Rediscovering The American Dream

liberty   It has been quite an experience to listen to the news, read newspapers or look at social media over the past five or so years. During this time something that feels almost sinister has happened within our culture, and few have noticed it. What I mean is that there has been a noticeable shift in what people “think” the American dream is. In fact, the entire view of American life in general has been misrepresented, repackaged and sold in such a way that a whole generation now looks at our lifestyle with disdain, and even disgust. Sadly, most who think this way don’t even know why.

The shift was subtle, and well thought out at first. It slithered its way unnoticed into our culture through voices that came from places of national power. It targeted specific socio-economic groups and succeeded in unleashing a victim mentality into our culture. It actually became the rallying cry of the uninformed in the last two elections. It flew out of the mouths of those who promoted racial unrest, and fed the misguided “occupy” movement that soon fizzled out. It has found its way into our classrooms and manifested false accusations across the nation, and around the world. It was taught to those who are locked into the welfare system. Those who want more, but have done nothing to earn or deserve it, greeted it with applause, and shouts of approval.

What am I referring to? It’s the current false idea being promoted that says the “American dream” is really all about personal greed, and withholding the wealth from those who have need of it. It falsely says Americans selfishly want bigger homes, bigger cars, higher pay and longer vacations, while the rest of the world silently starves to death, or suffers from no clean drinking water. It is the twisted concept that says being a successful entrepreneur makes you the enemy, and those with innovative ideas that generate profit, really can’t be trusted. Even worst, is the lie that bigger government is in our best interest, and it alone can solve the social evils of our day.

It is a negative, socialistic view that is against every concept uniquely productive to the “American dream”. The fact is, a huge portion of our population has been taught a new version of the “American dream”. That version has nothing at all to do with what it really is. They see the ability of Americans to pursue personal success and financial independence, as bad. All the while, they view dependency in every form, with no responsibility or personal consequences, to be normal life, and a sure way to secure the future. It points a finger at the well-off and says they are greedy and care nothing for the plight of the less fortunate. Those, who through planning, training and education, have earned the abundance it offers, are loudly accused of wanting endless excess for their highly privileged life. They are considered to be evil, and are painted as selfishly refusing to “spread the wealth”, so others can have the same.

Yet when you go back and honestly look at what the “American dream” is, it has nothing to do with any of the above. In fact, it was because of this dream that social reforms happened globally, and financial resources were made available in abundance to those who were less fortunate. So let’s revisit what the “American dream” really is. Let’s cut through the noxious political smokescreen, and look at our roots so we can clearly see that dream, and it’s powerful, positive impact.

The American Dream

At the beginning of the 1900’s and right after World War 2, the “American dream” began to take shape. It centered on a few basic concepts that were attainable by all. Those who worked hard, were honest and wanted to be part of a healthy community could live this dream. It was there for anybody, and the life it provided was a blessing that spread far beyond individual families. That dream consisted of a few things people simply desired to have, and they went after them.

First of all was the idea that anyone who wanted to live in their own home, could do so. We are not talking about a massive 30 room house, or a movie star mansion on a California beach. It was a simple, comfortable place where people could settle down and raise a family. That was it! There was nothing fancy or greedy about the idea. Everyone wanted a place to call home so the family could gather together on special occasions and family history could be made from one generation to the next. Nothing wrong with that!

Next was the belief that every American could be properly trained to do some kind of work. All labor was considered worthwhile, and everyone could have a job that paid according to their skill, education and training. You worked with your back or your brain, and that was up to you. Those who did not want more education, learned a trade and found gainful employment by working with their hands. They provided basic services everyone wanted and needed. Those who went on to college, earned a higher wage due to that education, and they provided different services to people. Everyone determined their own income in life. There was no complaining or whining about where they ended up, because it was their own decision that put them there.

Third on the list was that welfare put people in a humiliating place to be in. Those who needed it, were in a temporary season of financial distress, but no one ever wanted it. They took it, because they had to have it in order to survive. It was not a way of life, and it was never a replacement for a paying job. Those who lived immoral, rebellious, addictive lives never expected to receive welfare. If you had children outside of marriage, if you were a drunk, a drug addict, if you refused to finish school, or were rebellious to authority, you were on your own, usually landed in jail, and needed to change your life. People had to be responsible for their own anti-social behavior, and the fear and shame, of suffering the consequences prevented many from going that way. The bottom line was simple, welfare only provided the bare basics, and by so doing, people were motivated to get off it as quickly as possible.

Number four is that the “American dream” was a belief that everyone had the right to be safe and secure in their own dwelling. The federal government, the state, county and local authorities, and especially criminals, were not going to break down your door, drag your possessions away, or kill you. If your home was invaded, you had the right to own a gun and use it. It was expected that you would shoot to protect yourself and your family. People shot first, and then the police asked the questions latter. Everyone believed their home was a place of safety and refuge. No one was going to break in and try to take anything from you unless they had a death wish.

Fifth on the list of the “American dream” was the belief that people had the right to start and run a business. They could use their skills, gifts and talents to make a living and provide for their family. They would not be overtaxed or overburdened by endless rules and mindless regulations. They had the right to have family and friends be employed and that was good for everyone. They also had the right not to be crushed by government regulations, health insurance, unemployment insurance, massive retirement packages, federal, state, county and local town taxes and rules, most of which were made by unelected officials.

Sixth on the list of the “American dream” was the ideal that no one would be over-run by theft from angry looters. The disgraceful and outright criminal behavior of those caught on film in Ferguson and elsewhere, clearly demonstrates the shocking shift in cultural character. Police stood by as those with this new “entitlement mentality” thought nothing of smashing, looting and burning the homes, vehicles and stores of innocent people. Why? Because they believed a twisted idea of the “American dream”, and it justified their  criminal actions, without any responsibility. This is a disgrace to any nation!

Last of all on the list, was the belief that  everyone had the promise of becoming more than what they were. No one in America was locked into an oppressive cast system, as it had been in Europe, Muslim countries and the Far East. No matter what color you were, what gender, what job you had, what country you came from, or what your beliefs you held, you could become more in America. Every American could be whatever they wanted. All could get an education. All could learn new skills, and all could make a better life for themselves and their family. Best of all, no one would try to stop them from trying. It only took hard work, dedication, personal sacrifice and genuine commitment. With enough time and effort, anyone could change their future.

That’s it folks! That’s what the “American dream” was and still is. It is not the politically correct trash that is being propagated today. It is not greedy Americans looking out for themselves and their own self-interests. It is not the failed socialist ideology that thinks capitalism is disgraceful and wealth is disgusting. The “American dream” is based in truth and hope. It is the belief that all Americans, men and women of any color or creed, can live peacefully together, and they ALL can prosper. They simply need to take full advantage of, and responsibility for, developing their own gifts and skills in this amazing culture of opportunity.

The “American dream” is the treasure of optimism that our nation was, and is still being built upon. It is the belief that we, as Americans, have the power to create a better life, and by so doing we can set the example for others to follow, and they can come up from where they are. It is not the “hand out” mentality of expensive government programs that are now collapsing under the burden of millions collecting unearned and undeserved entitlements. It is a helping “hand up” reality, that is built upon a solid foundation of Christian work ethics. This is the “American dream”, and it is a beautiful thing!

I, for one, will not allow dishonest politicians, disgruntled religious leaders or the disillusioned and easily manipulated masses, to redefine this nation. I will hold to what really makes America great. It’s the power to choose my own destiny, for myself. Success or failure is my responsibility, and I will not let it be decided for me. It’s the knowledge that I can be better than what I am, and it’s up to me to have a vision, and make a plan for what my future will be.

Is the real “American dream” in your heart? If it isn’t, then you need to get hold of it. If  it is, then you need to grab hold of it and don’t let it go. Other nations will rise and fall, other leaders will come and go, but the “American dream”, with its foundation solidly anchored in Biblical truth, will outlast them all. Presidents may lie, lawmakers may fail to accomplish anything, but that dream lives on. My prayer is that we will push aside the false liberal ideology that has tried to redefine America. Let us dream again of what is already here, and let us believe again that hard working Americans can build for themselves what others may never have.

I believe in the real America, not the one some politicians have tried to force on me. I believe in the real “American dream”, not the one that some hate-filled radicals have tried to put before my eyes. No matter what leaders may say, no matter what unjust laws may dictate with the stroke of a pen, there are hundreds of millions of Americans who believe in the real America. Most encouraging of all, I know that our voices will be heard as they were in the 2014 and 2106 elections. That voice came as a shocking reality to many, because it was the battle cry of open resistance to the radical redefinition of the real America.

When the votes were counted in 2016, the war to recover, and re-strengthen this nation was under way. In the meantime, Americans must wake up and see what has happened. We must strive to recover the freedom of choice that is being stolen from us by the stroke of a pen, and crushing new laws forced upon us. It is time to return to the values and power of the real “American dream”. If we will do this, our nation can begin to blossom once again. If we fail in this critical hour, we will head down the same dark road that Europe is already on.

I believe we can rise to the occasion. I believe we can hold dear those cherished principles and truths our forefathers bled and died for. I believe, with God’s help, and the right people behind the pulpit and in the Whitehouse, we can once again have God’s blessing on this amazing nation. Most of all, I believe in the “American dream” and that it is still here for anyone who wants it. If we hold fast to that dream in our own heart, and move with passion into the dream of this nation, we will make a difference. May God richly bless this wonderful land we lovingly call America, for it truly is beautiful!

Milestones Of Life

milestone

milestone / mīlˌstōn / noun

  1. a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance from or to a particular place.
  2. an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.

It’s interesting to note that the word “milestone” was first used to identify a stone marker that indicated just how far one had traveled. It was positioned prominently on a roadside to let travelers know how far along they were on their journey, or how far they had yet to go. Interestingly enough, that stone did not just mark off the distance; eventually it also became a marker of time. That’s because the average person walked at only 2 miles per hour, a runner traveled four to six miles an hour, those on horseback traveled 10 miles per hour and a stagecoach, pulled by a team of horses, could cover 15 miles in an hour. Thus, the faster people traveled the less distance really mattered. What took an hour to walk, took only 12 minutes on a stagecoach or 6 minutes on a train. Distance actually became irrelevant as the time it took to cover it continued to shrink.

Consider the 3200 mile trip from the east to the west coast of America. It once took four months by wagon train. When the railroads came, that time shrank to about fourteen days. In a car, I covered that same distance in 72 hours. The average flight in a modern jet takes about 6 1/2 hours, and the “Blackbird” spy plane flew it a number of years back in just under 3 hours. Finally, the space shuttle astronauts traversed that same distance in six minutes. The miles have remained the same, but the time it takes to cover them has changed dramatically. That change has been so great that we rarely think about measuring distance in anything but time.

When you think about it, this radical shift in how we view our travel through life is really quite appropriate. At this point in mans history, time really has great significance. This is because of the fact that all of us are locked into it, and there is no escape. Every moment of every day that passes by, brings us that much closer to when our time on this earth is over. There is no avoiding it, and it matters not how hard we work, or how fast we live, the clock just keeps ticking away. Ultimately, birth and death are the two real milestones that mark off every life. It begins, it ends and there are a multitude of choices and details that happen in between which impact the lives of others.

Tomorrow I will celebrate my 61st birthday. I am pondering the significance of that big day. I am also pondering my mother, who gave birth to me on that day, because she is also preparing for her big day as well. On my day I’ll be one year older, and one year away from collecting social security. I guess that’s another milestone in American culture we look forward to. We have paid into the system for years, and now it’s time for payback. However, on mom’s day, her social security will end. This is because she will be going home to be with the Lord, and that… well, that’s the final milestone in every culture.

The bottom line in that event is that we either greet it with overflowing joy, and glorious expectation, or we face it with terrifying resistance, and a fear of the unknown. The choice is totally up to each of us, and it all hangs on what we have done with the roadmap God gave us. If we followed and believe the truth, Jesus is our guide, and the destination is certain. If we refused to follow His perfect guidance, the outcome is still just as certain, but the final destination is VERY different. I am blessed in that my mother has lived a full, happy life, and has been looking forward to seeing both her husband, and her Savior, for quite sometime.

The milestones placed on those old dusty roads reminded all who saw them of where they were, and more importantly, where they were going. These were transition points that were reached, and once crossed, there was no going back. They called out to every passenger about where they had just been, and pointed them forward to where they were finally going to end up. It was a stark reality that gripped them along the journey in different ways as they bumped along the dust filled roads. In many ways life, and death, both unfold exactly the same way.

At this very moment my mother, who is just a few days shy of 98, is on that last leg her life road. She has been a wonderful woman of peace, prayer and encouragement, and she is about to cross her final milestone. She is in “transition” right now, getting ready to slip over and greet her husband, and her Lord, who saved them both. I have to be honest, this is something I am thrilled about, and dreading at the same time. Thrilled because her tired, old body is about to be laid aside, and her spiritual body will soon fly out of it to reveal all it’s glory. However, I dread that event as well because the one who has prayed, encouraged and always been there for me will be there no more. That is a very hard, and emotional pill that will soon have to be swallowed.

As mom moves from this world to the next I am forced to take the time to consider my own milestones. These marked off significant things in my journey. A few really stand out because they made major changes in my personal vision and life direction. Which ones arrested my attention? Well, there was my salvation, my marriage to my beautiful wife Esther, the birth of my sons and my call to ministry. Others, sadly, I flew right by with thoughtless impatience. In my headlong rush to accomplish some vision, I failed to pause when I should have to really enjoy the life I was living with those who loved me. I was so busy, trying to do things, that I lost the real reason for why I was doing them in the first place!

What about you? Are you so rushed in living that you have missed the joy of life? Are things, goals and your current vision so important that you have failed to nurture and treasure the people around you? Have you actually missed the beauty of the places that surround you? Time is slipping by at an ever-increasing rate, and it’s up to you how each day is spent. Let me encourage you to slow down, smell the roses and invest yourself in what’s really important. First comes your relationship with God, then comes family, then friends and finally business.

Not many hours from now my mother will close her eyes, breathe her last breath, slip from her earthly body and fly into heaven. When she does, it will be with no regrets and the blessing of all who ever knew her. She invested her life wisely and we are all the beneficiaries of that great treasure. Will you be able to say the same? Will you leave this earthly realm with a legacy of blessing and joy? Perhaps those who know you will simply be glad you are finally gone. Let me say that now is the time to re-evaluate your life. Even if it’s been less than exemplary, there is still time to change. Remember, as long as you have breath it’s never too late!

Do what Jennie Emmons did for so many, as she cooked them a meal or handed them a cookie. She invested her time and her love of cooking in others so she could speak to them about her love of Jesus. Take a moment right now to talk to God. Give Him your life, surrender your plans and open your heart. Let Him in, so He can open heaven when it’s your time, and do the same for you! I know Jennie will be there… will you?

For Jennie Maria Emmons, who did more than just share the Gospel, she lived it!

(10 minutes after I posted this mom peacefully slipped away in her asleep and woke up in the arms of Jesus!)

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Repurposed In A Season Of Life

church bell

On April 1st. 1863 the Richmond Dispatch wrote the following article:

“The congregation of the Second Baptist Church in this city have set an example that may challenge emulation, but for self-sacrificing patriotism cannot be excelled. They met not long since and by unanimous vote gave their church bell to be cast into cannon to be used in the public defense. To show that this was not an empty promise made for effect; they immediately had it taken down to be put to the use indicated. At the same meeting, at which the resolution above stated was passed, it was determined to subscribe a sum sufficient to purchase enough metal to add to that in the bell, to form into a “battery” to be called the Second Baptist Church battery. (note: a “battery” is a group of four cannons that work together as a unit.)

Mr. John F. Tanner, an influential member of the church, and largely engaged in the foundry business, promised on behalf of himself and associates that the “battery” should be ready at an early day, and without cost to those who furnished the materials. The churches in New Orleans, a large proportion of them being Catholic, have with the sanction of their Bishop, adopted the same course.”

When I read the above article something just rang inside me. Please pardon the pun! However, the power of what this historical fact signified for the church in America is remarkable. It is to be noted that the same practice was also found in states above the Mason-Dixon line as well. Think for just one moment, about how important this is. The fact that churches gladly gave up their most prized and unique possession, their bell, is remarkable. They did it so each bell could be melted down into a cannon for the defense of their country, the affirmation of their patriotism and the securing of their beliefs.

This is a practice you never, ever hear mentioned in any of our history books, yet it is so very significant. It was a major influence of religion upon our military, and in our society. More than that it actually impacted the outcome of the war. With this action, the direct involvement of the church in every aspect of American life was forever etched in American history and nothing can change it. The Church no longer saw itself restrained to quietly meet in a building on Sunday morning, or to do weddings, baptisms and funerals. The church actually took on a new vision, the real vision of Jesus. It would be actively involved in shaping the morals, the beliefs and the direction of the entire nation. That, my friends, is the shocking reality we all need to re-embrace if America is to flourish once again!

What’s interesting to note is that because many of the cannons were forged from church bells some were made with the Cross of Christ mounted on the barrel. This was to remind the soldiers of where that piece of artillery came from and Who their faith was to be in. History records that the men soon realized they could actually sight down these barrels using the Cross and it actually improved the accuracy of their shot. This was called getting a target in the “cross hairs”, and the term stuck. Every weapon today uses some variation of the “Cross” to hit it’s target. How ironic that the One who died for our sins on a cross finds the tool of His execution on weapons that can both kill and protect. It still depends on which side of the Cross you are on!  So …. which side are you on????

Here is what hit me as I considered all of the above. The bell that was found in every church in America was placed there for a specific reason. To begin with, every community in America had a Christian church of some denomination, and a town square, at the very center of the community. This signified that Christ, and His teachings were to be at the center of American life. Secondly when the church bell rang out, it was a united call for all the people to gather together. The moment they heard that bell, they would come, knowing they would hear either preaching, the news of the day or be informed of a need to help in an emergency. The sounding of the bell grabbed the attention of all and it drew them together as one.

History also records that after the war, those same cannons were then melted down and re-forged back into church bells. Churches across America were then given a notice to come pick up a bell of their choosing, and have it reinstalled in their church steeple. From that point on, the sounding of every church bell in America held a very different meaning. It’s clarion voice still called the community together, but it now remind everyone of the bloody conflict that had been fought, and the victory that had been won, both on the battlefield and on the Cross of Christ. All this happened because a church bell was re-forged to become a cannon, which was re-forged to become a church bell.

What caught my attention is that the bells and cannons both had a voice, a specific sound that identified them exactly. A bell ringer could tell you what the bell was made of, and what note was being sounded the moment the clapper hit the side. A gunner could also hear distant cannon fire and know exactly what caliber it was, and how far it could shoot. What’s fascinating to me is that both were made from the same material, but the form of each determined it’s purpose. More importantly, when each voice sounded, the final outcome was very different! All of it depended on the season of life, and the needs that were present at that time.

The point being that our lives are exactly the same. There are seasons when all we need is a sweet sounding bell to get our attention and keep things going in the right direction. At other times the deafening roar of cannon fire is required to blast through resistance and destroy that which threatens to overrun our life. You don’t ring a bell on the battlefield, and you don’t fire a cannon from a church steeple. When God repurposes the things of your life NEVER try to just fit it into what has always been. Could it be that the metal in you is being melted down right now so that your voice will be the right one for the season you are about to enter into?

If you fail to understand the plan of God to repurpose you in a new season of life, you will walk in what I have seen so many others do in the past. I have witnessed those who were clearly in a battlefield ringing a bell, when they should have been silent. The bell only drew heavy fire to their position and it resulted in hurt and destruction that was just not necessary.  I have also seen those in a season that was relatively peaceful, level a canon against that which only needed the clear voice of reason, like a bell, to provide guidance. When the air finally cleared, the destruction was much worse than anyone had imagined, and there was no one left to put the pieces back together.

My suggestion? Why not just relax and let the blast furnace you are in do its work? Perhaps your bell is being repurpose as a cannon,  because warfare you don’t yet see is just over the horizon. Maybe your cannon is beginning hammered into what looks more like a bell, and the clear voice of reason will be needed in what is about to come. I guarantee you that you will absolutely love the sound of that new voice when it is finally released. Best of all, it will be exactly what you need sounding out of your life in that new season of repurposing. Now get out there and let your voice be heard!

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