In our house, we start into the Christmas music a little early for some people – maybe even my wife. She would prefer we wait until Thanksgiving, while I, on the other hand, like to break out the ho-ho-ho’s shortly after Labor Day. So, like a good couple, we compromise. October 31st is Opening Day for Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, Rudolf, and Adeste Fideles. And this year, we have something special to add to the mix. I wrote a book.
It started with my wife. Since the kids were little, we have read a Christmas devotional every night in December. We used the same devotional year after year. Then a few years ago, my wife suggested that a little variety might be in order, so we hunted around and found something different. Actually, several somethings. We read each of them in turn. Then, last year we saw a brand-new December devotional on the market, which we snatched up and put to work.
Since this Christmas tradition blessed our family, we decided to give a devotional to the members of our church. While hunting through the various options, my wife threw out a casual suggestion – as wives are wont to do: “You should write one yourself.”
Next thing you know, I was waking up early in the morning like a man on a mission. I sat down to see if I had thirty-one ideas for devotional material. Then, I started writing. The fever hit hard. I finished most of the book in December last year, edited as a man possessed, and voila! out came this book of mine, which I boldly present to you for consideration:
Join the Triumph of the Skies!
Christmas acts like a magnifying glass. The hard-hearted turn to Ebenezer Scrooge; family problems take on a new life; financial woes pinch harder; daily chaos turns to tumult. But Christmas offers us a fantastic opportunity to enlarge a few great things. A giving heart has rich opportunities. A generous spirit shows itself in big ways. Delight in Christ will have a feast of fat things. Family life will be richly blessed.
In our home, we always wanted Christmas to magnify what we considered vital to the good health of our home. So we planned many unique features for the Christmas season, mostly dreamed up and executed by my wife. And one of those, as I mentioned, was our annual nightly devotional routine. We had so much fun rehearsing Christ’s glory in Christmas from a Biblical perspective that we can’t wait to get started on it again this year.
But this year, we wanted to invite you to join the fun. So we have assembled a book of 31 devotionals that cover the Christmas story’s entirety (with maybe an exception or two) – everything from angels to mangers to Bethlehem to Santa Claus to Hallmark movies to Christmas cranks to Simeon and Anna. We didn’t leave Herod out either.
Join the Triumph of the Skies! is available through our publisher at Xulon Press. It is available on Amazon and in a Kindle edition (public immediately). You can find it at Barnes and Noble, which also has an e-book edition. You could get it on Apple iBooks. And you can get it from me. If you ask real nice, I’ll give you a discount and a puppy (just kidding about the discount puppy!). Seriously, I’ll give you a deal.
Churches and bookstores and anyone who wants to order more than five copies can contact me directly for a bonus discount. I’ll treat you right.
So, let the buying frenzy begin. Go ahead and stuff some stockings with this book. Give it to your friends and neighbors and relatives. Give it to your local Scrooge and all the Karens on your Christmas list. Buy a case and store it in a dusty place for the next twenty years. Buy it for your good friend Holli Reath. Read it out loud at night, gathered around the Christmas tree. And may it enrich your celebration of Christ this year and many years to come.
God has been doing some exciting things in Utah, and I thought I would take a few moments to pass along the good news. Currently, Utah is one of about five states that are experiencing an explosion of population growth. Despite the high cost of building, contractors in Utah cannot keep up with the growing demand for housing. Whereas in other states, real estate may be experiencing a bubble effect, there is a genuine housing shortage in Utah, leading to a massive explosion in housing prices.
Meanwhile, alongside this population explosion, more and more, the LDS church has become mired down in the tensions caused by our country’s social lunacy. As a result, many in our state wonder what course the LDS church will take in the immediate future, as there is such a strong push from so many members of the church to embrace a more tolerant and progressive state.
Not surprisingly, the LDS church is quickly losing its iron grip on the spiritual life of our state. Anecdotally, when my wife and I moved to Utah in 1997, I would estimate that an average of 3 out of every four doors we knocked on were staunchly LDS. In any given neighborhood, we might encounter one household that was not active members of the LDS church.
Not so today. We have faithfully canvassed every part of our area from North to South, from East to West multiple times. Today when we evangelize a neighborhood, whether in the heart of Ogden or the outskirts of town, in the wealthiest areas, or the newest communities, we do well to encounter more than one faithful member of the LDS church.
God has been doing some exciting things in Utah, and I thought I would take a few moments to pass along the good news. Currently, Utah is one of about five states that are experiencing an explosion of population growth. Despite the high cost of building, contractors in Utah cannot keep up with the growing demand for housing. Whereas in other states, real estate may be experiencing a bubble effect, in Utah there is a genuine housing shortage, leading to a massive explosion in housing prices.
Meanwhile, and at the same time as this population explosion, the LDS church is quickly becoming mired down in the tensions caused by our country’s social lunacy. Many in our state wonder what course the LDS church will take in the immediate future, as there is such a strong push from so many members of the church to embrace a more tolerant and progressive state.
As a pastor, I have learned firsthand the kind of quality men God has called to the ministry – some of the finest men in the world. I mean that – no tongue in cheek here. The world may think of pastors as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things, but I know too many good men, men who have committed their life to the gospel and the good of their fellowman to give any credence to that kind of thinking. From across America and around the world, I am blessed by the many pastors and assistant pastors, missionaries, church planters, and Christian school teachers who have committed their life to God’s work. They love what they do. They don’t consider it a sacrifice. If they could live their lives over again, the men I know would choose the ministry over any other vocational calling. I think if they had nine lifetimes and could choose any vocation to fill those lifetimes, they would choose the ministry. The “burdens” are a small price to pay for the joy of serving God and His people full time. Truly we can say of them that “the world was not worthy.”
One thing I have observed about nearly every pastor or missionary I know: they know what it means to give themselves. I hope you will keep that in mind as I discuss money mistakes pastors make. Most of their mistakes are made on the side of self-sacrifice and a desire to maximize the Lord’s money.
What I intend to address here is not intended to promote greed or cause anyone to stumble into the love of money. Too many pastors come to the end of their ministry and have little to fall back on. After giving themselves to God and their people, they find that they are not in a position where they can retire comfortably and still provide for their wife. And while I realize that many pastors have an aversion to the “R” word (retire), I also think that much of the discussion on that subject is unrealistic.
I think we can apply the familiar maxim to Facebook: don’t take Facebook too seriously – Facebook already takes itself too seriously. Over the past few months, I have given a lot of thought to my involvement with Facebook, and particularly to the question of whether I should stay or leave. In frustration, I have threatened to leave and urged others to consider doing the same. I have opened accounts with Parler and with MeWe. I haven’t opened anything with Gaab, but that’s only because… well, I just haven’t. I have raged against the censorship, against the glaring double-standard, against the obvious bias of the medium. I have chuckled wryly (that is a thing, you know) as I scrolled through old posts of mine to see shadow-ban screens covering select posts. My favorite warning screen, which appears on several of my more recent posts, warns of inappropriate or explicit content. I found myself trying to remember what it was I posted that Facebook might consider to be “partial nudity.” If you are curious, just scroll through my old posts. You’ll be shocked to discover what passes for sexually explicit content these days.
The big question is, do I stay or do I go. Ultimately, I have decided to stay for now. And since I like to get a little mileage out of these decisions, I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you, the reading audience. Notice that I said “reading” audience, not the “glancing” audience or the “skimming” audience. How ‘bout we slow down that scrolling, swiping, and/or surfing for a minute so you can see for yourself.
Here are five reasons why I’m not leaving Facebook YET, followed by a few rules for my fellow rebels who stay with me. I’m not leaving Facebook…
Because I don’t have to.
And you can’t make me. Neener, neener, neener. So there.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Brandon Vaughn from Grace Baptist Church in Logan approached me about doing a podcast with him. His goal is to provide helpful materials to our LDS neighbors as well as apologetic information for our fellow believers who desire to evangelize their neighbors.
We get off to a rocking start (think rocking chairs) in this first episode. He does all the setup, editing, posting, and promotion, and I provide that wonderful voice of mine along with a few donated brain cells per session. Let me encourage you to listen to this when you have a chance. If you can’t sleep at night, go ahead and turn on our podcast – it is sure to make you sleep more soundly. I intend to share the weekly episodes on Facebook, so I probably won’t write about it much on my blog.
For most of my life, I had been taught certain things about Martin Luther King, Jr. – specifically that he was a communist and an adulterer. Looking back, I wasn’t confident that my sources told me the truth or that those characterizations painted an honest picture of King.
In hindsight, a better choice would have been one of David Garrow’s three biographies of King. Oates’ biography is thorough enough. Questions have been raised about plagiarism in his book, but that has more to do with the “gotcha” culture of acadamia than any legitimate problem with citations in his material. Oates answers these charges here, for reference. I got the overall impression that Oates was a bit too enamored with King to tackle some of the controversy surrounding his life. Nonetheless, I am glad I read this biography since it gave me a better perspective of King’s life and legacy.
When I finished those two books, I checked out from the library two documentaries about King’s life. The better documentary came from The History Channel and featured Tom Brokaw. The footage in that film included some of the most important events in King’s life. I enjoyed watching video of the things I read about in King’s biography.
What follows is a rundown of the things I took away from my research. I know that we have little tolerance for wordy online articles, but I hope you will “endure to the end!” Perhaps this article will help you better understand one of the truly iconic characters in American history.
He was a great man.
No man is without his flaws, and King had some glaring shortcomings. But King is worthy of honor, and I am glad to celebrate him.
By design, some men rise above the crowd. Martin Luther King, Jr was one such man. He would have been famous and wildly successful at whatever he attempted. He was a driven man; he had tremendous talent; he had a magnetic personality. The fact that he possessed so many marks of greatness makes it all the more remarkable that he dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. King did not launch the civil rights movement. Men like W.E.B DuBois and others fought for black people’s rights for many years before MLK came along. King drew our attention to the movement, put it in the national spotlight, and forced America to take note. It was the sheer force of his personality, his presence, that caught America’s attention.
He was a brilliant man.
He entered college while still fifteen years old and earned a Ph.D. when he was twenty-five. He wrote his thesis on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.” He studied nearly all the great philosophers and almost all the Great Books. He wrote at least four books in his lifetime, the first while still in his twenties. He was conversant in all the great thinkers of Western Civilization, often quoting these philosophers in his sermons. He had a grasp on the nuances of the philosophies that influence our modern era. He knew these philosophies well enough that he could discuss them at length and explain his disagreements.
He was one of the last great orators.
It has been said that Martin Luther King was one of the last orators to use the grand style properly. I do not believe there has been a man with more natural oratorical skill since King died.
The year 2020 will join the ranks of those years that will “live in infamy.” Like 1929, 1941, and 2001, the events of 2020 will long be remembered.
As we approached the start of the year, I anticipated many “eye-roller” moments. In fact, I joked that I would be giving my wife a kiss every time I saw one of those “2020 vision” signs. I figured that theme would be like low-hanging fruit for pastors searching for motivational themes for the year.
Little did we know what kind of 2020 vision God had for us.
While this year has been filled with frustrations, disappointments, disgusts, tensions, strifes, and a rising sense that we have crossed the point of no return, yet God has crowned this year with His goodness in ways that we have not often seen. I hope I can encourage you to recognize the vivid display of God’s goodness, set as it has been against the backdrop of a terrible year.
This year, we have been reminded that God is faithful.
For a time this year, I woke up every morning, turned on the radio, and listened for what changed overnight, what new measures or directives we had to deal with. During that time, I especially felt just how changeable our transient our world is. Yet, day-by-day as I opened the Bible and spent time in prayer, God was there reminding me that he has it all under control, that no matter how out-of-hand the situation might seem to us, it all fits within His plan for us.
The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.
I’ve never played prognosticator before, so I’ll probably jinx it. But, to parade out my bona fides, I haven’t always been a Trump guy, and my prediction has nothing to do with my support. I called Obama’s win in 2008 and 2012, and Trump’s shocker in 2016. In fact, I thought Trump would win even while I opposed him during the 2016 primaries. It was the rabid enthusiasm of his supporters that convinced me then. Only I didn’t go on record like I am now.
I don’t have special insight into this one. The polls don’t sway me all that much, since I believe the polls themselves are more political than statistical. I’m not reading tea leaves, just observing what is happening in our country. And I didn’t know about this article until I had written mine. So, I’m not scavenging.
If I’m wrong, I won’t eat my head – though some might consider that a feast. I’ll just prepare to be entertained by President Gaffer and his merry band of Micro Men. They’ll be killing us all with the smalls.
But I don’t think I’m wrong, which is why I’m publishing this little piece of anecdotal analysis. Here are my two-cents worth of ten reasons why I think Trump wins – five reasons-a-penny if you’re counting. For fun, I’ll reverse the order. Tell me what you think… or add your own reasons.
I understand that this might be one of my more controversial reasons, but that’s on-par for this little booger. Reactions and opinions hit on every point of the compass. While some Americans have grown doubtful of President Trump’s leadership, I think the draconian response to COVID favors Trump.
Everywhere I go, I hear the same thing. Having assessed my view of Trump, perfect strangers whisper out loud, “this COVID thing will end the week after election day.” The majority of Americans recognize a political hijacking when they see one. And I think most know that their jobs and livelihoods have been converted to Molotov cocktails to burn down the economy and overthrow Trump.
The reaction to COVID-19 has been unprecedented, and people are tired of it. Apart from a handful of devotees who confuse CNN reporting with science, the rest of America ain’t buying it. Was it a political ploy from the get-go? Probably not. But once it started, opportunists were swarming. Despite their best efforts, we now know that COVID-19 isn’t the serial-killer we were warned about. People want to move on, and Trump is the train that will pull us out of that station.
9: Jobs Market
Despite the extraordinary effort to crash our economy, the working class knows the difference between the Obama jobs market and the Trump jobs market. They know what tampering looks like. A 2020 victory for Trump is sure to mean a return to the Trump economy, unmolested.
8: Motivated Voters
As I said, most of America is savvy enough to know when someone is running a bluff. And we are being scammed big-time right now. When big cities experience 175% voter turnout, we can expect some big-league ballot-stuffing courtesy of the shiny new mail-in ballot program. Talking-heads condition us to expect a big win for Trump on election night, followed by a dramatic Biden comeback once we count mail-in ballots. But Trump supporters didn’t come to town on the stupid train. We’ve watched the shenanigans for the last four years. We’re ready to vote.
This isn’t rocket science. Trump voters have some big-time motivation. Now that the Supreme Court is back in play, I expect to see lots of MAGA flags parading down Main Street USA over the next month.
7: Media Frenzy
The media overplayed their hand with Trump. We get it – objective reporting died a lonely death a decade ago. Today’s media is one-part tabloid and two-parts political hack. But the liberal media has managed to give us all bombshell fatigue. After the Russia hoax, most Americans know who the real colluders are.
Do I expect an October Surprise? Youbetcha. I foresee thirty-one October Surprises – one-a-day in October. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the man said, and we all know the signs of desperation. Our media overlords meet and exceed the definition of insanity: They can’t change their minds, and they won’t change the subject.
But besides those under the CNN spell, the media-frenzy has firmed up our resolve to give Trump a second term.
6: Middle America
I’ll admit, this is purely anecdotal: everywhere I go, I see Trump signs and Trump flags, while Biden supporters have gone undercover. Trump regularly draws crowds of 15,000 – 20,000, while Biden gets 6 members of the media, conveniently masked for their own good. Barely any Biden signs huddle safely in small liberal neighborhoods.
I find this especially true in Middle America. Four years ago, I saw this same thing, as Trump signs dominated the Midwestern landscape. Vigo County, Indiana, home of Terre Haute (my hometown), illustrates my point. In 2016, I saw Trump signs everywhere in Terre Haute, with only a tiny handful of Hillary signs. I was just in Terre Haute a few weeks ago, and I purposely looked for Biden signs. He is beating Hillary. But Trump signs still dominate the panorama. Is that delusional? We’ll see.
Vigo County has picked the winner in all but two presidential races since Benjamin Harrison won in 1890. That is a long and storied history. They are the classic swing-voters, and in my experience, swing voters go for leadership and enthusiasm. Hands-down, Trump wins on both counts. Despite the sophisticated howlings against Trump from liberal elites, common-sense America knows what is right for them.
5: Straight Shooter
My initial disgust with Trump had much to do with his tweets, New York City brashness, and his take-no-prisoners approach to nearly everything. But, like so many, I have slowly warmed to his style. Looking back (with that famed 2020 hindsight), I now recognize two things: His all-American Moxy has been key to his survival. America loves a fighter, and Trump is all that.
We like to see a guy punch back when he is being bullied. After four years of Trump, I think most know who the real bullies are. And let’s face it: Trump knows how to land a punch.
What endears Trump to so many voters is his commitment to us. He really does seek the good of we-the-people. His “America First” commitment isn’t some kind of white nationalist supremacy according to the caricature. Most of Good Sense America sees that. He is simply committed to doing what is best for America.
I think Trump summarized it best in his acceptance speech at the RNC. He broke the cardinal rule for politicians: He kept his promises. And that explains the intense loyalty he fosters, nevermind the huffings and puffings of the “elite.”
4: Trade War
I won’t wade into the tall grass on this one. I’m a casual political consumer, not a wonk. But Middle America, chiefly blue-collar America, sees what these trade wars have done for our economy and our jobs markets. Labor unions can endorse who they may. Rank-and-file workers know who stuck it to them for the past 47 years. They also know who turned the tables in the last four. The trade war, a prime example of Trump’s swashbuckling approach, highlights the way politicians on both sides of the aisle have been selling America out in pursuit of a globalist utopia. And the effect on the economy, once the trade deals were done, have been nothing short of spectacular. In my opinion, a whole host of the rank-and-file can’t wait to mail in their ballots, then vote on election day (wink!).
3: Mask Mandates
Joe Biden promised a national mask mandate, “not as a burden, but to protect each other – as a patriotic duty.” That’s about as exciting as carrot juice at the Christmas party. While we’re at it, how about we get the vegan lady in the hemp pants to plan the company picnic!
Thanks, but no thanks, Mamma Joe. We don’t need a Nanny in the White House. Ten-to-one, the people I meet HATE wearing a mask. And that doesn’t include the people at my church. We are sick and tired of it – pun intended. Pollsters claim that the majority of Americans want this. They must do their polling at Whole Foods. Because I’ve only met a handful of condescending liberals who really buy into mask-wearing.
All the COVID nonsense and mask mandates demonstrate that media elites, movie stars, professional athletes, and Democrats have become increasingly out of touch with America. Over the past four years, they haven’t learned a thing. They still believe that their poll numbers are somehow “scientific” and not agenda-driven. They rarely emerge from the hoity-toity bubble and try to understand working-class America.
2: Minority Voters
A week ago, I saw a pickup truck driving down Ogden’s Washington Boulevard with a gigantic Trump flag waving out the back. Lo and behold, a Hispanic man was driving it. This is one of the shockers of this election. Despite media efforts to brand Trump a racist, minority voters are racing to Trump. A growing number recognizes the good of his policies, the poverty of liberal ideals, and the total scam of the Black Lives Movement. The push to defund the police is the last nail in the coffin.
For too long, minority voters have been treated as property by their Democratic overlords. Now the gig is up. Minorities see their chance to leave behind the Democratic ghettoes.
And now: the number one reason I believe Trump wins in November is that his opponent is named…
Biden is the most inept candidate since … I can’t think of a comparison, really. George McGovern? Walter Mondale? Alf Landon? Charles Pinckney? If elected, Biden would be a weaker president than Jimmy Carter or Warren G. Harding. And that is saying something. Carter might be the weakest president in history. Despite winning by the largest margin of the popular vote in history, Harding was one of our most worthless.
Let’s face it: America wants a president we can be proud of. We don’t want President Bumbles. If Biden is elected, we’ll be rooting for him to stay quarantined in his Wilmington basement. “Please, please, don’t come out and say anything.”
If Biden is elected, we will have President Putin, because Biden couldn’t punch his way out of a wet paper sack if ten men were holding the top open for him. Nobody wants a President as a prop. Even less, we don’t want a President who needs propping.
When I was a teenager, my dad pulled into a gas station during a cross-country trek. He parked right next to a group of teenage boys hanging out (as teens did in that day) at the gas station. My dad bounced out of the car, turned around, and announced to us kids, “if anyone has to go potty, you better do it now!”
I had to go. But I didn’t. I slumped as low as I could in my seat and hoped nobody would look in the car. But not quick enough to miss the smirk on those boy’s faces. If Biden wins, we get to feel the embarrassment of a Biden presidency for four years. Or perhaps, until some mysterious malady forces him out of office around February or March. It all depends on how compliant President Biden will be, whether he will serve out his term.
His running mate isn’t much better. She couldn’t get more than minimal support in one of the sorriest slates ever fielded by a major political party and dropped out of the race months before the Iowa caucus. Let’s don’t kid ourselves: regardless of what anyone feels about Trump, nobody wants the alternative.
Be prepared for a wild and crazy ride, my friend. We may still see America burn before this one’s over. Hold on to your hat, and keep your hands inside the ride at all times. And maybe buy some ammo when you get a chance.
Above all, don’t trust me. Trust the Lord. “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” The one who removes kings and sets up kings has this one under control. You can make bank with that.
As you may know, our family had a 3-week Staycation with COVID-19. Many have said that we were the first they knew who caught this virus – we probably won’t be the last. We received many phone calls, texts, and well-wishes during our quarantine, and many were just plain curious about our experience. Since COVID is all the rage these days (other than some persistent rioting), I thought I would offer our perspective of this virus for your entertainment and enlightenment.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus is more than just a virus. It is a political football. That complicates the issue and the way people view it. We have more than just a virus: we’re dealing with the fear caused by the virus, the panic inspired by the news media, and the anger and frustration of so many. Facebook is a magnifying glass for these things. Facebook is no place for the faint-of-heart, what with all the extreme opinions spouted there. As for myself, I have found the coronavirus rage very unhelpful. I think many would like to look at Facebook without being subjected to the daily badgering and rage-flash. COVID would be so much easier to deal with through good-sense measures if people didn’t feel the added pressure caused by adamant memes on Facebook.