness’ sake! Read the news with a scrutinous eye, to get familiar with the issues and the people running or already elected for public office. Register to vote, then go out and do it! If you agree with this tract, give it to someone else to read. Find others who feel this way and want this country to return to the high moral standard on which it was founded: God’s Word. The more people wake up to the truth, the more positive a change we can make!

To this end, I urge you, dear reader, to welcome the Bible into your life. Read it diligently every day, from cover to cover. Welcome Jesus Christ into your heart! Ask Him to forgive you of your sins (He’s the only One who can!) and to keep you free from sin. Surrender your life and your will to Him. Trust Him to light your path and direct your feet, to lead you in everything you do. Raise your children by Him. Tell your neighbors about Him! Pray without ceasing! Pray for our country and our leaders. Pray and ask what you can do for Him. We cannot (and should not) force Christianity on people, by making it the official religion of the U.S. To do so would be contrary to everything that God is. But we can steer the country, one heart at a time, back toward the moral standard on which it was founded. Don’t give up! It’s not too late to take a stand for what’s right! Lift up God’s standard… in your heart, your home, and your country!

May 3, 2004

Friday, September 25, 2009

In the Beginning... (Part 3)

Ahhh... admit it: you knew that sooner or later I'd pick this famous pose. This is a picture of a monument, based on the famous WWII photo of American soldiers, planting the Stars and Stripes, after winning the Battle for Iwo Jima. Turns out that the original photo, which was instantly iconic of the war effort, was a little staged by the photographer. After watching a group of soldiers plant the flag, he asked if they could take it out and do it again, so he could take a picture.

But to get back to my story, here is the first half of the tract I wrote:

Lift Up the Standard in America!
Isaiah 59:19

Throughout the course of history, nations used banners, flags, and objects of worship, collectively called “standards,” as symbols of what they stood for and a focal point to rally their armies in battle. While the Israelites of Old Testament times took the Ark of the Covenant with them into battle, most modern armies use flags. As long as the soldiers can see the flag flying high, they know the battle is not lost. But if the flag falls, so do the spirits of the fighting men, and the enemy overcomes them. But, oh, the glory and the blessings that are bestowed upon a country founded on God, which lifts up high the standard of His Holy Word! “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).

At one time, being an American was almost synonymous with being a Christian. Our nation was founded by people who were devout believers and active in their congregations. The constitutions of the Fifty States not only acknowledge God as the Supreme Being and Creator of everything, but also borrow basic principles from His Word. The Bible was a standard textbook in schools and read in most homes. People’s lives were not easy, but they strove to live by the high moral standard set forth in the Holy Scriptures. Unfortunately, this country has forsaken the underlying principles that forged its Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and even taken action to remove God from our schools, our courthouses, and our Pledge of Allegiance. God is being replaced by a misguided spirit of political correctness, and blind acceptance is becoming the new moral standard. This path can only lead to the decline, fall, and ultimately, self-destruction of our great country. I urge every American, regardless of age, race, creed, occupation, or status in life, to return to the standard by which this nation was forged.

The First Amendment implies a separation between Church and State, when it states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This reinforces Article VI of the Constitution, which declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Many take this a step further, wanting to remove all mention of God from government practices, literature, and materials. If they succeed, they will have managed to entirely remove the United States from the foundation on which it was built. The simple fact is that one of the primary reasons Europeans emigrated to the New World was to worship God, free from the influence of oppressive and corrupt churches. Many of our nation’s founding fathers were devout believers and active in their congregations. This is self-evident in the words of our country’s earliest legal documents.

Declaration of Independence, 1776

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….

    We, therefore, …appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do… solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States….
Virginia Bill of Rights, 1776 (after which the U.S. Constitution was modeled)

    That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

    That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.
Massachusetts Constitution, c. 1790

    We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity… of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.

    As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community, but by the institution of the public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality: Therefore, … the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.

    "I, A. B., do declare, that I believe the Christian religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth; and that I am seised (sic) and possessed, in my own right, of the property required by the constitution as one qualification for the office or place to which I am elected."
Today, the government as a whole and people in general are afraid of religion. They are afraid of the very mention of God or the Bible. They strive to delete all references to God from our Pledge of Allegiance and our schoolbooks. They remove the Ten Commandments from prominent locations in courthouses. They push to loosen the restrictions on the entertainment industry, for the sake of freedom of expression. And we wonder why there seems to be a general degradation of morals. We, as a nation, are setting ourselves up for a fall.

Some would argue that morality and ethical principles are subject to change over time, and that those who refuse to accept the changes are old-fashioned, stubborn, or prejudiced. Those who believe this are living on a slippery slope. If they’ll accept, for example, two men getting married, why not two brothers? If two brothers, why not a man and a boy. If a man and a boy, why not a man and his pet? Where do you draw the line, and on what basis? “Feelings change, people change,” so a song goes, but the Word of God never changes. It is timeless. It is never amended, and none of its edicts are ever repealed.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In the Beginning... (Part 2)

For our first anniversary, my wife gave me a porcelain eagle statue, covered with the American flag. This picture reminds me of that. It also suggests vigilance. There are many areas that we can be vigilant (homeland security, crime, entertainment choices, etc...), but the most important is being on-guard against the wiles of the devil, personally and as a society. Sure, not everyone believes in God, the Bible, or a place called Hell, but that doesn't mean they're not real. For ages, people did not believe in microscopic life or sub-atomic particles, and yet they exist in unfathomable abundance.

So, to continue the story I started last time, I finished the tract and decided to distribute it to everyone I could think of. I wrote the following cover letter:

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you on a matter of urgent importance for our great country. Our nation, under God, has been straying farther and farther from Him, descending into the murky depths of immorality. This is plain to see, if you just turn on a TV, pick up a newspaper, or surf the Internet, and judge what you see by the Bible. This wasn’t a result of the efforts of any single person, group, or organization; we all contributed, either by direct action or passive inaction. I’ve never gotten involved in political issues, but recently, prompted by the latest debates on same-sex marriage, the Lord showed me that I could no longer remain on the sidelines. As an American and a Christian, it is my duty to do whatever I can to help steer the country back in the right direction.

After much prayer, the Lord Jesus inspired me to write the enclosed tract, “Lift Up the Standard in America.” It is my deep and sincere wish that every American above the age of 12 would read it. So, I am sending it out, by post and e-mail, to everyone that I can think of: friends, family, churches, elected officials, TV and radio stations, magazines, newspapers, etc…. None of us can do anything of significance alone, but if enough people wake up to the truth and get involved, wonderful changes will start to take place. I kindly request that you read this tract with your family, discuss it, and share it with others.

The fate of our nation rests not upon ourselves, but upon our relationship with the One who created us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” As I continue to pray for our country, I urge everyone to do the same. I thank you for taking the time to read this letter and tract. May God bless America… again!

To be continued...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In the Beginning...

Welcome to my new blog, dedicated to lifting up God's standard (as in: flag), against an enemy flooding in from every side! So why is the above picture that of an American flag, instead of a cross or Star of David? Just as God has adopted me into His family, so has America adopted me, an immigrant, as one of its own. And just as God founded His Church on the Rock, Jesus Christ, this country was founded on God's Written Word, the Bible.

First, a little history, not of this country, but of the inspiration behind this blog.

The year was 2003, and Massachussetts was on the brink of becoming the first state in the Union to allow same-sex marriages. My wife and I were outraged. Not sure what we could do about it, we prayed for guidance. The Lord soon inspired me to write a tract, whose title I borrowed from Isaiah 59:19.

"So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him."

I loved the double meaning of the word, "standard!" In a simpler age, it meant "flag", but now it more often refers to something against which all other things are judged. And to "lift up" that standard means not only to display it proudly for the world to see, but also to raise the bar, by which our actions and our morals are to be judged. What a wonderful illustration, around which to frame the goal of returning this fallen nation (and world) to its long-forgotten, high moral standard, that was once founded on God's Word!

To be continued...