Truth and Consequences

I continue to be troubled by the death of Otto Warmbier.  Perhaps it is because I have a son who is equally adventurous, and perhaps he was as reckless at 22.  It may be because I am writing a book these days on the Communist treachery that destroyed millions of innocent people in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.   I don’t know why I am so troubled by the death of a child I never met, but I have wakened up in the night gripped by the horror of it.

Journalists of all stripes have wanted to explain the why without crossing the line of respect for the deep grief of a promising life snuffed out.  Some have dared to say he was foolish for going to North Korea…perhaps.  His parents should have had tighter rein…maybe…President Obama should have done more to get him out…yes.  These do not address the tragedy too late to resolve.

If some good could come out of a loss so great, it could be that a million parents would awaken to the fact that our institution of education failed Otto Warmbier.  And the lack of truth and understanding killed him.  Our children are being lied to.  Ask your high school senior, and they will quote this party line:  Godless, atheistic Communism is just another form of government morally equal to our own.  Government can provide community and a social order where there is no poverty.  Equality means that those who work and are extremely gifted to produce must be equal with those who are unwilling and incompetent.  Don’t keep score.  Keep the economic outcome for the masses equal.  America has oppressed the world because she became too prosperous.  Karl Marx declared that dictatorship was necessary to have a classless society.  Mass murder is justified for the greater good.  Religion must be wiped out to give government absolute authority.  Morality is completely situational, relative, and defined by government.

The evil of communism speaks for itself, but our children have been taught nothing about its dangers.  The Black Book of Communism should be required reading for every College freshman.  The grisly details of death and destruction leave the reader punched in the gut.  Communism in the 20th century is a story of deliberate starvation, forced labor camps, deportation to certain death, lethal medical experiments, and gas chambers, firing squads, and thousands buried alive in mass graves.

  • 65 million in the Peoples Republic of China
  • 20 million in the Soviet Union
  • 2 million in Cambodia
  • 2 million in North Korea
  • 7 million in Ethiopia
  • 5 million in Afghanistan
  • 1 million in the Eastern Bloc
  • 1 million in Vietnam
  • 150,000 in Latin America

One thing is certain.  Otto Warmbier did not expect a brutal communist government to act like a brutal communist government.  I have children and grandchildren for whom it is not too late.  Otto’s death has strengthened my resolve to proclaim the historic evidence that America’s foundation, based on the principles of the Old and New Testaments, has brought us prosperity, liberty, and justice.  Is there corruption, and abuse of power?  You betcha.  But you are blind to it without the truth of where we began, and you have no solutions if the siren song of Communism is ringing in the ears of our children in the murky halls of American education.

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I See, God Is Good

And God said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee.  Exodus 33:19.

So, where is the goodness of God, you tired and despondent soul?  It is right in front of your face!  God personalized this promise for me this morning—I’m sure I was not able to catch most of His revelation; but His goodness passed before my very eyes, and the rest of life is like the tiny periwinkles buried and safe when a giant wave washes over white sand and rests in full tropical sun.

I am washed over with the goodness of God that He passes before me to observe, to experience, and to taste.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Psalm 34:8.  Those words have hung on my wall for many months.  Today they hang in my heart.  Let me tell you what I saw, and experienced, and tasted as God passed His goodness before me this morning.

God is good because He has no unanswered questions.  David wrote, “Great is our Lord, and of great power:  His understanding is infinite.  (Psalm 147:5)  I always loved to sing with my tiny children, “He’s got the whole world…in His hands…”  because you can make up an infinite number of verses to sing.  What does God have in His hands, I would ask, and whatever they said, that was the next verse!  He has puppies and toys and dirt and grandma, all in His hands at the same time, and I was always surprised at what my children pointed out in song in the hands of God!  God knew me in my mother’s womb, and in His infinite understanding, He has guided my life from generation to generation.  How could I worry about my children when God’s understanding of them is infinite?  Whatever concerns me, absolutely everything that concerns me, my good and powerful God walks with me through it, and His understanding of what is really going on means I have nothing to worry or fear.  All is well.  ALL is well.

Next God showed me how His goodness has led me to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Because God is good, I can pray the prayer as often as needed, “I’m sorry I really messed up.”  I would love to be right, and smarter, and better; but I need to leave those things to God, because I experience His great goodness in forgiveness.  When I need to repent, I feel restless and confused.  Something isn’t quite right, and sin has blinded me somewhere.  I have to find that thing.  I have to bring it to God.  I can’t bear the weight of wrong on my own shoulders.  God has forgiven me, and that awful guilt that makes me wander is gone.  Forgetting those things which are behind, I press towards the goodness of my God who receives me and loves me through failure.

Next God showed me how His goodness has given me a sense of belonging.  Sometimes I am a little envious of happy couples growing old together.  God sets the solitary in families, and I have been thoroughly placed where I cannot feel alone.  Thank God for grandchildren who invade my house and march inconveniently into my schedule.  Thank God for a small group who overlooks my high maintenance and genuinely cares about what I care about.  I am grateful that I belong to God, like a sheep lying down in green grass, bathed in the goodness and mercy of God that follows me all the days of my life, especially today—the day I really need to know God is good.

Just as God displayed His goodness right to Moses’ face, He desires to show you today just how good He is.  Will you taste and see?  Will you let go of your restless pride, and your awful loneliness and join God’s family at the banqueting table of God’s goodness?  I see Him!  He is soooo  good!!

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Sin Is Hard

To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:  But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;  But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:  For there is no respect of persons with God.   Romans 2:7-11

I lead a rather sheltered life, cloistered among church friends and family; so one of the reasons I like being a landlord is I meet people who are very different from me, and live a life that is guided by values and ideas very foreign to me.  I have just spent a month working on a property that required hundreds of grueling hours fixing holes in the walls, repairing broken doors and cabinets, and cleaning filth I will spare you from describing—and this after a miserable and very costly eviction.  My children sometimes ask me how I deal with being robbed and wronged by the occasional person who takes advantage of me.  It is because, though it appears I am the one taking the hit for their reckless lifestyle, the fact remains that the way of the transgressor is hard.

Paul describes a simple way of life in Romans 2—patient continuance in well-doing.  It seems too simple.  Surely God requires more than to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly; yet for those who get up every morning with a heart turned towards serving the One who loves them, there is glory, and honor and peace.  I love to think about the fact that as a child of God, He would honor me.  Honor is an incredible blessing that changes all of life.  To be honored is to be accepted completely as His beloved.  I hear God singing over me, (Zephaniah 3:17) delighting in me (Psalm 149:4), ordering my steps (Psalm 37:23), and withholding NO good thing from my life (Psalm 84:11).  My life is far from spectacular or unusual; I guess I would describe it as…well…patient continuance in well-doing.  I want to please my Father.  And I am lavished with supernatural glory and honor and peace just as Paul declared it would be.

These contentious people I would be tempted to punch in the nose should the opportunity arise (I’m safe—in twelve years of landlording the opportunity has never come) are living a very hard life, primarily because they live under the awful indignation of Almighty God.  Tribulation and anguish stir in their souls in the night.  I shudder for their pitiful condition as they run headlong into eternal destruction, both in this life, and in the life to come.  Sometimes Christians mistakenly believe that everyone lives pretty much the same life here with the same opportunities and the same trials, and the reward follows death.  If you live in the world with people who do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, you would know that is not true.  The evil heart of man will make him a slave to God, or he will be a slave to sin.  Living under the shadow of God’s indignation for the suffering he inflicts on others, for the covetousness, selfishness, lying, and impenetrable pride, he pays a monstrous price every day.  His world is dark, restless, and sometimes hopeless.  He runs harder, but lacks direction, and finds himself unfulfilled and injured by the very things he thought would bring pleasure.  He is blind to the truth, and there is no remedy for his pathetic state.  God gently calls to him with a sunrise.  Though he deserves that punch in the nose, God responds to him with gentleness, longsuffering, and the riches of His goodness (Romans 2:4).  If only he could know the joy of forgiveness.  It makes me want to shout, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile! (Psalm 32)  Hey, that’s me!  I’m the blessed one!

Today, I am praying for wisdom, to make wiser choices for tenants in a business that has blessed my family, and belongs completely to God.  I am thankful that God has ordered my steps.  I am distracted by writing, so I will refocus.  I hear my Beloved, and my deepest delight is to answer His call.



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Timothy’s Prayer for Kings

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.  I Timothy 2:1-3

Today, I will pray as You have exhorted us to pray in I Timothy.  You resist the proud, but give grace to the humble.  Help me to pray for my nation with a humble spirit.  Lord, I know that you ordained civil government to restrain evil and for the good of Your people.  Though our president and many members of Congress and the courts are enemies of Christ, and have brought economic persecution upon some, I pray for their good, which will come through knowledge and understanding of truth and peace.  I pray for their welfare, for their families, and for their prosperity.  As you promised the captives of Babylon, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof ye shall have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Forgive me for my lack of prayer for our magistrates, simply because I vehemently disagree with them.  I pray for Mayor Fisher today, and for the peace of Louisville.  I pray that you would prosper him, and bless him.  Give him direction and favor to lead our city to protect and provide for its citizens.  I give You thanks for a city in which I can conduct business and care for my family, and for those who care for Louisville and make it possible for me to lead a quiet and peaceful life.

Lord, I confess to you that my prayers for America’s government have often been “praying amiss, that I might consume it upon my own lusts” (James 4:3).  I understand, God, that my prayers for government have often been motivated by my personal gain, and this is not acceptable to you.  I have prayed for Christian preference, and honor and power to be given to those who honor and prefer You.  You have allowed those to rise to positions of authority in government for both the good and the judgment of Your people.  We receive Your discipline, and Your exhortation; may the hearts of our leaders, and those soon to be elected, be bent toward Your perfect will for our nation.  I ask that Christians be able to lead a quiet and peaceful life, not grasping for recognition as the “ones who are right,” or the “ones who are truly good.”  There are none righteous in your sight.  I pray only that Your glory and Your great compassion and goodness, upon the just and upon the unjust, be manifestly visible in this election.

Let me fulfill my duty of godliness, in giving my devotion wholly to You; and my duty of honesty, in conducting my business for the good of all men.  I desire only to do what is good and acceptable in Your sight.

I repent for my lack of prayer for our nation.  I see the difficulties and snares that fame and power have brought to those who would seek our highest office in America, and I mourn for those who have been publicly humiliated for their failures.  May they know the compassion of a forgiving God today.  May we never revel in the downfall of one for whom You died.  Help us to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking guile (Psalm 34) as we approach the very sober and holy day of November 8th.  And I ask that You, my Lord, in Your great mercy, would give us leaders who fear God, not that we might receive exclusive honor and favor, but that You, God would be known for Your greatness in all the earth.



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A Corporate Prayer for America

Lord, in this season of difficulty and danger, we submit ourselves to you in humiliation, fasting and prayer for our nation.  We acknowledge that the prosperity of our nation is the result of men and women two centuries ago, who willingly submitted their lives to almighty God as a matter of duty in their integrity, their marriages, their businesses, and their investments in America.  Lord, we acknowledge that your judgments against the prevalent iniquity in America are just, and You are calling us to repentance and reformation.  Our personal lives are compromised by selfishness and pride, by gluttony and ungodly entertainment.  Our marriages are broken and no longer reflect Christ and His church in honor and love.  We have allowed our children to be falsely educated in a godless system, and have not protected the unborn.  We have enslaved the poor with broken systems of aid rather than creating opportunity for significance and creative work.  We have shifted our economics from production to debt in defiance of your commands to owe no man, and have become slaves as you warned us:  the borrower is servant to the lender.  We have failed to take our rightful place in elected offices even as advisers at the city gates, and tenders of your vineyard in the world You love.

For these failures of duty we ask for forgiveness and mercy.  We repent and turn from our neglect and rebellion, and if you will lead us once again, we shall reign upon the earth as you have promised.  We worship you as the one who has prevailed, and stand in the gap as your heirs of the kingdom.  May your will be done once again in this One Nation Under God.

I pray specifically for our broken institutions—our homes that they might be pure and undefiled, our businesses  that they would prosper and demonstrate your demands for integrity; our schools, that our children would learn to fear God, to love his precepts, and to understand His ways; our system of food and health, that we might care for our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit and esteem the words of Your mouth more than our necessary food; our legal system, that justice and truth would reign in Congress, in the supreme Court, in our federal and state court systems, in our family courts, with our state governors and assemblies, and with city governments.  Lord call Your people to restore the integrity lost in our legal system.

We pray for President Obama, for Governor Bevin, for our Kentucky legislature, and for the town councils and school boards of Jefferson County.  I pray for prisoners to be reached with the gospel, and for the foster care children, the homeless and handicapped to be cared for and restored through us Your people.   I pray that Louisville would never be divided East and West, black and white, Christian and Muslim, rich and poor, young and old, capable and used.  May the people of New Life Church be clay in your hands to remold our city into a social order that honors our God with justice and mercy.

Thank you God that you are shaking the things that are made, that those eternal things which cannot be shaken may remain in our lives, and in our hearts.  And as President John Adams prayed, that the principles of integrity and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every citizen; and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion, may once again be speedily extended from America to all the nations of the earth.

In the power and the name of Jesus Christ,


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Joining the Church in Fasting

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. Ezra 8:21

Ezra is leading the people who have spent their lives in captivity in Babylon, greatly influenced by the culture around them. Their children were born there, and had no first hand memory of worshipping the One True God. Ezra stopped to humble himself and to seek God. They needed Him, and more than that, they needed to know their need of Him, and the right way He had planned for each generation. Even after a generation of captivity in Babylon, Ezra declared God had a right way for them, and He would show them that way if they would pray and fast.

I believe the same is true for us, who are in very similar circumstances in our nation in crisis. And that is why I have decided to join Crestwood Baptist Church in their call to fast and pray for our nation on November 5-7. Frankly, I have seldom joined a church wide fast before. They are usually called for in January, and at a time when the sun is so scarce, I find myself much more susceptible to illness, and I struggle with depression and low energy. It is a difficult time to take care of my business, which involves work both outdoors and indoors, and there is added stress in just getting around in bad weather. Poor excuses? Maybe so. But there is more.

Now I understand why I and 85 percent of the population either never attempt, or fail at fasting. Eating three meals a day of concentrated sugar and processed foods overloads the pancreas, and sets the body in constant insulin load. A healthy body will burn the carbohydrates and sugars consumed, and easily switch over to fat burning for energy. Not so with a body that has been taxed for years with the Standard American Diet. Our sugar cravings become irresistible, and instead of fulfilling the purpose of fasting–to humble ourselves before God and concentrate on hearing from Him–we are consumed with hunger, fatigue, and a physiological need for processed sugar, which many studies show is more addicting than cocaine.

John Calvin said of fasting, “ for want of knowing its usefulness, we undervalue its necessity.” Yes, fasting is necessary.  Our nation is in crisis, and fasting is clearly a scriptural method for finding an answer. America used to be able to depend on its president to call for national prayer and fasting in a crisis! Now we must depend on Christians who love America and are willing to intercede.

If you are willing, but share in the struggle, I have a suggestion for myself and for you: the 18-hour fast. Choose a six hour window, where you will eat healthy one ingredient foods–lean meat, fruits and vegetables, and fats such avocados, butter, coconut oil or olive oil. Eliminate all sugar and grains (breads, potatoes, corn, rice), to minimize your body’s demands for sugars, and during your 18 hours of fasting, set aside an hour to seek the Lord and intercede for America. My six-hour window will be between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The rest of my day and night, I have committed to seeking God, confession, and intercession. I hope that most of the adults at Crestwood Baptist will join Pastor Donnie Patrick’s call to seek God for our nation, and I pray that the call will reach beyond one church to our city, our state, and our One Nation Under God. Will you join us?

You can visit our video invitation at

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The Sun Is Rising

The Light of Sunrise

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  II Corinthians 4:6

For the past three weeks, I have watched the equatorial sun rise over Lake Victoria each morning in Uganda.  I love the sunrise.  I love morning.  I love light that is natural and life and health-giving.  And though I am grateful to be home, I missed the sunrise this morning, and the monkeys who follow shortly thereafter for a banana breakfast.  It’s no wonder that pagans worship the sun rather than the God who made it.  James, the Lord’s brother, calls God the “Father of lights,” and John simply says, “God is light.”

So I am captured this morning by the comparison in II Corinthians 4:6—God creating light on the very first day of creation, and the light that shines in our hearts to give us knowledge of God.   Paul demonstrates to the Corinthians and to us that God has this creative process that He has been using since the beginning of time.  It begins with complete darkness—no way to move around, no way to be safe, no way for life to exist.  Then God gives the command, and suddenly the world is full of light.  Wild banana trees grow along the red dirt roads.  Bright fuchsia flowers adorn the hillside drinking in God’s light.  A lizard darts across the balcony and jumps to the green fig leaves where he will wait for breakfast.  The shimmering water of Lake Victoria stretches to the horizon, and testifies that light is greater than mere human comprehension. Light has changed literally everything.

Paul says that same Light has quite another function.  Though one cannot imagine greater magnificence than the light that shines into the world’s darkness, my wonder increases when that light that bursts all walls of blackness shines into my heart.  That light opened my eyes to see the love of God, the protection of the Father, the provision of a Husband, the longsuffering and forgiveness of a Savior.  It was all in the face of Jesus Christ.  That light revealed to me that death is merely a pause in the path to eternal life.  That light provided a way of significance where God instructs me daily to walk.

And just as the light in Uganda changed the entire world from black nothingness to incomprehensible life, so the light of the knowledge of the glory of God has shined into my heart to change who I am and where I am going.  It is the same light, shining into the world, and simultaneously shining into me.  Every day, the sunrise is a call to open your eyes to the glory of God.  But if you really want that knowledge, it cannot be found by experiencing a captivating sunrise at the equator, as magnificent as that is.  The fullness of light is experienced best when my heart is open to the Inner Voice of revelation—the love of God that is beyond knowledge.  I want to walk in the fullness of God today—the sunrise not so captivating; but the light that shines in my heart is bigger, and louder, and more comforting than it has ever been.

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