Thursday, December 25, 2008

The real Joy of Christmas

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This Christmas, we decided to slim down the number of gifts
we were going to give our kids, focusing on getting them the
one or two things they really wanted more than anything else.

We shopped for the items online, and with mounting excitement
we read the descriptions of the items; we checked for the best
prices, made our choices, and clicked "Submit Your Order" when
we were ready... A week or so later we received the items on
the front porch, and we gleefully opened them to examine the
contents and to make plans for transport, wrapping, etc.

In the past few days we cheerfully shopped for a few add-ons,
enjoying the anticipation of seeing their little faces light up
on Christmas morning... And as I was driving away from the
Best Buy the other night, it occurred to me:

This is FUN!!

And that got me to thinking (once again) about the nature of Love:
Love is mostly a VERB instead of a noun; it consists of things
you DO for your beloved... And those things almost always
boil down to GIVING to the beloved... And then I recalled that
I have often heard and read about how HAPPY people are, how
contented and fulfilled they feel, when they are unselfishly
giving to those around them, and how "rich" people are often
said to be so miserable (presumably because they're consumed
with things like possessions and status)...

... and then I recalled how I, too, an often-selfish person
side-tracked by my own desires and wants and needs and thoughts,
can once-in-awhile get out of myself and focus on GIVING
to those around me (or to anyone for whom I can perform what
are sometimes called "Random Acts of Kindness), and I recalled
how HAPPY I too am when I succeed in doing so...

"It is more blessed to Give than to Receive"...

My experience with getting Christmas gifts for my kids
(and of course this was not the first time) reminded me again,
as I literally smiled as I drove back to the house the other
night, that I'd MUCH rather give gifts than receive them;
it's truly an enjoyable experience to watch your beloved enjoy
those acts of Love.

Well of course these thoughts led me directly to John 3:16:
"God loved the whole world so much that He gave
the most precious thing to Him - His own Son - so that anyone
who believes won't perish but receive the gift of LIFE, forever".

This means me. This means YOU. And I smiled again as I tried
to picture the Father, ever since (and because of) the Fall, tee-ing up
the Greatest Gift of All ... excitement building for thousands of years...
hardly able to contain Himself as His Gift to the world was unwrapped
from the physical packaging of a virgin's body... on Christmas morning...
all those years ago, in a filthy cattle cave in Bethlehem.

But of course THIS Gift was a mixture of profound Pain as well
as Pleasure for God; the FUN for Him is when any of us accept the Gift
and then LOVE Him back by giving to -- Loving -- those around us.

Merry Christmas.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Countering the Homosexual Mindset

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There has been a good deal of attention in the media lately related to "gay"
issues, due in part to recent events on both the political and social scenes...
On the whole subject of Homosexuality, I for one have no interest at all in
judging and condemning a "gay" human being; God will eventually do that with all the
power and authority that are part of His very nature, AND, I am too concerned
about that same power coming down on my OWN sins to pay much attention to
anyone else's...

Two of the very best treatments I have ever heard regarding Homosexuality and
the Christian are in a couple of sermons that were given at our church
not long ago... HERE is one and HERE is the other...

But since this is a Blog that attempts critical thinking about World Views,
primarily the Christian World View, and since its conclusion is that the
Christian World View is absolutely True, then my interest in discussing anything
related to homosexuality centers primarily on what I see as being fundamental
errors in what we hear the homosexual community saying, often, and loudly:

"Natural is Good"
This is the idea that homosexual desires are a basic part of how one was born,
and that they are very "natural" desires, and are no less valid than, say,
heterosexual desires, or gender, or ethnicity... It is the idea that "this is just
the way I was made" and even that "God made me this way so it must be okay."

Well of course this kind of thinking is completely contrary to the Christian
message, which begins with the tragedy of our "natural" state: We are born
"naturally" at odds with a holy God, and the whole point of
Salvation -- and our desperate need of a Savior -- is that I, in my "natural"
state, am bound for an eternity outside of the presence of God...

The "natural" Man, with all our desires, feelings, thoughts, intentions,
longings, etc., must be laid on the altar and sacrificed to a holy and just
God, so that He can redeem us, change us, and create in us His SUPER-nature,
to His own glory and for His pleasure...

ALL of the "seven deadly sins" stem from "natural" desires
within every single one of us, yet to set up those desires as "good" and
"acceptable" in their unredeemed state -- and to ignore what God has to
say about what is "sin" and what is not -- is indeed a deadly course;
to ignore that, and to live one's life celebrating those perversions and
applauding whatever comes "naturally", is to absolutely guarantee a spot in
the Eternal Darkness that exists for those who refuse to die and be reborn...

The Bible allows for Homosexuality
This one is easy:
If you come to the Scriptures begging the question, looking for "evidence"
to support a presupposed Lifestyle, then of course you can "make" the Bible say
whatever you please...

But you have to do some serious mental gymnastics to see the Scriptures as
delivering anything less or other than the most thunderous Condemnation of
the homosexual lifestyle. Over and over again, in both what it says and what it
implies, the Bible portrays that lifestyle as an absolute Abomination in God's eyes,
backed by a boiling reservoir of Judgment for those who embrace it.

One silly editorial in a recent issue of "Newsweek" (not that any thinking Christian
looks to "Newsweek" for accurate Biblical interpretation) noted that Jesus' message
was one of "tolerance" and "acceptance", making the ridiculous point that Jesus never
explicitly forbade homosex...

Jesus never spoke out specifically against Polygamy either, nor a whole lot of
other perversions, but He didn't need to: The Old Testament Law was the backdrop
of Jesus' moral teaching, and what it taught (and still teaches) was fundamental
to everything Jesus ever said or did. Scriptural writers both before AND after Jesus
roundly condemned homosex as perversion... And any child knows, intuitively,
that though his father may have never said, explicitly, "don't smash the windows
on my car," there would be hell to pay if that child did so...

Rejection means Homophobia
So much for "tolerance": If the homosexual cries "homophobia!" when he encounters
a genuine Christian who proclaims God's Truth on the matter, then he has left
the arena of honest debate and has lurched for the weapons of the culture wars...

And if "homophobia" doesn't mean "a fear that one might, himself, be 'gay' ", OR,
"a fear of homosexuals in general", then the word becomes little more than an epithet,
used to slander anyone who merely disagrees with their agenda and its militant methods...

A genuine, Biblically-trained Christian will REJECT homosex but embrace, and care for,
and attempt to help, a repentant homosexual, just as he would attempt to help those
who are consumed with pride, or sloth, or rage; genuine Christian love and compassion
attempts to help the alcoholic and the prostitute and the glutton; all the while, a truly humble Christian is constantly and acutely aware of his OWN sinfulness, thanking God for His Mercy
toward us and for the Grace that sustains ALL of us.

Despite all this, however, some people only understand the Stick, and just as the
rabid homosexual mobs in Sodom and Gomorrah were ultimately wiped out by God, those
who absolutely and violently insist that "gay is good" will (short of a miracle of
God's Wisdom piercing that Blindness) meet with the same treatment someday...
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Channeling GOD

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As I've written here on several occasions and in various ways, the thing
I ponder most often about our Faith is this single question:
What does GOD do, and what do I do, in my life? How is it possible,
for example, that I work hard to achieve something and then turn around
and give thanks to God for it? Sometimes it certainly does seem that God
is completely absent in our daily lives and that it is WE who
"do all the work"... Shouldn't we then thank ourselves when things
go favorably for us? Or when we sometimes "succeed" in our struggle
against sin? Or when we perform some act of Kindness toward someone else?
Aren't these, and so many other good things, a direct result of our own efforts?

Well the more I understand the Faith the more I come to realize that this
precise juxtaposition of God's movements and my movements is the absolute
"ground zero" of the Faith: We Christians believe that the very Holy Spirit
of God comes to LIVE inside us - inside our very being - when we turn to Christ
and renounce the Old Life; we believe that the person I call "me" is actually
now TWO identities, and that the Christ-life (the second Identity) intends
to make us New Persons from the inside out...

There was a movie in 1990 named "Ghost", in which Patrick Swayze's character
is murdered and later uses the body of a small-time "medium" (played by
Whoopi Goldberg) to communicate with his still-living girlfriend... Now of course
the whole subject of "mediums" and "channeling" and so forth isn't something
Christians subscribe to, but these scenes in the movie can be seen as perhaps
a kind of illustration of the Christian idea that WE -- you and me, human beings
right now, right here, today -- ARE, literally, the Body of Christ in the world today.

This is not merely a philosophical idea, or an interesting theological musing;
Christ has come to live IN us, to establish His kingdom through us, to
the glory and praise of God. Everywhere we go, God goes with us, not only
above and beside us but also IN us; everything we do, everything we look at,
every thought we have, happens in the company of TWO persons...

God's method is an inside-out Transformation, a Metamorphosis,
in which He works relentlessly to accomplish two things: Personal change
in us, and outward expressions of Love and Grace and Mercy to as many people
around us as possible through us. Indeed, the "me" that God intends to produce
is a person that is not only in complete harmony with His Will, but also one who
can be USED by Him to do the very work He would be doing if He were,
as He once was, encased in a body of flesh and bone.

This is where virtually every other World View and Religion gets it all wrong:
Most of the Religions of the world -- and certainly New Age thinking -- focus
on working toward the "best You" you can be, and the Eastern religions center
on a "you" that achieves its OWN "peace", "nirvana", "balance", etc. But these
all miss the point: What good is my own "peace" when the end result still
leaves me at odds with a Just God? How can we settle for a "nirvana" that falls
far, far, short of the Glory that God intends for us? You don't create a
champion by setting up mediocrity as the goal, and the Saint isn't made so
that he or she can commune privately with God.

God wants to CHANGE us and also to USE us -- to "channel" Himself through us,
so to speak -- to accomplish His ends. The musician practices long hours so that
not only can he enjoy fine music himself, but also that the orchestra as a whole
can play fine music.

And as we "practice" our Faith, being changed by God in the process, we are
becoming fit to be used by Him -- literally and physically -- to DO His work.
When you eat a typical candy cane, which part are you eating, the red stripe or
the white one?

Who knows? Does it matter? It's the sweetness of the whole that we enjoy.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Pop Goes the Economy

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I am resisting, with as much effort as I can muster, a daily urge
to post my thoughts about Obama and what Sean Hannity calls
"Obama Mania Syndrome", this cult-of-personality CRAZE that seems
to be swirling around the country these days... And before
Obama has even spent one single day in office!

Today, though, I just have to say this:
The news today is apparently making it official that the center-piece
of the Obama economic "strategy" is that he IS, after all,
going to soak the rich in order to spread the wealth around,
something we all KNEW is a key component of how he has looked at
economics for a long time (books he's read, people and causes he's
been associated with, statements he has repeatedly made that show his
Socialist orientation, etc.)...

But the key point I want to make is that Obama clearly has no firm
grip on how Economics works, and so his forthcoming economic proposals
reflect more of a pop culture, class-warfare approach,
centered on 2 statements that accompanied the news story today:

"...the Bush tax cuts were disproportionately targeted
to the very wealthiest Americans"

Obama has not shown one single shred of evidence, in the two years
he's been stumping to become president, that any kind of "unfairness"
does or ever did exist in the Tax breaks that the so-called "wealthy" were
granted under President Bush. Instead, his tactic of stirring up mob mentality
among the "less wealthy" (certainly the "poor") is nothing but a mean-spirited
appeal to Envy, as if being "rich" make you Public Enemy #1...

And I bet my lawyer brother would agree that using the word "targeted"
implies INTENT, and Obama would have to demonstrate very clearly that Bush
tipped the federal hat to the "rich" on purpose...

The fact is, most of the "rich" people I know, or have read about, contribute
VERY heavily to Charitable organizations... But Obama needs to DEMONSTRATE the
"disproportion" in Bush's tax breaks; if all he means is that "wealthy" folks
got more BACK, any high schooler could explain to him the very BASIC
fact that if you paid more in, you get more back...

"...those who were making more than a quarter million dollars
a year can afford to pay a little more"
...
What??? Here again, this appeal of, "they're rich and we're not!" is
ridiculously immature when it forms a major component of a
"presidential" platform on economics... How does OBAMA know what any
"wealthy" person "can afford"?? And who does he think he is to presume
that a certain Income level automatically means that more should be going to
the government??

If I were among those "wealthy" who makes more than $250K annually, I would be
furious, and my attitude would be, "It's none of your BUSINESS, Obama, what I CAN
and can NOT afford to pay in taxes, and how DARE you presume to be able to see into
my personal finances!"

One thing that I learned during the campaign: Many small businesses
file Taxes as "Personal", or "Sole Proprietor", and if they make over
$250K annually, as many of them do, guess what?? Obama's "punish the wealthy"
approach to economics will target the very businesses that are the strength
of the American economy... So in trying to "save" the economy, he will
be destroying its core, and of course he'll blame someone else...

So name your Cult Guru: Britney Spears? Puff Daddy? Mr. Bean? Kid Rock?
Apparently ANYBODY can put an "economic policy" out there, and whether it
makes sense or not, whether it demonstrates an understanding of basic
economic principles or not, if the Facebook-driven, Text-message-sending,
Post Modern masses like how it sounds -- when the Mob has its torches lit
and everyone is shouting for blood -- then apparently what's "popular"
trumps what makes the best sense...
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Choking on the Bible

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The blogosphere is buzzing in the last 48 hours over a situation
in San Francisco involving a small group of Christians who
meet on Fridays in the "Castro district" to pray and to engage
the local gay community in discussions about that lifestyle...

Predictably, the locals are more than a little antagonistic
toward the group, and the story made news yesterday because
extreme gay activists literally drove them off the corner, requiring
riot police to provide them a safe escort...

Right-wingers love to proclaim that this country was "founded" on
Judeo-Christian values, and that World Views contrary to those
values are distinctly anti-American... The passage of "Prop 8",
denying marital status to gay couples, has fanned the flames of the
decades-old Values debate, and the not-so-subtle "hint" by some
is that to be American is to be Christian...

Here is the problem I see in this struggle: It is absolutely silly
to expect any demographic in our country to appreciate, AT ALL,
Christian values when they do not, in any sense, accept the
fundamental framework of the Christian World View. It's way past time
for Christians to stop attempting to cram the Bible down the throats
of those who reject it as revelation by God, reacting angrily and
sanctimoniously when our would-be converts repel -- sometimes violently --
an approach that features any kind of strong-arm tactics.

Efforts to shoe-horn Christian principles into the Laws of the Land
usually result in the detractors taking up the wearied weapons of the
"culture wars" and taking their conflict to the streets (and to the
media, who, as a group, are increasingly firmly entrenched in the
anti-Christian-Values camp themselves).

I've maintained for a long time that the "Laws of the Land" should
be primarily about Utilitarianism, that is, focused almost exclusively
on keeping people SAFE from one another, so that conversations about
Values (and everything else) can happen at all. Freedom in America
is a delicate balance between saying whatever you want to say and
respecting the rights of other to say the exact opposite; there isn't
a whole lot of discussion going on in a war zone, and nobody was ever brought
into the Faith through intimidation, condemnation, or coercion.

The Bible is very clear in its insistence that the World is just NOT
going to "get it", and that Biblical Values are, at best, going to
be ridiculed and misunderstood, and at worst, the cause celebre
around which those violently opposed to Christ will rally...

We will not win the hearts and minds of the unsaved -- no matter what
their particular brand of debauchery is -- by clashing with them in
the public square; and if they REJECT our Faith, we can certainly
expect them to fight passionately against what they view as a crusade
to impose that Faith on them. And let's never forget about the
debauchery we Christians find still lingering in our own hearts...

The Christians on that street corner have a "right" to be there, and
the locals have a "right" to speak out against them; I admire the
courage of those believers in attempting to be a light in a very dark
corner, but if Christians "win" the culture wars, will Souls be lost?
And if our country continues its descent into Relative Morality,
as it almost surely will -- a la Sodom and Gomorrah -- will Christians
be found still working to WOO the Unbeliever into Christ's kingdom,
through genuine Love and sacrificial service?

The real battle, anyway, is in the coffee shops and book stores and
neighborhood conversations, discussing the Truths of the faith
one-on-one; the real "fight" is against the "Gay and Christian" mindset
that twists the Scriptures to fit a preferred lifestyle...

...but let's not shove the Faith down the gullet of the Unbeliever.
They don't want it. And that should not come as a surprise to us nor fill our
hearts with hatred against those whom Christ views with compassion.
    knowing this first: that scoffers will come
    in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
    and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?"
    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some
    count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,
    not willing that any should perish but that all
    should come to repentance.

    -- 2 Peter 3:3,4,9

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The "Change" we REALLY DO need

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I've been toying for some time with the idea that the Christian faith
is a "Not Yet" proposition... A map that we follow toward our Great Hope
(the Hope of Glory!) but largely devoid of the kinds of water-in-your-face,
nose-against-the-glass, "real" experiences that comprise our everyday lives...

...and this is in fact the "trump card" that the Evil One has in his deck:
"Why wait for someday," he whispers, "when you can enjoy the pleasures and
self-actualization that I can offer you right now?"

This idea gains strength in my mind to the extent that I sometimes call myself
a "Skeptical Christian"... that is, I consider much of what I hear from
many Christians to be complete baloney: "God answered our prayers and gave us
a nice day for our church picnic" (of course, the farmer in the next county
prayed for rain, and was disappointed)... "God told me who the next president
is going to be" (and then the other candidate wins)... "Please God help me
win a spot on the dance team" (a team made famous by the skimpy and sexy
outfits they wear on the sidelines)...

With these two thoughts book-ending many of my musing about Christianity,
I often feel a kinship with people who admit to the nagging sensation that
God is quite simply nowhere to be found, not in this life... Bertrand Russell
was once asked what he would say to God if, after a life of atheism, he found
himself presented to the Creator... he is said to have replied, "God, you didn't
give us enough evidence."

But the more I read about and ponder the work of what Christians call the
"Holy Spirit", I think I'm beginning to understand the very real "here and now"
aspect of the Christian life:

It struck me most clearly in a sentence from C.S. Lewis that I read again today,
from a sermon I've read dozens of times (the best thing, IMHO, that Lewis ever
wrote), entitled, "Weight of Glory"

    Those who have attained everlasting life in
    the vision of God doubtless know very well
    that it is no mere bribe, but the very
    consummation of their earthly
    discipleship; but we who have not yet
    attained it cannot know this in the same
    way, and cannot even begin to know it at
    all except by continuing to obey and
    finding the first reward of our obedience in
    our increasing power to desire the ultimate
    reward.

    Just in proportion as the desire
    grows, our fear lest it should be a
    mercenary desire will die away and finally
    be recognized as an absurdity. But
    probably this will not, for most of us,
    happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar,
    gospel replaces law, longing transforms
    obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a
    grounded ship.
So then, it would seem that what we CAN begin
to enjoy in the Here and Now -- a kind of "foretaste" of Glory -- is an
honest-to-goodness CHANGE on the inside... An increasing desire for
God, and perhaps even an increasing ability to "hear" Him as He speaks...

The more I understand the Scriptures, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and,
frankly, a bit more (on an amateur level, of course) about human psychology,
this new picture of "everyday reality" begins to take hold...
    "...by continuing to obey and finding the first reward
    of our obedience in our increasing power to desire
    the ultimate reward..."
The Scripture says "Don't quench the Holy Spirit's fire" (1 Thes 5:19)... So,
as a believer, I can DO things to weaken the Holy Spirit's influence in me?
Conversely, I can make Choices that stoke that influence, and which actually
increase it? I can begin to EXPERIENCE glory here in this life??

    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only
    in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to
    work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God
    who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
    -- Phil 2:12,13

And as I've been pondering this, I realized all over again that Scripture is
absolutely FULL of Verbs, things Christians are called to DO as part
of our faith... We DO things, outwardly, and God uses our "co-operation" to
CHANGE us, inwardly... And so THIS, then, is the sort of experience we can
begin to have, the experience of Change on the inside: We find ourselves
WANTING different things, Sensing different things, things that match,
more and more, what Scripture says God is like...

Now here's the somber part: The sword cuts both ways...
Here's something else from Lewis:
    "People often think of Christian morality as
    a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules,
    I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not
    think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say
    that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part
    of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different
    from what it was before.

    And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices,
    all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a
    Heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature
    that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself,
    or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with
    its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature
    is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power.

    To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and
    eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to
    the one state or the other."
    --Mere Christianity
So why can't we hear or feel or touch God, now, in this life?
Well, if God's primary concern for us is the Redemption of our Souls, and if
CHANGE -- from God's perspective -- means transformation from the inside out,
then even "signs" and "miracles" and "appearances" are, in that sense,
inside out, upside down, backwards even... The Biblical story of the rich
man in hell has him asking Abraham to go and warn his family, so that they too
would not go to that place; Abraham replies that if they will not listen to
Moses and the prophets, they will not repent even if someone rises from the dead...
(Luke 16)... Talk about real-world experiences!

But if, through the Spiritual Disciplines and through Godly Wisdom we begin to
experience that Transformation of our very selves, I think we'll begin to seek
"external" experiences less and less...
    Be imitators of God, therefore...For you were once darkness,
    but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light...
    everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light
    that makes everything visible...

    Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise
    but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because
    the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand
    what the Lord's will is."
    --Ephesians 5

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Christian Response to an Obama presidency

Another "Katrina" -- similar to the tragedy that impacted New Orleans
over a year ago -- has, in many minds, struck the shores of American
politics in the last 24 hours... We all knew in our gut that it was
coming, and now that the McCain "levees" have burst, we Conservatives
find ourselves struggling to breathe, struck with more than a
little bit of dismay over the dark days that lie ahead...

... that is, at least, how it feels, and time will tell how much truth
there may be behind those feelings...

If our Hope was tied to American politics, and if our confidence and
security were tied to temporal things that now appear to be at an
unprecedented and grave risk, then we have much to fear by the victory
of perhaps the most Liberal candidate to ever assume the Oval Office...

But if our treasure -- and therefore our hearts -- lies elsewhere,
then we can continue to rest in the Sovereignty of God and our
Great Hope that He will ultimately "wipe every tear" from our eyes.

So how then shall we respond to these discouraging developments?
Here is one Christian's perspective:

Guard our hearts
The Scriptures tell us to "love our enemies" and "pray for those"
who mistreat us. It would be very easy to allow our hearts to descend
into a bitter spiral of negativity, disdain, anger, and even hatred
toward the new president, his staff, his supporters, and every single
person who cast a vote for him. This would be, I'm sure, contrary to
spirit that God would have us harbor, and it would expose in us the
idolatry of an America as we might wish it to be. We don't have to
pretend to "like" Obama (et al), but we do have to remain keenly aware
that God sees our hearts and wants to be pleased with what He finds there...

Pray for Obama
"The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much",
we are told... We can and should pray for Obama, that he might gain wisdom,
and to have a personal revival in his heart, to lead the country effectively,
and to surround himself with people who can advise him with discernment
and a renewed dedication to America. And we know -- so says his new
veep -- that he (and therefore the country) will be "tested", so for
the good of the country, every true patriot should pray for courage and
strength and success for the new administration.

Strengthen our Faith
All indications are that Truth is now in full retreat, and those Christians
who cannot clearly articulate their faith in a way that is engaging and
compelling for non-believers are going to find themselves very much at odds
with those around them who do not share that faith. Now more than ever,
the Love that is supposed to characterize ALL Christians needs to be
obvious AND combined with the willingness and ability to draw the
non-believer into honest, respectful and humble conversations about
World Views and true spirituality. Now more than ever we need to share
the Gospel, winning the hearts and minds of those around us one at a time,
building bridges to Souls who, having said as much with their vote, are
more confused and ungrounded than at perhaps any other time in history.

Try, try again
On a practical level, the only productive way to respond to defeat is to
get back up and try again, and again... We can begin now to look toward
the mid-term elections in 2010, where through personal effort and open
discourse, perhaps each of us can redirect the views of just one or two
around us toward the more fundamental positions that once made America
a great nation: Limited government; Personal Responsibility; Fiscal
Convervativism; a Strong Military, including Border Protection; Lower Taxes;
and a return to the spirit of Self-Reliance and Hard Work that should burn
in the heart of every American. We cannot be silent; we must teach our
children these values, and help others teach them to their children, and
impress upon the nay-sayers that these values are what should define
our unique and shining position in the world.

Listen to what Andrew C. McCarthy, from "National Review" has to say
along these lines:
    Our country has had an election. Our side got trounced.
    We’ve strayed far from our principles. We’ve too often failed
    to make our case even when it was right there for the making.
    If the best we have to offer America is Democrat-lite, Americans
    can’t be blamed for deciding they’d just as soon have the real thing.
    If we operate in stealth and incoherence, abdicating our duty
    to convince our fellow citizens of the rightness of measures taken
    for our security, they can’t be blamed for suspecting we are
    in the wrong.
I said several times during the past few months
that the strengths of the Conservative positions were not being
loudly and firmly and repeatedly declared to the America people,
inspiring them to return to these core values; perhaps our next
Nominee will learn what a dreadful mistake that has been.


But if we fail in any of these areas, then we have truly lost.
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Monday, October 27, 2008

America's slide toward Communism


If there was any doubt that Obama's economic philosophy is grounded in
Socialist ideas -- and that he wants to take the country in that direction --
the evidence is clear, from the now-infamous "Joe the Plumber" incident to
this new radio show recording, just released:

Given the latest national conversations along these lines, I decided to look up
a few key words, and let their definitions tell the tale of what we're hearing
from the 2 tickets... Here's what I found on Dictionary.com:

    Federalism

    A system of government in which power is divided between a national (federal)
    government and various regional governments. As defined by the United States
    Constitution, federalism is a fundamental aspect of American government, whereby
    the states are not merely regional representatives of the federal government,
    but are granted independent powers and responsibilities. With their own
    legislative branch, executive branch, and judicial branch, states are empowered
    to pass, enforce, and interpret laws, provided they do not violate the Constitution.

    This arrangement not only allows state governments to respond directly to
    the interests of their local populations, but also serves to check the power of
    the federal government. Whereas the federal government determines foreign policy,
    with exclusive power to make treaties, declare war, and control imports and
    exports, the states have exclusive power to ratify the Constitution. Most
    governmental responsibilities, however, are shared by state and federal
    governments: both levels are involved in such public policy issues as taxation,
    business regulation, environmental protection, and civil rights.

    Note: The precise extent of state and federal responsibility has always been controversial. Republican administrations, for example, have tended to grant more authority to the states, thereby encouraging political and economic freedom but discouraging comprehensive social welfare. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the Supreme Court left the interpretation of many civil rights guarantees to the states, resulting in widespread discrimination against minorities.


    Capitalism

    An economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals
    or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

    In such a system, individuals and firms have the right to own and use wealth to
    earn income and to sell and purchase labor for wages with little or no government
    control. The function of regulating the economy is then achieved mainly through
    the operation of market forces where prices and profit dictate where and how
    resources are used and allocated.


    Socialism

    noun
    1. a political theory advocating state ownership of industry
    2. an economic system based on state ownership of capital [antonym: capitalism (!!!)]

    An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. There are many varieties of socialism. Some socialists tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains the dominant influence over the economy; others insist on an abolition of private enterprise. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists.

    A theory or system of social reform which contemplates a complete reconstruction of society, with a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor…

    Communism

    noun
    1. a form of socialism that abolishes private ownership
    2. a political theory favoring collectivism in a classless society

    A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.

    A scheme of equalizing the social conditions of life; specifically, a scheme which contemplates the abolition of inequalities in the possession of property, as by distributing all wealth equally to all, or by holding all wealth in common for the equal use and
    advantage of all.


From my layman's perspective, it looks to me like Federalism -- the real
GENIUS built into our Constitution -- began to lose steam in the public square
after Sherman burned his way through Atlanta in the Civil War and the northern
"imperialism" was imposed on the South... The turn of that Century brought waves
of immigrant workers who lived a very poor standard of living, giving rise to
the Labor movement and the "it's not fair that we're poor" mentality...

The Great Depression also helped Americans see and feel and hear what abject
Poverty looks like, and many began to look to the Government for relief...

Then the "New Deal" President, FDR, established "social security", further
promoting the idea that the GOVERNMENT should take care of financial well-being
of its citizens (originally, Social Security taxes were called "contributions")...

Ideologically, there's been no looking back ever since: One side (usually
"Liberals") want MORE government intervention, MORE social programs, and MORE
"spreading the wealth around" (even calling it "patriotic" to pay more taxes!),
while the other side (usually "Conservatives") want to return to our Federalist
roots with LESS government intervention, MORE States' Rights, FEWER (and
much more closely administered) Social programs, and MORE "you keep what you EARN"...

Given the popularity of Obama in the polls, and the shameless and blatant support
of Obama by CNN, MSNBC, and The New York Times (among others), and in light of
the definitions given above, is it not easy to see that this country is on a
clear path toward Communism?

The implications of that impending result should send a chill down the spine
of every TRUE Patriot in this country.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

How God Sees Me

So here I am, confronted with the awful magnitude of my sinfulness,
having committed acts that just about anyone would agree are deeply
sinful and completely contrary to what I say I believe...

... and the Christian faith is filled with the stories of other men
(and women) who also have committed egregious sins against God and
against other people... Even our modern-day news stories often cover
the sins of the faithful, and our own local churches are filled with
sinners on any given Sunday....

But consider this: When you hear the name "Babe Ruth", what do you
think of? Do you think of the 1,330 times he struck out at home plate,
or the 714 homers that gave rise to his status as an all-time great?

What about "Thomas Edison"? Do you think of (or even know about) the
10,000 times he tried to create the world's first incandescent light bulb
and failed (securing ridicule from just about everyone who knew him),
or do you think of the one success he had that revolutionized the world,
or the more than 1,000 U.S. Patents he was awarded in his lifetime?

Now think of yourself: Do you DEFINE yourself by your failures, even
horrible failures of the worst kinds of sins? Well, remember the
Bible stories: Adam and Eve brought Sin and Death into the world
through their disobedience, and later raised a murderous son...
David was called "a man after God's own heart" and yet he committed
adultery and murder; Peter denied Christ with curses, and yet was told
later that Christ's Church would begin with him... The list of
horrible sins by the Bible's "all-time greats" goes on and on...

And it's the same story for us:
Imagine yourself in your very best moments... You're humble, gentle,
congenial, giving, wise, and displaying a Joy that stems from your
faith and from the use of your unique skills and talents and abilities...

In those fleeting moments (fleeting for me, anyway) you are beginning
to be the kind of person GOD sees when He looks at you; and the utlimate
Perfection (Maturation) of all that God put in you when He made you
is a reality so significant, so beautiful, so glorious (and glorifying
to your Maker) that He went as far as He could go, did everything He
could possibly do, to try and make that goal a reality, by sacrificing
the One Most Important Thing for you... Jesus accepted Death so that
we could someday enjoy that Life, the perfection of our very selves...
The perfected creature enternally showered with affection from the
Creator, blissfully joyful in giving back to the Creator the honor
due Him...

THAT "Vision" of What I Will Be, someday, is what God sees when He looks
at me, and though His heart is broken and His anger aroused over my
sin (rebellion against that Vision He paid so much to win for me),
His gaze is fixed on that Vision and He pursues me relentlessly...

So the only thing I can do is to begin again, to ask God (and others,
if necessary, and it often is) for forgiveness, to deal honestly and
practically with my sin (we lie to ourselves so easily, and excuse-making
is, for some of us, a habit), and to see myself as GOD sees me...


    Let us not become weary in doing good,
    for at the proper time, we will reap harvest,
    if we do not give up.

    Galatians 6:9

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Take the Lesser Seat

Picture a director, and a crew, and a set of actors, working together
to shoot a commercial for some product... The crew sets things up,
the actors are in place, and the director is giving the orders...
The sound guy starts recording, the camera guy starts shooting, and
the actors begin their lines...

Then one of the actors pipes up with some non-scripted line or two,
and the director yells "CUT!", the camera man stops the camera, the
sound guy stops recording, and the crew looks at this actor and then
the director, wondering what to do...

"What are you doing??!" asks the director... "Just say the lines you
are supposed to say!" The actor protests that he doesn't think the
lines are right, and that what he has to say on the product is more
compelling than the script...

How long do you think it would be, if this continued, before the
director tells the actor to get off his set and calls his aide to
find a more co-operative actor? Not long, I'm sure...

Why?

Because the COMMERCIAL is more important than this individual actor,
and there is money and time (not to mention all the people taking
part, trying to do THEIR jobs) at stake, and (as a good
director) he isn't interested in what this one actor thinks is compelling...

Christians are in much the same position: God's purposes, and the
people He calls us to serve -- even the very purpose for our own lives --
is more important than us, more important than our own
ideas of what should take place, even more important than whatever we
might be going through (good or bad) in our current circumstances...

Jesus advised His disciples to "take the lesser seat" at a banquet,
to avoid the embarrassment of being asked by the host to step down
and give up that seat to someone else... But it was much more than
avoiding embarrassment that He was trying to teach them; Jesus' focus
was always on "the Least of These", and He constantly
emphasized to them that "the Least" would be -- indeed, ARE -- the
most important in God's way of directing things...

Even as he nursed his sores and questioned God, JOB humbled himself and
acknowledged that whatever God's purposes were, those ends were
surely far more important than what he was going through, and in the end
of that story, Job was lifted up and everyone around him was put to shame
for trashing the Director's will and advising Job to think of himself...

And we can apply that same idea now, today, to everyone around us (because
God cares most about PEOPLE): My WIFE is more important than me,
my KIDS are more important than me, my Church family is more important
than me, and even what God wants to MAKE of me (for His own glorification)
is -- if we can grasp this! -- more important than the "me" that I try so
desparately to support and nuture and coddle and please...

If Jesus Himself could could be humble enough to submit to death, then surely
we ought to imitate Him and humble ourselves as well, retraining our minds
and our passions around the idea (and practice!) of considering every PERSON
we know, or encounter in our lives, and the works of Grace that God passionately
pursues in this life, as much more important than we ourselves...
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Our journey toward BLESSEDNESS

It struck me the other day that there is a significant difference
between "Blessed", pronounced "BLEST", and BLESSED, pronounced
more intentionally as "BLESS-sed"...

When we say, for example, "My, aren't we BLEST to live in this
great old house, on this beautiful street," and, "we're so BLEST
to have food and clothing in abundance," or even, "count your
Blessings", we mean the very good Fortune that Providence has
granted to us... We intend, essentially, a call to Thankfulness...

But "BLESS-sed" has a much higher meaning: Dictionary.com
defines "BLESS-sed", in the sense I am using it here, as
    sacred; sanctified
    worthy of reverence or worship
    blissfully contented
    beatified

Used as such, the word begins to describe Saints, both the
very few among us who are far along in their process of
Sanctification, as well as the Saintliness that will be
characteristic of all Christians when, in Glory, we are
finally and eternally perfected...

So then, to become "BLESS-sed" is both the end Result of
God's work in us, someday ("...He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion..."), as well as the motivation
for our journey through this life ("...that your love may abound
more and more in knowledge and depth of insight...")...

As we meditate on this startling distinction, then, notice how
it helps us understand, in a whole new way, Jesus' famous exposition
on BLESS-sed-ness, the "Beatitudes" in Mathew 5:
    "BLESS-sed" keeping in mind this higher meaning
    "are the" difficult circumstance in this life
    "for they will" ultimate Reward in Glory

So it would seem that Jesus is holding up BLESS-sed-ness as
our ultimate "Soul state", to be desired above all else; He is also
pointing out that the way to this state involves suffering in the present;
and he is very specific about the benefits of one day achieving this state...

This, then, is what we have to look forward to:
    We will possess, in some sense, Christ's kingdom
    We will be (supremely) comforted
    We will inherit (have passed down to us) the Earth
    We will will be filled with Righteousness
    We will be shown Mercy
    We will see God (!)
    We will be called SONS of God
    and again, We will possess, in some sense, Christ's kingdom

Our pastor Ron preached a series on the Beatitudes not long ago;
THIS ONE, in particular, on Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousnes,
was particularly profound to me...

I have been challenging myself to set my gaze on becoming BLESS-sed,
to finally, once and for all and forever, be made complete and then
to be welcomed into the presence of almighty God; and I continually
ask God's forgiveness for the many times -- often daily -- that my
attention is diverted to sinful, foolish, temporal things...

And may God grant me the humility and the wisdom to be His instrument
in helping those around me -- my wife? my kids? my church family? --
achieve BLESS-sed-ness, too...

No matter what it takes... No matter what we have to give up...
No matter what we may have to go through... Isn't the state of
BLESS-sed-ness worth paying ANY price to achieve??
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Take on "Mutual Submission"

Arguably, a great many of the problems in modern society
stem - at least in part - from the fact that strong, loving,
nurturing Homes have increasingly become the exception
rather than the rule.

While nobody's family is perfect, of course, the Home life
is supposed to prepare us for living in the world, for better
or for worse. When a kid's "role model" is some sports figure
or some rock star, or the mother's fourth boyfriend... Or when
the only tenderness and affection a kid gets is from that cute
girl in 7th grade Math class... then that kid will likely go
into adulthood ill-equipped to conduct him/her self in ways that
are productive, responsible, and honorable.

So what IS the pattern for a solid Home life? One of the reasons
I believe in Christianity is that here again -- as in SO many
other areas -- this World View offers us a meaningful, structured,
effective Answer for one of The Great Questions... This particular Answer
Christians sometimes call "God's Plan for Marriage" (read these two
excellent aritcles about it, one for the woman and one for the man)...

There are a number of excellent passages in Scripture about
God's design for Marriage, and (in my opinion) Marriage is something
Christians should be talking about all the time (all the while
attempting to put biblical principles on the subject into practice)...

Almost immediately, as soon as you begin discussing Scriptural
marriage, a conflict arises over this subject of Submission,
the idea that the Wife is to be submissive to her Husband...
The passages of note on this issue are 1st Peter 3 and Ephesians 5...
Both of these passages include the idea that Christian wives are to
"submit" to their husbands (another verb used is "reverence"!), an idea
that is not at all popular in today's contemporary culture,
even in many Christian circles...

I won't take the space here to go into a full treatment of this
idea of "submission" (the article above, for Wives, does a GREAT
job of that, I think), but I want to share my thoughts on the exact point
of controversy here: There are those who believe that Ephesians 5:21
teaches "Mutual Submission" between the husband and wife, and that
"mutual submission" in Ephesians 5:21 overshadows all the
talk about "submission" in the verses that follow it... Here is
ONE
side of that debate, and here is the OTHER...

The way I read not only this particular passage but the larger
context of Godly Attitudes throughout the Bible, it seems to me that
we MUST make a very sharp distinction at the end of Ephesians 5:21
and before Ephesians 5:22... Does the Bible call all Chrisians, in general,
to "submit" to each other? Are we to serve one another? Are we to
"in humility consider the other better than ourselves"? Absolutely!
This GENERAL attitude should be increasingly woven into the
character of ALL Christians in ALL places at ALL times...

...and so clearly this IS the broader "context" leading up to the
end of Ephesians 5:21, where Paul is talking to Chrisians in general...
BUT, Paul then changes gears a bit and turns his attention
DIRECTLY to the Wife, and then DIRECTLY to the husband, using a writing
technique that begins broadly and then focuses in on specific applications
(the more you read Paul, and observe his logical mind as revealed by
his conversations, the more this becomes clear)...

So while he is not leaving behind the more general concepts of
"submission" (that all Christians ought to practice toward one another),
he is moving on toward ANOTHER relationship that is similar (based on
the principles discussed) and at the same time significantly different...
Ephesians 5:22 clearly demontrates (by tone and language and specific
focus points) a SHIFT in the discussion; and the sticking point that many
folks get hung up over is this word SUBMIT...

There is plenty of material on both sides of the question, but I will say
just three things here (one of which I've been saying already):
      1. I do NOT think Biblical submission inside
      the specific boundaries of Christian Marriage
      has anything "mutual" about it

      2. I do believe that if more Christian wives
      would embrace, and personalize, and faithfully practice
      Biblical submission in marriage, many of the problems
      in modern Christian marriages would vanish

      3. I think it's critical, more than ever before,
      that our pastors and elders get behind this idea
      and find the godly courage to stand in the pulpit
      and teach, without fear and yet with obvious humility,
      this difficult concept

And I'll be the first to acknowledge that there is an entire VOLUME
of directives for the HUSBAND, which are equally difficult and
equally demanded of us in these passages...

It's just that I think we are (and have been for decades) in desperate need
of a balancing of the scales in the teaching we normally receive
on this subject...
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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sarah is Ten

Today my daughter Sarah turned 10 years old. Now this may just be
a Dad talking, but this is one truly amazing kid. First, she's gorgeous,
and she's also smart, extremely intelligent, very bright, agreeable, kind,
a little on the conservative side (which her mother and I are very glad
about; we're hoping that serves her well in the Teen years)...

So in every way we consider Sarah to be an absolute Gift from God.
She is a joy and a delight to be around, and we love her dearly,
with all our hearts.

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Happy Birthday, Sarah!!
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