Wednesday, August 23, 2017

3 Classic Essays From Another Time...But For Ours Also

Will the people called by His Name continue to slumber through the culture wars, indeed, through the rapid devolution of Western civilization? Or might they, by the grace of God, still wake up?

To help encourage that last possibility, I urge you to pass along to friends and members of the pastoral staff at the church you attend these three classic essays.

The first two are speeches given by Alexander Solzhintsyn, respectively, to Harvard University’s graduating seniors in 1978 and the audience at the bestowing of the Templeton Prize in 1983. And the third essay comes from Erwin Luther, “America’s Spiritual Crisis.”

Yes, it would be terrific if we could get our friends reading, thinking about, talking about, and applying to their lives the lessons taught in the works of Chesterton, Lewis, Schaeffer, Alcorn, and others. But perhaps we can start their engines in that direction by encouraging them to start with these three brief, but immensely profound essays.

What do you say? We can at the very least read (or re-read) them ourselves.

Why Is Modern Art So Bad?

Artist and illustrator Robert Florczak gives an illuminating, persuasive, and illustrative answer in this excellent Prager University video.

The Moral Fogs We Live In

“Millions of people in America live in moral fogs.  The issues are not clear to them.  They cannot face the light that makes them black or white.  They want grays and neutral tints.  They move in a sort of spiritual twilight. Modified immorality on the basis of cleverness guides millions of people.  Modified dishonesty within the letter of the law is the practice of millions more.  Surely the time has come, because the hour is late, when we must decide.  And the choice before us is plain, Jehovah or Baal.  Christ or chaos.  Conviction or compromise.  Discipline or disintegration.” (Peter Marshall, from his once-famous 1944 sermon, “Trial by Fire.”)

You can actually listen to Marshall preaching this soul-stirring sermon (and, by all means, you should) right here.

“As Long As We Do So No Great Harm Can Come To Our Country”

For a valuable perspective on America’s devolution, consider TIME magazine’s 1954 report of comments made by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren, an Eisenhower appointee the year before, at a Washington prayer breakfast.

“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia...or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay...or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut...the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles...

I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their express belief in it...I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion.  I like also to believe that as long as we do so no great harm can come to our country.”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Deathly Legacy of Socialism

On this Throwback Thursday I think it’s relevant to remember just how ugly, barbarous, and enslaving Socialism actually is. On this day in 1962,  East German guards machine-gunned a young man who was making an escape attempt over the Berlin Wall into West Berlin. They shot him, shot him again, and then left him to bleed to death as horrified onlookers from the western side of the Wall begged them to provide help. It was just one of the many murders Socialism committed at the Berlin Wall…and that’s not figuring the millions and millions of others perpetrated in the 20th Century by Soviet Russia, her puppet leaders of Eastern Europe, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, and Communist China.

But more on this particular atrocity — It was on August 17, 1962, that two young men from East Berlin made their desperate break for freedom.  One made it, though suffering terrible cuts from the barbed wire. His friend didn’t. He was shot down by machine guns mounted on the East Berlin side. The young man fell, managed to struggle to the Wall itself, and began to climb over. The machine guns spat more flame and bullets as the man fell back screaming. For nearly an hour, he lay there bleeding to death and crying for help. West German guards threw bandages to the man while an angry crowd of West Berliners implored  the German “security soldiers” to do something to help the dying man. They did nothing and the young man bled to death.

The Socialists of the Soviet Union and East Germany always claimed that the Wall was a protection from the pernicious influences of Western capitalism and culture. Yet they murdered almost 80 people who tried to escape over that dastardly Wall during the years of its existence, 1961 to 1989.

No one was ever shot trying to enter East Berlin. For Socialism must use mind-numbing propaganda, comprehensive repression, and even deadly force to keep its population in line.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Doing One’s Job…And Doing It Well

In yesterday’s “When Swing Was King” program, there were some very tense moments when one of the residents required medical intervention. The lady had slumped over as in sleep – sleeping isn't particularly unusual – but the staff members who were present were quick to notice that something was amiss. They intervened quickly and, motioning us to continue the show, they slid the resident's chair out the door where more aggressive medical care was waiting.

It was a sterling example of why we always insist that staff members be present during those presentations we do for audiences at nursing homes and at some assisted living facilities. In fact, we urge this because 1) staff are better able to discern when someone may need help, 2) staff are trained and experienced in medical intervention, and 3) Claire and I are not supposed to lend any aid at all. If someone suffers seizure or pain or a panic attack, if someone falls, even if someone needs to exit quickly to use the bathroom, they require assistance right then – assistance that we are not allowed to give.  Therefore, staff being present during the program to provide oversight and help for the residents is a must.

Sad to say, however, this basic responsibility is too often ignored. And that puts Claire and I in a very tough spot. More serious still, it leaves the residents of the care facility vulnerable.  That’s why we repeatedly remind staff to have someone present during our shows.  And it’s why, over the years, we have had to actually drop certain facilities from our schedule when they continued to ignore our request.

But that certainly wasn’t the cast at Mable Rose yesterday.  Indeed, there are always one or two staff members watching over the residents (usually 35-40 residents) and often more than that.  And, as proved by yesterday’s quick action, those staff members are not just passively enjoying “When Swing Was King.” They are also keeping careful watch over the residents all the while.  This is professionalism.  This is compassion.  This is the quality of commitment to duty that all care facilities owe to their residents.  So a hearty thank you and “way to go” to go to Carol and Tina and all the rest of the Mable Rose team.

Postscript...Claire and I were on the last song of the program yesterday when the resident had to be taken away. But Tina slipped in and whispered to me, “As you know, we have a bit of a situation here and it would be great if we could keep people calm and out of the way for awhile longer. Could you guys keep going for a bit?”  So, while Claire hurriedly inserted a new key into the computer, I announced that we had a couple of bonus songs for them today.  Applause! And so on we went.  As it turned out, you'll be pleased to learn, we only needed to do one more song before the woman had come round and been taken back to her room.

After the program, we visited with the residents as they left and then began helping Carol and Tina clean up and rearrange chairs.  Always very encouraging, the girls were thanking us and complementing us for the way the program touches the hearts of the residents and for our taking the time to visit with them. We love to hear this validation of the ministry, of course, but we emphasized to them yesterday that we were the ones who had been profoundly moved by the alertness, skill, and kindness they had shown in caring for the people in their charge.  They truly provided us fresh inspiration for which we were very grateful.

And I thought I'd pass that inspiration around, especially to those of you who do magnificent, important, but perhaps unheralded good works to the best of your ability. Never forget that God sees your efforts and, as they are done in the Spirit and in His strength, they will be abundantly rewarded in the life to come.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The “Back to School” Agenda You’re Ignoring

“I am convinced that the battle for human­kind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. There teachers must embody the same selfless dedication of the most rabid fundamentalist preacher, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey hu­manist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level -- pre­school, daycare, or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new — the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved."

(John Dunphy, “A Religion for a New Age,” The Humanist magazine, 1983. Quoted in God's Prophetic Voice to America by Dr. David R. Reagan)

The Evil Done by Quiet, Civilized Men

“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”  (C. S. Lewis, Preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters)

What Did Elijah, Moses, and Jesus Talk About?

“So we are not to be surprised that Elijah and Moses, meet­ing with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration had this [Jesus upcoming crucifixion] as their key topic of conversation. ‘And behold there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah; who appeared in glory, and spake (and continued to speak) of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.’

Of course they talked about it, because they had a stake in this. It was important for them not merely as a theological proposition, but the salvation of Moses and Elijah rested upon this single point — the coming death of Jesus on Calvary's cross. The disciples who were there that day had a stake in this too, because if Jesus had not died upon the cross they too would have had no salvation. And let us say to each one who reads this: we have a stake in this, for there is no salvation possible to us unless Jesus died on Calva­ry's cross.” (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality)

The wood engraving represented here is "Crucifixion" which Gustave Dore did in his illustrations for The Bible in London in 1866.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Quick Slice of the Slanted Media

And you still don’t believe the “mainstream media” (that near monopolistic consortium of the networks, the AP, the Democrat organs, and the giant tech manipulators like Google and Yahoo) are determined to ignore facts, fairness, and faithfulness to journalistic ethics in their rabid zeal to destroy Donald Trump? Then take a look at this review of today’s headlines of fake news from Yahoo. That’s right, just from today.

“Melania, Ivanka and Ivana Trump Wear High Heels, a Symbol of Everything That Is Beautiful and Horrifying About Them” (Newsweek)

“Do Republicans Want a Dictator? More than Half Would be Happy for Trump to Postpone 2020 Election” (Newsweek)

“Donald Trump’s Favorite Poll Gave Him Some Good News—His Approval Rating Actually Rose” (Newsweek)

“Trump's support among his base is collapsing” (Business Insider)

“The Partisan Presidency” (US News & World Report)

“45 Reasons Michelle Obama Will Always Be Our Style Icon” (PopSugar)

“Obama's Former Photographer Reminds Trump What It Looks Like to Respect Women” (PopSugar)

“Trump shares dubious Twitter poll saying he's better than Obama” (Yahoo News)

“The Gender Pay Gap in Trump's Administration Is Even Worse Than We Originally Thought” (PopSugar)

“Why Did Donald Trump Ignore Ivanka? Al Gore says President is Controlled by Carbon Polluters”

“Al Gore Has The Best Promoter Ever For His New Climate Movie — Donald Trump”

“Trump gets a folder of good news about himself twice a day” (Yahoo View)

“Photos capture Trump playing golf during 'working vacation’” (Washington Post)

“What Does Melania Trump Do at the White House?” (Newsweek)

“Trump Clearly Has No Clue How to Stop the Opioid Epidemic” (Fortune_

Trump's feud with Mitch McConnell ‘is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality’” (Business Insider)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

August Is Amazing with "When Swing Was King"

Our August program is underway and, as always, it is delighting the lives of the senior citizens who take our "sentimental journey" back to the heady days of the big band era. We started off on Tuesday with a show at Heritage Point (where we rarely get any cooperation at all from staff -- but the audience sure loves us!) and then on Wednesday we had a special program for 42 members of the Horizon group at Lutheran Church of the Master off 108th and Center. Then today we resumes our regular monthly schedule which you can check out right here.

This month's songlist? It's a doozy!

1) Glenn Miller (featuring trumpet solo by Bobby Hackett) — “A String of Pearls”
2) Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters — “Don’t Fence Me In”
3) Harry James — “Pennies from Heaven”
4) Nat King Cole — “On the Street Where You Live”
5) Lawrence Welk — “Circus Polka”
6) The Mills Brothers — “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”
7) Artie Shaw — “Sweet Lorraine”
8) Larry Clinton (with vocalist Bea Wain) — “My Reverie”
9) Ray Anthony — “Embraceable You”
10) Tommy Dorsey (with vocalist Frank Sinatra) — “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”
11) Benny Goodman (with vocalist Matha Tilton and trumpet solo by Ziggy Elman) — “And the Angels Sing”
12) Judy Garland & Gene Kelly — “The Bell’s are Ringing For Me and My Gal”

Is America Finished?

Will America, because of its basic foundations as a Christian nation, receive a pass from God’s judgment for the audacious sins it now commits; nay, even promotes?  

Though the United States still has references to God on its money, in its pledge to the flag, and in several other cultural expressions — and though it still allows Christian activity (of a superficial and highly marginalized sort) — will the righteous Lord of hosts forego His wrath on our nation’s apostasy, blasphemy, sexual perversions, wholesale assault on preborn children, and other acts of rebellion that were, just a few decades ago, unthinkable?

Before you answer, consider God’s response to the treachery of His chosen people, Israel, in the 8th Century BC.

“For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, to rebel against His glorious presence. The expression of their faces bears witness against them and they display their sin like Sodom. They do not even conceal it. Woe to them for they have brought evil on themselves.”  (Isaiah 2:8-9, NASB)

“Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands. Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; and Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.”  (Isaiah 5:12-14, NASB)

“Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?”  (Isaiah 10:11, NASB)

Is America past the tipping point?  Is its fate already determined?  Or could the holy Hand of judgment be stayed even at this late hour?  I happen to believe there is a chance for recovery 1) because America is still here.  And 2) because of the immense and ever-fresh mercy of God. Where there is life, there is hope. And Scripture is clear that God desires to show mercy on the repentant. He desires to pour out blessings on those who, even at a late date, turn to him in humble faith. So, yes; I believe there remains the opportunity for America’s repentance and thus her restoration. But, make no mistake, the nation is in the most desperate peril. She must not delay that change of heart even for a day.

Please remember also that personal repentance must precede collective repentance.  The message of Isaiah’s warnings printed above are not solely for ancient Israel nor, in the application to our day, are they meant just for “the other guys.” No, indeed; they are very much pointed to you and me as well.  We too are called to repent of our cowardice and compromise, our license and laziness, our failure to let His light shine into every area of our lives and also, through our actions, into every area of the culture.

Earnest appeals to God (through the cross of Christ) for forgiveness, refreshment, and restoration are, in the individual case, always answered.  That is a wondrous, joyful reality with eternal effects for each individual regardless of what occurs in time and in culture.  But then again, if enough individuals act in sincere repentance, the nation can enter into great blessings as well.  Let us fervently pray (and act) to that end.