Thursday, February 15, 2018

How Can We Turn Our World Around

Yesterday (2-14-18), on Valentine's Day, 17 People Were Killed and 14 Others Injured I A Mass Shooting At A High School In Parkland, Florida. Here Is My Response:

The tragedies we are experiencing, like the school shooting in Florida yesterday, hurt all of us. I spent six and a half years in law enforcement and the past thirty-one years in Christian ministry. I spent the first fourteen days after the Sutherland Springs shooting in Sutherland Springs working with the Church, pastor, first responders, grief counselors, and the community. I was the first one through the doors of the sanctuary after the FBI, Texas Rangers and Sheriff Tackitt released it as a crime scene, and I coordinated the clean up and restoration to make it into the memorial that it is today. I KNOW the pain, grief and despair that come from these tragedies. Those were the toughest fourteen days in my life and still, when I lay down at night I see the inside of that building and smell the stench of death.
 I share this simply to explain that I understand the pain, and I do not dispel those who want a quick fix to the problems we are experiencing in America. I also know, however, that our legislature cannot fix the problem. They can't even come together on issues like budgeting, immigration, and trade. The only answer is a return to Biblical principles and for Christian men and women to begin to flesh out those principles in their daily life. We are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” America didn’t get into the shape it’s in overnight and the problems will not be fixed overnight.
 Christians have become complacent and it's difficult to distinguish Christians from non-Christians in our day. There were times when the Christian populace controlled the election boxes. Christians turned out in huge numbers to vote and their Judeo-Christian values were reflected in the results. This was particularly true in Texas and other southern states. Over time, and beginning in the mid to early sixties, this began to change and apathy began to set in within the Christian community. The Christian turnout at the polls began to wane and more liberal officials, both legislative and judicial, began to be elected. Slowly society changed. We moved from a "love your neighbor as you love yourself" society to an "I care only about myself and what makes me feel good" society. We saw courts rule that religious references must be removed from schools, courthouses, and other public venues, and we accepted it. We watched as courts ruled that the murder of innocent unborn children was acceptable, and we accepted it. We watched in complacency as our legislatures passed laws which mandated the governmental acceptance of same sex marriage, the removal of parental control over the sexual conduct of minor children, they funded agencies which promoted abortions, and legislated many other anti-biblical ideals. Through these various legislative and judicial decisions and over a long period of time, we have lost control of basic Judeo-Christian ideals. We have arrived at a point where our teachers in public schools have very little disciplinary discretion.
 Today in America there are now virtually no recoginzable absolutes; no black and white. We have raised a generation of young people who believe that society owes them, rather than the other way around. John F. Kennedy, in what was arguably his most profound statement said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” That ideal has been lost. In fact, it has been reversed. We have raised and are raising a generation of young people who have few if any interpersonal skills. They interact with one another, not in one on one settings, but through the obscure use of social media and on-line gaming. These have become the norms rather than the exceptions. The visualization of extreme violence through hours and hours of video gaming has brought about a desensitizing of young minds to the value of life, and this has gone unchecked by parents who have abandoned their God given roles of parenting, including Christian parents. Today, by and large, parents are allowing their children to make lifetime and life-forming decisions by themselves, rather than directing their decision making through Biblical principles. The cliche, “Parents have become their children’s best friends, rather than their children’s parents” is not a cliche at all. It is reality.
 Any real and lasting change for the betterment of our society will take place slowly, but must begin with a return to Biblical Judeo-Christian principles implemented by Christian parents. We must begin to take responsibility for our parenting again. This means saying no to our children, even when their friends are saying yes. It means that our children may not be the most popular among their peers, and that our parents may not be the most popular among their own. Being right, is not always popular. Christians, all Christians, not just parents, must put God first in all matters. This means: God before sports; God before popularity; God first in every avenue of life. Scripture tells us to “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness...” (Emphasis mine)
 Life is not fair, and life is not perfect. We will all fail from time to time, but until we make the decision to give it our all, we will never return to the days of peace as a society that we talk about. God told the people of old, “Return to me and I’ll return to you.” (Malachi 3:7, NIV)
These words were spoken by Jesus concerning the commandments of God:
 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this “The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV).
If we could get these two verses of scripture down, we could change America!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Greatest Tragedy of 9-11-2011

In the initial line of this post, let me make it clear that the loss of lives and the injuries that came as a result of Islamic terrorists attacking our great nation on our own soil cannot be reversed. Those were and are real people and the trauma to family and friends, though it may be soothed, can never be removed. Though I knew none of them personally, I prayed and continue to pray for them. I pray for the brotherhood of first responders whose lives have been forever changed. Nothing I will share today is intended in any way to diminish the loss, pain nor anguish that these individuals and families have experienced.

That said, I believe the greatest tragedy of 9-11-2001 was not the destruction of buildings, the loss of life and limb, nor the realization that America is venerable to attack within the homeland. Let me explain what I observed as a pastor in America during the two decades surrounding that fateful day.  In the years leading up to the 9-11 events, America in general has drifted away from the biblical precepts on which she was founded and which had made her great. Supreme Court rulings had changed our moral compass. No longer were the lives of innocent children valued as creations of Almighty God. No longer were biblical, nor even patriotic values seen as valuable to our educational process. Parental discipline was broadly limited and a "feel good" moral system crept into place. Participation in worship and other church related activities fell to an all time low and slowly America moved away from her dependence upon God's sovereign direction.

Then came the eventious day of destruction, injury and death. 9-11-2001, within minutes became etched on the annals of American history. We were all stunned. All of America fell into a state of fear and anger. Suddenly those who had no room for God in their lives, began to pray and flock to the churches within their communities. On Wednesday evening, 9-12-2001, our small church saw many turn out for our Wednesday evening prayer time who had not been present in years, or perhaps ever. On Sunday morning, 9-16-2001, our rural church was packed and overflowing. Chair had to be brought in and people were standing as I preached that morning. I was apparent that even through tragedy, God was at work call America back to Himself. I remember distinctly how several parents who had not been in church in months, came to me privately asking for counsel on how to biblically assist their children to understand how God could, or would, allow such things to take place. Without exception, every one of them pledged to return to an active role within the church and to raise up their children in the admonition of the Lord. On Sunday, 9-23-2001, our church was again packed, but no one was standing. There were enough chairs to support the crowd. The following Sunday, the third after 9-11, there were empty seats in our worship center and by the following Sunday our attendance was back to pre 9-ll numbers. Those parents who had come to me seeking counsel and pledging to become actively involved in Bible study and worship were no where to be seen. Their children quickly fell out of our children's and teem ministries and the vast majority of these families were never seen at our church again.

I believe this is the greatest tragedy of 9-11-2001. While God did not direct nor cause the events of 9-11, He did allow them to take place. I believe God saw an opportunity to call America back to himself and reestablish a biblical direction for our nation. We ran to God in our time of fear, but as soon as that initial fear had subsided, America again turned her back on Him. In the thirteen years that have ensued, we have moved even farther away from God and His precepts. We voted for "hope and change." We got the change, but we've lost our hope. We now have national leadership which has no regard for the Constitution  and a President who believes himself to be a monarch rather than the leader of a Republic. America's hope since 9-11-2001 has moved, not closer to God but to a leader whom she really doesn't even know.  Yes, this is the real tragedy of 9-11-2001: America failed to heed the warning of God and failed to return to him.

The hope for America, and for our individual lives is not in government nor in its political leaders. Our only real hope is in God. The Psalmist said it well, "Find rest O my soul, in God alone: any hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge."  (Psalm 62:5-7, NIV).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cozumel 2014 Day 9 The Final Chapter

Today is our last day of diving this trip. We have had a wonderful and relaxing time. We hope you have enjoyed looking at the photos and videos. We'd love to read your comments, so if you haven't already done so, leave us a few words about the pics you like best. If you've already y left a comment, please leave another on. This morning we dove on Punta Tunich Reef and went back to Villa Blanca Reef in search of the elusive Bat Fish. We didn't find any today, but you won't want to miss the video Reva took of some Squid! It's very unusual to locate Squid during the day, but our fantastic dive master, Julio Kim did just that. He's the best!
Green Moray Eel
Black, Red & White Nudi-Branch
Large Black Grouper
Blue Tang
Peacock Flounder
Black & White Moray Eel
Tiny Juvenile Trunk Fish (size of a thimble)
Great Barracuda
Nurse Shark
 Peacock Flounder

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cozumel 2014 Day 8

Up early after a great night dive and off again to Palanca Bricks Reef. It was here that a six foot Nurse Shark came swimming across the top of the reef directly at Reva. He came within one foot of her camera (see picture below) before turning away and swimming through our group of divers. He hung out with us for about a full minute, sometimes coming close enough to touch. Later in the morning we made our way to the Columbia Shallows reef where there was an abundance of sea life. Enjoy the photos and video.
 Reva says. "Welcome to my world."
Yellow Filefish
French Angel
Nurse Shark headed for Reva!
"Hello Ms. Reva."
Nurse Shark and Mitch
"Hey, who's that invading my space?"
Tiny Orange Coral Blennie
Trumpet Fish
Rock Beauty
Yellow Sting Ray

Cozumel 2014. Day 7

Today our youngest daughter, Angela and her husband arrived for their Ports A Call here on Cozumel while cruising on the Carnival Magic. We picked them up about 9:00 am and enjoyed several hours a beach club and had a leisurely lunch with them before returning them to their ship around 2;00 pm. At 4:15 we boarded our own boat, the Queen Angel with Captain Shaggy and Dive Master Julio. It was off to the Palancar Caves for a late afternoon dive. Then it was a relaxing time of watching the sun set before entering the water just at dusk on Paradise Reef of an awesome night dive. We hope you enjoy the photos and videos from today's dives.
The Videos are a little jumpy and there is no sound. I'm not sure why, but it has something to do with the blog site, not the camera.
Fun in the sun
The Magic sets sail. Audios Angela y Mike.
 Puffer Fish
 Coral Blennie
 Sea Cucumber
 Sea Basket Star Fish
 Splendid Toad Fish 

 Moray Eel

 Spanish Lobster (weird)


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cozumel 2014 Day 6

Day 6 took us to Columbia Deep Reef and to Dialia Reef. Not as many opportunities for photos today, but Reva did a great job anyway. Please feel free to leave comments and enjoy the photos and videos.

You guessed right. It's a turtle.

Baby Star Fish (about the size of a dime)
Juvenile File Fish

Green Moray Eel

Another one

Queen Angel


Giant Parrot Fish (4-5 ft. length)

Adult Drum Fish

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cozumel 2014 Day 5

Down to one camera, ugh!  Dives today were to San Francisco Reef and Tormentos Reef. It was a beautiful day and two beautiful dives. We hope you enjoy the pictures and videos.

French Angel

Queen Angel

Spiny Star Fish inside Red Sponge

Blue Parrot Fish (3-4 ft. Long)
Yellow Grunt

Scorpion Fish

Rock Fish

Trumpet Fish
Family of Lobster

Pipe Fish

Pipe Fish

Pipe Sea Horse
Pipe Sea Horse
Pipe Sea Horse

Pipe Sea Horse

Pipe Sea Horse

Juvenile Trunk Fish (size of a small button)

Watch this Snapper gulp down a Lion Fish