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 touch 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

SBC: The Game is Rigged

Newly elected SBC President Bart Barber

I watched some of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in Anaheim online, and my suspicion that the SBC game is rigged was confirmed. The elites on the platform, like Ed Litton, were in full control, and the average messenger had little to no say in what transpired. The disdain that the Ed Litton’s have for the average messenger is disgusting. If messengers are treated this disrespectfully and not allowed to make their voices heard, what is the point of the annual meeting except to promote the agenda of the powerful elites in charge of the entities?

Predictably, the moderate candidate, Brett Barber, defeated the conservative one, Tom Ascol, for the SBC Presidency. This was a major blow to conservatives. Furthermore, Litton rudely interrupted Jennifer Buck as she was speaking at the microphone and basically shut her down. Apparently, the SBC Credentials Committee couldn’t find the courage to disfellowship from Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, which is ordaining women pastors. They decided to revisit the issue in the future sometime. I also watched as the elites rallied to defeat a motion to replace an ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) trustee, who had already served his term, with a humble pastor. The elites seem to always defend their own.

One messenger stood up and made a motion that the contact information of the trustees of the various SBC entities would be made readily available. He explained that he could not reach the trustees by voicemail or email, and he could not find a valid address for them. It is hard to effect change when the trustees won’t make themselves available to people.

It’s disheartening to watch conservatives get their hopes up each year, thinking that this year might be different, while knowing that it won’t be. The outcomes are virtually predetermined by those in power, those who love the status quo. Let me also just say that the method of counting votes does not promote confidence in the integrity of the system. How can those on the platform determine whether or not there’s a 2/3 majority in two seconds just by looking at the raised ballots?

And it’s not just this way at the annual meeting. It’s this way at the SBC throughout the year, even down to the local church. I’ve experienced similar frustration myself. I was in a committee meeting at a church, and the pastor at the time said that when he would see someone walk into the church, he saw a dollar sign over his head as he thought about all the money that person was going to tithe. That one statement confirmed my worst suspicions that for some in the SBC, it is simply about bringing in the money and numbers, or as one pastor put it, nickels and noses.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if you genuinely want to serve the Lord and you are an outspoken conservative, those in power in the SBC will make it hard for you. They will blacklist you. They want company men who are going to play the game and participate in the good ole boys’ club. SBC leaders don’t care about the truth that much. They just want you to be winsome and nice. Because they care more about what people think than what God thinks.

So I’m about done with the SBC. I can’t follow leaders who are afraid to be authentic and take bold stands for the truth. I can’t take the “nice” fakeness that ignores the problems at hand. The SBC is becoming a toxic environment in which I feel more and more alienated. And I don’t want to play that rigged game anymore.

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.

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?

Don’t Use the Left’s Language

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, Newspeak was the language of Oceania created by the Party to limit people’s ability to think and communicate subversive thoughts. It was basically a dumbed down version of English, or Oldspeak. Such nonsensical words like doubleplusgood were created to replace words like excellent. Goodthink meant politically correct ideas that were approved of by the Party. And words like joycamp (forced-labor camp) meant the exact opposite of the reality behind the word. Some modern-day examples of newspeak include the words inclusive, homophobic, and winter break.

Inclusive is the big buzzword these days. Everyone wants to be welcoming and kind to people. But that’s not really what the Left means by the word. They mean that you must approve of agendas that you don’t agree with—that you can no longer hold to Christian values. If you espouse anything that doesn’t line up with the Left’s pet causes, then you are a bigot, and thus not inclusive.

Being inclusive is also the reasoning behind the use of the next word, Winter Break. When I was a kid, we called the two-weeks we got out of school in December and January, Christmas Break. But I’ve noticed in recent years, Winter Break is used even by Christian teachers (largely out of habit or being forced to, I suppose). This is a clear attempt to deChristianize our schools, though liberals will claim that they are only trying to be inclusive. Everyone knows the reason why kids are out of school during this season—Christmas. People often travel to be with their families during this time. Yet the Left wants to pretend that it’s just another break from school that happens to occur during winter.

Homophobic has also been a liberal buzzword for years. The Left uses this one to beat anyone into submission who dares to challenge the LGBT agenda, which makes it difficult to hold to Biblical views on sexuality. If you say you are for marriage between a man and a woman, then you are tagged and labeled with this word. No one wants to appear to be afraid of something, so they get defensive, and in so doing, unwittingly distance themselves from the very values which they espouse. This is all a very insidious strategy by the Left.

All of this probably sounds way too familiar. A recent online meme joked about the need to move 1984 from the fiction section to the current events section. The sad fact is that people these days voluntarily change their language; they don’t even have to be forced to do so. This is largely due to the deconstruction of truth and language found in postmodern academia over the last century. No longer is 2 + 2 = 4 such a simple and obvious concept.

So, as Christians and conservatives we must not fall into the trap of using the Left’s language— because if we do use their language, we will play right into their hands. We will limit our ability to discover and communicate truth and to defend our cherished values. Like in the novel 1984, we will get to a point where we just accept whatever lies the Party pushes on us. Then freedom of speech and freedom of thought will be things of the past. The Left will control everything in society. You have to realize that is the goal—control. And the Left often uses language to achieve it.

My First Time to Ski

Little Blue bunny slope, Youth Center, and Main Chalet at Red River Ski Resort

My family and I recently went skiing at Red River, New Mexico. It was my first ski trip. The town of Red River offered beautiful scenery, tasty food, and a quaint atmosphere.

Our first task when we arrived in town was to go to a local sports shop to rent skis, poles, and boots. The staff at All Seasons was very helpful in getting our sizes and providing the gear that we needed.

View of the Tubing house and the Gold Rush slope

After the ski shop, we went to the chalet to sign up for lessons. It was very crowded, and we had to wait in line. They were sold out of lessons, but we were able to buy lift passes (which were expensive) so that we could ski the next day.

Since we didn’t get lessons, I watched YouTube videos that night at the condo on how to ski. The videos were helpful. They talked about the importance of using the wedge technique. Even after watching the videos, though, I still found it hard to slow down or turn.

There are three different kinds of slopes, which are color-coded. The Green slopes are for beginners, the blue for intermediate skiers, and the black for experts. For the first day, I stayed on the green bunny slope called Little Blue (confusing, I know), which was challenging enough. It had a long, moving treadmill to transport skiers back to the top of the slope.

On the second day of skiing, I got bolder and took the ski lift up to a steeper, green slope called the Gold Rush. Let me just say that the ski lift requires a bit of skill to ride as well. When I exited the ski lift, I had a wipeout. It was pretty humiliating.

At top of the slope, I was quite intimidated by the steepness of the slope before me. Keep in mind this was still a green slope. The resort also had a black slope called “The Face” that went almost straight down. I have no idea how people skied on that one. I started down the Gold Rush slope and my speed quickly got out of hand. I tried the wedge, but it didn’t seem to slow me down. I fell, and I had trouble getting my skis back on. I managed to try again, though. I didn’t want to give up so easily. I went a little further down, and I had an even bigger wipeout. One thing I learned is that if you fall on the higher-up slopes, no one seems to care to help. They just zoom right pass you. I felt like I came close to injuring my leg, so I decided that was enough. It wasn’t worth getting hurt over. So I walked down the rest of the way (which wasn’t easy in ski boots while also carrying my skis and poles).

Carrying the gear and wearing the boots were my least favorite part of the ski experience. The boots are hard to get on and off and even harder to walk in. With long walks in the cold from the car to the slopes, I felt worn out before I even began to ski. My shins and legs were also sore from walking in the boots.

My wife had skied multiple times before, so she was already an experienced skier. She made it look easy. She traversed the Gold Rush with ease. My older son loved skiing. Even though it was his first time, he picked it up rather quickly. My younger one was more like me. Skiing was not really his thing.

I would say that some people are going to enjoy skiing more than others. I found it very challenging, and even slightly dangerous. It probably didn’t help that I’m not really a cold weather person.

The view behind our condo

Our condo at The Woodlands on the River had a beautiful view (see the picture above). It felt very cozy to go back there in the evenings and light the fire and look out the windows. And with a kitchen, we were able to have meals there as well.

There are only a few restaurants in town, but the two that we ate at were delicious—Sundance Mexican Restaurant and Texas Reds Steak House. Sundance had huge sopapillas, and Texas Reds had a delicious T-Bone steak. Sundance had a long wait time. They took reservations, but we didn’t realize that so we put our name in and went back to the condo. We came back an hour or two later. Texas Reds didn’t take reservations so we got there early, even before they were officially opened. We were the first ones to be seated.

Small pond near the Flyer House

As far as recommendations to new skiers, I would say that you definitely need to have a plan. It may be crowded, and things can quickly sell out. So call ahead or go online to see if you can reserve a spot for lessons and lift tickets. Figure out where you are going to rent your skis from. Also, it might be a good idea to take sandwiches for lunch in the chalet. They have a small cafe and snack bar, but the lines were long and seating was hard to find. Expect things to be expensive. Parking is difficult as well unless you get there early or late in the day.

Overall, it was a fun experience. I enjoyed the scenery, food, and time with family more than the skiing. Yet I’m glad I got to experience it so at least I know what it is like. Before I went, I didn’t really understand the appeal of ski trips. Now I know that they have a charm all of their own.

The Sad, Sinful, Silence of the Church

I know pastors and seminary professors who should be speaking out on the false doctrine, marxism, and corruption within churches and our society, but sadly they are not. So I ask myself, “Why do I go through the trouble of warning others about these things if our leaders don’t seem to care or are unwilling to do anything about it?” The answer is that I don’t want to be like them. I actually care about the truth more than being popular. And just as Ezekiel was called to be a watchman on the wall and warn others, so too do we have a responsibility to do likewise.

Our society is crumbling all around us, so it seems rather strange and a little unnerving to attend church and hear little about such things. Nothing about the dangers of marxism, CRT, or social justice. Nothing about the threat of the LGBT movement. Very little about sin or repentance.

We’ve been through two of the most tumultuous and eventful years in American history, and I’ve heard little to nothing about the race riots, January 6, or tyrannical government overreach. At what point does the church become out of touch if it refuses to address such huge events? If there is no position taken or instruction given in some of the most consequential events in American history, people begin to look elsewhere for answers.

This timidity in addressing contemporary events, sin, and societal dangers is one of the major problems in the church. We need preachers who will guide their flock on what position to take on such matters. A man of God must be willing to declare, “Thus says the Lord,” and preach the Word of God boldly without apology. But sadly, too many pastors seem to be more concerned about advancing their careers.

There is much emphasis put on the academic side of things in churches. But I would rather sit under a preacher with no advanced degrees who just boldly and faithfully preaches the Word than to listen to a Ph.D. who is afraid to take a stand or say anything controversial. It seems to me that what often happens is that the more academic credentials a preacher has, the less courageous his preaching becomes. His focus becomes more about impressing or pleasing his friends in academia rather than pleasing the Lord.

And it is difficult to respect your leaders when they don’t have courage. I find often that the people in the pew are more willing to speak out and to fight in the trenches, than those in the pulpit. In fact there seems to be a real gap between the pew and the pulpit. Many leaders seem completely out of touch with their congregations.

One of the jobs of the shepherd is to fend off the wolves and protect the sheep, but these days it seems that the wolves are let in the door to devour the sheep. Ezekiel rebuked the sinful shepherds of his day who fed themselves instead of feeding and taking care of the sheep:

“Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭34:7-10‬ ‭KJV‬‬

In John 10, Jesus talked about hirelings who failed to protect the sheep from the wolves:

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. John 10:12

So little has changed. We still have hirelings in pulpits who refuse to protect the sheep from the wolves. We still have sinful shepherds who feed themselves instead of feeding the flock. What has changed is that the dangers have increased, and the lies have become more subtle. In a time when the sheep need bold and vocal shepherds more than ever, we have many weak and selfish shepherds who are more concerned with their career or social standing than with preaching the unadulterated truth. It is indeed sad that the church is silent in such a dangerous day.