Thursday, March 15, 2018

Black History: I. Correct History Brings Light

On the cold, wintry night of March 5, 1770, while resentment ran high in the American colonies because of oppressive British taxation, a group of colonials began to taunt several British soldiers guarding the Customs House in Boston.  When Hugh Montgomery, a British Private, was struck with a snowball, he fired his rifle into the rowdy crowd.  His British comrades also opened fire and a violent clash began.   When the smoke cleared, five men had been killed and three more were injured.  This deadly clash, now known as the “Boston Massacre,” became a spark to help ignite the American Revolution.

I read about the Boston Massacre in February, Black History Month, while researching the role of Black Americans in the American Revolution.  The first among five casualties that night was a man named Crispus Attucks.  Many historians list Attucks as the first man to die for the cause of American freedom. 

Crispus Attucks was a dock worker and whaler whose father was of African descent.  But it was the ethnicity of his mother, Nancy Attucks that caught my attention.  There is more to write about her in my second article on Black History.  But in this article, here are three questions that will point us to the importance of seeking a good understanding of American history  in order to rightly understand Black History in America. 

My first point relates to the blood of Crispus Attucks spilled on that fateful night of the Boston Massacre.  Was it any different in color than the blood of his White comrades?   Second, what made the American Revolution much more than a large-scale version of the Boston Massacre, a hate-driven, angry clash with senseless loss of life?  Finally, how can a correct rendering of the role of Black Americans and other ethnic minorities in American history help us to understand and appreciate how our Divine Creator has used the “melting pot” of ethnicities in the birth, growth, and contributions of the United States of America?

America has been called “a melting pot” of diverse ethnic groups—including Native American, European, African, and Asian—but our history offers little evidence that hard-won freedoms were actually shared with ethnic minorities.  Even today, we seem not to have grasped the important contribution of ethnic minorities in weaving the tapestry of what would become the United States of America under God’s providential hand.

In this article and in a subsequent article, I will argue that ethnic (or “racial”) strife is largely the result of people, even professing Christians like me, living in intellectual ignorance and spiritual rebellion against God’s revelation of truth—truth God is revealing through the Bible, history, and natural science.  For those who humbly study these sources of truth, understanding is the reward.   Jesus taught this principle to the Jews who listened to Him, saying:  If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8: 31-32).

In this article, we will discuss lessons we can learn from the historical context within which America was founded and how ethnic minorities were involved in America’s founding.  In a second article, we will consider how an objective study of biology can help us gain a new understanding of the genetic basis for ethnic diversity within the human species.  As always, finding the truth from history and from science demands that the claims of these disciplines be integrated (i.e. fitted logically and consistently into a complete whole) with what God’s revelation in the Scriptures say about the history and biology of mankind and creation.

Black History—the Context Matters

At a time when knowledge has multiplied and digital access to information has never been greater, there is no excuse for what many see as a growing ignorance of history.  Computer technology offers attractive, motivating educational aids to make learning of history fun for elementary students and adolescents.  But instead, our schools and colleges are offering watered-down courses built around controversial issues and current events with little philosophical or ethical foundation to help students understand how history influences our culture today and how history can help them to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

Our public schools and universities are not only failing to educate our children intellectually, they are also failing to reinforce moral and ethical values—values once taught by loving parents in the home.  Historically, it was in the home that children first developed cognitive and affective thinking skills and learned to respect authority.  Children were also taught the fundamental commands that have undergirded western civilization and allowed it to excel —i.e. to love God, honor your father and mother, and to love your neighbor (Luke 10: 25-37; Ephesians 6: 2).   The love and grace of God, radiating outward from strong American families and schools has sustained the refining fire under America’s “melting pot” of ethnic diversity for more than two centuries.  And, the knowledge of history and science has provided a sense of place and purpose in time for us as biological creatures.  However, today many agree that America is suffering from several decades of broken homes and failed public education.

The effects of broken families and poor quality education have been especially devastating to the Black community.  In his Atlanta Black Star article “How America’s Lack of Historical Knowledge is Aiding Its Decline,” D. Amari Jackson quotes Gerald Horne, Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, and author of over 30 books, who claims there is a disconnect between America’s history and her citizens.  Says Horne:

Several surveys conducted over the past decade by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) depict a citizenry largely unaware of its eventful past.  A 2012 ACTA survey found that less than 20 percent of college graduates could identify the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation.  A 2015 survey revealed more than one-third could not place the Civil War within the correct 20-year time frame.

Horne underscores the “redemptive value of historical knowledge” as follows:

Just as a toddler reaches toward a hot stove and learns not to do it again, adults, groups and societies also learn valuable and painful lessons that improve their paths forward.  Two of the 20th century’s most impactful Black leaders, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King Jr., relied heavily upon their historical knowledge in forging social movements that affected the course of American history.

Unfortunately, I believe Professor Horne reveals a faulty bias and misunderstanding of American history when he claims that history studies are …commonly undermined by the false historical narratives countries adopt to advance a profit-driven, nationalistic or patriotic agenda.

Horne claims that the American Revolution, while often presented as “a fairy tale about liberty and freedom,” was actually driven by colonial patriots who wanted freedom from the influence of the abolitionist movement in Great Britain.  The empire had already abolished slavery (1772) and Americans feared that if abolition spread to America, it would undermine their profits from slave labor.  At the same time, Britain had ruled to limit colonial expansion into the western “wilderness” (1763), and this restriction in Horne’s view had the favorable effect of preventing colonists from seizing Native American lands for profit.  Two hundred years later, Horne sees the same selfish, white supremacist narrative being expressed through police brutality, disproportionate incarceration of Blacks, and harsher discipline of Black preschool children.  This history of injustices toward Blacks and other minorities, in Horne’s view, justifies Black mistrust and refusal to claim America as their beloved country or defend her against enemies.

I agree with Horne (and Jackson who generous quotes Horne), that American history was influenced by some who were driven by selfishness, lust for power, and bigotry.  But their particular view of American history ignores or omits several important factors.  

The American Experiment – Unique on Earth

First, they ignore the fact that the American experiment in government was unique in the world at the time.  Until 1776, no government in the history of human civilization had been forged in the belief that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness (from Preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776)?  

At the founding of the USA, democracy was largely unknown.
The Founders had literally birthed a new nation.  They had launched “a government by the people and for the people” into a very uncertain future.  At the time of its founding near the end of the 18th century, less than 1% of the world population lived under a democratic form of government, and essentially all of these people lived in the United States!  And, incidentally, those who credit the ancient Athenian democracy as being the first must remember that its function depended on a large proportion of its population living under slave labor.  Unfortunately, the new, United States of America was also infected with the blight of slavery.

The Founders’ vision was that all men would have rightful access to unalienable Rights which come from their Creator, not from government.  Yet many in the new nation, especially Blacks, remained enslaved because those in positions of authority lacked the courage or the will to end the terrible blemish of slavery.  But, we who study American history have two options: We can disrespect and condemn our forefathers for lack of resolve; or, we can realize that at the time of the American Revolution, the whole world economy was heavily addicted to a dependence upon slavery and the slave trade.  

Michael Medved, writes in his New York Times best-seller, The American Miracle,

Every nation on Earth flagrantly mistreated indigenous peoples and participated at some point in ruthless systems of slavery.  But the American desire to deserve God’s special blessing inspired movements to do better than the rest of the world and to overcome the cruelty—however halting and imperfect those attempts might have been. 

Ignorance of history creates bad judges of character.
Medved’s point brings us to a s
econd error in the worldview of both Jackson and Horne.  Both men ignore the emphasis on the spiritual dimension, virtues, and character that was emphasized by many effective Black American leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.  Rev. King sought to lift Black Americans to a higher standard based on Scriptural principles that emphasized God’s love instead of hate, non-violent protest against injustices, and the importance of character and virtues over skin color.  However, Jackson does not include this side of Rev. King in his article, “Examining the Movements for Civil Rights and Black Power. Instead, Jackson simply lumps Rev. King into a long list of Black leaders including Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Nation of Islam, with no mention of the role of the church or the biblical narrative of hope and spiritual liberation that characterized the message of Martin Luther King. 

My third objection to the views of Jackson and Horne brings us back to my earlier emphasis on the importance of home and family, and the necessity of education in history.  There is no doubt that the roots of dysfunction in Black marriages and families can be traced back to the injustices inflicted on Blacks throughout American history.  But how do writers like Jackson and Horne hope to lift up Black Americans or any ethnic minority by placing all of American history under a dark cloud while ignoring the magnificent leadership of both Black and White Americans?

Black American History in Proper Context

Instead of constantly viewing American history with a condemning tone, radio co-host, Eric Metazas offers more constructive advice.  Metaxas recommends in an interview on the subject of
American Exceptionalism that we repent “of our racial sins as a country… [then refuse to be] trapped in this mode of negative narratives.”  I can think of two valuable benefits of presenting American history with factual accuracy combined with recognition that all of us, past and present, are fallen creatures.  As such, our best hope lies in taking seriously our responsibility to love God and to love our neighbor regardless of ethnicity or any other distinction.

First, Black Americans who distrust White Americans may be become acquainted with and learn to respect both Black American heroes and White American heroes.  Among the latter heroes are Abraham Lincoln and many in his Republican Party who sought to protect blacks newly released from slavery (called “freedman”).  In this regard, how many Black Americans have learned that soon after the end of the Civil War, in 1865, southern Blacks were already being elected to state and federal legislatures? In 1869, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first Black representative in the U.S. House of Representatives; and, in 1870, Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first Black American U.S. Senator.  Sadly, these reconstruction efforts were short-lived, and by 1876, White Democrats had regained enough political power over both White and Black members of the Republican Party in state legislatures across the South to restore white supremacy.  The era of “Jim Crow” then proceeded in earnest.

Many Black Americans are familiar with “Jim Crow” laws that, for over a century after 1876, prevented Black Americans from experiencing the freedoms White Americans enjoyed.  Then, in 1964, the U.S. Congress finally passed a Civil Rights Act.  This accomplishment was made possible by a White American, the Republican Senate Minority Leader, Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL).  Dirksen’s expert maneuvering was necessary to assist the sitting Democrat President, Lyndon B. Johnson, who would otherwise not been able to bring enough Democrat Senate votes to “seal the deal.”

If we were to look beyond our brief sketch of American history, we would learn that White Americans, Black Americans, leaders of other ethnic minorities have made positive contributions through politics, the sciences, the church, sports, and the creative arts.  Indeed, since America’s founding, men and women of many different ethnicities have stood side-by-side for rightness and goodness.  During two world wars and more recent conflicts, representatives of many ethnic minorities have fought together and spilled their blood to protect freedoms and the way of life of threatened nations on multiple continents.

To conclude our brief survey of Black American history in what I consider a proper historical context, let us return to Crispus Attucks, the first American to die in the American Revolution.  Recalling the three questions I asked at the start, we now know that the spilled blood of Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre was no different from the blood of his White comrades.  These men represented only the first of many ethnically diverse groups in American history to place their common destinies on the line for the sake of freedom and purpose in life.  Regarding the second question, we learned that the providential intervention of God through the preaching of His Word and subsequent spiritual revival was instrumental in preventing the leaders of the American Revolution from departing from their goal of “one nation under God.  And finally, we learned that a correct rendering of history, combined with a Spirit-driven repentance for past injustices, can set us on a positive path that recognizes our dependence on God’s providential role in stirring the people of every ethnicity to keep hot the “melting pot” of America.

Coming Soon:   Part Two of this Series:   “Black History: II. Don’t Dismiss Biology”

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Grace and Truth through Billy Graham

For I know what I have planned for you,’
  says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you.
  I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.
- Jeremiah 29:11  
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
  Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
– Jeremiah  31: 3

As I grow older, I am becoming more and more aware of some major facts of life—God is our Creator, God is the essence of true love, God gives us meaning and purpose, and finally, I am prone to wander away from God.  It doesn’t make sense, does it?  Yet, long before I realized it, God was at work, scrubbing away at my pride and rebellion.  He worked on me in our home, at church, and at school.   

I have written elsewhere about how God used my father, my mother, and several of my teachers.   Through generous applications of discipline in love, these people and others gradually made me more aware that my own pride was at odds with God’s love and purposes for me.  Although discipline sometimes literally hurt me, I was learning through human authority the truth expressed several millennia ago by wise King Solomon, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights (Proverbs 3: 12).

During my elementary years, God was also drawing me to Himself through my reading, and even through our black-and-white TV.  I remember being inspired by Billy Graham as I watched him preach to thousands gathered at his crusades.  Billy’s piercing eyes seemed to be looking right though me as he spoke forcefully about the holiness and righteousness of Almighty God.  Yet, I could sense an unusual warmth and compassion as he spoke of how God so loved a fallen world that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to take away sin, the root cause of human emptiness, loneliness, and fear.  I was very moved when I saw people in tears whose hearts were convicted of their sin by God through Billy Graham’s loving invitation to repent and turn to God.  I was amazed that thousands came forward to “accept Christ as Savior” as the hymn, “Just as I Am” was sung. 

But, I didn’t respond to God there in our living room.  I knew there was something right about Billy Graham’s Gospel message, but it didn’t seem right to me that a God of love would condemn millions, and perhaps billions to eternal hell.  Why wasn’t it possible to enter heaven by just being decent people—people like I was trying to be?  I remember questioning my mother and my Methodist pastor about “salvation by faith, and not by works” (Ephesians 2: 8-9; Titus 3: 5).  Their answers weren’t satisfying, but God continued to soften my prideful heart. 

It wasn’t until graduate school at West Virginia University that God’s Spirit removed the veil that was covering my heart (2 Corinthians 4: 3-6) and blocking the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  God used two visitors to our home there in Morgantown to convince me from the Scriptures that the Gospel is true—that God loves me, but He is Holy and hates sin because it is counter to His nature and because of what it does to His creation, including humankind—including me!  I realized that when I died and stood in God’s judgment, there was no reason God should allow me into heaven except that I had accepted Christ’s death to atone for my sins and cover me in His righteousness.  I asked God to forgive my pride and rebellion and to make me His child (John 1: 11-13).

Now, years later, as a Christ-follower, I am still His workmanship in progress (Ephesians 2: 10).  I pause today to marvel at the life of Billy Graham; a life that has consistently demonstrated his unique ability to walk daily in God’s holy presence.  All the while, he demonstrated the pure love of God through his warm, gentle, gracious spirit toward all people regardless of religion, ethnic background, wealth, or politics.  Many of us wonder how such a holy man could be so loving and gracious toward sinners.

Billy Graham sought to emulate God—i.e. hate sin, but love the sinner.  When their son, Franklin, and their daughter, Ruth, struggled with their spiritual lives, Billy and his wife Ruth prayed for them and nurtured them back to God.  Likewise, Billy was able to talk humbly, humorously, and yet frankly with personalities in every walk of life.  His used every opportunity to speak of the cross of Christ and the Gospel of salvation, yet did so with the very love and tenderness of God.  This quality of Billy Graham was captured in this 1969 interview with Woody Allen.

"My father was not God, but he showed us what God is like."
At her father’s memorial service last week, Ruth Graham testified of how her father demonstrated the love and mercy of God years ago as he opened his arms to welcome her back home after she had made several bad choices in her life.  Ruth had heard her father preach on the holiness and justice of Almighty God.  She knew that God hated sin because of what it does to mankind—what it had done to her.  That is why she, like the prodigal son, did not take lightly the return to her father’s home.  But when Ruth walked toward her father, Billy Graham’s arms were open wide to receive his dear daughter with all the grace and mercy he knew God had extended to him.  God still waits to extend forgiveness out of His great love and mercy to any repentant sinner who “comes home.”

As the world mourns the death of Billy Graham, many try to comprehend the breadth of the spiritual impact that was made by this humble servant of God.  I believe the words of his daughter, Ruth, summarize best the influence of Rev. Graham on my life: “My father was not God but he showed me what God was like…”   Billy Graham was (and still is) not God, but he showed us what God is like.

For the Law was given through Moses;
grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
 - John 1:17
How About You? 
You may have just read my article but it left you, not encouraged, but discouraged.  Like I once was, you may now be more confused than ever about the nature of God and what He expects of you.  God knows just what you are thinking right now.  May I invite you to examine further the claims of the “Good News” or “the Gospel?”  Let me share a short reading that may help you.  It just happens to be from the Billy Graham Association, and presents the “Good News” summarized in an outline called “Steps to Peace with God.” The outline explains God’s love, our predicament (sin and separation from God), what Jesus has done to address our predicament, and what you can do by faith to receive God’s righteousness (right standing with a Holy God).  If you have additional questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Car & Driver, Technology & News Media

In spite of our rapidly advancing and increasingly complex technology, at least one principle has proven correct throughout human history.  We humans, as creators and users of technology, must take the responsibility for how it is used.  This article addresses two crucial elements of our technological society--human stewardship of science and technology, and the importance of accurate media research and reporting.

According to Genesis 1 and 2, God created the universe including planet Earth and its amazingly intricate biosphere.  Then, He created humankind in His image (Genesis 1: 26)—i.e. with personality, rationality, creativity, and all other capabilities necessary to exercise dominion as residents of Earth’s biosphere (Genesis 1: 27).  In Genesis 2: 15, we learn that our dominion is not to be exercised by shear force and disregard for creation.  Rather, as stewards, we are to be caring servants of what rightfully belongs to God.

Our stewardship responsibility includes both wise use of what God has created ex nihilo and wise use of the tools and technology we create from the “resources” of God’s creation.  If technology malfunctions causing harm to an animal, to the biosphere, or to an individual human being, the fault lies with the creator or the operator of the machine—not the machine itself.  Therefore, God judges the quality of our stewardship by the choices we make in how we use the technology; and, how news media research and report on science and technology.

Having laid out these time-honored principles, I invite you to listen to a podcast entitled “Blame Game” which was produced by Malcolm Gladwell.  Gladwell takes visitors to his “Revisionist History” website on a “journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood” events of history.  He believes that, at least for the cases he addresses, “the past deserves a second chance.” 

“Blame Game” which is episode #8 of season 1, contains both a 37-minute podcast and additional video and printed information.  All of these relate to the famous 2009 cases of the “suddenly and uncontrollably accelerating” cars manufactured by Toyota.  This case involving numerous deaths and billions in lawsuits as revisited by Malcolm Gladwell will offer you some surprising analyses and results.  As you listen to the podcast and check out the ancillary resources, please keep the following questions in mind:

1.  Should the blame for the “suddenly and uncontrollably accelerating” cars be aimed at human error(s) within Toyota Motor Corporation or at human error by the drivers of those cars?

2.  What does this “second chance” look at a historical event teach us about human stewardship of technology?  …and, about certain people in the media who claim to be authorities?

Relatively simple technology of car floor mats were suspected.
3.  Considering the relationship between technology, human error, and media research and reporting of the news as I have framed it in this blog article, what lessons can you take home from “Blame Game” that may apply to contemporary issues—e.g. calls to ban some or all firearms, violent computer video games, social media, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), and coal mining?

4.  Can you name events in this evening’s news, or perhaps under-reported news, the coverage of which may have major repercussions for the future?

5.  For those who wish to take this controversy and its implications a step further by reading a critique of Gladwell's "Blame Game," you may wish to read an online article published by Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., entitled "Tipping Point."

Thanks for reading (and listening). I would love to read your comments and questions.  Please use the “Comment” box below, or e-mail me at

***                              ***                              ***                             ***

My thanks to our son, Bradley Silvius, who referred me to Revisionist History podcasts.  I dedicate this article to him in hopes that he will receive a double blessing—first, the blessing of knowing that we now share in the enjoyment of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcasts; and second, knowing that his dad can occasionally write a much shorter blog article without taking away from its value (I hope).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Valentines and a Better Love

Valentine’s Day is upon us.  Are you ready?

I believe I am.  My valentine, Abby, will be in Florida with her sister over Valentine’s Day, so I’ve already written and sent a card which will be followed by a special gift to encourage her for the holiday.

But, before you think I must be a great husband, you should know two things.  First, this year will mark the 51st Valentine’s Day I have celebrated with Abby.  Yet I’ve never been noted for being very creative and generous on Valentine’s Day and other special occasions.  Second, I hope we all realize that even the most thoughtful and generous monetary expressions are only a small part of the ongoing expressions of our love that are so important to our spouses and significant others.  (You can ask Abby how well I do in between holidays.)

Expressions of human love are measured in a “currency” much above dollars and cents.  As an indication of how hard it is to maintain good marriages and keep wedding vows, consider the annual monetary expenditures in the “divorce industry” which is estimated at $28 billion.  Interestingly, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an estimated $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day, in 2018.  Thankfully, true love builds an enduring “capital” and stability into relationships.  Love is based on a “currency” that is freely and generously given without thought of return.  This is unconditional love, or (in Greek) agape love.   

The word “love” in English can mean many things. The Greek language at the time of Christ was included at least six words that are now translated “love” in modern English. The three most common are phileo (love between friends), eros (erotic or sensual love), and agape as we have defined it above.  All of these are gifts of God and all are essential elements that sustain God’s gift of marriage.  Of the three, agape love is the foundation upon which the others depend.   

As we approach Valentine’s Day, 1 Corinthians 13 has been challenging me as a husband.  For example, I can possess great stores of knowledge but if I am arrogant (v. 4), easily upset, rude, insisting on my rights, and remembering all the wrongs that my beloved commits against me (v. 5), then I’m not agape loving her.  Furthermore, I can have great faith (v. 2), but if I lose hope and stop believing in the person I love (v. 7), then I’m not showing God’s love.  I can even give all my possessions to feed the poor, and deliver my body to be burned (v. 3), but if I am jealous or distrustful of her; or, if I focus on her bad qualities and consider giving up on the one whom I say that I love, then I am surely not showing God’s unconditional love.

When a man and a woman exchange wedding vows, they enter a special relationship God has ordained from the beginning, one that will not reach its potential unless they both continually rely on the bread of God’s Word and His love poured into their hearts by His Holy Spirit (Romans 5: 5).  One Christian leader has said that in creating marriage, God created a relationship which is clearly beyond man’s ability to achieve unless they both respect and heed His loving authority.  When a man and woman cleave to one another and become one flesh in marriage (Genesis 2: 24), they become one in spirit when each one reaches for God’s love, “the glue” for the marriage.

God’s manual for married lovers on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year continues in 1 John 4 where we learn that our ultimate source of agape love is from God (v. 7).  Indeed, God is love (v. 8) and God shows His love to us in that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him (v. 9).  Therefore, the wellspring of my love for my wife must be replenished continually by my willingness to abide in God’s love through the Spirit and the Word (v. 12, 16).  In turn, when I love my wife, His love is perfected in me (v. 12).

When God’s love is active and being perfected in me (1 John 4: 12), then I can experience another truth from John’s “love manual;” namely, there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.

When the faith and love of one spouse falters, does this free the Christ-following spouse to react in kind?  No!  Instead, when trouble comes, the real uniqueness of a Christian marriage ought to show.  When one or more of the loveless works of the flesh we just noted show up from one or both spouses, each spouse can either react in kind or obey the Scripture.  Obedience for the husband means love your wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5: 25) and love her …even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband (Eph. 5: 33).

Christ’s amazing love for us can overcome the loveless works of the flesh that often doom marriages that once were strong.  Specifically, the power of agape love described in 1 Corinthians 13 can help revive troubled marriages when it along with other fruit of the Spirit begins to open the door to good communication between spouses.    Agape love is patient, kind, self-effacing, gracious, doesn’t insist on one’s rights, forgiving and forgetful, enduring, trusting, and truthful.  These love-related traits can bring calmness where there was tension and strife.

Good communication may also require the more spiritually mature spouse to remain silent, even in the face of hurtful, untrue accusations.  In 1 Peter 3, the inspired writer exhorts husbands to live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker (v. 7), not returning evil for evil or insult for insult (v. 9), for …even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed (v. 14).

The wife or husband who expresses patient, enduring, unconditional love toward his or her spouse when greeted with unwarranted, unloving or disrespectful words or even abuse may suffer in silence with seemingly no one to turn to for comfort.  But we do have One to Whom we can cling; namely, Jesus Who died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3: 18).

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was falsely accused, maligned, and abused.  Referring to reports of the virgin birth of Christ, the unbelieving Jewish leaders scoffed, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God" (John 8: 41).  When Jesus professed to be God, His accusers responded, "You have heard the blasphemy…” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists… (Mark 14: 64-65).   Then, in perhaps the greatest expression of agape love, Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be nailed to a Roman cross to be a spectacle for the world to see.  Yet, He did not open His mouth other than to defend His deity (Isaiah 53: 7).

He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed
-- Isaiah 53: 3b-5 (NLT)

In the world’s greatest misunderstanding, He Who had no sin, became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5: 21); but, His accusers thought He was only getting His just punishment.  Although we are not sinless as Jesus was, He calls us to show His love through sacrifices, too.  Do I love my wife or a significant other person enough to remain silent when love demands it of me--even when my silence may cause others to find fault in me?

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Are you prepared to celebrate the wonder of love for those who are precious to you?  I’m ready to show my love for Abby.  She may have a surprise for me, but I know for sure that she’s made preparation to show our love to our family.  But, when the holiday is over, the love that binds us in our relationships will not depend on our material gifts, physical health, intelligence, or feelings.  It will depend on our faith relationship with the risen Christ.  He gave His very life because He loves us so much.  Then, He ascended to heaven so He could send us His Spirit to enable husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5: 25); and, to enable wives to respect their husbands out of  the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3: 4).   This Valentine’s Day, may our great love for the “Great Lover” of our souls move us to love our spouses and others after the example of Christ.

Now, it's Valentine's Day, and I will add these additional words from a writer of a much higher caliber.  There seems to be no other explanation for me finding these this morning  than God directing my hands as I leafed through A. W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy.  He seems to have guided my fingers to Chapter 20, "The Love of God."  As I read this chapter, it was as if God was saying,  "It's not about you, as if you are the source of love, or the source of wisdom on the subject of loving relationships.  Rather, it is about My great love for you, My friend, and how much I desire to have your first love in return.  Here are Tozer's closing words to "The Love of God," offered in a forceful prayer of praise to God:
"Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what Thou has declared Thyself to be. Amen"

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Where Are You God? -- “I AM”

Sixty years ago, the era of television arrived in our home.  This magic box introduced us to larger-than-life personalities like Wyatt Earp, Matt Dillon, Walter Cronkite, and Fulton J. Sheen.  I was especially impacted by “Deacon Earp” whose deadly aim wounded the bad guys but didn’t kill them.  If that were not enough, Earp’s choice of beverage was milk.

Our TV antenna was supported on a metal tower anchored to our chimney.  When our TV produced a snowy picture, we knew the problem was in our reception, not the broadcast signal from Cleveland.  The problem usually cleared up when we rotated the antenna in the right direction or adjusted the TV.

Broadcast and receiver must work together, hand-in-glove.  The same is true of communication between our modern TV’s.  Each has an internal receiver that is responsive to an accompanying “remote.”  Therefore, both the TV broadcast station and the remote send out signals to the TV, but unless the TV receiver detects these signals, there will be no response.

The relationship between a broadcast signal and a receiver illustrates the relationship between our Creator God and us as His creatures.  Why is it that some men and women, or boys and girls, have a relationship with God, and seek to please Him according to His Word given in the Bible; whereas, others are not responsive to God?  According to the Scriptures, a person can only have a living, dynamic relationship with their Creator if their spirit is attuned to God’s Spirit.  When we yield our will to God through faith in Christ, God’s Spirit assumes residence in our lives and gives us the ability to respond to the “broadcast signal” from God’s Word or from other people.  Also, through God’s Spirit, we can commune with God though prayer and with others of like faith.

In Genesis (meaning “origin”), the first book of the Bible, we have the account of God’s creation of Adam, and the intimate relationship that God established with Adam:

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground.  He breathed the breath of life into the man's nostrils, and the man became a living person (NLT). – Genesis 2: 7

The Bible gives no record of the first conversation between God and the human He created according to His own image (Genesis 1: 26).  Instead, we learn that God breathed His very own “breath of life” into Adam’s nostrils.  The man’s first “life breath” through his nostrils was through an inspiration—that is, an entry of air into Adam’s lungs--“God-breathed” air from the very breath of God—“and the man became a living person(Genesis 2: 7).”  Although many generations separate us from our father Adam, we should be in awe of the fact God gives us every breath.  In so doing, God sustains each minute of our very lives. 

Can you imagine? God’s Spirit is as near to you as your next breath.  You and I are unique from all other air-breathing animals.  Only humans as God’s image-bearers received the very life-breath of God when He created them.  Imagine that for awhile.  Indeed, the ability to imagine and perform other kinds of abstract thinking and creativity are all expressions of the fact that we bear God’s image.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers considers God’s creative work as recorded in Genesis, Chapter 2 as an expression of His wisdom and love:  Here [God] forms, and builds, and plants, and breathes into His work, and [He] is the companion and friend of the creature He has made. It thus sets before us the love and tenderness of Jehovah, who provides for man a home, fashions for him a wife to be his partner and helpmate, rejoices in…[the] intellect [of man, His image-bearer, and then shows honor and respect to Adam’s intellect by bringing]…the lower world to him to see what he will call them….

Adam was given richly and abundantly all that he would need to live and flourish. On top of that, he was commanded to exercise dominion over creation by caring for creation as a steward of all God created and possessed as Owner.

Because we cannot see God, we wonder at times if He is really REAL. To Adam and Eve, there was no doubt.  Genesis 3: 8 records that Adam and Eve were familiar with the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.  They evidently enjoyed regular opportunities to “walk with God” in the Garden of Eden.  We have no record of their conversation before Eve was tempted by Satan.  However, I would like to suggest one early conversation that Adam might have had with God (in some language other than English):

ADAM: “God, what is Your Name?”
GOD:  “I AM”
ADAM: “I know you exist, but what is Your Name?”
ADAM: “I am Adam.”
GOD:   “Indeed, you are.  And notice, you used a similar action word (a verb), “I am” with your name.  Adam, you live and you exist; but, unlike Me, you need a point of reference.  I AM that reference.   When you say “I am Adam,” it means you exist only because I AM created you.”
ADAM: “Do you mean that ‘I am’ because of You, the ultimate ‘I AM?’”
GOD:   “Yes, it is as you say.  You exist because of Me—only in reference to Me.  But, I AM the God Who is.”  I AM Who I AM without any reference to any other--or to time or space.  My Name is an action word (verb) because I AM eternally “being” and “acting” sustaining My creation from the tiniest atom to the expanse of My heavens; allowing your every breath and beat of your heart; and before a word is on your tongue, I know it.”
ADAM: “My soul is warmed within me as I walk with You.  I am filled with Joy when I commune with You.”
GOD:   “That is as it should be.  I love you, Adam, with an everlasting love.  I AM love, joy, and peace.  These are yours when you walk with Me.  And My Spirit communes with the spirit I formed within you.”
ADAM:   “Bless You, I AM!   Bless You, Lord O my soul, and all that is within me, bless Your Holy Name.”

My soul is inspired by composing this conversation as it might have been had I been walking with God.  But, unlike Adam and Eve, I have never walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day.  What’s more, I am a corrupted son of Adam.

According to Genesis 3, Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of Satan based on the cunning serpent’s distortion of God’s character.  As a son of Adam, …I was born a sinner--yes, from the moment my mother conceived me (Psalm 51: 5 NLT).  But, I am saved through faith in Christ the Great High Priest Who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” because He has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4: 15-16).

As a sinner, saved by God’s grace, I can now have fellowship with my Heavenly Father through God’s Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to send to us just before He was betrayed and crucified.  When His disciples were fearful and confused, Jesus spoke these calming words:

These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – John 14: 25-27

My access to daily fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit is made possible as I read and meditate upon God’s Word, the Scriptures.  Just as God breathed into Adam the breath of Life, so the Scriptures say that All Scripture is inspired (God-breathed) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).

So, I must ask myself; and ask you as well.  How receptive am I to the broadcast of God’s love and truth through His Holy Spirit to my “signal receiver”—my spirit.  If you have never surrendered to the claims of Christ and asked Him to forgive you and be your Savior, I refer you to Steps to Peace with God which will explain how you can become a Christ-follower.  Without Christ, you are dead in sin and are facing eternal separation from God.  Romans 8: 6-7 states that without making peace with God, you remain hostile toward God [and your mind is not "tuned" to the Spirit of God].  In fact, according to Romans 8: 7-8, you are not even able to do so...  

Maybe you have received Christ but your spirit (your "receiver" or "antenna") needs to be tuned again to the voice of God's Spirit speaking to you through His Word, or friends, or circumstances.  Just as I used to turn our old antenna to get a TV signal, perhaps you need to turn again to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1: 9).  Then, as a Christ-follower, when you open your Bible and read, God’s Spirit will go to work to make your spirit and mind receptive to the Scriptures, and to give you understanding of the truth you are reading.  Then, as you are receptive to that truth, God’s Spirit empowers you to respond to the Scripture for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness.  

How is your spiritual receiver?  Are you receptive to God’s presence through His Holy Spirit who loves you and wants to commune with you each day along your challenging path of life?  If you have questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Fruitful Careers of Former Colleagues

While enjoying my Saturday morning breakfast that ends with some fruit, I am taking time to reflect on the fruitful service of several of my former colleagues at Cedarville University as reported in the Fall, 2017 issue of Cedarville Magazine.  I am thankful for my colleague and friend, Dr. Pamela Johnson who along with her husband, Cliff, and their faithful friend Dee Morris, have been great encouragers and examples to Abby and I for many years.  Pam and Cliff are also a great testimony of a lovingly compatible marriage that seems to have been, as they say, “made in heaven.”

Both Pamela, and another colleague, Lynn Brock, have made effective use of their gift of administration (1 Corinthians 12: 28).  I was privileged to serve with them on several committees and observed the wise contributions of these valued colleagues.  Lynn, his wife Donna, and their children were our neighbors during our first 8 years at Cedarville.  I owe Lynn many thanks for his administration of the Centennial Library which was a valuable contribution to my teaching and research.  I still use my online access to the library.

As I finish my mango and grapes, I reflect on the fruitful life of Jim Cato and how he, Melody, and family have ministered to our family in meaningful worship through their gift of music.  Jim and Melody came to Cedarville as a young, married couple when Abby and I were in our first few years.  It has been a blessing to see them grow spiritually and become such an integral part of both the campus and local community.  Their ministry has grown over the years to reach beyond Cedarville through HeartSong Teams.  We are praying for the Cato family these days while they are in a new chapter of dependence upon God and the wisdom of doctors to bring healing to Jim.

Of the four colleagues featured in the Cedarville Magazine article, I saved Paul Ware, for last.  Paul has served in various capacities on the Cedarville Grounds Department for 40 years.  His leadership and hard work have brought aesthetic beauty and conservation to the Cedarville University campus.  Meanwhile, he has served as a spiritual mentor to many Cedarville students, including our son Brad, when they work as members of the grounds crew.  Paul was a valuable partner in my teaching and research as relates to the establishment of the Cedarville Prairie Restoration Project which began in 1999 on what was an agricultural field that had become a well field for the supply of ground water for the campus.  Paul and I also cooperated with the aid of student workers in the development of the Cedarville University Arboretum which is supported by a database of all of the major trees on campus.   Finally, Abby and I personally thank Paul and Marilyn for their friendship, and for sharing Paul’s dear father and mother, Richard and Dorothy Ware with us for many years.

Finally, as I reflect on my former colleagues, I realize that these whom I recognize herein are only a few among the many who have been such a blessing to serve with during my 32 years at Cedarville University.  I think of Michael DiCuirci, Professor Emeritus of Music who retired in 2016.  Mike and I, along with Dr. Charles Dolph, Professor of Psychology, were in the same “freshman class” of faculty that arrived in 1979.   Both musical Mike and still-teaching, counseling, and conservation-minded Chuck are good stewards of their gifts and abilities, and I hope their best days on Earth are still ahead.

I also think of Dr. Don Bauman who was chair of the Science & Math Department when I was hired, and who served humbly and faithfully along with Dr. Larry Helmick, Professor of Chemistry during the entire time of my tenure at Cedarville.  Both of these man have recently retired as well.  Don’s successor as chair was Dr. Dan Wetzel who served in an exemplary way as our chair before becoming dean of Engineering, Nursing, and Sciences.  Dan had just called me two nights ago and related how blessed he is to still have reasonably good health and the ability to enjoy his family.  Of course, Dan’s successor as chair was Dr. Dennis Flentge, Senior Professor of Chemistry, for whom I also thank God.  Dennis came to Cedarville soon after I did and has been a faithful faculty member, administrator, and friend all these years.

As you can see, I am not at a loss for memory of many fine colleagues.  But I must stop now.   I finished my breakfast fruit hours ago, and I am nearly finished with what I wanted to write.  My thanks and prayers go out to those I have mentioned and to the many others with whom I’ve been blessed to serve. 

Meanwhile, each year, Cedarville is blessed with a new “crop” of “freshman faculty” who bring quality teaching, mentoring, and research to another generation of students.  For those of us who have moved on or will soon move on to another chapter of life after Cedarville (AC?), may we continue to be faithful to God’s calling which doesn’t stop at “retirement.”  I have appreciated the perspective of my former colleague and friend, Dr. Allen Monroe, Professor Emeritus of Social Science.  Known affectionately as “Uncle Al.”  When he “retired” from Cedarville, Dr. Monroe saw his many years as professor as being preparatory for what God had really called him to do in the next chapter of his life.  Indeed, following his “retirement” from Cedarville, he was able to make over 40 trips overseas to teach young pastors.  May each of us pray according to the prayer of the Apostle Paul, that God’s Spirit will empower us to continue to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… (Colossians 1: 10).
*     *     * 
I dedicate this article to Dr. and Mrs. Paul Dixon.  Paul Dixon’s passion for God and for Cedarville University had a major impact on my profession in biology and profession of my faith in God.  Paul’s leadership and approach toward Christian higher education provided an environment in which I could personally become more spiritually disciplined and effective in the integration of science and faith in my teaching.  It was also my privilege to serve on the Cedarville faculty with Pat Dixon, Professor of English.  In addition to her faithful role beside President Dixon, Pat was to the inside of campus buildings through her influence upon their décor what Paul Ware was to the landscape around the buildings.  (I would imagine the paths of the two frequently crossed in a complementary fashion.)  Thank you, Paul and Pat, and may God bless and keep you.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hope for a Grieving Community

On this cold winter night, as northeast Ohio endures its latest wintery blast, many homes in Perry Township, Ohio are reeling from another kind of icy stab.  Yesterday’s news reported that a sixth student in Perry Local School District has committed suicide since the beginning of this school year!

Meanwhile, the Perry Local School administration has been taking this “epidemic” seriously by making what they consider a valiant effort to provide counseling and other means of support to grieving students and faculty.  The school district had already begun suicide-awareness training and counseling sessions last autumn after the first suicide occurred.  However, this week’s report of a sixth suicide must have many in the district wondering what they should do next.

Superintendant Scott Beatty who was born and raised in nearby Massillon, spoke to Fox 8 TV saying, “I think it goes around one word:  Hope.  I would tell our kids there is hope, there is hope.”

I cannot imagine how I would react to this news if I were a parent of the latest victim; or, if I were any parent, teacher, or administrator of this Stark County, Ohio school district.  But as a resident of nearby Wayne County, my own reaction is one of grief and concern for those affected by these deaths.  How tragic that six students who had walked the “halls of learning” in Perry Local Schools had reached the point at which they could find no reason to live another day.  At the same time, while I commend superintendent Beatty for offering “Hope” to his students, I am curious as to what he believes is the object of this Hope.  In my experience, hope without a reliable object or basis for possessing it, is unfounded, unreliable, and unsatisfying.

Thankfully, Perry Township residents are beginning to realize that, with suicides continuing to occur, something more is needed than simply encouraging students and parents to call suicide awareness counselors, helpful as that might be.  A phone call this morning to two friends in North Canton, Ohio provided both disturbing and encouraging news.

What my Google search revealed--key words: Perry, God, religion, church
First, the disturbing news:  Officials related to Perry Local Schools have reportedly refused to allow people of faith to come onto school grounds to offer spiritual counseling.  Many readers will not be surprised.  As we have often lamented, America has removed God from her public schools; so, what should we expect?  But in truth, the erosion of strong spiritual leadership in America’s families began long before God’s disinvitation from public schools.  Deterioration of the family unit has coincided with a neglect of the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, study, and prayer in our homes, the weakening of commitment to the marriage bond, less regular worship and service in a local church, and weakening commitment to exemplary moral living and service to the local community and beyond.

The Bible has been clear in its call for the moral and spiritual disciplines for thousands of years.
Proverbs 29: 18 states
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,
But happy is he who keeps the law.

Hosea 4: 6 claims:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:
because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…
seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God,
I will also forget thy children. 

It is not enough to offer Hope. The Scriptures make clear that there is no hope unless we turn to our Creator and submit to His plan for living.   In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul professes that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe….(Romans 1:16).  But sadly, Paul continues, explaining how humans throughout the ages have rejected the truth of God, exchanging it for a lie, and suppressing the truth.  Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1: 22).

My previous article in Oikonomia, entitled Resolutions for 2018: Pursuing God --On Purpose, emphasizes the fundamental need of every person to know their purpose for living.  Our schools may do well in teaching the three-R’s along with computers, science, and technology.  But our students are facing many additional challenges outside the classroom, such as learning who they are as developing individuals and finding social acceptance and meaningful relationships.  All the while, individual development in mind, body, and spirit, and self-awareness are challenged by social media, poor family structure, access to drugs, and an ongoing deterioration of morality in our culture—an unbiblical morality that no longer regards the ancient foundations supporting biblical marriage and gender distinctions.  

Good suggestions are meaningless without a moral foundation.
Public school science and social studies undermine student moral and social development when they deny that Judeo-Christian principles have any place in these disciplines.  Instead, students are indoctrinated into atheistic, naturalistic evolution which purports to explain human origins by time and chance movements of molecules, and therefore, offers students a view of reality that is without morality and purpose.

But there is also good news for the Perry community.  A network of people of faith has been forming to assist students and parents who are willing to meet with them.  Rocky Perkson, one of my North Canton friend's former students, has announced on his Facebook page a “Community Come Together” meeting on Monday, January 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm at
Canton Baptist Temple
515 Whipple Ave NW
Canton OH 44708
Enter through Door G please. Opposite side of Whipple Ave
The FREE event is open to all and the speaker is Christopher Milo.

While it is true according to Proverbs 29: 18 that Where there is no vision, the people perish, it is also true that happy is he that keeps the law.  The psalmist David, in Psalm 19: 7-11, expands upon the “happiness” of the law-keeper who turns to God’s Word to find wisdom, joy, forgiveness, and warning:

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

What the young people and families of northeast Ohio and our nation as a whole need is more exposure to Christ-followers—people who have found Hope in the Eternal God and have responded in faith to the call of His Son Jesus.  Jesus laid down the path of a true Christian with these words:

If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow  me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  – Luke 9: 23-24

God so loved the world of His creation that He sent His Son to give us the gift of everlasting life (John 3: 16). Christ came to replace our fear and despair with Love and Hope.  But surprisingly, this faith transaction requires a “death”—death to self and sin as we are individually buried with Christ so we can rise to new life in which God’s loving Spirit enables us to yield control of our lives to Jesus Christ.  This “death” to self and resurrection to New Life is symbolized by believer’s baptism.

If you are a Christ-follower, a true Christian by faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and His death and resurrection, you may want to become more knowledgeable of teen and even pre-teen suicide in your community and efforts to prevent it.   For example, you may want to locate a church or community ministry that provides support and spiritual teaching and encouragement for adolescents.  Many communities have so-called “Breakout” programs for adolescents to attend during or after school hours.  Why not Google “Breakout” to find the nearest program in your area?

If you are not a Christ-follower, perhaps you would like to learn more about the Eternal Life of Hope that Christ offers freely in response to your faith in Him.  Check out the website for “Steps to Peace with God” which outlines how you can believe and respond to God’s love, how your sin separates  you from God, what Jesus has done to address your separation, and what you can do by faith to receive God’s righteousness (right standing with a Holy God).  If you have additional questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at