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Monday, February 22, 2021

A Birthday Wish from George

Today, of course, is George Washington’s
 real birthday. I always thought this American giant was a cool dude. Of course, if he could hear me say that he would have no idea what I meant. How special to be known as “the father of our country.”

George did not print that on his business cards. The moniker came about in several stages. Levi Allen, younger brother of Ethan Allen, wrote to the General in January of 1776, praising him as "Our political Father and head of a Great People.” Almost two years later in late 1777, Henry Knox told George that "the People of America look up to you as their Father, and into your hands they entrust their all.” Heady stuff. 

It wasn’t like George loved the idea of being president. He received the news of his election win in the spring of 1789. He told his friend Knox,“My movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.”

It’s one thing to be the commander of forces who follow your direct orders. It’s another to be the politician who was forced to deal with infighting between the two major parties of his day—the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. (Hmmm, can you imagine such a hyphenated party existing today?) It’s also been reported that Thomas Jefferson challenged much of what Washington wanted to do in a newspaper he (Jefferson) helped fund. 

President Washington’s second term was especially challenging. He had to navigate relationships with France and Great Britain as they fought with each other and longed for his support. A treaty with the British barely slipped through the Senate but according to an official historian, it was “extremely unpopular with the American public.”

A particularly interesting article on the life of our first president was written by Richard Norton Smith more than 25 years ago. It’s titled, “The Surprising George Washington.” Smith writes, “On the last night of his life, having defied the might of the British empire and planted the seeds of republican government, the old hero was invited to challenge the very laws of nature.”

Apparently dear old George had developed a sore throat that turned out to be lethal. A practicing doctor friend, William Thornton, sped to Mount Vernon upon hearing the news to perform an emergency tracheotomy. He arrived too late, but refused to accept the death verdict. 

Here is what Thornton proposed: “First to thaw him in cold water, then to lay him in blankets, and by degrees and by friction to give him warmth, and to put into activity the minute blood vessels, at the same time to open a passage to the lungs by the trachea, and to inflate them with air, to produce an artificial respiration, and to transfuse blood into him from a lamb.” This process would have doubtfully received approval from the AMA.

Abigail Adams said of George Washington,"He has a dignity which forbids familiarity, mixed with an easy affability, which creates love and reverence.” The first POTUS advised his nephew Bushrod, "Be courteous to all, intimate with few, for true friendship is a plant of slow growth.” Wise counsel.

Perhaps George gained this understanding by reading about Jesus of Nazareth. In all times, people seek to know the deeper aspects of a leader’s soul. Of Jesus it was written, “Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.” John 2:23-25 (NLT)

Washington left us this advice: "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention.”

Wishful thinking, birthday boy!

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Silencing the Lambs

The words of Jesus were often quite piercing and challenging to those who could be described as “religious.” He also said some things that seem a bit harsh to the non-religious types. For example, in Matthew 15 we find a conversation between Jesus and a Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon possessed.

She pleaded with Jesus to help. He said nothing. She persisted. He explained His mission was “to the lost sheep of Israel.” But she was desperate and continued pleading. Jesus responded, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” You’d think this woman was officially silenced.

However, the woman pressed on by saying, “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” And Jesus tells her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” The daughter was healed at that moment.

Then there’s Jesus’ warning to His own disciples. In John 15 He tells them, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (vss 18-19, NIV)

The world will hate you?? Get ready for persecution. The most serious form of religious persecution involves killing. That will silence these people! Fact is, around the world, the number of Christians killed for their faith rose significantly in 2020 to the highest levels ever.

A seemingly far less severe form of persecution—to silence people of faith—is to create a false impression that their views are dangerous. Especially if these believers are challenging the flawed morals or political wrongdoings of the age. Such is becoming the case in the good ol’ USA. It’s now frequently seen by labeling reasonable opposition as “Christian nationalism.”

A couple of leading Christian thinkers have written about this recently. One of them is Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. I’ve placed a link below to his article, “Are Evangelicals Christian Nationalists”?

Daly referenced a story in USA Today by Rachel S. Mikva, a Jewish Studies professor at Chicago Theological Seminary. This article is titled, “Christian nationalism is a threat, and not just from Capitol attackers invoking Jesus.” If that isn’t eye-opening enough, here’s the next bitter pill from the sub-headline: “Christian nationalists inside our government are working quietly to take America for Jesus. They are the more resilient danger to religious pluralism.”

The professor targeted US Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri and an outspoken follower of Jesus. Hawley was a critic of the Capitol uprising of January 6th. But his Christian views seem to be the bigger issue to Ms. Mikva.

In response to this editorial, Jim Daly writes, “Lately, many on the left have been affixing the ‘Christian nationalist’ label to people like Senator Hawley. They’ve been aggressively exploiting that horrific January 6th attack and lumping all conservative Christians into one faction. Why? I believe it’s a calculated move done with the hope of silencing those who follow Christ.”

As Daly points out, Christian nationalism, which views God and government as co-equals, IS dangerous. With that mindset, good hearted people may “be motivated by the wrong things and might even be susceptible to being swept up into violent mobs like we saw in Washington last month.”

The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are to be good citizens. In that role, we serve our country best by acting with integrity and being advocates for the good of all people. We do this because we are instructed to love our neighbors. All of them.

The kind of editorial written by Professor Mikva and published by USA Today inspires a reaction toward evangelicals that is dangerous to the Republic and to free speech. Moreover, it leads to limiting the voices of Christ followers in the public square—a hefty price to pay.

But don’t be surprised as this happens more and more. Jesus warned us of such. Reread John 15: 18-19. Be a lamb … and speak up for Jesus.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: 

Monday, February 8, 2021


It’s February. Black History Month. This year, perhaps more than at any other time in my life, I am witnessing a collective effort to promote a theme beyond “can’t we all just get along.” The main thrust of this new pitch to “love one another” can be found in the sports world.

Both college and professional athletes wear slogans about unity and togetherness on uniforms and warm up jackets. The golf world is on board, too, with PGA sponsors explaining how they are working extra hard at giving more opportunity to minorities. Corporations are jumping on board and so are television networks. All are in the game, telling us of their noble efforts to live up to the idea that “all men (and women) are created equal.” (I know I’ve heard the somewhere before.)

And then, of course, there’s the call-out from our new leadership in Washington. As the recently elected president stepped forward to address Americans at his inauguration he said, “My whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause.” Truly sweet sentiments. But is there any substance?

Biden’s Catholic background presented him the opportunity to share ideas from one of the church fathers, St. Augustine. Kate Shellnutt, in writing for Christianity Today, wrote, “As Biden listed America’s common values, like opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and the truth, he quoted a teaching from Augustine…that ‘a people are a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.’”

Let’s consider those choice words of Biden: opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and the truth. I doubt there has been a time in American history when there has been more opportunity for people of any race or background. As for security, the destruction witnessed last summer ripped away peace in many communities. Can we even agree on how to gather in the face of the coronavirus? Do our political leaders demonstrate dignity, respect, honor, and truth? Look at the hearings for the last three Supreme Court appointees! Think America saw dignity and respect at work?

A presidential order has recently dictated that boys who claim to be girls can get on girls' sports teams. Even top female athletes have said this is absurd. We’ve now elevated transgenderism to a new height of normality—when it isn’t. Are we going to unify around that?

Speaking of dignity, honor, and truth—explain how a nation that values liberty for all can condemn to death innocent babies through abortion? And the doors are swinging wide open to increase this practice by new policy changes. Unity for that?

We are playing a game here. The price of admission for unity is to look the other way on the sins of our nation. Free speech seems to work for predators destroying our souls but not for those who challenge the cultural shifts.

The academic world and media are big advocates for freedom when it suits them. But try to become a teacher and express views from a conservative viewpoint. See how long you last in the system. Or watch as the Hollywood elites reject the few voices of faith who dare speak out on family friendly issues.

Because of these influences in our culture, families are becoming more divided as well. Unity? Try keeping two adults together in a marriage! Divorce rates are ridiculous. Furthermore, as I have read recently, several political voices have decided that our world (particularly Americans) can be divided up into two categories: the oppressed and the oppressors. How uncivil!

In my lifetime, the person leading our country who truly seemed to know our nation best was Ronald Reagan. Many of his “enemies” even found a way to like him. And he clearly understood both sides of the political coin.

Aside from the call to the Church in the Christian faith, you can count me out on the politically-driven unity bandwagon. I prefer the Truth bandwagon. Jesus of Nazareth said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (CSB)

There’s a leader worth following.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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Monday, February 1, 2021

The DAY is Coming

It’s stunning to consider how many events across our nation have been cancelled or minimized due to COVID-19 concerns. One of the nation’s premiere trade show locations has been dark for months. In the first quarter of 2021, cancellations at McCormick Place in Chicago included the Winter Volleyball Championship, SoxFest, the International Air-Conditioning/Heating/Refrigeration Exposition, and the Chicago Dental Society Annual Mid-winter Meeting—a huge event!

February is also the month that huge crowds turn out for the annual Chicago Auto Show. Not this year. Optimistic organizers are hoping the major event held at McCormick Place can occur this spring. Jenni Newman, editor in chief of, believes this demonstrates that Chicago is “resilient.” We’ll see.

Calculations for how much business revenue has been lost for the Windy City are into the gazillion-sphere. Beyond the convention sites, there’s hotel and restaurant revenue, tourism activities, transportation related income, etc. All because of some stinking, annoying, and deadly virus that escaped out of China last year.

Sadly, two very meaningful annual events that happen around this time also decided to forego their gatherings. The first is the annual March for Life. This highly visible mustering of thousands of pro-baby voices usually descends on Washington, D.C., in January. This year? A mostly virtual event. It was said that aside from the virus concerns, the issue of risk for police presence was also cause for the change. Figure that one out.

The first Thursday in February is traditionally when another significant gathering is held: The National Prayer Breakfast (NPB). The event, whose history dates back nearly seven decades, draws thousands of attendees from around the world. For 2021, the NPB will stream online as another victim of virtual togetherness.

A nonprofit group called the Fellowship Foundation organizes the annual affair. Sometimes known as the Family and the International Foundation, the Fellowship has put this gathering together since 1952. That year, President Dwight Eisenhower addressed nearly 400 politicians along with business and religious leaders.

Then, in 1953 with the help of members of Congress, what was once known as the Presidential Prayer Breakfast became a tradition. Billy Graham was a fixture on the dais for many years. Every president has spoken at the invitation-only event since 1953, often becoming one of the first post-inauguration speeches given by a new president.

I’ve attended a few of the “breakfasts”—although they are far more than a single morning event. Held in a hotel ballroom, some 3500 guests participate. There are international invitees from over 100 countries. Meetings take place before and after the actual breakfast, displaying a mission of how Jesus can make a difference bringing people together and changing individuals, communities, and governments. Many truly special stories emerge during this time.

Frankly, the absence of thousands of souls turning out for the March for Life and the National Prayer Breakfast robs us of the treasure found at each. Coming face to face and finding unity for the cause of Christ cannot produce the same beauty in a Zoom meeting. Spiritual synergy develops in person.

The devil’s playground is empty of joy. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Yes, it is great to be able to “see” family and friends by video—especially across the miles. But without the touches, the hugs, and the kisses of beloved family, there is still a sense of virtual emptiness. And no fake crowd noise or cardboard cutouts at sporting events can make up for the real thing.

COVID-19 may be showing us that truly “the Day” is drawing near.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: