Category Archives: Opinion/Commentary

Rating the Presidents—and Obama

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at The American Spectator.

I’ve been getting emails from bewildered colleagues asking about a survey of presidential scholars that determined that Barack Obama is the 12th best president in the history of the United States, putting him near the top quartile of our presidents.

How can this be? I, too, was mystified, especially given that I participated in the survey.

The survey was conducted by the impeccably fair C-SPAN. Few sources do their job like C-SPAN does. If you want truly unfiltered news, C-SPAN is unrivaled for its ability to simply place a camera in a room and let reality speak for itself.

When it comes to surveys of presidents, C-SPAN likewise has no peer. I remember the nauseating presidential surveys in the 1980s and 1990s. They were mere measurements of the liberalism of the academy — that is, liberal historians and liberal political scientists expressing their liberalism by their liberal rankings of presidents. It was a farce.

C-SPAN, fortunately, has endeavored to provide a valuable corrective. In 2000, 2009, and 2017, C-SPAN set out to do its own survey and has indeed assembled a more rounded group of scholars. (I was among those surveyed for the 2009 ranking, as well.) To be sure, most (if not the vast majority) of the scholars surveyed are clearly on the left, but there are a decent number of conservatives: By my estimate, over a dozen, possibly as many as 20. Of course, that’s still far out of proportion with the population at large, where self-identified conservatives have outnumbered liberals for decades (usually in the range of 35-40 percent self-identified conservatives vs. 20-25 percent self-identified liberals). C-SPAN needs to do better next time around. A field of 10-20 conservatives among 91 participants isn’t good, albeit better than the nonsense we used to see in biased surveys.

Likewise befitting C-SPAN’s fairness, the ranking criteria for the presidents are commendably nonpartisan. The criteria are obviously intended to remove ideology from those doing the judging. Here are the 10 criteria:

Public Persuasion
Crisis Leadership
Economic Management
Moral Authority
International Relations
Administrative Skills
Relations with Congress
Vision / Setting an Agenda
Pursued Equal Justice For All
Performance Within Context of Times

For each of the 10 criteria, a president received a scored ranging from one (“not effective”) to 10 (“very effective”). I’d like readers to pause and look at those criteria carefully. Imagine if you were doing the judging.

Given these criteria — again, essentially non-ideological criteria — I personally had no choice but to score very highly presidents like FDR and Woodrow Wilson and LBJ, all of whose presidencies I either did not approve of or outright despised or found destructive. But facts are facts: These presidents were extremely effective. No, I personally didn’t like how they were effective, but they were effective nonetheless. Did Wilson have an agenda and vision and get it through? Oh, yes. You bet he did. So did FDR and LBJ.

And yet, those same criteria prompted me to rank Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, and Eisenhower very high. I will not here share exactly how I tallied each, but I will say that those presidents in my top 10 were very similar to those in the overall top 10. Here’s the top 10 that C-SPAN compiled:

Abraham Lincoln
Washington
FDR
Teddy Roosevelt
Eisenhower
Truman
Jefferson
Kennedy
Reagan
LBJ

Following at 11 and 12, respectively, were Woodrow Wilson and Obama. (For the record, I gave Kennedy a decent rating, but to place him in the top 10, and ahead of Reagan, is just plain stupid. Gee, the guy wasn’t even president three full years.)

But what about Barack Obama at 12? I’ll say this as nicely and professionally as I can: I find this utterly perplexing. Do the exercise yourself. Go through those 10 categories. Ascribe Obama a score of 1 to 10, and do so relative to other presidents you’ve ranked. Where would you give Obama a 10? How many (if any) scores above a 5 would you give Obama? For that matter, how would you not score Reagan so much higher than Obama? Yes, Reagan finished with an overall ranking of nine, which is better than Obama, but his total composite score wasn’t much higher than Obama’s.

Seriously, are even liberals that happy with the Obama presidency? Try to remove your ideological lens, whether left or right, and assess these questions:

What did Barack Obama accomplish? What is the Obama legacy? What was the Obama vision/agenda and (more important, since we’re measuring effectiveness) how successful was he in implementing it? In 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama’s promoters could do no better than come up with silly placards about how Obama “got Osama” and “saved GM.” Unlike the vast majority of two-term presidents, Obama’s re-election numbers were much worse. In fact, Barack Obama was the first president ever re-elected with fewer popular votes, fewer Electoral College votes, a lower percentage and percentage margin of victory, and winning fewer states. He never had a sustained period of high favorability. He couldn’t elect a successor to carry on his legacy. To the contrary, Donald Trump plans to repudiate any Obama legacy.

Where is the list of signature domestic achievements by Obama? Obamacare maybe? It was a disaster from the roll-out, and it’s going to be repealed and replaced.

What were Obama’s defining moments of crisis leadership? Where’s his Cuban Missile Crisis? Did he even have a crisis to lead? How about Benghazi as a candidate?

Where was Barack Obama’s Camp David? What did he do for the Middle East, for Arab-Israeli relations, for relations with Russia, the EU, NATO, the G-20? Where’s his NAFTA? Where’s his summit with the Russian leadership? Where’s his missile-reduction treaty? Where’s his chemical weapons ban?

As for Obama’s economic record, it was colossally bad. My economist colleague Mark Hendrickson calls it a “shocking historically weak economic performance,” as many others have shown. During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the average annual real GDP growth was 1.5 percent, notes Hendrickson, “the weakest economic performance of any post-WWII president, and the fourth worst ever.” And to try to still blame that failure on George W. Bush after eight years is ludicrous. Obama’s GDP growth in 2016 (eight years after Bush) was a terrible 1.6 percent.

Bush’s economy grew better than that, and he inherited a recession and was hit with 9/11 his first year, which devastated the economy. In fact, not only was George W. Bush’s economic-growth rate better than Obama’s, but so was Jimmy Carter’s. Yes, Carter — typically upheld as the dubious yardstick of economic incompetence — actually had more than double Obama’s GDP growth (3.3 percent)!

Any deficit reduction under Obama (after he exploded the deficit to unprecedented record highs in the first two years of the Pelosi-Reid Congress) is attributable in large part to the Republican Congress that liberals excoriated for spending cuts (and now want to take responsibility for the subsequent deficit reduction). The Obama debt exploded way worse than the debt under Reagan and George W. Bush.

So, where would you score Obama on Economic Management? I can’t imagine anything beyond a 3.

In what way was Obama a master at public persuasion? What new constituencies did he generate? Where are the Obama Republicans, akin to the Reagan Democrats? How were his relations with Congress? Did you observe stellar “administrative skills” in Obama? His notorious lack of meetings with his NSC and intelligence and security staffs were breathtaking in their lack of any administration. As I reported here in 2012, Obama attended only 44 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For 2012, he attended a little over a third. This was totally contrary to Bush and other predecessors. Reagan and Ike both had hands-off leadership styles, but at least they attended meetings.

Who gave him a 10 for that category?

And if you’re extolling Obama’s attempted fundamental transformation of America’s public-school toilets via executive order, or his illuminating the White House in rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, or his suing the Little Sisters of the Poor via the HHS Mandate, sorry, but those are not among the categories for evaluation.

I want to see the case made by the guy or gal who thinks that Barack Obama merits being listed near the top 10 presidents in history. Actually, some must have rated him in the top 5, because I guarantee my score for Obama (low as it was) surely dropped him a few pegs.

In short, I’m stunned. Based on the criteria we were given for ranking these presidents, I cannot conceive how Obama could possibly score well. I don’t see how Bill Clinton didn’t rate higher than Obama.

As noted, there were some conservatives on C-SPAN’s list. I’m wondering if the conservatives didn’t send in their surveys. The liberal historians must have gone bonkers in merrily giving Obama the highest scores in every category. But forget about that. This shouldn’t be a liberal-conservative thing. That’s the point. Literally half of my top 10 or 12 were Democrats, and I’m no Democrat.

Clearly, the liberal scholars were not able to separate their partisanship when it came to objectively judging Obama. There’s no way that Barack Obama should rate the 12th-best president in U.S. history. Not a chance.

Source: Rating the Presidents—and Obama

George Washington’s God

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(My review of Washington’s God, by Michael & Jana Novak, appeared in the May 2006 American Spectator, and is republished here in honor of Washington’s Birthday and of Michael Novak, who died Friday, February 17, 2017.)

The Founding Believer

Washington’s God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country

by Michael and Jana Novak

(Basic Books, 256 pages, $26)
Reviewed by Mark D. Tooley

AT A CANDLELIGHT DINNER on the portico of Mount Vernon, Roman Catholic ethicist Michael Novak was reluctantly persuaded by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association to write a book about George Washington’s religious beliefs. Among the over one million visitors each year to Washington’s exquisitely preserved estate, the request for such a book is common but largely unrequited, Novak was told.

George Washington’s modern biographers are almost uniform in dismissing or minimizing his religious faith. James Flexner, in his famous three-volume work of the 1970s, wrote: “Washington subscribed to the religious faith of the Enlightenment; like Franklin and Jefferson he was a deist… not believing in the doctrines of the churches.”

Willard Randall’s more recent George Washington: A Life similarly asserts, “He was not a deeply religious man. Once he left his Bible thumping mother’s household he may never have taken any Anglican communion again, yet he went to church frequently…” Joe Ellis’s highly acclaimed His Excellency of last year echoed this theme: “Never a deeply religious man, at least in the traditional Christian sense of the term, Washington thought of God as a distant impersonal force…”

This insistence on a religiously ambivalent Washington stretches back over many decades. Even Douglas Southall Freeman’s magisterial seven-volume biography dared not assert that its subject was overly devout. A serious Baptist and conservative Richmond newspaper editor, Freeman presumably did not share the secular biases of more recent biographers but nonetheless was cryptic and cautious about Washington’s religion.

Henry Cabot Lodge, well over a century ago, was probably the last major biographer to insist that Washington was unequivocally a Christian, based on a single reference to Jesus Christ as “the Divine Author of our religion.” Either Washington actually believed this or he was a “liar,” Lodge wrote.

The assumption of the last century’s scholarship that Washington was irreligious is partly his fault. Reserved and emotionally reticent, he left no extant theological treatises on his personal religious beliefs. The clues must be extracted from Washington’s ecclesial habits, his family life, his character, and the numerous references to the Almighty in his public writings and personal letters.

WASHINGTON’S GOD by Michael and Jana Novak attempts to clarify the record about the great man’s religion. Such clarification is long overdue. The Novaks (who are father and daughter) remind us that for a century after Washington’s death, historians, starting with his first biographer John Marshall, described the first president as a devout Christian.

The enormously successful hagiographer Parson Mason Locke Weems is routinely credited for generating pious myths about Washington. But the Novaks assert that Weems, who briefly pastored the Pohick Anglican Church that the Washingtons attended, was only disseminating what was already widely believed to be true.

Most of Washington’s family, friends, and associates assumed he had at least conventional if not necessarily expressive Christian faith. “He took these things [religion] as he found them existing, and was constant in his observance of worship according to the received forms of the Episcopal Church in which he was brought up,” James Madison matter-of-factly observed of his fellow Virginian.

The Novaks describe 18th-century Tidewater Virginia Anglican culture, in which gentlemen were expected to be church-going but reticent about their faith. “Lukewarm Anglican” then as now was a redundancy, they affirm. Prizing refinement over enthusiasm, even devout Anglicans were and largely still are expected to be tight-lipped and even inarticulate about religion.

Washington was indeed tight-lipped about the specifics of his theology. But he was surprisingly frequent is his references to the Deity. His God was not remote or impersonal. Washington’s God, as he described Him in his public declarations and personal letters, was quite active and quite personal. This deity saved the young Washington several times from French and Indian bullets, saved Washington’s army from near destruction by the far larger British army, and saved the young republic from chaos and division.

Helpfully in their appendix, the Novaks list the more than 100 ways that Washington described God, from “Almighty and Merciful Sovereign of the Universe” to “Wonder-working Deity.” Some of them are quite creative. None are at odds with the Jewish and Christian understanding of a personal God. They include references to the divine as “Father” and “Jehovah.”

Washington’s few specific references to Jesus Christ and his lack of Trinitarian language helped fuel the assumption that he was a deist. The Novaks devote a whole chapter to deism, which they explain as a rationalization of Christianity. The deist God is a creator whose world is governed by natural laws and who desires moral living by humanity, whose conduct will be judged in the afterlife.

Much of early Protestantism initially rejected Catholicism’s use of human reason, choosing instead to focus on faith alone. Deism, the Novaks suggest, allowed Protestants to incorporate the language of reason during the Enlightenment. Some deists remained Christians, while others would follow the European model of strict rationalism. Washington, as he related the many interventions of his God, clearly believed in a continuously active deity who was more than the detached “clockmaker” of strict deism.

The language of Enlightenment, 18th-century Christianity, especially as employed by refined Tidewater Anglicans, was considerably less flamboyant than what would replace it. During Washington’s final years, the established Anglican and Congregationalist churches of the East Coast were losing market share to revivalist evangelicals. Methodists, and Baptists, with their emphasis on conversion and transformation, would dominate 19th-century America. Their christo-centric language was far more explicit about salvation, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the demand for repentance.

Early fans of Washington, in the wake of his death at the 18th-century’s close, sought to explain the first president’s Christian faith in the language of the new evangelical era. Washington’s own words frequently could not match these demands. So the hagiographers focused on Washington’s self-denial, his courtesy, his reliable church-going, his prayer life, and his ardent sense of duty and providential destiny. Exaggeration of Washington’s faith and character throughout the 19th century was inevitable.

But the 20th-century backlash by increasingly secular historians also went too far. Modern biographers portray Washington as a Roman stoic who performed his religious duties perfunctorily to satisfy the public. The Novaks emphasize that whatever the specifics of the man’s personal faith, he said the same things about God in private as he did in public. He contrasts with Jefferson and Franklin and even Adams, who privately expressed doubts about orthodox understandings of Christ’s deity and the Trinity, even as they attended churches and affirmed Christianity.

NONE OF WASHINGTON’S WRITINGS express any doubts about orthodox Christianity. If he had them, he left them unrecorded or confined to his correspondence with his wife, who burned nearly all their letters on his instructions. Martha was herself indisputably devout in her Christian faith, though she too left few written theological thoughts, in typical Anglican style of the time.

The Washingtons usually attended Pohick Church near Mount Vernon and sometimes Christ Church in Alexandria. Either trip by carriage involved a couple hours of travel round trip. Washington financially supported both churches and gave considerable personal time over the decades to his work on the church vestry. Throughout his presidency he regularly attended churches in New York and Philadelphia.

A few clergy over the years expressed concern that Washington rarely if ever took communion, even though Martha usually did. The Novaks write that this was not unusual for the time, and that the Eucharist was infrequently celebrated in churches of the era, even Roman Catholic ones. Although not noted by the Novaks, 19th-century biographers often disputed claims that Washington never took the Eucharist. Ostensibly, the nearly 100-year-old widow of Alexander Hamilton testified to her clear recollection of kneeling at the communion rail with the president.

Washington’s spiritual life within his family appears to have been conventionally orthodox. He prayed before meals, read sermons out loud to Martha, and bought devotional material for his stepchildren. When stepdaughter Patsy was dying, he prayed audibly while on his knees at her bedside.

Unlike Thomas Jefferson, who sometimes declined to serve as a godparent because of his theological doubts, Washington frequently agreed to the spiritual responsibilities of godparenting for the children of relatives and friends. Interestingly, Jefferson referred to Jesus as the “blessed author of our religion.” As noted above, Washington contrastingly called Jesus the “Divine Author of our religion.”

Washington’s death, as described by secretary Tobias Lear, occurred relatively quickly, painfully, and touchingly for the servants, doctors, and family who tearfully looked on. The absence of clergy during those final hours, and the fact that Lear never ascribed any specific statements of faith to Washington, have reinforced the notion of him as a deist/stoic.

The death at Mount Vernon contrasted with Alexander Hamilton’s several years later. Shot in a duel, the flamboyant former aid to Washington dramatically requested the presence of an Anglican bishop and demanded the Eucharist while professing his faith in Christ.

Washington was a different character, and he died as he lived, with understatement and composure. Martha prayed with her Bible at the bedside while Washington uttered his final words: “Tis well.” Martha responded with the same phrase. “It was a noble death and quite Christian in its entire content,” the Novaks write.

The Novaks also observe that Washington’s taciturnity about religious specifics throughout his life, as on many other issues, allowed him to serve as the indispensable man in whom people of all faiths placed their trust. Washington’s public utterances about God were unifying rather than divisive and were admired by Anglicans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and even Jews. He carefully wrote to their congregations, visited their places of worship, and received their delegations, commending their faith and urging their loyalty to the new republic and its promise of religious liberty to all.

In religion, as in statecraft, Washington set the example that all other presidents would follow in some form. The Novaks insist, not without logic, that a Washington without serious faith could not have managed this so equitably and successfully. They are almost certainly correct.
Source: George Washington’s God

10 George Washington Quotes Pointing to God’s Providence

February 22 marks President George Washington’s 285th birthday. Beloved as the Father of our country, the elements of Washington’s life captivate historians and spectators alike. Visitors can wander the gardens and grounds of his adored Mount Vernon home. Docuseries examine the Washington’s courtship and marriage. Biographies detail the Chief Founding Father’s exemplary military skills, judicious presidency, and morally upright character.

Yet, with so much of Washington’s history preserved and at our fingertips, his religious beliefs are ever-debated.

Many note the lifelong Anglican was indeed a sincere Christian. Others argue Washington was religiously ambivalent while some others say he was a Deist. That is, someone who acknowledges God exists but believes He is detached from the activities of mankind. This faith debate marches on, even as Washington’s own words and materials seem to substantiate a devout, albeit private, confidence in traditional Christian teachings.

Happily I found biographer Peter Lillback’s George Washington’s Sacred Fire on my local library’s bookshelf. Lillback’s research authenticates Washington’s Christian piety by examining everything from the use of a 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church, his incorporation of the Scriptures in his writings, to copious handwritten letters and speeches. The evidence points to an astute leader nurturing religious freedom in a new nation, not rejecting his Savior.

So in honor of George Washington’s birthday, here’s a look at 10 of his quotes recognizing God’s Providence:

1. “The Man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf.”

—Washington’s letter to Samuel Langdon, September 28, 1789

 2. “May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian Oppressors planted them in the promised land—whose Providential Agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent Nation—still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.”

—Letter to the Hebrew congregation of Savannah, Georgia

3. “Glorious indeed has been our Contest: glorious, if we consider the Prize for which we have contended, and glorious in its Issue; but in the midst of our Joys, I hope we shall not forget that, to divine Providence is to be ascribed the Glory and the Praise.”

—Letter to Reverend John Rodgers, June 11, 1783

4. I flatter myself that a superintending Providence is ordering everything for the best, and that, in due time, all will end well.”

—Letter to Landon Carter regarding American patriot’s prisoners in the North, October 27, 1777

5. “It is not a little pleasing, nor less wonderful to contemplate, that after two years Manoeuvring and undergoing the strangest vicissitudes that perhaps ever attended any one contest since the creation both Armies are brought back to the very point they set out from and, that that, which was the offending party in the beginning is now reduced to the use of the spade and pick axe for defense. The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations, but, it will be time enough for me to turn preacher, when my present appointment ceases; and therefore, I shall add no more on the Doctrine of Providence…”

—Private letter to Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778

 6. “What will be the consequences of our Arming for self defense, that Providence, who permits these doings in the Disturbers of Mankind; and who rules and Governs all things, alone can tell. To its all powerful decrees we must submit, whilst we hope that the injustice of our Cause if War, must ensue, will entitle us to its Protection.”

—Letter to Revered Jonathan Boucher, August 15, 1798

 7. “And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly…”

—Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1789

8. “I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would…most graciously be pleas’d to dispose us all to do Justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves, with that Charity, humility & pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion & without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”

—Washington’s Circular Letter to the States, June 8, 1783

 9. “Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought in conducting our fore-fathers to this western world…and above all, that he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory.”

—Washington’s General Orders, November 27, 1779

10. “While I reiterate the professions of my dependence upon Heaven as the source of all public and private blessings; I will observe that the general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs particularly necessary for advancing and conforming the happiness of our country.”

—Answering a letter from the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in the United States, May 1789

Source: 10 George Washington Quotes Pointing to God’s Providence

Weekly Watchman for 02/17/2017

Fake News and Christian Discernment
Charles Spurgeon once rightly said, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” Today, Pastor Randy White joins us to discuss discernment, fake news, and having the correct biblical perspective on our times and how to prepare for the challenging days our nation and church face.

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The Most Important Nation in History
God has brought the nation of Israel back to center stage for the final years of this world before the Lord returns in judgment. Of all the policy decisions President Trump is faced with, none may be more important than how he works with and supports Israel. Joining us to discuss the critical relationship between the U.S. and Israel is Jan Markell of Olive Tree Views.

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Lies, Hypocrisy and Cover-ups from the Left
There can be little doubt that the secular media in our nation on the whole is committed to the Socialist progressive movement, and the days of unbiased reporting of news is a thing of the past. Today we discuss the death of media objectivity; has the final nail been hammered in its coffin?

This morning, Mike and Dave discuss a report on how “climate change” data has been manipulated to advance radical environmentalism, and take a look at the hypocrisy of Senate Democrats in the handling of President Trump’s cabinet nominations. We will also look at the increasing pressure progressives are putting on American businesses to get in line with their agenda.

Plus, is media objectivity dead? Sadly, truth and facts are no longer priorities when political ideology reigns supreme.

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A Lost Generation?
Certainly this generation faces enormous challenges as public education and media have succeeded at indoctrinating many of them into a secular humanist world view. And this generation of younger people will one day lead our nation and our churches; some already are! So how can we help them turn (back) to God instead of away from Him? Religion and Culture expert, Dr. Alex McFarland joins us today to discuss this and other concerns.

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The World Will Hate You, But…
Jesus warned His disciples in John 15 that because the world hated Him, it would also hate all those who believe in and follow Him as well. The times in which we live certainly bear out the truth of Jesus’ warning. But if we are not speaking God’s truth and living out the Bible, people may not know we are Christians.

Led by atheists, LBGTQ activists, a corrupt humanist court system, and a corrupt media, our nation is seeing a steady diet of lawsuits against the free speech of Christian individuals and organizations. Religious freedoms are being redefined.

This morning we cover some recent stories involving the godless push to eradicate biblical Christian morality in America, and we analyze some of the evidence of growing hatred and discrimination against Christians. Our special guest today is Brad Dacus, president of The Pacific Justice Institute.

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Technology, the Church, World Events & Prophecy
It’s vital for true believers to have a solid, biblical Christian worldview and do our best to see people and events with an eternal perspective. Though we were not given a spirit of fear, it’s easy to become anxious or overwhelmed if we focus on this world rather than the Word.

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8 Things North American Believers Can Learn from Believers around the World

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them:

  1. The Bible is precious. We who have multiple copies of the scriptures miss this point. It would do all of us good to spend time with a believer who stays up all night to hear and read the Word of God because he doesn’t have his own copy.
  2. Holiness matters. I’ve been with some believers around the world who lean toward legalism, but seldom have I been with any who are as lax about sin as North Americans tend to be. Global believers often struggle with our brand of non-life changing Christianity.
  3. Worship is more than head-centered. Every culture is different, but I love worshiping with believers who give themselves fully to worship. From the African who jumps when he worships to the Ukrainian who sings with all his might, believers around the world challenge my often- too stoic approach to worship.
  4. Prayer makes a difference. I once stood for two hours praying non-stop with believers in a war-torn part of the world, and they were just getting started. When Christ is genuinely your hope and peace, you understand better the necessity and the value of prayer.
  5. Persecution is real. For many believers, persecution is not just somebody else’s story on a sheet of paper. It’s their story. No article or website can speak the volumes that a believer who’s been faithful under persecution can.
  6. Church membership means something. I’ve talked with local church leaders around the globe who shepherd large networks, and they can tell you much of the spiritual state of each believer. They take seriously the need for accountability and growth among believers.
  7. North American Christianity is not the center of the Christian world. We tend to think we are, simply because our world revolves around us. Many believing groups around the world, though, have longer histories, more followers, and much more to teach us.
  8. Heaven will be really sweet. I already knew that, but thinking about the peoples of the world gathering around the throne is that much more powerful after meeting many of those folks.

Source: 8 Things North American Believers Can Learn from Believers around the World

16 Reasons This Millennial Almost Left the Church

I would have left by the time I reached high school if I’d had that option, but in my house, attendance at my cool, hip, contemporary-worshiping, youth-group-glorifying, theology-eschewing McCongregation was a non-negotiable. So I went. Through every small group fad. Every True Love Waits commitment ceremony. Every rapture-ready dispensationalist Bible study. Every sermon series on how to have a happier marriage, how to control my anger, and why 2 Chronicles 7:14 was obviously about America.

It seems everyone is leaving the church these days.

And quite honestly, I don’t really blame them. I almost left the church myself.

I would have left by the time I reached high school if I’d had that option, but in my house, attendance at my cool, hip, contemporary-worshiping, youth-group-glorifying, theology-eschewing McCongregation was a non-negotiable. So I went. Through every small group fad. Every True Love Waits commitment ceremony. Every rapture-ready dispensationalist Bible study. Every sermon series on how to have a happier marriage, how to control my anger, and why 2 Chronicles 7:14 was obviously about America.

In my mind, no church would have been better than that church.

I still believe that, all these years later.

I almost left in college, too. If it hadn’t been for a wonderfully warm fellowship offering me a generous scholarship for singing in their choir, I’m sure I would have. It had become all too easy to stay in bed. And I didn’t feel like I was missing much, anyway. I didn’t need another youth group experience like you often find in college towns.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know Jesus. In fact, the more I learned about Jesus, the less he seemed to fit in the evangelical culture I grew up in.

If you want to know why Millennials are leaving, there are plenty of Generation X’ers who will answer the question for you in their books, articles, and polls. Honestly, I’ve never found them to be particularly helpful. Statistics never tell the whole story. In fact, the only story they convincingly tell is that, after years of catering to young people, those young people still have no use for the church.

I never really left the church, but I came very, very close. Here’s why.

  1. I almost left because of the silos.A siloed church is not really a church at all. It’s a Christian-themed para-church ministry. And the atmosphere in those silos becomes stagnant and toxic. We all need each other.
  2. I almost left because I didn’t believe a growing church was always a healthy church.
  3. I almost left because the church wasn’t as good at entertaining as it thought it was. If all we’re about is a good performance, we might as well all stay home and watch the Joel Osteen live stream.
  4. I almost left because the life of the mind simply wasn’t taken seriously. Deep thinking doesn’t attract big numbers. Evangelicals have for so long refused to engage deeply in their faith, most of their pastors are unable to do so anymore.

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The post 16 Reasons This Millennial Almost Left the Church appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Observation: Astronomical Growth of “People Control” Laws, Rules and Regulations

In recent years, there has been a rapid proliferation of thousands of new laws, rules, and regulations in America – 99.9% of which you have never heard or been informed of. They are about “people control,” and, in all likelihood, you are in violation of at least a dozen or more right now and don’t even know it. In short, while trying your best to live a simple, law-abiding life as a good citizen – as you always have – you are now most probably a criminal felon facing at some point either heavy fines or possibly even imprisonment. How does it feel to know that you are now (or will soon be) a criminal? Welcome to life in the rapidly emerging American socialist gulag.

Recently, privacy expert Mark Nestmann wrote the following about this trend and what some people are doing to try and protect themselves: Do you own a dog? You could face six months in federal prison if you walk it on federal lands on a leash longer than six feet in length. Do you have a bank account? If you deposit or withdraw more than $10,000 in cash over multiple transactions, you could be imprisoned for up to five years. You could also lose every penny in the account, under the theory it “facilitated” your crime as a “money launderer.” Do you have foreign investments? If you neglect to tell Uncle Sam about them, you could face draconian penalties. Forget to file just one form? You could face a $10,000 penalty per account per year.

There’s no requirement that you know any of these crimes exist for you to be found guilty of violating them. After all, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Given that fact, you might think that Uncle Sam would make it easy to understand exactly what’s legal and what’s not. Think again. In 1790, the first set of federal criminal laws contained a grand total of 20 crimes. Since then, the number of federal crimes listed has grown like a cancer. No one knows how many federal crimes exist, although a 1998 study from the American Bar Association concluded the total was likely “much higher” than 3,000. Today, it would have to exceed 4,000-5,000.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a little-known and poorly understood process that federal agencies undertake to literally make law. In some cases, if you violate an “administrative law” a federal agency creates out of thin air, you can be imprisoned. Indeed, the number of federal regulations carrying criminal penalties may be as high as 300,000. Ponder that number!

(Excerpt from McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, September 2016)

Weekly Watchman for 02/10/2017

Though I Walk Through The Valley

Where hard times are concerned, what are our expectations of this life and of God and are they based on Scripture and justified or are our expectations selfish and focused on this temporary life? No matter what happens, we must remember He if faithful, His word is truth, and God alone is sovereign over all people and events.

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Unashamed: Are We Really Committed Christians?

“Everything is built on our starting point… that God exists, and the Bible is His inspired Word.” Jay Seegert, Plus – will repealing the Johnson Amendment change how pastors preach?

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Choosing to Trust, Obey, and Pray

The Christian life is not just sitting back and letting God do all the work; nor is it trying to accomplish things only God can accomplish. Finding the correct biblical balance in living the Christian life is not always easy. Several times in His Word, God says He will do something once we have done something. But have we taken the time to really understand God’s promises to us and which of them are conditional on us doing something first? Dave Wager of Nicolet Bible Institute joins us to discuss prayer, choices, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibilities.

In our final segment, Mike and Dave look at another example of the “progressive meltdown” in our nation. This time it is over the Super Bowl.

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Berkeley Reflects America as Chaos Drives Politics

Can you really call it a war when only one side seems to be doing most of the fighting? The left are aggressively pushing their agenda across America – immorality, lawlessness, and anything opposed to biblical Christianity – and the troops are advancing through every major institution. This obviously includes academia. They’ve taken control of […]

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Chipping Away at Biblical Morality and the Economy

The Bible clearly speaks to issues such as marriage, sexual perversion, and the devaluing of human life. And there can be little doubt that on the whole, America has decided to set aside God’s laws on these issues and do what appeals to our flesh. We murder unborn children, promote hedonism, hyper-sexuality; we redefine marriage and family, and now euthanasia is being presented as the next “human right.” Advocates of assisted suicide claim they are fighting for the “dignity” of all and of course, for the good of society.

This morning, we cover a story in Minnesota where a mother has been told by a court she has no right to insist that her teenage son dress like a boy, and then the sad story of an American Institution that long stood for character and morality, but caved to political and monetary pressures to allow transgenders: The Boy Scouts.

In our first segment, we check in with Doug Wakefield of Best Minds, Inc. for an economic update. We ask Doug if there is anything the Trump Administration can do to slow down the economic meltdown many are predicting. A few issues include the health care industry and student loan debt.

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Defending Christianity in Modern America

by Michael I. Kaplan

Faithful Christians are under spiritual and physical assault in our modern world, and their challenges are greater than at any other time in recent history.

Hostile religions, anti-faith ideology and politically correct governments are literally trying to destroy Christianity at its core. Concurrently, activists pursuing an anti-God agenda are attempting to rewrite the moral and ethical systems of our Western culture.

The doctrine of the “separation of Church and State” has evolved into “Suppression of Church and Secularism of State,” and contemporary Christians in the Body of Christ appear unprepared to stop the momentum of this movement.

If you were of the world, the world would love its own.

Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you

out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

~ John 15:19 ~

The external challenges faced by Christians aren’t limited to threats outside the faith; factions within the Body of Christ are having negative impacts as well. In a May 2016 interview with the Vatican’s official news publication, La Croix, Pope Francis made the following statement in response to the reporter’s question regarding Islamic terrorism:

Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest (emphasis added).

The Pope, whether intentionally or unintentionally, claims a moral equivalency exists between Christ’s Great Commission and the Islamic Terrorist’s goals of conquering Western culture and establishing an Islamic Caliphate. According to those words, a group of students sharing the Gospel at a university is similar to radicalized men in black hoods, beheading non-believers on international television.

One of the solutions to this dilemma is training Christians in the art and skill of Apologetics. Christian Apologetics (ἀπολογία / apologesia) is a discipline of Christian theology that presents reasoned and evidential arguments for Christianity, defending it against objections. Why should Christians have an interest in this discipline? Because God’s Word, the Bible, commands it…

The Poached Egg ApologeticsFOLLOW THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

Michael I. Kaplan: Defending Christianity in Modern America

Evangelicals and Trump’s Promise to “Destroy” the Johnson Amendment

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At yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Donald Trump said, “I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that. Remember.”

The 1954 amendment introduced by former Senator and President Lyndon B. Johnson bans all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations—which includes churches and parachurch ministries—from endorsing candidates or participating in political campaigns as an institution or risk losing their tax exempt status.

Members of Congress have already moved to introduce legislation reversing the Johnson Amendment. The Free Speech Fairness Act is thought by many conservative lawmakers and Evangelical leaders to be a fair remedy the to free speech infringements imposed by the Johnson Amendment.

“I am grateful to President Trump for raising this issue to prominence over the last year,” responded Dr. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, in a press statement. “For too long the infamous Johnson Amendment has dangled like a sword above the heads of pastors and ministry leaders, chilling their constitutional free speech rights.”

Hernan Castano pastors a minority church affected by a 2014 subpoena by the city of Houston demanding sermons dealing with homosexuality be turned over for review. As the Christian Post reports, Castano also lends his support to President Trump’s promise to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment.

“We need to repeal the Johnson Amendment because I have seen the faces of pastors, not only the pastors of big congregations but the pastors of smaller congregations,” Costano said. “I have seen the fear of their heart holding them back from speaking truth and I have seen them hold back from what will make a difference for their own people because they do not want the doors of their church buildings closed or their 501(c)(3) removed.”

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has previously denounced the Johnson Amendment as a political tool used by secular organizations like the ACLU to “intimidate and silence pastors and churches in addressing the political issues, which often have deeply moral components that face our nation.”

However, Land is cautious in his approach. “I personally don’t believe that churches should be endorsing candidates for office. Instead, we should be looking for candidates that endorse us, our values, our beliefs, our convictions.”

The constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment is debated as a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Exercise clauses as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. As such, Dr. Land believes decisions of political engagement should be “made by the church and the pastor” and “not one that is coerced or mandated by the government.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has argued along the same lines as Land. “While I don’t think a church normally should endorse candidates for office from the pulpit,” stated Moore previously, “Such decisions shouldn’t be dictated by bureaucrats at the IRS or anywhere else. That’s why I support the freedom of speech for churches and pastors, even when they say more or less than what I would say from the pulpit.”

Indeed, I too do not want to see my pastor or church collectively endorse candidates or support particular political campaigns. But yesterday my Methodist colleague Mark Tooley offered historical warnings for why Evangelicals should err on the side of caution in this debate.

Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and a life-long Methodist, offered a fresh reminder that neither American democracy nor American Christianity would be served by politicized churches regularly wading into partisan policy debates. “The institutional church has no historic mandate for routinely engaging in political specifics such as candidate endorsements or backing legislation,” wrote Tooley in an email.

Christian citizens might be called to work in specific areas of politics, that’s true. But if the institutional Church becomes politicized and partisan, Tooley explained it will lose its effectiveness for spreading the Gospel. We need only look at the history of the Mainline Protestant denominations to learn such a vital lesson.

“The sad history of the once predominant Mainline Protestant establishment,” wrote Tooley, “whose fall is partly due to its exchanging the Gospel for politic zeal, should be a warning to us all.”

Source: Evangelicals and Trump’s Promise to “Destroy” the Johnson Amendment

February 3, 2017 This ‘n’ That

  • Here’s an interesting new effort from The Master’s Seminary.
  • I’ve been craving brownies, so if anyone would like to make me a batch of the first chocolate brownies, I would happily take them.
  • Bill Barrick talks about the attributes of godly leaders.
  • The story of Lydia’s conversion is one of my favorites.
  • I found this post by a friend of mine to be so encouraging. God is so wonderfully faithful, isn’t he?
  • Here’s another faithful sermon from Pastor Alan Sherban.
  • So, um, why is my copy not in my mailbox yet? Friends who work at GTY, what have you been doing?
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable.
  • The Bible and tradition in Roman Catholicism.
  • If it’s possible, I am definitely a little too excited for this.
  • I think you’ll find these baptism testimonies to be an encouragement!
  • I may have posted this a few months ago, but it’s worth sharing again:

Source: This ‘n’ That

Weekly Watchman for 02/03/2017

Saul Alinsky Would Be Proud

We discuss the continuing meltdown of the Left, their reaction to Donald Trump’s election, his early policies, and Supreme Court Justice nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Also, last night, hate filled riots broke out at California Berkeley, making Saul Alinsky, Barack Obama, Jim Wallis, the liberal media, and Hillary Clinton (to name a few) proud. Plus, Mike’s commentary.

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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Controversy Within The Southern Baptist Convention
Today, we cover a controversy within The Southern Baptist Convention over the building of a Muslim mosque in New Jersey. A city has not approved the building of this mosque, but the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board has filed an amicus brief with the court supporting a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Muslims. One pastor has resigned from the Mission Board citing a contradiction between the Board’s action and its mission of spreading the gospel.

In our first segment, we check in with Tina Griffin of Counter Culture Mom. Tina will point out some good role models for young people to look up to, and we’ll also talk about the need for Christians to make a statement to Hollywood by boycotting much of what they offer at the box office.

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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Nancy Pelosi: We’re Doing God’s Work
There are many professing Christians who selectively reference the Bible to justify their personal beliefs and worldview; yet they completely ignore the Bible when it contradicts other personal beliefs. This is one form of hypocrisy creeping into the professing church that needs to be addressed.

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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Messing with Our Minds

The Bible warns of a coming one world government and religion so deceptive that if possible, even the elect would be deceived. There are many speculations on what this one world religion will look like. Mike LeMay has written a new book The Death of Christian Thought where he identifies Humanism, self-worship, as this coming one world religion. He also explains that we are being slowly indoctrinated into it every day. In Matthew 7, Jesus warns that many who think they will be going to heaven will instead be cast into eternal separation from God. One reason Mike wrote his book is to address professing Christians to heed Jesus’ words.

Ha also asks some challenging questions about how culture is shaping our thoughts and worldview:

How are we being indoctrinated and who is behind this devious plot?

How can we reject Humanism and stay faithful to God and His Word in these increasingly dangerous times?

Why are a growing number of church fellowships ineffective in sharing the gospel and equipping believers for the work of His kingdom?

And why are an increasing number of Christian couples not enjoying the fruit of strong, healthy marriages such as f love, joy , good communication, mutual submission and peace? These are a few of the questions Mike tackles in his book and we discuss during today’s program.

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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