State of the Union: Time to Choose Sides

Surely every American wants some level of unity, cooperation, and compromise in Washington. Any hope of that happening any time soon was extinguished at the State of the Union address. The two Americas are each firmly rooted and steeled with a deepening line in the sand between them. You can no longer find middle ground. It’s time to choose sides for the survival of our nation.

Never have I seen a more stark division between conservative and liberal leaders as in the hallowed chamber of the Capitol during the State of the Union speech by our president. The SOTU was a 120 minute vivid display of two diametrically opposed visions for America’s future. Virtually no issue received a mutual response between the two sides. The scowl on so many faces was an embarrassment to most Americans and a sad signal to the rest of the world. It is obvious that our culture is not coming together, but is ripping apart along conservative and liberal lines.

The faces of the conservative philosophy (Trump, Pence, McConnell, Ryan, et al) represent the conservative movement toward less government, individual freedoms, personal responsibility, free market economy, strict constitutional adherence, strong defense, nationalism, sanctity of life, and traditional morals. The faces of the liberal philosophy (Clinton, Schumer, Pelosi, Sanders, et al) represent the liberal movement toward government entitlements, highly regulated society, individual dependency, constitution flexibility, multinational world order, conditional view of life, and moral tolerance. Polarization of Americans around these two opposing world views is at a historical height.

Some Americans may still profess to be somewhere in the middle–trying to hold on to both philosophies. I say there is no middle. These world views are so far apart, there is only a vacuum in the middle. It is like having a foot in each of two boats separating at a fork in a river. One has to choose which boat to put both feet in. Those who have claimed to be “independents” are finding themselves to be irrelevant. It is not the popular faces that will ultimately determine the direction of this great nation. It is the millions of adults citizens who must choose sides.

I chose the conservative journey long ago, but am more committed to it today than ever. Personally, I don’t care for President Trump’s personality, and I sometimes question his character. The same holds true for a few other conservative leaders. However, as long as they are leading us forward in the cause of conservatism, I will support the president and other leaders. We don’t have a perfect government by a long shot, because all people are imperfect. But, we must get on board with the side whose values we share, or the opposing forces will take us, our children, and our grandchildren into a darkness we can’t even imagine.

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DACA and Government Shutdown: the Real Issue

Now that it’s over, can we please get past the emotions and understand what really drove the government shutdown? Half of our senators put national security and the well-being of 325 million American citizens at risk in a political ploy. The Senate had until at least March 5th to resolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue. Yet, they were so adamant about an immediate resolution that would win the hearts of these non-citizens, they thumbed their noses at the the people they were sworn to protect and serve–U.S. citizens.

Granted, some level of protection and provision for children of illegal immigrants is essential. They are in the U.S. through no fault of their own, and many are contributing positively to our society. Most Americans want fair treatment for these young folks we refer to as “dreamers.” However, it is a complex problem with major questions of paths to citizenship, border security, qualification for government assistance, status of parents, etc. Last fall, President Trump gave Congress a deadline of March 5th to resolve the DACA issue. Later, he hinted that he would be willing to extend that date if progress was being made. The Senate Democrats made this issue a partisan showdown sacrificing their responsibility for the entire citizenry to appease less than one percent of the population. Of course, this move will make this small group forever beholden to the Democratic party for generations.

America has always understood the desire of people around the world to come to our country. That is why we have laws and policies to provide such an opportunity. We are all about sharing the blessings of freedom, but it has to be done in a legal and orderly manner. Controlling the illegal entry of unscreened, undocumented people must be part of the resolution of the DACA issue. Otherwise, we will face that same problem again in just a few years. The shutdown was the Democrats’ attempt to force an over-night DACA decision while kicking the illegal entry problem down the road.

A government shutdown, even if short-lived, is a major inconvenience. And the principle of it is extremely important. When partisan politics abruptly stops government services for its citizens, something is terribly wrong with our representation in Congress. Furthermore, when the governmental needs of a tiny minority of non-citizens take precedence over the needs of the rest of the nation, Washington has become dysfunctional.

There is another causal factor to this shutdown. Its timing was at the first anniversary of Trumps presidency. Democrats wanted to distract Americans from the booming economy and national optimism largely credited to the president by handing him a defeat. They punctuated a year of unprecedented accomplishments with a government shutdown. Their unstated statement: “You’re on a roll, Mr. President, but we can still stop you short of 60 votes.”

So, the real issue here is not about the best interests of the DACA children. The real issue is the struggle for power between the two political parties. The current minority party is in constant pursuit of ways to derail the majority party. And the losers are the constituents.

Many elected officials seem willing to sell themselves out to peripheral issues at the expense of over 99 percent of Americans in order to accomplish their goals. As long as this is the case, we will continue to live in a beautiful land of endless potential governed by too many short-sighted, selfish leaders.

 

Iran, America, Social Media, and God

The massive protests in Iran are of historic importance, although American news media are more interested in a book of anti-Trump lies and futile investigations. In a nation where Christianity is severely restricted, Iranian Christians are confronting the Islam theocracy with the help of social media. This phenomenon may ultimately resolve the nuclear threat by Iran, and it should grab your attention.

From 1925 to 1979, Iran was ruled first by Reza Shah Pahlavi, then his son, Mohammad Reza Shah. These were Iran’s progressive years characterized by a booming economy and strong western alliances, as well as advances in cultural and social development. In the 70’s, fundamentalist, disenchanted with western influence and the departure from traditional Islam, organized violent protests against the regime of Reza Shah, known as the “Shah.”  Ultimately, the Shah was deposed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a prominent Muslim leader. For the past 39 years, Iran, although claiming to have a freedom-seeking elected government, has been tightly controlled by fundamental Islamists. But, many of the Iranian people have recently rebelled against their oppressive government.

The protests, sometimes violent, are instigated by more moderate countrymen who are fed up with Iran’s antiquated traditions, the intolerance of non-Muslims, and animosity toward the western world. A large portion of these protesters are Christians who have for years been persecuted by the government. In spite of government crackdown, Christianity is growing faster in Iran than in any other country today. Iranians professing to be Christians now number over three million and are increasing exponentially by thousands per day. Of course, you will never hear this from American news media.

Iran appears to be again at the threshold of a revolution similar to that of 1979, but in reverse. A national civil movement away from the terrorist-supporting, antisemitic, warmongering theocracy is surfacing. This sea change in power structure would likely create a much greater acceptance of Christianity. It might also reduce or even eliminate the nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

This movement has a distinct advantage over those previous–social media. Protesters now have apps like Instagram and Telegram giving them public access and targeted networks of messages and videos. Just last week, government authorities mandated that local providers block access to certain social media. However, it is next to impossible to completely eliminate the world-wide internet. The truth from the western world is getting through to those fighting for freedom and religious liberty.

Social media and the internet is leveling the ground between oppressive regimes and people seeking truth and justice around the world. For the first time ever, small organizations and even individuals can make an instantaneous difference in the lives of others thousands of miles away. My local church broadcasts every worship service on Facebook Live. We get encouraging comment back from viewers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other places in that part of the world. My stats from this blog often show hits from Asia and the Middle East.

With this in mind, I have added a page to my blog site where I present the gospel in relative detail. I have tried to make it of interest to a wide spectrum of non-believers from declared atheists to those who may think of themselves as Christian under a false understanding of salvation. I call the page “Eternity,” and it asks 10 life-essential questions. I am excited about the potential of that page being seen by people locally and around the world. I pray that it might even be a tool for some of those Christians struggling in Iran.

I ask that you visit this page by clicking “Eternity” at the top of this blog’s homepage. After reading it, please consider sharing the page or this post on your Facebook timeline. You also may want to forward the link, http://terrythompson.org/eternity, to someone. Let’s use the technology of social media and internet to God’s glory.

 

A Prayer for the New Year

There is no better way to prepare for the new year than to cry out to Almighty God for Him to protect and bless America. Perhaps there is no better example for such a prayer than that of Anne Graham Lotz. I have slightly adapted a prayer of hers for the year we have just entered. We will need this level of God’s attention over the next twelve months. Please take ten minutes pray this prayer for your nation.

O God of creation. We bow before You acknowledging Your greatness and Your glory. No one compares to You.  No one is Your equal. We look at Your creation and marvel at the infinite power and wisdom that are Yours.  Nothing is beyond Your reach. “You bring out all the starry host one by one, and call them each by name. Because of Your great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing…You pitch a tent for the sun…It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat…Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.” [3] There is nowhere in all the Universe where You are not. Surely Your arm “…is not too short to save, nor [Your] ear too dull to hear.”[4]

Yet we honestly confess: when terrorists randomly kill; when women and children detonate themselves as suicide bombers; when innocent people are grabbed from behind and stabbed in the back; when floods, tornadoes, and storms ravage our land; when our national leaders don’t lead; when our business leaders lie; when our political leaders put their own interests before the people’s; when our spiritual leaders contradict Your Word; when our social leaders divide; when our allies become our enemies and our enemies become our allies…what’s going on?  Where are You?

We are tempted to think You are…
Distracted…disengaged…disinterested,
Inattentive…inactive…impotent,
Out-maneuvered…out-moded…out-classed,
Unable…unaffected…and even unaware…
of our fear… our helplessness…our confusion…our outrage. Why do You seem so small while our problems, disasters, and enemies seem so large?

Help us to regain our focus.

God of our fathers. Lord of the nations. You are the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. No one can understand Your ways. But we turn to You. We return to You. Now. “Are You not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.  Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.”[5]

Did we not establish our nation as one under God? Have we not pledged, “In God We Trust”? But now we find ourselves constantly bombarded with the shrill voices of those who demand we distance ourselves from You; that You are just one of many gods, if You are a god at all; that we cannot risk offending each other by calling on Your name. We hear the enemy insinuating that You are “not fixing this” because You can’t fix this. Our faith is being assaulted.

And so our spirits rise up within us and throw off the smothering cloak of spiritual oppression and political correctness. We shout Your Name. You are Yahweh. Jehovah–the personal God.  The great I AM–the eternal God. The All-mighty–the Powerful God. You are Jesus. Savior. Immanuel. God with us, never to leave or forsake us. Your power has not been diluted or depleted over the ages. You are just as powerful…just as much in authority…as You were in Creation; in the deliverance of Your people from Egypt and in the parting of the Red Sea.  You are the One who sends down the fire.[6] Who fells the giants.[7] Who makes wars to cease.[8] Who raises the dead![9]

As we look ahead into the New Year, we choose to place our trust in You.  If “…the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord,”[10] we trust in You. If “…the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging,”[11] we trust in You. Though …”nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall…,”[12] we trust in You.  When …”the wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright…,[13]” we trust in You. We trust You.  We trust You!

We are told that we can worship You in our own churches, but we cannot bring You into the marketplace or the workplace; into the State House or the school house; onto the battlefield or the football field; into the courtroom or the back room or the bedroom.  As though the God of gods can be contained, boxed in, restricted, bound, hidden. We laugh at such foolishness and exalt You as the Most High God who strides the winds of the earth.  The clouds are the dust of Your feet.[14] The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You.[15]  How much less any local church building.  We invite You to have Your way in our lives. In our state.  In our nation.  Within our circle.

Now arise, O Lord God.  Look on us, Your people who are called by Your name.  Listen to us, as we cry out to You on behalf of our nation. Do not reject us. Have pity on us.

We feel the encroaching evil.  Darkness and gloom are descending. Those who hate us are infiltrating us.  Those who are dedicated to destroying us are all around us.  Are You at the head of this army? Is this the beginning of the Day of the Lord?  Have we tried Your patience and crossed the line into Your judgment? Are You holding us accountable for our sin and rebellion and defiance, for our profanity and blasphemy and idolatry?  “You alone are to be feared.  Who can stand before You when You are angry?”[16] Are You?

Most Holy God.  As we draw a circle around ourselves, we want to make everything right with You within that circle.  So we confess our sin.  You are righteous.  We are not.  You always do the right thing. We have done wrong. We are covered with shame because we know better. We have had generations of blessing and prosperity, yet we have refused to thank You, and instead give ourselves credit for what has come from Your hand. We have agreed with those who contradict Your Word. We have turned away from Your truth, and believed lies. We have treated life casually. We have destroyed our environment selfishly. We have passed by the needy uncaringly. We have demanded entitlements defiantly. We have not listened to those who have warned us of the consequences of drifting from You.

And now, as we look into 2018, we come face to face with a mess. What can be done to save us from ourselves? Even as the question reverberates in our minds, the answer is given: the solution to our spiritual and moral meltdown—to the restoration of the crumbling foundation of our nation—is not politics, nor the economy, nor health care, nor welfare or immigration reforms, nor free higher education, nor the court system, nor corporate or Wall Street regulation. You are the Answer. You are the Solution. Yet instead of turning to You, we seem to be turning farther and farther away from You. But not now.  Now we turn back.  We turn around.  We re-turn to You.  We run to You. We cling to You. We plead with You…

Turn to us! Draw near to us![17] If You do not help us, we will be defenseless.  If You do not protect us, we will be exposed to danger.  If You do not deliver us from evil, we will be overcome by it. If You do not have plans to give us hope and a future, we will slide into the past tense as a nation.[18]  Into oblivion.

Father of all mercies. You have said that our land is a land that You, the Lord our God, cares for; that Your eyes are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.[19]  As You look on our nation from this day forward, from January 1st to December 31st, 2018, we ask for what we know we don’t deserve.  We ask for Your blessing. Please…

  • Bless our national and local elections.  Raise up men and women who will lead us back to you.  Raise up another Asa, who was fully committed to the Lord all his life.[20] Raise up another Jehoshaphat who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.[21] Raise up another Josiah who renewed the covenant of his people with You—“to follow the Lord and keep His commands.”[22] Raise up leaders of moral and spiritual integrity who have a strong faith and a healthy reverence for You and therefore the wisdom to make right decisions. Be present in the Oval Office.
  • Bless our homeland security teams.  Give them eyes to see the bad guys, ears to hear the evil chatter, minds to understand the tweets and codes, and the will to act before the enemy does. Protect us from evil.
  • Bless our policemen and firemen, our armed forces and border patrol—all those who risk their lives to keep us safe. Restore to them the respect they deserve.  Protect their lives and their families. Bring to the light of justice any corruption and abuse so that we can trust those in uniform. Guard those who guard us.
  • Bless our judges and prosecutors. Cause them to serve faithfully and wholeheartedly, remembering that they are accountable to You.[23] Punish those who do wrong. Encourage those who do right.
  • Bless my ___________________

You are the Fountainhead from whom all blessings flow. The list of our needs and our requests is endless.  Please.  Bless our doctors. Our lawyers. Our bankers. Our teachers. Our commissioners. Our farmers.

  • Bless our preachers, Bible teachers, and seminary professors.  Like Ezra of old, stir their hearts to be devoted to You first, then to the study and the preaching of Your Word.[24] When they preach or teach, compel them to preach the Word, not books about the Word. Motivate them with holy fear of standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account for the way they have impacted others by their words and by their deeds.  Remove those whose lives are out of sync with their lips. Raise up a generation of spiritual leaders that You approve of as workmen who do not need to be ashamed because they correctly handle the word of truth. [25] Fill them to overflowing with Your Spirit.
  • Bless our families. The unloving spirits of infidelity, dishonesty, treachery, hypocrisy, immorality, pornography, and adultery are sweeping through our homes. The enemy seems to be attacking us on every level, on every front.  A vast army of evil seems to have been unleashed against the home.  Especially the homes and families of Christ-followers. “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”[26] We plead for Your divine protection.  We plead for Your divine wisdom to counter the attacks so that our families are strengthened in their relationship with You. Be the center of our homes.
  • Lord of love, we pray for You to bless our enemies. Yes, we do. Open their ears to the Truth. Open their minds to understand the Gospel. Open their hearts to long for Your love. Draw them to Yourself as moths are drawn to a flame. Your Light is stronger than their darkness. Bring them into the Light. Save them for all eternity. BUT if they reject You, we ask that You turn them on each other. Distract them.  Destroy them. Prevent them from continuing to attack and persecute the righteous.
  • Lastly, O God our Father, bless us.  Bless me. Make me into a vessel of honor, an instrument “…for noble purposes, made holy, useful to our Master and prepared to do any good work.”[27] I know the night is coming when work for You will cease.[28]  Help me to redeem the time. Use me now for Your Kingdom and Your glory. Open my lips to boldly and fearlessly make known the Gospel:[29] the Good News of redemption for the past…hope for the future… joy for the present regardless of circumstances… love that is unconditional, boundless, and eternal[30]…found at the Cross.  Open my lips to just give Jesus to a world that is increasingly desperate. Use me as an ambassador of peace on earth by first leading people into a right relationship with You, then with each other. When the world around me unravels, help me to stand strong on my faith in You. And when people see me standing strong, help them to see You.

Bless me.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

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