Love One Another

How often do I find myself wanting to open up and let the wall down, but my head seems to get in the way of my heart! We all seem to get pressed into the world’s mold of putting on the mask and playing the game. How beautiful it is to be real and honest, yet how scary and rare!

Love comes easier to us when we are young. Perhaps it’s because we are naive and haven’t been hurt yet. Or maybe it’s because we don’t use our minds as much as our hearts. We live in the moment and by our feelings. Experience tells us this is not a very wise way to live, but why do we all look back on the days of our youth—those days of fun, excitement, possibility, and adventure—as our best days? Do we simply run out of courage to live that way as we get older? Do we become too risk adverse? Do our hearts grow cold? Or do we just become wiser?

I guess I’m a hopeless romantic that’s learned to be realistic and wise in this evil world. But I miss those days when I was full of dreams and hope and love. Sometimes I don’t like my cynical outlook and tough exterior. Sometimes I get tired of being strong, and I just want to let down the wall and tell everyone, “See, I’m just as scared and bewildered as you are!”

We’re all just trying to do our best to make it in this world. One thing I wish that we didn’t have to worry about is money. It sure seems like it sidetracks us from the more important issues of life. I just recently watched again a movie where one of the themes was how love trumps money. Yet we don’t have the luxury of not worrying about it at all. A lack of money can cause insecurity, stress, and general misery. An excess of it can cause pride, greed, and selfishness. I’d rather not even have to think much about it. I want to spend my time on happier items such as love, truth, mercy, and knowledge.

I was also thinking about how harsh we are with each other. We are so judgmental and critical of people who are struggling just to make it through the day. What a difference it would make if we just showed love and mercy to the people in our lives! In the movie I mentioned above, the love between the two characters was so powerful. They were able to forgive serious transgressions because the love they shared was more important than things like money or grudges.

I guess one of the things I’m learning is to be more compassionate and understanding toward people. When I think about regrets in my life, some of the things that stand out are where I mistreated people. You will never regret treating people right.

I saw a meme on social media the other day. It showed Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas with the little Christmas tree. It said:

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”

I wonder how many people are like that little tree. They just need a little love. When you are hurt or angry or discouraged, it’s amazing what a kind act by people who care about you can do for your soul. Recently, I had some people do a couple of very kind acts for me, and it completely changed my outlook on things.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

I think about the many people out there in this cruel world who don’t get much love. And when you consider it, you start to feel more compassionate about the way they may act or the way they may be living. I think about the verse above that tells us not to judge. If we heed this verse, we begin to view people differently.

I guess the point I’m trying to make in this long-winded discourse is that we need to love one another. It’s not a new concept. Jesus told us this in John 13:34. The Apostle Paul also informs us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that the greatest of these is love. It’s not that we don’t know it. It’s that we either forget it or find it too hard to carry out.

Let’s focus on what really matters. Let’s not get sidetracked by things like our ego, what people might think or say about us, or greed. Let’s hold love in high esteem.

Ten Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

1. ToddCast—Todd Starnes

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/toddcast-podcast-with-todd-starnes/id1482510236

Todd Starnes, who used to work at Fox News, has a daily radio show about politics and culture. He mixes comedy with his political commentary for a fun, informative show. Todd is a conservative, and he’s not afraid to stand for conservative principles and Biblical truth. Todd’s podcast offers a great alternative to the mainstream media’s liberal lies.

2. The Rebellion—Dr. Everett Piper

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-rebellion/id1515575741

Dr. Everett Piper served as President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University and wrote Not a Daycare: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth. In his podcast, he offers conservative commentary on issues in our culture from a Christian perspective. He emphasizes the importance of truth and the impact that ideas have on our society.

3. Sandy Rios in the Morning

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/sandy-rios-in-the-morning/id400516424

Sandy Rios hosts a conservative, Christian radio show on American Family Radio every morning in which she discusses political and cultural news. She stays on top of national as well as state races. She is a fighter, and she believes in speaking the truth boldly and clearly.

4. New Discourses—James Lindsay

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/new-discourses/id1499880546

James Lindsay exposes the woke, marxist infiltration of our schools, churches, and society. He does deep dives into works from marxists like Paulo Freire and Herbert Marcuse. This is a very informative podcast that will open your eyes to what is happening, especially in academia.

5. Newt’s World

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/newts-world/id1452065072

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, was co-author of the Contract with America. He was instrumental in the 1994 Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. Newt talks politics and usually has a guest on each episode. You’ll get insider information and expert analysis in this podcast.

6. Conversations that Matter—Jon Harris

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/conversations-that-matter/id1446645865

Author and speaker Jon Harris talks about how CRT and social justice have infiltrated the Southern Baptist Convention and other denominations. If you are a Christian who is concerned about the state of the church in America, there’s no better podcast than this one. It’s one of my favorites.

7. The Victor Davis Hanson Show

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-victor-davis-hanson-show/id1570380458

Victor Davis Hanson is a classics professor at California State University Fresno and visiting professor at Hillsdale College, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Two different people, Jack Fowler and Sami Winc, alternate hosting episodes to ask him questions, which gives him the opportunity to share his down-to-earth, common sense, conservative commentary on current affairs as well as his deep knowledge of history, especially of Ancient Greece. Highlights of the podcasts include Victor’s assessment of the state of California, his experiences in farming, his appreciation for blue-collar workers, and his disdain of academic and media elites.

8. The Federalist

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/federalist-radio-hour/id983782306

The Federalist is a conservative website and podcast that discusses political and cultural issues from a conservative perspective. Culture Editor Emily Jashinsky interviews guests in an in-depth discussion on a certain topic. Other hosts also appear on the podcast. This podcast reflects the perspective of the younger generation of conservatives.

9. Love Worth Finding with Adrian Rogers

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/love-worth-finding-on-oneplace-com/id288159649

Adrian Rogers was the pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis as well as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was also instrumental in the conservative resurgence in the denomination. He had a television and radio ministry called Love Worth Finding. Each episode in this podcast consists of one of Adrian Rogers’ sermons (or part of one). He was a powerful and dynamic preacher, and his sermons still speak to people today.

10. Through the Psalms—Wesley Provine

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/through-the-psalms/id1497350990

Nothing like a shameless plug. How could I provide a list of recommended podcasts and not include my own? Through the Psalms is exactly what it sounds like—a journey through the Book of Psalms. Each episode covers a different psalm. I introduce the psalm, read it, and then exegete it.

Biden’s Dark and Sinister Speech

On Thursday night in Philadelphia, in front of Independence Hall, President Joe Biden gave what could easily be called the most chilling and sinister speech ever given by a United States president.

Given against a backdrop of red lights, darkness, and two Marines, the atmosphere evoked an eerie, dystopian, Big Brother vibe. Memes popped up online soon afterwards with the hashtag, #TwoMinutesOfHate, a reference to the novel 1984.

Biden railed against Trump supporters, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic….MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies….MAGA Republicans look at America and see carnage and darkness and despair. They spread fear and lies — lies told for profit and power.”

Biden didn’t limit the reasons for his attacks on MAGA Republicans just to January 6. He went on to attack MAGA Republicans for their conservative views on abortion and marriage: “[they’re] determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”

This kind of rhetoric is dangerous. It further divides the country and pours gasoline on an already volatile situation. I can’t remember a time before where an American president attacked half of the electorate and labeled them as dangerous extremists.

Interestingly, Biden walked back the comments the next day, saying, “I don’t consider any Trump supporter a threat to the country.” Perhaps someone reminded him of what he said in his Inauguration speech on January 20, 2021:

“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation. I ask every American to join me in this cause….That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably, within the guardrails of our Republic, is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength. Yet hear me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you: I will be a President for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

President Biden, Inauguration Speech, Jan. 20, 2021

Biden has failed to live up to his promise of uniting the country. In fact, he has been one of the most divisive presidents we’ve ever had. And his speech on Thursday night was disturbing to say the least. The dangerous extremist that Americans should be worried about is not Donald Trump or his supporters. It’s the man living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Badlands Are My Happy Place

I was blessed this summer to visit the Badlands for the second time in five years. I enjoyed it probably even more the second time because my wife and I were able to share the experience with our kids.

I love the Badlands because of the otherworldly feeling it stirs in me. It might be compared to walking on a moonscape. It is one of the most unique places I’ve ever experienced. The Badlands are also quiet and lonely. If you want to be by yourself in near total silence, the Badlands are the place to go. And the optimal time of the day to go in my mind is in the evening at sunset. You will enjoy incredible, panoramic views in a photographer’s dreamscape.

“…I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands….what I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere…” Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935

I’m a fan of the original series of Star Trek from the 1960’s. If you’ve seen it, you probably remember the strange colored skies when the crew beams down to various planets. The Badlands sort of remind me of those sets. You’ll see colors and hues that you’re not used to seeing everyday. It’s an eerie experience, but in a good way.

There is an intangible quality about the Badlands that touches you in a special way. We prayed as a family in the park, thanking God for the beauty of His creation. When we left the park this time, my wife played some Christian hymns in the car over the radio. I felt a peace and perspective that wasn’t there before.

So if you haven’t been to the Badlands, I encourage you to go. The first time we went, we made the mistake of trying to go in from the south, and we ended up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. You probably don’t want to take that route because it’s not where the heart of the park lay. If you’re near Rapid City, you’ll want to take I-90 East and get off at exit 110 at Wall (if you have time, you can visit Wall Drug Store, a pretty unique place as well). Then go South on the 240 Badlands Loop Road until you get to the Pinnacles Entrance. If you’re coming in on I-90 West, then you can take exit 131, and head south for the 240 Badlands Loop Road, using the Northeast Entrance (there is a Minuteman Missile National Historic Site nearby that we didn’t get to visit). There is a fee to get into the Badlands that is based upon how many passengers are in your car. We paid $30 to get in.

You can drive through the park fairly quickly. Along the road, there are scenic overlooks where you can get out of your car and enjoy spectacular views. There are also some walking trails. You should reserve at least two hours for the park. But you’ll probably need more time if you really want to explore the park in depth. You could easily spend a whole day there if you wanted. If you have little kids, be careful at the Pinnacles Overlook. There is steep, sharp terrain, and it is important to watch your step when you get out of the car.

The first time we went we ran out of daylight near the end of the Badlands Loop Road, but there was a cafe in the park that we ate at. I remember the food being pretty tasty, and there was also a nice gift shop where you can get some souvenirs and t-shirts. There is also a Visitor Center nearby.

Don’t miss the Notch, Door, and Window Trails near the Northeast Entrance. This is one of the best views in the park, especially at sunset. If you enter at the Pinnacles Entrance, this will be near the end of the loop before you exit. We actually missed it the first time we went because it was dark when we drove by it. We almost missed it this time as well, but my wife mentioned it as we drove by, and we got out to look at it. I’m so glad we did. The picture above is from the Notch overlook.

The Badlands are probably one of the most underrated National Parks. Many people haven’t even heard of it. But it is definitely worth a trip to South Dakota to check it out. And there are plenty of other things to see in southwest South Dakota as well–like a place you may have heard of, Mount Rushmore.

Historic Win for the Unborn at Supreme Court in Dobbs Case

Praise the Lord! This is a day that we’ve prayed for, fought for, voted for, and hoped for—for many years. The Lord has answered our prayers.

The Supreme Court released its decision this morning in the Dobbs v. Jackson case concerning a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks. The Court upheld the Mississippi law in a 6-3 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts joining the conservative justices. In a 5-4 vote (with Roberts joining the three liberal justices), the Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, and return the issue to the states. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been wobbly on a lot of cases in the past, thought overturning Roe and Casey went too far.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

—Excerpt from Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in the Dobbs case

The decision was not much of a surprise, considering the fact that Alito’s opinion had been leaked on May 2. The question was whether the conservative justices would stand their ground under immense pressure from the Left. Much drama unfolded in the intervening weeks, including protests at the justices’ houses and an assassination attempt of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

It is quite instructive to look at how all of this unfolded in the past few years. President Trump was able to place three of the five justices (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett) on the Court who voted to overturn Roe in the Dobbs case. Trump followed through on his campaign promise to appoint pro-life justices to the Court. This ruling helps cement President Trump’s legacy as one of the most pro-life presidents in history. Even Ronald Reagan, adored by conservatives, wasn’t able to perform this feat. Conservatives were often disappointed by Reagan’s and both Bushes’ picks to the Court.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

The only disappointing thing about the day was the silence and tepid reaction by some Big Eva types. They seemed to want to tamp down the enthusiasm of pro-life Christians out of fear of upsetting those who may be on the other side of the issue. But we shouldn’t let these evangelical elites diminish our enthusiasm. This is a day to rejoice!

We praise the Lord again for this wonderful victory. This is the result of years of prayer and hard work by pro-life activists. We should learn from this to never give up! Let us give thanks to the Lord, and we give all glory to God!

“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” 1 Chron 16:34

Top Gun: Maverick— A Great, Non-Woke, Pro-American Movie

Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

It was with great anticipation that we went to see the new movie, Top Gun: Maverick, which is the sequel to the original that came out in 1986. Maverick was supposed to be released in 2019, but it was delayed twice—once for technical reasons and again because of the COVID pandemic. Let me just say that it was well worth the wait. It is a very entertaining film. It has the potential to single-handedly revitalize the struggling movie industry. The word of mouth on this movie is off-the-charts.

In this latest film, Tom Cruise’s character, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, again finds himself on the outs with Navy leadership after a disastrous stint as a test pilot . But his old friend, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, played by Val Kilmer, asks him to come to Top Gun to teach a new crop of students and prepare them for a special mission. The catch is that one of the young pilots is Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of Goose, Maverick’s former wingman, who was killed in an accident in the first film while flying with Maverick.

One of the great things about this movie is that it works on all levels—story, action, special effects, acting, writing, etc. Not only is the movie extremely entertaining, it is full of great lines and moments that suggest a non-woke and pro-American perspective.

First of all, there is no LGBT or social justice agenda in the film (and that is refreshing)—just an old-fashioned heterosexual love story between Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly’s characters. When Maverick goes sailing with his new love interest (Kelly McGillis wasn’t asked to return for the sequel), there is also a large American flag on the boat.

Tom Cruise’s character by nature is non-woke. His name, Maverick, means an independent, non-conformist person who dissents or rebels against the conventional way of doing things. This is a very non-woke idea since being woke is all about conformity. When Maverick stands before the young pilots on his first day of teaching, the first thing he does is throw out the tech manual to the F/A-18. He knows that the real world is a lot different than the one the intellectuals imagine it to be.

At one point in the movie, Cruise justifies his tough treatment of the young pilots whom he’s training by telling Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson that they have been told their whole lives that they are the best, and he suggests that they need a reality check for this mission. I see this line as an attack on the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality so prevalent in our current culture.

After Maverick is relieved of his duties by the above mentioned vice admiral, Maverick jumps in his F/A-18 and shows them that the mission can be done. This goes along with his “Do, don’t think” advice that he gives to Rooster. This is another example of non-wokism since the woke left is always lecturing people about something they themselves won’t do.

A man versus technology theme also runs throughout the film. The issue of why Americans were having to go up against an enemy with fifth-generation fighters was subtly raised. America has fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning, but in this film the Americans are flying fourth-gens. This could be a commentary on how China is beginning to surpass the USA in military technology, but it could also serve to reinforce another piece of advice from Maverick—that it’s not the plane, but the pilot inside, that makes the difference.

The woke have a disdain for the older generation, but in this film, it’s the younger generation who get shown up by the older Maverick. When the young pilots make a deal with Maverick that whoever gets shot down in training has to do push ups, it’s not the instructor who is out sweating on the tarmac.

When Maverick tells Cyclone that completing the mission isn’t enough—that he also wants the pilots to come home afterwards, I thought of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Now the film was made before that event. But this line could be seen as a criticism of the callousness of political elites, who no longer show the same concern that they once did for the men and women in uniform making sacrifices for freedom.

One of the most touching scenes is when Maverick goes to see Iceman, who has throat cancer. This plot line reflected reality as the actor Val Kilmer also had cancer. Iceman tells Maverick that he chose him to teach these pilots because the Navy needs people like him. I especially liked this line considering the woke infiltration of our military in recent years. Iceman also encourages Maverick to let go of the past so he can help Rooster and teach him what he needs to learn. It was great to see these two veteran actors together in this emotional scene.

Some interesting trivia about the film: the P-51 Mustang in the film was Tom Cruise’s own plane; also, according to PopSugar.com, the actors had to go through several hours of actual flight training, including experiencing 8 G’s. In addition, there was a Taiwanese flag on the back of Maverick’s leather jacket that was taken out for the trailer but later put back in. When it was put back in, China became upset. A Chinese investor in the film also pulled out when relations between the United States and China soured.

The film does a good job of combining elements from the first movie with new characters and plot lines. Maverick brings nostalgia and excitement at the same time. It touches your heart, but it’s also an adrenaline rush that packs plenty of action into 2 hours and 10 minutes. Who knows? You may even get to see an F-14 Tomcat make an appearance. That was the icing on the cake for me.

Top Gun: Maverick is a movie that you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re a fan of the first film. This new film will entertain you, but it will also make you proud to be an American. And that is something that is rare these days in Hollywood. The film is rated PG-13 for language.

A Little More Perspective Needed in Little League

I’m glad my sons are on good baseball teams, where the coaches and parents keep things in perspective. They do a good job in remembering that in Little League, the focus should be on learning the game, having fun, and making friends. But we’ve been on teams in the past, where the coaches and parents had a mindset that winning was all that mattered, even if that meant sacrificing what was best for the kids. This brief article will discuss that hideous underbelly of sports I got to see in past years.

I witnessed coaches and parents using foul language to berate umpires who were just trying to do their best; six-year olds with walk-up songs; and tournaments nearly every weekend, including Sundays. Three-hundred dollar bats; one-thousand dollars per player fundraisers; two-hour a day workouts in the offseason; and players playing on multiple teams because 79 games in a 6U Spring Season wasn’t enough. This is the sad state of affairs in Little League baseball these days. One has to wonder if the kids are even having fun anymore, or is it all about the adults?

You’d think we were talking about the major leagues here, but sadly we’re not. Parents and coaches have lost all perspective when it comes to sports. Baseball is supposed to be enjoyable. In Little League, kids should be learning how to play the game and having fun. Instead, they are playing so much baseball under such intense pressure, they are often burned out by the time they get to high school.

Who is looking out for the kids? Sadly, it’s not the parents or coaches. We are failing them. What example are we setting when coaches treat the umpires with such disrespect? When music is blasted containing vulgar lyrics? When we can’t go to church because we have to go to the ball field? When we spend hundreds of dollars on a bat for t-ball? What exactly are we teaching our kids?

We should remember that it’s just Little League. It’s just a ball game. It’s not worth humiliating the umpire, missing church, going in debt, or ruining a kid’s love of the game because he didn’t make the team or get to play.

Parents and coaches, you should ask yourself these questions: Is my kid having fun? Are we taking this too seriously? What example are we setting for these kids? Are they going to be burned out by the time they get older? Are we doing all this for us or the kids?

A little perspective is sorely needed. We need to quit trying to keep up with everyone else. Let’s take a step back and think about what really matters. Little league should not take over your life. As much as I love baseball, it shouldn’t get this serious this soon. It should be fun. If it’s not, then let’s go home.

The Passion to Fight

On Sandy Rios in the Morning the other day, Sandy made the comment that a culture of niceness in the church has destroyed the passion to fight. There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

I don’t think she was saying that we shouldn’t be loving or kind. After all, Ephesians 4:32 tells us:

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 16:14:

“Let all that you do be done with love.”

So clearly we are to be kind and loving towards one another. However, our society has taken these admonitions to the wrong extreme so that people view speaking the truth as hateful or unloving. In fact, speaking the truth is one of the most loving things you can do. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:6 that love:

“…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul says that those who do not love the truth will believe lies and delusions in the end times as judgment from God. It is a love for the truth that makes us courageous enough to fight for it. We must love the truth more than other things. We must choose orthodoxy over fraternity.

But many don’t want to do that. They would just like to get along with everyone and not rock the boat. There’s not much love for the truth or fight in them.

There is a direct correlation between our love for the truth and our willingness to fight. If the truth means little to us, then we will think the cost of standing for it (losing friends, popularity, money, etc.) to be too much. But if we value the truth, we will be willing to fight for it.

“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23

A Ship is Safe in the Harbor….

The World History teacher I had in my junior year of high school had quotes posted all over his classroom wall. One in particular caught my attention:

A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for. —John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic

I can’t tell you the impact that statement had upon me. It stuck with me long after high school. I was a shy kid who found it hard to meet new people and fit in socially. But after thinking upon that maxim, I decided I would have to learn to take risks.

I don’t think you’ve really lived until you know the full range of the human experience. It gives you a perspective that helps you see beyond the immediate situation. It grounds you.

I’ve loved and lost, and loved again. I’ve known rejection, but I’ve also known the thrill of romance. I’ve known triumph as well as defeat. I’ve been on mountaintops, but I’ve also suffered in deep valleys.

You will be rewarded for your risks and failures if you persist in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t expect to stand on the heights if you aren’t willing to fall down many times. It reminds me of another quote from Teddy Roosevelt that had a big impact upon me as well:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”—Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

That last line about the cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat resonated with me. I saw myself going down that path. But I decided to step out in faith and take small risks one at a time. Those efforts built upon one another until gradually I felt my courage grow.

Sometimes I still take the safe path and listen to my fear instead of faith. But as I look back I can honestly say I’ve know both victory and defeat. I’ve taken chances. Sometimes I failed, and sometimes I’ve succeeded. I have sweet memories of adventure and romance that I would not have experienced had I stayed in the harbor.

Yes, it’s dangerous and scary out on the high seas. But consider the alternative. Picture a boat sitting there in the harbor day after day failing to fulfill the purpose for which it was built. That’s a sad picture, indeed.

Ten Problems in Churches

Whenever I find myself lamenting a problem in church, I try to ask myself if I’m being too critical. I don’t want to overlook the positive aspects of things. But lately I have noticed some real problems in churches that hinder the ministry and often go unaddressed.

Below is a list of ten problems that I have noticed in modern-day churches that leadership often overlooks. This list is not exhaustive, but I do think it begins to address the problem of the anemic state of many churches. My intent is not to simply point out the problem but also to help find the solution. If I could summarize the solution to the problems below in one statement, it would probably be: Get back to the basics. We must return to the Word of God.

1) We Are Too Busy

I don’t know about you, but I feel exhausted. Race here. Race there. Get this done. Get that done. Then start the cycle all over again. I find that I’m a much happier and peaceful person when I can slow down, recharge, and reset. It can be so refreshing to have some time to read, rest, and reflect. I’m convinced that we are so busy sometimes that we miss what life is really about.

We must learn to say “no” to some things. We can’t do it all. We need to say “no” to things that will take us out of church on Sunday mornings. That likely means sports. I’ve been very frustrated with all of the youth sports that are scheduled on the Lord’s day. I find that my week goes better when I start it in the house of the Lord.

It’s possible, though, to be too busy at church. We can get run down when we spend nearly every night at the church and leave no time for family, rest, or recreation. I guess you could call it too much of a good thing. If we are to serve others, we have to make sure our cup is filled or we will find ourselves with little to offer them.

If we want the Lord to speak to us, we have to be quiet and still and open our Bibles. This requires slowing down by necessity. I think we would see a lot of our stress and anxiety melt away if we would take this simple, but sometimes challenging step.

2) False Doctrine

There are many false doctrines out there, and I cannot list them all here. But I do want to address some of the bad ideas that are currently sneaking under the radar of many churches.

Wokeism, social justice, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and cultural marxism are probably more popular in churches than you realize. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has largely surrendered to these horrible ideas with the passage of Resolution 9 and the appointment of woke leadership. Other denominations like the Methodists and Lutherans have been struggling with them as well.

The best resource I’ve seen on this topic is Jon Harris’ book, Christianity and Social Justice: Religions in Conflict. He gives the historical background of these dangerous ideas and calls out current leaders who have succumbed to them. Harris also does a good job of showing how CRT and social justice contradict the Gospel and seek to establish an entirely different religion.

The best way to combat error is to know the truth. It is imperative that church members know their Bibles or they will find themselves unequipped to fight false doctrine. The Bible speaks of a falling away or apostasy in the last days. We must be vigilant against teaching that does not line up with the Word of God.

3) The LGBT Agenda

Nothing has shocked me more about the state of the church than its acceptance of the LGBT agenda. There are still a few faithful churches who have not bowed the knee to Baal, but they seem to be getting fewer with each passing day.

Even if a church doesn’t accept the LGBT agenda, its silence on the matter is nearly just as bad. Preachers need to be bold in addressing this issue in a Biblical manner. The first duty of a pastor is fidelity to the Word of God.

The Revoice conferences have wreaked havoc in the Presbyterian Church in America as they have sought to normalize the Same-Sex Attracted agenda. In the SBC, former President, J.D. Greear, preached a sermon on Romans 1 in which he said God whispers about sexual sin. Greear also said in his podcast that he would use someone’s preferred pronouns if a transgender person visited his church.

The church needs bold clarity on this issue. Too often the church leaves doubt in people’s minds about what the Bible says about homosexuality. We must seek to please God, not man, and speak the truth in love.

4) Entertainment Instead of Worship

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that many churches these days have brought in worldly entertainment to their services in order to appear hip and cool and attract more people. In some churches, it’s hard to distinguish between a concert and a worship service. Hymns have been jettisoned for watered down, modern worship songs which repeat the same words throughout the song.

We need to make sure we are honoring the Lord in our worship services. We are not there to please unbelievers, but God. How can we foster a worshipful environment when we import worldly music and videos into the services? If we have loud music blasting over the speakers before the services, that does not not set an appropriate tone for worship.

One of the great things about hymns is that they encourage everyone to participate since they are all contained in a hymnal. Even if someone is unfamiliar with them, it won’t take them long to learn it. The music is right there on the page. And the lyrics of hymns often teach doctrines and theological truths as opposed to the shallow emotionalism of modern-day praise music.

5) Watching and Listening to Impure Things

I remember years ago pastors would preach against ungodly entertainment like inappropriate movies, TV shows, and music. Now it’s considered legalistic, and rarely do I hear sermons on the topic. But few things, in my opinion, are harming the vitality of churches than the impure things that members are putting before their eyes and ears. And with the internet, it has become even more serious than ever before.

Remember that old song, “Be careful little eyes what you see?” It’s a simple message, but it’s very true. A verse in Philippians comes to mind:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

6) Chasing Money Instead of God

Jesus told us we can’t serve both God and mammon (wealth). Yet many churches and Christians are seeking to do just that. It is rare to hear a sermon against the love of money these days. The reason why this is so serious is because money, like few other things, has a way of stealing our hearts and loyalties. It prevents us from being fully devoted to the Lord and makes us worldly minded.

The Apostle Paul, like Jesus, also spoke about the dangers of chasing after riches:

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭6:6-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

One of my favorite Bible characters is King David. He had many flaws and personal sins, but one thing he did not seem to struggle with was the love of riches. Charles Swindoll points this out in his excellent biography entitled, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny. David’s heart was devoted to the Lord. After all, the Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart.

7) Following a Denomination Instead of Christ

The SBC is currently embroiled in all kinds of scandals and corruption within its national leadership. What has been very frustrating to me is to watch people’s loyalties to the denomination trump loyalty to Christ. No matter how bad things get in the SBC, leaders seem determined to stay in the denomination.

We must be willing to exit a denomination that no longer follows Christ. It is clear that the SBC has imported worldly ideologies like feminism, CRT, and the LGBT agenda. Its leaders seem unwilling to correct the problem. There comes a point when we must decide whom we will serve.

8) Out-of-Touch Leaders Who Lack Courage

We desperately need preachers who will boldly and unapologetically proclaim the Word of God. President Ronald Reagan talked about “raising a banner of bold colors, no pastels.” He was talking about the Republican party, but I think the illustration fits this discussion as well. A lot of pastors are using pale pastels. They deliberately keep things vague and murky so as not to upset any members, especially big tithers.

The moral morass that we find ourselves in calls for a clear proclamation of truth and righteousness. If our Christian leaders do not sound notes of clarity and distinctness, then how will the culture know the difference between right and wrong?

Our society has become so wicked that now kids are endangered by these radical ideologies of the Left. Places that used to be safe for kids like schools and libraries are no longer safe. Yet many preachers will not speak out on issues like drag queen story hour or inappropriate books in school libraries. If we won’t even protect the children, then our country is indeed lost.

Leaders are not just timid, but they are also out-of-touch with the saints in the pews. When people in the pews are concerned about moral issues of the day, they often get ignored by leaders. Russell Moore, former president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, spent his time in that position mocking conservatives for being concerned about the state of America while he was making videos about aliens and robots. Few things are more frustrating to lay people than being treated disrespectfully by those who are supposed to be fighting for them and with them, instead of against them.

9) A Corrupt Seminary System

We need to rethink the way we do seminary. We have preachers coming out of these institutions with advanced degrees who are more liberal and less bold for the truth than when they went in. The focus is often wrongly placed upon academic accolades and prestige instead of faithfulness to the Lord.

Churches seemed to be in much better shape when we had less educated preachers. They were less proud and out-of-touch, more willing to take bold stands for the Lord, and more likely to preach against sin. Few things hurt a church more than a preacher who lacks boldness. If he is more concerned with pleasing those in academia than the Lord, then the whole counsel of God will not be preached. Sermons will be soft and lack vitality.

No where in the qualifications for elders or pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 does it mention a formal seminary degree. Those passages speak about character, family, the ability to teach, and sound doctrine, but not about worldly credentials.

When churches require their leaders to have advanced seminary degrees, it also prevents those who may have the gift to preach but don’t have a formal degree from using that gift. Peter was a fisherman, but he was also a bold preacher for the Lord because he knew Jesus and walked with Him. When you read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, you discover that he boldly preached the Word. You don’t find the politically correct wishy-washiness in sermons that you hear now.

Perhaps it is also a good idea to tie seminaries to the local church instead of to a denomination so that they will be more accountable in matters of policy and doctrine. In the SBC, seminaries like Southeastern have embraced CRT and social justice. It’s hard for a person in the pew to do much about it, though, when the seminary presidents are accountable to a board on which sit members no one even knows.

I’m all for future pastors and preachers receiving the training they need. Seminaries are helpful when it comes to teaching subjects like Hebrew and Greek. But I wonder if more time needs to be spent in mentorships out in the field. Young preachers will probably learn a lot more from following a pastor around for a few months than he will in the years he spends at seminary.

10) Snobbishness

It is painful to feel snubbed or not accepted in church. When we think of someone being rejected at church, we usually think of the person with a sinful past that is judged unfairly. That is indeed wrong, but it doesn’t have to be that. Oftentimes, the problem can be cliques in the church. If you don’t fit in with a certain group, you may feel left out.

James talks about showing partiality to people in church because of their wealth or the clothes that they wear. So, obviously snobbishness is nothing new. But when you are on the receiving end of it, it can be very disheartening.

What I find usually happens is that church members get into the habit of hanging out with certain people in church. They have their friends and their routines. When someone new comes in, often the effort is not made to reach out and include him. It doesn’t have to be a matter of malice, just one of neglect and carelessness.

Few things will harm a church’s effectiveness and witness like a smug, snobby attitude. People will not come to a church where they feel unwelcome. We must display the love and compassion of Christ to the lowly and outcasts in these matters.

Conclusion

My intention in presenting this list is not to just point out the problems. My hope is that by identifying these issues, we can do something to address these problems and correct them. I want to see the church have its vitality restored and be an effective witness for Christ. Let us all pray Psalm 85:6:

Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?