Category: Personal

How Credible is the Prophetic Today?

Tattered US Flag   How do you feel about the operation of the prophetic in the Church today? As a Biblical ministry I accept it; but I tend to be a bit more skeptical when I hear someone claim they’ve received a divine word foretelling a specific future event. Such was my attitude when a former co-worker friend emailed me an audio interview by a Christian website of a previously unknown “prophet” concerning a purported five-year-old revelation about the 2016 Election. While I felt I owed it to my friend to at least listen to the premise of the prophesy, I expected to reject it well before its conclusion. Instead, at about the fifteen minute mark of the interview, I was reminded of a “vision” that a church friend of mine claimed he received while attending a 1997 Promise Keepers conference on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

I heard my church friend describe his ’97 experience first in 2008 and a few times thereafter. In this “vision” (a term I use loosely) he described being transported into the spirit realm where the hubbub of the thousands of men around him was briefly blocked out so he could clearly hear the audible voice of God. And that voice said, in essence: “I have not forgotten the United States, neither its missionary works nor its global generosity. For this reason America’s best days are yet ahead.” As America’s economy, morality and global influence have steadily declined over the past decade, my propensity to accept such an incredible word as divine revelation has followed a similar path. Many times I’ve asked myself, “How could America’s best days ever be ahead? If anything, the signs seem to indicate that judgment of our nation is at hand.”

 Yet, as I listened to this ten-year-medically-homebound and previously unknown retired firefighter named Mark Taylor discuss with TRU News founder Rick Wiles the 2011 “revelation,” I sensed that God was connecting the dots between the various messages He’s been revealing to His people across this great nation – to give us hope in very trying times.  I encourage you to make the effort to listen with an open mind to at least the first half of this hour-long interview. https://youtu.be/tqwFWD_Htfo

As I reminded some FaceBook friends a couple days ago, I’m sure that the people of Israel were similarly skeptical when advised that the most likely candidates to be used by God for their nation’s restoration at their respective times in history were the worldly King Cyrus or the loud and boisterous King Nebuchadnezzar. And yet!!!

Let NO Offense determine YOUR Attitude

   One who is offended by another’s assessment of their life choices indicates a degree of insecurity in those choices. In contrast, anyone who is truly confident in their choices and beliefs, their conscience will insulate from even the harshest of words. A snapshot of my life reveals a series of career and life choices that many in modern culture, the media and even my old circle of friends today publicly revile: lawyer, government employee, executive in the military-industrial complex, political and social conservative and Christian. I’ve been unfriended occasionally on social media, but have never unfriended anyone. I feel that every individual deserves respect and a fair hearing on their beliefs, if they choose to share them.

But we live in a society that’s much different than the one I knew as a child and young man. My home was a safe place – but the outside world (my neighborhood, my school, my places of employment) all were jungles that I had to learn to deal with or be labeled a mama’s boy. Today society tries to over-protect young people (with the odd exception of the most innocent of all, the unborn child), and demands the creation of “safe zones,” castigating anyone who violates those zones. The result: a society of new entrants into the adult population easily offended and unable to deal with even the most basic of challenges that life will inevitably throw their way.

This is evidenced every day across social media. The adult world is not as nurturing as the one that protected these young people in the classroom, so when they freely express their views about life in the public domain, expecting others will agree with them, they get a rude awakening. Few know how to respectfully respond to those who hold contrary opinions nor how to deal with even the most modest critiques of their own life choices and beliefs.

Whatever a person’s beliefs and choices, if sincerely held, there’s no reason to be offended by another who professes a contrary opinion, and there’s no need to justify yours to them – though plenty of valid reasons to explain them.

Iron sharpens Iron

Most Saturday mornings I join fifteen to twenty-five other men in our church lobby to share what’s going on in each of our lives and to uplift our brothers.  We encourage each other, provide God’s counsel and share God’s solutions to the natural challenges we each face. None of us ever know what to expect when we enter that room at 7:00 am; but experience has taught us that over the next hour and a half each of us will receive one or more words of wisdom that will be apropos to our unique life situation.

This week was no different. As we talked in general about relationship issues, an elder gentleman reminded us that in especially close relationships (husband to wife, parent to child, even good friend to good friend), when we perceive a problem, the human tendency is to want to “teach” the other. This is usually not a good idea! For words of admonishment to loved-ones are often less effective and potentially more combative than simply demonstrating by one’s own life the lesson we hope to convey. I found this word though simple, to be invaluable.

Something in the make-up of women seems to make it natural for them to form and maintain close bonds with other women that allow them to expose their frailties and concerns about life and its challenges and to ask for guidance. But men need those special bonds with other men as well. We need a trusted core of like-minded brothers with whom we can share our trials and seek and obtain good counsel and to whom we are accountable for our actions. Wise old Solomon clearly understood this principle when he said: “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

Some in this community of encouragers and advisors have been serving this need for twenty-four years now. It might seem like it takes a lot of commitment to show up at 7:00 am on the only morning that many men have to sleep in. However, to me personally, it’s been not only well worth the cost, but it’s been a necessity. I encourage every man I talk with to join us. If you’re not a part of such a community you need to join one. And if you don’t know of one in your area, you need to form one.

Resolutions for 2016 and beyond

New Years Resolutions   I’ve never been a beginning-of-the-New-Year resolution-maker. I’ve always felt you ought to do what you ought to do and not have to resolve each new year to become the person you should have been in the first place. But in these my sunset years perhaps there are some substantive attitudes and behaviors worth resolving to adhere to, not just for 2016 but for a lifetime. Therefore I welcome my friends and family to challenge me should I allow to lapse or sway from any of those listed below.

  1. I will use my time wisely. I will not “spend” it – rather I will “invest” it where it will produce the greatest fruit.
  2. I will seek direction from and be guided by the One who knows me and my unique needs and talents and Who is able and willing to do so.
  3. I will stay true to the Word of God and remain confident in His Promises. I will not be swayed by any of the multitude of cultural, political or religious forces that surround and tug at me.
  4. I will use my words to lift up and not deflate. We all need to be reminded occasionally that we are not failures simply because we have failed – we are only failures if we give up.
  5. I will encourage others to seek a God-solution to their problems, questions and needs.
  6. I will strive to shine a spotlight on the enemy: his finesse and subtlety, his deceptive tactics and his destructive nature.

A Year in Review – 2015

For me, 2015 has been an accumulation of blessings. Here are my top 15.

Blessings

  1. Blessed with a beautiful supportive wife – Sandy loved, honored, and encouraged me daily.
  2. Blessed with three wonderful and bright children – Jean, Ken and Steve each in their unique way showed their love and respect for their parents. Though we may be on varying paths politically, culturally, even spiritually, we tolerated and lifted each other up.
  3. Blessed with the almost-daily opportunity to minister into the lives of each of my grandchildren. I’ve witnessed first-hand Nick’s ever-increasing victories over life’s challenges, Lawson’s and Leah’s maturation in sports, music, the arts and dance, and have been privileged to contribute to all three’s spiritual growth.
  4. Blessed to witness my children and grandchildren show love, compassion and encouragement to their grandmother/great-grandmother as she struggled health-wise – then to help her enter her eternal reward with a smile on her face and a song in her heart.
  5. Blessed with the privilege of praying for and providing peace and comfort to my good friend Tom prior to his spirit’s ascent to heaven.
  6. Blessed to be asked to lead worship for People for Jesus.
  7. Blessed to be a part of an active and caring congregation at Grace Christian Church and its many outreaches to the local community.
  8. Blessed by my pastors and my God to be allowed to minister to broken people – to see lives changed, marriages patched up, and bodies, emotions, attitudes and spirits healed.
  9. Blessed to be a part of the Saturday morning men’s prayer group.
  10. Blessed with the finances to live a comfortable life, to help my children, and to contribute to the needs of hurting people around the globe.
  11. Blessed to attend my grand-nephew’s wedding in Maryland and to renew acquaintances with my brother Richard’s extended family.
  12. Blessed to be asked to dedicate my neighbor’s son to His Lord and Savior Jesus.
  13. Blessed to be asked to perform the marriage of my cousin Tiffiny to Bruce.
  14. Blessed to see my fourth book published, and for the creative and inspirational thoughts to maintain an almost-weekly blog.
  15. Blessed by old friends who have renewed acquaintances and many new friends I’ve met on social media, through my church, or even just walking around the neighborhood or the mall.

How do you test religious truth?

Testing Religious Truth  I’m probably going to upset some of my church-going friends when I say this, but I’m not an advocate for blind faith or blind acceptance of the faith of my parents. When it comes to my personal and my loved one’s potential eternal resting place, I want to base my belief on the closest thing to certainty of truth as possible.

But given so many choices, how do you test religious truth claims? Common sense says you test religious truth claims in the same way you test other claims. You start with the authority and credibility of its proponents, then you measure how those claims correspond to the reality of the world you live in, and finally you look for the best evidence available to confirm or reject the claims. For example, when I began to write this blog, I didn’t start from ground zero – I went to a source that I trust, the “Stand to Reason” website and I found an article entitled “Testing Religious Truth Claims:” Much of what I state in the paragraphs below was formulated in that article.

Authority: If I wanted to know something about information technology for example, I’d ask an IT expert. I wouldn’t start from square one to rediscover it all on my own. Why re-invent the wheel? I’d fall back on the prior research of others. I find it amazing how people will sometimes hesitate to trust an authority like the Bible, when virtually every bit of knowledge and every concept they hold dear can be attributed to one authority or another. We trust the words of other people whose opinions we value and whom we consider reliable. The reliability and credibility of the authority is the key issue.

I think a good case can be made that Jesus was that kind of authority. Not only did He make certain claims about the nature of the universe, about Himself, and about God; but He then worked miracles, cast out demons, raised the dead, predicted his own crucifixion, death and resurrection, and then self-consciously raised himself from the dead. And even those who are skeptical of His claims and the associated evidence would have to acknowledge that nearly every major religion in the world (and even many non-religious people) adopt Jesus as their role model for some major doctrine or issue they’re promoting. So I think He’s earned the right to speak authoritatively about spiritual things and life in general.

Correspondence to reality: When we say that a thing is true, we mean the thing itself corresponds to the way the world really is. Simply put, if you know what a lie is, truth is just the opposite. Hinduism, for example, says the world is an illusion. We’re not real. God is just dreaming about us and we are part of that dream. Our “salvation” involves transcending the illusion to get back to the godhead. Now I have to ask myself, “Is that claim true?” I don’t think so! My own cursory examination of the world seems to indicate that I’m real and the world is real. I live my life as if it were real. I experience the world firsthand. I don’t even know how I’d know if I were just an illusion. The whole claim is nonsensical. For me to claim that I know I don’t exist is self-contradictory. If the foundational tenet is false, then everything built on top of it begins to crumble, including all of its texts and things like the concept of reincarnation.

Christianity and Judaism take the real world seriously and don’t dismiss it as an illusion. This is why modern science was birthed in the West and not in the East. Since this religious claim corresponds to the way we discover the world to be, it’s evidence that Christianity and Judaism are true, at least at this point. And there are other claims biblical theism makes that correspond to the world as we seem to discover it: things like (1) intelligent design, (2) that the world and mankind were created for a purpose, (3) principles of cause and effect in the creation/evolution dilemma and (4) that most individual and organizational interactions are based on intentions not accidents.

The Biblical worldview clearly doesn’t match certain philosophies people hold about the world, but it does seem to match the world itself. This is evidence that those philosophies which don’t correspond to the world are falsified at that point, and Judeo-Christian thought is affirmed at that point.

Evidence: And finally you look for evidence that either confirms or denies the truth claims of the religion and its sacred texts. And we have reams of that in documents of antiquity, in archaeological finds, in eye witness accounts of Biblical events by both Christian and non-Christian writers, in scientific findings, etc. The Bible is the book that says “Let’s look at the evidence, weigh it and draw reasonable conclusions based on what we know, not on what we don’t know.” Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the prophets of old all were not afraid to say, “Come let us reason together. Come consider the evidence and its common sense implications.”

To demand evidence and an adequate cause for every effect we observe is a scientific approach to understanding the universe we live in. Maybe something else was responsible for the universe and not God. One could postulate lots of different scenarios. Who’s to say it wasn’t a principle or force that we don’t know about that was responsible for everything? Of course, it’s fair to raise the question, but the question itself doesn’t count as evidence. Yet that seems to be the way some treat it. But you can’t just invent all kinds of theories that lack actual evidence against the Biblical view. They’re speculative. They’re rabbit holes that simply distract from an alternative explanation that some don’t like because it doesn’t accommodate their lifestyle.

Friendships worth fighting for

John and Al (3) All my life I’ve been blessed with great friendships. And I mean literally all my life; for my longest running relationship dates to within a few months of my birth. Al’s mom was my dad’s secretary, and our families lived on the same block barely a hundred feet apart. We had a couple lengthy separations, but at the encouragement of family members renewed our acquaintance.  Then there’s my buddy Doug whom I’ve known since fifth grade. He and I and two other friends from that era alternated as best man and ushers for each other’s weddings and became god-parents for some of our kids. At each phase of my life, from high school, to college, to my first full-time job, to subsequent career assignments, to each local church I’ve called home, I’ve developed lasting faithful friendships.

The more my wife and I have counselled other people it’s become increasingly apparent to us how unusual it is to maintain these types of close relationships. For the nature of social interactions is such that differences of opinions and personalities can so easily offend and drive wedges between people. It’s not that every person I call “friend” is a clone of me. In fact, as I assess the spectrum of my circle of close relationships, I see vast differences: between our varied political stances, our spiritual affiliations, our financial status, and our personal interests. Yet somehow we’ve overcome those differences to form even stronger bonds. That’s not to say that we haven’t had our struggles and disagreements at times – but love and reconciliation has thus far won out.

These types of friendships are always worth fighting for. For example, my wife has been blessed with some similar long-running friendships; one in particular extending all the way back to middle school, where she and her friend were both cheerleaders. But three years ago some personal challenges (health-wise, marital and familial) in her friend’s life led to a rift in that friendship. God recently began working on me to intervene and do what I could to restore that relationship. So last week I searched out and found an old cell phone number in my desk for her friend’s husband. I was actually surprised when the man answered. He told me he was in Florida and that he and Sandy’s friend had divorced two years earlier. We had a nice ten minute discussion, through which I was able to encourage him and wish him well and find out generally where his “ex” lived. A few days later Sandy got up the courage to call another old cell phone number that she had for her friend – and amazingly the woman answered. And they had their first good peaceful conversation in almost three years. Reconciliation is a wonderful gift of God.

Long-running friendships may be unusual in this day and age, but they’re worth fighting for. There’s an old proverb that says: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly; but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The author of this proverb was Solomon, the youngest son of King David. I’m reasonably certain that Solomon relied on his dad’s experience for the wisdom declared here; for David had a true friend in Jonathon, the son of his adversary, Saul; with Jonathon conceding both the throne and his life to defend David. In contrast, constant turmoil and infighting was a hallmark of Solomon’s relationship with his siblings who vied for the throne. Likewise, the few “friendships” he formed appear to have been obtained quid pro quo through their assignments to key posts of the military, and governmental, and religious institutions.

I pray that every one of you could be blessed with the abundance of genuine friends that God has graced me with. If you’ve allowed any of these relationships to lapse, either because you felt the two of you no longer have much in common, I encourage you to rethink your position. It may take a lot of time and effort to re-establish that relationship, but it will be worth it. There must have been a reason that your paths were allowed to cross once before. Friendship is a good gift and “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Wisdom left unspoken

generation gap Last weekend I attended my grand-nephew’s wedding in Maryland. A cursory survey of those in attendance at the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception revealed that I was the fifth oldest. I and each of my compatriots are a part of the “silent generation,” a term coined way back in 1951 by Time Magazine to describe the children born to parents who struggled through the economic and political chaos of the Great Depression and WW II.  According to the web, we are recognized as patriotic and trusting in traditional institutions, and most of us grew up demonstrating high aspirations, often seeking achievement, power and status. And we believed that anything was possible for anyone willing to work hard and manage their spending. Yet, it was commonly understood during this period that children should be seen and not heard, so us kids also grew up keeping our feelings and attitudes inside and not expressing them to others. I certainly don’t agree with everything published by so-called experts online, but these assertions in character I happen to accept, for I see it in myself and others of my age group.

Our generation’s attitudes and behaviors contrast significantly with both those that preceded us, (namely the so-called “greatest generation” that braved the advance of Nazi-ism and Japanese imperialism), as well as those generations that have followed us, from the baby-boomers to gen X, gen Y and gen Z and their numerous sub-groups. Regarding our predecessors, I recall as a young person hearing most of my elders proudly proclaim how they always “spoke their mind” regardless of how it was received by others or who it might offend, as if they had earned that right from their mere years on earth. It seems that as I age the opposite has taken hold in me. I find myself lamenting over having said what should have been left unsaid and often feeling remorse for leaving unsaid what needed to be said. I am perhaps sensitive-to-a-fault to the faces and feelings of others. It’s kind of a verbal dilemma akin to what the Apostle Paul spoke of in the 7th chapter of his letter to the church in Rome: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”

While Paul proceeds to discourse on how the indwelling Spirit of God enabled him to overcome his weaknesses, most of us in the “silent generation” seem to continue to struggle through our dilemma. For though our leanings toward patriotism, hard work, high aspirations, personal achievement and our traditions may be admirable, the tendency to cloister these qualities by our silence is hardly conducive to reproducing in our offspring the better aspects of our generation. In other words, by keeping our strengths to ourselves we leave nothing behind – so what will we really have accomplished when we leave this earth beyond the accumulation of possessions and titles?

In stride with our “silent generation” persona, this past weekend the five of us, (actually six counting my younger spouse) spent most of our time communicating amongst ourselves and rehearsing old adventures; while the “youngsters” carried on amongst themselves. When I thought back on this days later, my flesh wanted to excuse our behavior based on both the physical distance between our home states and the uncomfortable truth that my relationship with my Maryland relatives has never been what it should have been, for a number of reasons. While it may have been circumstantially understandable, it was hardly justifiable. So if any good is to come of my failure to break through these generational barriers, it is that God highlighted this experience as a lost opportunity on my part to plant some seeds of knowledge and hope and love into the lives of these young people.

We seniors have accumulated much wisdom over many decades; so what is it that gets in our way of sharing some of that wisdom? Over the past week I’ve given it much thought and I’m convinced that we’ve been hoodwinked by our post-modern culture, (not to mention our spiritual enemy) into focusing more on our past personal failures than on our successes. We are made to feel condemned by the thought: ‘How can we advise our youth if we’ve made such a mess of our own lives – through a divorce, through a butchered up career, through a bad financial decision, or the like?’ And we fret that our kids and grandkids will not receive from us what we try to share, imagining that they see us through a negative lens. But it’s always a mistake to focus on our frailties. After all, failures are just learning opportunities – for ourselves and for others.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog on how trials in our lives are always opportunities to validate what we claim to believe in. A failure is just such a trial and we of the “silent generation” stand on some pretty firm ground when it comes to the traditions and character traits that we exhibit and claim to believe in. So let’s prove it and stop being afraid to share what we believe in with the younger generations. Speak up!

Besides, if we do not provide the wisdom, the guidance to our kids and grandkids, to whom shall they turn? Their peers? Most of them are searching for answers and direction themselves! It’s not fair to stick our young people with such limited options.

That’s not to say that the young people that I became acquainted and reacquainted with this past weekend were messed up. Quite the contrary! In fact I was impressed with what most of these young people have done with their lives, the families they have raised and the careers they have built. But that’s more a reflection of the compassion and grace of God than due to any contribution of some of us, their elders.

It has always been God’s plan that “the grey-heads” of society be wholly involved in the lives of their offspring from the day of their birth to the day we step off this planet. And children were intended to be not just a blessing to their parents and grandparents, but to listen to and learn from their godly counsel. Much of the Book of Proverbs is structured around the idea of a wise father passing on godly wisdom to his son. Other parts of the Old Testaments reiterate this concept again and again. And the New Testament continues this trend by advising fathers and elders to nurture and train their children as well as the younger men in the Church, and likewise speaks of older women teaching the younger and being a good example to them. Such behavior was commended by the Apostle Paul as he described the contributions of the young pastor Timothy’s mother and grandmother in his upbringing. From Moses to King David to the Apostle Peter just listen to their guidance inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come. Psalm 71

So I exhort the elders among you,… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. 1 Peter 5

So to you young people who I failed to provide input into your lives last week I quote from the Christian author John Donne who wrote some four centuries ago, “No man is an island.” We need each other. We may be from vastly different generations, but we can and should learn from each other. Seek out the experiences and stories of those older and more mature than yourself. Don’t be too shy to delve into the details behind the mistakes your parents and grandparents have made. Let them tell you what they’ve learned from those mistakes. It may be a little bit embarrassing for all parties at the beginning – but it has the potential to become an enriching experience.

And to you seniors I encourage you to open up to your kids and grandkids. They need to know that you recognize you’re not infallible. Well – they probably already know it – but they haven’t heard you tell it with a positive twist; of how one, or two, or even a dozen failures don’t mean it’s all over. They just need to get back up and move on, just like you did – and eventually made something wonderful of your life.

How Large is your Circle of Love?

Circle of LoveI hate to admit it but Sandy’s circle of love is much larger than my own. I could sit in my comfortable home office hour after hour and write messages and blogs and books that I only hope reach the multitudes and inspire them to seek God, but I never know for sure whose life I’m impacting. In contrast, my wife talks to people. She talks to everyone. She speaks to their hearts and they listen. And we both are blessed to see the results – usually within a very short time.

A couple months ago, while I was out to the park with my two grandsons, Sandy took our three-year-old granddaughter across the street to visit the young couple who had a “miracle” baby boy earlier in the year. The visit, which I knew very little about at the time, turned into an extended time of ministry to the new mother who had many things going on in her life and many spiritual questions.

Subsequently the young woman began attending a denominational church in the area that a friend had recommended to her. She determined to have her now eight-month-old son dedicated to the Lord and scheduled the event for this past Sunday. Her husband whose background is Jewish agreed to have his son dedicated and friends and relatives from four different states planned to attend this wonderful event. However, earlier in the week, in the interest of full disclosure, the mother notified her Pastor that one close relative who would be attending was a lesbian and another was gay. The Pastor told her they would not be welcome in “my church.”

This was a crushing blow to the young mother and her husband was understandably irate. They decided they would have nothing further to do with the church and discussed canceling the event entirely. However, specifically because of the visit Sandy had made to the couple’s home two months earlier, and the relationship formed during this time, she turned up at our door with her baby this past Thursday. Needless to say, on Sunday afternoon we were honored to dedicate the child before fifty or so of her friends and relatives in their backyard.

I pray that this was just a one-time poorly thought out decision on the denominational Pastor’s part of not showing even the minimal degree of love and respect for persons that he deemed too unrighteous to grace the doorways of “his church.” Otherwise I would question whether “his church” is really a part of “the Lord’s Church.” But we all make mistakes; and I pray that he learns from it quickly.

As I’ve said many times, the only people we will ever have the opportunity to influence are those that we allow into our circle of love. Showing love and respect to every person regardless of their beliefs and behavior is a command of God. It in no way is an affirmation or a sanctioning of those beliefs or behaviors. It’s the rare Christian indeed who can look back at his former life and say I never was goofy and never did things that today I would not want my closest acquaintances to know about. “There go I but for the grace of God.”

Independence Day

American Flag   Like so many Americans across the country I spent the 4th of July with family, watching the kids play while eating hotdogs, sausages, burgers, potato salad, watermelon and strawberry pie. As the sun set my son-in-law got out the $40 of fireworks he’d purchased at Costco and his kids and their grandparents shrieked at the wonders of the multicolored displays. Still not totally dark as Sandy and I drove home, we heard periodic explosions and saw an occasional rocket light up the sky first on one side of the road, then on the other as people prepared for a long night of celebration. After I pulled into my garage I got on my bike and determined to risk riding in the dark through a few surrounding subdivisions to enjoy the barrage of rockets-blue, purple, orange, yellow and red-glare that must have cost some of my neighbors a mortgage payment or two.

When I finally came in for the evening I scanned my TV options and settled on the history channel’s final episode of “Sons of Liberty,” a three-night series about a group of young men who changed the course of history and made America a nation. Interestingly enough it was playing opposite of “Independence Day,” a science fiction movie about humanity’s fending off a destructive alien invasion by launching a counterattack on the same date as the Independence Day holiday in the United States. It made me wonder which account most young Americans today would receive as the most likely reason for celebrating the 4th of July, the history channel’s version or Hollywood’s. I fear the latter, since it was stocked with well-known stars: from Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Judd Hirsch, to Harry Connick, Jr.; for every time I hear the youth of America queried on current and historical events and characters, it tears me to hear them demonstrate their ignorance of the people and events that made this country great, while they divulge every detail about the lives of Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

While their elders espouse principles like “Freedom is never free” and “Freedom carries the responsibility to share that freedom with others,” the kids are taught by an amoral education system to turn a blind eye to the sacrifices that their forerunners made to gain them their freedom. So how can we expect our children to understand and appreciate these principles?

This past weekend a friend of mine republished the Declaration of Independence on FaceBook and encouraged his followers to read it for the holiday. I did. And it brought back to my mind how it had once been a required eighth grade memorization exercise (along with the Gettysburg Address). How times have changed!

Independence and freedom though often used interchangeably, are not exactly the same. Independence is defined as a state whereby one is not influenced or controlled by others, self-confidence, and possessing value not dependent on others. Freedom on the other hand is defined as personal liberty, absence from obligations, ease of movement, and the power to exercise choice without internal constraints. Paradoxically, both independence and freedom imply the acceptance of a lot of responsibilities. Not many adults, much less our young people really comprehend this fact.

In 1776, a bunch of people in the new world that became America signed a Declaration which didn’t guarantee things were about to get a lot easier. No! Those who signed it recognized they were surrendering their finances and their ties with many supply chains, and accepted great personal risk in order to support not only a new government, but also a war effort that would hopefully gain them their independence/freedom from a tyrannical mother country. And many made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the process.

We often get frustrated with the lack of support we receive from our education system and our political and social leaders as we try to pass on our heritage to our children. But as elders (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends) we owe it to our youth to teach them about our heritage, our traditions and their godly foundation. It’s actually a Biblical command, stated and restated. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them.” Timothy 4:11  I believe it’s just as important as teaching our children about how to make choices regarding smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, credit card debt and other “adult” decisions in life.

Today many of our young people are floundering precisely because they lack an understanding of where they came from (in a nationalistic sense) or where they are headed. While no people group can ever claim lily white perfection from a historical perspective, there is much to be proud of in the story of America, its Christian roots, its motivation toward helping the less fortunate among us and around the world and the opportunities our nation provides for all its citizens. Black, brown, yellow, red and white, we have much to be thankful for and of which to hold our heads up high as Americans.