Why I Am Leaving the GOP

To be honest, I’d argue they left me, but it’s a pointless debate. Since 1976, when I turned 18 two months before the election and registered in the Grand Old Party, I’ve been a faithful and reliable Republican voter. I classify my votes in three ways. I enthusiastically voted for Ronald Reagan and a few Senate and House candidates along the way. I really liked W early on. I’ve voted for other Republican candidates with moderate enthusiasm. And quite a few times I’ve held my nose and hung a chad for a Republican I had no enthusiasm about at all. Bob Dole. McCain. Romney.

But I have limits. There are lines I won’t cross. My party allegiance comes second to my allegiance to the Kingdom of God and when those conflict the choice is easy. My congressman in Cedar Rapids was Jim Leach, one of the more liberal Republicans in world history. He never got my vote.

I made a commitment during my Dallas years that I would never vote for someone who believed that killing a baby in its mother’s womb was morally acceptable. I mean, honestly, if you think it’s okay to enter a mother’s womb and kill a baby, your morality is so skewed, you just don’t get my vote. Jim Leach was pro-death and never got my vote.

As time has gone on, I’ve grown increasingly disappointed in the GOP. The party seems to find a way to lose, and when it wins, it messes that up. In 1994, the GOP had a brilliant strategy known as the Contract with America. They made promises, they kept the promises, then they somehow allowed Bill Clinton to take credit for what was done and they descended into such a moral cesspool that the good was undone. Since then, the GOP has been a Keystone Cops roadshow. Hypocrisy. Ineptitude. Brutal stupidity. Betrayal. Since the Reagan Revolution the GOP has had so many opportunities to make genuine changes in the direction of this country and they have squandered those opportunities.

The only reason I can see to remain part of the GOP is this: they aren’t as bad as the Democrats.

Well, whoop-de-do! The flu may be better than ebola, but that doesn’t mean I want the flu. I will grant you that the GOP is better than the Democrats with their socialism, their death-loving, American-values hating, secular, perverted ways. I remain amazed that any follower of Jesus Christ would ever be part of that party. I don’t get it. But just because the GOP is better than the Democrats doesn’t mean the GOP is worthy of my involvement and membership. I have decided it is not.

I am officially renouncing my membership in the GOP.

Let me spell out why I’m no longer a Republican.

1. I’m no longer a Republican because….Donald.

He’s not the only reason, but he is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I cannot and will not be part of a party that has this debauched and despicable man at the top of the ticket. A party so immoral and amoral that it would nominate Donald Trump is not the “family values” party that the GOP once at least pretended to be.

Donald isn’t the reason, he’s the trigger, the final straw, the bridge too far.

2. I’m no longer a Republican because…they are social conservative frauds.

The issues that drive me are abortion, family issues, etc – yes, I’m one of THOSE guys. I believe in traditional marriage and the right to life. The Republican party has SAID that it believes in those things, but every time it has a chance to stand on pro-life principles or so-called “family-values” it sells them out.

Most famous of these is Renee Ellmers from North Carolina, who ran as a pro-life, family values Republican, but spiked a pro-life bill when she had the chance, for personal and political gain. I hope she loses this time around, but there are dozens, maybe hundreds, like her in the GOP. They talk pro-life but in Washington they run away from taking stands or supporting legislation that is pro-life.

The Democrat Party is pro-death. The Republican party power-structure is fraudulently pro-life.

3. I’m no longer Republican because…they are buffoons.

Clowns. Since the Reagan Revolution the GOP has had a lot of power in Washington, but their bumbling ways have squandered every bit of it. Had the Newt Gingrich-led GOP been effectual, the nation would have been very different today. Time and again the GOP had opportunities because of the horrible stupidity, dishonesty, and radicalization of the Democrats – and they blew it every time. Boehner became Obama’s biggest supporter. Hastert evidently was more interested in molesting children than making policy. Newt Gingrich was too busy changing wives to change the country.

4. I’m no longer Republican because…this seems like a good time to walk. 

I have a lot of friends who are independents and they seem content with writing in nobodies or voting for independents or third party candidates who have as much of a chance of getting elected as I do. I can’t be content doing that.

But there seems to be Donald and Hillary inspired moment when the frustration with the two parties has reached critical mass. Is it possible that new movement will form that will make a difference? Marty Duren has written about this, even showing that perhaps this time there is a real chance that the election could be thrown back to the House. Of course, that puts the election in the hands of the very people I’ve despaired of, but they can hardly do worse than Hillary and Donald.

But there seems to be a real chance, at this point, to form something new. I have nagging doubts – such a new movement may flounder on issues like foreign policy, immigration, and social morality. But if we are ever going to do it, now seems to be the time.

5. I’m no longer a Republican because…the GOP is on life-support. 

Donald Trump will destroy the Grand Ol’ Party. He is nuclear bomb who will detonate and bring down not only himself but the party that was foolish enough to nominate him.

A friend asked this question. Is it too early to impeach him?

But it’s no joke. Nominating Trump is the end of the Republican Party.

6. I’m no longer a Republican because…I honestly can’t think of a good reason to stay. 

Can you?

7. In the meantime…

Long ago, I read a book by Dobson (Ed, not James) and Thomas called, Blinded by Might. It was a review of the failings of the “Moral Majority” from two faithful warriors. They contrasted politics, which is about power gained by compromise, and Christianity, which is about the truth proclaimed without compromise. The danger is that when we enter the political realm we take that one step too far and begin to compromise truth to gain and maintain power.

Every time someone tells me I have to vote for the “lesser of two evils” I hear that warning. Are Christian leaders really advising us to vote for evil? There’s a place where politics becomes heresy, where we put love of country and party ahead of the love of Christ. It’s a squiggly line, but I’m not crossing it.

So, maybe its time we focused on the gospel, on proclaiming Christ, on building the church, and on preparing for the days when we will be more like the church of the New Testament – counter-culture, persecuted, hated, and rejected. Bible Belt Christians are so used to living in a “Christian Culture” that we have a difficult adjustment in learning to live in a spiritually hostile culture. We must become, as others have said, the prophetic minority instead of the moral majority.

And there’s one more thing. I know most of you have rejected the view that I still hold about the end times. But can we all agree that this would be a GREAT time for those clouds to roll back, the trumpets to sound, the dead in Christ to rise first, and we who are alive and remain to be caught up together with him in clouds to meet the Lord in the air?

Maranatha.

In the meantime, as long as God leaves me on this earth, I want to preach Christ and devote whatever time I devote to politics to something more productive than the GOP.

 

I’m Legally Separated – Looking for Something New

Okay, that title was total clickbait – I admit it.

  • I am happily married. Well, a better description might be “exhaustedly married.” We married off our daughter on Saturday, now all 4 of our kids are married. All four kids, their spouses, and all 5 grandkids (plus the Virginia ham in the oven) were in Springfield, Ohio, for the weekend and “Bapa” and “Nani” are still recovering.
  • There’s nothing legal about my separation. I don’t even know how to officially leave the Republican party. Is there a paper somewhere that I’m supposed to file?

I’m coming to grips with the fact that my party is going to nominate a misogynist, serial adulterous, non-conservative, nativist/xenophobe, who cannot string sentences together into a coherent thought, and who appeals to worst in America. Yeah, you can tell I still love Donald Trump.

I will not be part of a party that has Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. Unless there is a miracle and Trump can be held to 1236, the convention kept open and another candidate nominated, I’m through. D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Dave will not be part of the GOP anymore.

I was wrong about the American people – I thought Americans would see through the nonsense and reject Trump by now. They didn’t. Sin clouds minds and destroys judgment and America is proving its depravity. When a nation CHOOSES for itself Hillary Clinton, one of the most blatantly dishonest and amoral people ever to enter public life, and Donald Trump, who is just plain crazy, that nation is clearly far gone. The sad truth is that we had some great choices this time around and we CHOSE this mess.

So, what will we do now?

Some of you will support the party and vote Trump. I recognize that voting is not an absolute and that each of us makes our decisions. You do not answer to me and I do not answer to you – Jesus is Lord. But I will speak my mind. I think voting for Trump is morally unacceptable. If you can justify it to yourself and sleep at night, fine. I cannot.

  • Trump is not pro-life. Don’t kid yourself. He is no more pro-life than Hillary, just less honest about it. He pandered to pro-life people to lie and cheat his way to the GOP nomination, but his constant support of Planned Parenthood, his history, and his rhetoric makes it clear that Trump is not pro-life at heart.
  • Trump is immoral. He is a serial and unrepentant adulterer – he has NO morals and no sense of sorrow over his sins. Yes, I know Reagan was divorced – puh-leese! Trump has been married repeatedly and has bragged in his books about the hundreds of women he has slept with, many of whom have been married. Then he said that he never felt as if he had any sin he needed to repent over. Do  you want to cast your vote for an debauched man without conscience and without sorrow and without repentance? You can. I won’t.
  • I know. Hillary is evil. I agree. “He is the lesser of two evils.” First, I’m not sure he is the lesser of two evils. But even if he is, you are still voting to DO EVIL! I voted for Bob Dole and for Mitt Romney, and I was unenthusiastic. But I did not consider them evil. I considered them blah. Uninspiring. But not evil. I will vote for an uninspiring candidate, but if I vote for a lesser of two evils, I am still supporting evil. Voting for Trump is supporting evil in my mind. I won’t do it.
  • Hate is not a godly motive. Boil it down, the only reason to vote FOR Trump is Hillary-hate. I understand it. I hate Hillary. The idea of her smug mug on the TV with “Hail to the Chief” in the background galls me. But my disdain for her abortion-loving, lie-telling, immoral self is no reason to vote for Donald Trump who is not really a moral improvement over Hillary.

So, to sum it all up, I’m not voting for Hillary, and I’m not voting for Donald. Ever.

I want a new party. Maybe it is time we think about forming a new party. Donald Trump is going to ruin the GOP, I’m convinced of that. My party is over – I’m abandoning a sinking ship. He is a nuclear warhead looking for a place to detonate. I do not want to abandon the country to the Democrats – they are against everything I am for. They are devoted to the destruction of the American constitution’s freedoms, our way of life, and our moral foundations. If we give America over to the Democrats, there will not be an America – it will be a European-style socialist nation within a decade and headed down the same moral, spiritual, and economic sewer as those nations. But Republicans have shown themselves to be craven, weak, and inconsequential. Voting GOP will change nothing.

So, a new party needs to form. But that path is filled with land mines. We can all agree that things are a mess, but what are the uniting principles that will bring us together? There are actually a thousand “third parties” and they are all small and insignificant. Why? Because whatever unifying principle they form around drives as many people away as it brings in. They tend to be unbalanced or extremist or, let’s admit it, just plain weird. Some of them become conspiratorial, or single-issue focused, or go to seed on a topic. Finding a single unifying issue on which to found a new party, one that is worth a person’s devotion but which is not so narrow as to divide us; that is the challenge.

I believe I have such a principle, which I will articulate below. But first, let’s examine some of the landmines we will encounter in the formation of a new party. There are many obstacles that will be encountered and hurdles that must be jumped.

Landmines to the Formation of a New Party

  1. The name landmine – the name is no easy thing. All the good names have either been taken or sullied in some way or another!
  2. The Foreign Policy landmine – this may be the toughest. Conservatives are split between interventionists and isolationists (who don’t like to be called isolationists). The Ron Paul contingent challenged the GOP’s pro-military stance since the second Gulf War and many have come to question our tendency to intervene in foreign conflicts. Any new party is going to have to either choose a side or walk the kind of fine line of balance that is very difficult to do. I lean toward the interventionist side – history has not looked well on those who stood by and allowed evil to grow unchecked – but there is something to be learned from the other side. This will be a difficult balance in any new party.
  3. The Drug-war landmine – another hard one. The US has engaged in a decades-long and pretty much-losing war against drug cartels. Some, even among evangelicals, have said that the drug war is not a wise way to go. It is not that they support drug use but that they believe that our current policy is a failure that does more harm than good. I’m not convinced by their arguments yet, but it is a growing number in conservative ranks who say that legalization, taxation, treatment, prescription management and such things would be a better way to handle the drug problem. A new party would have a tough
  4. The Immigration landmine – it is ironic that a nation of immigrants has become hostile to immigrants. How would a new party handle the immigration issue? Would it side with the “round-em-up-and-ship-em-to-the-border” wing of the GOP or would it adopt the more centrist view that says, “Secure the borders and then find a reasonable solution for the 12 million people here now?” Immigration is an issue on which Christians struggle to be reasonable.
  5. The Social-issue landmine – some of our most controversial issues today are social and family in nature. Abortion. Same-sex marriage. Would a new party focus on economic issues or would it be a social-issue based party?
  6. The Religious landmine – another tough one. For many, especially those steeped in David Barton’s revisionist history, America is a Christian nation whose purpose is the propagation of the gospel and the advancement of Christianity and Christian principles in the world. I know, I overstated that a little, but just a little. Would the new party focus of “rebuilding a Christian America” or on simply protecting religious liberty and justice for all?

The formation of a new party is perilous and there are many difficulties that must be faced. I have no idea whether these can be overcome. It may be that with our many ideas, many beliefs, many passions, we may not be able to form one new party that has any chance of being a real force in the American political landscape. But I have an idea to share that I believe may be worthwhile.

The Founding Principle of a New Party

Back in 1789 a group of political geniuses gathered and created a document that guided our nation to what I believe is exceptional greatness. I think America has been exceptional among the nations of the world. We are far from perfect, but what nation has ever had the kind of political and military power we’ve had and not used it to conquer and subjugate. If Hitler had our power we’d all be speaking German and the Final Solution would have been final! We’ve conquered Germany twice and Japan once and turned them into allies and powerful partners on the world stage. The heart and soul of this was the Constitution and the Bill of Rights which were crafted by the Founding Fathers.

  • We were founded on the principle that certain rights were given to us by the Creator and those founders, though most were not what we would today call evangelicals, believed that the management of the nation was a sacred trust.
  • We were founded on the principle that freedom and self-governance was admirable and that tyranny and government intervention needed to be limited. The constitution was designed primarily to limit the power of the government and to establish the rights of individuals.

Based on that, I propose the formation of the “Constitutional Freedom Party” (I don’t know if that name has been taken). Call it the Snufflelump party, who cares?

The core principle of the Constitutional Freedom Party is the restoration and protection of the basic freedoms that were guaranteed in the constitution and established as being given by the Creator.

What are these rights? They are defined in the founding documents of our nation.

  • The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You don’t have a right to happiness, but you have a right to pursue it. The government should neither try to guarantee you freedom (stop trying to buy votes with giveaways, candidates!).
  • The basic First Amendment rights. There are several rights guaranteed in that precious statement.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These freedoms are under constant and sustained attack!
  1. We have Freedom of Religion. This means no religion can be officially established (Christianity or any other, including atheism). Also, it is not freedom of worship that is protected, but the “exercise of religion” that is protected. I have the freedom not just to gather on Sunday with my fellow members, but to practice my faith every day.
  2. We have Freedom of Speech. Liberals hate freedom of speech unless it’s theirs. They are working to limit our rights to speak every day through political correctness and so-called “hate-speech” laws (which they tend to define as anything that doesn’t line up with liberal orthodoxy).
  3. We have Freedom of the Press. Donald Trump has made some ominous statements about limiting this freedom and gotten applause. The American press is a joke – slanted, petty, celebrity-oriented – but it must remain free.
  4. We have Freedom of Assembly. We have the right to gather and speak about what we believe, even to be critical of the government.
  5. We have Freedom of Redress. The American people have the right to criticize their government to seek to correct its wrongs and to seek redress of their grievances against it.
  •  The right under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms. I am not a gun owner and have no desire to be, but the constitution guarantees those rights and prohibits the government from infringing on those rights.
  • The Fourth Amendment protects us against unlawful search and seizure and requires the government to get warrants.
  • The Fifth Amendment prohibits double jeopardy (sorry, Alex), protects us from self-incrimination, and demands the government compensate us if it seizes property.

There are other rights in other admendments, each crucial. Simply put, I propose a party dedicated to simply protecting these rights.

Core Principles of the Constitutional Freedom Party

1. If you don’t like something in the constitution, you are free to change it – by the prescribed means, but not by judicial fiat. 

If the American people want to do away with the right to keep and bear arms, we have that right. Maybe we will be convinced that we are a better place disarmed. Fine. Elect representatives and pass a constitutional amendment, then get it ratified by the requisite number of states. Until then, live with the fact that the American people have the right to keep and bear arms.

If you want same-sex marriage, pass a law! If you want abortion, pass a law! Look, in the Constitutional Freedom Party we are governed by the Constitution which gives the people the right to decide what laws they want to live under. It grants the judiciary the right to review laws for the constitutionality, but not to create laws out of whole cloth because they don’t like the ones that the legislature passed. We have abortion and same-sex marriage because of the courts, not because of the Congress.

Here is the key difference of this party from some on the right. If the duly elected Congress passes laws that we Christians hate, we have to live under them, or perhaps break them to “obey God rather than men,” but we must demand that the process be constitutional and not some judicial fiat by liberal courts.

The CFP Snufflelumps will appoint and support only strict constitutionalists to the courts.

2. The Constitution is a document and it is NOT alive. 

More violence has been done to the meaning of the constitution through the lie that the constitution is a “living document.” No, its ink on paper. It’s established. It is made up of words that have meaning. It can be changed – that’s why we don’t have slavery anymore. As I said before, if the liberals want to take away guns, they have every right to lobby for a constitutional amendment to change the Second Amendment. The Constitution is not the Word of God. It can be changed. But it is also not “living.” It does not evolve, unless it is changed by the approved process. It is hard to change the constitution, but if America has changed it can be done.

3. The goal of the CFP is not to make America a Christian Nation, but to make Americans a free people.

It is the duty of the church to lead Americans to Christ. Our nation is supposed to be a place in which our laws protect our freedoms. We err when we seek to establish laws to make the USA more Christian. We should seek to establish the freedoms under the US Constitution and then the church can do its sacred work unhindered. We need not ask the government to do our work, just to stop hindering us from doing ours.

We erred by not seeking these goals when we were the moral majority. We enforced a civil religion that was a pale imitation of Christianity and so many people think they are “American Christians” who neither follow the founding principles of America nor understand the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Here’s the thing – a non-believer could and should support the CFP. It gives him freedom to live as an unbeliever and promote his views. We would not be asking the government to penalize unbelievers for not believing or asking the government to establish Christianity as the national religion. We’d only be asking for the freedom to practice our faith (and granting the same to atheists, Muslims, Hindus, even Methodists!), and freedom of speech, and all the other freedoms under the Constitution until someone gets around to changing them the right way.

I believe in the government established by our founding fathers. Perfect? No. Many were slave owners. But they left a way to take care of that and the Thirteenth Amendment was unlucky for slave owners. Our problems are not with the Constitution but with our failure to follow it. We’ve replaced constitutional restraint with judicial activism and that isn’t helpful.

So, I hope someone will form a party that is looking to return us to the intent of the founders – not to some mythical “Christian Utopia” that never really existed, but to the morally-rooted freedoms of the governing documents of the USA, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Go Snufflelumps!

The Tom Brady Decision was Inevitable

I called it months ago, after reading articles about the behavior of the courts involved in the Tom Brady “Deflategate” case. My predictions and their integrity were questioned because of my well-known disdain for the New England team, its coach, and its quarterback. No, I’m not a fan. But my predictions were not based on the propensity to bend the rules which has been demonstrated by Belichick in the past but on the realities of the New York area federal court systems.

Here are the facts.

1. This case was not about the “facts of the case.” 

It’s not about what Brady did or what Brady knew or when he knew it. That was determined in the NFL’s investigation and the Brady people chose to attack less on the basis of the facts but on the fairness of the process. The investigator’s findings stand as the facts of the case.

But the simple truth is that once this hit the courts, it was no longer supposed to be about whether or not Brady was guilty, but whether the agreed-to process was followed. Did the NFL violate the process spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement?

2. The NFL had the right to do what it did. 

If you think the NFL was unfair, then blame the Players Association. The NFLPA agreed to this process in negotiations. Roger Goodell may well be a no-good so-and-so, like most of New England and Skip Bayless think he is, but he had the right as the commissioner of the NFL to do exactly as he did.

The NFLPA agreed to give him that right. I’m guessing the next time around, negotiations will focus on getting this process changed, but the NFL acted within the process.

One of the most amazing things about all of this is that the NFLPA agreed to this disciplinary process. Roger Goodell had the right to not only make the finding but also hear the appeal. Is that fair? We can argue it all day. But the NFLPA did agree to that process.

3. The courts are not supposed to interfere in collectively-bargained union agreements.  

When a case goes through the union agreement process the courts are not supposed to substitute their judgment for that of the arbiters of the process. The NY lower courts are evidently well-known for ignoring this and inserting their judgment into the process and replacing the wisdom of the arbitration and appeals process the union and management have agreed to. They uniformly side with unions and against management.

The court is not supposed to substitute their judgment for that of the arbiters in the agreed-to process, but to simply make sure that the agreed-to process was followed.

4. These lower court decisions are routinely overturned by the court of appeals.

The 2nd Court of Appeals routinely reverses the lower court’s interference in the union vs. management process. That is what they are supposed to do.

It’s pretty simple and the conclusion is not about being pro-Brady (I’m not) or anti-Brady (guilty).

  1. According to the facts of the case as determined by the AGREED PROCESS of the NFL and the NFLPA, Brady is guilty of misconduct in the so-called Deflategate Scandal. If you don’t like Goodell’s behavior, fine. The NFLPA should probably seek a better process. But the NFL followed the negotiated process and the courts should not have intervened.
  2. The reversal by the 2nd Appeals Court was the norm in union cases in that area, from what I’ve read. The lower courts interfere beyond their authority and the appeals court reverses them. That’s what happens.

So, what happens now? I’m not sure. Brady has been belligerent, bellicose, and insulting to Goodell and the NFL and has refused to admit to anything, though the investigator’s findings in the case make him look at the very least, complicit in a coverup, and more likely part and parcel of the whole thing.

The best solution at this point might be for Brady to “take a plea.” He might admit that he knew it was happening and didn’t stop it, or something. Or maybe he could simply admit to lapses in judgment in not being truthful and cooperative in the investigation. (By the way, there is no Fifth Amendment right in this – it’s not a criminal investigation.) Then Goodell could lower the suspension to 2 games and we could move on. But if Brady continues to fight it, he’s likely to sit for four games next year.

If Brady ends up sitting four games, you know my heart will be broken, right?

For Deric and Bethany – on Your Wedding Day

Here is the text of the message I hope to give at Bethany’s wedding today – I left out the uncontrollable sniffs and sobs.

About 25 years ago, I was asked to do something a little weird. The father of 3 boys, the Immanuel Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids asked me to emcee a Father/Daughter banquet. We called our merry little band “the Miller Men” and spent our days driving my wife crazy with our noise-making, ball-playing, stuff-breaking, nerve-wracking ways. But I saw something that night that was outside of my experience in all my rambunctious, rassling, and rough-housing with the Miller men – the tender love and interaction of these fathers with their daughters. I went home that night and somewhat tentatively broached the topic with my wife. “There’s something I’d like to chat about.” “Okay,” she said, “but let me make it clear. Our family is going to be either three boys and a girl or four boys. It’s not going to be four boys and…” So, on April 30, 1993, I stood by as Jenni nearly squeezed my hand off – I’m not sure why this birth was so much more intense and painful for her, Bethany – and I watched as you were born. That day I started a new adventure – the Miller Men became a plus one. I was the  father of a daughter.

I will never forget what the doctor said to me that day. He looked at me and said, “First, she will steal your heart, then she will steal your wallet.” On this day, the day of your wedding, I can tell you that your mother and I would affirm that both of these statements have come true.

Let’s call your early years the pink years. The little blond girl in the girlie clothes playing with Barbies, which I swore my daughter would never do, and I’m guessing Bethany is now horrified that she actually did. There were the long months of “the feeling” and “the story.” Bethany struggled for a long time to know for sure if she was ready to put her faith in Christ and if she had really made that commitment. Jenni was usually the bedtime evangelist in our home but she came to me because Bethany kept talking about having “the feeling” – doubts about whether she’d made her commitment yet or whether she was ready to trust Christ. So I would tell her “the story.” It was the whole Bible in a 10 minute bedtime story – Creation, the fall, the law of God, sin, the birth of Christ, his sinless life, his death on the cross and his resurrection, his offer of eternal life to those who repent and believe and the fact that he would one day come again. Finally, with Jenni and I tag teaming her, she settled her commitment to Christ and gave her life to him.

I remember the third grade girl who won the two-mile race at the Cono Relays, beating all the girls up through eighth grade and almost beating the high school girls and for 5 or 6 years I thought she was going to be a world-class runner – till she quit and I’m guessing none of you have ever seen her run at all! You Cedarville folks thought she was allergic to exercise, didn’t you? There was the angry girl who sat on the couch staring at me with intense hate because I told her we were leaving the only home she’d ever known, the only church she’d ever known, the only school she’d ever attended, to move to Sioux City. That was also around the blue jeans and baggy, black t-shirts years when she would recoil in horror if anything pink came near her! Then there were the Show Choir years – oh, I love you, Bethany, but I hated the Show Choir years. Of course, there were also the musical theater years when you brought the house down in your patented comedic roles. I really loved that poetry phase you went through. “I’m just a girl.”

I guess I am glad I brought you to Ohio a few years ago, but it was only supposed to be for college, not for a lifetime. I took you to CFAW because I’d decided God wanted you to attend Liberty where I could have your brother spy on you and take care of you. He’d sat beside you at family meals and squeezed your hand during the prayers, so I figured if you were going to be away from home, he could look after you. But when I picked you up, you told me, “Dad, I had a great time but I know this is not the place God wants me to be. Liberty just isn’t the place.” I remembered then that Cedarville was only a few hours out of our way on the trip home and I suggested we stop by here. That Monday morning, we drove on campus, they showed us around, and you fell in love, you knew you’d found your new home. You really did fall in love a lot here. You fell in love with Cedarville, and with Printy, and there’s something else, of course – I’ll get to that in a second.

Leaving you here was one of the hardest things we have done. Today is not the first day we’ve shed tears over this. But we’ve also been proud of the young woman you’ve become. We watched you grow up from the girl whose room looked like the after picture of an F5 tornado to the responsible, talented, resourceful, all-too-independent woman you have become. It has been a privilege to watch you grow, grow in the Lord, and develop in every way, becoming what we had hoped you would be.

Of course, there was that day you started talking about that boy, some guy named Deric. Oh, yes, we heard a lot about you, Deric, a long time before we met you. You had this rule about not dating till you were 36 or a junior, or something, and it was driving my smitten daughter crazy. I guess a spring break trip to South Carolina got everything worked out and we are here today to make a solemn covenant before God.

Permit me to tell you what I told you when you came and spoke to me in the family room. Oh, I knew you’d be coming, but I wasn’t quite sure what to say – I was a little scared Bethany would hurt me if I messed things up. I recall communicating two things to you. First, you are taking on quite a project here today. Bethany was the princess around our house. Matt and Josh and Ben know it. Some of it I couldn’t help, she did have me wrapped around her little finger. But part of it was intentional as well – I was determined that any guy she gave her heart to would have to treat her like royalty. It’s possible I did too good a job of that. We are proud of the daughter that I presented to you a few moments ago, we really are. But, and you know this already, she is a handful.

I believe that you are the man for her, Deric, a perfect match. You are strong, and level-headed, and patient and she needs that. We are so glad God sent you to our daughter and Evan, Kelly, we are grateful to God and to you that you raised a young man like this for the Lord and for our daughter. This is the kind of young man that a dad wants at the front of the church when he walks his daughter down the aisle.

But I want to make it perfectly clear and remind you of the other thing I said that day. “No give-backs.” I do not accept returns. Okay? From this day forward and forevermore – she is yours. There is no return address on the gift I gave you today!

So, I have two roles today. I’m the Father of the Bride and I’m supposed to be the pastor, too. So far, I’ve been one and not the other. I need to take a moment and be the pastor now. I would like to attempt to speak a little spiritual reality to you today, and stop the muddled meanderings of a befuddled dad.

Here are the hard, cold facts – no joking, no sentimentality. What you are about to do is hard, one of the most difficult things anyone can do in life. Think about it. Neither of you is yet 23 years old and you are going to bind yourself together in a solemn oath that you will live together till death do you part. You have no idea what life is going to throw at you. Every one of us here wants nothing but good things for you, but life doesn’t always work that way. Will it be good times and great things or will it be hard times like Job, or the Apostles, or so many others in the Scriptures? You don’t know anything about your lives except that after a brief honeymoon you are going to Cincinnati, and yet you are going to vow before God and one another for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and cherish till death do you part.

That is truly an unbreakable vow! It’s hard and it lasts for the rest of your life, and I’m going to do the best I can to close every loophole!

Sometimes the world is not very supportive. And it’s not just the “attacks on marriage” that we hear about in sermons and in the news. My heart was broken several years ago as a young lady who was expecting her first child told me sadly, “Pastor, being a wife and a mother is my highest aspiration in life, but you cannot believe the negative messages I have gotten from Christian people trying to discourage me about it.” It is sad that this institution, created by God to prevent loneliness, to provide companionship, give a man and woman a joy, pleasure, hope, and happiness, has become the source of so much scorn even within the Body of Christ.

A moment ago, your father read the passage in Genesis that spoke of the founding of the family. Marriage is a holy and sacred creation of God, designed as a blessing for a man and a woman – not only for the raising of families, but for companionship, pleasure, joy, and the most intimate, abiding bond that two human beings can share. Unfortunately, like everything else in this world, our sin marred the beauty of marriage and turned it into what it often is today. We brought the darkness and we need not debate whether darkness reigns on this earth.

But I would speak today to the solution. You two are church kids – you know all the scriptures, all the formulas, all the truths. And they are true! Do them. But today I want to speak a word both as a pastor and even more as a father.

You get married in a world of darkness, a world of sin. There is only one solution for darkness and that is light. Both of you know the light, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, who entered the darkness and overcame it by his death and resurrection. Let him shine in you. The most important thing you can do day by day is just shine Jesus wherever you go. In your marriage, shine Jesus. As you raise your children – oh, and for the love of all that is holy, have children, have many children – shine Jesus through them. In your neighborhood, shine Jesus. At work, shine Jesus. In needy places, shine Jesus. Deric, Bethany – don’t be satisfied with anything less that walking together into this darkened world and shining the light of the Jesus who redeemed you by the blood he shed on the cross.

Bethany, one more story then I’ll wrap this up and get you hitched. You have admitted that you were not exactly a spiritual giant in your high school days, but do you remember the event that changed your life? It was a mission trip to Taiwan we took in 2010, just before your senior year of high school. You came back and suddenly you were talking about being a missionary, living your life on the mission field. That reflected the fact that your heart had changed and you now wanted to invest yourself in serving the kingdom of God. Do you realize what changed in your life and in the lives of others because of that commitment?

I’m going to stand here today and hold you to that promise. I’ve never done anything more than drive through Cincinnati, but I know it’s a mission field. Be missionaries there. Shine Jesus in that dark, sinful place. Wherever you go and whatever you do, shine Jesus. Shine the light. Be the missionaries God called you to be. If God sends you far away, we will bless you with broken hearts, but shine Jesus.

It will never be easy to shine in the darkness, but when you shine Jesus, the presence of God will be with you, watch over you and be there every day.

Here is my blessing and my admonition to you as you prepare to take vows before God. Shine the light of Jesus Christ in this world. As you covenant together in marriage, include Jesus Christ as the heart and soul of all you do. Shine Jesus. I speak today on behalf of myself as your father, and on behalf of your mother. I believe I speak on behalf of your parents as well, Deric. But I also stand here as a representative of the Almighty God of heaven and I know that I say, as you join together in marriage, make it a holy marriage. Shine Jesus. Wherever you go and whatever you do, my daughter and my new son, shine Jesus. Shine Jesus. Shine Jesus.

The REAL Goliath

It was one of the biggest mismatches in history. Little David, the shepherd boy from the hills of Bethlehem saw the giant from Gath demeaning both Israel and Israel’s God and he reacted. He volunteered to face the giant and went out armed only with a slingshot and five smooth stones. But the power of God was with him and little David slew the giant that day.

Our favorite movies are recreations of the David and Goliath story. One of my favorite movies was Hoosiers, based on a true story. In the 50s in Indiana, where basketball was more of an obsession than a sport, tiny Hickory High School went all the way and won the state basketball championship against schools twenty times their size. David slew Goliath again.

We love those kinds of stories. Cinderella wins the Prince’s heart. Rocky goes the distance with Apollo Creed. Luke destroys the Death Star. The little guy, the nobody, overcomes the odds and achieves something great.

Today, I want to tell you the most important David and Goliath story in the history of the world. It is one you already know, but one you should remember every day of your life.

The story begins with the story that was celebrated throughout the world a week ago, called the Triumphal Entry. Jesus rode down the steep slopes of the Mount of Olives on a donkey, with his disciples and many others rejoicing and catching fire with enthusiasm. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Israel was abuzz with excitement. Maybe this really was the one, maybe Messiah really had come and would set things right. The name Jesus was on every lip and in every conversation.

And then, from the moment the shouts died down as Jesus rode into town, every powerful force on earth came to bear against this one man, against Jesus. No one has ever faced more overwhelming earthly odds than Jesus Christ.

We know from Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 2:8 that Satan was working behind the scenes to move in the events that took place that week. The forces of darkness were concentrated on bringing down the Son of God that week. Satan worked in the heart of Judas to betray his own master, to sell him to his enemies cheap. Satan was certainly gleeful and probably complicit in the scheming and manipulations of the religious leaders. Satan brought out the big guns that week and was bound and determined to bring Jesus crashing down. Never in history, since sin was found in him and he was cast out of heaven, did Satan have such an opportunity to strike against God as he did that week in Jerusalem.

The power of empty religion also came against Jesus Christ that day. When you read the Bible, you see the danger of those who have a form of godliness but deny the real power of God – those who have a surface religion but not a true heart for God. In both the gospels and Acts the greatest enemies of the church were religious people, people who believed in God but did not give their lives to Christ. And during the days following Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, they trained their guns on Jesus in Christ as never before. They tried to trip him up with tricky questions though Jesus turned the tables every time. When their tricks to make Jesus look bad failed, they plotted behind the scenes and arranged to have him arrested. They trumped up charges, they paid false witnesses, they lied and cheated to bring Jesus’ life and ministry to an end. Finally, they stirred up the crowds to call for Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ blood. Those with a religion but no relationship with the Living God did all they could to stop Jesus.

Jesus also came up against the power of Rome, who ruled with an iron fist. Though he had not broken the law, Pilate, in his fear and self-preservation, brought the full force of the Roman government to bear against Jesus. He had Jesus beaten and brutalized, then in cowardice, he washed his hands of him and turned him over to be crucified. Rome had devised a most excruciating form of execution to which they subjected Jesus. Beaten severely, bleeding and bruised, Jesus had no hope of escaping the iron fist of Rome.

We also know that popular opinion had turned on Jesus. Oh, when Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem many had joined with the disciples to hail him, but now that furor had died down. The initial hope of many that a revolution was coming had failed now that Jesus was in custody. The religious leaders did not have to work too hard to stir up the crowd to choose the murdering revolutionary Barabbas over Jesus and to call for Jesus’ blood. The fact is that public opinion against Jesus had already started to turn long before, after the high point of Jesus’ ministry. When Jesus began to teach that people would have to die to themselves, give themselves completely to Christ and follow him unreservedly, many began to turn away. They loved the show, the healings, the miraculous feedings, all of it. But they were not about to give their entire lives to Jesus. The tide of public opinion had already turned against him and the Triumphal Entry was more of a blip on the radar than a trend.

There was one more thing that was working against Jesus that day. He had the most inept, cowardly, even silly band of followers that you could imagine. When he was washing their feet and preparing to die, they were arguing over which of them would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In one of the most absurd moments of the entire story, when the soldiers came to Gethsemane to take Jesus away, as Jesus was offering himself willingly as the Lamb of God to die for the sins of the world, Peter picked up a sword and started swinging. Being inept, he only took off a soldier’s ear, which Jesus promptly healed before surrendering himself to them once again. Then all the disciples ran away into hiding. It would have been hard for Jesus to have selected a less able, less reliable, less effective group of men than the Galilean goofballs he had chosen.

Just think of all the forces that were arrayed against Jesus Christ as he was arrested, as he stood before the Council, then before Pilate, as he was beaten and ridiculed, as he carried his cross to Golgotha and as he hung between heaven and earth on the Cross. Every evil power on earth and in the spiritual realm came against him. Satan brought all his power to bear. The spiritually empty religious leaders banded together to manipulate things to bring his life to an end. Public opinion had shifted against him and Jesus was now increasingly unpopular. And his own disciples had failed him. Evil had brought the big guns to bear against Jesus Christ. Yes, it was truly David and Goliath.

But this time, David didn’t stand a chance! Psalm 2:1-4 says this:

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
    The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
    “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
    He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.

Those puny, weak, impotent powers of darkness arrayed against our Savior that day didn’t have a ghost of a chance against Jesus Christ and the power of God. Oh, they thought they did. When they crucified him they thought they had rid themselves of this scourge, but they were wrong. Dead wrong. Make no mistake about it, folks, this was a David and Goliath story. But Jesus was not little David. He was the Goliath! No, not an evil-hearted Goliath, but a mighty warrior nonetheless. Jesus reigns!

When he hung on the cross, it was not the result of wicked men who had done wicked things to him. No, it was the eternal plan. In Colossians 2:13-16, Paul describes what Jesus was doing at the Cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-16

Think about it. The Cross appeared to be the victory of evil men over Jesus, but it turned out to be the death blow to everything that ever set itself against the power of God. Jesus triumphed over Satan, dealing him his death blow. He showed clearly the folly of empty religion. When God has offered himself to us through Christ, why would we settle for anything less? Why would we settle for empty religion when we can have Jesus? Political powers think they are in charge, but Jesus was not only resurrected but he was exalted to the glory and seated at the right hand of God. He waits for the proper moment in God’s timing when he will ride from heaven to strike down all the political powers that stand against him and the government will be upon his shoulders! He will rule as King of kings and Lord of lords over the whole earth. Public opinion does not matter a bit because Jesus is Lord. And, good news, disciples of Jesus Christ – our weakness and failure are not the key issues. He is powerful enough to even use folks like us in his service. Remember, those Galilean goofballs became the most effective missionary force in world history when the power of the Spirit fell on them.

No, they did not stand a chance. They thought they were Goliath crushing little David into the earth. But he rose up from that earth, choked their glee in their throats, triumphed over all the forces of evil and was exalted as Lord of all.

Now, my friends, that leaves me with this important conclusion. You cannot ignore the man who rose from the dead. If Jesus were a political revolutionary, you could choose to side with him or join the other team. If Jesus were just a teacher, you could listen to his words of wisdom and glean what you want from them. If Jesus were a motivational speaker you could write down a few of his inspirational thoughts and use them as they help you. But Jesus is not just a politician or a teacher or a motivator. He is Lord. He rose from the dead and he is Lord of this world. He is the one to whom each of us must answer.

Hear me, please. You cannot ignore Jesus. When he rose from the dead he rendered every excuse null and void. You don’t believe in him? Fine, but you cannot ignore him. He rose from the dead as the Rightful Lord. You are going to bow the knee to him. You will either do it now when yielding to him will bring life and forgiveness and joy. Or you will bow after life as you accept your eternal punishment. You can scoff. You can scorn. You can laugh. You can hate. But one thing you cannot do is ignore Jesus forever.

He is the ultimate Goliath that you are going to have to face one day. But his purpose is not to kill you. Those Jesus conquers find real life – both in eternity and today

He Has Risen

Consider the sadness the three ladies felt as they made their way to the tomb. Jesus had more than just the Twelve following him; there were several women who had joined his cause and were devoted to him. These were some of that group. The two Marys and Salome headed to the tomb early on Sunday morning, likely to do what they had not been able to do after Jesus’ death – clean and prepare Jesus’ body for his burial. They had a pure and holy love for him and were determined to perform this one last act of service to the One for whom they grieved.

But they got to the tomb and something was not right. The stone was gone and no one was there guarding it. They walked into the tomb and saw a young man in a white robe sitting on a stone slab to the right.

You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here! (Mark 16:6)

Everything was changed. Jesus had done many wondrous things in his life, and these women had witnessed many of them. But this was the greatest act of all. To conquer sickness and disease is impressive, but to defeat death itself, to break those iron bonds and rise again – that is beyond words!  What glory! What power!

And the fact of the resurrection changed everything. They went to the tomb with broken hearts, but they left rejoicing. They went in defeat and left in victory. Jesus altered everything from history itself to the course of these three women’s hearts.

Everything changed because Jesus rose from the dead. You and I were sinners, condemned before God and awaiting an eternal hell, without hope. But Jesus rose again. Because Jesus rose, you have hope today; an eternal, unending and glorious hope! This world is scary and sinful. But Jesus rose again. One day, Jesus will rule this world in an awesome peace and all will be well. You struggle with sin today and sometimes you feel that it will never change. But Jesus rose from the dead. He will raise you up and utterly redeem you from your sin. If death could not conquer him nothing can stop him. Perhaps your days are hard and sad and joyless, but Jesus rose from the dead. He can sustain you with his joy and power whatever this world throws at you.

We sometimes forget the second half of the crucifixion equation. Jesus died for our sins. Amen. Glory, hallelujah!  And we were crucified with Christ. We die to self daily. We were buried with Christ by baptism into death. But that is only half of the story.

Jesus rose from the dead. “He is not here. He is risen!” He was raised to a new life, a glorified body. But do not forget the second half of the baptismal verse. Yes, we were buried with Christ by baptism into death. But we were also “raised to walk a new life in him.” We have been crucified with Christ, yes. “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”

When we died with Christ we were born again to a new life. We became new creations. We have not experienced fully the glory that will be ours in heaven one day, but we are the dwelling of God. We display his glory.

Oh, my friend, things may look bad, but Jesus is alive and you have been raised with him to a life of glory and power. Do not despair. Do not give up. Do not be downcast Do not be stressed out. Jesus is alive!

When Darkness Died

The land was dark, a darkness that settled in and did not go away for hours on end. This was no ordinary darkness. It wasn’t nighttime; it was noon, one, two, three. There was no eclipse or severe cloud cover. This was a divine darkness, the darkness of judgment. Jesus was on the Cross bearing the sins of the world and the wrath of God poured out on him darkened the world. At the climax of the eternal crisis, Jesus called out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  They gave him a sponge with sour wine, then he cried out with a loud voice (we know from John that he spoke the glorious words “It is finished”) and then Jesus died.

Tragic. Awful. Brutal. The worst moment in human history as the Son of God dies under the hand of God’s judgment. But it was also the turning point of time, the moment when sin died and hope began. The story doesn’t completely turn around until the glorious moment three days later when Jesus rises from the dead, but there are immediate hints that this death is a turning point.

First, and perhaps most significantly, the curtain of the temple is torn in two – and the tear comes from top to bottom (Mt 27:51). The curtain symbolized the separation between God and man that our sin created. Only the high priest, once a year, could enter the holy of holies with the blood of the sacrifice to be in God’s presence. The curtain prevented anyone else from enjoying God’s glorious presence. Not anymore. Jesus died once for all and tore that thing down! From God’s end! Our sin no longer separates us from the presence of God when we come to God through Christ.

Second, even though the resurrection had not happened yet, there was a little foreshadowing of what was to come as dead saints came to life and entered the city (Mt 27:52-53). That must have been quite a night of both celebration and fear!

Finally, there was a recognition of Jesus’ nature from an unlikely source, a Roman centurion (Mt. 27:54). Having observed Jesus on the Cross for all of those hours, having seen the darkness fall, having experienced the earthquake and perhaps just being in the presence of one of the greatest moment in world history, the centurion and those with him remark, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

They took Jesus away and prepared him for burial and the Romans put a guard at the tomb, but nothing could stop what God was about to do. Jesus died for our sins and this world would never be the same. Sin has been defeated and the sting of death is removed. The curtain is gone and sinners like you and me can enter the presence of Almighty God.

The day may have been dark in Jerusalem, but in reality, it was the end of darkness for those who believe in Jesus Christ!

Three Glorious Words

Three words. Simple words. But since the beginning of time no more glorious words have ever been spoken. In English translations it is three words. In the Greek translation that our New Testament is written in it is only one word. I do not know whether it is one word or more in the Aramaic that Jesus would have actually spoken on the cross. But those three English words, in whatever language they are spoken, changed everything. John 19:30 records them as the last words that Jesus spoke before he commended his spirit into the hands of the Father.

It is finished.

Since Adam and Eve chose sin over obedience in the Garden, the weight of sin had been growing. Some people, like Ahab, like Manasseh, like Herod, sinned heinously and boldly. Others have sinned in self-righteousness, keeping their sins inward, hidden deeply in their hearts. Some have lived such respectable lives that it is hard for other sinful humans to even believe they have a sinful nature. But we do. We all do. All have sinned. Even at the end of his life, Paul called himself “the chief of sinners.” That weight of sin grew throughout time – bigger, heavier, uglier.

It had to be paid for. The holy God of heaven is not one who can wink at sin and say, “don’t worry about it. His righteousness demands full payment for every sin ever committed, every violation of his law. And Romans 6:23 makes it clear what that payment is.

“The wages of sin is death.”

Someone had to die for my sins, and yours. We faced an eternity separated from God under his judgment because of our waywardness. The debt must be paid. And that is exactly what Jesus was doing on the Cross that day. He was paying the price, paying the wages that our sins demanded. Jesus hung on the cross paying the eternal payment for my sins. Death. He was suffering all the wrath of God for all eternity against all the sins of all the world.

As Jesus was prepared for crucifixion, Jesus experienced the evil of man. But on the Cross, hanging there bearing the sins of the world and standing in our place, Jesus experienced as no man ever had to that point, the eternal wrath of God against sin.

The sun grew dark as Jesus hung there.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

There is an answer to the question. You. And me. Why? Because Jesus was in our place and he was experiencing our hell. He was there for us and experienced all the horrors of hell in the hours he hung there, the full weight of God’s wrath for our sins poured out on the sinless Lamb.

And then, when it was done, he uttered the words. “It is finished.” It’s done. Your sins are paid for. Your atonement is complete. You are washed, cleansed, justified, redeemed, forgiven, and every other word you can imagine. Completely. Infinitely. Eternally. It is finished. Nothing else ever has to be done for  you to be saved forever!

So, when we come to Christ in repentance and faith the debt is paid. Done. I can add nothing to my salvation. I can only believe.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. It is finished. Jesus paid it all. It is finished. Mercy there is great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me. It is finished. Because Jesus spoke those words, because he paid for our sins, we are free.

Father, I am in awe of your grace and love, that you would punish your beloved Son for my sins. Why would you do that for a sinner like me? But you did, and I glory in Cross on which Jesus finished, completely, my eternal redemption.

An Earthly Illusion

We live in a world of illusion. Think about Jesus as he stood before Pilate, in Luke 23:1-5, and before Herod in Luke 23:6-13. These were powerful men and Jesus was a prisoner, a pauper, seemingly under their thumb.

Consider what everyone else thought as Jesus stood before Pilate, thinking that Pilate held Jesus’ life in his hands. People stood there wondering what Pilate was going to do with Jesus, what decision he would make. Jesus was at the mercy of the Roman governor – so thought everyone who was there that day.

But that was nothing but an illusion. Pilate was not running the show that day. Satan moved in hearts and tried to destroy Jesus, but he was not in charge. Evil men did evil things, but the religious leaders were not dictating the course of events. Despite appearances, nobody was doing anything to Jesus. He was doing as he willed, according to the Father’s plan devised in eternity past for the redemption of man. God was doing what he purposed to do.

That is the illusion we live with. It appears that evil men are doing evil things and that the purposes of God are threatened. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is still on the throne. Does it seem like things are so bad that nothing good can come from them? That is an illusion. Do you feel abandoned by God? It’s not real. Does it seem certain that evil will prevail and the cause of righteousness be defeated in this world? A mirage in the desert. That is not reality.

God is at work. His purposes are sometimes hidden and his plans are often confusing to us. He works on his own timetable, not ours. But make no mistake, our God is in control. He is still working out his plan in this world and all his promises are still true – no matter how it looks.

Our job as believers is to look at God and his word and hold on to the truth, regardless of what seems to be real in this world. We walk by faith and not by sight. We have to believe what we cannot see.

Never fall for the illusion that anyone but Almighty God runs this universe.

A Tale of Four Men: Dealing with a Changing World

For centuries, the Jews had awaited the day when Messiah would come. They talked about it, groaned for it and prayed diligently to see that day come. False messiahs rose up and led many astray to destruction.

But one day, the Desire of the Ages set out from Jericho with a large crowd around him. Excitement built as they walked up the steep road to Jerusalem. As they neared Jerusalem, they came to the Mt. of Olives, to a little village on its eastern side, called Bethphage. Jesus sent two of his disciples to bring him a donkey. The prophet Zechariah had foretold, centuries before, that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden.

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” Matthew 21:5 (citing Zechariah 9:9)

Jesus crested the hill and could see from the Mt of Olives the entire city of Jerusalem. The crowds swelled with joy, likely aware of the significance of this moment. Jesus rode the donkey down the steep hill through the valley, past the Garden of Gethsemane which would play such a crucial role in his life in a few days, and back up the embankment into the gates of Jerusalem. The city was abuzz with excitement as they found out that the stirring was because of the entrance of the prophet of Nazareth, the man at the bottom of the amazing stories coming out of Galilee. He cast demons out, made the lame walk, the blind see, and he seemed to break up every funeral he attended by raising the guest of honor! They said he taught with an authority the scribes and Pharisees could not mimic. And now, just as prophesied, he was riding into town as the Messiah, the true king of Israel – the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel through the ages.

The king had finally come.

And the joy could not be contained. The parade grew as crowds surrounded him and went ahead, laying their cloaks before him and covering the streets with branches. You can only imagine how the sleepy streets came alive! The disciples of Jesus were at the heart of this, but you can imagine that the mob began to grow and the onlookers joined in the celebration. The crowds were shouting and chanting words of praise to the long-awaited Christ.

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Matthew 21:9 (from Psalm 118:25-26)

Hosanna is one of those transliterations of the Hebrew (or Aramaic), like hallelujah. It means “Save us!” or “Save indeed.” It was both a plea for help and an expression of praise. Psalm 118, from which these words of exultation were taken, is a psalm of festival pilgrimage. As Israelites drew near to the temple for their festivals, they would often speak these words. But it also is a psalm filled with messianic references. Three could be no mistake, the crowds were exalting Jesus as the Promised One, the messiah! It was a stunning moment.

Of course, for us, it is a bittersweet moment. We know that the crowd died down and the people went home. By the end of the week, even the most loyal of Jesus’ followers were hidden in fear and a new crowd was assembled calling out for Jesus’ blood. People debate how many might have been in both crowds and we will never know until heaven. Did some of the same people that shouted Hosanna also cry out Crucify him? We do not know. But we do know that the mood of the city shifted. Rapidly. Dramatically. Forcefully. The city that was receiving Jesus as its king this day was rejecting him and killing him by the end of the week.

In Jerusalem, Hosanna became Crucify him!

Jesus was not surprised by that turnaround, of course. When he looked over Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives, he knew what he was entering the city to do. He was going there to die, not to reign. But the rapid shift in sentiment was a shock to the system of the disciples. It revealed their hearts and challenged their commitment.

We live in a time of rapidly changing social opinion. America has never been the Christian utopia we want to rewrite history to make it, but it has been a very different nation than it is today. We’ve seen some dramatic and unfortunate changes, just in my lifetime. And these boggle the minds of Christians. I’d like to look at four responses to the changes going on in Jerusalem during the week Jesus died. From that, we can see the way we should respond to the changes in our society.

Look at Matthew 26:47-75 which records the story of the night before Jesus’ death. This was the turning point of history and the moment that all of God’s work in this world had pointed to since the foundation of the world. As always, God used men to accomplish this work. In this story, four men – each one had a part in the outworking of God’s plan. Each man responded to what was going on. One did God’s will. Three sinned against God.

  1. One man gave up on God’s plan. (Matthew 26:47-50)

Why did Judas sell out Jesus? Was he simply evil? (Yes.) Was he only looking out for himself? (Yes.) But was there something else at work? I believe so. John 13 may be our clue. Is it possible that Judas was the first of the disciples to actually understand what Jesus was doing, what he was all about? Is it possible that Judas got it, and that when he got it, he didn’t like it?

In John 13, Jesus did something amazing. The Son of God, the fullness of the Godhead Incarnate, took a bowl of water, bent low, and washed the feet of the disciples. He had been talking about his death and now he explained that he greatness in his kingdom came through service and through laying down your life for others. And perhaps it was at that moment that Judas understood what Jesus was doing.

The disciples labored under the idea that Jesus had come to kick out the Romans and become the king of Israel. When they spoke of the kingdom they weren’t thinking of eternity or even of the millennium, they were thinking of next week! When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey they thought it was the beginning of his coup d’etat which would elevate each of them to positions of power. Suddenly, Judas may have understood what Jesus was doing and he wanted no part of it. There was no way he was going to “die to self and take up his cross.” He would follow Jesus to the throne but never to Calvary. So he sold Jesus for a pittance.

The spirit of Judas is alive and well today. No, few are as brazen as Judas, intentionally selling Jesus for a bag of silver. But we have created a self-centered Christianity that has no root in the gospel, no purchase in the truth. There is no other gospel but the one that calls you to die to self and live to Christ. There is no other gospel but the one that says that we were “buried with Christ by baptism into death” and “raised to walk a new life in him.” We’ve created this artificial Christianity in which Christ exists for our happiness, our health and wealth, instead of us for his glory. Judas was in it for himself and when he realized Jesus was walking the way of the cross he abandoned ship as quickly as he could.

As the world changes rapidly around us, many decided to simply throw in the towel and give up. Instead of giving all to Christ and for Christ they give up on Christ.

  1. One man tried to fight in the flesh. (51-54)

It is one of my favorite stories in the Bible about one of my favorite characters. Peter was so much like me – prone to putting his size 14 sandal in his big fat mouth on a regular basis. The question is, what was a Galilean fisherman doing with a sword at a prayer meeting? When Jesus was finished praying in Gethsemane and Judas showed up with the Temple Guard, Peter (we know it was him from other Gospels) pulled out his sword and started swinging. Being inept as he was, the best he could do was take off the ear of the servant. I imagine Jesus shaking his head sadly and smiling as he told Peter to put away the sword and healed the servant’s ear.

In 2 Corinthians 10:4, Paul asserts, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We are not without weapons as followers of Christ, but they are not fleshly weapons such as Peter wielded in the garden. We do not fight as the world fights. We fight with the love of God, with joy and peace and patience and the power of the Spirit. We swing the Sword of the Lord empowered by the Spirit of God which tears down Satan’s lies and changes hearts.

Here’s the irony of it all. With the weapon of the flesh, Peter was doomed not only to failure but to something much worse. Consider what would have happened if Peter had succeeded. If Peter succeeded, he would have stopped the crucifixion! He would have stopped Jesus from dying for his sins, sealed his own eternal fate and condemned himself to eternal death. That’s the best the flesh can do. When we fight with our fleshly weapons we damage the work of God.

When we see the world changing around us we are tempted to fight with fleshly weapons. These will never accomplish the true work of God.

  1. One man cowered in fear.(69-75)

Oddly, the second and third man are the same. What is more strange is how different his reactions are. First, Peter responded to the arrest of Jesus by taking a sword and waving it around in the presence of the temple guard. But not too much time later he was cowering in the presence of servant girls. How did that happen?

Again, I’m reading between the lines and adding two and two. Maybe I’m getting four and maybe I’m getting six. But it may be that when Jesus acquiesced in the garden, Peter realized that this was not going to end in a glorious victory and the fact of Jesus’ fate came crashing down on him. He realized he was not protected by the aura of Jesus’ superpowers, but that his life was also at risk, and suddenly he was terrified. His bravado was gone and the man who swore he would follow Jesus to the grave, the man who pulled out a sword to fight for Jesus, now he cowered in fear.

Christians today live in such fear – fear of the future, fear of people and their opinions, fear of spiritual and moral decay that is so prevalent in America. I think of the world my grandchildren will grow up in and my knees quiver a little. But we need not fear when we walk in the strength and power of Jesus Christ. Hand in hand with him there is no power on earth that we need to tremble before.

As we watch this world changing, as we see the rise of wickedness, we need not fear. The power of God is still at work in his people.

It is good to remember that Jesus restored this fearful failure and he became a powerful proclaimer of the gospel. The coward found courage. It is comforting to know that our failure is never the final word in our lives. Jesus restores us so that he can use us.

  1. One man obeyed God and submitted to his plan.(57-68)

That was Jesus. When they lied about him, he continued to obey the Father’s plan. When they abused him, he persisted in obedience. When he suffered, he endured. Nothing stopped him, nothing derailed him, nothing diverted him from the purposes of God.

One man was all about himself and when he realized that Jesus was calling him to die to self he sold Jesus out. Another man first tried to fight the fight in the flesh and failed miserably. The flesh is always doomed to fail. He later fled in fear when challenged. But Jesus walked in faith and followed the Father’s plan regardless of the hardship or suffering.

The best way to deal with change is NOT to change! Just continue to obey and to serve and to love and to live in Christ.

May the Spirit of Christ empower us to live as Christ lived. Then we can face the future no matter how difficult things are in confidence – not because of who we are but because of who HE is.