Discerning Good & Evil

The Book of Hebrews has always been one of my favorites. I’ve been reading it again on my path through the whole Bible. Two passages in chapter four stand out to me, the first reminding me that in a world filled with selfishness, duplicity, and enmity toward God and His ways, He is still the One who sees everything and takes it all into account:

swordFor the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

The first application of any Scripture needs to be personal. I must keep in mind that the Lord is constantly seeing what’s in my heart. He knows my intent in everything I do. In one sense, that’s sobering, but in another, it’s a spur to keep my heart right out of love for Him and all He has done for me.

The second application is to the world in general, in which I can rest in the assurance that He does know the truth about everyone and that, in the end, things will be made right: those who deny Him and His truth and who may seem to be “winning” will have to give an account to Him ultimately for their intent and their actions.

Later in the chapter, there is a challenge to those who say they are His disciples to prove that they are disciples indeed.

good-evilFor though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

The message of that passage? Grow up.

One of the things that is most troubling to me is that so many Christians seem to believe the lies the world tells us, all the way from excuses for sinful behavior in society to the bald-faced untruths emanating from the mouths of politicians eager to puff up themselves as our “saviors.”

Sins as described in the Bible remain sins today regardless of the trends we see around us.

No politician is the answer to our myriad problems. No one should ever say he or she alone can set things right.

God wants to work through us to set things as right as possible in this unsettled and topsy-turvy world, but we must grow up first if we are to make a difference. We can’t stay in the infant seat, wanting all our needs met. We must discern good and evil and be steadfast in our determination to stand for the good.

God’s righteousness in our own lives and in our society must be our twin goals.

David French: A Principled Man

David FrenchDavid French is an outstanding man. Not only is he a constitutional lawyer who has stood firm in defense of religious liberty, but he’s an Iraqi Freedom veteran who won the Bronze Star, is a bestselling author, has a fine Christian testimony, and has a wonderful family that includes an adopted African American daughter.

For the past week, French contemplated an independent run for the presidency simply because conservatives have no real choice in this election. Last night he announced that he would not make that run, for various reasons. I honor that decision, even as I would have honored the opposite decision by voting for him with a clear conscience.

What he left us with, though, was a thoughtful and direct statement of where we are as a nation, given that the presumptive nominees are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. First, French explains why he even considered making the run:

I gave it serious thought — as a pretty darn obscure lawyer, writer, and veteran — only because we live in historic times. Never before have both parties failed so spectacularly, producing two dishonest, deceitful candidates who should be disqualified from running for town council, much less leader of the free world.

If Trump supporters don’t like to hear words like that, they should remember that one of the reasons they say they support Trump is because he “tells it like it is.” Well, French is much better at telling it like it is than Donald Trump.

Having provided the overall perspective on why he considered running, he then zeroed in on those two candidates, beginning with Clinton:

Hillary Clinton lies habitually and changes position on virtually every public issue except for her pro-abortion extremism, and she has a suspicious record of making public decisions that favor donors to the Clinton Foundation. Her signal foreign-policy “achievement” was helping launch a war in Libya that not only cost American lives in Benghazi but also helped transform the nation into ISIS’s latest playpen.

To add to all that, she’s in the middle of an active FBI investigation. If I had handled classified information the way we know she handled classified information, my career would already be over, and the single goal of my life would be persuading the prosecutor to reach a lenient plea bargain.

In other words, Hillary Clinton should be disqualified from the presidential ballot for things that would end other people’s careers. But, of course, she’s a Clinton, so there are different rules for her.

French then laid out some truth about the other party’s nominee:

Donald Trump also lies habitually (sometimes minute by minute), and changes position based on his moods. In one breath he claims to support working men and women, and then with the next breath he threatens to destroy our economy through trade wars or by playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States.

He believes an American judge — a man born in Indiana who spent months hiding from drug cartels after they’d put a “hit” on him – can’t rule on a case involving Trump University because the judge’s parents emigrated from Mexico.

His supporters believe it demonstrates “strength” when he mocks the disabled and bullies women. He has attracted an online racist following that viciously attacks his opponents and their families — including my wife and youngest daughter.

Shoot Him

French then offers some hope for the future:

I believe with all my heart that there is an American movement ready to both resist the corruption, decadence, and dishonesty of the American elite and restore the promise of the American Dream. But that movement may not emerge for some time, and it might emerge only after further heartache and pain.

What this nation needs might not come to fruition immediately, but we should continue to work toward the goal of righteousness. And for those who would demean the efforts to provide an alternative to the two presumptive nominees, French adds,

Let me also say that each person involved in the effort to recruit an independent candidate is a patriot. They are standing strong on principle when the GOP leadership — in lockstep — now marches to Trump’s beat. I admired them before this process began, and I admire them more even now.

Then he takes on the Republican establishment—you know, that entity that Trump presumably abhors:

Last week, Reince Priebus said that those involved in the independent effort were “embarrassing themselves.” But what is more embarrassing? Is it doing your best to defend the nation you love from two people who are unworthy of its highest office? Or is it using your God-given gifts and talents to advance the interests of a man who cares only for himself and who rejects the very values you’ve long claimed to uphold?

He then ends with a personal word and a Reaganesque statement about America’s future:

To those who prayed for me and my family, I’m grateful beyond words. To those who defended my wife and kids from vicious attacks — engaging in a fight you didn’t seek — I’m forever in your debt. To those I’ve disappointed, I’m sorry. It is your devotion and integrity that help keep America great, and I believe you will ultimately prevail.

What a system we have that puts forward a Clinton and a Trump as our choices, but relegates principled men and women to the back burner. We only have ourselves to blame; the voters have made two utterly unqualified people the nominees for the major parties.

I’m not sure I have the same hopes French does for the eventual direction the nation will take, but I would like to think he is correct. I appreciate people like David French whose lives are built on the solid rock of faith in Christ and in the principles that flow from that faith. May that number be multiplied. That’s our only real hope.

If the Foundations Are Destroyed?

I have taught Biblical principles in my courses for the past twenty-seven years. I’ve wanted my students to understand that we must look deeper than outward appearances when we scrutinize historical events.

A principle is a source or origin of anything; it is a general truth, that is, a truth that is so broad and sweeping that many other truths can be considered off-shoots of it.

The idea of general truths that apply to all of society formerly had wide acceptance in America. The key word is formerly. So my goal has been to reintroduce those principles as best I can through my teaching and writing.

FoundationsThat’s why, back in 1993, I published a book based on the principles I teach in the classroom. I’ve revised it a few times along the way.

If the Foundations Are Destroyed: Biblical Principles and Civil Government is a primer on the principles that I believe come out of Scripture and ought to be applied to everything in our society.

The onset of evolutionary philosophy and the pragmatism to which it has given birth have led us to think more in terms of expediency than principle. People sacrifice principles to that which is less troublesome.

Standing on principle can be wearying when no one else seems to care or understand what you are doing. Yet God calls on Christians to make His principles the foundation of all they say and do.

Christians get in trouble when they conform to the world’s thinking and ignore principles. They are tempted not to cause waves, forgetting that the world already is a turbulent place and that men are seeking—whether they realize it or not—for the stability of fixed principles.

America has always had those turbulent times; historians probably understand that better than most. There was a presidential election in 1800 that was quite controversial. Leading up to that election, one man, Jedidiah Morse—a Congregational minister, the compiler of the first American geography book, and father of Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph—preached a sermon that issued the following warning:

Jedidiah MorseOur dangers are of two kinds, those which affect our religion, and those which affect our government. They are, however, so closely allied that they cannot, with propriety, be separated.

The foundations which support the interests of Christianity are also necessary to support a free and equal government like our own.

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness, which mankind now enjoy. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism.

Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.

If that dire warning was applicable in 1799 when Morse preached that sermon, how much more so today?

America may be more bitterly divided now than it has been since the Civil War, and there is no guarantee that Biblical principles will gain the ultimate victory in this earthly realm. But God does reward and protect those who serve Him with a whole heart. He is looking for faithful individuals through whom He can work to make changes.

Jesus asked the best question for our times: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

The book of Hebrews says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That is the kind of faith He seeks; it is the only kind of faith that will make a difference. May it be the faith that He finds.

If you would like to peruse the principles in my book, you can find it at Amazon by clicking here.

My doctoral dissertation was on Noah Webster, widely considered America’s first schoolmaster. His Speller taught generations how to read; his 1828 Dictionary was unique, not only in its being the first produced by an American, but in its Biblical basis. Webster’s illustrations for words included Biblical citations and short homilies on the significance of some key words. His influence in early America was great.

Noah Webster Books

I’m highlighting him today because he offered insight to his generation when it came to choosing political leaders. His words are timeless; they apply to our current situation.

“In selecting men for office,” Webster urged, “let principles be your guide. . . . Look to his character as a man of known principle, of tried integrity, and undoubted ability for the office.”

To ignore lack of principle and integrity in a candidate is to violate the sacred trust given to us as citizens:

When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.

Webster continued: “If rulers are bad men, it is generally the fault of the people.” After all, who puts men of depraved character in office? We can too often be deceived by them, he notes, but often we vote them in simply because they belong to “our” party. Here’s how he framed it:

Noah WebsterThey choose men, not because they are just men, men of religion and integrity, but solely for the sake of supporting a party [emphasis mine]. This is a fruitful source of public evils.

But as surely as there is a God in heaven, who exercises a moral government over the affairs of this world, so certainly will the neglect of the divine command, in the choice of rulers, be followed by bad laws and as bad administration.

I trust you know why I chose to emphasize that one phrase in the quote above.

By 1837, Webster was becoming distraught by what he was seeing in the culture and politics of his nation. He wrote to a friend,

Principles, sir, are becoming corrupt, deeply corrupt; & unless the progress of corruption, & perversion of truth can be arrested, neither liberty nor property will long be secure in this country.

And a great evil is, that men of the first distinction seem, to a great extent, to be ignorant of the real, original causes of our public distresses. Many of our greatest men are making vigorous efforts to remove present evils, but not an effort is made to correct the radical cause of our political calamities.

Webster’s concern in 1837 should be our concern today. Our principles have been corrupted; integrity is discounted; truth is being perverted. Yet we don’t address those fundamental issues. Instead, we rally to someone who either promises free stuff or who pledges to build a wall.

Webster’s prescription for the ills in our society is a return to Biblical principles and integrity of character. I agree with that prescription. That’s why I will never vote for anyone who lacks the very rudiments of those qualities. That’s why I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump.

WebsterNoah Webster was a man of his time, but the ideas he fostered are based on the Book that applies to all men at all times. If you wish to know more about Webster, his views, and his influence during his lifetime, my book, Defining Noah Webster: A Spiritual Biography, is available. You can find it on Amazon right here.

We are faced with virtually no good choice in this coming presidential election, so let’s keep in mind that government is not our savior. There is only one Savior. Our responsibility is to be faithful to Him and maintain our integrity. Stand for righteousness, then stand back and see what God will do.

Obama’s Worldview & the Transformation of America

One’s worldview definitely matters. Take Barack Obama, for example. When he said he wanted to fundamentally transform America, he wasn’t kidding, and his inspiration for that goal is his radical worldview.

I believe that Obama’s vision is fueled by a fury against those he perceives as “oppressors.” He has an undercurrent of anger toward an orthodox Christian understanding of truth and the faith’s stance on morality. In his mind, Christianity provides the foundation of oppression.

That’s why he turns a blind eye to Muslim atrocities; they are an oppressed people simply getting back at a Christian-dominated culture that has unjustly kept them down.

That’s why he has turned morality upside-down, beginning with approval of homosexuality, followed by promotion of same-sex marriage, followed by a focus on transgenderism, leading to his decree that all public schools must allow any student who feels trapped in the wrong gender to use whichever restroom and locker room that student desires.

We Don't Care

Before proceeding, I can already imagine an objection, the tired old claim that Obama is a Christian. Well, using trendy terminology, I would respond that Obama may “self-identify” as a Christian, but his idea of Christian is more aligned with a radical, Marxist liberation theology, which is, at heart, anti-Christian. And his agenda has had the effect of putting long-recognized Christian morality on the defensive, hinting (and in some cases more than hinting) that those who hold to such ancient concepts of morality are rather bigoted and driven by hatred.

No, I don’t accept Obama’s self-identification as a Christian as legitimate.

I have two problems with Obama’s latest decree: the first is moral; the second is constitutional.

There are some people who are genuinely confused over their gender due to genetic disorders of some kind. That’s a purely physical cause, not a moral problem. But the percentage of the population in that situation, according to what I’ve read, at least, is about 3/10 of one per cent. What the Obama agenda requires is that we now reorient our entire society around those individuals.

And we all know his decree will be applied far more generously than that. Anyone who “feels” confused about gender identity will be allowed to use whatever restroom or locker room they choose. It’s a wide open door to sexual abuse; in a supposed move to be “fair” to a hypothetically discriminated-against segment of the population, the rest of the population will be forced to bow to the new morality.

It’s a certain Biblical passage now being manifested before our eyes:

Isaiah 5

Then there’s the constitutional side of things. Where, in that document, does one find the authority for a president—any president—to simply declare what will be the policy for all public schools nationwide?

Where, in fact, in that document, is there any authority whatsoever for the federal government to be involved in education at all?

Shot Constitution

I submit that no matter how long or how deeply one inspects the Constitution, such authority never will be found there. What we are seeing now is perhaps the most dictatorial action, among many other dictatorial actions, that Obama has ever attempted.

This is a clear case where states have all constitutional authority to rise up and say, “This will not happen here.” I applaud those state leaders who have spoken up already and sincerely hope more will join the chorus in the coming days.

We are supposed to be a nation operating by the rule of law, not by the whims of one man—and his party—who seeks to destroy all semblance of the rule of law.

We are a country at a serious crossroads right now. Is Biblical morality to be forever banished from our public policy? Are we finally going to kill whatever is left of our Constitution and give it a decent burial?

Or are we going to stand up for Biblical truth?

Answers to those questions are still forthcoming.

Trump, Principles, & Conscience

When I first began this blog eight years ago, it didn’t take me long to decide on a title. My life and teaching have always focused on Biblical principles. My desire was to share those principles and to apply them to what we experience in this trek through a sinful world. That’s how the name “Pondering Principles” came about.

With that name, though, came a deep responsibility to remain true to the principles I believe the Lord has ordained. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say right now with respect to the upcoming presidential contest. What I’m going to say will not sit well with many, but I will say it because it comes from that commitment I made to speak and write from those principles.

I’ve always voted Republican, no matter how much I’ve disagreed with the chosen nominee for president. Despite some misgivings over George Bush, I believed he was a good man, trying to do what was right. The John Kerry alternative gave me nightmares.

When John McCain got the nomination, I sighed and dutifully fell in line because I knew Barack Obama would be the most radical president in American history and would attempt to undo every constitutional precept that he could. At least McCain had shown remarkable courage as a POW and could be counted on for some conservative policies. There really was no comparison between the candidates.

Mitt Romney was, for me, a step further away from genuine Republican principles. After all, it was his health plan in Massachusetts that provided the blueprint for Obamacare. Neither had he been solidly pro-life. But the alternative, of course, was another four years of Obama, and I did believe Romney was a decent man who could be prodded in the right direction by conservatives in the party.

Now, in 2016, I don’t have a decent man to vote for on the Republican side. And that’s really what it comes down to for me. I have a lot of reasons to decide not to vote for Donald Trump, but the most basic one is that I see him as a totally despicable human being who may do irreparable harm to both the Republican party and the nation.

Please stay with me.

For those of you supporting Trump because he is an outsider, consider his personal history. He has been on the inside his entire life, using all his political connections for personal gain, often to the detriment of others. This is something he and Hillary Clinton have in common: they have used the system cynically and corruptly for their own advancement.

Crony Capitalists

Clinton’s corruption is clearly seen in multiple ways, but the investigation into the use of a personal e-mail server and the funneling of funds through the Clinton Foundation are the real icing on this half-baked cake.

Trump’s corruption is in how he has bilked people over the years (interesting, isn’t it, that the trial for the fake Trump University has now been delayed until late November), how he has attempted to use eminent domain to take private property away from an elderly lady to use for his own purposes, and how he has cleverly used the bankruptcy laws to stay on top while throwing others out of work.

Yes, they are a dynamic duo.

Bratman

On policy, he is all over the place, promising whatever will get votes. Now that he has the nomination all but sewed up, he’s tacking clearly to the left, saying he wants to get the Bernie Sanders voters.

This is our Republican nominee?

He claims to be pro-life now, but has always supported abortion, even the infanticide of partial-birth abortion. Even now, he hasn’t really opposed Planned Parenthood. It pains me to read of some pro-life leaders now being swayed into the illusion that he won’t be that bad on this issue after all.

I could go on about all his other “policies,” but the real issue for me is Trump’s character.

Unlike some people who only glance at headlines, I am a student of politics and government and the connection with character. I’ve watched Trump carefully for the past year, hardly believing what I’ve seen.

He has no dignity. His main avenue for personal opinion is insulting tweets. He has mocked and ridiculed his fellow candidates mercilessly. He is beyond rude; he is an arrogant, condescending, unprincipled mess of a man.

He is the classic spoiled child who never grew up. Putting him at the head of this nation, in my view, would be tantamount to elevating into power someone with the emotional maturity of a third-grader.

The planted fake story in the National Enquirer about Ted Cruz being an unfaithful husband is ironic, given Trump’s blatant immorality. The photo he used of Heidi Cruz is what a middle-school guy might do in a pique of adolescent rage.

And then there are the conspiracy theories he seems to delight in: Obama’s birth certificate (sorry, but I never bought into that one, as much as I would have liked to); George Bush somehow behind 9/11 and deliberately lying to get us into a war with Iraq; Cruz’s father as a co-conspirator in the JFK assassination.

Really, Republicans? This is your standard-bearer?

And after all of this, you call upon me to support this man for the sake of unity?

Time for Unity

And then you have the nerve to lecture me that if I don’t vote for this awful person, I am, in effect, casting a vote for Hillary?

A vote is a vote for something or someone. If I cast a vote for Donald Trump, I am saying I am for an unrepentant serial adulterer (possibly a rapist—that accusation is out there and not too hard to believe) who has always championed leftist causes with his donations, and who, even now, is pulling the wool over the eyes of his starry-eyed minions.

No, I cannot do this.

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I place the blame on those who ignorantly raised this reality-TV “star” into a credible candidate when the joke of his candidacy should have been apparent to all. Those of us who sounded the alarm all along are not the ones who deserve the blame for his ascendancy.

Many Republicans are now falling in line with the reality of a Trump nomination. They are dutifully remaining loyal to the party.

Next Trick

I will not put party loyalty above principle. In the end, I don’t give an account to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, or Trump supporters who will try to convince me to change my mind.

In the end, I give an account to God only, and my conscience must be clear before Him.

There are people I love and respect who will disagree with me today. That doesn’t alter my love and respect for you.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you by voting for Trump, that is your decision. But please don’t call on me to violate my conscience. I simply won’t do it.

The Republican Obituary

I toyed with the idea this morning of writing nothing but Scripture passages. I will get to those, but I have to say a few words as well.

The Republican voters (and for the sake of brevity, I’ll just assume most were Republicans) have decided that a man who rejects nearly every line in past Republican platforms will be their nominee for president.

Republican voters have concluded that morality, integrity, the rule of law, and the Constitution must be discarded in their headlong dash into an angry reaction against all politicians, even someone like Ted Cruz who has fought the good fight for Biblical and constitutional principles all his life.

In doing so, they have brought this nation to the brink of near-total collapse. No matter who wins in the fall, Republican or Democrat, Christian values will be subjected to even greater governmental suppression. No matter how Trump fares in the general election, the very fact of his nomination is a dismal indication that whatever honor and principle remained in the Republican party is now in the past.

This photoshop going around this morning may be accurate:

Republican Tombstone

Resurrection of the Republican party depends on whether it comes to its senses once this debacle is over. Until then, while I will vote for good Republicans down the ticket, I will not associate myself with the man at the top of the ticket. I am now publicly declaring my political independence from the Republican party.

I’ve always said to Republican groups when I’ve spoken to them that I am first a Christian, second a constitutionalist, and third a Republican—and that I will remain a Republican only as long as the party remains true to my first two identities.

The voices have already begun: but if you don’t vote for Trump, that’s a vote for Hillary. I reject that argument, but I won’t address it today. There will be plenty of time in the coming days to explain why I cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump.

For now, I’ve been directed, I trust this is by God, to certain Scriptures that, to me, describe our current situation. In II Thessalonians, chapter 2, in the context of what will occur in the endtimes, the apostle Paul explains that many will be willingly deceived, and he ends with these words:

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

I honestly believe that many have been deceived by Trump. I don’t think this verse applies to Trump specifically, so don’t misunderstand my point. But there is a principle here that does apply. When people are so willing to believe a lie, God allows them to follow their own evil hearts into destruction.

The bigger problem, of course, is that the rest of us are dragged down with them into the consequences of their foolishness.

We’re also admonished in the third chapter of II Timothy,

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers . . . ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.

I look at that list and see the man who is now the presumptive nominee for the Republicans. His lifestyle is pretty much drawn from this description. And you are telling me I am supposed to vote for him? I will instead take the instruction of that final sentence: avoid such men as these.

Finally, I go to Romans, chapter 1, where in a passage the deals directly with the sin of homosexuality (yes, I said sin, so I might expect some societal blowback for that), Paul then goes on to say,

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; . . . strife, deceit, malice . . . insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil . . . without understanding, untrustworthy. . . . And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Are we really at that point in our society? It’s no cliché to say that we need to pray now more than ever. Our only hope is to cry out for God’s mercy. Consequences will come first, but we hold out for mercy in the end if enough people awaken to the truth and realize we are on the path to destruction.

This hasn’t been a very uplifting post today. There are times for messages of warning and judgment. This is one of those times.