Fourth of July

July 4

Next Tuesday is the Fourth of July, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the Continental Congress. It’s a day to celebrate American freedom.

Not everyone is as patriotic as you and I would like them to be. During football season last fall, numerous NFL players protested the national anthem by either kneeling during the anthem or raising their fists. Perhaps you were as chagrined as I by these disrespectful actions.

One man did something more than keep his thoughts to himself. Ret. Marine Col. Jeffery Powers wrote to the NFL commissioners, originally sending his letter to former Florida congressman Allen West, who posted the letter to his news website. Here are excerpts from that letter:

Commissioners,

I’ve been a season pass holder at Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl and Giants Stadium. I missed the ’90-’91 season because I was with a battalion of Marines in Desert Storm. Fourteen of my wonderful Marines returned home with the American Flag draped across their lifeless bodies. Many friends, Marines, and Special Forces Soldiers who worked with or for me through the years returned home with the American Flag draped over their coffins.

Now I watch multi-millionaire athletes who never did anything in their lives but play a game disrespect what brave Americans fought and died for. They are essentially spitting in the faces and on the graves of real men, men who have actually done something for this country beside playing with a ball and believing they’re something special! They’re not! My Marines and Soldiers were!

Legends and heroes do NOT wear shoulder pads. They wear body armor and carry rifles.

They make minimum wage and spend months and years away from their families. They don’t do it for an hour on Sunday. They do it 24/7 often with lead, not footballs, coming in their direction. They watch their brothers carted off in pieces not on a gurney to get their knee iced. They don’t have ice. Many don’t have legs or arms.

Some wear blue and risk their lives daily on the streets of America. They wear fire helmets and go upstairs into the fire rather than down to safety. On 9-11, hundreds vanished. They are the heroes.

So on this Fourth of July, join me in thanking God for the freedoms we enjoy and for those who dedicate their lives to defend those freedoms. Perhaps this video will help. Listen till the very end: https://www.youtube.com/embed/B2AEkfjc6-o?feature=player_detailpage

Happy Independence Day!

One Local Event, One National Event

zion-walburg

This week I share with you reflections on two recent events, one local and one national:

Local: This past Monday night Zion Lutheran Church and School in Walburg, Texas held its 45th annual Wurstbraten, a German sausage dinner. Proceeds are used to support church and school projects. Hundreds of Zion members worked to feed over 4,000 people. Including sales of sausage by the pound, Wurstbraten workers produced and sold 13,500 pounds of pure pork sausage!

Terry and I are active members of Zion. Our church is known for more than simply a sausage supper. Yet this event brings together members of church and community who work side by side to prepare and conduct this historic dinner. In addition, it gives wide visibility to our congregation, most likely bearing fruit that won’t be known this side of eternity. To God alone be the glory!

National: Late this past Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, depending on what part of the country you’re in, the results of the national election for president of the United States of America were announced. It’s a reality that regardless of who had won the election to become our next president, roughly half our nation would not be happy with the results. Time will tell whether the choice of American voters through the electoral process proves to be wise or otherwise.

It’s important to remember that the God of the universe uses people and events, good or bad, to accomplish his purposes. Throughout history God has used some leaders to prosper his people and other leaders to punish them. While we would all prefer prosperity, punishment is sometimes necessary, not only for individuals but also for nations. America is no exception.

God told the Old Testament people of Israel: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)

That’s my prayer for America, wistfully with help from the leadership of our new president but more likely under the influence of those of us who proclaim the Name of Christ and promote the biblical values we hold so near and dear.

A Prayer for Responsible Citizenship

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One of the blessings of my nine years as president of our national church body is Lutheran Service Book, published January 1, 2005 by Concordia Publishing House. I’m thankful to the LCMS Commission on Worship for its excellent work in producing this highly valued hymnal.

A significant section of LSB is titled “Prayers, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings.” One prayer in that section seems particularly fitting for today, only five days before national Election Day:

A Prayer for Responsible Citizenship: Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

If you have not already done so, with that prayer on your lips and in your heart, exercise your privilege and responsibility as a citizen of our land to cast your vote on or before next Tuesday, September 8, for the next president and vice-president of the United States of America.

If you need a reminder of some important matters that may be helpful in your decision, I humbly offer my October 20, 2016 Perspectives article at https://jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com/.

God bless you and God bless America!

Election Day

voting-boothOnly 18 days remain between now and Election Day. On one hand I’ll be glad when that day has come and gone. On the other hand, I’m very concerned about hearing the news to which America will awaken on November 9. Frankly, like many Americans, neither candidate rings my chimes.

For months we’ve been hearing and seeing ads, debates, and interviews espousing the minimal virtues of each candidate and eschewing the multiple vices of both. Name calling, half-truths, and allegations have filled the airwaves. No matter who wins, we won’t have a perfect president.

That in itself is nothing new. We never have had a perfect president. Yet in this year’s process of nominations and campaigns, seemingly unprecedented negative personal attributes and questionable values have emerged regarding each candidate. What are we to believe?

Hillary Clinton has been described as a deceitful, manipulative, self-serving, mean spirited, callous, angry, forgetful, dishonest, power hungry woman with no true love of country and no genuine desire to honor and preserve the basic religious values on which America was founded.

Donald Trump has been described as a rude, crude, ambitious, arrogant, womanizing, combative, name-calling New York narcissist who spends more time defending his reputation on social media than actually stating how he would make America great again as United States president.

Our country is at a critical crossroads politically, economically, morally, socially, and spiritually. Frankly, at face value, the descriptions in the paragraph above of the two candidates vying for the highest office in the land don’t offer much hope for America’s future. Yet, barring an act of God, it appears that one of them will become the 45th president of the United States of America.

Do we, therefore, simply wring our hands in despair? Do we stay home from the polls? Do we, as some suggest, hold our nose and vote for the one we think might be the lesser of two evils?

While I have no rocket science solutions, the suggestions I humbly offer are these:

  1. Pray fervently for divine direction in this election. See Rom. 13:1-4.
  2. Consider the qualifications of the two nominees in light of how they express their hopes and dreams for America’s future, notwithstanding their personal behavior and character.
  3. Review each candidate’s stance on terrorism, national security, foreign policy, military might, national debt, health care, economy, Supreme Court appointees, sanctity of life.
  4. Examine the official positions on the issues listed above as contained in the platforms of the two political parties the candidates represent. This is a most critical exercise! We’re not just voting for a person. We’re voting for the political platform that person represents!
  5. Evaluate the vice presidential candidates on the ballot, considering the attributes of the person who would be one heartbeat away. This is also a vital consideration!
  6. Pray again and cast your ballot for the candidate and platform most nearly aligned with your values and convictions as a Christian citizen of the United States of America!

Islam’s Future in America—Part VI—Conclusion

Muslim PrayerThis is the final part of a series resourced by Dr. Adam Francisco’s article cited in Part I.

“What might Islam look like in America in the future?” That’s the question prompting this series of articles. Dr. Francisco says: “Islam will continue to assert itself and even enjoy greater influence. There are currently about five million Muslims in America … expect that number to rise. Muslims typically have larger families than your average American [family].”

The Muslim population will be diverse, including Shias, who are more moderate, and Sunnis, “who are progressivists, secularists, Islamists, and even jihadists. The institutions representing American Muslims and public discourse on the character of Islam in America will be predominantly Islamist of one sort or another.”

“These Islamist organizations have learned to contextualize their speech. They say one thing but mean another. For example, Islam means peace, it has been said, and in a way—though not literally—it does. But it is a peace defined by Islam and one that will not be realized until all individuals, their institutions, and societies submit entirely to Allah.”

“Amidst America’s Muslims there will be and already is a contest for the soul and posture of Islam. Moderates and progressives are already battling with conservatives. Mark Steyn (“Apostasy in Moderation”) offers a word of caution as well as a corrective in which Christians could certainly participate. He has argued that promoting moderate Islam is a quick fix to the challenges posed by radical Islam and, in the end, will be ineffective as it is virtually impossible to get around the injunctions to violence in the Qur’an.” Steyn says: “The most effective strategy against the resurgence of Islam may be the oldest of all—an evangelizing Christianity.”

Francisco continues: “Nevertheless, we should expect more of the violence happening across the globe to find its way here. It already has. What to do with it or how to preempt it is still the question. Muslims have the right to practice their religion and—according to popular notions of what liberty or freedom means—order their life as they see fit. For religions committed to a distinction between religion and politics or theology and civil law, the first amendment poses little to no problem to the integrity of that religion or the state. For Islam—at least classical orthodox versions of it—it does. Herein lies one of the most basic problems associated with Islam in the West, particularly in a secular and pluralist democracy like America.”

“Regardless of all the trends, debates, policies, and postures associated with the problems of Islam and its future in America, we can count on the fact that Islam is and will continue to become a part of mainstream American culture. Whether it gets stirred up in the melting pot or not is anyone’s guess at this point. Whether it succeeds in influencing the broader culture or not will probably not be determined by Islam itself. Rather, the future of American culture will be determined by those, as it has been said, who show up for it. Muslims are poised to do just that. So are secularists. Are Christians? Only the future will tell.”

Islam’s Future in America—Part IV

Muslim 1This is the fourth part of a series resourced by Dr. Adam Francisco’s article cited in Part I.

“The 1960s, in general, were productive years for the strengthening of Islam in America. The number of students sent here on scholarship from places like Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia was over 10,000.”

“America became a land of promise for Muslims, especially those with Islamist commitments, in the 1960s. Muslims began to immigrate here in droves after passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished national origins quotas from immigration law.”

An organization called the Muslim Brotherhood set out “to fundamentally transform America by uniting Muslims who had settled in America.” The Brotherhood wrote a memo that said:

“The Ikhwan [Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s [Allah’s] religion is made victorious over all other religions. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes.”

The memo identifies a “civilization alternative” as the chief means of accomplishing the goals stated in the memo. “In other words, rather than some show of force or even overt political activity, the Islamist group in America sought (and seeks) to pursue the advance of Islam slowly, patiently, and even peacefully and, while doing so, to portray Islam as a legitimate and rational alternative to the hedonistic, relativistic, and materialistic culture that dominates the West.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Muslim population in the U.S. increased, both as a result of “natural biological unions between a Muslim man and his wife or wives” and continued immigration that included Islamist jihadists. For example, Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, “toured Silicon Valley in the early 1990s raising funds to support the fighters and organizations that would soon become al-Qaeda.”

“On the East Coast, mosques in New York and New Jersey used by the CIA in the 1980s to support the Afghan jihad were also used to recruit the jihadists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993.” That bombing pales in comparison to the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda.

These descriptions of Islamist jihadist ideology are not necessarily reflective of all Muslims. Nor should we consider all Muslims our enemies. I’ve been reminded by several readers that we are to share our faith and Christ’s love with all people, including Muslims. I agree. Stay tuned!

Islam’s Future in America—Part II

IslamIt’s apparent from the numerous responses I received after last week’s initial article on Islam’s Future in America that there is great interest in this topic. Many Americans have Muslim neighbors and their number will assuredly increase. It behooves us to inform ourselves as much as possible about Islamic values, ideals, attributes, and objectives, along with the challenges and opportunities Muslims bring to American life and Christianity.

Next week I’ll continue with excerpts from the article by Dr. Adam Francisco, cited in last week’s Perspectives. Before doing so, I thought it would be helpful to present here a brief summary of Islam per se. Greater detail can easily be found on the Internet.

The simple, concise summary below is provided by Patheos – Hosting the Conversation on Faith (http://www.patheos.com/Library/Islam). In this summary, CE stands for Common Era or Current Era or Christian Era. The abbreviation CE is an alternative naming of Anno Domini (AD – The Year of Our Lord). In addition, BCE is the abbreviation for Before the Common or Current or Christian Era, an alternative to BC (Before Christ). Frankly, I prefer BC and AD.

Here’s the summary of Islam from Patheos: “Islam is a monotheistic religious tradition that developed in the Middle East in the 7th century C.E. Islam, which literally means “surrender” or “submission,” was founded on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of Allah, [who Muslims believe is] the creator and sustainer of the world.

“The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, contains the teachings of the Prophet that were revealed to him from Allah. Essential to Islam is the belief that Allah is the one and true God with no partner or equal. Islam has several branches and much variety within those branches. The two divisions within the tradition are the Sunni and Shi’a, each of which claims different means of maintaining religious authority.

“One of the unifying characteristics of Islam is the Five Pillars, the fundamental practices of Islam. These five practices include a ritual profession of faith, ritual prayer, the zakat (charity), fasting, and the hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca). Many Muslims are characterized by their commitment to praying to Allah five times a day. One of the defining characteristics of Islam is the primacy of sacred places including Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Muslims gather at mosques to worship Allah, pray, and study scripture.

“There is not a sharp distinction between the religious and secular aspects of life in Islam; all aspects of a Muslim’s life are to be oriented to serving Allah. Islam expanded almost immediately beyond its birthplace in the Arabian Peninsula, and now has significant influence in Africa, throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas.” Here ends the Patheos summary of Islam.

Stay tuned for next week’s continuation of Islam’s Future in America. God bless you!