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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” 1 John 5:21
In the Old Testament, idolatry consisted of worshipping other gods, usually statues made of wood, stone, or gold. Israel struggled throughout its history with worshipping the false gods of the nations around them, right up until the time of the Babylonian Captivity, at which time they finally seemed to learn the lesson (perhaps they even overcorrected and became too legalistic).
In the New Testament, Paul mentions idolatry in Romans and 1 Corinthians, but he seems to expand the concept to other forms in Colossians 3:5, where he declares that greed, or covetousness, is idolatry.
In churches today, you’ll often hear a definition of idolatry as anything that people value or love more than God. The Bible is clear that we are to keep God preeminent in our lives. After all, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. —Matt 22:37
America has many such idols that prevent us from loving God with all our heart. Let’s focus our discussion on two of the most popular ones—money and sports. These two often go together, but let’s begin with money.
There’s nothing wrong with money in and of itself; it’s the love of money that is a sin. We need money to pay the bills, to eat, and even to help others. Money is a necessary evil in a fallen world.
Our currency displays our national motto, “In God We Trust.” It is a wonderful motto. Sadly, though, in practice our nation often seems to trust in the dollar instead of the Deity.
Idolatry often masks itself in practical ways as corporations and individuals excuse unethical behavior in order to increase the bottom line. At other times it’s more obvious such as when a professional athlete or coach who is already making millions of dollars will leave his team for a better deal.
Paul warns us about chasing after riches in 1 Timothy 6:9:
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.
The idol of money, like all idols, will not satisfy. No amount is enough. Those who seek happiness or security in wealth will never be fulfilled.
Sports is another American idol. Again, there’s nothing wrong with sports in and of themselves. I’ve enjoyed playing and watching sports myself. But our society has taken athletics to the extreme. We’re all familiar with the exorbitant salaries of professional athletes. We also are aware of people who won’t miss a game of their favorite team, but they can’t seem to find anytime for serving God or attending church.
Little league baseball teams play tournaments almost every weekend in the spring, summer, and fall, making it almost impossible for the players and parents to attend church on Sunday mornings. Fans will go all out for their favorite sports team, but they often show little enthusiasm for the things of the Lord. Families get together for holidays and spend nearly the whole time watching and talking about football.
To make matters worse, there are seemingly few sermons about repentance of idolatry in American churches. We need preachers who will tell it like it is. Instead, preachers calculate what is safe to say and filter their sermons through a politically correct lens. If we’re going to correct the sin of idolatry, we must first confront it from the pulpit.
The bottom line is that we need to repent of leaving our first love and get back to putting Christ first in our lives. Anything less will leave us feeling unsatisfied and miserable. Only God can fill our hearts with joy and offer us the forgiveness and healing that our nation so desperately needs.
Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s governor’s race Tuesday night. Many attributed McAuliffe’s loss to parental anger at his tone deaf statement, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Parents in Virginia were already upset with the Loudoun County school board over sexual assaults, CRT, and transgender issues. Others cite Biden’s unpopularity as the reason for McAuliffe’s loss.
But Democratic strategist and political consultant, James Carville, may have given the most eye-opening and candid explanation for the Democrats’ defeat in Virginia.
Carville appeared on PBS News Hour Wednesday night, and host Judy Woodruff asked him about the reason why Democrats lost. He summed it up in two words, “Stupid wokeness.” The rest of his answer did not disappoint:
“Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center. They’re expressing a language people just don’t use and there’s a backlash and a frustration at that.”
Carville went on to say that the Democrats need to be about changing laws instead of dictionaries. He lambasted “these faculty lounge people that sit around mulling about I don’t know what.” And he even commented on Seattle’s CHAZ from last year, saying, “autonomous zone–who could even think of something that stupid?”
Wow! It’s an interview worth listening to, and it’s an indication that all of this wokeness is so out of control that even the Democrats are starting to wake up to its negative effects. The question is, “Will other Democrats wake up to the dangers of wokeness like Carville?”
On this Reformation Day, in which we commemorate Martin Luther’s act of nailing the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517 (which began the Protestant Reformation), we can be encouraged by his boldness to stand for the Gospel and the Word of God.
Luther was protesting the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church. Luther wanted to get back to the heart of the Gospel–justification by faith alone, which is one of the Five Solas. They are listed below:
Luther suffered consequences for his principled stand. In 1521, he was excommunicated by Pope Leo X and called upon to defend himself at the Diet of Worms before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. There he uttered these words:
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
Interestingly, it is debated whether he said the famous words, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Many scholars say there is no evidence for this particular phrase. Regardless, Luther showed true courage in standing against the Pope and Emperor.
In the Edict of Worms, Luther was declared to be a heretic and had to flee to Wartburg Castle, where he translated the Bible into German. Luther never was arrested. He was protected by German princes, and the Emperor was soon distracted by other problems.
On this Reformation Day, we should remember the courage that Luther showed in standing up to the Pope and Catholic Church, and the reason for his stance–fidelity to Scripture. We could use more people like Luther today, people with courage and conviction to follow Christ regardless of the consequences.
I believe that we should trust in the Lord. The Bible is very clear on that principle. In addition, I believe that we should wait upon the Lord. I also believe that sometimes we must speak up, take action, and get involved. Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for every season and purpose under the heaven.
“…A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” –Eccl 3:7b
In our day and age when marxism, sexual anarchy, and general wickedness seem to be running rampant, I believe that it is time to speak out. Sadly, though, it seems many Christians use the concept of trusting in the Lord as an excuse to do nothing and say nothing. Or they might view speaking on politics in the church as somehow impure, worldly, or as a diversion from the true mission.
I’ve found that the people who believe this are sometimes judgmental toward those who do speak out or get involved in politics. They seem almost pharisaical in their attitude, as if they are somehow purer or more devoted than those wayward Christians whom they see as “trusting in princes.”
What I find surprising about all of this is that our Founding Fathers saw no problem with speaking about politics in the church. They trusted in the Lord and exercised their rights as citizens. An examination of Acts 22 shows us that the Apostle Paul did the same.
Consider the Reverend Jacob Duché’s The American Vine sermon, in July 1775, in which he blasts Britain for attempting to cut down “this branch of thine own vine.” He goes on to say:
“Go on, ye chosen band of Christian Patriots! Testify to the world, by your example as well as by your counsels, that ye are equally the foes of VICE and of SLAVERY.”
Or take for example the Reverend John Carmichael’s June 1775 sermon entitled, A Self-Defensive War Lawful:
“The angry tools of power who mislead government may call us American “rebels, who would throw off all government–would be independent and what not.” –But we can now, with great confidence, appeal to God that that is false — we desire no such things –we desire to be as we were in the beginning of the present unhappy reign –we have tried every lawful peaceable means in our power — but all in vain! . . .
. . . Therefore you can, GENTLEMEN SOLDIERS, appeal to GOD for the justice of your cause.”
Or the Reverend Samuel Langdon’s sermon before the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay at the end of May 1775:
“That ever memorable day, the nineteenth of April, is the date of an unhappy war openly begun by the Ministers of the King of Great Britain against his good subjects in this Colony, and implicitly against all the colonies. —-But for what? —- Because they have made a noble stand for their natural and constitutional rights, in opposition to the machinations of wicked men who are betraying their Royal Master, establishing popery in the British dominions, and aiming to enslave and ruin the whole nation [so] that they may enrich themselves and their vile dependents with the public treasures and the spoils of America.”
And perhaps most famously, John Witherspoon’s The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men on May 17, 1776:
“God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both.“
One of the results of shunning politics in churches is an increasing ignorance in the pews of moral and contemporary issues. Many parishioners may know how to become a Christian but very little about how to live as one. Sometimes I feel as though we are winning people to Jesus who then go on to live like the world because they never hear that transgenderism, abortion, pornography, and other evils are contrary to God’s will. Or they may support a party or a candidate that promotes values which are in opposition to godliness because their pastor declared a moral equivalence between the two opposing political parties.
So if you’re a Christian who turns his nose at politics and pretends to be above such worldly matters, you may not be superior in your faith. You may just be a bad citizen. Or at least an ignorant one.
“Columbus, of course, has always held a proud place in our history not only for his voyage of exploration but for the spirit that he exemplified. He was a dreamer, a man of vision and courage, a man filled with hope for the future and with the determination to cast off for the unknown and sail into uncharted seas for the joy of finding whatever was there. Put it all together and you might say thatColumbus was the inventor of the American dream.“
–President Ronald Reagan’s Remarks on Signing the Columbus Day Proclamation, October 3, 1988
After years of academic assaults on the legacy of Christopher Columbus and the riots of last year in which multiple statues of the Genoese explorer were torn down or removed, the celebration of the holiday bearing his name seems to be hanging by a thread.
Some objections to honoring the man who discovered the New World and opened it up to exploration and colonization by Europeans include the following: Columbus’ cruel treatment of native peoples, the fact that he never touched foot in the continental United States, and that he wasn’t actually the first person to reach the New World.
That his behavior was sometimes cruel and tyrannical is really undisputed, although it might be exaggerated somewhat. At one point the Spanish crown sent to have Columbus put under arrest and brought back to Spain. But we would honor very few people if we let their faults exclude them from recognition. Columbus did have plenty of blemishes on his character, but who doesn’t? He also had a lot of positive traits. He was willing to take risks and boldly embark upon an ocean-crossing adventure at a time when no one was sure what lay on the other side of the Atlantic.
It is also true that Columbus did not set foot in what is now the United States. In his four voyages to the New World, he explored the Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Central America, South America, Trinidad, and the Lesser Antilles. But that does not mean he didn’t have a large impact on our country’s history. He let the world know it was possible to sail across the Atlantic and that there were undiscovered lands between Europe and Asia. Thus, Columbus’ successful voyages to the West Indies opened doors to European exploration of the future United States that would soon follow.
While Columbus was the second person to discover the New World (behind Leif Erikson and his voyage to Vinland, or Newfoundland, 500 years before), his impact may have been larger. As hinted at above, Columbus paved the way for the other European explorers and the English who would found settlements in the modern-day United States. The same can’t be said for Leif Erikson’s voyage. While there were lasting Viking settlements in Greenland, that wasn’t the case for the rest of North America. Perhaps, timing played a key role, but it is pretty clear that Columbus’ footprint in history is larger than Erickson’s when it comes to the exploration and development of the Americas.
So it is important that we continue to celebrate Columbus Day in an age when much of our history is being erased and rewritten. Our society is based upon the tradition of Western Civilization, and if we throw out our heritage, we will forget who we are and where we came from. If you don’t particularly like Christopher Columbus, remember that Columbus Day is about commemorating his contributions and impact upon history as much as it is honoring the person. If our nation cancels Columbus, it is cancelling much more than another explorer. It is cancelling an important part of her history.
In our technology-obsessed, groupthink-culture, it is easy to lose one’s sense of humanity. We live in a world where iphones and online interactions have replaced personal, face-to-face conversations. We also live in a callous, fast-paced society that can easily leave many people behind.
If we’re not careful, we can lose a sense of who we are and what really matters. We have to be intentional about maintaining our humanity and sanity in a world which seems to be intent on taking those things from us. Listed below are 12 things to help you do this:
1. Take a walk outside and enjoy nature.
2. Take a break from your phone, social media, and all electronic devices.
3. Spend time with your family.
4. Spend time worshipping God by praying, reading the Bible, or attending a church service.
5. Listen to or play music.
6. Think original thoughts.
7. Let go of bitterness and forgive those who have wronged you.
8. Take a hot bath and read a book.
9. Drink a cup of hot cocoa or have some milk and cookies.
10. Schedule some downtime where you simply relax and do nothing.
As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon America on September 11, 2001, we need to help those of the next generation, who were not even born yet when the attacks occurred, understand what happened on that tragic day.
I’ve been watching the remembrances of that day on various news programs and documentaries the last several days. My kids even watched one of the programs with me, and they asked me why those planes flew into the buildings. I tried to explain it to them in a way that they could understand. My youngest one now sees all planes as a threat and calls them “mean planes.” I wonder if maybe he was too young to watch the footage. It seems to have frightened him a bit. Yet I feel like it’s important that we teach the next generation about what happened, just as earlier generations taught us about Pearl Harbor.
So I’ve come up with seven lessons that I think we need to teach to the younger generations about 9-11. Actually, these seven items are good reminders for us all, no matter our age, to keep in mind as we remember that day:
1) Honoring the Victims and Their Families
First and foremost, our hearts go out to the families of the victims and those who were directly affected by the events of that day. We remember them in our thoughts and prayers, and we listen to their stories to help us understand what they’ve been through.
2) Honoring the Sacrifice of the Heroes
From the first responders who rushed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon to the people on United Flight 93, whose brave actions prevented further devastation, there were many heroes that day who sacrificed their lives to save others. We should be thankful for these wonderful people and remember what they did. They are examples of bravery, selflessness, and love to us all.
3) Each day is a gift.
If there’s one obvious lesson from that day, it’s that it started out as a normal day and what happened was completely unexpected. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We should see each day as a gift from God. And we have to be ready to meet Him at all times because none of us know when our last day will be. Listening to the phone calls of people on board Flight 93 to their family members is heartbreaking and sobering. We are reminded to hug our families a little tighter and tell them that we love them.
4) The Horror of that Day
After 20 years, it is natural for the intensity and horror of that day to subside somewhat. Whenever I watch a documentary about 9-11, the news footage of the attacks brings back the feelings of shock and dread. FDR called Pearl Harbor a day that “will live in infamy.” Similarly, I think 9-11 is such a day, probably even more so.
5) Our Society Changed Forever that Day
Things were never the same for our country after 9-11. It was like much of our innocence was lost. From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to increased surveillance and security to new feelings of vulnerability, 9-11 was a watershed moment, a dividing line in our history. Sadly, the unity of 9-12 quickly evaporated, and we are now a bitterly divided nation.
6) Who Committed the Attacks
Sometimes I’ll watch a news story on the attacks and there is no mention of Al-Qaeda or Islamic terrorists. I think this is a mistake. After all, whenever we talk about Pearl Harbor, Japan is usually mentioned. If we don’t remember who it was that attacked us, how will we prevent it from happening again? This issue is especially relevant in light of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power in that country.
7) Freedom is Fragile
Finally, we need to remember and teach others that freedom is not guaranteed. It is fragile and must be preserved and maintained. Ronald Reagan reminded us that freedom is “never more than one generation away from extinction.” He went on to say that freedom “must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.” We would do well to remember that we have enemies who want to destroy our country and the freedom that we enjoy.
“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” –John Philpot Curran
On this 20th anniversary of 9-11, spend some time reflecting upon the events of that day. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray also for healing for our nation and wisdom for our leaders. May such reflections cause us to appreciate our families more and not take them for granted. And may it make us more grateful for the blessings and mercies that we enjoy from the hand of God.