Why Was The Christmas Star Visible From Afar But Not Noticed In Bethlehem?

There are many mysteries about the miracles that form the basis of Jesus Christ’s claim of divinity. Jesus is claimed to have healed the sick and raised the dead of the Roman province of Palestine during his short ministry. These miracles made him famous and inspired disciples to follow him but from a modern perspective, they are impossible to verify. The witnesses to these miracles are long dead. Even Lazarus and the others that Jesus restored to life eventually returned to the grave. However, there is one miracle associated with the life of Jesus that should be easy to verify because it was apparently visible from around the world.

The miracle of the Christmas star occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth and according to the Biblical account was visible to learned travelers from a distant land. Matthew tells us that the Magi saw a star that they recognized as symbolizing the birth of the king of the Jews and traveled to Jerusalem “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea” (Matt. 2:1). The star apparently appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth (2:7) and lasted months until the Magi could make their journey from a distant land. The problem for Christian believers is that other observers of the time don’t report significant astronomical events around the time of Jesus’ birth. The lack of reports would seem to rule out stars as well as nebulas and comets.

Beyond the lack of extrabiblical support for a stunning celestial display, there is another problem with the story of the Christmas star. There is a paradox in the Bible’s claim that the Magi could see the star from thousands of miles away while King Herod seemed ignorant of it only five miles away in Jerusalem. Any obviously bright star would be easily visible to anyone who looked up at night, yet Herod and his court were unaware of it.

Further, consider that stars typically seem to move when viewed from the earth’s surface. The location of stars is fixed in space, but the earth’s rotation makes them appear to move. A star that rises in the east would set in the west a few hours later yet the Bible says that the star “stopped over the place where the child was” (2:9). The typical depiction of the Christmas star as an immense, blindingly bright star hovering above the Bethlehem stable seems more and more unlikely.

The problems with identifying the star of Bethlehem seem insurmountable. The star was allegedly seen clearly from a great distance away but unobserved in and around Bethlehem. The meaning of the star was so obvious that the Magi left on an international trip yet other astronomers around the world missed it entirely. Stars normally move but this one was reportedly stationary. The problems are so difficult that many consider the Christmas star to be nothing more than a myth.

A clue to the answer can be found in the original Greek text of the New Testament. In his fascinating look at the historical foundations of the Bible, “The Bible As History,” Werner Keller pointed out that in verse two, the Greek word translated as “star” for thousands of years is actually plural rather than singular.

Keller offers a theory as to the identity of Matthew’s Christmas stars. For hundreds of years prior to the time of Christ, Jewish exiles had lived in Babylon. Babylon, located to the east of Palestine in present-day Iraq, was also the home of an advanced school of astronomy. Clay tablets discovered by archaeologists that date back to more than 400 years before the time of Christ detail calculations by which the Babylonians could predict the paths of the planets, which of course look like stars when viewed without a telescope.

Two planets in particular may have been of interest to the Magi. Jupiter, the king of the planets, was considered to be a royal star and was also associated with luck. The second largest planet, Saturn, was associated with Israel according to ancient Jewish traditions described by Tacitus, a famous Roman historian.

Keller describes how Jupiter and Saturn came together not once but twice in 7 BC. The first conjunction occurred on May 29 and was followed by a second on October 3. He writes that the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would have taken about six weeks by camel caravan in Biblical times. It would have been unwise to undertake such a journey across Middle Eastern deserts at the beginning of summer but an October departure would have placed the Magi in Jerusalem in late November. This would place the birth of Jesus prior to the onset of winter in Palestine when shepherds would have still had their flocks in the fields (Luke 2:8).

Frederick Larson of BethlehemStar.com has a similar theory but arrived at a different date for the star’s appearance. Larson looked at the movements of the heavens and found an interesting occurrence over a period of months in the years 3 and 2 BC. At that time, Jupiter and Regulus, a star the Romans considered royal, entered a triple conjunction that would certainly have attracted the attention of Babylonian astrologers.

Larson also provides an answer for how the star could have stopped above the stable in Bethlehem. If the Magi were observing Jupiter from Jerusalem as it entered retrograde, the planet would have appeared to stop over the town of Bethlehem, five miles to their south. One of the dates that this could have occurred was December 25, 2 BC.

Regardless of which celestial event is the particular one observed by the Magi, the theory that the eastern travelers observed astrological signs that pointed them to the newborn Messiah is an idea that can overcome the difficulties inherent in a traditional reading of the Christmas story. The astrological event would have been visible to trained observers but would not have been apparent to King Herod or the people of Judea. The meaning of the signs would have been lost on other astronomers who were not aware of the association of various planets and stars with Israel and Judaism.

The search for the Christmas star has lessons for those who are seeking God. At the outset, it seemed that it was impossible that the account of the star could be more than a myth. The very idea seemed to make no sense and the problems presented by skeptics seemed insurmountable.

Upon closer inspection, however, when the original writings and understanding of the Bible’s writers were taken into account, it turns out that there is a rational explanation that can back up the story of Matthew’s Magi. As it was with the ancient Jews, who thought the Messiah would be a military leader who would overthrow the hated Romans, our problem with the Christmas star lies in our lack of understanding of what the Bible’s writers were trying to convey. When we put aside our preconceived ideas about what the star must have been, we find the answer was there all along.

The lesson of the Christmas star is that God answers those who seek him. While not all of the answers and explanations to Biblical questions are readily apparent, we do have enough answers to know that Christian faith can be based on verifiable facts and does not have to be a blind faith. The Bible’s accuracy is a launching point for the relationship with Christ that offers our only hope for conquering death.

That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Why I Believe In The God Of The Bible

Earlier this year, I had cancer. Thankfully, it was only a stage one melanoma that was easily removed, but to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, the possibility of death concentrates the mind wonderfully. Some of the things that my mind concentrated on were God, the afterlife and whether my own religious beliefs reflected the true path to heaven.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and at times it has occurred to me that, for most of us, our religious beliefs are somewhat hereditary. We are Christians or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists because we were raised in families and communities that followed those traditions. For something as important as the final destination of our immortal souls, we should probably look beyond what our family and neighbors believe and seek out the objective truth.

I’m a rational and logical person. Generally, when making decisions and forming opinions, I look for objective facts. Religion is no different. If we base our religious beliefs solely on subjective feelings and emotions, then we can’t be sure that we have the truth. Adherents of all religions feel that they have the truth, but they can’t all be right.

Investigating God and religion is actually a two-stage process. The first question is whether God and the spirit world exists at all. When that question is answered in the affirmative, the second question is which of the myriad religions comes closest to accurately reflecting the true message that God has given us. In my case, I’ve had several incidents in my life that proved the existence of the spirit world beyond my doubt so the question was whether Christianity truly represented God’s plan.

Determining whether writings and beliefs about something as intangible as spirits are true can be difficult, but the Bible actually contains some good and objective advice on how this can be accomplished. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says, “If the word [of a prophet] does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken.” It turns out that determining truth is actually pretty easy. Just look to seek if prophecies match reality.

Objective research should include listening to both sides of an argument as well as considering alternatives. Objectively, religious claims cannot be used to prove themselves. External, impartial evidence should be used to corroborate religious claims. Not every statement made by religious texts is verifiable, but many are. Differences in language and points of view between the ancient writers and modern readers should be considered as we do so.

For example, there are several statements in the Quran that are at odds with modern science. The Quran claims that the earth is flat and that semen “comes out from between the backbone and the ribs.” The Quran also claims that there are seven planets. Muslim apologists have explanations for these passages, but these claims seem to be irrefutably wrong. Such mistakes seem inconsistent with a book that Muslims believe “exists today in the precise form and content in which it was originally revealed.” Likewise, the historical claims made in the Book Of Mormon fail to match archaeological fact.

With respect to prophetic claims, a list of fulfilled prophecies from the Quran seems very vague and open to interpretation. Another fulfilled prophecy, a great fire “in the land of the Hijaz which will illuminate the necks of the camels in Busra,” occurred some 640 years after Mohammed’s death, but is not actually recorded in the Quran.

In contrast, many of the historical claims of the Bible can be verified by archaeology. “The Bible as History” by Werner Keller is a classic text that describes much of the scientific evidence for the historical books of the Old Testament. King David, long thought by many to be a myth, is referenced in an inscription commemorating the victories of an Aramean king that was discovered in 1993. “Patterns of Evidence,” a 2015 documentary, provides plausible evidence for the Exodus by postulating that scholars were looking at the wrong dates in history.

When it comes to science, there are many claims that the Bible is in error. A representative list can be found here on Rational Wiki. Unlike Islam’s scientific claims, most of the problems have simple solutions. Some purported Biblical errors are due to a literal reading of passages that weren’t intended to be taken literally. For example, in Matthew 13:31-21, Jesus is not making the claim that there are no seeds physically smaller than a mustard seed, but that is the message that some critics get from the verse. Another example is Leviticus 11:20-23 in which the Biblical description of insects differs from the modern scientific definition. This problem is easily resolved by considering the differences in language between the Bible’s writers, later translators and modern readers. Deuteronomy 20:16-18 is held up as an error because DNA studies show that ancient Canaanites survived the Israelite invasion. The Deuteronomy verse shows that the Israelites were commanded to kill the Canaanites, but other verses, such as Judges 3:5-8 show that they failed to do so.

A claim that the Bible violates mathematic law is also dependent on assumptions by the reader. Critics claim that the large bowl described in 1 Kings 7:23-26 could not have existed because the measurements don’t fit the mathematic equation for circumference. If the Bible is right, they claim, pi would have to equal 3.0 instead of 3.14. Leaving aside rounding error and the lack of a standard measurement, the critics fail to note that the description of the brim of the bowl was “a handbreadth thick.” The equation could be thrown off by the difference between the inner and outer dimensions of the brim.

With respect to prophecy, the Bible makes numerous specific prophecies that can be tested against historical records for accuracy. Rational Wiki also provides a list of Biblical prophecies that the authors claim were in error. As even the compilers of the list acknowledge, some of these prophecies were contingent on the behavior of the recipients of the message. The classic example is Jonah’s prophecy that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. The prophecy fulfilled its intended purpose when the people of Nineveh repented and so the prophecy was never fulfilled. Similarly, some prophecies are end-time prophecies that have not been fulfilled yet.

A more difficult case is the prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city of Tyre in Ezekiel 26. Critics say that the destruction of Tyre never happened and that the city continues to exist today on an island in contradiction to the prophecy. Archaeological evidence, however, suggests that the city of Tyre was primarily a mainland city in ancient days. Nebuchadnezzar apparently destroyed the mainland portion of the city while some survivors escaped to the island, which was later destroyed by Alexander the Great. One view is that fulfillment of the prophecy was begun by Nebuchadnezzar and completed by Alexander. Interestingly, verse 12 sounds like a very specific description of how Alexander used the rubble of the destroyed city to build a causeway to the island and finish Tyre’s destruction.

A few chapters later, in Ezekiel 29:17-20, the prophet talks about the destruction of Tyre as if it has already happened. In the same passage, he says that Nebuchadnezzar will defeat Egypt. This happened in 605 BC at the Battle of Carchemish.  Critics argue that Babylon never completely conquered Egypt, but the prophecy merely says that Nebuchadnezzar would plunder his enemy. Two other passages, Ezekiel 30 and Isaiah 19 are also cited as prophecies that were erroneous. The opinion of many theologians is that these are end-time prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled.

To me, one of the most compelling proofs of the Bible is what Rabbi Jonathan Cahn calls “the anti-witness” in his devotional book, “The Book of Mysteries.” Cahn points out that if the biblical claim that the Jews are God’s chosen people is not true, there would be no reason for the age-old persecution of Jews. Instead, we find that Jews not only have been the subject of attempts at racial extermination throughout history but that they have survived as a genetically and culturally distinct group more than 2,000 years after Judah ceased to exist as an independent kingdom.

A friend recently pointed out to me the historical evidence that God used hostile nations to judge the Jews, but then judged those nations in turn because they attacked his chosen nation. The pattern repeats many times. Egypt, a longtime enemy of ancient Israel, was conquered several times by Assyria, Persia and finally Rome in 31 BC. After the death of Solomon, ancient Israel split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. The kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria around 740 BC. Assyria became the conquered less than 150 years later in 612 BC at the hands of Medo-Persians and Babylonians. Judah was conquered by Babylon in 586 BC. Only 50 years later in 539 BC, Babylon fell to the Persians led by Cyrus the Great. In AD 70, Rome recaptured Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish temple at the culmination of the First Jewish Revolt. Nine years later, Mt. Vesuvius erupted during a festival celebrating Vulcan, the god of fire. This eruption, which destroyed Pompeii and several other cities, still ranks as one of the worst volcanic disasters in history. In 1945, Germany’s extermination of Jews was interrupted by the country’s total defeat at the hands of the Allies. Since World War II, the modern state of Israel is undefeated even against numerically superior Arab forces. Clearly, making war on the Jews can be harmful to your health.

When it comes to determining the truth and validity of the Bible, there is an added complexity. The Bible is not one book but is actually an anthology that is broken into two parts: The Old and New Testaments. While many of the details of the Old Testament can be verified through archaeology, the New Testament largely consists of theological books and the story of Yeshua, a Jewish carpenter better known to the world as Jesus. These themes do not lend themselves to archaeological fact-checking.

Accordingly, some claim today that Jesus never existed and is only a fictional character. This point is easily disproved through ancient writings that reference Jesus as a real person. Validating Jesus’s claims of divinity are more difficult to prove, however.

Even though the New Testament books weren’t written down until long after the death (and alleged resurrection of Jesus), there is evidence that Paul’s letters contain early church creeds that confirm that the message of the books written later was true to the story of Jesus. The evidence is that the content of the New Testament has been unchanged since the first century.

Skeptics also dispute the gospel claims about the death and resurrection of Jesus, the foundation of the Christian faith. The details of gospel story have been thoroughly investigated and found plausible by such one-time skeptics as Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and J. Warner Wallace. I encourage any seeker to read their answers to skeptical charges that the gospel accounts are unreliable.

No matter how much evidence there is, in the final analysis there is no definitive proof for spiritual matters. Ultimately, everyone has to make a decision as to what they believe and how to react to that belief. Belief itself is not enough. James 2:19 points out that even the demons believe in God. Forgiveness and salvation only come when we add submission to God’s authority to our belief (Romans 10:9).

Even though I cannot offer conclusive proof that the Bible is true and that Jesus is the only way to heaven, I have made the choice to believe and accept that truth. This faith is not a blind faith. It’s based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Yes, I’m Jumping to Conclusions on Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

A man walked in to a small Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, outside of San Antonio this morning during worship and massacred the congregation. Nearly half the 50 attendees are dead, and 20 more (according to reports) wounded.

I am prepared to jump to a conclusion.

It was evil, and regardless of who did it and why, it was not done as a result of Christian teaching or actions. It was, in fact, done by a person who does not in any way follow Jesus Christ. Labels do not apply here. If the shooter was nominally a “Christian,” I say he was not.

A person who does this, however, could be of another religious persuasion, where many condone this kind of act.

There’s no possible way a Christian could do this. I am not falling into the “No True Scotsman” fallacy here. I mean this literally. A Christian produces the fruit of the Spirit of God–the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Murder is not a fruit of the Spirit. Nobody is commissioned as judge, jury and executioner in the Bible. This morning, at our church, the sermon turned to Numbers 15, where God ordered a man stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath.

Some will inevitably raise this kind of Scripture, whether the shooter turns out to identify as Christian, atheist, Muslim or whatever. They will draw an equivalence to other evil acts, essentially saying that God ordered murder–therefore God violates His own commandments and is evil.

Theologically, morally, and logically, the arguments are rubbish. The Scripture says “the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man shall be put to death.'” The punishment was harsh, but it was also for the individual, not for the crime. God didn’t say “all Sabbath-breakers must be put to death.” God is a perfect judge–the only perfect judge. God told Moses, and the congregation, acting as government, executed the sentence. It was the death penalty, and regardless of what we think about the penalty or the severity of the crime, it was God who ordered it under His authority.

The moral equivalence arguers will bring up Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. Joshua didn’t actually do what the Lord commanded, and many, many multiples of lives, over the number that God commanded Joshua to take, have been lost over the centuries.

Millions of Muslims today hold to a version of Islam that condones physical jihad against Christians, slaughtering them while they worship at church. It happened in Minya province last May in Egypt, where 28 Coptic Christians were killed and 25 were wounded in an attack on their bus. In December 2015, 25 Christians were murdered at church in a bombing. If the shooter was a Muslim, some other Muslims will cheer this act.

If the shooter called himself a Christian, we might puzzle over “what happened” but nobody can make the connection that a person with Christ in his heart could do this. Full stop.

I’m jumping to a conclusion that the shooter could have been an atheist. The shooter could have been an ISIS-inspired radical Muslim, following an interpretation of the Quran which has a serious theological following. But the shooter could not have been an actual Christian, for no serious Bible scholar interprets the Scripture in a way that condones mass murder of any group.

Call me closed-minded, or claim I’m falling for the “No True Scotsman” fallacy all you want. I don’t care if the shooter walked straight in from preaching at his own pulpit–he could not be a Christian.

This is the biggest problem the modern American church has. By refusing to call out sin where we find it–actual Biblical sin–we open ourselves up to anyone calling themselves “Christian” then going out and doing evil. This shooting was evil and sinful. Would God have forgiven it? The Bible says yes, although the shooter is dead and has no further opportunity for grace.

There’s only one category of Christian that matters: We are all former sinners.

I mourn the dead and pray for the survivors and the families of all in this horrific slaughter. But I won’t tolerate anyone claiming it was done by an actual Christian, no matter what he called himself.

His Eye Is On The Sparrow…

It turned out to be a strange drive to work.

Earlier this week, I was making my usual drive to Houston’s Hobby airport to catch a flight. I was only few blocks from the airport when a car next to me started honking its horn. I looked around and the driver was frantically motioning for me to roll down my window. When I did, he urgently said that I had a problem with my right front tire and that I needed to pull over.

The neighborhood around Hobby is not the best, but it was daylight and plenty of people were around. Thinking that I probably had a flat tire, I whipped into a gas station to check the tire and look for an air pump. As I parked in front of the station, the other car pulled up beside me.

A tall, thin Hispanic man in his mid-20s jumped out and rushed over. I noticed that there was a woman holding a baby in the front passenger seat. In the rush, I didn’t think until later that the baby should have been in a car seat. At the time, I just made the judgement that they didn’t seem like a threat.

Although difficult to understand because of his accent, the man told me that my right front tire had been wobbling and smoking. He said that he thought I might have a steering problem or a brake issue and that he didn’t think the car was safe to drive.

I had not seen or heard anything abnormal. There was no brake noise and the car didn’t shake as you would expect with a bad tire. When I looked at the tire, it was properly inflated. There was no leaking brake fluid or any sign of a problem. I wondered what the man’s game was.

I told him that I was only a few blocks from where I was going and that I would be careful. He seemed alarmed and said again that the car was not safe, offering to call a tow truck to take it to a garage.

Aha! I thought. You’ll call your friend’s tow truck to take me to his garage where you’ll stick me with a huge bill.

“No thanks,” I told him. “I know a shop where I can take it.”

As I got in and started to back out of the parking space, the man made a cross with his finger in the dust on my windshield. He seemed to be praying as I pulled away.

I thought about stopping by a shop that was near where I planned to park, but there seemed to be nothing wrong. Eventually I decided to just proceed with my original plan.

While on my trip, I talked to a friend who was a mechanic. The man’s behavior baffled him.

“If there was a brake or tire problem, you should feel either the wheel or the steering column shaking,” he said. Both of us thought that the guy was a scam artist.

When I returned, I drove home. I drove a little slower than normal, paying attention for strange sounds or vibrations. Everything seemed normal.

The next day, just to be on the safe side, I took the car to my normal shop and asked them to check it out. I didn’t expect to find anything wrong. Instead, their inspection revealed that the brake caliper on the right, front tire had been sticking. When I released the brake, the caliper stayed engaged and was wearing down the brake pads. This caused the caliper and the pads to get very hot and caused the smoke the man had seen.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. The right front tire had a bulge the size of a fist that could have caused a blowout. The bulge was unrelated to the brakes, but, if it hadn’t been for the brake problem, the tire problem would probably not have been discovered until too late. You see, the bulge was on the sidewall of the tire on the side that was underneath the car. There was no way to see it without taking the tire off.

If it had not been for the man who pulled me over, I would have probably had a blowout soon. Given my driving patterns, the odds are that it would have been on the interstate where the consequences could have been disastrous.

Some may attribute my near miss to random chance, but I have to ascribe the miraculous timing of the incident to God’s intervention. While it would be easy to call it a coincidence, I have seen too many similar coincidences to accept that they all represent random chance.

In fact, my mother owes her life to a similar “coincidence.” Several years ago, she developed abdominal pains and was rushed to the emergency room. While there, she was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. The cancer was already in the lymph nodes, but treatable. If she had discovered the disease only a few days later, the cancer might have spread through out her whole body.

After her successful surgery, there was another “coincidence” when she suffered a gall bladder attack and had to have her gall bladder removed. The gall bladder surgery came just before she started chemotherapy. If it had happened only a few works later, with her immune system weakened by the chemotherapy, it would have been much more dangerous.

I don’t know if the man who pulled me over was merely a Good Samaritan or an angel is disguise, but I do believe that he was sent by God. When I wondered if I had imagined the whole thing, I looked on my windshield for the cross. It was still there.

If he reads this, I’d like to say thanks and tell him that I’m sorry for doubting him. Wherever he is, may God bless him and his family.

And thanks to God for sending him. The incident proves again that, as the hymn says, “his eye is on the sparrow (Matt6:26) and I know he watches me.”

Liberals Must Have Mixed Emotions At Reports of Trump Mocking Pence

In what must be an ideologically and emotionally confusing read for liberals, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer goes on the attack against Vice President Mike Pence and, in the process, manages to paint President Trump in a somewhat sympathetic light for social liberals who are critical of the Christian right.

The article, “The Danger of President Pence,” is essentially a hit piece on the vice president and a cautionary tale. “The worse the President looks, the more desirable his understudy seems,” Mayer writes, but then warns, “If the job is a gamble for Pence, he himself is something of a gamble for the country.”

It seems that, in spite of his loyalty to the unorthodox President Trump, Mike Pence is (gasp!) “’a full-spectrum conservative’ on social, moral, economic, and defense issues.” Mayer notes that Pence could be easily considered an establishment Republican who has strong connections to deep-pocketed Republican donors including the bogeymen of leftist dark money concerns, the Koch brothers.

Anti-religious leftists will enjoy the most-quoted sections of Mayer’s piece, those which detail how President Trump mocked Pence’s Christian beliefs. Mayer quotes several associates and staff members who say that Trump likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” Trump reportedly asks people who have met with the vice president, “Did Mike make you pray?”

The president also reportedly teased Pence about his pro-life views and his opposition to the gay rights movement. Sources say that in a meeting with a legal scholar who pointed out that states might choose to legalize abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned, Trump said, “You see? You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.”

When talk at the same meeting turned to homosexuality, Trump gestured toward Pence. “Don’t ask that guy,” Trump said. “He wants to hang them all!”

The New Yorker article paints Vice President Pence as someone who believes what he says and who acts on those beliefs. Mayer includes a laundry list of socially conservative issues where Pence took stands as governor of Indiana, from tax cuts (“Pence’s commitment to the Kochs was now ironclad”) to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, although he does get a pat on the back from her for opting in to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Interestingly, Mayer points out that both the height of Trump’s campaign and the biggest scandal that he has faced are both linked to Mike Pence. Pence’s connections to Republican donors made Trump’s election victory possible. Pence also helped make Trump palatable to Midwestern and Christian voters who were not natural supporters of the brash New Yorker.

At the opposite extreme, Pence was embroiled in the Michael Flynn firing that ultimately grew into the full-fledged Russia investigation. Unlike the other potential VP candidate, Chris Christie, Pence did not raise objections to Flynn’s appointment as National Security Advisor. Flynn was fired in February for lying to Pence about contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition period.

Although Trump’s mocking comments are what has generated the headlines, Mayer’s main message is that, if Trump is impeached or forced to resign, liberals might like Pence even less. “Democrats should hope Trump stays in office,” said Democrat strategist Harold Ickes, noting that Pence would likely be much more effective at working with Congress and implementing a conservative agenda.

Star NFL QB Explains the Secret to His Successful Marriage: Jesus is the Foundation

Los Angeles (formally San Diego) Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is known for many things. Since taking over the reins as starting quarterback in 2006, Rivers has never missed a start, thrown at least 20 touchdowns a season, and passed for more than 4,000 yards in eight of the last nine. He is well on his way to being the greatest QB in Chargers history, and while his records and accolades are readily bandied about, less discussed is his unwavering commitment to his family and his strong connection to his faith. In a recent sit-down with Rock Church’s Pastor Miles McPherson (a former San Diego Charger himself), Rivers opened up about his Catholic upbringing and how his relationship with Christ informs every decision that he makes.

Watch the conversation below:

Read the full story at Faithwire.com.

God Save America

Independence Day is a time of celebration. As most Americans know, the day marks the nation’s birthday. July 4, 1776 was the date of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States. As such, July 4 marks the anniversary of a momentous day in world history and is definitely a day worth celebrating.

It is also appropriate for the Fourth of July to be a day of introspection. Are we upholding the trust of the Founding Fathers? Are we really on the road to making America great again?

In his inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington wrote, “The propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” Can we honestly say our nation is not disregarding these “eternal rules of order and right?”

Today both sides of the political spectrum seem to prize disorder and crass behavior. In contrast to George Washington, who, according to legend, uttered the famous phrase, “I cannot tell a lie,” political leaders of both parties now seem incapable of telling the truth. Over the past few decades, our politics has become a satire of itself in which outlandish behavior and immature antics rule the day.

Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, “The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.” But 200 years later, only about half of Americans attend church. Even in red, Bible Belt states with churches located on every corner, most people are not in the pews on Sunday morning.

While most Americans still believe in God, many mistrust organized religion and are ignorant of religious doctrines. As a result, Bible verses are easily taken of context to justify anything and everything. Spirituality has become “cafeteria-style” for many Americans: a little of this and a little of that, regardless of historical evidence, context and doctrine.

The lack of religious understanding has led to many problems in American society. These range from high crime rates to a breakdown in the work ethic to a sharp increase in out-of-wedlock births. These factors and more contribute to out-of-control entitlement spending and a skyrocketing national debt. A vicious cycle of entitlements and broken families is breaking federal and state treasuries.

To an extent that seems greater than almost any point in our history, with the exception of the War Between the States, Americans are so at odd with each other that partisans of each side can scarcely speak to each other. In many cases, it seems that right and left barely speak the same language.

“Compromise” has become a dirty word as both the right and left insist “My way or the highway.” Elements of both the right and left, from California to Texas, are ready to call the Union quits and go their separate ways.

America is in trouble. And our decline is beyond our capacity as mere mortals to reverse. Political leaders can’t make America great again. Neither are top-down economic policies the solution for a cultural decay that began with a national rejection of the God who made us great to begin with. We need to realize the spiritual dimension of America’s problems and recognize that spiritual problems cannot be solved by political policies.

Like the ancient state of Israel, America was created to fill a role in the world. With God’s blessings came prosperity and power. It became easy to assume, however, that America’s greatness was due to America itself. Success caused many in Israel and America to turn away from the true source of their greatness. The result is that greatness is being lost.

Tocqueville also wrote, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Freedom requires that people be responsible for themselves and that they have the morals to maintain peace and justice without the presence of a police state. It is difficult to establish an objective morality without an objective God.

If we truly want to make America great again, look away from Washington and the White House. Don’t focus on the political parties and their platforms. Don’t expect salvation from political leaders.

America’s salvation can only come from the Divine Providence that made her great in the first place. Focus on God, spreading the Gospel and doing God’s will in your community. Pray for national revival and America can be made great again from ground up.

As we sing “God bless America” this Independence Day, we should also acknowledge our individual and national sins and implore from our knees, “God save America.” Only he can.

American Patriotic Songs Praise God

The past few decades have seen a great debate about the separation of church and state. Christian symbols and references to God are often purged from history books and the public landscape on the grounds that the First Amendment prohibition on a state religion mandated a secular nation.  The claim that America was established apart from God and religion is easily debunked when we read the words of Founders, but all we have to do is sing patriotic songs to see how inextricably the idea of divine providence is to American freedom.

The two most obvious songs that link God and country are Irving Berlin’s “God bless America” and Lee Greenwood’s “God bless the USA.” Both songs are recent additions to the American patriotic anthology. Berlin wrote “God bless America” in 1938 and originally included an introduction that foreshadowed the looming world war. “God bless the USA” was released in 1984, but achieved classic status in 1991 with America’s victory in the Persian Gulf War. These two recent songs are far from the only songs that link America to divine providence, however.

Although “Yankee Doodle” is remembered today as the anthem of the Revolutionary War, “Chester” was a song that rivaled “Yankee Doodle” in popularity at the time. Originally composed as a hymn in 1770 by William Billings, an associate of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, the original lyrics were revised in 1778 and the song became a popular marching song for Continental soldiers:

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,

And Slav’ry clank her galling chains;

We fear them not, we trust in God—

New England’s God forever reigns.

The song specifically credited God with leading the Continental Army to victory over the British:

When God inspired us for the fight,

Their ranks were broke, their lines were forced,

Their ships were shattered in our sight,

Or swiftly driven from our coast.

Another early patriotic song that often served as an unofficial national anthem was “My Country Tis of Thee.” This song combines the melody of the English national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” with words written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. The fourth verse pays homage to God as the author of liberty and asks for his protection:

Our fathers’ God to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright,

With freedom’s holy light,

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God our King.

The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” may be the most theological of the American patriotic songs. The lyrics were written in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe while the music was borrowed by “John Brown’s Body,” which in turn came from a Methodist hymn, “Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us?” by William Steffe. From the opening line of “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” every stanza carries overt references the Christian God, but the fourth verse is particularly religious:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.

Even the “Star Spangled Banner,” which officially became the national anthem in 1931, has religious references. The story of the “Star Spangled Banner” is well known. The lyrics were penned by Francis Scott Key as he watched the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry from the deck of a British warship in 1814. Key’s words were set to the music of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a British drinking song composed in 1775.

The fourth verse of the “Star Spangled Banner,” like several other patriotic songs, credits God with saving the United States. It also contains the origin of “In God we trust,” the official motto of the United States since 1956.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The “lost” verse of the “Star Spangled Banner” became an internet sensation in 2010 with an impromptu performance by a former Marine named Louis at a Tea Party rally in Douglasville, Ga. Louis’ rendition of the fourth verse was posted on You Tube and eventually generated more than 11 million views. (You might even catch a glimpse of the author of this article who was in attendance that day standing by the blue tent).

These patriotic songs take their cue from the father of the country himself, George Washington. In his inaugural address in 1789, Washington gave credit for American independence to God, saying, “No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States.” Washington also warned future generations, “the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Regardless of your views on church and state separation, when you sing patriotic songs this Independence Day you will be praising God. That follows the tradition that goes back to the earliest days of our Republic.