Will Mitt Seize His Moment Tonight??

[The column originally appeared at AMERICAN THINKER]

Hurricane Isaac notwithstanding, the 2012 Republican National Convention, like most in recent memory, has been orchestrated to somehow give a foregone conclusion a hint of drama.  It can be a tough sell.  But the world will be watching this week as Mitt Romney receives the Republican nomination for the presidency and has his moment to speak to history. 

Actually, up until 1932, it wasn’t accepted practice for a nominee to even appear at a convention to accept in person.  Instead, after the votes were counted, a delegation would travel to the candidate’s hometown to notify him.  This, for example, was the case with Republican Warren Harding, who accepted the nod in 1920 on his front porch.

Franklin D. Roosevelt changed all that.  He broke with tradition and flew from New York to Chicago in 1932.  The next time he was nominated (1936), he told that audience about America’s “rendezvous with destiny.”  But that was only after some high drama.  As he approached the podium that night, one of his leg braces broke, and the polio-stricken president fell to the floor as thousands watched in horrified silence.  But not a single flashbulb burst — nor did the radio audience hear about it.  It was a different world, one without cell phone cameras, bloggers, YouTube, or TMZ.

John F. Kennedy accepted the 1960 Democratic nomination speaking at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  What is seldom noted these days, however, is that the speech didn’t play well on television.  JFK would make up for that with a better tube moment a few months later.

Very few remember what Lyndon Johnson had to say in Atlantic City as he accepted his party’s nomination in 1964.  But Robert Kennedy’s moment, complete with a twenty-two-minute ovation, has not been forgotten.  And RFK’s contempt for his brother’s successor could not be completely disguised, in spite of the surface appearance of party unity.  He shared a quote from Romeo and Juliet that referenced the “garish sun.”  Some, including LBJ, saw this as a thinly veiled reference to the president.

Though he won re-nomination in 1980, Jimmy Carter came in second to Ted Kennedy on the rhetoric meter at that year’s Democratic convention.  Not only did the seriously flawed heir of all things Camelot outshine Carter on the platform, but he wouldn’t do that thing all good losers are supposed to do — he almost comically avoided joining hands with the president and raising arms in victory.  As Jimmy chased the senator all around the stage, Teddy did the old stay-away-from-Jimmy shuffle.

Mr. Carter’s performance was so bad that night that he botched what should have been a great applause line.  Democratic icon Hubert Humphrey had died a couple of years earlier, and Jimmy wanted to say something gracious about the former vice president.  But he butchered the line, calling the late liberal “Hubert Horatio Hornblower…er, Humphrey.”

Perhaps Mitt Romney would do well to examine a couple of great acceptance speeches delivered by men who were not known for their oratory and had been given little chance of ultimate victory.

In the summer of 1976, Gerald Ford, who had assumed the presidency upon the resignation of Richard Nixon, was nearly thirty percentage points behind Jimmy Carter in many polls.  He was not a great speaker, nor was he known for his quick wit.  But he managed to pull off the greatest speech of his career at just the right time.

Ford practiced the speech on videotape.  He watched the video over and over again — even up to the beginning of the nomination roll call.  The reviews were nearly universally favorable, with TIME Magazine calling the address “the best of his presidency and perhaps of his career.”  Though he would lose to Mr. Carter in November, Ford’s convention appearance sparked a surge that moved him to within striking distance.

The gold standard, however, for come-from-behind acceptance speeches, not to mention campaigns, has to be that of Harry S. Truman in 1948.  By the time of the convention, he was being dismissed as irrelevant, and the election of Thomas Dewey of New York was widely considered inevitable.

Even Bess Truman didn’t think her husband could win.

The party was divided several ways, the Republicans had won big in the off-year elections two years earlier, and Truman didn’t seem to inspire anyone.  The Democrats gathered in Philadelphia, where the Republicans had met three weeks earlier.  The city of brotherly love was strategically located along the path of a new coaxial cable, thus conducive to television coverage.

Something happened to the Man from Missouri the night he addressed a fractious convention and weary television viewers.  He reached down deep into himself conjured a spark that would soon become a flame.  The great Methodist preacher John Wesley once revealed the secret to his success as a speaker: “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.”  That’s what Mr. Truman did that night — and for the rest of the campaign.

His nomination wasn’t secured until 1:48 a.m., and some wanted him to wait a day to deliver the speech.  But Harry was ready and didn’t want to delay at all.  The convention hall was overheated and the convention agenda far behind schedule — yet he was able to maintain his edge and couldn’t wait to come out fighting.

Then, just as he was ready to come to the platform and during Sam Rayburn’s introduction, a woman carrying a large Liberty Bell made of flowers seized the microphone.  She had a point to make.  The flowers were accompanied by four dozen “doves of peace” — and she set them free.  The birds went crazy.  One publication reported that “the dignitaries on the platform cringed and shrank away like troops before a strafing attack.”  That was a tough act to follow, but Mr. Truman ignored the distractions, as well as the problems in his party, and gave the speech of his life.

Aides had recently noticed a tremendous difference in how their boss connected with audiences when he departed from a prepared text.  It set him free, and as one biographer said, “he was suddenly a very interesting man of great candor who discussed the problems of American leadership with men as neighbors.”  About forty percent of Truman’s words that morning were actually written in his notes.  It was a technique he would further develop to perfection during his whistle-stop campaign that fall.

It is doubtful that Mr. Romney will stray far, if at all, from the teleprompter Thursday night, but this will be his moment to seize or squander.  Stay tuned.

Posted in Articles and Columns

Of Heaven and Earth

Fourteen years ago today I accepted the call of the church I have been privileged to lead ever since.  Having been away recently for the better part of five weeks, I spent this morning with the ministry staff and reflected on the blessings of God.

I am so grateful for FAIR OAKS CHURCH!  It has been an interesting journey to say the least—wonderful mountaintop views, a few trials along the way, yet always the sense that God has been at work.

I have often said: “The Future is as Bright as the Promises of God.” And I feel more strongly about that than ever before.

Lavelle Greene (May 22, 1915-July 19, 2012)

Recent events—sad things, the loss of my beloved grandmother, Lavelle Greene (97), on July 19, and the loss of my brother in law and dear friend, Dan Holland (56), on August 14–have given me reason and a measure of time to think and pray.  Time is always short and must be redeemed and never squandered.

Pastor Daniel K. Holland (October 22, 1955-August 14, 2012)

They were both “ready” to go, in the Biblical sense of salvation, but I was not ready.  In my grandmother’s case, of course, there had been a sense that her declining health would one day soon give way to her graduation to glory.  But the passing of Dan was unexpected, shocking, and quite surreal.

If you haven’t seen the wonderful funeral service for Pastor Holland, you can view it here.

Many have said to me recently, “Heaven is sweeter now…”.   And I understand the sentiment (and agree with it), but I find myself focused right now on earth and the important work of preparing more and more people for that day that is surely coming for all of us. — DRS

Posted in Uncategorized

Must A VP Candidate Really Be Ready To Be President?

[This article was written for TOWNHALL.COM]

By David R. Stokes

It’s a predictable mantra as speculation mounts about the identity of the person who will occupy the number two spot on the 2012 GOP ticket: The most important thing for a VP selection is that it be someone who is prepared to be president.

At first glance, this rings true.  But political history shows that someone who can energize a campaign is actually more important.  The primary job of a Vice Presidential candidate is to deliver a highly motivated and effectively mobilized base, while at the same time doing relatively little harm.  Joe Biden wasn’t effective because the country saw him as ready to be president—nor was Dan Quayle, but they did what they were supposed to do. They worked tirelessly to deliver votes.

Occasionally the country gets a chance to see someone who is ready to be president and a solid campaigner in the same skin—George H.W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson come to mind.  But this is rare—and there have been cases when VP candidates certainly had what it might take to be real presidents in waiting, only to fall glaringly short on the campaign side.

There is no better example of this than what happened 52 years ago.

The 1960 presidential race has been analyzed probably more than any other election in the past one hundred years. Three men – all who would eventually become president – occupied center stage: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon.

But in a very real sense, it was the selection of a running mate by the Republicans that turned out to be a crucial, yet usually overlooked, part of the story.  Of course, John Kennedy’s tapping of his rival Lyndon Johnson is an epic political tale that has been the substantial focus of attention, but it is what happened on the Republican side that year that should be examined afresh and anew by Mitt Romney and any and everyone on his team involved in vetting potential running mates.

Richard Nixon and running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge in 1960

The biggest VP crash-and-burn candidate in recent memory was a man by the name of Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.  He was Nixon’s running mate as they battled the Kennedy-Johnson Democratic ticket in 1960.  Though conventional historical wisdom generally suggests that Kennedy beat Nixon because of Nixon’s first debate performance, or his failure to call Coretta Scott King, or vote-fraud shenanigans in Illinois, the real story may have much more to do with Mr. Lodge.

David Pietrusza, in his 2008 book, 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon—The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies, described Mr. Lodge:

On the surface he seemed quite impressive – articulate, handsome, experienced, a true public servant from one of the nation’s most distinguished families.  But in the long history of vice-presidential nominees Lodge – though scoring extremely well in abstract popularity polls – ranked as among the more puzzling of selections.   He was unable to carry his home state, nearly powerless to affect any outcome in his region, a toxin to his party’s conservative base, and, ultimately, a drag upon the ticket in a region – the South – where real breakthroughs might be gained.

Lodge was described by chronicler Theodore White as, “like medicine – good for you, but hard to take.”

Why would Richard Nixon—a skilled political strategist—choose someone who would go over like a lead-balloon?  The answer seems to be in his desire to base his decision on the qualifications to actually serve as president, more than political considerations such as campaign skills or the ability to help the ticket geographically and demographically.

Mr. Nixon also sensed that the crucial issue of the campaign was foreign policy – no doubt a reflection of his own interests.  To try to go “toe to toe” with the Democrats on domestic issues would, he thought, give the natural advantage to his opponents.  Lodge had, in fact, been a very effective U.N. Ambassador during the 1950s and had some good press recently.  After the U-2 spy plane fiasco in May of 1960, he helped the U.S. regain the Cold War public relations initiative by highlighting the fact that the Soviets had been eavesdropping on our embassy in Moscow.  A device was hidden inside a gift that had been given to our ambassador back in 1945 – a great seal of the United States carved in wood.

Yet, the choice of a running mate from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy’s home state, and, in fact, of someone who had already been soundly beaten by Kennedy in a senate race eight years earlier, seems in retrospect rather curious.

In contrast to Richard Nixon’s energetic fifty-state marathon, Lodge’s hatred for the nuts and bolts of press-the-flesh campaigning translated into a lackluster performance.  He took long naps after lunch, refused evening appearances, and regularly canceled those scheduled in the afternoon.  One politico complained, “we didn’t mind him having a nap in the afternoon, but why did he have to put on his pajamas?”

Nixon had well-known problems with television that year, but Lodge’s work before the camera was far worse – the only redemption being that much of it never saw the light of day.  During one of many attempts to produce shows or spots, he botched his delivery so badly that several expensive hours worth of work had to be completely scrapped.

Henry Cabot Lodge was a significant drag on the ticket. And as the campaign reached the end, he gathered his team a few days before the election to prepare a statement.  Margery Petersen, a Nixon secretary, was asked to type it up.  She later recalled: “When I saw it, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a concession statement! I refused to type it.”

The fact is that the most effective running mates have not been people who instantly resonated with voters as presidential.  On the contrary, the best of the lot have been good team players, hard campaigners, and politicians who understood that it wasn’t about them.  They balanced, complimented, and did their best to help the person in the top spot to win.  Whether or not a person who steps from some other duty to run for vice president is prepared at that moment for the actual presidency is not the real issue.

Just read any biography of Harry Truman.

Harry S Truman takes oath of office, April 12, 1945


Posted in Articles and Columns

The Saddest Words in the Bible

[An extemporaneous talk shared at Fair Oaks Church in Fairfax, VA on Sunday, Jul 8, 2012]

Let’s give these young people another hand. That was tremendous. It just shows the heartbeat of this group. In a very real sense, when you think of it, they’re in many ways the heartbeat of our church and ever increasingly so. I think that’s a good thing.

I want to talk to you today about what I consider to be the saddest words in the Bible. That’s a pretty strong statement, a broad-brush statement, but I think it’s true. They’re found in the book of Judges, and I’m going to read from that in a moment.

Jonathan Edwards was a pastor in America in Enfield, Connecticut, a couple of decades before the Declaration of Independence. He and a number of other clergymen, particularly he as sort of the brainiac of the group, and George Whitefield, the great orator of the group, were responsible for being catalysts for something called the Great Awakening in this country. I’ve often told you that was, I think, what tempered the revolutionary spirit that was sort of a spirit to break free that turned out so well in this country, even with its difficulties and challenges and so badly in France, which was a purely secular exercise and led to despotism and bloodshed, the French Revolution.

This was because our revolution had been fueled and informed and at least tempered by the spiritual dynamics of the Great Awakening. Whitefield would preach out in the open air and didn’t use notes. People would hear him. They said he could speak the word Mesopotamia and just capture the emotions of people. He had that kind of speaking ability, speaking outside before thousands. Benjamin Franklin often went to hear him speak.

Jonathan Edwards was different. He read his sermons. He had poor eyesight, so he actually had to have a candle on the pulpit (this was 1760-something), and he would hold the manuscript up and when he read it. Probably not the best speaking style, but he preached a very famous message in Enfield, Connecticut. My younger brother, Greg, is the pastor of Cornerstone Church up in Connecticut, just a few miles from where this all took place.

His famous sermon (you may have heard about it in American literature) was called Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God. It was one of the great sermons of the time. Jonathan Edwards was a great theologian, a great man of God. His grandson was a man by the name of Aaron Burr. Aaron Burr was a politician. He was, at one time, the governor of New York. He was the vice president of the United States, but he was a pretty infamous character in our national story.

You may know him most famously for the duel he had with Alexander Hamilton where he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton. You may know some of the story where after he was vice president, he went out West and literally basically tried to organize his own country with him as the emperor. He was later tried for treason. His story was the story that would loosely enform the famous play Man Without a Country.

How do you go from great theologian, moral statesman to the prototype for the disreputable, self-seeking, self-serving politician in two generations? It’s a great question. Well, I think the key is here. We see this. Judges, chapter 2, begins with the word, “Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten.” Now that’s sad, but those are not the saddest words in the story here. He was a great man, a great leader. He mobilized the people to cross the Jordan. They occupied the land.

“And they buried him [Joshua] in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.” Verse 10: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers…” This is a euphuism. They died. They all passed away. Here are the sad words: “…another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”

That’s sad. These people had this tremendous heritage. They had this tremendous head start, tremendous evidences of the work of God. But a whole generation of people grew up totally clueless about spiritual things, totally clueless about the richness of their heritage culturally and spiritually. They didn’t know the Lord, nor his great works. “Then [literally, as a result of this] the Israelites…” There’s always a relationship between taking your eyes off the Lord as a culture, as an individual truly, and a decline of lifestyle. That’s true culturally.

[They] did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals [false gods]. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger…”

Saddest words. “Another generation grew up, came up, and they knew not the Lord.”

I would suggest to you we’re only a generation or two away from extinction in a very real sense when it comes to some of the values and some of the things I think we hold strong. This is particularly true in the spiritual realm.

I’ll talk to people about spiritual things. “Well, you know, my grandfather was a preacher. My grandmother and my grandfather, my great-grandparents were devout in faith, but we have no connection with that now in our lifestyle.” How does it go where it descends to future generation and it passes away?

What can I do to try to ensure that not only my daughters but their children and then their children’s children grow up with an authentic, real, fervent, first-hand faith? How does something like this happen? How do you go from Jonathan Edwards to Aaron Burr? Let me make some observations here. It happens when…

1. Spiritual things cease to be a top priotiy. It doesn’t even mean they have to be off the stove, but they’re on the back burner. It doesn’t mean they have to be out of vision, but it’s sort of in a peripheral area off their radar. They cease to be a top priority (spiritual things, spiritual values).

The greatest thing you can communicate to the next generation, my friends, and the greatest thing they need to figure out is what God’s plan is for their life and then the encouragement to do that plan. Now this goes back to the giving of the words of God to the Jewish people, the Israelites. Listen to Deuteronomy 6.

“These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, O Israel, and be careful…” In other words, “Pay attention to this!” “…so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.”

Then comes the Hebrew Shema, which is their call to worship. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” Something has to go inside. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Now I made this statement at nine o’clock, and I’ll make it now. Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not against this practice. It’s a very good practice, I think. A lot of homes (and maybe you participate; don’t raise your hands) have maybe what used to be called a family altar. You have a structured time when you come together as a family and you read Scripture and you have prayer, family devotions. This is not something Karen and I ever did in our house. I’m not against it. I think it’s a very good practice.

Let me just explain why before you call me a heretic and run me out of town. Because I knew that if I were to gather my daughters together and open my Bible, I all of a sudden ceased to be dad, and I became preacher. In my own mind, I would become preacher. I’d start screaming, pointing my fingers, spitting, talking about if they disobeyed they’re going to hell. I mean, I’d be saying all kinds of stuff. Yeah!

You say, Well did you not communicate things? No, the way we did it was we walked along. They brought things up. It was part of the lifestyle. I think even if you do structured stuff, that’s still where the real deal is in that some of the greatest teaching moments you have with your kids are not when you’re trying… Churchill said, “I’ve always enjoyed learning, but I’ve never enjoyed being taught.”

You have to realize this has to become a priority. Another observation as to why another generation growing up knowing not the Lord happens…

2. There’s no such thing as third-hand faith. Now you’ve heard of second-hand stuff. Second-hand faith is really no faith, but third-hand faith is even worse. Let me illustrate it for you in one of the great problems I see in American culture. It has to do with pancakes and syrup. It’s a serious issue.

Jennifer is down here. David and Karen are visiting us this week. One morning Jennifer made pancakes for us. My wife brought out the obvious real Vermont maple syrup we had actually taken ourselves from a tree in Vermont (that last part is not true, but it’s real Vermont syrup). My wife and I like real Vermont syrup. The diner down the street here stopped serving it. We take our own. When we forget and leave it on the table, they just store it and give it to us when we come back. “Bring your own bottle” means something different to us than to some of you. It’s more of a syrup kind of deal.

So the syrup is out there. Now Jennifer, our daughter, who will be 35 this year (a young 35) likes real maple syrup, because she was raised correctly, but she also can use Mrs. Butterworth’s or Aunt Jemima. As you know, it’s a petroleum-based syrup with rat parts and bone bits and all sorts of… You just have to read that fine print. You thought the high fructose syrup was the worst part. No, no, no, no. She likes that too.

So what happened is we have this authentic (and I might add, correct) belief that the best syrup is real Vermont maple syrup. Our daughter doesn’t share that conviction because one of the great failures in our lives was to communicate the passion requisite for that kind of attachment to that condiment. She is indifferent to it, all right? Now her kids prefer the petroleum-based fake stuff to real maple syrup. That is what’s wrong with America.

Now I’m making a point here, and that is you go from something that’s authentic, to an indifference, to a place where eventually the artificial is preferred to the real. Now of course the syrup is a silly issue. With butter and margarine, it’s a silly issue. With spiritual things, it’s a serious issue, because you begin with authenticity. If it’s not transmitted correctly to the next generation you begin to move into an area of indifference where they have a form of godliness, they have the structure and the traditions and the customs and the moral sense but not the real burning sense of faith.

By the time you get to that next generation, they have none of that. That’s where anarchy comes. That’s where rebellion comes. That’s where apostasy comes. There’s no such thing as third-hand faith. Faith always has to be first hand.

3. Rules without relationship. I talk about that a lot. A lot of times another generation grows up, it doesn’t know the Lord because all they think of when they think of spiritual things is a bunch of burdensome rules, a bunch of older people telling us what we can’t do or what we should do.

It’s not tied to a relationship. Life has rules. There are rules. There are good rules. They’re there for a reason, but they have to flow from relationship. If you divorce them from relationship, what you have is you have the breeding ground for resentment and anger, and anger then leads to rebellion. This is how this cycle works, the curve works. So yeah, we need to communicate values, but more important is the relationship.

My friends, you say, God has rules? He sure does, but if you’re concerned about a relationship with God, the rules really don’t matter. Seriously, Pastor? Yes, and I’ll tell you why. Galatians says, “Walk in the Spirit of God, and you will not fulfill the things of the flesh.” It goes on to describe love, joy, peace, long-suffering, meekness, temperance, hope, etc. He says, “Against such thing there is no law.” There is no law!

You’re never going to find on the books of any place, “Thou shalt not love. Thou shalt not be joyful.” I’ve been to some churches where I thought that was in their code, and I’ve met some people who I think believe that. You don’t have to make a law, because if you’re loving, if you’re joyful, if you’re long-suffering, then by definition you’ll be avoiding those negative things. So you focus on the walking in the Spirit.

You see, legalism says, “We’re going to focus on all the don’ts.” No, what you do is you focus on the things God wants you to have, and you get into that relationship. You see? The closer your relationship with God is, the less inclined you’re going to be to disobey him. But if there’s a disconnect between you and God, then you’re going to find that works. Rules without relationship.

4. Ministry fossilization. I love this point! This is one of the reasons kids grow up in church and don’t go to church, because ministries have allowed themselves to become fossils. They freeze in time. There are a lot of people who want everything to be just like it used to be. Andy Griffith died. R.I.P. Rest in peace. I’ve Tivo’ed several Andy Griffith episodes. I’m going to watch the pickle one (my favorite) sometime today. He was a very interesting guy.

I love that. People say, Wasn’t it great back then? Oh, it was a simpler time. Mayberry was not real. Oh, it was better in the 50s and early 60s. Really? Ever hear of segregation? This country wasn’t perfect back then. Be careful what you wish for. We have our problems now, had our problems back then. What’s my point? We’re all nostalgic. Nostalgia: –algia is a word from the Greek. It means pain. Fibromyalgia. Nost- is a word that means a memory or the past. So nostalgia is a painful attachment to the past, and a lot of people have that. They want things to be just as they were.

My grandmother is 97 years of age. God bless her! She still lives by herself. She is in declining health. She has had some episodes now. Members of the family are staying with her around the clock, so it’s going to be a very short time before she has to find some kind of assisted living. It’s going to be a big moment. Please pray for her because she is not going to be a very happy camper on this. When she ain’t happy, the state of Michigan is not happy, frankly.

I think I told some of you this, but a few years ago, she told me, “David…” Now she is a Christian lady, reads her Bible. “David, none of you young men are preaching the gospel anymore.” I’m a preacher! Right? “Well, I thought I was, Grandma.” “No! You got rid of your hymnbooks. You got rid of your pews. You have chairs. You have a movie screen that comes down. You don’t wear a tie to church anymore. You don’t have Sunday night church.” (She never went to Sunday night church, but that didn’t really matter. You know? It should be there if she needed it.) She says the only man preaching the gospel in America is Charles Stanley.

Now Charles Stanley is a great preacher, but I was a little bothered by that. I’m her oldest grandson. She has already asked me to preach her funeral. “Do you want me not to preach the gospel at your funeral, Grandma?” So Charles Stanley was here four or five years ago speaking at an event here in this auditorium from this platform, and I was spending some time in my office with him. He had one of his books. I said, “Would you autograph that to my grandmother? She is a big, big fan, watches you on television all the time. She can’t get out to church.”

“I certainly will. What’s her name?”

“Lavelle Greene.”

“What should I put?”

“To Lavelle Greene: Your grandson is a tremendous preacher of the gospel.” I still don’t think she was convinced.

Fossilization is when we have to freeze-frame it, okay? I mean, watching these young people get up there. There are different instruments than some of us are used to. I mean, it used to be organ and piano in church, right?

I was at the Nets game. We were there Friday night, the night they lost. What I was noticing (and I’ve noticed this for years) is when I was a kid, we used to go to the game. In fact, one of my teachers in high school was the organist for the Detroit Tigers baseball games. They only learned how to play parts of songs. They just stop, because you have to fill it in. they don’t have organs at games anymore. They have rock music and some country music. You can tell the difference because you can understand the words of country music. I don’t know any of the songs, but every player has his song when he is coming to the plate. I don’t know what my song would be, but every player has his song. It’s a different methodology. Now I’m a purist. I like baseball. I think there’s a great heritage, but baseball is the same; it’s just the methods have changed a little bit. The message is the same; the methods do change.

When I was starting out in ministry, I started out in ministry when I was younger than some of these kids because we had something like this church had: a bus ministry. This was during the Baby Boom. Everybody had nine children and looked for ways to get them out of the house and just hope they got eight of them back by the end of the day. I’m not kidding, right? You could buy these rickety old busses at auction.

They hadn’t invented insurance yet, so nobody sued anybody. If you lost a kid, it was just like, Well, it’s just the way it goes. We can save on groceries. What we’d do is we’d go bus blitzing. Karen and I did this as kids. What they did is send the teenagers out to go try to invite kids to come to church. Here was the plan. Here’s how we did it. We all got a big scoop of candy and put it in our pockets. We’d go to parks where kids were playing and say, “Hey, kid. Do you want some candy?”

Now, if we tried to do ministry with that method today we’d all be registered sex offenders. It doesn’t work. Things change. Ministry fossilization. I know we’re laughing about it, but it’s one of the reasons another generation grows up. Because there are people who won’t sacrifice certain stylistic things, and they’re willing to sacrifice kids on that altar. God, help them. So what do we do about it?

Let me give you three things, and I’m done. Here’s how we correct that. I think we’re doing these things here, but let’s keep on. Let’s not get complacent, and let’s teach and model the Word of God. I mean, it’s so basic.

1. We have to teach and model the Word of God. Teach them what the Bible says, and then live out what the Bible says. This is so vitally important. We have to demonstrate this to the kids. You know, I’m here today. I’m going to be 56 years old this month. This December is the thirty‑fifth anniversary of my ordination, when I became a pastor. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know my parents influenced me in a lot of things, but I am telling you something.

I really believe one of the great reasons I’m here doing what I’m doing is because I was the beneficiary of something these kids have here. When I was a teenager, I was the beneficiary of tremendously vibrant youth departments. So was my wife at the church she went to. We went to rival churches in the Detroit area. In my youth department (it was a big church), from tenth to twelfth grade, there were 400 kids on Sunday morning in this youth group.

I’ve done some calculation in my head that about a quarter of those kids wound up going to some kind of Christian college or Bible college, and about 75 of those kids wound up actually going out into vocational ministry. From that 400, there are still 30 to 40 of these people somewhere in the world serving full-time as missionaries, pastors, Christian workers in churches, some of whom have retired, some, like my best friend growing up who was a missionary to Brazil, went on to heaven. My best friend in school, in college, who roomed with me, last year went on to heaven.

Serving God, and I think that made a difference in the culture. Youth camp. We went to youth camp. Camp is coming up. You know, we already have I think more than 100 kids going to camp this summer already. We can do better than that, but that’s great. That’s the most we’ve sent in a number of years. Now camp. This is different than when I went to camp. Our camps were primitive. We didn’t have food. They put us in caves. The guys were sent out hunting. That was our activity to bring in the game. The girls would dress it and cook it and so forth.

We didn’t have water. We didn’t have fun. Preachers preached hours on end, and they were all old. We didn’t have the coolest youth funny guy come and speak, you know, with all kinds of games. I am not making this up. The average age of the preachers who came to preach to the kids at camp was 60 years of age. How is that for relevance? They’d start talking about Glenn Miller’s music being bad and stuff like that. None of us would understand what that was.

Now the point I’m making is we have to communicate the Word of God. Support this camp endeavor. You say, I have a nephew, Pastor. I have a grandkid. There’s a kid on our block who seems to have lost his way. Pay his way to camp. I can’t guarantee you anything, but there’s a great chance this kid will get saved, and it will change the direction of his life. You want to help your neighborhood? You say, Well that’s a big investment. Seriously? I think if we’d had been doing more of this in this country, we’d have less problems than we have today. Can I have an amen?

2. We must rehearse the works of God. Tell people what God has done. Did you see what happened up here? Did you see this? Nicole gets baptized over here, all right? Matt baptized her. That was cool. Was that your first baptism here? All right, cool. You did well. You brought her back up, which is the main thing.

I was watching that. I was watching on the screen, but I couldn’t help but see Lauren, who was getting ready to lead. She was standing over here almost bawling like a baby, just crying. Lauren, are you in here right now? I don’t think she is in here right now. She was in the last service. Why? Because her friend was getting baptized. Then she prayed, prayed for her friend. The works of God.

You say, What’s God doing today? God is not parting the Red Sea. But, when it comes down to it, that’s what the whole parting of the Red Sea was building up to. The plan of God through Israel was to bring Jesus to the world, to the cross, and the baptism is the picture of the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus. That’s what’s going on here. The works of God.

3. We must encourage the worship of God, people to connect with God from their heart. Now body language is not important to me. I was raised fundamental, independent, against-everything-and-everybody Baptist. Our big enemies were Communists and Pentecostals, and not necessarily in that order. We were sort of told, “People who put their hands up in the air, that’s just… We don’t do that. We’re Baptists.”

Still, I have problems. I’m like Ricky Bobby. I’m just having problems putting my hand up, you know, like in that movie. I have a hard time putting my hand up. Some of you will get that reference; some of you won’t. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. It’s very funny, though. My wife will put her hands up. I just wish was as liberated as my wife. These kids are putting their hands up.

I was sitting there thinking, It really isn’t about whether your hands are up or down. It’s about the heart. My heart is right with my hands in my pocket, chewing my gum, loving Jesus. I love to see it. I really do. I love to see that spontaneity. I love to see what’s happening in the heart. Encourage the worship of God. “There arose another generation which knew not the Lord.”

My grandkids don’t really know who Barney Fife was. My daughter never heard of Dr. Kildare. There are a lot of things I experienced in my childhood that they’ll never know, and that’s okay. But when I was a kid, it was modeled in my home, it was taught in my church, it was noised about my friends that Jesus Christ is Lord. That was transmitted into my heart. I didn’t just get taught it; I caught it. I hope my kids have caught it and their kids have caught it and will catch it.

If you want to give a mission statement for what this church ought to be about, one of the great things I love about this church is its eclectic blend. There are about 30 different nations represented in this body. Socioeconomic. We have people who are on fixed incomes. That means you’re broke. You have people who have a good amount of money. You have people from all strains and walks of life. We’re eclectic. One of the best demographics of this church is that we’re intergenerational.

I don’t like it when a church is all young or a church is all old because it means somebody is being closed off. Young people aren’t respecting older people. Older people aren’t welcoming younger people. But when you’re together… The Bible teaches intergenerational. Young people are taught by older people. They’re modeled. We have people in their 90s who are coming. We have people who are 9 and younger here. We learn from each other, and we honor each other because we want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

The thing that will destroy America is not whether one party wins or one party loses. The thing that will destroy America is not taxation and the budget and the debt. These are all real issues. I get that, but the great problem in America, the great risk is that one day…and maybe it’s almost on the horizon…there will rise up a generation that knows not the Lord. Let’s do our part to make sure that doesn’t happen. — DRS

Posted in Sermons Transcripts/Video/Audio, Uncategorized

The American Revolution and the DNA of Faith


Many of the Continental Army volunteers who were listening to the sermon in Newbury, Massachusetts’s Old South Church couldn’t help but focus on the pulpit itself. It was September 1775, and the church had recently gained fame because the bell in its clock tower was cast by Paul Revere, who had just months before made a name for himself on horseback. But some of the citizen-soldiers listening to Chaplain Samuel Spring’s challenge that day knew that they were also in the presence of another important bit of history — something they saw as very relevant to the emerging War of Independence.

Actually, it was what was under the pulpit that drew them.

Five years earlier, one of the church’s founders, George Whitefield, had been scheduled to preach a sermon. But Whitefield never made it to the pulpit; he died that morning in the church parsonage. A few days later, with much grief and ceremony, Whitefield was buried in a crypt directly beneath Old South Church’s pulpit — where his grave remains to this day.

Many of the men sitting in the church on September 16, 1775 were restless. They wanted the chaplain to finish his remarks so they could see Whitefield’s tomb. They wanted to make a connection — not only with history and fame: but with what we might refer to as the DNA of faith.

Lost to many modern-day Americans is the story of Whitefield and the Great Awakening he helped spark. The common revisionist narrative today places faith and matters of religion on the periphery of history — an enduring lunatic fringe encompassing past and present. But the enlightenment and passion that burned so bright during the epochal moments of our national gestation nearly two and a half centuries ago were actually fueled by something quite spiritual and profound.

America may have been born in 1776, but she was conceived several decades earlier. Long before men named Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hancock and Franklin became notable and influential, a few preachers meteorically blazed across the colonial sky.

Chief among these preacher-cultural celebrities was George Whitefield.

Ordained in the Church of England in 1736, at the tender age of 22, he quickly became well-known for his voice — it was loud and commanding but never shrill and off-putting. It was said that he could speak to 30,000 people (Benjamin Franklin counted them once) and that all could hear him, even in the open air. His diction and flair for dramatics had audiences hanging on every word. Historian George Marsden suggests that Whitefield’s communication gifts were so remarkable that even uttering the word “Mesopotamia” could bring people to tears. Whitefield emphasized personal conversion with his powerful messages on the new birth from Jesus’s words in the Gospel of John. The converted formed new churches — hundreds of them — and revived existing churches that had long been spiritually moribund.

Whitefield was really the first modern preacher to bring innovation, marketing savvy and advertising to ministry.

The chronological locus for the Great Awakening was the period of 1740-1742, but the residual and enduring effects lasted into the revolutionary period. And there is an interesting parallel between what happened here and what happened in France. While revolutionary France was characterized by rabid hostility toward religion, Americans saw no contradiction between certain Enlightenment values and precious religious principles.

And we have the Reverend George Whitefield, among many others, to thank for this.

When the sermon was finally done at Old South Church that September day in 1775, some of the citizen-soldiers sought out the church’s sexton and asked to see where Whitefield was buried. The sexton actually opened the coffin and a few of the officers obtained tiny bits of material from the dead preacher’s collar and wristband, carrying them into battle as good-luck charms.

I’m not all that into amulets, but I find myself cutting these men some slack. Their simple excision of fabric was really an exercise in remembrance and connection. They knew that what they were going to do soon in battle was somehow, someway tied to what Whitefield and others had been part of years before.

[This article was written for THE DAILY CALLER to mark the 4th of July last year
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/07/03/the-american-revolution-and-the-dna-of-faith/#ixzz1zex3lysz ]
Posted in Uncategorized

Presidents and the Beating of Dead Horses


In the immediate aftermath of the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before the nation accepting the total blame for what had happened.  He referred to an old saying about victory having a thousand fathers, but defeat being an orphan, and identified himself as the responsible officer in the government.  Even though the whole initiative had been first devised and planned by the Eisenhower administration.

President Kennedy at a press conference, April 21, 1961

JFK’s poll numbers moved dramatically—up.  There is something refreshing about a political leader saying “My bad.”

Refreshing—but rare.

In the 19th century, a British politician stood in Parliament and remarked that trying to get his particular point across was akin to flogging a dead horse to make it pull a load.  We call this beating a dead horse today. And every time President Obama or a member of his administration plays the blame Bush card, he is beating that proverbial dead horse.  It is also getting really old.

Everyone on Facebook has an information page and there is an entry labeled “relationship status.”  Some mark “married” or “in a relationship,” others say “single.”  Then there are those who put: “It’s complicated.” When it comes to Presidents and those who come before or after, it’s really complicated. Some chief executives have managed to rise above the propensity for personal paltriness—others, not so much.

And it goes way back.

Thomas Jefferson, who ran a particularly aggressive campaign against former-and-would-be-again-much-later friend, John Adams, in the 1800 race, continued the attack on his predecessor well into his own presidency.  He regularly smeared Mr. Adams for maladministration of presidential powers, though apparently willing to benefit from things Adams had done that he had opposed at the time.  The anti-military, anti-big government Jefferson, had no qualms about using navy Adams had built (opposed by TJ) to deal with the Barbary Pirates; nor did he hesitate to use broad executive powers in the whole matter of the Louisiana Purchase—the kind of action candidate Jefferson would have likely decried as tyrannical.

Democrat Andrew Jackson wouldn’t even pay a courtesy call on outgoing President John Quincy Adams.  Mr. Adams then refused to attend his successor’s inauguration.  Jackson spent significant time in office tearing down his predecessor—blaming Adams and the whole fierce campaign for his wife’s death after the election.  That one was very complicated.

Speaking of Presidents and courtesy calls, Dwight Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, sat famously in the car under the White House portico, snubbing the Trumans.  But when it came to blaming his predecessor for the mess he inherited, he chose the path of just ignoring and dismissing Mr. Truman like the junior military officer he saw him to be.

Abraham Lincoln had great reasons and resonant issues to use to place blame for the country on the verge of disintegration he inherited in 1861 because his predecessor, James Buchanan, did virtually nothing to deal with the brewing national disaster.  But Mr. Lincoln seemed to have a capacity to rise above cheap politics—dealings with his own Cabinet-made-of-would-be-rivals also demonstrated the 16th President’s ego tempering skills.

Of course, many times Presidents have succeeded men from the same party and, though they might have wanted to really make the guy before look bad, they realized that it was political suicide.  Martin Van Buren could certainly have blamed the panic of 1837 on Andrew Jackson, who destroyed the National Bank, but party realities forbade it.

Warren Harding didn’t spend a lot of time or energy blaming Woodrow Wilson for the nation’s woes in the early 1920s. Ronald Reagan used Jimmy Carter as a punching bag for a short while, but quickly moved on.  Even Richard Nixon didn’t waste time passing the buck back to LBJ.  In fact, their relationship was remarkably good, considering their history.

Now, Franklin Roosevelt—well that’s another story.  He used predecessor Herbert Hoover as his whipping boy for at least a decade—and one wonders if this example is the one that resonates with the current administration.

FDR ran a skillful campaign against Hoover in 1932, allied with the forces of economics and history in play at the time.  Hoover was an unpopular president as a result of the onset of the Great Depression. Once hailed for his genius at organization and engineering, his name was even part of the vocabulary signifying good economy, as in the popular 1920 Valentine’s Day card:

“I’ll Hooverize on dinner,
On fuel and tires too,
But I’ll never learn to Hooverize
When it comes to loving you.”

By 1932, however, his star had fallen and shantytowns across America were dubbed, “Hoovervilles.”  However, today’s prevalent narrative that Hoover was a do-nothing president and then the great activist Roosevelt rode to the White House on a white horse, is at best an apocryphal exaggeration—at worst, it’s a lie.

In fact, Mr. Roosevelt, famous smile and all, was simply an effective and cynical politician who knew how to practice demagoguery with the best of them.  He was also a very petty man.  One example is in the naming—better, renaming—of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.  It had been named for Herbert Hoover in 1931 not just because he was the President at the time (there were already dams named for Calvin Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt extant), but also because he had been a major driving force in the project since the early 1920s during his highly successful tenure as Secretary of Commerce. He, being an engineer by training and trade, even played a crucial role in how it would work and be constructed—effectuating something called the Hoover Compromise allowing the project to go forward at a critical juncture.

After his humiliating defeat by the Roosevelt juggernaut in November of 1932, Mr. Hoover stopped at the construction site of the dam and remarked for the press:

“It does give me extraordinary pleasure to see the great dream I have so long held taking form in actual reality of stone and cement.  It is now ten years since I became chairman of the Colorado River Commission—This dam is the greatest engineering work of its character ever attempted by the hand of man—I hope to be present at its final completion as a bystander.  Even so, I shall feel a special personal satisfaction.”

But by the time the project was completed in 1936, it had been renamed by the Roosevelt administration as the Boulder Dam and Hoover was never invited to be part of any festivities.  Of course, by that time Mr. Roosevelt was running for reelection against Republican nominee Alf Landon of Kansas.

But FDR was really running against Hoover one more time.

The battle against all things George W. Bush, however, still rages in this election year. After all, if you can’t run on a record of accomplishment—find a dead horse to beat and hope the people are dumb enough not to notice the absurdity.

The big question is: Will George W. Bush be as durable a whipping boy as was Herbert Hoover—or better yet—is Barack Obama as arrogant, cynically petty, or politically cunning as was Franklin D. Roosevelt? — DRS

Posted in Articles and Columns

The Hoax That Continues To Fuel Global Anti-Semitism

By David R. Stokes

While fires were still smoldering at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvanian pasture, malicious people conjured up an evil myth.  In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many in the Arab world believed that the vicious attack on America was not the work of Islamists, but rather was an Israeli-driven Mossad operation.   This legend soon developed muscular legs and is now widely regarded by millions of Muslims as the truth.

And why not?  For decades school children in Muslim nations (not to mention their parents at home) have been baptized in anti-Semitic narratives.  The opinions in their world about Jews in general, and Israel in particular, are concrete – thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

The most persistent and pernicious ideas that have been accepted by millions as factual truth flowed from the poisonous pen of a guy named Mathieu Golovinski.

The spurious publication called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an Islamist must-read.  The work tells a story that fits the pattern of long-standing prejudices.  The words reinforce the visceral hatred Islamists have toward Jews.

Islamist anti-Semitism is not a new thing.  It didn’t begin with the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, or the Six-Day War in 1967.  It was around long before there was a Hitler – in fact, it grew up alongside Islam from the beginning.  It’s an enmity that can be traced back to Muhammad and what he said, wrote, and did.  And to those looking for ammunition to use against people they have been historically conditioned to hate, the often denounced and repeatedly refuted forgery is just what the evil doctor ordered.

In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, it is true that non-Muslims and non-Nazis have at times bought into the notions set forth by the Protocols – some even in the name of Christianity.  This is sad.  But it is also statistically rare these days.  Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan types apparently still peddle the book, but these people are the proverbial skunks at our national picnic.  And eighty years ago, there were a few prominent Americans (automobile magnate Henry Ford notable among them) who endorsed the writings.  But that was a passing, though very regrettable, thing.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purports to be written evidence of a vast and secret Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world.  It’s presented as a factual and detailed description of a late-nineteenth century meeting to plot international Hebrew hegemony through manipulation and treachery.  These ideas are at the root of the mother of all conspiracy theories for those who live in the bizarre world of alternative historical reality.

In fact, the publication is a forgery – probably the most sinister and infamous fake in literary history.

The year is 1898, and Nicholas II rules a Russia that’s beginning to experience the revolutionary stirrings of modernism.   The Tsar is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and tends to be easily led by strong people around him.   He tries to take incremental steps toward leading the nation away from its feudal past, but some in his court are alarmed.   Thus, evil men began to seek a way to short-circuit these liberalizing influences.

If only they could convince the Tsar that the voices of change he’s listening to are motivated by something other than the best interests of Russia – but how?  It was in this environment that the greatest of all anti-Semitic lies was born.  A threatening conspiracy would be manufactured – one that would bring Nicholas to his senses – and the Jews to their knees.

Mathieu Golovinski was living in Parisian exile at the time.  Though he was Russian, having been born in the Simbirsk region in 1865, he was forced to flee after repeated clashes with Russian authorities, usually having to do with his tendency to fabricate documents and evidence in legal matters.  He was a master of spin, innuendo, and dirty tricks.  He was also very skilled in the arts of forgery and plagiarism.

And he worked for the Okhrana – the Tsar’s secret police.

He was approached by agents’ provocateur from the Tsar’s inner circle about creating a convincing anti-Jewish legend.  They needed a narrative, one that would be seen as proof of a sinister plot behind the winds of change beginning to blow in Russia.  Golovinski was commissioned to fabricate the evidence.

He came across an old book, written in 1864 by an anti-monarchist activist named Maurice Joly.  It was entitled, Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquie and was written as a thinly disguised attack on Napoleon III’s rule in France.  The book was suppressed by the French government and the writer was imprisoned.  He committed suicide in 1878.

A plan was hatched to borrow from this obscure book, changing some of its cosmetics and phrasing.  It would be recast, using Joly’s fictional dialogue for a model, as the actual deliberations of a secret cabal of Jews bent on taking over the world.   When the fake was finished, it was spirited back to St. Petersburg, and all that would be needed was a way to get it before the ruler of the realm.

Enter the other religious zealot in and around the court of the Tsar.

When most think of religious influences around Nicholas II, attention is usually given to Grigori Rasputin, the mad monk who haunted that scene beginning about 1905.  But often overlooked, and certainly more ominous as far as long-term impact on the world is concerned, is the influence of his cultic contemporary, Sergei Alexandrovich Nilus.  He was a writer on religious matters and a self-styled spiritual mystic.

Sergei Alexandrovich Nilus

And he is also the man who first published Golovinski’s sinister forgery.

Initially placing the Protocols as a chapter in one of his books, Dr. Nilus saw to it that the potentate was fully briefed and convinced about the purported Jewish threat.  And like Rasputin, he also had the ear of ruler’s wife – so the Tsar, never a man to have his own firm opinions, fell prey to the lie.  And in the days following his nation’s defeat at the hands of the Japanese at a loss of several hundred thousand men, not to mention overwhelming financial expense, circumstances were ripe for the rotten fruit of a compelling scapegoat story.

On January 9, 1905, the Tsar’s troops opened fire on protesters who peacefully marched near the palace in St. Petersburg.  This would become known as Bloody Sunday.  The Tsar and his inner circle saw in the Protocols the real reason for the unrest – it was a big Jewish plot to overthrow the monarchy.

So it began – the gargantuan conspiratorial lie that has reared its hideous head time and time again over the past one hundred years.  Jewish plotters were blamed for The Great War (1914-1918).  Then in its aftermath, when Germany was struggling to recover from defeat, the big lie was discovered by the greatest demagogue of the day, Adolf Hitler.   By the time the future German dictator was sent to prison in 1923, he was well versed in the Protocols and drew significantly from the forgery as he wrote his own hate-filled and delusional tome, Mein Kampf.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion became, to men already filled with anti-Semitic ideas, proof positive of a sinister Jewish agenda.  To those who believed the lie, the writings were sufficient evidence for the indictment, condemnation, and eventual execution of these conspiratorial people.  The Protocols in many ways fueled the Holocaust.

Yet all along, reasonable people – scholars, journalists, and statesmen – have gone to great lengths to expose the fraudulent nature of the Protocols.  Beginning with a lengthy analysis in the Times of London in 1921, to a celebrated trial in Switzerland in 1935, to a report by the United States Senate in 1964, good people have said again and again: “the book’s a fake.”   Good people still do.

It’s the bad people who are the problem.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the biggest publishing hoax of the past one hundred years, is not going away.   This is largely because Islamists are using it, with great effectiveness, to fan contemporary flames of hatred.  In fact, it’s arguable that there are more copies of this lie-laden text extant, than ever before.  The forgery is used by politicians and clerics in the Muslim world to justify their distorted and destructive world-view.

Gamal Abdel Nassar, the late president of Egypt, recommended the book to his countrymen.  His Saudi contemporary, King Faisal, had the forgery put in hotels in his nation, like Gideon Bibles (he once gave a copy to Henry Kissinger).  The Ayatollah Khomeini, who took over in Iran in 1979, made the Protocols a national bestseller.  An entire generation of Islamic thinkers and scholars now aggressively promotes the forgery as literal fact.

Hamas owes Article 32 of its charter to these long-ago-discredited writings when it says things like: “Zionist scheming has no end…Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of Zion.” And it’s, of course, a perennial favorite with Holocaust deniers such as that wacky Iranian, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Islamist anti-Semitism is at the root of the so-called War on Terror.  The bad guys use the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as their proof-text.  It would make sense that if we really want to eradicate the symptom we must deal frankly with the cause.  Islamism isn’t an aberration.  It’s an ideology based on prejudices rooted in the distant past and lies that won’t seem to go away.

Shortly before his death in early 2005, the legendary pioneer of twentieth-century graphic art, Will Eisner, a man who spent much of his life debunking the infamous forgery, called the Protocols a “terrifying vampire-like fraud.”

Indeed. – DRS


Posted in Articles and Columns

Access to a Very SPECIAL Room ;-)

When President Lincoln wanted to know how the Civil War was going – he left the White House to go to a telegraph office in the building next door.

When Franklin Roosevelt was laying out strategy for our forces in World War II – he had a room created based on something similar available to British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. It was called the White House map room – complete with a special telephone hookup to Churchill’s war cabinet room bunker in London.

It wasn’t until after the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961 – that a president decided he needed a special place to deal with crisis moments.   So, some men started working nights for a few weeks and within a month John F. Kennedy had a new room as a command center in the White House – THE SITUATION ROOM.

Presidential insomniac, Lyndon Johnson used to wander in there during his nights as President to check on Vietnam – and other presidents have used it more or less, depending on their style – and the times.  But the room itself speaks of information and communication at crucial moments.

There is such a room a room for every follower of Christ – but it’s much more ‘high-tech’ and it’s located off site.  By that I mean – NOT ON THIS EARTH.   It’s in heaven – and it’s the throne room of almighty, Sovereign God.

Likely you’ve never been in the White House Situation room – but anyone who has an authentic relationship with Christ – can enter God’s situation room – boldly and often.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

Make sure you HAVE GOD’S SITUATION ROOM ON SPEED DIAL.   Prayer has ALWAYS been the ultimate high-speed connection. — DRS

Posted in Ministry Blogs


Did you ever have something asked of you, only to find yourself wondering: “is this a TRICK QUESTION?”  The classic example is when a wife asks her husband: “does this make me look fat?”

The key to THAT “trick question” is NOT in the answer.  ANY husband desiring to have an immediate future in the marriage KNOWS that the correct answer is ALWAYS – NO!  But, that’s not where the danger lies.

The “trick” is in the timing.  Any hesitation brings dreadful consequences – be afraid, men. Be VERY afraid.

Remember this term – “SPLIT SECOND.”

How long is a split second?  Well, the late William Safire, who wrote about language (among other things) for the New York Times for years, once defined a “SPLIT SECOND” as that ever so brief moment in Manhattan between the light in front of you turning green and the horn behind you – HONKING.

When I read about Abraham’s GENEROUS offer of land to his nephew LOT, in Genesis 13 – I wonder – “is this a TRICK QUESTION?”  Is Lot being tested?  If so, he fails miserably.

In that case, SOMEONE MOVED ON – who should have STAYED PUT.

Lot, though, was already on a collision course with ultimate self-destruction.  He had a moment – a “SPLIT SECOND” to decide to STAY PUT – but his choice was to MOVE ON.

The contrast with a great lady named RUTH, later in the Bible – is revealing.   When faced with the choice to MOVE ON or STAY PUT – she said to her mother in law, Naomi:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.”Ruth 1:16

Can you imagine how much better LOT’S life would have turned out – had he shown that kind of STEADFAST FAITH? –DRS

Posted in Ministry Blogs

Lessons From the Megachurch Pastor Who Killed a Man

[Blog written by Trevin Wax for THE GOSPEL COALITION]
Want a riveting beach read this summer? Then pick up The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America by David Stokes. It tells the story of one of the earliest megachurch pastors – J. Frank Norris of First Baptist in Fort Worth, TX.

If there’s one thing Norris knew how to do well, it was how to attract publicity. By 1924, he had the largest Protestant church in America. His weekly newspaper was delivered to 50,000 homes. And his radio station broadcasted his messages to millions.

The outlandishness of Norris’ preaching would be merely a footnote in history today if not for the fact that on July 17, 1926, Norris shot and killed an unarmed man in his office. In 1927, he stood trial for murder and was acquitted.

I grew up hearing about Norris. He achieved a sort of legendary status in independent Baptist circles but usually not in a good way. So I found the story of his meteoric rise and disastrous fall interesting on a number of levels. Most intriguing was the progression of Norris’ downward spiral into unhealthy patterns of leadership.

Can we learn some things from J. Frank Norris? Yes. His ministry can serve as a cautionary tale in these ways:

1. Recognize the Difference Between Strong Preaching and Sensationalistic Preaching

[Norris] said, “The question of sensational preaching was a serious one with me. I knew that with a great many people it was taboo, especially among the so-called conservatives.” But he knew that he wasn’t making headway with what he called “the present, dull, dead, dry method.” And many years later, “Norris recalled that he switched to this extraordinary style of preaching because he had noticed that those preachers who engaged in it were the ones most successful in winning converts.”

Norris was an entertaining preacher no one would label as “soft.” He spoke forcefully against all kinds of sin and immorality (unfortunately, racial prejudice was not included). He wasn’t afraid to name names. Local ones even. One sermon was titled “Should a Prominent Fort Worth Banker Buy the High-Priced Silk Hose for Another Man’s Wife?”

It’s important to keep in mind, however, the difference between strong preaching and sensationalistic preaching. Strong preaching is grounded in the text of Scripture and reiterates forcefully what the text says plainly. Sensationalistic preaching is motivated by what will draw attention. It may use the text as a launching pad, but the bulk of the message is the pastor’s forceful delivery of his own personal opinions.

One way to tickle ears is never to preach against sin. Another way is to preach hard against everyone and everything else.

2. Results Do Not Equal Fruitfulness

The church had received a record 479 new members in 1911, more than twice as many additions as in any previous year. Norris certainly saw this as vindication of his new way. Converts were the bottom line.

When criticized for his sensationalism, Norris appealed to his church’s growth. His defense was pragmatic to the coreIt allowed good results to vindicate questionable methods.

Even today, we tend to look at a pastor with a large following and immediately assume the numbers are a sign of God’s blessing. But Norris’ example should warn us against allowing certain results (number of converts, new members, big buildings, etc.) to justify any and every means to getting there.

3. Listen to Your Friends’ Rebukes

A popular poem among Baptist clergymen of the day ran: And what to do with Norris was a question broad and deep. He was too big to banish, and he smelled too bad to keep.

Norris left the Southern Baptist Convention loudly. He claimed it was because of the SBC’s decline into liberalism. But the truth of the matter was most Southern Baptist leaders had lost respect for Norris and Norris had lost his influence.

Over the years, Norris consistently refused to listen to his friends’ rebukes. Whenever his sensationalistic preaching was challenged, he appealed to his number of converts. When pastor friends warned that his ministry was losing credibility, he no longer believed they were credible critics. He walled himself off from criticism, surrounding himself only with friends who were fans, which sped up his descent into extremism.

4. Remember the Ministry is Not About You.

Wilke listened as [Norris] talked about receiving “hundreds of telegrams from all over the country.” His telephone, he said, had not stopped ringing, adding “I think the congregation showed it was still with me and believed in me.” It was, in his thinking, all about him.

Though his stated goal was to promote the ministry, the effort, like almost everything Norris did, was about him.

The format was simple: Norris would give a homily, in effect the lesson that all teachers in the Sunday school would teach the following Sunday. Then there would be a time of prayer. It was a weekly motivational session during which the preacher inspired his followers to go out and, as noted by one of the faithful, “sell J. Frank Norris to the masses.”

It’s easy for the pastor of any church (large or small) to think that the ministry is all about them. A pastor’s heart can become so entangled with his ministry that if the ministry suffers, the pastor’s identity suffers. Such was the case with Norris.

In all the transcripts and testimonies about Norris after he killed the man in his office, the most disturbing trend is to see the visible self-centeredness that kept Norris from reckoning with the enormity of his actions. Instead of the trial being about justice for a grieving family, it became a referendum about a controversial pastor on a crusade against those who would persecute him.

I wonder how often this is the case with us. We want to see results in ministry because it makes us look good, not God. It’s trading self-denial for self-deification.

5. Don’t Use Others to Do Your Dirty Work

[Norris] had so polarized the denomination with his constant attacks on perceptions of modernism that he and his church had been shut out of the movement many times. Yet he would persist in trying to come back in order to be heard on this or that matter… Often when Norris wanted to petition for reentry and acceptance, he would use agents to carry his message. J.T. Pemberton was one of his “go to” guys when it came to Baptist politics.

As Norris lost influence, he sought to maintain his power by manipulating from behind the scenes in order to bring about his own desired outcomes. This manipulation always involved people. If he didn’t have the influence he once had, he would utilize those who did. This gave him a way to maintain the illusion of power and control while appearing above the fray.

What’s the lesson for us? Don’t use others to accomplish your personal ambitions and goals. How we treat people matters.

For all his talk about courage and steadfastness, Norris was remarkably shady in his back-room dealings. The ends always seemed to justify the means, even if that included at least some measure of deception.

Posted in The Shooting Salvationist