The Battle for Nine-year-olds

avery-nat-geoWhen I first saw the cover of National Geographic, featuring a nine-year-old transgender activist, my knee-jerk reaction was to post it on Facebook and talk about how our culture-makers are luring children into  gender confusion. But, then I thought I should do something radical and read the article first. I have done so, and I must admit that my knee had it right the first time.

I have worked  as a volunteer in church children’s ministries since the 80’s, and now work in an evangelistic children’s ministry by vocation, so my snap judgments are formed by experience, training, and research. I am not merely informed by the latest kerfuffle on the Internet. So, the sight of a nine-year-old being given a forum on the cover of a magazine like National Geographic (as opposed to the National Enquirer) causes me to wonder what the agenda is here. Stay with me. This may require some critical thinking.

First, the article informs us that, “National Geographic photographer Robin Hammond interviewed nine-year-olds in four continents. From China to Brazil, Hammond met with kids in their very different homes to talk about their very different expectations for the future and what it means to be a boy or a girl today.” This is pretty tame, straightforward stuff. It should produce fairly predictable information, which it does. One example follows another, how boys get some preferential treatment:

If they were boys, Pooja Pawara from outside Mumbai would ride a scooter, while Yan Zhu from China’s Yaqueshui village would swim in a river that her grandmother insists is too cold for girls. Because she’s not a boy, Luandra Montovani isn’t allowed to play in her Rio favela’s streets, where she says the dangers include “violence and stray bullets.”

I have to admit that I thought it strange that there was an upside to dodging stray bullets. But that is a part of their culture, which is really the point of the article. Culture informs your experience. It gives you norms of behavior. Parents have understood this as long as anyone remembers. It’s the reason you were not allowed to play with certain children because it was deemed as not safe, with no mitigating racial or socioeconomic factors. Even television networks knew there was a time for “family television.”

To cut to the chase, this article was not about transgender children or transgenderism in general. Avery, the nine-year-old transgender (no description of where he/she is in the process), gets two paragraphs and a two quotes and exits the stage, but not without getting on the cover of the magazine. It is as if this ordinary story, telling common knowledge as if it were sage wisdom, was merely an excuse to use the photo that is worth a thousand words. Another quote from the article begs a question of my own:

What is something that makes you sad?
For Tomee War Bonnet, an Oglala Lakota, it’s “seeing people kill themselves.” What plants such thoughts in a nine-year-old’s head? Her reservation’s history of suicides, by kids as young as 12.

Yes, what plants thoughts of gender identity in the heads of attention-seeking nine-year-olds? Being transgender is the new shiny object. It once got you ostracized, but now it gets you something entirely different. You can get a lot of attention, a lot of strokes. A magazine cover is a pretty big prize. There are sex education videos being used to reach out to ten-year-olds that celebrate how special you are, and how happy your parents will be that you are happy with your sparkly new gender identity! I have seen the videos. I will not link them here.

There is a great deal of indoctrination that goes on in our culture, and it reaches down further and further in its age range before our eyes. And it does plant ideas in the heads of children. They are very receptive to these ideas, which is why it is important to know which ideas we should expose them to.

I believe the evangelical church in America has been dropping the ball for years. It is not enough to teach children rote verses and Bible stories about Noah’s Ark and King David and the Lord Jesus without life applications. And some of those applications pertain to living in a culture that is openly hostile to Biblical values like moral excellence and faith in a God you cannot see. There are many forces at work that beat us to the minds of children that have been uninformed about the Bible and what it teaches, as well as those who are actively undermining  those who have been taught. Do we recognize them? Do we know how to deal with changing cultural norms that demand your child’s participation or agreement?

It is no longer good enough to try to shield our children from aberrant information. Like good anti-virus software, you also have to know how to quarantine and disinfect the bugs that get in. And they will get in. To think they won’t is self-deceiving and lazy. It also insures that you will not be changing the world you live in for the better.

There was a time when most Americans had a Biblical worldview. Even the wicked needed the Bible to effectively twist the truth. But today we live in an America that has seen very little evangelistic effort. We are paying for it by losing ground to a worldview that is very evangelistic. The humanistic worldview that eliminates God from its equations and its social mores is on offense. We cannot continue to backpedal and hide in our sanctuaries. We must take back the opportunities God has given us. And every new generation of children is an opportunity for us to get it right. And we are obligated by the Great Commission to do so.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV



On being focused

church-in-louisianna-by-rick-galvan-on-flickrI just recently made changes to this website…again. I thought I’d use my own personal domain and site to promote my side business, so I could augment the income I was getting from the ministry. Well, the ministry business is definitely picking up, so the window cleaning has to go. And this is a good thing.

Likewise, this site should be a place where I can talk about life on my own terms, instead of doing it as the local director of an evangelistic ministry to children. After all, what I say on the ministry’s website represents the goals and obligations of the ministry, and I have people to answer to. What I say here is what I have to say as a Christian man living in a world that is continually diminishing the importance of God in its own eyes. And what I say here may offend people. And when I say people, I mean the people of God. After all, the Bible does not tell us to criticize and accuse the world of wrongdoing. It tells us that we are to bring the Good News that God is not holding their sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). Actually, the Bible explicitly tells us that we are to judge those within the church (1 Corinthians 5:12), holding one another accountable.

If you are an ordinary believer who is confused or disappointed in how the world is going and you wonder what you can do about it, I can tell you from my own experience that the answer can usually be found by looking at yourself. After all, we have been given the command to GO share the Gospel that changes people’s lives, and the power to DO that. If that isn’t happening, it may be that we are simply not going and doing. And we often fail to do those things because we are not focused on obeying God. And when we are unfocused, things are blurry and hard to distinguish.

When I was first saved, I was very focused on obeying God. I put away the evil things I had been doing, like stealing for my boss and flirting my brains out with the woman who managed a restaurant I served. I began to pray for the people I was mad at. And I shared the salvation message  with sinners. After I lost my job because I wouldn’t steal for them any more, I started a small business and started doing prison ministry with my wife. We brought homeless people to our house, fed them, and shared our faith. I went house to house with a friend, asking people if they knew Jesus. Even though I had a wife and child and two businesses (we’d opened a Christian book store), we were very focused on obeying God and seeking first the kingdom of God.

But something happened over time. We started serving in the church instead of going out. Our focus was on inside ministries, like teaching Sunday school and in children’s church, going to Bible studies and small group meetings. It filled our evenings and weekends and we forgot the command of Jesus to go out and preach the Gospel.

As my business grew and prospered I still tithed, but I did not increase my giving to support evangelistic ministries that went out. We weren’t ministry partners with any missionaries. Our focus was on making a living, but obedience to God was more on the edges. Yes, I ran my business in a way that honored God. But the focus was on making enough money  to pay for a standard of living that was getting more expensive.

I got involved in local politics as a way to bring a Christian influence on my community, but it was an indirect way, on the edges. I was still being obedient in a blurry, off-center way. I was doing it my way instead of just doing what I was told.

It is interesting that no one ever tried to correct me. It wasn’t until I was finished with being a political candidate that my wife and I read John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life,” and we began to wonder what God wanted us to do with our lives. We sold our house and most of our possessions and moved into a small apartment and took some time to focus on what God wanted.

It turns out He wanted us to do like He told the Ephesian church in Revelation: “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5. We needed to regain our focus, which we had lost over time.

In 2012 we discovered Child Evangelism Fellowship, a ministry that gave us the exciting opportunity to evangelize children, the most open-minded and neglected people group in the world! And not only that, because their methods could be taught, we could train others to be more than converts; they could be disciples, bearing much fruit!  “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8.

Today it is our vocation to raise up disciples who bear fruit, serving in Good News Clubs that teach children the meaning of the Gospel, and how to apply it to their lives. In the past 2 years, we have added over 110 new volunteers who serve our God by reaching the children for Jesus!

It is unfortunate that I meet so many believers who are too busy to obey God. They would rather while away their lives fishing or playing golf or watching football on television. They go to church, but they do not serve. They complain about the state of the world while not lifting a finger to change it. If this sounds like you, it is not too late to change. If you are still drawing breath, there is still time for you to refocus, return to your first love, and do the first works.

Bigger Than Orlando


I was driving home from a Lutheran church yesterday when I finally turned on the radio and let in the outside world. That’s when I heard about the Orlando massacre, and got the first inkling that it was probably Islamic terrorism. Since then, I have watched the reactions of many friends and acquaintances on social media, as well as how various politicians and talking heads have weighed in on this horrible tragedy.

It seems like almost every argument and point of view has been covered as some people look to fix blame or position themselves in the best light. And there have been many expressions of sorrow and grief and anger that are all easy to understand. So I have been in no hurry to rush to make a statement, or be a part of any particular camp. It’s not because I am heartless or do not care, but I do have what seems to be an unusual perspective. I hope you will take time to consider it.

Every day in America between 6,000 and 7,000 people die of various causes. Around the world, it’s over 150,000 deaths per day. Although many of them are untimely or tragic, they all have one thing in common: they are inevitable. And from there, the go to spend eternity in the presence of their Savior, or they go to Hell. And very little is said about this, the ultimate tragedy.

Perhaps you do not believe this is the case. Keep in mind that you do not make the rules. We were created by a holy God, and He ultimately calls the shots. Bring your lawyer if you wish, but remember that he will just be another defendant on Judgment Day.

Because I do believe this, and so do many of you who are reading, that puts a weight of responsibility on us to share the Good News, that God so loved the world that He gave His Son, to pay the price for all of our sins, so that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. In fact, we have been commanded to share that message. And I don’t need to bring out empirical proof to all of you for you to know that most of us live lives of gross disobedience to the Great Commission.

Over the next several months I expect to see a lot of changed profile photos expressing solidarity with the victims of the Orlando massacre by many believers in Christ. Keep in mind that showing your sadness is appropriate, but it is not a substitute for sharing the Gospel with the lost world.

It is interesting to note that the shooter was born in the US and went to school here. I have to wonder if he had heard the Gospel while he was growing up. Was he or his family befriended by Christians who shared the Gospel with them? Every sinner, no matter how vile you believe that person to be, started life as a child.

That is the lens through which I see this terrible event. In a nation where we have the right to share the Gospel, most of us don’t. And even those of us who do, focus on reaching people AFTER they have grown up. The average church spends 3% of its budget on ministering to children, and most of them do not evangelize the children they have.

This terrible event will not be changing my profile picture or how I live my life. I am back at work today, planning on reaching hundreds of children this summer with the Gospel. Many of them will make first time professions of faith, and begin a life of living by faith in Jesus. I am blessed to have many volunteers who give of their time to obey God and do what He has told us to do. But there are many thousands more to reach in this area, and we don’t need sympathy. We need your help.

Visit us online at CEFCH.ORG to give your time, talent, or treasure. Thank you.

The Sober Business of Pruning


If you frequent this site, you are aware that I have taken to gardening. Last year, when I first moved to Homosassa, I got it into my head that I could grow some of what we eat, and I immediately went to YouTube for gardening videos. They led to some experiments, which mostly failed, and I also thought I’d try my hand at tomatoes. After all, everyone likes tomatoes, and if i can’t grow anything else, perhaps I can trade tomatoes for other vegetables.

I began with four different kinds of heirloom tomato seeds. I thought I’d try them because I noticed they were more expensive in the store than regular tomatoes, and I heard them getting rave reviews from organic vegetable purists. So, I planted what I thought was 48 seeds in egg cartons, and it turnout out I planted 50.

Fast-forward to today, and I now have rows of tomato plants and I am beginning to eat some of them! I have German Green tomatoes, which have to be gently squeezed to test for ripeness since the color gives no clue, Colossal Yellows, Cherokee Chocolates and Cherokee Chocolate Cherries. I have about 25 of the original plants, and they are 3 to 5 ft tall. They make quite an impression on my visitors, and I am tempted to be proud of them.

To be sure, I am aware I am a neophyte gardener, and I know I have done a fairly sloppy job of it. I have tried to fill the gaps where I am not much of a farmer by praying for these plants and asking the Lord’s blessing on them. He gets the credit for all I survey. But while I was praying for my plants, I also asked him what all this means to me, and what is He wanting me to learn from the experience. After all, this is highly irregular activity for me. I do NOT like working in the yard, but I have felt drawn to do this.

While watching a video about pruning tomato plants, I remembered what Jesus said in John 15:2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Well, that is what I wanted: more fruit. I am not just growing leafy plants to be ornamentals. I want tomatoes!

So, I started looking carefully for any signs of fruit. The cherry tomatoes came up first, but all my other plants were giving me blossoms, but no fruit. I also noticed I was getting my first attack of leaf miners, these tiny insects that make tunnels in your leaves. It looks like yellow tracks all over the leaves. Those had to go. In general, plants with too many leaves got shorn. Almost every day I was trimming away unnecessary foliage. It seemed to pay off. After awhile I started seeing tomatoes budding from where the blossoms were.

A couple of days  ago, I believe I got a word from the Lord in my garden. He said, “You are pruning, but you are not taking away.” I looked at one of my well trimmed plants, and noticed one long branch that had born nothing. It was sucking up water and nutrients and there was no fruit. I cut it off from the main stalk and examined it. It was part of that plant from the beginning, yet it had never produced. I looked around and found a couple of others. And a few more. I was sad that I had to cut them back so far. It seemed like such a shame. Then I realized that we were not really talking about tomato plants.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.” This took on an entirely different meaning. I realized that I need to be pruned. There are things that need to be cut off, so that I may bear more fruit. He said MORE fruit.  He wants me to grow, and in order for that to happen, there are things that have to go.

And that is why I am no longer involved in politics. It was a great, fruitless branch in my life. It was leafy and looked healthy, but there was no fruit on it. It attracted parasites and disease. I got invited to a local candidate event yesterday and had to say NO, and WHY. It was not advancing the Kingdom of God, so it had to go. It’s all about the fruit.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Matthew 6:33.

Origin of the Establishment Clause


I have recently downloaded a copy of Joseph Tracy’s 1840 history, “The Great Awakening.” It’s a free download from Google Books, and it’s a pretty rough copy. It is quite apparent that it was copied by a machine, but with that consideration it is still quite readable and enlightening.

Within the first few pages it was revealed that the Great Awakening, a Christian Revival that took place in the existing churches in both England and the English colonies, had caused a major paradigm shift in the general population. That is because they were the spiritual descendents of a church culture that practiced baptismal regeneration at infancy. In other words, they believed that conversion took place during infant baptism, and that it was presumed that church members were “saved” unless they were excommunicated due to gross immorality or heresy.

In Europe, where this error had centuries to become entrenched, many laws were passed that required that a person had to be a member of a church in good standing in order to be a fully vested citizen. Therefore, if a Bishop or a priest was to deny a man the sacrament of communion because that man was a known reprobate, he could sue for damages since he was baptized in the church, and had the right to its sacraments, and whatever civil rights that would be lost otherwise.

In England, a man appointed to any civil or military office must “qualify,” by receiving the Lord’s Supper in the established church ; and many received it to ” qualify ” themselves for office, who neglected it all the rest of their lives. The clergyman who withheld the Lord’s Supper from one requesting it, inflicted a civil injury, and was liable to prosecution ; and, if prosecuted, must show to the court that he had good grounds for his decision, or suffer the consequences. When John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, left Georgia to return to England, a prosecution was pending against him for debarring a young lady from the Lord’s Supper. Under such laws, the Lord’s table must be open to all who have been baptized, who have learned the creed and catechism, and have not committed any crime which a civil court would judge ” scandalous.”  Joseph Tracy, “The Great Awakening,” 1841. Andover-Harvard Theological Library, p. 2

Under such a linkage between church and state, the state was able to keep the church from doing its job of making true disciples of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul eloquently stated, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” 2 Corinthians 3:6. The letter of the civil law disabled the ministry because it became the way that people obtained, in their minds, eternal life.

Just as Martin Luther’s assertion that regeneration is by faith alone altered much of Christendom, the reemergence of personal faith as the acceptable emblem of Christianity drained the letter of the law of its power. When men like George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennant and Jonathan Edwards began preaching and publishing sermons that espoused the new birth, a spiritual rebirth that brought with it the evidence of a changed life, opposition arose from the leaders of the state churches in the colonies and in England. Their legitimacy was being challenged, just as the King would be later on.

The Church of England was the official state church for some of the colonies during the time of British rule. Virginia. New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Maryland were all Church of England, while New Hampshire and Connecticut were officially Congregational and Massachusetts was Protestant under a system that allowed each community to have its own official church. The Catholic Church did not qualify. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island had no state church.

As we have laid a foundation for what the state of mind may have been when the First Amendment of the US Constitution was ratified, let us examine it closely:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In those first ten words, in which we find the establishment clause, it is important to notice that it does not say, “Congress shall make no law respecting THE establishment of religion.” If that were the wording, it could be thought that this means Congress cannot establish a church. No such thing was on anyone’s mind at that time. There were plenty of churches for people to choose from. A new “National Church” being formed would be hard pressed to draw members without force, and that was unthinkable in such a revolutionary climate. The establishment clause says, “Congress shall make no law respecting AN establishment of religion,” and that makes all the difference.

The colonies had laws respecting AN establishment of religion everywhere ONE church got preferential treatment over the others. Nine of the thirteen colonies had laws respecting AN establishment of religion in some form, and those knots were not entirely untied until 1834.

That letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists that some people like to quote when they want to invoke the “separation of church and state,” pertains specifically to the Connecticut state laws that respected AN establishment of religion over other establishments of religion. The Congregational Church had the power to tax the citizens, including those who did not support the Congregational Church, and the Baptists were right to be sore about it. That was the “Wall of Separation” Jefferson spoke of in his letter. The state of Connecticut gave ONE church the power to tax. That letter was written in 1802, and it was 1818 before that was changed.

Today, this idea has been turned on its head to the degree that laws are routinely made that prohibit the free exercise of religion on the basis that the government must not be neutral to religion, but be opposed to it in order not to perceived as ESTABLISHING a religion. When it is ruled that a teacher cannot have a Bible on her desk, because it appears that the government is establishing a religion, it is actually taking a position against religion itself, and not a particular establishment.

But let us look at the text again: “Congress shall make no law respecting an ESTABLISHMENT of religion.” That word, establishment, means something when you refer to it as one of many, as in an establishment of fine dining, an establishment of recreation, an establishment of legal services, or an establishment of religion. It refers to a specific organization, not an idea or a concept. A Bible on a teacher’s desk is not a religious establishment any more than a dictionary on the same teacher’s desk is an educational establishment.

When a law is made that says you cannot have a Bible on your desk, it is actually making a law respecting an IDEA of religion. It is the ideas in that book, the Bible, as opposed to any other book, like a dictionary, that are being hidden behind that “Wall of Separation.” Is that what Jefferson was talking about? Absolutely not. He was opposed to an ESTABLISHMENT of religion having the governmental authority to tax.

Another word we need to look at is RESPECTING. “Congress shall make no law RESPECTING an establishment of religion.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, RESPECTING is defined this way: about or relating to (something) : with respect to (something).

In our American culture today, the word, RESPECTING, has a very limited meaning. Most people would probably  see it only as an extension of RESPECT, which is defined as:

a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.

a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

a particular way of thinking about or looking at something.

This could lead to a very antagonistic view of religion. After all, if “Congress is to make no law admiring or understanding that an establishment of religion is important,” that would make it sound like religion was bad or dangerous, and not worthy of being protected at all.

So, in reality, the First Amendment says, in today’s language, “Congress shall make no law in regard to one particular religious organization, or prohibiting anyone from practicing their religion; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It seems obvious that the popular misinterpretation of the establishment clause is either caused by a basic misunderstanding of the English language, or deliberate deception by people with governmental authority and power. After all, being able to make laws in regard to how people practice their faith and share their ideas is a tremendous power. It cripples the church, and keeps it from doing its scriptural duty to make disciples of Jesus Christ. As stated earlier, the letter kills.

If Christians are to continue to be a free people, it is imperative that we have another Great Awakening. But this time it must reach far outside of our church buildings. We have the power to convert others, taking those who were once our enemies and making them our friends. Historically, this has been done under all forms of government: kings, emperors, and dictators brutal and benign. The only difference is the price that must be paid.

Today you have an opportunity to change the world of tomorrow with relatively little risk. I am talking about evangelizing children. They are very impressionable, which is why everyone tries to reach them with their products, ideologies, habits and entertainment. But what they really need is to know that God loves them, and that He has a plan for their lives, if only they will believe. It is not enough to throw money at them in the form of food, clothes, shelter, education, and healthcare. To paraphrase Jesus, what does it profit a child to gain all the world’s goods and lose his soul?

I urge you to get involved in reaching children with the Gospel. Today’s overworked, harried parents yield their children to others who offer to help. Let’s not fail them. Let’s give the best thing we can, eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Child Evangelism Fellowship is the world’s largest children’s ministry, reaching millions of children with the Gospel in 192 countries. And they are probably working in your community. Seek them out and do what you can to change the future for the children where you live. You don’t have long. In a few more years, they will be harder to reach and less likely to listen. Act NOW. Find a chapter in your area. And if you are my neighbor, learn more about us here, and then pray and ask the Lord what you should do.