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Monday, June 30, 2014

Entry 19: The Unravelers II

June 30, 2014

Dear Friends

Re:  Entry 19

For ages and ages, men have predicted the end of time, if there is such a thing as time.  Some take comfort in the prediction, as it has the potential of wiping their slates clean (even though it wipes them with it).  When we talk of "the apocalypse" (small a), it is usually one of the pop culture fads that show us the end of time in some horrific, blood-spattered, violence-induced, yet curiously fascinating, way.  Have you envisioned such for yourself? Most people in their vision survive and are left on the other side as one of the hardy souls, rebuilding mankind in the dream of a democratic freedom-loving, windmill-powered, grain-eating, little-kids-running-around-in-joy, eco-utopia.   Generally, in the fall of man, or government, or country, or an ideal, it is rarely thus.  Rarely noble, rarely uplifting, even less rarely interesting.  It just unravels.  Slowly, imperceptibly at first, like one thread in the hem of a sleeve, then the sleeve, then the shirt.

Have you noticed it is happening across generations?  Maybe not to everyone, but to many.  Take any family and trace their generations, and it is indeed surprising to find how many have slipped below the level of the prior generation, either economically or morally or both.  I know a family, many exist, where the grandparents sacrificed, raised their children, the children grew up self-possessed and self-sure but lacking the drive of their parents to succeed for the sake of the next generation.  So that by the time the third generation arrived on the scene, they were living in what was left of grandma's dream--maybe even living in her house--with an air of past superiority and yet utterly lacking in the ethic that gave them the chance both they and their parents squandered.  Who was at fault?  They rewrite the book of Judges word by word, page by page, never seeing.  Go and see them for yourselves.  They clot the aisles of a Wal-Mart on a Saturday night, all across the land.

Some of this is inevitable, at least on some scale, this stumbling, then reversing, of upward mobility.  And I am not even addressing the economic slavery our government is creating by impoverishing its poorest and most vulnerable with the soft tyranny of its handouts.  I am talking about the generational change we have all been witnessing--the self-sacrifice of the desire to lift up the next generation at even the cost of suppressing oneself has been lost in America today.  It built America, it brought millions of people here looking for an opportunity to lift up their children, but it is surely gone. And gone in a million little ways.  Gone in the ways we age now (as if everyone over 50 is so self-possessed with finding themselves in some investment retirement utopia surrounded by the tanned buff vitamin-swilling 60-is-the-new-20 types you see in Viagra commercials).  What ever happened to grandpa?  He bought you a penknife when you were six, and took you fishing, and talked about the war and horses and how they put up hay and barn dances and simple things.  That is gone, gone.  Today, gramps is likely to be cruising around in a sporty convertible, already on his third wife, self-centered, self-possessed and self destructing.  I never remember my grandparents buying new furniture.  Somewhere in that memory is one of the million reasons for the loss of America.

No magic answer lies beyond the next curve in the road.  More than likely, the low, gnawing mediocrity we have have allowed our government to become will consume itself.  You can hear it in the answers of our leaders, who in every word talk about "working to protect American families" or "trying to save the middle class values" (neither of which they, respectively, possess nor want their children to espouse).  This smug, self-serving government has become our burden.  Too bureaucratic to be effective, too godless to be faithful, too big to be safe, ready to crush its own people rather than protect and serve them.  People of the government, by the government, for the government.

But lo, the Lord is the Lord of the Harvest.  And I am proud of the workers who have gone when I did not or would not or could not go.  The time is coming when we all must decide if service to the Lord means service.  And I thank my sons (my real ones) who have gone to fulfill the Great Commission, may the Lord go with you.  The time of the church is not waning for it is more necessary now in the face of what is coming.  Now is the time to rise to the occasion.

I remain,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Entry 18: The Unravelers

June 10, 2014

Dear Friends

Re:  Entry 18

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord lasts forever.  This is from Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 8.  I intentionally misquoted it once, by adding one word but not changing its meaning to emphasize a point.  Someone told me that the United States would last forever.  I added the word “only”, before “the word of the Lord” and emphasized it by saying at the end “nothing else on this earth lasts forever".  As sad as it may seem to all of us, the United States will not last forever.  Some people have gone to great lengths to prove that their particular countries or homelands are to somehow be glorified or honored by the Lord by preservation (remember the “JerUSAlem crowd?).  There is nothing new to this thought that successful countries, in the world’s definition, will last forever, or that somehow those countries possess an honored, if hidden or obscured, place in the word.  If you doubt, Google the term “British Israelism” and ask yourself how anyone ever believed (or believes) that was supported by the New Testament, let alone the Old.

But back to America.  It takes a considerable amount of hubris to think that America, the United States, will last forever.  The current incarnation of the United States barely survived a civil war not 150 years ago, where one whole side used the word of the Lord to justify enslaving their fellow man.  I hate to break it to you if you are not a student of history, some of you may hang on some vague concept of “states’ rights” as the basis of the American Civil War, but there was no state right apparently worth fighting for greater than the loss of what the South considered its most valuable asset—human slaves.  I have often considered the Civil War to be one of the greatest acts of righteousness of the United States—it took that to wipe out one of its greatest acts of unrighteousness, slavery.

We may be at the end of history, watching the unraveling of America as we knew it, eaten from the inside out by selfishness, and commercialism, and pleasure-seeking—the pursuit of happiness now defined as personal preference to do whatever one may want--and that financed by the taxpayer.  The country that roused itself from the Great Depression to win the Second World War, having done so by self-suppression to a higher cause, probably could not do that today.  I watched a documentary about a 17 year old from Clarksburg in the 29th Infantry Division, who went ashore at Normandy and fought his way through France, saw terrible things, did terrible things.  17 years old.  Today he would be in therapy because he did not get a Little League trophy when he was 8.  in 1944 he helped save the world from tyranny.

Where are these men today? I can tell you most assuredly, I am not one of them.  I am one of the unravelers of America.  It is a truth all Christians must face, that American Christianity is only spread when Christians are in the majority, or at least that is how we all seem to talk lately. If only we elected this man, or that woman, or finally got the majority back.  Well, you have got to believe that our government was elected by a majority—and you might be content to point to a president as the culprit—I would be more inclined to point to the majority that elected him.  Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon and Paul (in case you are counting, I left out Judas and Matthias, added Paul), all of these men took the Gospel to the majority—in their day they were the minority, and they did it to the point of death, it being so important to fulfill the commandment that they did not wait until Rome decided to stamp “official” or “majority” on them.  The next time you hear someone lament the end of prayer in schools as the beginning of the end of America, ask them why God is so limited by the lack of a schoolboy’s prayer.  He most certainly is not, and like all excuses for lack of action—action being the obligation to spread the Gospel—it has the hollow ring of unbelief and disobedience.  Get up, get out, spread the word! Stop whining about how it is all unraveling.  God is the God of the whirlwind too.

We may be watching, experiencing, living—assisting!—the end of America.  It may not survive my lifetime, the end most likely will be financial, a slow, strangling collapse, if we continue at this pace with this government which disdains, disowns, disregards the values that made it so special.  The grass and the flowers and the earth with America will pass, but the Word?  Not so.  Not so.

I remain


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Entry 17: Attitude

June 3, 2014

Dear Friends

Re: Entry 17

The last time I really had the flu was several years ago, in late January or early February. I remember this time distinctly because my youngest son Ogal was going with his team to a varsity basketball tournament about 200 miles away and I could not go. It was really the first of his games I missed, but given that he was a sophomore on a team with 7 seniors, even though he was on the varsity team, I did not think he would play that much. The tournament he was going to was one of the premier in-season tournaments in the state, and I did not want to miss it, but I could not drive. So I stayed at home, it was too far away to pick it up on the radio, so I mostly slept and whined, and moped, partly because of sickness partly because I could not be there.

The prior game went into overtime, so their 9 pm tip off became more like 9:45, a fact that made my head pound even more. At about 9:30 I was lying there thinking and realized that I might be able to get the broadcast over the internet, so I set up a laptop on a side table and looked for Beckley stations. It took several tries and searches, I listened to a number of commercials but when they went back to the main broadcast it was either country music (remember the old joke about country music? I played a record backwards and you know what? the guy got his dog back, go his truck back, got his girl back, got out of prison…). Finally, I just happened on the right station at the precise time and had it, at the start of his game. I was lying there with a blanket over my head, heard the announcement of the starters, the announcers talked to the coaches, and on and on, until the tip.

Then something miraculous happened. with 5 minutes to go in the first quarter (they are eight minute quarters), the announcer said “Checking in for the Warriors, No. 5, Ogal Fessler”…. I sat straight up on the couch, my headache instantly gone, I was healed. I looked at my wife and said “maybe he had to give his shirt to another player who forgot his” (this had happened when he was a freshman). No, it became clear it was Ogal playing, and the longer it went on, the better I felt. The game was very close, they were playing a team from Mt. Hope that was going to close at the end of the school year and had a very good player, it went back and forth, and Ogal was in and out the whole game, had three points, made a basket, got fouled, missed a basket, was fouled, made one of the free throws. In my head he was the star. Later, the coach told me that the Warriors had no answer for Mt. Hope’s best player, so they put Ogal in figuring he could play defense, maybe take the fouls, but Ogal shut him down, we could not have won without him. I do not remember being sick after that, I even went down to pick him up about 3 am and I went to work the next day. I really wanted to talk with him about what happened. I could have bled out on the sidewalk, I think I would have waited until I spoke with him before I died, just to know (I had a relative that once did this, my aunt waited to die until the day after a dinner honoring my father--she said that if she died before it would be cancelled, and he never got any recognition, so she was determined not to ruin it. I went to her house after the dinner and told her all about it. She died eight hours later. Don't tell me attitude does not matter).

Now as nice as that is to experience as a parent (and it is hard to describe to your children why that is, they just have to wait until they become parents to understand), the revelation to me was the fact that I was cured—not just made to feel better—but actually cured. I marveled at how such a change in circumstances could lead to a such a transformation as to how I felt. I did not really forget this, this attitude leading to change, and came to conclude (or wonder) that my personal outlook oftentimes was and is in conflict with reality. Or more to the point: my reality was clouded by my attitude, and my attitude could greatly influence my perception of the world.

This should not be a surprise to Christians. In 2 Timothy 1:7 it says “for God has not give to us a spirit of fear; but of power and love and a sound mind”. How else, in the face of difficulties that some Christians in the world must face, can they be believers? How else can we convince the world to believe in the unseen, if we mope around all day? It is the same spirit of verse that the Lord calls us to be cheerful givers, to go exhort and to encourage one another, to build one another up, to call each other to the higher calling of the Gospel. Attitude. It is not just some poster on a wall, but it is power—to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans, 8:6). These are not just words in an old book, but power, real power. Imagine, if I could harness the energy for sports or other pursuits into living for the Lord, or devote the time or attitude?

I remain,