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When my family and I looked to move several years ago from a tiny, less than 1,000-square-foot house near the foot of the mountain to a house much more suitable for our family of five, I feared that even if we found an appropriately sized house, I would never find one in a location that I liked nearly as well.

I have never been so happy to be wrong about anything. God directed us to what I lovingly call "the miracle house," a large home that looked like someone had detonated a bomb inside it. Because of the extensive damage, we were able to easily afford it, and I have been repairing and renovating it as we live in it. And so for the past five years or so, we have lived on the Broad River. I have always been at home in or on the water; any water. So to be in a place where we can swim, fish, kayak and enjoy the sights of herons and egrets and other aquatic wildlife is just heavenly to me.

Kayaks, of course, were a must.

We have spent countless hours in those kayaks lazily making our way downstream to the greenway just a couple of miles from the house. But a couple of years ago, I, the fairly powerful weightlifter, decided I would paddle upstream a mile or so and check things out up that way. My wife, naturally, was dubious.

"Upstream? How do you intend to do that?" she asked with no small amount of incredulity. For answer, I flexed in front of her. That earned me the standard eye roll from my dear bride. Undaunted by her lack of faith in me, I took to the water and began to paddle. My confidence was brimming as my powerful strokes broke the water. I paddled for maybe a minute or so, then looked to my left and saw Dana still standing on the bank parallel to me. That wasn't good.

For several minutes I gave it everything I had. My arms and shoulders were screaming, but I did make progress — about 50 yards of progress. As it turns out, going upstream is really, really hard, which is why everyone in their right mind goes downstream instead. While this is logical and sensible when it comes to kayaking, it is utterly disastrous when it comes to society right now.

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, gave command and counsel regarding "upstream versus downstream." It is as follows: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1-2)

Be not conformed to this world. Or, as we would put it, "Don't be like the world around you. Be different. Go upstream instead of downstream." It isn't easy to do, especially these days. But it is more important than ever. A whole lot of society is going way downstream, and people who should know better are floating merrily downstream along with it.

One of the first realizations that everyone needs to come to is that no matter what color you are, hating someone else because of their skin color is sin. Blacks are being stirred up to hate whites, whites are being encouraged to hate Blacks, and it is as wicked as hell itself either way. Worse, people who proclaim friendship and love for those of other races are often insulted in the vilest of terms by hatemongers of their own race. Swim upstream on this one; reject the downward flowing sewage stream of race hate.

Another choice that will need to be made is to forcefully reject the anti-police stream that will take all of us over a cliff to our national ruin at some point. I can clearly see and hear the hate and vitriol spewed at these selfless heroes on a daily basis. I see how popular a person can instantly become when speaking in those terms and how hated one can become by defending our men and women in blue. But literally no one is more valuable and essential to the survival of a society than the more than 1 million men and women of every ethnic background on Earth who put on the law enforcement officer badge in America each day and willingly put themselves in harm's way, often for those who despise them.

Finally, we will have to swim upstream against hopelessness. I tremble a bit as I see people giving up under the strain of a national lockdown, economic uncertainties, rioters burning towns to the ground and the constant barrage of negativity that drives cable ratings up while bringing people down. In times like these, hope will need to be a decision, not happenstance. Waking up and starting your day with prayer, praise and a song to the king of kings will need to be a choice, not serendipity. Optimism will need to be born of counting your blessings, not of looking around and seeing an absence of problems. God was not dead last night, isn't going to die today and will still be alive and on the throne tomorrow.

I intend to go upstream. Join me.

Just not in a kayak.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim @cbc-web.org.

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Pastor Bo Wagner

 

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