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Open Letter to Senator Bernie Sanders  

An open letter to the Honorable Bernie Sanders, United States Senator

 

Dear Senator Sanders,

I read transcripts of the conversation you had last week with Mr. Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. During that exchange, you quoted Mr. Vought as saying, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”

Senator, you reacted by saying, “In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.”

I have some questions for you, sir, that I would appreciate your addressing.

  1. Does Mr. Vought not have a right to hold such an opinion—or express it publicly?  Or has this nation set in place an idea police force that now finds his comment “illegal”?
  1. Do people of historic orthodox Christian faith no longer have the right to believe (and publicly state) the teachings of Jesus? 
  1. Is it your belief that Christians are free to believe what they want, only so long as they do so in the quiet of their own congregations—keeping their beliefs out of the public square?  If so, how does that square with the first amendment?
  1. You clearly seem to be implying that merely by believing the “wrong things” Mr. Vought’s religious convictions somehow make him unfit for office.  But how could your position be anything other than a clear example of prohibiting the free exercise of Mr. Vought’s religion—a constitutional violation?
  1. How do you justify your verbal laceration of Mr. Vought knowing that Article VI of the Constitution states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”?

I want you to know, Senator Sanders, that far from bigotry or hate, Jesus declared “Whoever believes in me will never die.”  Anyone may receive Christ’s forgiveness and offer of eternal salvation in heaven.  Anyone—Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus—whoever acknowledges Christ as Lord. 

I do not deny that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.”  You are free to disagree, free to disbelieve.  But you are not free to wrench the right to believe—and express—this historic biblical belief away from those who embrace the Scriptures.  Nor do such beliefs—or their public declaration—render anyone unfit for office. 

Ultimately, your argument is with Jesus Himself.  It is an argument you cannot win. 

 
Group 1 Boarding  

In any given week, approximately 79 credit card offers find their way to our mailbox.  So awhile back, I caved in to an invitation from American Airlines to receive their Platinum Select card.   In addition to one free checked bag for my wife and me, the big pay-off this card dangled was Group 1 boarding status. 

Diana and I were excited to try out these new perks, standing in line at O’hare airport. Our suitcases were checked in free, just as advertised.  The boarding process, however, was another story.  

Turns out Platinum Select is not nearly as exclusive a class as they made it sound. Before those of us in Group 1 were allowed to board, we watched as wave after wave of other people glided by.  It began with First Class and active duty U. S. Military. Next was the Executive Platinum group, followed by the One World Emerald group.

Still grounded...

Surely it was now our turn to board next, right?  Nope.  We watched as the Platinum Pro, Platinum and One World Sapphire folks headed down the ramp. 

Our turn now, yes?  No.  Still grounded.  The parade of the privileged continued with the gate attendant’s invitation for Gold and One World Ruby members to board. 

Still others who leapfrogged over those of us with “Group 1” status: Alaska Airlines MVP members, AirPass, Citi/Aadvantage Executive card members.  Oh, and there was one last group: anyone who purchased priority boarding!          

Demoted!

American Airlines has since restructured their boarding process and those zillions of boarding classes are now given a number.  The Group 1 status I was so proud of has been demoted to Group 5.  So much for perks.

However confusing (not to mention misleading) the American Airlines boarding circus may have been, when it comes to eternity, the categories are hauntingly simple.  Scripture says there are only two classes of travelers: those who are headed straight for heaven and those who are headed straight for hell.  That’s it.

In Matthew 25:46, Jesus plainly tells us, “These (anyone who has rejected Christ) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous (those made righteous by receiving Christ) into eternal life.”

That you have an eternal soul is a settled fact.  The only question is where you will spend your eternity.  Now is the time to get this issue settled.  Today.  The Word of God urges you in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor.  Now is the day of salvation.”

Heaven or hell.  Sounds strange, but it really is a choice—yours.  So…what’s your choice? 

 
Simple Things  

Camping has a way of making you sleep well at night.  I mean really well.  Especially if you’re a kid.  Once, when our grandson Caleb was with us, his “batteries” ran so low, he was unable to finish buttoning his pajamas before slumping over on the couch, out cold. 

 

Recently, Caleb paid a visit to our camper again, along with his three-year-old sister, Lucy. It was bedtime, and the spunky little girl was winding down in a hurry.  So we quickly flopped down the camper’s couch, made the bed and tossed her in it.  

 

I usually end up bunking on the couch with Lucy because Caleb has less allergy issues when sleeping higher up in the bedroom with Grandma. 

 

After the light shut off, Lucy immediately plopped her head on my chest, closed her eyes and fell asleep.  I think it took less than sixty seconds. And what could be lovelier?  

 

But I confess I felt a bit guilty when noting that after thirty minutes, I’d grown tired of being in the same position.  Frankly, her head was heavy and sweaty.  A part of me wanted to rearrange Lucy’s pose and and place her head on her pillow.  Another part of me went down a different thought path.  I asked…

 

Over the course of my life, exactly how many nights will I be privileged to spend with a three-year old?  How many times will I go to sleep with a little blonde head on my chest? Through the entire span of my remaining days, how many times will I be able to curl up with a little tyke like Lucy?  Answer:  Few.  Very few.  So I stayed there, her head on my chest, for a long, long time. 

 

In a strange way, the scene reminds me of the brevity of life.  In Psalms 139:16 David says to God, “You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

 

I don’t know how many days are numbered in your book, let alone how many I have left. But I do know that simple things—like a three-year old’s head on my chest—are not to be treated lightly. 

 
 
Parties, Pagans and Possibilities  

With graduation and wedding seasons upon us, my wife and I have lately been to more than our share of parties. Sprinkled into that mix: three funerals.  Recently, Diana and I attended a gathering that stretched our comfort zone.

   

He clutched secrets of his own...

For example, there was the newly married couple, both at least in their sixties or maybe seventies.  Theirs was not a wedding that we attended, but mixing with them was easy. She blabbed effortlessly—unendingly.  He was as silent as drying paint.

 

Still, the white-haired groom clutched secrets of his own.  A financial analyst by day, he was an artist by night.  We were informed he would soon be creating a charcoal drawing of his new wife—sans clothing.  Talk about too much information!

 

Say what?!

Also seated at our table was a lady who proudly told us she was a belly dancer.  Her hair weavings, jewelry and makeup all gave powerful evidence to back up her claim.  With due respect to the physical fitness and coordination such a dance requires, she was definitely a bit old for such a hobby.  Likewise, her husband, who plays in a rock band. 

 

This gathering also brought us rollicking recollections of memories drenched in too much alcohol, the stories punctuated with bawdy laughter.  We were way outside our normal social circle. 

 

How much of Jesus did they see?

But isn’t this the type of setting in which Jesus would have been found?  Aren’t these the very kinds of people He made a priority?   Surely a crowd like this was what the Pharisees had in mind when they accused Jesus of hanging out with “tax collectors and ‘sinners’.

 

Here’s what I think the Holy Spirit might be trying to teach me (and maybe you).   The fact that I might have been uncomfortable was less important than the need these people had for an encounter with an authentic Jesus-loving person.  The real issue was not my personal comfort, but what they personally took away from our encounter.  Exactly how much of Jesus did they see?  Did I put the spotlight on Him?

 

Parties…pagans…and possibilities.  They are all a great reminder of Christ’s words in Luke 5:32: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

 

 
Death Made Stranger  

Death is a strange thing.  But some have made it even stranger by preserving body parts of the deceased.  I am completely serious.  Following are eight examples from an article in The Ultimate Book of Randomly Awesome Facts, published by Scholastic.

  • Scientist Isaac Newton’s tooth was set in a ring and is now said to be worth thousands of dollars.
  • Russian leader Vladimir Lenin’s brain was sliced into 31,000 slivers so that it could be studied (wonder what they’ve discovered).
  • A lock of George Washington’s hair is kept in a locket in a Maine museum.
  • Scientist Albert Einstein’s eyes were removed and kept by one of his doctors.  No one seems to know why.
  • Composer Frederic Chopin’s heart lies in a crystal jar in Warsaw, Poland. 
  • Astronomer Galileo Galilei’s middle finger and thumb rest in a museum in Florence, Italy. 
  • One of Buddha’s teeth is said to have survived the fire that burned his funeral pyre, and is now in Sri Lanka.
  • Fragments of Abraham Lincoln’s skull—and the bullet that killed him—are in Maryland. 

Creepy, huh?

I once walked past the heavily waxed body of Mao Zedong in China.  And in Hanoi, we gawked at the preserved remains of Ho Chi Minh.  What is it with Communists preserving corpses? 

Biblically speaking, the treatment of a dead body ought to evoke respect—hence the custom of anointing bodies with spices.  Our souls, of course, represent incomparable worth.  But in the Scriptures, our bodies are treated with regard, as well.

1 Corinthians 15:52,53 assures us, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

I doubt that after I'm gone anyone will have the slightest interest in the tiniest slice of my brain.  But all joking aside, I shall be eternally grateful to have been “raised imperishable.”  

What will it be like to “put on immortality?”  Given our proneness to sickness, suffering, and death, aren’t you looking forward to finding out?

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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