A Reason for Democrats to “Build the Wall”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to have just discovered a basic law of economics: The more you tax something, the less you get of it. Sadly for the coffers of  New York, wealthy people are fleeing the Empire State to take up residence in states such as Florida, which levies no personal income tax. See the source imageThis exodus has, according to Cuomo, led to a significant drop in tax receipts, leaving a projected budget deficit of $2.3 billion, and even greater ones in years to come as more wealthy New Yorkers migrate to more tax-friendly states.

At a news conference yesterday, Cuomo repined, “We’ve set up reserves, but this is worse than we had anticipated.” Indeed, he called New York’s fiscal condition metaphorically “as serious as a heart attack.” New Jersey is in the same ICU ward. It’s been estimated that in the last year some 5,700 millionaires have pulled up roots and planted themselves in more fiscally conservative states. And it looks like this exodus is only the beginning trickle of what could become a dam breach. State Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called the present deficit “…the most serious revenue shock that the state has faced in many years,” and predicted that it will “…get worse before it gets better.”

Cuomo, now that he has had his economic epiphany, is counseling against any further increases in taxes on the rich to try to solve New York’s fiscal problems. With an unexpected surge of common sense, he declared, “Tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. The rich leave, and now what do you do?”

No doubt he has his work cut out for him in trying to revamp New York’s tax-hungry bureaucracy before the state falls into a financial abyss. But, before he tackles this crisis in full, perhaps he could spare a few moments to counsel his Democratic peers with his newfound wisdom.

For instance, left-wing politician Elizabeth Warren has just unveiled a proposal for a special annual tax on the top 0.1% of the wealthy class in America. She tweeted:

“We need structural change. That’s why I’m proposing something brand new — an annual tax on the wealth of the richest Americans. I’m calling it the ‘Ultra-Millionaire Tax’ & it applies to that tippy top 0.1 percent — those with a net worth of over $50M.”

See the source imageShe went on to estimate that over ten years it would bring almost $3 trillion into the federal coffers. That is, of course, if those at the tippy-top decide not to move with all their assets to a tax-haven offshore and renounce U.S. citizenship. I hear the Cayman Islands are delightful. And the Bahamas aren’t too shabby, either.

I can hear Cuomo now: “Liz, tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. The rich leave, and now what do you do?”

Or, how about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is on a crusade to save the world in under twelve years by completely destroying and remaking the US economy and all our lifestyles through her “Green New Deal” . She has proposed a 70% tax on incomes over $10 million annually. I wonder how many new loopholes that would create as intelligent millionaires find ways to legally park money elsewhere.See the source image Remember, when you tax something, you get less of it in the future. Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow first-year congresswoman Ilhan Omar (who proposes a top tax rate of up to 90% “for a start”) could both benefit from a visit by Cuomo.

“Alexandria, Ilhan, tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. The rich leave, and now what do you do?”

And how about Kamala Harris? She is suddenly finding a slew of human rights that must be guaranteed by the federal government for all bi-peds: Medicare for all, free education for all, pay increases for all but the wealthy, open borders for all….and so on. See the source imageRight now, our federal government expects to take in $3.422 trillion in FY 2019. In that same period, the government plans to spend 4.407 trillion, leaving a deficit of $985 billion to pile on to our massive national debt — ballooning it to almost $22 trillion by today’s reckoning. The programs that Harris and other tax and spend politicians want to implement would require an increase of more than everything we already take in through federal taxes annually. Medicare for All by itself is estimated to cost an average of $3 trillion a year.

When people already feel overtaxed by a bloated government, which never seems to be able to find a way to trim spending but always knows how to consume more resources, finding more than double the amount they are already forking over to the IRS does not sit well.

“No worries,” say these Democratic and socialist politicians. “We will actually give the middle class a tax cut and the poor a tax credit, and we will provide all these free services and benefits by soaking the wealthy, because of course it is morally incumbent upon them to pay their fair share.”

Of course, even if the wealthy were to stay around to have their life blood drained to subsidize this socialist utopia, the numbers don’t work out. There isn’t enough money among the top 1%, or even the top 20%, to fund the massive programs being promised. But of course, the wealthy won’t hang around, once they see the torches and pitchforks of the “fair share mob” on the march to redistribute their wealth.

I fear Andrew Cuomo’s voice will get drowned out in the fevered excitement of the utopians. ” Wait, wait,” he will try one last time, “tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. The rich leave, and now what do you do?” Or maybe in this case, “The rich have been drained dry, and now what do you do?”

There is one solution. Prevent the rich from leaving.

I propose that the Democrats, as soon as possible, approve as much money as possible to fund border security. Build the wall on our southern border. Undertake an even more massive build on our northern border. Increase the ICE and TSA and Homeland Security budgets so they can track all millionaire citizens. Put them on our no-fly lists, and add tracking devices to their private jets and yachts.See the source image

Perhaps if walls and border security won’t keep illegal immigrants out, they may at least keep our millionaires in! Then, like parasites we can live and grow off them until we have drained them dry.

What will we do after that? No worries. I’m confident that our politicians will have an answer.

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Porcina Non Grata!

Today, February 4th, is a festive time for Chinese communities around the world. It is New Year’s Eve according to the Chinese calendar. Homes have been swept, bright red decorations hung, special delicacies envisioned for the evening meal or restaurant visit,  men dressed in crisply pressed shirts and pants, women in elaborate red and gold outfits, preparations for family visits are underway, children are eager to receive their “red packets” from parents and elders, usually containing money as an augur of prosperity in the new year. In short, it is a time of joy for those steeped in Chinese tradition everywhere.

Everywhere except in Malaysia, that is, where the population is distinctly split among three major ethnic groups: ethnic Malays (around 57%, all Muslim by law), Chinese Malay (23%), Indian Malay (about 7%). The remainder of about 12% are constituted by a variety of aboriginal, tribal Malays. This rich diversity normally remains relatively friction-free, but this new year is an exception between the Muslim-majority ethnic Malays and the largest minority Chinese Malay.

Why? Because in the Chinese calendar, where years are marked by the twelve animals of the zodiac, the new season commencing tomorrow is the Year of the Pig. See the source imageFor Muslims, pigs are the worst among unclean animals, worse even than dogs. By the way, this present year, about to end for the Chinese, has been the Year of the Dog. For Muslim sensitivities, the ignominy of enduring Chinese calendrical celebrations and images from this year to the coming one feels like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

And as the majority people group with political and social power, they are not putting up with it. Images celebrating dogs and pigs are commonly banned or publicly deprecated in Malaysia. According to an article in yesterday’s South China Morning Post,

Malaysia has a long history of attempting to remove pigs and dogs from the public sphere. In 1995 it banned the film Babe from cinemas. In 2016, there was public outcry over the word “dog” being used to describe sausages – leading to fast-food chain A&W’s Coney Dog being renamed the “Chicken Coney” at the order of religious authorities.

In 2014, activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi was forced to seek police protection after receiving death threats for organising an “I Want to Touch a Dog” event to give Malay-Muslims an opportunity to connect with dog owners and pet canines.

More recently, national carrier Malaysia Airlines’ in-flight magazine Going Places had to issue a public clarification after it was accused of publishing a photograph of a pork dish. Although the dish was actually Wagyu steak, the carrier apologised for any offence caused.

Elsewhere in the world where Chinese communities intermix with other ethnic groups, they celebrate the Years of the Dog and Pig with complete freedom — neighboring communities often eagerly join the festivities.


Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco

But wherever Islam dominates pockets of Chinese immigrants, Muslim sensitivities quash the freedoms of the Chinese when it come to New Year’s celebrations of the Dog and Pig. For Chinese Malay, the message is all too clear — anyone who goes “whole hog,” so to speak, in celebrating the Chinese New Year, will become Porcina Non Grata.

While this might seem like a small matter to those who don’t pay much attention to Chinese customs, it illustrates a much larger point. Where Islam comes to dominate other cultures, it systematically opposes and finally extinguishes any practices that don’t accord with Islamic law and tradition. It may take centuries or even a millennium, but finally like a python curled around it prey Islam squeezes the life out of regions where it ascends to power. Witness the histories of North Africa, the Levant, Iraq, and Turkey, which all had been solidly Christian countries prior to the conquest of Muslim armies — now the Christian communities have dwindled to five percent or less of the citizenry; in fact, in many of those countries, the official Christian presence is under one percent. Or look at modern-day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, where Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists had made their homes before Arab Muslim armies swept eastward in the 7th and 8th Centuries AD. Now, any remnants of such traditions are hard to find, having been systematically purged by Islamic hegemony. You may remember the destruction in 2001 of the Bamiyan Buddha statues carved into a cliffside in Afghanistan. Over four hundred Afghani Muslim clerics issued a statement ruling that the statues “were against Islam.” And so, by means of artillery shelling and dynamite, the statues were completely obliterated. What remain today are only the huge, hollowed-out niches where the 165 and 110 foot tall statues had stood, emblematic of Islam’s lust for the elimination of anything deemed “unislamic.”

This reality should give pause to all who propose “open borders” or the welcome of mass immigration from the Muslim world. Europe is already learning to its regret what large-scale Muslim immigration means for struggle to retain its formerly Christian and Enlightenment identity. The supremacist attitude inherent in Islamic thought means that practicing Muslims will never submit to long-term assimilation within a non-Muslim society. The ultimate goal is the ascendancy of Islam and the destruction of everything opposed to Islamic Shari’a law.

Well, that could never happen here, you say.

I’m sure that’s exactly what Christians in the Holy Land and throughout Levant thought when the Arab Muslim armies swarmed over their territories in 634-636.

Or what the majority Coptic Christians of Egypt said in 640 when the Muslim invaders swept across their country. Or the rest of North Africa. Or the proud people of the Sassanid Empire of what is now Iraq.

Or the Zoroastrians of Persia (now the modern-day Islamic Republic of Iran) and Afghanistan, as well as the Hindus, Buddhists and Christians of the Indus Valley.

You get the point. Where are their descendants today? Absorbed within the Islamic empire or eradicated from history (which essentially amounts to the same thing).

If you value your freedoms, lifestyle and belief system (whatever that may be), then beware the encroachment and growth of Islam in your midst. What begins as porcina non grata — limitations “voluntarily” imposed on you so as to avoid hurting Muslim sensitivities — will ultimately morph into persona non grata — as Muslim majorities take political power and dictate who may and who may not live unmolested under their undisputed rule.

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NY Politicians Confirm a Biblical Truth (Unwittingly)

On the afternoon of January 22nd, the New York State Senate passed the innocuously-named “Reproductive Health Act” (Article 25-A), clarifying when, within the geographical bounds of New York State, aborting a child in the womb is legal.

The bill, which was passed by a vote of 38-24 (the No votes were cast by all the Republican as well as two Democratic senators), certifies that any abortion is legal within the first 24 months of pregnancy, and then becomes legal after that up until the baby emerges from the birth canal into the light of day if an “authorized practitioner” deems the abortion necessary “to protect the patient’s life or health.”

This, of course, is a slippery slope. According to all I’ve read, it is almost unheard of that a baby carried to full-term endangers the life of the mother — if there are life-endangering complications from the actual birthing process,  C-sections are performed to save the lives of both mother and child.

The most reprehensible part of this new law is the intentionally vague wording “health,” which as ordinarily defined includes “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.” So, for example, if the soon-to-be mother suddenly becomes fearful that a new life will be too much for her to handle financially or emotionally, or will tie her down to a routine which “cramps her style” socially, the abortion provider may conclude (in agreement with the “patient”) that the baby must die to “protect the patient’s…health.”

This bill shows callous disregard for the human nature and dignity of the unborn, and indeed intentionally denies legal personhood to a child in the womb. This semantic manuever was employed to prevent anyone involved in abortion from every being charged with murder (homicide). The law specifically states that “Person,” when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who has been born and is alive.” So as long as a full-term baby has not yet made the six-inch journey through the birth canal, no “person” yet exists and so the killing of the baby by abortion cannot be treated as a crime.

What compounds this evil even more is that the politicians did not pass this law regretfully, wishing that things could be different but bowing to unrelenting outside pressures. No, they voted and then celebrated raucously, along with a rabidly pro-choice gallery, as you can see for yourself in the short clip below.

Immediately upon confirmation of the vote, Governor Andrew Cuomo eagerly signed it into law, surrounded by laughter and smiles as he joked about a conversation he had with one of his daughters about how long it had taken to get the bill passed.


Now, I’m not so naive as to believe that those who are governed by worldly principles would naturally be inclined to enact legislation which accords with a biblical world view, even on matters related to human nature and human rights. Since 1973, our nation has decided that babies in the womb are not yet human, and don’t deserve the same rights as those who have made it safely outside the womb. I believe that is a terrible stain on the virtue and rectitude of our commonwealth, having resulted in over 61 million abortions since Roe vs. Wade.

It is one thing, however, to allow for an evil to exist. It is another to celebrate and encourage that evil to expand. That is what the New York politicians and pro-abortion advocates have done in this most recent travesty.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he speaks in his opening chapter about what happens when human beings suppress what they innately know of God and His will. When they willfully “worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator,” God finally hands them over to their destructive passions, and they (we) spiral down into deepening moral and spiritual darkness. Toward the end of the chapter, he provides a representative but by no means comprehensive list of behaviors illustrative of human beings living without divine restraint — you can find that list in 1:26-31.

But he ends that list with a crowning indictment in v. 32: “Though they know God’s decree that those who do these things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.” In other words, they are not satisfied with pursuing such evils personally, but are actively engaged in cheering others on in the same pursuits, perhaps to justify their own choices or to create a “new morality for the masses.”

When I saw the video of the NY Senate chambers echoing with cheers and applause on the passage of this abortion bill, I couldn’t help thinking how timely Paul’s assessment of fallen human nature is. Though these politicians and their sycophants had not the slightest intention, by their behavior on January 22nd they have publicly confirmed a deeply biblical truth — human beings, when separated from the light and life of God, will continue to spiral downward into the abyss of evil, all the while cheering one another on in the belief that we are progressing to new moral heights.

We need a Savior — the one Savior whom God sent into the world. Only he can effect a revolution in the human heart, freeing us from our malign and deluded selves, and creating in us a yearning for the virtues and choices reflected in heaven.

Come, Lord Jesus.

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Spreading Shame, or Honor?

Word has just broken that Nathan Sutherland, the 36 year-old, married father of four, licensed practical nurse who has been arrested for impregnating a long-incapacitated woman at an Arizona care facility, was/is a “Christian rapper.”

Although he has not yet been tried and convicted, DNA testing has apparently positively matched him with the baby. So the travesty of this immoral act is compounded by the fact that Sutherland has promoted himself as a follower of Jesus Christ. In addition to the pain and suffering inflicted on the victim, her parents and this innocent newborn, who knows how much damage has been done to the name and cause of Christ, whom Sutherland has claimed to follow and represent?

Nathan Sunderland

While no human being is without sin, such moral and spiritual callousness should never mark those who take the name Christian, and profess to be new creatures in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit. Sadly, the mark of our age seems to be a Church marked by corruption and hypocrisy rather than virtue and nobility. We embrace the message of forgiveness and mercy, but want nothing to do with transformation and holiness.

This same reality struck me two weeks ago when I caught an Uber from DFW airport to a meeting about 20 miles away. As we pulled away from the curb, I asked my vivacious driver, Norma, about her life and work. After sharing for a few minutes, she turned the question back on me. So, I told her about my ministry focused on sharing the gospel with the Arabic-speaking world. This prompted a further question: “So, are you a minister?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Okay,” she said. “We are now going to have a church service in my car! I have some questions. I need some help with forgiveness. How do you forgive someone who has hurt you badly — I mean really badly?”

I resisted the urge to ask for details, but it soon became clear she had been in a relationship with a guy who took advantage of her, and then burned her. On top of that, he claimed to be a Christian, and told her that she was required to forgive him and then forget the whole thing had happened, so that she would never mention the transgression in the future to him or anyone else. Worst of all, she told me, he was her pastor. The “forgive and forget” subterfuge was his way of manipulating her with Scripture in order to silence her so he could continue to prey on other unsuspecting women in his congregation. He told her that as a pastor chosen by the hand of God, no church member had the right to publicly criticize him or his ministry and that her role was to support him, not accuse him.

As her story unfolded, I became more and more incensed — that a false shepherd could hide behind the veneer of respectability and holiness, all the while perpetrating evil and mishandling the Scriptures to justify it. Fortunately, there was enough time during the trip for me to share about when it is right to forgive but not forget (when the perpetrator shows no signs of repentance), and how Jesus counsels believers to confront offenders (first privately and then publicly, if they refuse to seek forgiveness and amend their behavior — see Matthew 18:15-17). Finally, I shared with Norma that far from being exempted from ordinary standards of morality, those who teach God’s Word are held to greater strictness of judgment before God (see James 3:1).

When we arrived at my destination, Norma asked me not to leave the car for a minute so she could write down the Scripture passages we had talked about and look them over later. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said. “I knew inside something wasn’t right about what he was telling me I had to do.”

“If you have any more questions or troubles, just call me,” I told her as I handed her my card. She hasn’t yet, and perhaps never will, but I trust that God will guide her through His Word and protect her and other vulnerable sheep from the predatory acts of those who claim to be shepherds, but prove to be masquerading wolves.  

Not only do they do great harm to the lost and vulnerable, they also sully the reputation and glory of the Good Shepherd, under whose name they commit their wanton evil. It is up to us as Christians to learn the Scriptures well and live by them as our personal standards of life, and then to gently but firmly reprimand those in our midst who refuse to walk in the righteousness of Christ. At the same time, we must pray for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit to renew us as the people of God. Only such a divine work can transform hearts and wills to make us a community that truly desires holiness rather than one that traffics in hypocrisy.

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R. Kelly Could Have Learned from Muhammad

The now infamous R&B singer, R. Kelly, has been dogged by sexual misconduct and abuse allegations for more than two decades. These include his short marriage in 1994 to then 15-year old Aaliyah, when he was 27, lawsuits filed by women in 1996 (the victim was 15) and 2001 (this one was 17) claiming to have engaged in sex with him while underage (both of which were settled out of court), a video which surfaced in 2002 seeming to show him engaged in sex with another teenage girl, and a grand jury indictment later that year for 21 counts of child pornography (the trial in 2008 led to a jury verdict of not guilty).Image result for r Kelly

Mr. Kelly has resurfaced in the news recently due to a 6-part documentary entitled “Surviving R. Kelly” aired on Lifetime last week (Jan. 3-5). The goal of this series, according to Lifetime’s own description, is to shed light on the R&B singer whose “…career and playboy lifestyle has [sic] been riddled with rumors of abuse, predatory behavior, and pedophilia.” They are hoping that the “damning evidence and multiple witnesses” which they showcase will finally bring about appropriate opprobrium from the public, if not the halls of justice, particularly now in the wake of the “MeToo” movement.

R. Kelly might have avoided all the consequences of his sexual proclivities if he had chosen a different career path from R&B stardom. If the initial R. had stood not for his first name Robert but for a self-proclaimed title — Rasool (which means “messenger” in Arabic) — and if he fashioned himself after Islam’s prophet Muhammad, he might have made it out of this mess unscathed. All he would have needed to do was to proclaim the existence of an all-powerful god with whom only he could communicate and who issued authoritative revelations only through him. Then, like Muhammad before him, he could reveal that this god had commanded him to marry underage girls, and to accept marriage proposals from as many females as he wished, and to own and use as many sex slaves as his heart desired and bank account could afford. Since any criticism of Muhammad’s behavior toward women is off-limits in today’s leftist-progressive, pro-Islamic feminist, politically correct policers of public opinion, Rasool Kelly might equally enjoy the accolades and protection of Islamo-panderers in high places.

Just to refresh the memories of those who can’t recall much from early Muslim sources on the life of Muhammad, the Arabian prophet declared that Allah had permitted Muslim men up to four wives at any one time (Qur’an 4:3), except for Muhammad himself– in a special exemption, he was allowed as many wives as he wished (not to mention slave girls taken as booty or bought from the slave market as the fruit of successful jihad ventures):

O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives] and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you and a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet [and] if the Prophet wishes to marry her, [this is] only for you, excluding the [other] believers. We certainly know what We have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and those their right hands possess, [but this is for you] in order that there will be upon you no discomfort. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful (Sura 33:50, my emphasis).

How fortunate for Muhammad that Allah, who only communicates his will through Muhammad, makes clear to the rest of the world that as god of the universe he is personally concerned that the 7th C. backwater Arabian prophet not face any discomfort in his marriages and sexual relations!

This applies to many other occasions as well. For instance, one day Muhammad pays a visit to the home of his adopted son, Zayd, but the young man is not home. While at the entrance, Muhammad catches a glimpse of Zainab, his daughter-in-law, who is in a “state of undress” and begins to burn with lust. Zayd learns of this, and comes to Muhammad declaring his willingness to divorce Zainab so the prophet can have her. According to the Qur’an, Muhammad orders Zayd to keep his wife (33:37), since according to custom it was immoral for a father to marry his daughter-in-law, even from an adopted son. But a closer look at this verse indicates that Allah is upbraiding Muhammad for his words to Zayd, since it is Allah himself who has orchestrated this divorce precisely so Muhammad can take her as a wife and not have any discomfort over “human traditions.” For the welfare of humanity, Allah is using Muhammad as an example so that henceforth people will know it is not immoral to marry the ex-wives of their adopted sons. And in the process, Muhammad gets to add a hot young wife to his growing harem.

In the most highly authoritative collection of traditions known as Sahih Bukhari, we find this report of Muhammad’s favorite and sometimes feisty teenage wife, Aisha, upon hearing Allah’s “revelations” concerning Muhammad’s privileges with women:

I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah’s Messenger and I used to say, “Can a lady give herself (to a man)?” But when Allah revealed: “You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).’ (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.” (Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 311, emphasis mine).

Aisha was without a doubt the youngest of Muhammad’s wives when he married her and took her to bed, barely 9 years of age. Muhammad had just turned 52. (Determining ages in this relationship and in what follows is a bit hazy, since early Arab Muslim culture calculated years based on the lunar calendar, which is roughly 10 days less than the solar calendar that we use in the West. Over the course of 75 lunar years, for example, this would translate to roughly 73 solar years, and so on.)

Here are the estimated ages of some of his other wives, and his, at the time he married them:

Hafsah — 19; Muhammad — 53

Juwayriyah — 20; Muhammad — 56

Safiyah — 16; Muhammad — 57

Mulaykah — 13 or 14; Muhammad — 58

Asma — 20 or less; Muhammad — 59

Amrah — 15; Muhammad 60.

Concubines (sex-slaves) have even less stature than wives, so Muslim history records fewer personal details about them, making their ages when Muhammad first took them less certain. But educated guesses for two of them are possible:

Rayhanah — roughly 15

Miriam (Mariyah) — between 17 and 20.See the source image

If only Robert Kelly had originally styled himself as Rasool Kelly, and patterned his own authoritative revelations after those of Muhammad, he might have totally avoided the scandals presently plaguing him. If Muhammad is so highly respected in today’s progressive culture, why not R. Kelly?

Or, to turn it around, if R. Kelly is rightly being pilloried for his sexual misconduct toward women, why not Muhammad, whose age differential and absolute power over his young brides would make him, in modern parlance, a sex abuser par excellence. 

If John Legend could publicly call R. Kelly a “serial child rapist,” I wonder what he would say about Muhammad. The answer, I’m sure, is “No comment.” Because in the West today, the mainstream media and elite thought-shapers have predetermined that Islam is benign, Muhammad a feminist reformer, and Shari’ah a better alternative to Western law and democracy. No need for facts; no need for history. The die has already been cast.

I am all for the truth coming out about R. Kelly, and for him to “face the music,” as it were. But, just as much, I am all for the truth coming out about Muhammad and for the world of Islam to own up to the reality of their prophet, and for the West to refuse any longer to give Muslims a deferential free pass in the competitive marketplace of ideas which should be a hallmark of free societies.

Am I wrong?


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A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices!

Somewhere years ago I read a quotation attributed to Martin Luther which said that next to the Bible the best tool to get theology into the hearts of human beings is the hymnal. I agree with him. But of course, not all hymns/religious songs are theologically sound, so they must all be tested against the Word of God for their orthodoxy.

When they get it right, though, they are tremendous vehicles for bringing truth to light in ways that pierce the soul with eternity. Nowhere is this more true than in the Christmas season!

One of my favorite hymns for its theological magic is “O Holy Night.” As I sang it numerous times this last month, two particular couplets thrilled my heart with deepened meaning. The first is often quoted, for obvious reasons:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

The truth that God, out of unwarranted love,  would enter this fallen world and take up residence among humans beings perfused with evil and depravity in order to rescue and adopt them as His children, should cause the heart to leap with joy. See the source imageSuch love for pre-fallen Adam and Eve, created in the pure image and likeness of God, would make sense — God would naturally love that which He has created and called good. But after the Fall, when the human race spirals downward into the willfulness of rebellion and moral corruption, how could anyone reasonably expect God to love a wayward and wasted humanity?

My limited experience in buying and selling things on the open market has taught me that any particular item is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, no matter what price the seller sets. The actual purchase price determines its “value”.

The message of the Incarnation — as Athanasius put it, “that the Son of God became a man in order to enable men to become sons of God” (please enjoy the poetic balance and don’t get hung up on the exclusive wording) — tells us that God values even a lost and bedraggled human race worthy of hell; that He values us so much He was willing to come to earth “for us and for our salvation;” that we matter so much to Him that He was willing to spill His own blood so ours might be spared (in Acts 20:28 Paul urged the Ephesian elders  to “feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood”)!

How amazing is that? In God’s eyes you and I and all human beings ever created or yet to come are worth the price of the blood of God incarnate! In the poetic theology of our hymn, when He appeared “the soul felt its worth!” No philosophy or religion can match the gospel message as to the value of every human life — if we matter to God, we matter — period!

And that leads me to the second couplet that so deeply impacted me this Christmas season:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Actually, what caused my ears to perk up was hearing a version on the radio (perhaps I misheard it) which said, “Chains shall He break for the slave is His brother….” It’s powerful enough to be reminded that we all share a common humanity and thus should treat each other with equal dignity and respect, recognizing that Jesus offers salvation unreservedly to those in chains of slavery as well as to those who fancy themselves free. But how much more stunning is it to realize that the slave is not just our brother, but the brother of our Lord and Savior! How quickly we must embrace the brothers and sisters of Jesus who have suffered unjustly and been treated as less than fully human!See the source image

To see whether this rendering was faithful to the original hymn text, I did some research — and discovered that the English version we sing was based on an original text in French. The lines in question read:

Il voit un frère où n’était qu’un esclave, L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer.

Translated literally into English, this is rendered: “He [Le Rédempteur = the Redeemer] sees a brother where there was only a slave; love unites those whom iron had enchained.” The poetry doesn’t translate well in literal English, but the meaning seems to enfold both ideas so well — the slave is our brother, and His brother.

The French text was originally composed in 1843 and first performed publicly in 1847, and finally translated into the English text we have today in 1855, less than 25 years after the British Parliament had passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, which finally and fully outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire. Without question, it was the tireless work of William Wilberforce, John Newton and other committed followers of Jesus Christ which held Parliament’s feet to the fire until they were forced to recognize the truth of the two-pronged biblical message that God created all human beings in His image and He came to sacrifice His life for all human beings. Slavery was an unconscionable affront to the glory and goodness of God, and had to be eradicated.

And so we sing, each Christmas season:

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn….

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.


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The True Wonder of Christmas

Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching at the Pauline Chapel of the world-famous Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. See the source imageHere’s a transcript of my message on the true wonder of Christmas:

Fresh off his 19th birthday, a young American man approached his last day in India. In a small compound located in a poor section of Mumbai, he was seated before his 90 year-old guru, where he had come 3 weeks earlier to deepen his 6 year study of Eastern mysticism. The guru had graciously invited him to a private exit interview and given him permission to voice any lingering questions.

The lad had many, for since age 13 he had been on a quest for truth. The question of God’s existence nagged at him, but even more the outlandish claim made by his Christian friends that Jesus was God come to earth as a human being.

So, he asked his guru, “Who was Jesus?”

“Jesus was an avatar,” – a signpost to humanity as to how to live, how to see reality – like Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, Muhammad, and Zoroaster, he said. Part of a super-elite spiritual class of men to be admired and emulated.See the source image

But the young man was not convinced; yet because he was still in awe of his guru he thought better of asking further questions.  But he knew that the claims made by Jesus and his followers, and the miracles and teachings of Jesus, far outstripped those of the others his guru mentioned.

  • Moses never claimed to be the Great I AM
  • Buddha never declared himself to be the Creator of all things visible and invisible in heaven and on earth
  • Confucius never asserted that he had descended from heaven
  • Muhammad never raised the dead, nor spoke of God has his Father
  • Zoroaster, a seeker after truth, never claimed to be The Truth
  • Krishna was a mythical Hindu being, so he never actually said or did anything….

So, he was left with his nagging question: Who is Jesus?

The world, of course, has pitched many proposals in answer:

Is he perhaps indeed an exalted member of some elite spiritual superhero club, as the guru thought – pals with all the prophets of old that have arisen around the world?

  • This is certainly the view of Islam – Jesus occupies a place in the top echelon of prophets, along with Abraham, Moses, and of course Muhammad. Jesus even excels the others in terms of his virgin birth, magnificent miracles and ascension to heaven.
    • And yet, Muslims refuse to celebrate Christmas, because they reject as blasphemous the idea that God came to earth and was born as a human being.

Perhaps he is some sort of half god/half man as worshiped in many of the pagan religions during his day. Like Achilles, Perseus, Orpheus of the Greeks, or Hercules, Romulus and Remus of the Romans?

Or perhaps just a wise itinerant preacher whose circumstances catapulted him to fame as an accident of history, but whose memory we revere because his teachings have had such an impact on Western civilization?

All of these are attempts to understand and classify Jesus with some exalted spiritual status. Those who offer them believe they are elevating Jesus to his rightful place, much like liberal theologians of the post-Christian era, who speak of a “Christology from below,” typically an “adoptionist Christology” – i.e., Jesus was only a human being, but one with such promise and performance that God chose to adopt him uniquely and give him the title Son of God.

 But all of these efforts deny or fall short of the message of the NT. The Gospel makes the seemingly outlandish claim that the eternal God who dwells outside time and space came into his created universe at one precise point in history, born into this world as a human being, experiencing life as all other human beings do.

  • Not that God merely blessed a special human being with an extra portion of His presence
  • Or even honored him with a special title as Son of God
  • But that God Himself actually condescended to enter His creation to experience life as a creature, to look His creatures directly in their eyes as one of them, to identify with a lost and helpless human race so as to become its Savior.

 In the words of John 1:14, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Or as a line from the Christmas hymn “O Come, All Ye Faithful” puts it: “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing….”

John goes on to say, “No human being has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known.” (John 1:18)

This is the true wonder of Christmas – that God entered this world Himself in order to reconcile human beings to Himself. God has come – this earth is the humble host to the incarnation of God, who left his throne and glory to walk incognito among the riff-raff of the universe (people like you and me).

The true wonder of Christmas is not simply that a virgin conceived and gave birth to a son in Bethlehem;

  • Nor that shepherds saw a host of angels proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
  • Nor that wise men from the east came bearing presents.

The true wonder is that God became a human being – for us!

  • The God whom heaven and earth cannot contain allowed Himself to be contained in the womb of a young Jewish virgin.
  • The King of Kings rose off His all-glorious Throne in order to be laid in a plain manger trough
  • The Sovereign and omnipotent God experienced helplessness and vulnerability as a human baby
  • The all-Sufficient One who has no needs yearned to suckle at the breast of a human mother.
  • The hands that flung galaxies into space now curled around the fingers of those who held him.

What a wondrous mystery! But even more wonderful is the reason why God stooped so low for humanity.

He reveals the reason in Scripture – it is because of His unfathomable love for the human race – not some mythical, obedient, loving, kind and perfect human race, but the real rough and tumble, morally-stained, murderous, hateful, arrogant and self-centered fallen race. God loves us so much, that He sent His Son into the world to save sinners so that He could make us His precious family – heirs of His joy-filled life for eternity.Image result for God so loved the world

Has the truth of this love sunk into your heart as we approach another Christmas? Do you know in the deepest recesses of your heart that God loves you – the real you, not some polished image that you present to others, not some better person you hope to be someday, but the struggling sinner you know yourself to be when you look in the mirror, when you lie alone with your thoughts in bed at night trying to suppress memories of which you are ashamed or fearful? God loves that you. That’s why Jesus came into this world. That’s why Christmas is suffused with wonder!

That’s why the Gospel is good news. This amazing news that God loves and desires to save those whom He has every right to condemn and send to hell is so unexpected, so unimaginable. It would be too good to be true unless God had actually sent His Son that first Christmas Day. It’s such good and astonishing news that, as we are told in 1 Peter 1:12, the angels in heaven long to look into this event of God’s incarnation and ponder it with wonder.

So, what does this mean for you and me? Paul writes in Col 2:9-10:

“For in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

That fullness of life means at least this:

  • We are free to lay down our pretend lives – we cannot even pretend to earn what God has already given us freely in His love. So receive with gratitude the wondrous gift that He came to give you personally.Image result for Free from condemnation
  • We are free from the judgments and condemnations of others – if God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Because we have been so fully loved by God, we are free to love others, even when they don’t deserve it. God has loved us in spite of ourselves; we can now love others in spite of themselves. “Freely you have received; freely give.”

By the way, that 19 year-old who left India confused and troubled discovered almost exactly one year later who the real Jesus is, after reading the Gospels for himself and inviting that Jesus to take charge of his life. For the last 43 years, 2 months and 17 days he has been learning more deeply the intricacies of God’s incarnational love. I know this personally, because of course that 19 year-old was me.

The true wonder of Christmas will never lose its capacity to astonish us, because no matter how hard we search we will never be able to plumb the infinite depths of God’s love for the undeserving.

May the real wonder of Christmas shine in your hearts in this season and throughout the years to come.

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