Suicide Pact

suicideI believe it would be safe to say that most everyone knows about the principle of erosion. It is the wearing away of a surface by outside forces such as wind, water, or waves. Whether it’s rivers that have cut their way through the landscape or beaches that have washed away from the consistent pounding of the waves, the visible effects of erosion are easy to see. There is a different type of erosion taking place in our country today. Today, we are seeing an erosion of personal freedoms and liberties in the name of national security. We often hear government officials telling us that in order for us to be safe, we must be willing to sacrifice. In his new book, “Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Lethal Threat to American Liberty”, Judge Andrew Napolitano shows how the American people have allowed this country’s founding principles of

limited government, individual autonomy, respect for privacy, and the rule of law to be traded away for an assurance that the government will do right by the citizens of this country. Napolitano calls this exchange of personal freedoms for governmental protection a suicide pact. He defines the term this way, “a Constitution which permits the government to violate it and the president to do so secretly and with impunity is a suicide pact with the states that formed it and the American people whose freedoms it was intended to secure because it will result in such a loss of liberty that it will bring about the self-immolation of our formerly free society – its suicide, if you will” .

Napolitano’s book has three main parts. Part One (1770-1880) deals with the struggles of this country in its infancy to secure, establish, and protect newly found liberties and freedom, as well as the quick erosion of these same liberties through presidents George Washington and John Adams and their courts. Part Two (1900-1946) introduces the reader to those presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt who through “noble lies” sought to convince the American people that their government had their best interests at heart. Part Three (1947-Present) show the further erosion of liberties through the leadership of the presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Napolitano shows that not even a decade after the Constitution became the law of the land, the Alien and Sedition Acts began to curtail civil liberties where those critical to the president and Congress could be fined or imprisoned. Other presidential overreaches include Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus and the use of military courts while civilian courts were still in use. Woodrow Wilson sanctioned free speech and imprisoned people for giving speeches. His Committee on Public Information made sure that Americans heard what he wanted them to hear. Other presidential low points include Roosevelt’s placement of Japanese Americans in secure camps, Truman’s seizing of private industry, Bush’s enhanced interrogation techniques and warrantless wiretappings, and Obama’s drone policies and questionable NSA procedures.

Suicide Pact is a great work. Napolitano does a fantastic job of making his book feel like an introductory law class. He analyzes major case law such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918, Ex parte Merryman, Ex parte Vallandigham, Ex parte Milligan, the War Powers Resolution of 1973, and the Patriot Act to name a few. With that being said, the book doesn’t read like a law class textbook. Suicide Pact is well researched and documented. He allows the words and actions of presidents and the Supreme Court to speak for themselves. I found the chapters dealing with George W. Bush’s post 9/11 presidency and the Global War on Terror to be the most shocking. If you are fan of governmental studies or you simply want to know how we have arrived at where we are today, this book is for you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Commitments for 2015

2015_5Today is the day. The first day of a brand new year is here. It is a day that many look forward to. Some view today as the best day for watching college football. Some view today as simply a day off from work. Others view today as a chance for a new beginning. The millions who view New Year’s Day as a new beginning with make resolutions to either stop or start something. Resolutions offered today will include such things as losing weight, spending more time with family, saving money, and starting a new hobby, to name a few. Personally, I don’t make resolutions. I do however look back over and evaluate the year that we just left and make some personal commitments going forward. I would like to share these commitments with my readers here.

1. I plan to read smarter in order to write better. If you are at least a sporadic read of my blog then you know that I enjoy reading and writing. The two are joined at the hip. I regularly review books for five publishing companies. In 2014, I read and reviewed a total of 44 books. These books covered a very broad spectrum of subjects. This year, my plan is to focus and confine my reading to the areas of ministry and leadership. In 2015 I will choose quality over quantity. For me, this is smarter reading that will positively impact my writing.

2. I plan to say “no” this year more than I have before. I have a real problem when it comes to saying “yes”. I say it too often and that has caused me to become overloaded. There are some things that I won’t be able to say no to. However, I plan to say “no” to the things that I am able to which take already limited away from my family and my duties as the pastor of Port Royal Baptist Church.

3. I plan to spend more time with Jordan this year. For those of you who don’t know, Jordan is my seventeen year old son; our only child. I am ashamed to admit it but over the past few years I have not spent time enough time with him. I allowed “church stuff” to take priority over my time and I know that he has suffered. Jordan is a senior in high school this year and is playing his final year of baseball for Battery Creek High School. It is my intention to be a fierce guardian of my calendar so that I may be with him as much as possible. He deserves that.

4. I plan to be more focused in my preaching and teaching. Having taken a look back at my preaching and teaching this past year, I realize that at times it seemed scattered. I am asking the Lord make me increasingly more aware of the needs of our congregation and the struggles/issues plaguing our city, state, and nations and speak to them strategically.

5. I plan to spend more time with my ministerial staff this year. I am fortunate to serve alongside two bright, passionate, and energetic leaders who oversee our youth and music ministries: Kiel Seley and Gale Parker, respectively. Both are bi-vocational but you would never know it. My desire is to move from “I’m here if you need me” to “Let’s spend time together doing life and ministry”.

Why would I share these commitments publicly? Some are personal, so why tell everyone? That’s simple: accountability. I hope that throughout 2015 those who read my blog will ask me, “How are you doing in these five areas?” What commitments have you made?

Book Review : No Greater Valor

nogreatervalorOne of my favorite genres of book is military history. I enjoy reading the accounts of actual battles that occurred at specific points and places in time and helped to shape history as we know it today. Of this entire genre, books that tell the true-to-life stories of the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War are the most intriguing to me. I recently finished a book that falls into this category. “No Greater Valor, The Siege of Bastogne and the Miracle that Sealed Allied Victory,” by Jerome Corsi tells the story of the battle for the small, yet strategically important city of Bastogne in eastern Belgium. This battle, which lasted from December 20th –27th, 1944, was part of the larger Battle of the Bulge involving Allied and Nazi forces. Corsi tells how the 101st Airborne Division found themselves surrounded by German forces in an attempt to keep the Nazis from gaining control of the crossroads in Bastogne which led to their intended goal, the harbor at Antwerp. For their determination, toughness, and fierceness in battle, soldiers of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne earned the nickname the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne. “

No Greater Valor is more than a military narrative that simply explains people, places, missions, and tactics; although it does that very well. What makes this book an interesting read is the way in which Corsi explored the faith backgrounds of a number of the commanders and other key leaders in the battle. He provided a look into the loves of those such as Major General Troy Middleton, Major General James Gavin, Father Francis Sampson, General George S. Patton, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower. In doing so, Corsi proposes that the faith of the individuals allowed God’s providential care to be experienced by everyone. At points, the book felt like a textbook or military tactics manual. Regardless, Corsi’s book is a good work. If you enjoy military history, you will enjoy this book. It is well worth your time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : When Lions Roar

lionsroarArguably the two most famous families of the twentieth century were the Churchills and the Kennedys. Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II and was a fierce ally of the United States. His assertive and sometimes flamboyant persona made him a figure of constant attention. Few would argue the impact that the Kennedy’s had on this nation. With John F. Kennedy’s election to the presidency in 1960 came the public image of many referred to as “Camelot”. His brother, Robert served as U.S. Attorney General during JFK’s presidency. The Kennedy family owes their political start and passions to their father Joe. These two families come together in Thomas Maier’s new book, “When Lions Roar; The Churchills and the Kennedys”.

Maier begins with the initial meeting of Joe Kennedy and Winston Churchill as Kennedy was appointed as ambassador to Great Britain under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is from this point that Maier sets out to tell the story how these two families became close friends and political allies. However, that is about the best part of the book. Maier, in an attempt to tell the side of the story that many may not know, he reduces the end product to that of a Hollywood tabloid. Some may enjoy reading of extra-marital affairs and the like, but it didn’t work for me. If you are looking of a serious rendering of the careers and contributions of these two families, you may want to look somewhere else.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : Churchless

churchlessI have been in the pastoral ministry for sixteen years. I have seen a lot of things in those years; some good and some not so good. One of the disturbing trends that I have seen is the lack of church attendance by professing Christians. For whatever reason, people are choosing to not attend organized religious services. The reasons are many. There are some who would say that attending church is not worth their time. There are some who would say that they can worship God apart from organized religion. There are some who would say that they will attend a church service if they can fit it into their already busy schedule. David Kinnaman and George Barna tackle this phenomenon in their latest book, “Churchless; Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect With Them.”

The content of this book is the compilation of a five year study which surveyed 20,000 unchurched and churched adults. As a result of this study, Kinnaman and Barna demonstrate that Americans fall into one of four categories as it relates to their relationship to the church.

1. The Actively Churched are those who attend church on a regular basis, meaning one a month or more.

2. The Minimally Churched are those who attend church services several times a year and whose attendance patterns are unpredictable.

3. The de-Churched are those who have been “churched” in the past but are now taking a break from the church. The authors discovered that this group is the fastest growing segment.

4. The Purely Unchurched are those who never attend a Christian worship service.

Kinnaman and Barna utilize eleven chapters to give their readers an in-depth look at those who made up their survey. They include topics such as demographics and self-descriptions of churchless people, what the unchurched think about religion, religious behaviors of churchless people, religious beliefs that define unchurched people’s faith, the paradox of trusting Christ but not the local church, understanding why people leave the church, family life among unchurched people, and goals, morals, and values of churchless adults.

Churchless has more positive notes than negative. The book does a great job of highlighting a sobering reality that the church is facing today. The authors also link to their website where their readers can gain access to color slides for further presentation. The greatest negative I would say is that the book left me asking “What do I do with this information?” It’s kind of like a doctor telling you that you are sick but not offering any medication to make you well. All in all Churchless is a great work. Church leaders would benefit greatly from reading this work.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday is For Missions : What Are You Doing For Others This Year?

mmThe Christmas season is upon us. Our city has begun putting up lights and decorations on the light poles that line the streets. Families have begun putting up their trees and are well into their Christmas shopping. Our church calendar is filling up quickly. Between class and ministry parties, choir celebrations, and Christmas-themed sermons, we are reminded at every turn that we have entered into a very special time in the life of the church; the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It would be very easy for us to get lost in all of the fun and fellowship side of the holiday. There is certainly a place for all of these. I often tell our people that the priority in all that we do is life-changing ministry that leads others to worship the One True God and His Son Jesus. Don’t get me wrong here, I enjoy Christmas parties. I enjoy spending time with our various ministries/classes in times of fellowship. I enjoy the fun of the Christmas season. I am thankful that in the midst of all this, we prioritize ministry opportunities that intentionally introduce people to the love of the Savior. What does this look like for us?

1. Angel Tree Christmas Party

Angel Tree is a ministry program of Prison Fellowship which reaches out to the children of inmates who are incarcerated in our state prisons and their families with the love of Christ. Angel Tree gives us the opportunity to share the Savior’s love by helping to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the prisoner’s family. Angel Tree works to connect the gift requests/desires of the inmate for his/her family and the need for the children to remain connected to their parent during an especially emotional time of year. All of this happens while maintaining the dignity of both the inmate and the family. We help to provide toy and clothing gifts to the children as well as hand-written letters and family pictures to the inmates.

2. Christmas Party at Local Multi-Housing Complex

Across the street from our church is a multi-housing complex that have been volunteering and ministering in for many years. We take time on a Saturday and provide a simple party for the residents and children. There is food, games, a small gift, and a gospel presentation through the telling of the Christmas story. The greatest present we give here is our presence. This party is a simple way for us to communicate that each one is important and that we care about them. We have found that this event, along with other seasonal events (Easter, back-to-school, etc.), are critical to building lasting and meaningful relationships.

3. Operation Christmas Child – Charlotte Distribution Center

We have some of our people heading to Charlotte to work at the Operation Christmas Child Distribution Center this year. Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse which delivers shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items, candy, etc. to children around the world who may not have any gifts this Christmas season. Once the shoeboxes leave local collection centers, they make their way to Charlotte to be prepared for their final trip to over one hundred countries around the world.

Allow me to leave you with a question today. What are you doing this Christmas season for someone who will in no way be able to return the favor?