2013 in review

Wow — 2013 has flown by like nobody’s business! I cannot recall ever feeling like a year went by so fast as I feel this year.

For my own sake, I thought I would put together a few thoughts about the Roman year that is now passing. It has been a crazy 365 days, though it hasn’t necessarily been an unpredictable craziness…

The United States continues to broadcast its incompetence. As explained by a WSJ opinion piece today, the new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has “out-leadershipped” virtually every U.S. leader over the last year by actually making his country work and work better, addressing actual problems. Meanwhile, we keep applying new band aids on top of old band aids and our symptoms are beginning to multiply. “Dysfunctional” hardly seems like a sufficient word for what we have seen in our government over the course of 2013 (certainly a far cry from my fantasy Obama acceptance speech). Our debt continues to be nauseating, our military frustrated, our credibility in the world fatally compromised, and our morality continuing down the toilet.

On that last point, as Yahoo! News noted (hat tip to SW!) 2013 was, according to the so-called Human Rights Campaign, the “gayest year in gay history.” What we have witnessed in terms of cultural collapse and moral change in 2013 has been breathtaking in its speed. But, as I have tried to say before, the changes we see in the state of “marriage” are not the problem as much as they are the symptom. If marriage had remained a sacred and honored institution and if sexual activity had continued to be seen as something belonging within the domain of marriage, none of this would be happening. Admittedly, it is a symptom that the disease is in its final stages, but it is merely a symptom. We’ve only gotten to these final stages here in 2013 because all previous symptoms were willfully ignored.

(That said, the signs of our cultural rot in the U.S.A. are too many for me to even want to list here, as I would love to move on. Let me only add here in parentheses that it would be wonderful if 2014 involved no news items that contained the word “twerk.” That would be great.)

On the world scene, the changes and challenges have also been breathtaking. The Eurozone survived the predictions of many that it would crumble. The Middle East, Egypt and Syria in particular, continues to be scrambled up in a manner that will eventually enable a King of the South. Not to ignore other countries in the area: In 2013, Iraq experienced its deadliest year since 2008 and Iran got a big, wet, kiss on the lips by the U.S. and its buddies. The world continues to become configured in a manner consistent with the picture the Bible paints of the End Times.

And stepping into that world scene is a pope like none that world has seen for quite some time. Taking on the name “Francis I” which suggests that he is of a mind to reform, he has begun to do that — attempting to reform both the Roman Catholic Church’s image and its institutions. In addressing its image, many homosexuals and abortionists were encouraged by his comments that such topics dominate too much of the RCC’s dialogues and that it should focus on other things. What he did not say, of course, is that the positions and doctrines of the RCC were actually going to be changed in such matters — something that those who actually pay attention were sure to notice. Still, by focusing on projecting an image of humility and outgoing concern for the impoverished and the unheard, Pope Francis is creating the sort of picture that better matches the RCC’s talk and is reforming its image in a way that few could have imagined before 2013. The news speaks of record numbers of young, intelligent, educated women choosing the “calling” of the nunnery, and even many atheists are singing his praises, with one woman tweeting, “I’m an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him.” Her opinion is not an isolated one, and I have read of many atheists considering giving the RCC another chance at winning their hearts–perhaps loosening the grip that Richard Dawkins, et al., have had on their minds.

Whether or not he is the last one and whether or not his honeymoon with the world continues unabated in 2014, the pope that the RCC received in 2013 is a game changer. It was a remarkable event of the past year with ramifications that will continue to be felt for much longer.

Concerning the Work of God, 2013 was an incredible year, with some of the most dramatic changes I have seen since I have had the privilege to be a part of it in this way! The Tomorrow’s World studio has been transformed, we’ve grown from a one-camera operation to three (including a jib), our graphics and planning for each program are being taken to a new level, the magazine underwent a powerful redesign, and our online presence has exploded through social networks at an almost frightening rate. The new TW Short videos are being viewed by tens and even hundreds of thousands of people at a time and are bringing thousands of additional people to our booklets and materials. Individuals all across the northern hemisphere are hearing the Tomorrow’s World program being broadcast in Russian for the first time. Dr. Roderick Meredith’s live Tomorrow’s World presentations online rocked, and, in my personal experience, the number of people who responded to the local TW presentations were greater than I had ever seen. And all of this (and so much more) just represents 2013! It doesn’t include any of the many things on the horizon just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. As far as I am concerned, this really is perhaps the most exciting time to be a part of the Work of God that I have ever experienced, in which it seems so blatantly obvious to those with eyes to see that His own hands are at work in the Church’s efforts.

Concerning those related to COGdom but outside the borders of God’s Work, if you will, in 2013 the rumormongers continued rumormongering, the self-appointed grew in number (as they always do), and the weird fantasies continued to multiply. Someone claimed to see in the Bible that Mr. Meredith would die this past year. And while it isn’t exactly the boldest prediction in the world that a man in his mid-80s would die, it, of course, flopped. Weird stories and predictions about the Church and its leaders crafted by various heretics and apostle-wannabes that were provably complete delusional fantasies did not pan out, as usual. Some folks here and there on the Internet finally acted on personal ambitions and self-delusions they have held for years. The earth kept spinning. The moon continued to orbit the earth. Boasters kept boasting. Accusers kept accusing. In those ways, 2013 was just another day in the office, as it has been for 2000 years. 🙂

Personally, it was a joy to serve my congregations in 2013. We grew, with a number of additions from those who have seen the telecast, received our literature, responded to the local presentations, and impressed with friends and loved ones who are in the Church. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in so many baptism counselings simultaneously, and it looks as though our Passover halls will happily be a bit more crowded! Growth aside, it is a privilege to get to serve so many wonderful people in this area, and I appreciate so much their patience with me. My family and I are so happy to make our home here.

Speaking of home, 2013 was quite a year on the home front! It was the first full year that my wonderful father- and mother-in-law have loved here, which has been such a blessing. It also was the year when I officially became shorter than 50% of my children, making me the third shortest person in a house filled with eight people. I lost 20 lbs. (Huzzah!) But have gained almost half of that back. (Booooo…) My wife and I had the humbling opportunity to travel to Europe, which was life-changing in a number of ways. Boy #1 continues to excel at fencing (the kind with masks and foils, not paint and wood), while Boy #2 has taken up Tae Kwon Do. Boy #3 is almost as tall as me, even though he is only 12-years-old, and Boy #4 has, here at the end of the year, gotten a pair of glasses that officially make him look smarter than me. 🙂 My Beautiful Wife began trying to sell some of her beautiful quilts (Etsy store: “Jeanine’s Quilted Things”). We painted our house. My work on Wally 4.0 proceeded apace, though not as “apace” as I would like (I still think it’s in beta). I converted to the Apple Ecosystem — in fact, I even got a MacBook Air to replace my old PC laptop (which I am surprised I haven’t blogged about, given how I’ve gone on about earlier matters), making me virtually 100% Apple-powered (though still rooting for Surface to do well).

More could be said, to be sure, but this Roman year of 2013 is ending with quite a bit having happened and with much promise of more to come in 2014.

In particular, this past year for me and my family was another opportunity to know that God has blessed us, that Jesus Christ rules in the Church and in our family, and that all our answers are found there in Him. All we have and know is worth having and knowing only because He grants that we have and know it, and all we do not have or know is not our concern as long as we are continually open and yielding to the One who, in His good time and for His good purposes, should one day grant that we have or know it. And until that day, having Him is sufficient. I think I saw that a little more clearly in 2013.

Perhaps the best thing about 2013 (even better than being 99% done with 2012 Maya-related silliness!) is knowing that Jesus’ return and His Kingdom is another solar revolution closer than it was this time last year. And whether I am alive when He comes back to earth or whether He determines in His wisdom that my end should come earlier than that, that is — beyond a doubt — a very good thing. (Does Martha Stewart have that phrase copyrighted? I hope not.)

French children and ADHD

Hat tip to Mr. Albert Mohler and his podcast for pointing me to this article.

The magazine Psychology Today was the scene of a bit of a tiff concerning one professional’s opinion about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The context, as I understand it, was the recent publication of the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — or the DSM — which is, essentially the “Bible” of mental disorder diagnosis. Mr. Mohler had much to say about it and, indeed, apparently it is a terribly flawed book. The principle that comes to mind is one I warn my kids about from time to time: If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. In the mental health professions, this philosophy does seem to reign to a certain extent.

But, in particular, it was Mr. Mohler’s pointing to an argument about ADHD that caught my attention and eventually led me to a statement that you rarely see in mainstream publications anymore, let alone a work like Psychology Today.

The title of the Psychology Today article was, “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD” by Dr. Marilyn Wedge (you can read it by clicking on the title).

It clearly began with punch:

“In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?

“Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the United States.”

The point, of course, is that biologically, there is not so much different between an American child and a French child that 9% of American children should have a “biological” disorder that only 0.5% of French children do.

The debate then ensues: Is it that French children are actually different? Is it just that French doctors are ill informed? American doctors would be quick to say their French counterparts are too slow to recognize what is a true “disorder” (and responses in Psychology Today have, indeed, said as much), while French doctors would say that American doctors are far too quick to do so.

But what struck me was the common sense in Dr. Wedge’s article — that how a child is reared absolutely does have an impact on such things. Perhaps not 100%, but certainly not 0% and, in truth, far, far greater. In particular, the final section grabbed me with it’s information and advice that is sadly all too rare these days:

“From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means ‘frame’ or ‘structure.’ Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies ‘cry it out’ if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.

“French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word ‘no’ rescues children from the ‘tyranny of their own desires.’ And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France.

“As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don’t need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.”

By the way, the “Druckerman” to whom she is referring is Pamela Druckerman who has appeared in these posts before. (“French Moms and Social Psychologist Silliness“, 2/7/2012.)

I was both shocked and delighted that a mainstream magazine like Psychology Today would allow someone to mention spanking in anything other than a negative light. But to focus on just that would miss the point. The idea of parents running a house, creating the “framing” and “structures” and not allowing the children to be the center and “pace setters” of that home was refreshing to see.

I’d write more, but I lack the time. (Actually, I lacked the time to write even this, but–hey–too late!) Just thought it was worth putting out there. And, for kicks, I will add a vive la france!

Great summary of the decline in U.S. military strength

I know it’s odd for me to post twice in one day, and I wouldn’t want to divert anyone from the theological musings in “Married Bachelors and Instant Character” but this comment I read in an WSJ opinion piece really struck me as a fantastic summary of the current state of the American military:

“History and the present tell us unambiguously that we require vast reserves of strength used judiciously, sparingly when possible, overwhelmingly when appropriate, precisely, quickly, and efficiently. Now we have vanishing and insufficient strength used injudiciously, promiscuously, slowly, and ineffectively.”

The commentary, published yesterday, was “Benghazi’s Portent and the Decline of U.S. Military Strength” by Mark Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. You can click on the link, but it is behind a paywall, so unless you have a subscription or can view a free preview, you may not be able to read the whole thing. It’s a good read, though, and Halprin’s comments about what America is doing to its military strength are insightful.

Fantasy Obama Inaugural Speech

Well, the election is past, and America has chosen to continue with President Barack Obama for another four years.  I wrote about this in a commentary published on the LCG and Tomorrow’s World websites which were graciously published yesterday, and I won’t revisit that territory here. Though do click through and read it if you haven’t: “Can the President Save America?”  I believe in the 8th commandment and refuse to quote other articles in their entirety and, thus, steal other website’s traffic from other websites, so I won’t quote the commentary here, but I do encourage you to read it there.

Rather, I’d like to indulge in a little wishful thinking. Well, probably more than wishful — it borders on fantasy. OK, perhaps it crosses that border and sets up a summer home there. But I so wish it would happen.  I dreamed once before that I had the chance to speak with President Obama and tell him personally the things that we preach on our program. It’s possible that dream informs this fantasy. What I have below is hastily written and probably not the clearest and most typo/grammar infraction-free writing I’ve ever done. In fact, I’m fairly sure that after it’s done and posted, I will wish I had rephrased much of it. But it will still feel good to get it off my chest! So here goes…

Setting: President Obama’s Second Inauguration, January 21, 2013. The President has just been sworn in and turns to face the applauding crowd and begin his address…

Thank you… Thank you…

My fellow Americans, I cannot help but begin with an expression of humble gratitude that you have chosen me to continue leading our nation through what are surely difficult times–more difficult than virtually any of us even now realize. Though political campaigns do not necessarily bring out the best in us, the days afterwards were–and continue to be–encouraging. As you know, in the first days immediately after the election, I met with Vice President Biden, Senators Reid and McConnell, and Representatives Boehner and Pelosi, as well as with Governor Romney and Representative Ryan. I can assure you that each of them has the nation’s best interested at heart, it’s citizens’ best interested at heart, and our common future as their highest priority. I found them more easy to work with than I had allowed myself to believe they would be, and I hope they found a more humble Head of State than they experienced over the previous four years. The compromise we reached concerning the fiscal cliff the nation approached in those days was not pretty, was not popular, and it is not permanent. But I cannot imagine a more passionate and diligent team could be assembled to get the job done.

As you know, however, and as has been reported by everyone from the mainstream press to the tabloids, I have been out of the public eye for some time after those days. Even during the deliberations over the fiscal deadline we all shared, I was frequently absent, and after the agreement was reached, I was even more so. I have not spoken publicly since that time to today, and this has enraged some, puzzled most, and troubled many. For that, you have my apologies. Even those closest to me have been confused… worried. My wife, Michelle, has been as strong and supportive as ever–as have Sasha and Malia. Though they don’t exactly understand, they still support me. God knows that I cannot thank them enough, and He knows what courage it has taken them to continue to stand by me in silence as the last couple of months have unfolded. Regardless of what transpires next, they will always have my devotion.

I owe you, the people, an explanation for what the newspapers have called my “time AWOL”–but for all the praise that has been heaped upon me as an orator, I have struggled with myself over not only how to speak on the matters that have weighted on my mind and my heart, but, more importantly, what to actually do about them. I must be frank and admit to you that I do not entirely know what I will do about these things. But I do know that the problems we face, we face together as a nation–a nation of divided loyalty and values, yet a nation with a shared destiny, a common fate.

I have learned some things that I did not expect to learn over the last couple of months, and I have come to a certain understanding. It will not please many of those who most devotedly voted to place me in office, nor will it give too great a comfort to many of those who desired my opponent. But truth is not chosen through popular election… and truth is what has confronted me in the harsh weeks I have faced leading up to today.

In the campaign season that just ended, many of us running for office ended our speeches with the words “God bless the United States of America.” My opponent used it at the end of his gracious concession speech. I expressed the same sentiment in my victory speech. At any number of speeches across the country, you would have heard the words “God bless America” come from the mouths of each of us desiring your vote. Some of us don’t believe in a God, and we still say it. Some of us believe in a God, but not one who chooses to intervene in the lives and affairs of men and nations–or who can even be said to “choose” anything at all–and we still say it.

Personally, I do believe there is a God. And it strikes me that if I am to keep uttering that phrase, it should mean something to me.

As I have studied, and prayed, and struggled over the past weeks–suddenly confronting a surprising clarity and understanding that I never expected and, indeed, did not ask for–I have had to ask myself a question, and it’s a question I need to ask all of us assembled here, today: Why should God bless us?

Many who have been my opponents on the other side of the political isle have often taken issue with what they see in me as an opposition to the idea of “American exceptionalism.” They were right in the fact that I did not conceive of the idea in the same way they did. Yet I preached from the bully pulpit my own brand of American exceptionalism. Regardless of where I stood or where they stood, I now have to ask myself: Does either view of that “exceptionalism” truly please the God that I now see has held us up and sustained us — whose hand, if we are honest with ourselves, we cannot help but see shrinking away from us, however slowly? Would He ultimately be more pleased with the vision I have discussed in those times I felt politically safest? Would He ultimately be more pleased with the vision often upheld by my past opponents, those whom I reach out to today as coworkers and friends? Or is the Almighty looking for something altogether different?

Ancient Israel knew something similar–a sense of “Israelite exceptionalism.” Perhaps they, too, began to think it was because of ideas or laws or ways of life that they, themselves, had designed–that they, too, had created their own greatness, or that they, too, were a special people in and of themselves… Forgetting that their exceptionalism was not based upon their being an inherently better nation than all the others, but in the relationship they had with the Almighty in what He was willing to do with them and through them.

Some have wondered about the Bible I chose for my oath of office today… While I did not feel worthy to use the Bible of Washington’s inauguration or of Lincoln’s, that wasn’t the only reason I chose this one. I asked that this Bible be used for the simple fact that it is my own. I’ve read it, before. I’ve prayed over it. But I believe with all my heart that it is only within the last couple of months have I truly begun to understand it. And what I have come to understand and been taught fills me with regret–and, honestly, with fear for our nation, for our union, and for our families–and it challenges me every time I now utter those words, “God bless America.”

And none of the political answers we have heard over countless previous presidencies and senatorial terms are enough to resolve those fears — to answer the questions posed by what this book claims.

On one hand, I do have some cause for real hope. What I see in this book are the best aspirations of both of our political parties. Speaking for my fellow Democrats and our allies and to the best of our declared hopes and ambitions, I see a God described in this book as One who cares passionately and zealously for the poor, for the weak, and for those who have no voice. I see a God who is willing to ensure all who have contribute for the good of those who do not. I see a God who has greater priorities than the bottom line, and a God who is willing to regulate even the smallest aspects of society where necessary so as to guarantee it is just, and good, and a place where all are blessed. Speaking for Republicans and those sympathetic to their stated causes, I see a God who honors the principles of private ownership and private responsibility. I see a God who believes that if a man who can work chooses not to do so, then that man does not eat. I see a God who created the foundations of society in the family and who wisely drafted its design and purpose. And I see a God who claims to know the child from the moment of conception, even before he or she is born.

On the other hand, while I see those values shining brightly from the pages of this amazing book, what I do not find there is any real evidence that we have pursued the realization of those values in a manner that will ever bring success. I see that I have been a part of an industry that has made merchandise out of women’s wombs, and has sacrificed innocent children for the sake of adults’ convenience. I see those elected to be shepherds who worship at the altar of “market forces,” as if those forces alone are sufficient to produce a just and caring society.  I see…

I’m sorry… It was my intention to say more–and there is more to be said–but I need this address to be larger and more hopeful than such a list would allow it to be. Suffice it to say that for a nation whose leaders routinely say, “God bless America,” it is clear that we are doing nothing to truly earn the blessing we request of Him.

I am as guilty as anyone. Our statisticians tell us that between 50 and 70 million across the globe will be watching this speech–an audience my unexpected silence over these past weeks has magnified to some extent. Many of you watching could pull out your smartphones and Google a video of me in my 2008 campaign where I mocked the idea of running a country by the principles of the Bible. For instance, at that time I pointed out the seemingly impossibility of being a nation who turns the other cheek and which disposes of the Department of Defense. I had in mind at the time not a desire to mock the Bible, though I see now that is what I did. I had a desire to the hypocrisy of those who opposed me, claiming to stand for godly, biblical government, as if I did not. I won’t disparage them here on the stage any further than perhaps I already have–if I have been so blind and ignorant, how can I hold their own blindness against them.

But I see an answer now that I did not see then. It is still true: I do not know how one can rule a nation in the modern world while hewing closely to the the laws and principles of this beautiful and wondrous book. I do not know the fullness of the path that takes us from here to there. But what I have learned, if I have learned anything, is that if I will take those steps I know I can, there is a God who can make the next steps clearer. That one does not refuse to take the first few steps because his lamp does not illuminate the entire path… that rather he takes those steps he can see, and that the lamp will not illuminate his next steps until he does so.

This book has shown me that although I am not your lawmaker or your judge, as our Constitution defines my role, as the President I am your leader in a unique and humbling way, and I will be held responsible to God for the choices I make as your President. I questioned in recent weeks whether I should even take the Oath of Office–whether my new understanding prevented me from being able to fulfill that oath or whether I should step aside as a different man than the one you elected. I may still discover that I should step aside, or I may be asked by you, the people, to leave. Time will tell. But I believe at this time that if I am here in this place and in this position, then I must within my limited power do what I can to help us along a path to become a nation God can bless. I cannot make the laws. I cannot judge. But within the authority I do have, I will use this book to guide my decisions and actions. And I will use the pulpit this office gives me to point all of us in the direction we should go. It is not a direction that most any of us have headed before, and I am no exception. But it is the direction that all of us should go. It is toward the pillar of fire and smoke that will lead us to a truly wonderful land — a land we have lost sight of, if we ever saw it truly at all.

I have no illusions. I know that the stand I must now take may make this term shorter than President Harrison’s. This may be the last speech I will ever be allowed to give as an elected official. Many of my cabinet members will choose to resign–some of them may be drafting their letters as I speak, if they haven’t fainted dead away already. I don’t mean to mock them. They are good men and women, every one. It is no fault of theirs that their president has become a different man than the man they knew, and there will be no shame in resigning. For their replacements, I will be open to any person of any party who is willing to help me take this country in this direction–the only direction that will save it.

And when I say “save it,” I am not being melodramatic.

Our nation is on the brink of collapse. The editorial pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bicker over what trouble our nation is in — one editor’s national strength is another editor’s national weakness. Their opinions–and mine–are immaterial. But the God who founded this nation makes it clear that He is the source of our strength and our turning from Him is the source of our weakness. All of us who believed that certain magical “isms” would make America all we hoped it could be–capitalism, socialism, humanism, communism– have done nothing but weaken the nation with each passing administration and term of office. This incredible book supports some of our “isms” in part, but none of them whole. And while we debate amongst ourselves and hold up the humanly-devised code or creed or way of life we individually champion, this same book declares that we have done nothing to forestall our date with destiny. We cannot expect our debt problem to disappear with fiscal policy that does not recognize our Creator in the heart of it, as we are told that it is He who gives us the power to obtain wealth. We cannot expect our poor and destitute to be cared for in the manners of our devising without recognizing the God who claims them as His own. We cannot expect our military to continue to succeed and expect the size of our might to protect and deliver us without recognizing with more than lip service and faithless prayers the God who truly protects and delivers, and who can save or destroy the many at the hands of the few. We cannot continue to hope that our crops will return and our skies will be merciful when we have ignored the One who crafted the soil and the seed, the sun and the sky.

For the nation who forgets these things, this book has some fearsome things to say about the days ahead — things that, since I have come to see them and believe them, have driven me to my knees in tears several times a day in the hope that those days may still be averted.

You know — I was elected in 2008 by many people who hailed me as a savior of sorts. The last four years have stripped them of that illusion. I am no savior. But this nation does have a Savior. And with all the powers that this position vests in me, I will do all I can to turn this nation to that Savior. To His ways, to His laws, to His judgments, and to His mercies. I will seek to do so within the laws and the Constitution I have sworn to uphold, and I am sure that there will be many questions for the Supreme Court in the days ahead. Many of those I have counted, and hope to still count, as friends and who stand beside me today are probably already drawing up the lawsuits in their minds. But that will not change my resolve.

So, I am asking all of you to join me next week on January 28 in a day of prayer and fasting for our nation. I ask you to pray for me, as your president, as I step onto a path that, I do admit, is at once terrifying and inspiring to me–a path that finally recognizes the true potential for our nation to experience the most horrific of fates, yet which also recognizes the only true solution. It is not a path that has not been planned or even imagined by either of our political parties, but I know in the deepest parts of who and what I am that it is the only path we can travel and continue to exist as a people. And I ask you to pray for our once great nation. I have no doubt that my words today will cause upheaval. I see that even now as I look into your faces and find there a mixture of wonder, doubt, hope, sadness, anger, confusion, fury, and, in a very few cases, exhilaration. And for each of those responses, I understand what you are going through. They are the very same emotions I have passed through myself in the hard weeks leading up to today. I can only hope against the odds that those emotions will carry you to the same place mine did.

I leave you today with a quote from this book I’ve mentioned so frequently today, taken from the book of 2 Chronicles and chapter 7, after Solomon had dedicated the temple to his God and to ours. That same God told Solomon as He tells us today: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” My fellow Americans, we need our land healed. We need our sins forgiven. And we need to be heard by the One in heaven. Consequently, we must humble ourselves. And we must pray. And we must seek His face.

In any way in which I have failed to do this before, either in word or in example, I ask your forgiveness. I do not intend to fail you any further. And to my fellow politicians on both sides of the political aisle–indeed, all across this nation’s diverse political spectrum–you have my apologies, too. I know that the President who has spoken today is not the President any of you expected, nor, for most likely all of you, is he the President you want. But, for whatever reason, it is the President which God has decided to give you.

In 2008, I promised “hope and change.” I tell you truly: I did not know what those words truly meant before now. I did not know the real hope that is held out for us. I did not see the change that all of us truly need. But I am beginning to get a glimpse of it now. And I am committed to do all I can to make that change happen… So help me, God.

May God be with us in the difficult days ahead, may He mercifully lead us to repentance, and may God bless the United States of America.

The F-22 Raptor versus the Eurofighter Typhoon: And the winner is…

The F-22 Raptor fifth generation stealth air s...
The F-22 Raptor fifth generation stealth air superiority fighter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, that depends.  ABC News reports today that America’s incredibly expensive F-22 Raptor has been pitted against Europe’s Typhoon in combat simulations (simulations involving real flying, real pilots, and real aircraft, just not real missiles or bullets) and has found that the results are mixed, though not surprisingly so.

In the ways the F-22 was designed to be superior, apparently it was handily so: super stealthy and the most powerful thing in the air for the long-distance attacks that are the new norm in modern air-based warfare. On this level, the F-22 is apparently everything it is designed to be, as reported by those who “fought” against it:

Two other German officers, Col. Andreas Pfeiffer and Maj. Marco Gumbrecht, noted in the same report that the F-22’s capabilities are “overwhelming” when it comes to modern, long-range combat as the stealth fighter is designed to engage multiple enemies well-beyond the pilot’s natural field of vision – mostly while the F-22 is still out of the other plane’s range. Grumbrecht said that even if his planes did everything right, they weren’t able to get within 20 miles of the next-generation jets before being targeted.

That is pretty amazing.

[Note: I don’t know which last name the reporter spelled correctly: “Gumbrecht” or “Grumbrecht” but the mistake is in the original article.]

But in close combat, one-on-one dogfighting, the F-22 apparently has no particular advantage over its European counterpart:

“But as soon as you get to the merge…” Pfeiffer said, referring to the point at which fighters engage in close-up dog fighting, “in that area, at least, the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22 in all aspects… In the dogfight the Eurofighter is at least as capable as the F-22, with advantages in some aspects.”

The Eurofighter Typhoon is the second most exp...
The Eurofighter Typhoon is the second most expensive fighter aircraft in the world after the F-22. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Typhoon and its German pilots apparently held their own very nicely in that area. Someone should notify The Royal Guardsmen. (Raise your hand if you get that reference…)

This does not necessarily represent a failure of the F-22, which was designed to be king of the skies from the perspective of modern warfare in the air, which is increasingly considered to be a long distance affair. (I’ve seen the results spun both ways, so who knows?) However, the prospect of German pilots flying Eurofighters going up against American pilots in their newest and best was too fascinating not to post. And while, on one hand, it is easy to imagine a future match up for real given what prophecy indicates is ahead, on the other hand the more likely scenario might be F-22 versus F-22 (after all, they are currently allies, and we share when the price is right) or, more depressing, Americans in ultralights with slingshots versus the F-22’s we sold to Europe for a steal in our “Going Out of Business” garage sale.

With the way things are going, we might be grateful for a lone beagle in a Sopwith Camel. Hopefully Britain won’t have sold all of those, too.

[EDIT, 1/16/2014: As alluded to above, Bible prophecy speaks of a coming conflict of vast scope, with the United States & Great Britain on one side and Europe on the other, with Europe victorious and the US & UK crushed beyond recognition. It may be hard to see now, but prophecy is about highlighting those things that are hard to imagine now before they become easy to see. If you’re interested in putting that prophecy to the test for yourself, here are links to two free books from Tomorrow’s World that walk you through your Bible and history on the matter: The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy and The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality? All the material on that website is completely free (Matt. 10:8), whether you want to read it there, download it as a PDF or e-book, or even request a physical copy or the book to be sent to you.]

The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy   The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality?

My Habakkuk 2:6-7 mistake (again)

Very recently, someone on the Internet wrote about Habakkuk 2 and what it says about debt, which seemed to me a good chance to print an explanation I feel compelled to do on occasion to make up for a mistake I made once.

Once I referred to Habakkuk 2 on the telecast with the implication that it was a prophecy about the United States and Britain. After all, look at our debt, etc. Senior ministers at headquarters caught my mistake and pointed it out to me: The prophecy in Habakkuk 2 is not directly about the United States. That is not how the Church interprets prophecy. We don’t look at the news and decide what in the Bible fits it. That’s backwards. (Let others do that and get it wrong!) Rather, we look at the physical people under discussion and identify them as the subject of the prophecy — not only truer to God’s Word, but the approach that has served the Church for decades and decades.

Consequently, while Habakkuk 2:6-7 may use a principle of debt and creditors arising suddenly as a word picture for what God is saying, it is not a prophecy about the United States or Great Britain. (Though many other passages do speak of our debt problem!) BUT, the principle used in making the statement should be heeded by any nation that heaps up debt on itself, as the U.S. has done to remarkable lengths. And we use the verse in that sense regularly in our writings, but, as the senior ministers helped me to see (and I felt dumb about it afterwards, as it was so obvious), we only refer to it for the principle, NOT because it is a prophecy about the U.S., as — considering how the Bible should be interpreted — it clearly is not.

As I have had church members ask me about my earlier mistake misidentifying Habakkuk 2 as being a prophecy about the U.S., I always feel compelled to do my part to make sure my mistake is undone and not perpetuated. 🙂 (I say this because the old video of that telecast is still played on occasion during sermonette times in some congregations so it comes up from time to time.) The principle used to prophecy to the ancient Babylonians about the consequences of their violent rapaciousness (and possibly to the future Beast power, as well) is absolutely not a prophecy made directly about the United States or modern Israel. But it should be heeded by any nation that pursues the same foolish path we have.

Good news on American debt

united states currency seal - IMG_7366_web
U.S. Currency Seal. Image by kevindean via Flickr

I would hate to be guilty of always looking at the clouds instead of the silver lining, so when I saw the report “U.S. Deleveraging, Unlike Some” on the Powerline blog that had some good news about American debt, I thought I would pass it along. Well, “good” is a relative term, of course!

To “leverage” yourself, in this case, is to use your borrowing power, and to “deleverage” is to reduce your debt. And the good news is that the United States, unlike, say, the UK and Europe, has, on the whole, been getting rid of debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By the standards in the report, the United States has reduced its total debt as a percentage of GDP by 16% since the second quarter of 2008, when much of this mess accelerated.

Actually, to be more specific, the American government has not, but the citizens and private companies of America have. The report claims that the American government has continued overextending itself and increased debt, but that the private households, banks, firms, etc. of the United States have personally cut back to the point that the net result for the country is a reduction of overall debt.

Of course, some of you out there reading this might be a part of that change, and good for you if you have been! The Bible tells us that the borrower is servant or slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7), and if you’ve ever been in severe debt, you’ve tasted the sentiment expressed in that proverb. It is encouraging that at least our citizenry may have some financial sense when little-to-none seems to be visible in our leadership.

Same for our private businesses, and the report points out that our financial institutions are not nearly as debt-leveraged as their counterparts elsewhere in the world [note: “pc” means “percent (of GDP)”]:

One is tempted to ask what all the fuss was about in the US. The debt of financial institutions is just 40pc, compared to the UK (219pc), Japan (120pc), France (97pc), Germany (87pc) and Italy (76pc). Bank debt has dropped from $8 trillion to $6.1 trillion — accelerated by the Lehman collapse — as lenders rely more on old-fashioned deposits.

So, good news for America on this front. (Read the report, though: Abysmal news for the UK.)

But to say we are out of the woods would be delusional. For one thing, we’ve created the sort of economic environment that is, sadly, dependent on stupidity: Where Bubba’s willingness to let Visa loan him money to by an 80″ flat screen TV may be dumb for Bubba but is good for Uncle Sam — short term, of course, not long term. (My apologies to those actually named Bubba who are too smart to do such a thing.) When a nation’s economic standing is hampered when its people begin to behave rationally, it’s in trouble.

And, ultimately, our problems are not policy problems but spiritual problems. While Habakkuk 2 is not a direct prophecy about the United States (which the Bible makes clear and which I feel responsible for clearing up), there are many prophecies in Scripture which point out that crushing debt is our destiny if we do not get our spiritual house in order — which involves so much more and runs so much deeper than monetary policy.

Still, it’s nice to hear some good news for a change, with whatever caveats it may bring with it. With clouds as dark as these, any silver lining is a welcome sight.

The borrower is servant to the lender

Wow — great illustration, today, of the truth of Proverbs 22:7,

“The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.”

The United States has been living off of its credit card, and it is coming time to pay the piper (mixed metaphor, I know). However, we can’t seem to agree on how to do that. The UK’s Guardian reports today about Rep. John Boerner’s failed attempt to even get his plan to a vote because he could not get enough conservative Republicans to agree to it. It would not have succeeded, anyway, as it would have been shot down in the Senate, although there it could have faced improved odds in its amendments. If Boerner’s plan failed to pass muster, it’s hard to imagine how Sen. Harry Reid’s plan will fare any better in the House.

However, here’s the paragraph that caught my attention in the Guardian article:

“The White House will almost certainly make its priority paying interest on its debts so that the US does not default for the first time in its history. But the consequence could be delaying monthly payments to federal workers, soldiers and other employees, and millions of cheques to social security recipients, veterans and others. The treasury said it would release details in the coming days regarding which payments will take priority over others. It makes an average of 80m payments a month.”

That’s the way that debt works!  Interest payments über alles.  When you are considering sacrificing your own soldiers, veterans, employees, and elderly so that you can continue to pay interest to your foreign creditors, you are seeing the truth of Proverbs 22:7 playing out.  Welcome to servitude.

Kudos to the Governor of Texas for making such a step, but how nice it would be to see the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, or the Senate Majority Leader come before the people not to deride the “other side” but to ask the people of the United States to appeal to God to heal what is wrong with our land and to fast for the humility to see His will more clearly and, more importantly, to act on it over own own desires.

For all the wrangling and arm twisting going on in Washington D.C., that is still the only real, long term solution to America’s woes: national repentance.

Let no one think that the U.S. has to fall slowly.  Jeremiah 6:26 & 15:8 speak of destruction coming suddenly, and Deuteronomy 28:43-45 describe the role that indebtedness to foreign powers will play in the destruction of a nation that has forgotten God, His ways, and His commandments.  Habakkuk 2:6-7 should be sobering, as well — while it is not about the United States, the reason God is able to use debt as a metaphor in that passage for the sudden destruction the Chaldeans and Babylon had earned (and may earn in the future) through their rapacious lust for conquests is because debt often is a fundamental cause of sudden destruction, as the U.S. may soon learn.

National repentance.  Let’s pray for it — but more than that, let’s remember that nations are composed of individuals.  Consequently, there can be no national repentance without individual repentance.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
For those to whom the idea of prophecies about Israel applying to the United States (and other British-descended nations) are new, please request the free Tomorrow’s World booklet, “The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy”

[The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy]

Americans: Get prepared for “standard-of-living shock”

You don’t see it until you get to the “C” section of the Wall Street Journal, but Kelly Evans’ “Ahead of the Tape” feature really grabbed my attention: “A Standard-of-Living Shock Is the Danger” (note: article is behind a pay wall).

The first sentence explains the most important fact: “The threat of inflation is real. It is just a different threat than many realize.”  That misunderstood threat is being driven by commodity prices, which, in turn, are driven more by emerging nations than by, as the article describes them, “rich-but-stagnating industrial nations” like the U.S.  The real danger is from standard-of-living shock, in which maintaining our current way of life becomes impossible.  To emphasize the point, Ms. Evans points out that median income for American men in 2009 was actually lower in real terms than it was in 1973.

As the article points out, America — meaning, its citizens: you and me — is not prepared for what all the technical signals out there indicate may be coming.  And what is coming? The last line of the article gives the sobering answer:

“The real risk is that the U.S. faces a poverty cycle rather than an inflationary one.”

Chilling, huh?  I truly don’t think our culture is even remotely prepared for such a possibility.  And our “leaders” seem to continue in either a state of denial or, perhaps, in a state of political paralysis, where the unpopularity of possible solutions make them “vote killers” and thus off the table for consideration.

Of course, the book of Revelation talks about a time when the prices of needed goods are incredibly high:

“When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine'” (Revelation 6:5-6).

Also, as Dr. Douglas Winnail pointed out in our 2005 Tomorrow’s World article, “Coming: Resource Wars!” Bible prophecy warns of times when the fundamentals just aren’t available.  Consider these scriptures, referenced in the article:

“Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?… the day of the Lord is at hand… the field is wasted, the land mourns, the grain is ruined… the animals groan… the water brooks are dried up” (Joel 1:1–20).

“The earth mourns and fades away… the earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth” (Isaiah 24:4–6).

Notice the real cause: “[T]hey have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”  (Read the whole article. Written five years ago, it is still frighteningly relevant.)

A standard-of-living shock is, indeed, coming, but not because of monetary policy or political wrangling.  The root cause will be sin: our nation’s sin and our general unwillingness to seek the God who is the source of real security and abundance — the God who “gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:18).

And if national sin is the real cause, then national repentance is the only answer.

China now largest consumer of energy

Image of the Forbidden City at night, from freeimages.co.uk
The Forbidden City at night, using up some energy...

I noticed that yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported that China has now passed the United States as the world’s biggest consumer of energy.  What’s startling is that only 10 years ago China only consumed half the energy that America did.  However, as analysis elsewhere in the same paper notes, the nature of that energy usage is very different between the two countries.  “Coal accounts for 22% of U.S. energy consumption, but a full two-thirds of China’s, up from 57% in 2000,” as reported by Liam Denning.

The immediate effect is a lessening of American influence in global energy markets–which, like all markets, tend to listen to the guy who is spending the most.  But given the crucial role energy plays, it will also mean a decline in the strength of American influence in geopolitics.  America is still the world’s largest overall economy, but our current financial and political shenanigans may cause that to change, too, more quickly than some would imagine.

For those interested in what Bible Prophecy has to say about the America, China — and Europe & the UK, as well — check out our free booklets on the matter: The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy and The Middle East in Prophecy.  God’s Word speaks about the ultimate role that these nations and political unions have to play, and those roles are not what many likely expect.

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