We are blessed, with or without blessings to count

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Or is it?

More accurately stated: tomorrow is the official day of the year that the United States of America sets apart as “Thanksgiving Day.”

Whether or not people actually give thanks on Thanksgiving Day is entirely up to them. That is evidence of the extraordinary freedom of thought and ideas we share as Americans.

For those who choose to give thanks on Thanksgiving Day, to whom we give thanks is evidence of our freedom of religion.

For what we give thanks or fail to give thanks is evidence of our freedom of speech.

The fact that millions of Americans will freely travel across state lines without need to notify the government of their intentions is evidence of the very rare freedom of movement and freedom of assembly we take for granted.

Not all nations have a Thanksgiving Day and rare is the nation whose Thanksgiving Day centers on the knowledge that Thanks is owed to a particular God for the reality of its existence, provision, sustenance and hope.

So, what shall we say today in anticipation of celebrating Thanksgiving Day tomorrow?

It has already been said that “freedom is not free” and we owe a debt of gratitude this Thanksgiving Day to all those who have made personal sacrifices to insure and protect the freedoms we enjoy. So let us remember and let us give thanks.

It has already been said that we are called not to one day of Thanksgiving but to a life of Thanksliving reflecting an attitude of gratitude, moment by moment, throughout our days. So let us acknowledge this truth and so let us live.

It has already been said that we are blessed to be blessing, which highlights both the derivative nature of blessedness and the right object of Thanksgiving: the God who blesses us and by whom we are counted blessed even when there are no circumstantial blessings to count.

Many people will count their circumstantial blessings as a part of celebrating Thanksgiving Day. “I am thankful for…” will start the sentence that will conclude with family, friends, freedom, food, faith, health, wealth, new homes, new jobs, new opportunities, successes, achievements and victories. Rare will be the Thanksgiving Day celebration that focuses on the nature of being blessed, even when the circumstantial blessings are not evident to count.

The witness of the Christian and the Jew on Thanksgiving Day is the testimony of blessedness even in the face of circumstances that run counter to the cultural definitions of blessing.

The Jews are literally called blessed by God in order that they might in turn share the blessing of knowing God with the world. As Christians we are disciples of a man who called “blessed” those who are poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger for God, the merciful, the peacemakers and the persecuted. Does that sound like the list you’re likely to hear around the Thanksgiving Day table tomorrow?

Here’s what matters: when God makes His list of blessings tomorrow, YOU will be counted blessed. What material or circumstantial so-called blessing matters more than that?

The-BeatitudesImagine a Thanksgiving Day where we honestly and reverently say, “Because I am blessed by God’s grace to be counted among His children:

  • I am blessed in my grief and I am blessed in loss.
  • I am blessed in my physical frailties.
  • I am blessed in my poverty.
  • I am blessed to be in a broken world of broken people in broken relationships because it provides the opportunity to be a reconciling presence in the midst of strife.
  • I am blessed to be persecuted or discriminated against or harassed by others for Christ’s name sake.

I am blessed to live in the fullness of the knowledge of blessedness here and forevermore, no matter the circumstantial realities of this life.

Many Christians tomorrow will not have material or circumstantial reasons to give thanks. Consider the persecuted, the displaced, the marginalized, the hungry, the orphaned, the widowed.  For some there will be no hand to hold but their own. But even alone and impoverished, we have reason to give thanks because we are called blessed by the God from whom all blessings flow. Conversely, we who have material blessings bear the great responsibility of leveraging them for the blessing of those who, this year, have not.

So, set an extra place at the table tomorrow and pray for the person who sits alone on Thanksgiving Day. How might you live into the calling of your blessedness by making sure that next year they have blessings to count? And, as you count your blessings and name them one by one, focus not on the material and circumstantial but on the reality that when God counts people blessed, in Christ, you make His Thanksgiving Day list.

Happy Thanksgiving, blessed blessing.

Starbucks red cup bears the real meaning of Christmas


The whole Starbucks “war on Christmas” cup controversy is, in a word: fake.

But since everyone is talking about it, allow me to ask: What more appropriate color is there than red and what would you have them add to it?

The 100% red cup literally bleeds, which is ultimately the purpose of the Christ whose name the holiday bears.

Adding anything to it is unnecessary. Christ is fully sufficient. No adornment needed.


Now that I’ve outed the reality of Starbucks’ real meaning of Christmas in the cup, some are going to reject the cup as too Jesus-y.

starbucks-reusable-christmas-cupSo, might I recommend to you the reusable cup also available this year? Its pure JOY.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king! 



Fact checking faith: Who gets to define what it means to be Presbyterian?

Four times on Saturday in a speech in Jacksonville, Fla., Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared himself to be Presbyterian.

Trump said, “Look, I don’t have to say it,” and then said, “I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian.”

Then, with increasingly emphatic speech, Trump declared, “I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian.”

Concluding he said, “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness.”

The only way that being Presbyterian is “down the middle of the road” is if you’re driving off the left shoulder.  The political and social positions of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Trump’s assumed denominational self-affiliation, are so far to the left you can’t see the middle of the road anymore.

Have you seen those motorcades that avoid driving among the bothersome masses — speeding their way around traffic by driving on the left shoulder? That’s pretty much where you’d have to be to think that the PCUSA was “down the middle of the road.” The denomination’s advocacy in both Washington, D.C. and at the United Nations includes everything from amnesty for illegal immigrants to universal ammunition registration to divestment from companies doing business with Israel to progressive taxation and the redistribution of wealth and, yes, support of same-sex marriage. Bernie Sanders is much more Presbyterian than Donald Trump if you look at the PCUSA’s official social witness positions and political advocacy.

Trump seems to have an image of what it means to be Presbyterian that does not jive with the reality of his own chosen denomination.

‘I’m Presbyterian’

At the outset, Trump says that it goes without saying and then he says it: “I’m Presbyterian.” Saying what goes without saying is classic political speech. Admitting that no one believes what you’re saying about yourself is not.

When Trump admits that “nobody believes I’m Presbyterian” he’s telling a truth that he doesn’t seem to understand.  The repetitive emphatic insistence of his faith credentials reveals an ardent depth of feeling but not what he actually means when he says “I’m Presbyterian.”

Does he mean he’s a member of a particular church? (No church claims him as a member.)

Does he mean he actively worships and participates in church life? (No church claims him as an active participant.)

Does he mean that he tithes? (I’m pretty sure we’d know if he did as his tithe would be big news.)

Although Trump claims to be Presbyterian, no actual Presbyterian church or denomination is laying public claim to him. One assumes that he considers himself Presbyterian by his baptism as a child at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, a Presbyterian Church (USA) church in Queens, NY.  But does that make a person a Presbyterian?

That begs the larger question: who gets to define a term like “Presbyterian?”

Pres·by·te·ri·an [ˌprezbəˈtirēən], according to  Oxford Dictionaries · © Oxford University Press is an adjective of, relating to, or denoting a Christian Church or denomination governed by elders according to the principles of Presbyterianism. When used as a noun it means “a member of a Presbyterian Church.” So, since he’s not the noun version of Presbyterian, Trump must be the adjective version.  That makes sense when you consider that when he refers to a particular church, Trump indicates that he attends Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. That church is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America (RCA). So, maybe when Trump says “I’m Presbyterian” he means that he holds to Reformed theology. Trouble is, that church issued a statement in August clarifying that Trump is not an “active member” there either.

Presbyterians assume that Trump means PCUSA when he says he’s a Presbyterian. That makes his affiliation with the faith tradition historic, not active.  The Stated Clerk of the PCUSA, the highest ranking official in a Presbyterian denomination, issued an open letter schooling Trump on the position of the PCUSA on immigration – a position that couldn’t be further from Trump’s position.

What is a Presbyterian?

Part of Trump’s challenge on this issue is that the PCUSA itself is in the midst of an identity crisis.  The Moderator of the denomination has called for a national conversation to gather public opinion around the question of the PCUSA’s identity and mission. One can only hope that Trump will participate in the cattle call for what the Presbyterian Church (USA) is and is called to be.

Maybe Trump can help the denomination find its way out of its liberal political rut that has led it into an ever deepening financial and membership ditch. Maybe Trump can help make the Presbyterian Church (USA) great again. But to do so he’s going to have to begin seeing it for what it is: a denomination that has been driven off the left shoulder on every social and political issue.

People don’t believe Trump is Presbyterian because they know where the Presbyterian Church (USA) stands on issues that differ significantly from Trump’s positions. Here’s a quick run down from the left lane:

Related article:

Trump still doesn’t know what his own church believes


On my first day as President

Various contenders for the office of President of the United States have said what they would do on their first day in the oval office.

Carly Fiorina is “going to make two phone calls.” One to “Bibi Netanyahu to assure him that the United States will stand with Israel” and a second call to the supreme leader of Iran.  Fiorina acknowledged during the Presidential debate that Iran’s leader “might not take my phone call. But he would get my message. And the message is this: Until you open every nuclear facility and every military facility to full, open, anytime, anywhere inspections — for real — we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system.” Her point was clear. On her first day as President she intends to convey that “America is back in the leadership business.”

Ted Cruz told the Red State audience that his first day agenda would include five things: 1. “rescind every illegal executive action taken by Barack Obama,” including his “executive amnesty;” 2. “instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood” and to prosecute any criminal conduct uncovered; and instruct the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service to “cease persecuting” individuals seeking to practice their faith in their workplace; 3. send a letter to the Little Sisters of the Poor indicating “that their case has been dismissed.” He said they would also receive “an invitation to the White House to tell their story to the world;” 4. Then he would “end the catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal;” and 5. Cruz would “begin the process to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,” to send “a message to the world that we stand with our allies.”

I like that they both lay out goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Other candidates have also answered the question.

It got me thinking, what would you do on your first day as President of the United States?

As a Christian, my first inclination is to ask, what does God have to say about such things?  Yes, I recognize that we are a representative democracy and not a theocracy. And yes, I know we do not have an established religion in this nation. But as a Christian, I take God’s perspective into account and God has something to say about the first day in office for a nation’s leader.

In Deuteronomy 17:18-20 we read:

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”

The national leader’s first day in office should be dedicated to writing out the equivalent of the Constitution in the sight of the Supreme Court and Congress. That person should keep that hand-written document with them and read it every day in order to keep all the words of it. The idea is one of humility to a standard higher than the self. It’s a way of walking within a set boundaries for the good of the nation for generations.

That’s what I’d do on my first day in office if I were President. What would you do?

The difference between religious education and indoctrination

Kids in Tennessee are being forced to write out the Shahada, the Islamic conversion creed, and recite and write that “Allah is the only God.” If this is happening in public schools (and it is) then where is the Freedom from Religion Foundation that is so quick to take action when a football coach prays with his players after a game?

The Islam worksheet (reprinted in part below) was assigned to middle school students in Williamson County (a county near Nashville that includes affluent Brentwood and Franklin, TN). The worksheet was accompanied by the rote recitation of Arabic phrases the students did not understand. Can you imagine the outcry if these same students had been asked to recite the Apostles’ Creed or the Lord’s Prayer or a prayer of confession claiming Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation?

Yes, those are the five pillars of Islam and yes, it’s useful for Americans to have a basic understanding of a faith system practiced by 23% of the world’s population. But creedal recitation is NOT education, its indoctrination.

Fox News reported that:

Tennessee parents are voicing their concerns about a middle school history assignment in which students were asked to write “Allah is the only God.”

Brandee Porterfield joined “Fox and Friends” this morning, saying she has no problem with her seventh-grade daughter learning about Islam as part of world history, but believes time should also be devoted to Christianity.

“They did this assignment where they wrote out the Five Pillars of Islam, including having the children learn and write the Shahada, which is the Islamic conversion creed,” she explained.

Porterfield said she spoke with the Spring Hill Middle School teacher and principal, who said there would not be similar lessons on Christianity and Judaism.

She said she reviewed the state standards and there are upcoming lessons on Hinduism and Buddhism.

Unlike the lessons on Islam, however, Porterfield said students would not be expected to memorize a creed dealing with those religions.

Maury County School officials (another county close to Nashville) claim that the classes “covered some sensitive topics” and acknowledged that “caused some confusion.” They went on to say that “By the end of the year, students will have studied Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions,” but not Christianity.

As the Daily Caller notes:

[I]t appears that Tennessee students don’t study Christianity per se. There is not, for example, one class day dedicated to the basic Jesus story.

[School officials] promised that students would eventually come across a reference to Christianity when history teachers reach the “Age of Exploration” in eighth grade. Then, students will hear about Christians persecuting other Christians in some countries in Western Europe.

So, middle school students in Tennessee are forced to make a public confession that “Allah is the only God,” in Florida they’re instructed to recite the Five Pillars of Islam as a prayer and perform Muslim rituals including making prayer rugs, and in Wisconsin given an assignment wherein they pretended to be Muslim.

Note please that they not taught the tenets of Christianity and are expressly discouraged from declaring “Jesus as Lord” or making other overt references to the Christian faith.

If the free exercise of religion in America means that everyone is truly free to practice the religion of their own choosing and if the establishment clause means that the government cannot participate in the formal establishment of any one religion, then the indoctrination of U.S. students into the Islamic faith at public school should be prohibited with the same vigor that the atheists, secular humanists and the FFRF oppose any and every reference to the Christian faith.

While accommodation must be made for the free exercise of students’ religious expression, public educational environments are not appropriate venues for religious indoctrination.

While there is no prohibition against teaching about religion as a part of history, culture, anthropology, and current events, you cannot promote one religion and censor another – no matter which religion happens to be your own.

Again, students who are Muslim are allowed to carry the Koran to school just as Christian students are allowed to carry their Bibles. Every student, regardless of their faith, can use the “moment of silence” to pray silently in whatever posture and in whatever name they honor as god.  But U.S. public schools are not permitted to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer over the loudspeaker anymore than they are allowed to demand kids recite the Lord’s Prayer.

America is a religious nation but it is not a nation of one religion.  There are those who say they want America to be free from all religion but they’re strangely absent when the religion being promoted is Islam. So, although I do not share their calling to rid America of religion, I would ask the FFRF, “why are you not vigorously opposing the indoctrination of American schoolchildren into Islam?”

If you want to be engaged and mobilized on this issue, contact our partners at the American Center for Law & Justice 


Football: America’s pastime or idolatrous obsession?

In honor of Super Bowl 50 the USAToday is going to be running a weekly list of “The 50 Things we learned from week X of the NFL Season.” (That’s the National Football League for those who live in hobbit holes.) But what happened yesterday is noteworthy for more than the fifty discreet reasons noted by the USAToday.

According to Statista, a group that analyzes such things, the fan cost index in 2014 was $479.11. That means that the average spent per game by every individual that attended a NFL game in 2014 was nearly $500. And according to ESPN, 17,609,643 people attended NFL games in 2014. That’s $8.436 billion dollars spent in one year.

And that’s just those who attended games in person.  According to Neilson, whose job it is to tell us how many people watch what programs on television, an astounding 60% of Americans tune into at least one NFL game each season.  Ask yourself, “did I catch even part of a game last year?” Maybe on Thanksgiving? (I did.)

And that fact that we’re watching football on Thanksgiving and Christmas days brings up another issue: Sunday is no longer the only day of the week devoted as a Sabbath to the pigskin. There’s the NFL draft, preseason games, pre and post game analysis, Monday night football, Thursday night games, the post season and of course, the Super Bowl.  Even in the off-season there is reason to remain engaged, tuned in, studying, because now the fan can get into the game through fantasy sports.

Forbes estimates that Americans spend an average of $70 Billion a year playing fantasy football.

Add to that all the dollars, time, energy, NFL Sunday Ticket, tail-gating, game-day parties and you’re talking about worship that considerably outpaces national participation in Church. And therein lies the point.

America does not have a worship problem. America has an idolatry problem.

We know how to worship. We know how to devote ourselves, our attention, our financial support, our hearts, our minds, our allegiance, our passion, and our praise. But the object of our affection is football shaped and pigskin covered.

There’s a reason that football is called America’s pastime, but is it really idolatry?cheesehead pope

Last year, Kevin DeYoung challenged Christians to explore that question by asking three others.

  1. Is ministry and worship on the Lord’s Day compromised by my allegiance to football on Saturday and Sunday?

  2. Are my emotions all out of whack?

  3. Can my conversation go deeper than football?

Is discipleship (including bible study, prayer, and missional service) compromised Monday-Friday by my allegiance to football through fantasy participation, Monday, Thursday, holiday games and preparations for my Saturday and/or Sunday football observances?

But its DeYoung’s third question that I find particularly powerful.

I grew up going to Tampa Bay Buccaneer games.  I remember the Tampa Tribune front page full “From Worst to First” and “to Worst again” headlines because they were framed full size in my dad’s study.  But I also remember, as a great a fan as my dad was of the game, that church – and the needs of neighbors – came first. The Bucs were great and we were going to support them win or lose, but it was a game.  It was okay to cheer, but not to worship.

Yes, that required that some Sundays we went to early church with a trunk full of tailgating supplies, but even on days when kick-off was early, church came first. Football was fun, but it was second.

DeYoung’s walk off line is excellent and convicting: “Go ahead and give football a little bit of your weekend. Just don’t give it your worship.” For many people, attention and devotion to football is not confined to “a little bit of the weekend.” It’s all day, both days, and it’s Monday night, Thursday night and all the waking hours in between with their fantasy teams. That’s worship – and the Bible calls worship directed at anything or anyone but God, idolatry.

Where is football in the line-up of your heart priorities?  One quick evaluative way to tell: did you start this morning in your prayer closet with the Father or in His Word, or did you check your fantasy standings first?  Ouch.

The truth is that we all commit idolatry which is why the first of the 10 commandments, echoed in the greatest commandment, is centered on the issue. God comes first or we are not genuinely acknowledging and worshiping Him as God. That’s idolatry distilled down to its most basic form. So, when we recognize that we are committing time, energy and material resources to something ahead of God, we need to deal with it.

I know, I know, tonight is Monday night football and it would be un-American to suggest that you not watch, right?  Wrong question.  It would perfectly American to watch, it is America’s chosen form of worship. The right questions to ask (after sincerely evaluating yourself against DeYoung’s three questions above) are:Vikings-Fans-3-600x421

  • Is watching football the highest and best use of that time, the talents God has given me and the resources over which He has set me as steward?
  • $500 on average for every person who attends a game. What did you contribute to your church yesterday? Or last month? Or last year?
  • 4 hours on average to watch a game. How many hours did you spend at church in worship and bible study and missional service this week?

Worship is a moment by moment decision we all make about the One to whom our attention, affection and allegiance are owed.

Who’s your #1?     Click here to read more on The Washington Times.

Prodigal glass houses and Kim Davis

I resisted making comments or posting commentary about the whole Kim Davis issue while she was in jail. There was little question that incarceration was not the right way forward for the impasse that had been reached. There should be better ways for us as a culture to accommodate people of diverse religious conviction than to throw them in jail. To be precise, Davis was not jailed for her religious beliefs but because she failed to obey an explicit court order that did not provide an accommodation for her beliefs.  She also interfered with the ability of her deputy clerks to perform their jobs which, in my opinion, is an over-reach on her part.

At issue now seems to be the fact that her name appears on the government documents in question. Or, at a minimum, the position to which she was elected and continues to hold: County Clerk.  This is where the rights of a private citizen and the rights of that citizen when in a government position gets murky.  When Mrs. Davis personally refuses to do something on religious ground, ok, but when she, functioning as an agent of the state in her role as County Clerk, denies the right to marry to people on anything other than legal grounds she is using the office to impose a religious view. That’s problematic. That’s the parallel to Sharia law interfering at the Department of Moter Vehicles question. 

But now that she’s out of jail, can we talk about some of the really thorny issues in this case?

#1. As a prodigal who has come home, Kim Davis could witness better

Four marriages and two children out of wedlock bear testimony to the years Kim Davis spent living as a prodigal apart from God. As a Christian who has repented of her former life she fully understands just what a mess life can be. So, as a prodigal who has now come home, isn’t she in a particularly unique position to live as a demonstration of grace?

Prodigals know better than the elder brothers among us that there’s no stopping them. Once they’ve made up their minds to go off to the far land and squander the blessings of the Father, there is little that anyone can do to stop them.  Like unbroken horses, they are going to have their head. The question for the Christian in a position of influence, like Kim Davis, is will we force them to live by the house rules of a Father they reject?

Instead of telling them that we won’t do for them what others did for us when we were prodigals, might we seek to “live such good lives among the pagans that although they accuse (us) of doing wrong, they may see (our) good works and glorify God” (I Peter 2:12)?

Now, before my friends on the right start slamming me, I recognize the explicit prohibitions in the Bible against all homosexual acts. I also understand that Jesus’ views on divorce and remarriage were predicated on an exclusive male-female foundation for sexual relations.  Yes, homosexual practice is a direct violation of that foundation. I also acknowledge that accommodations to one set of offenses (divorce and remarriage) do not justify accommodations to other offenses (homosexual relations).

#2. Where were all the Christians of convictional faith when Kim Davis was applying for and receiving multiple marriage licences and divorce decrees?

Knowing what we know about Kentucky, might it be reasonable to assume that Kim Davis’ own four marriage licences and three divorce decrees were signed by Christians?  Does her act of denying same-sex licences not impugn all of them? Each of those clerk’s failed to stand in the way of remarriages and multiple divorces that the Bible condemns.  Where same-sex marriage advocates only have to side-step the Bible’s silence, anyone who wants to advocate for divorce and remarriage has a steep theological hill to climb.  The proverbial no-throwing-stones-in-glass-houses seems an apt here.

I realize that she was not a Christian until her current re-marriage to Joe Davis, but that only fuels the argument that she is applying to others a standard that was not applied to her when she sought to utilize the state’s courts in affirming her marriage-divorce, marriage-divorce, marriage-divorce, marriage merry-go-round.

The point here is not to heap shame on Kim Davis but to illuminate the failure of the Church on the subject of sanctity when it comes to marriage.

#3. Is this really a religious liberty issue and if so, how far are you willing to go to defend it?

Ask yourself:

  • Would I be as concerned about the sincerely held religious belief of a recent convert to the Mormon faith if part of their government job was to issue liquor licences when the use of alcohol is against their religion?
  • Would I be as concerned about the sincerely held religious belief of a recent convert to Islam if part of their government job was to issue driver’s licences when their religion prohibits women from driving?
  • Would I be as concerned about the sincerely held religious belief of a recent convert to Judaism if their government job required them to work on Saturday as their religion prohibits labor on the Sabbath?

Would we not expect such individuals to resign their post?

In a nation where religious liberty must by definition be applied equally to every religion, would we be willing to fight for a government accommodation for such religious liberty requests?

It seems to me that the real issue is not religious liberty but what many view as an overreach of the courts in essentially making a law. Adjudicating the law is the role of the courts; making laws is the role of the legislature.  What Kim Davis ultimately seeks is either an upholding of the law of the state of Kentucky, wherein marriage is defined as between one man and one woman, or a change at the federal level, through legislative action, to fix what she and many others see as now broken by the ruling of the Supreme Court in Obergefell.

Click here to read more by @DavidMDrucker on The Washington Examiner.


The still small voice of God and Aylan Kurdi

There are times that God speaks through the earthquake or through the fire, but there are also times that God speaks through the still small voice. In the past few days, God has been speaking through the small silent voice of a Syrian boy whose little lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach.

His name was Aylan Kurdi and his still small voice is now screaming to the world.

As Americans head to the beach this Labor Day weekend, how many will stand at the water’s edge and remember that children like Aylan are washing up on other shores – today?

Will we remember or are we already trying to forget?

God commands that we remember. It was His refrain long before it became the American slogan of 9/11.

“We will never forget” is a hope and a calling but it is also a reminder of how much we fail to remember. And therefore, as the adage goes, we are doomed to repeat the history we have forgotten.

Do we remember that Aylan is not the first child to drown in the sea of forgetfulness? Do we admit that he will not the last?

Throughout history it is children who bear the brunt of human incredulity – leaving them subject to the cruelty of others.  People with the power and provision to do something too often turn an unbelieving eye (incredulity) to the reality being experienced by others. We cannot believe that people are being sold into sexual slavery by ISIS. We cannot believe that millions of people are fleeing persecution, poverty and war in the Middle East and North Africa. We cannot believe the depth of man’s inhumanity to man and so we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the pictures and screams until they are silenced against the noise of our own culture.

Children, like Aylan, will drown today as their parents can no longer cling to them against the rising tides of life. We will pack for the weekend. We will drive to the beach. We will forget. Or, we will remember…who we are, whose we are and what we have been called to do in and for the world that He so loves.

So, what can we do? What should we do? What must we do?

There was a time, not unlike our own, when a boy washed up on the shore of a woman’s life. That woman was in a position to help. She was privileged and powerful.  And her one act of compassion changed the course of the life of one child – who in turn, changed the course of human history.

That boy’s name might have been Aylan, but it was Moses.

Moses’ parents were slaves in the days when Egypt was ruled by Pharaoh. It was a culture of haves and have not’s. The Egyptians had wealth, the Hebrews had not. But the Hebrews had children and the Egyptians had not. So, as cruelty would have it, Pharaoh ordered midwives to terminate pregnancies before birth (aborting them). In an act of obedience to God and civil disobedience to Pharaoh, the midwives refused. So, Pharaoh ordered that the male babies be drowned in the Nile.

The site of a dead baby among the reeds along the shoreline would not have been unusual. But hearing an infant cry out for deliverance? Well, that small voice got the attention of someone in a position to help.

The text says that after Moses’ mother, in her own act of civil disobedience, hid him for three months and could hide him no longer,

“she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother.

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.”

A baby washed up on the shore of her life and the compassionate act of this one young woman changed the course of human history.

What resources are within your reach?  Do you have an empty seat at the table, an empty bedroom, an empty house but a full heart? Could you take in one child or one woman and her baby or even one family? Could your church?

There are more than 350,000 registered religious congregations in the United States. If every church took in one family the refugee situation would be utterly transformed. Could your church do that? Would they? Should they?

People fleeing ISIS in Syria and Iraq and people fleeing persecution and poverty in North Africa comprise a refugee and migrant crisis that the world has not seen since World War II. The question is, “do we see it now?” Do we hear the still small voice of God crying out to His people in the little lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi? And having heard, will we act in compassion?

If not, then I dare say we must prepare ourselves for what awaits us at the beach.


Mountains that matter and molehills that do not

When I heard that the President had renamed the highest peak in the United States I was not surprised.  People like to lay claim to high places and having traveled to Alaska and witnessed the majesty of the peak in question, I understand the point of the debate.  However, as a Christian, I see no reason to make a mountain out of this molehill.

Names change based on the people who see themselves as in a position to name something. Adam is Adam because God called him that but then Adam took over the name game. We’ve been calling it “King of the Mountain” ever since. I dare say that what we call most places today is not what the first people who laid eyes on it called them.

The proverbial king of the mountain gets to name it – just like your parents named you. So, what did your parents name you?  Did you live up or into that name? Along the way did you change your name or adopt a new name or amend the original name you were given?  How about a pet name, an alias or a title?

It has been my experience that people like nothing more than to be called by name. They are sensitive to how it is pronounced and they are quick to let you know if you get it wrong. Names matter to us. Its why name-calling cuts us to the core and why Trademark law is such a robust part of our legal system.

The subject today is a mountain, its place among a particular people and therefore, it’s debated name. That’s the way it works. The people who possess the land call the mountains what they will. Its a process that’s as old as recorded history and its a good lesson for a nation that’s too young to remember when our cities were called by other names.

Or are we? New York was once New Amsterdam.

And, there’s precedence for reversing course on names: Cape Canaveral was called Cape Kennedy for 10 years (1963-1973) and then returned to its original name.  Notably, the Kennedy Space Center is located at Cape Canaveral.

There are other mountains whose contested names are more serious.  Think for a moment about the hill in the middle of the city of Jerusalem. It is known among Jews as The Temple Mount. It is considered the holiest site in all of Judaism. It is where the first and second Temples stood but today most Jews only have access to a portion of the Western Wall. Why is that? Because Muslims control the mountain and they have named it The Dome of the Rock. That’s a mountain, not a molehill.

Speaking of mountains and molehills, what mountains really matter to you? Mt. Ararat where the Bible says Noah’s Ark landed after the flood?  Or maybe Mt. Sinai (also known as Horeb and Paran) where Moses received the 10 Commandments?  How about the Mountain of Transfiguration where Jesus’ glory as God was revealed to Peter, James and John? Or the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed, was betrayed and arrested? Or Calvary. Some mountains matter more than others – and it ultimately does not matter if another people calls them by another name.

Does the fact that someone else calls your former home their home change the reality that it was home to you?  I think we’re making mountains out of molehills when we get too worked up about a mountain that matters a great deal to people other than us. If Denali is the name that bears out meaning to the people of Alaska then let the mountain be called Denali.  It may be the highest mountain in the United States of America today but its name is a molehill issue. Don’t you suppose the Russians likely called it something else prior to 1867 when Alaska became the 49th state?

Mountain, yes.

What to call it? Molehill.