Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jesus and the health care bill

Over the past few months, a number of people I know who could be classified
as "Liberals" have raised the question of the Christian perspective on the
current health care bill, noting that "Christian compassion" and a sense of
"Christian charity" should compel Christians everywhere to support this bill
as a way of fulfilling the Christian mandate to care for the needy...

I could not disagree more; here is my response to any Liberal who takes this view:

It's a PERSONAL thing
Example after example, in Scripture, of God's model for charitable giving
shows that His intention is that Charity should be a PERSONAL thing, coming
from the heart and extended to those directly around us. There is absolutely
no mandate in Scripture to manipulate Governments to forcibly extract taxes
from citizens in order to direct those funds to the needy... And any attempt
to correlate Christian Charity with Government Programs simply demonstrates
both a profound misunderstanding of scriptural principles on Giving and Serving
as well as a complete disregard for America's Constitution, which LIMITS the
powers of the Federal government, most especially when it comes to taxes...
WE are to care for the needy, WE are to work for Justice, with our own hands
and backs and voices and resources, NOT to write to our Senators to vote for
an abusive TAX bill that masquerades as a "health care bill"...

Please don't feed the Animals (teach a man to fish)
Supposedly the Liberals' motivation is "compassion" for these needy, those who
do not have any health care coverage at all... But if this is true, which approach
is truly the more compassionate, to GIVE a man a fish, or to TEACH a man to fish?
What is more "compassionate" for America's citizens, to FORCE us all into
complete dependence on Big Government, or for Big Government to get out of the way
so that we can learn to fish, learn to rely on ourselves? Which approach is a
more long-term solution, and therefore more "compassionate"?

Waste, Fraud and Abuse
The Bible also teaches us to be shrewd, to make wise decisions, to take a
mature and thoughtful approach to big decisions, especially those that
involve Money... If I give money to a Charitable organization, and then find out
that the management of this organization has been blowing its contributions
mostly on things like trips to Vegas, or prostitutes, or big homes for its staffers,
etc., would it be "uncharitable" of my neighbor, who hears about this, NOT to give
his money to this organization? Do you honestly think the Bible would still
compel him to give his money to this organization despite these demonstrated
reports of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse?

So it is with the current Administration and this health care debacle:
Obama, Reid and Pelosi have clearly demonstrated their complete disregard for any kind of financial prudence... They have spent billions of federal dollars with virtually no accountability (the GAO chief says they have "no idea" where
50 billion dollars of Bailout 1 went...)... The massive and out-of-control Spending has been done under the alarmist banner of, "if we don't do this the world will end!!"...
And all of this driven by their determination that the Government should control as much of the private sector as possible...

This is the "charitable organization" that is compelled by the Bible to now force
health care on its citizens??? You cannot be serious... I'm amazed that this even
needs to be said, but the Bible in no way condones Waste, Fraud, and Abuse,
even for "charitable" reasons... Indeed, one famous example is the bitter hatred the people of Israel had, in Jesus' day, for what they called
"Publicans", or "tax collectors", who were Jews working for the occupying
Roman government and who were famous for extorting high taxes from the Jews
while sucking up to the Romans...

I think there is plenty of Scriptural basis to say that Government, and its Tax
schemes, is the complete OPPOSITE of the methods and means by which Christians are to
care for the needy...

Fools for Jesus?
It's very important here to make one critical point that keeps being
overshadowed in these health care discussions: Nearly everyone AGREES that it
would be a very good thing to make sure that everyone has access to affordable,
quality health care; we just disagree about the who, the how, and the how much.
Sensible thinking requires that any big project, with a big budget, any
substantial Venture, needs to be carefully and thoughtfully planned out,
guided by three big questions:
    How will the venture be structured?
    Who will control it?
    How much will it cost (and you could add, Where will the money come from?)
There is nothing in Scripture that encourages us to be foolish, even when it comes to
Charity... Again, I'm surprised that this point even needs to be made...
Nothing in Scripture approves of individuals, or government, acting like Fools, and
to the extent that Government foolishness oppresses the individual, Scripture
certainly condemns it...

The Hypocrisy thing
This is perhaps the most disgraceful part of a Liberal's attempt to tie
Scripture to government programs... The appeal of such an approach is a kind of
Christian-ized "moral imperative" thing, a kind of, "we ought to do this because
the Bible wants us to care for the needy"... Well the Bible also clearly
and thunderously condemns homo-sex, so where is the call to make that
activity illegal, to manipulate Government to allow or disallow Scriptural imperatives?
The Bible clearly holds the life of the Unborn as precious in the sight of God,
so how does that square with the so-called "pro-choice" position??

How can anyone invoke Scripture to support personal Political views on certain
issues, and competely ignore Scriptural positions on other issues? Either we
manipulate Government to carry out Christian agendas or we do NOT, but we cannot
pick-and-choose which issues to tie to Scriptural compulsions and which not to...

That's called Hypocrisy.

And if the true reason to support this health care mess is "compassion", where is
the outrage over the TRILLIONS this Administration is wasting, and will continue
to waste? Where is the horror over the national DEBT, demonstrated to be roughly
200% worse at this point than during any past Administration? If we truly care about the poor, the needy, the under-privileged, the "disenfranchised", where is the indignation over the complete devastation this Administration is foisting on the country's finances,
money that could be used to help with the social programs some think we need?
We should be calling for their heads...

But this too is Hypocrisy.

It is disingenuous to link any kind of Scriptural imperative to the utter chaos
coming out of Washington these days; a clear, honest, informed understanding of the
whole message of the Bible (not just a bit here and a bit there, twisted to make it say
what we want it to say) shows that there are virtually no grounds at all for Government-run, Tax-funded "charities". I think Jesus would be (is) outraged at this "health care" catastrophe, primarily because it will make the plight of the needy worse, and it will prove to be a significant injustice to millions of Americans...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Only Two Religions

There are really only two major divisions of Religion in the world:
One acknowledges and reveres some kind of God or "higher power" or
"great Spirit", a supernatural Force that transcends humanity and
has certain "intentions"or a Will for how humans ought to live
(some religions of this type affirm multiple gods, but the
concept is still the same: HE is -- or THEY are -- far, far above us
and should be worshiped and feared and obeyed)...

The second disavows any kind of "god" in favor of a MAN-centered
view, focused mainly on "spirituality" or "inner peace" or "balance",
or even one's "path" in life, not because some "god" wants it that way
but because walking one's "path" is (they believe) the way to achieve
true and deep "fulfillment" in this life...

Today's neo-Atheists, Reductionists, Materialists, and Naturalists
DO have -- contrary to what they try to insist -- a "religion",
if "religion" is defined as any organized system of beliefs which is
followed assiduously, and which functions as the framework for one's
entire World View... This type tends to elevate Science or "human
potential" to god-like status, and they revere these pursuits every bit
as much as Theists revere their Deities...

We can believe whatever we choose, of course, from "the Great Pumpkin"
to Jehovah and every supernatural -- or natural -- icon in between.
But for those who THINK, and who therefore are more interested in TRUTH
above all other motivations, when it comes to World Views, the picture
changes quite a bit:

A MAN-centered World View cannot be viewed as "equal to" a Theistic
World View; that is a confusion of Premise and Conclusion. The proper
comparison of a "non-god" religion to a "God(s)-centered" religion would be,
"I believe the more RATIONAL position is that there is in fact NO god,
THEREFORE, all that remains, for this life (which ends at death) is to find
my 'higher purpose', my 'path' while I live." The comparison is between
Theism and Atheism, not between Theism and MAN-centered "spirituality"
or even "Science"...

So, to me, the most important question of Life is not about "fulfillment"
or "destiny" or finding one's "path"; the most important question is a
two-fold inquiry: (a) Is there a God (or gods), and (if yes),
(b) what is His (Their) Will for me? If the answer to (a) is "NO"
(on purely Rational grounds), then it would seem to me that we are free
to believe whatever we choose, and the subject of TRUTH becomes irrelevant.
But if the answer to (a) is "YES", then (b) becomes the most important
pursuit of our lives.

I for one simply don't have any interest in discussions on World Views or
"religion" that don't begin from this base, because I want the TRUTH
above all else. Arguments along any other lines seem to me to be just
a chasing after the wind, an abyss of Subjectivity, and not very interesting...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Kitchen Door

For decades our old house used to have a door between the dining room
and the kitchen, one of those swings-both-ways doors, though it was
almost always propped open... This door had (as most kitchen doors
do) a certain kind of hinge mechanism that would return the door to
its DEFAULT position -- closed -- any time it was left to itself and
not pushed on (or propped open)...

It struck me this morning that the Christian is in a similar state, as we
walk through this life looking forward to Christ's coming: If we are not
vigilant, if we do not DAILY struggle against the sin nature still hanging
around inside us -- and which will remain there until we are finally
perfected by God -- if we are not actively involved in the spiritual disciplines,
we will naturally return to our Default position, which is, at the least,
Apathy, and at worst, Rebellion.

Romans 7 and Ephesians 6 give us a good view of what that struggle
looks like and how to prepare ourselves for it, and Hebrews 12 talks about
continuing in that struggle, day after day, with PERSEVERANCE, so that in the end
we may reap what the author calls a "harvest of Righteousness".

Don't ever be taken in by, or hypnotized by, any "modern" version of the
Christian faith that jettisons the reality of SIN in favor of focusing on
"God's Love"... Indeed, it is the very wonder of a God who loves us in spite of
our sin that provides the strength we need along the journey...

So let us continue to work out our own salvation -- to PUSH against the door --
even as we humbly acknowledge, moment by moment, the work of God inside us.
HIS door is ALWAYS open.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Audacity of Arrogance

Well, just when I thought the craziness of Obama-zombie-ism couldn't
get any more dramatic, we all woke up to the news this morning that
Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The NPP Committee's own statement on why its Prize was awarded to Obama
was vague; their reasoning really boiled down to what they believe to be
a positive change in "global MOOD" that (they think) Obama has affected...

Here are the questions many people -- surprisingly, including many of
Obama's own supporters -- are asking today: Why him? SHOW US his
body of work, his lists of accomplishments, that would warrant an award
like this... DETAIL for us the YEARS he has spent working on behalf of
humanity... DESCRIBE for us the specific impact he has had for Peace
in the international community... EXPLAIN to us the personal suffering
and sacrifice he has endured, over the years, that would
justify this kind of recognition...

To use an expression from the 80's, where's the beef???

Because short of that, the awarding of this Prize to Obama makes an
absolute mockery out of this recognition; it is a slap in the face
to anyone who has actually DESERVED this award and has received it after
tremendous, legitimate achievement and/or personal sacrifice...

HERE is my pick for who should receive
the Nobel Peace Prize this year: In the face of
grave personal danger from the oppressive
and despotic regime of Ahmadinejad, this young
Philosophy student attended a pro-Democracy rally
in Iran a few months ago, and was gunned down
in the street by government-hired militia.

Since then, her death has inspired a great many Iranians, and those who support
Democracy in Iran, to work toward FREEDOM in that theocratic nation... We hope
that they are successful and that Neda will not have died in vain...

So over against these thoughts, only megalomaniacal self-aggrandizement
can explain why Obama, with virtually NO qualifications, would not respectfully
REFUSE this award on the grounds that compared to past Awardees, he has
no right to accept it... Only the most blatant Arrogance would allow the world
to fawn over him with recognition meant for TRUE humanitarians who have
demonstrated their worthiness to the world over the years.

If there was ever any question that Obama lacks the dignity and honor
and humility that ought to distinguish the presidency, this stunning and
unbelievable news should settle it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The State of our Souls, the Simplicity of our Sin

During the Scripture reading at church yesterday, I was struck by a particular
phrase: "...because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever
their sins have been." This may not be the precise interpretation of that phrase,
but it occurred to me that any sin, ALL sin, boils down to those two things:

By the mere fact of being human, our very souls are in a state of Uncleanness.
The implied question -- "compared to what?" -- has an obvious answer: God Himself.
In view of His complete and utter Holiness and Purity, we are filthy and wretched
paupers, draped in the rags of our own corruption. Any true and legitimate view
of Almighty God must begin here.

As if merely being full of impurities were not enough, we then rebel, in countless
ways, against the authority and sovereignty of God, putting word and deed to the
root of all sin, Idolatry (worshiping anything but GOD as our god(s)...) Whether
it is pleasure, or pride, or other false gods, anything short of a pervasive and
persistent attitude of, "be it done unto me according to Your will", offered to
God from a spiritual, face-down position in dust and ashes, is, quite simply,
Rebellion. God as "part of my life" instead of "God as the supreme Center of
my life", and any failure to seek His will above ALL ELSE -- any failure to be
completely poured out before Him -- is Rebellion. All of our sin comes down
to this simple word.

This phrase -- "uncleanness and rebellion" -- struck me as pretty much covering
the whole gamut of our true condition, the condition which made the atoning
sacrifice of Christ necessary. Indeed, this phrase comes from Leviticus 16, and
the entire chapter discusses the visceral, brutal, savage procedures that Aaron
was instructed to use, to make atonement for Israel: Slaughtered animals, blood
all over the place and flung here and there using his finger, and then the
sending of a "scapegoat" into the desert, and the wearing of clean linens...

... all because of our uncleanness and rebellion.

Join me today and take a few moments to pause what you're doing, and just imagine
the scene... Imagine yourself lying flat on your face, trembling uncontrollably,
petitioning a Holy and Pure God -- the God of the Universe -- to look upon the
cross of Christ and sponge away your Uncleanness and forgive your Rebellion.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

It's not actually ABOUT Healthcare

I was having a few beers with a buddy the other night, and he made
a statement that kind of surprised me: "I just don't understand all
the acrimony and passion over this Healthcare debate!" he said; "Why
is just about everyone I talk to all up in arms about it?"

I think his perspective -- he's a medical professional, by the way --
is that Healthcare should excite about as much passion as filling out
a job application or changing you oil; he views it as a technical,
procedural matter, I think, and not so much a political time-bomb...

Well of course all I had to do was bring up the subject of Costs, and
soon he was just as passionate as everyone else; he's a very smart guy,
so I think what he really meant was that he hasn't had much time to
think about the topic...

But that got me thinking, and I realized something this week that I
probably knew but never considered directly:

This "Healthcare debate" isn't primarily ABOUT Healthcare.

It's REALLY about these issues, in my opinion and from everything I've
heard or seen or read on the matter in the past 4 weeks:

1. For better or for worse, Obama is THE MAN for an entire generation
of Young voters and for much of the previous generation of Liberals who
have been licking their wounds ever since Reagan kicked Carter's arse in
the 1980 elections; Reagan was their nemesis, elder Bush was a weaker
but similar "threat", Clinton wasn't as radical as they had hoped and
so they didn't get no satisfaction on his watch, and the younger Bush
gave them plenty of fodder for their political cannons... So NOW they
have THEIR guy (sort of an "anti-Reagan"), and they'll be DAMNED if they
aren't going to milk this thing for all it's worth... Obama can do no
wrong, in their eyes, and whether Obamacare makes SENSE or not, whether
it will CRUSH competition or not, whether it represent GROSS government
intrusion into -- infringement on, usurpation of -- personal Freedoms,
or whether it will lead to FINANCIAL ARMAGEDDON, they don't care,
because Obama can do no wrong. Hence my "Obama-zombie" moniker for them.

2. There has rarely been such a clear, obvious, omnipresent Expose of
the fundamental difference between Liberal and Conservative
ideology than what we've seen played out in this country since January 20.
At its very core, the Liberal mind believes GOVERNMENT can and should take
care of virtually ANY need (and many wants) of the Citizen that it can possibly
touch, and of course "control" must be gained to do so, and dissenters must
be first ostracized and then penalized. The Conservative mind says that LESS
government is better, Citizens must do as much FOR THEMSELVES as possible,
FREEDOM (even FROM government!) is worth DYING for, and that the government
answers to the CITIZEN, not the other way around. Healthcare is perhaps the
single biggest front on which these two ideologies go head-to-head, right out
in the streets, citizen-to-citizen... Liberals think Conservatives are cold
and have no compassion, Conservatives think Liberals lack common sense and
have their heads in the sand... But THAT is why the debate rages on.

Perhaps nobody said it better than political satirist P.J. O'Rourke:
Giving money and power to Government is like giving whiskey and car keys
to teenage boys.

Amen brother.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Put in your earbuds, turn up the volume, and read on...

So imagine this:

You and some close friends, all of whom are musicians, make plans to go out
one evening to enjoy a fancy dinner at a local white-tablecloth establishment,
and then to head to the jazz district to listen to some great music. The dinner
was outstanding: The food was perfect, the wine was sublime, and the conversation
was interesting and spirited, and you - dressed for the occasion in your best
casual-yet-stylish attire - have a warm and cheerful contentment wash over you
as you and your party sip coffee with desert...

A short bit later, you all arrive at the jazz club and take the table reserved
for you near the stage: The place is full, and you watch the band getting ready
to start its second set; as the waitress brings you your drinks (yours is a
smooth Sambuca, perfect for after dinner), the band leader steps up to the mic
and greets the crowd: "Good evening folks... Thanks for coming out tonight...
We're [some band name] in from Atlanta... We'll be here through Thursday
of this week, so come back again and see us... We hope you enjoy the music."

Now, picturing yourself in that scene, play these tunes

    Jeff Lorber
    Don't Hold Back
    from the recording, "Heard That"

    Brian Culbertson
    Always Remember
    from the recording, "Bring Back the Funk"

    Wayman Tisdale
    In The Zone
    from the recording, "Best of Wayman Tisdale"

Having heard these great tunes, how can you NOT TAP ya FOOT when you
listen to these contemporary jazz artists?

As a Christian, I believe that ALL Goodness and Truth and Beauty is a revelation
of God Himself, who is -- together with His Son, Jesus Christ, and His omnnipresent
Holy Spirit -- the very essence of Goodness Truth and Beauty. Jazz is music that
lifts the spirit and brightens the eyes as you appreciate the precision of its
syncopation, the inter-play of its harmonies and melodies, and the playfulness of
its improvisation.

I think God smiles at me when I smile as I listen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No, I have not read the Plan

I was at an outdoor event over the weekend and an Obama supporter
came up to me clutching a clipboard and asking me to sign a petition
to help promote Obamacare... As soon as I saw her Obama sticker,
I blurted out, "NO Obamacare!" Somewhat taken aback by my forthrightness,
she asked me, "Have you read the plan?"

"Absolutely not", I said, to which she replied, "Don't you think
everyone should have health coverage? Do you want your health care
costs to continue to rise? Don't you think the current system is
broken?" My answer was the same to all three questions: "Who says
the GOVERNMENT should address these concerns? The LAST people on
the planet to whom we should turn on health care is THIS president,
and THIS Congress, and at THIS time in history. When SANITY and
Sound Judgment have returned to D.C., and when world markets have
stabilized, and when we have Tort reform, and when we finally have
fiscal Accountability curtailing Big Government and its Big Checkbook,
then and only then MAYBE we can CAREFULLY and THOUGHTFULLY
address Health Care. But not one blessed moment sooner."

She apparently wasn't prepared to hear anything but glowing affirmation
for her efforts that day, because she quickly moved away to someone else.

To the criticism that I cannot criticize Obama's health care plan
unless I've read it, I have this simple reply: If the town drunk
came to the town council with a plan to clean up the city, would he
get a hearing? If a local gang approached the town's police chief
with a plan to reduce the crime rate in the area, would they be
taken seriously at all? Well the answer is obvious (or at least it
should be): NO, because they have no credibility.

I have not read one solitary sentence of Obamacare, and I won't, for
the same reason: With his trillion-dollar spending (much of which has
simply VANISHED, according to the CBO) and with his radical
left-wing, socialist/communist associations, and a number of other
very disturbing Realities about Barack Obama, I don't HAVE to read
his plan, because he has no credibility.

And the glazed-eyed, infatuated-cheerleader, Obama Zombie Effect (OZE)
has dulled the minds of quite a few whose comments appear in the media
(and surely many that don't)... Former president Carter calls
anyone who opposes Obamacare a "racist"??? And how about this one:
Julian Epstein, former Democratic counsel to the House Judiciary Committee,
said the Obamacare requirement for every person to carry health
coverage -- or be FINED! -- is no different from requirements to obtain
auto insurance. "It's called personal responsibility," he said.

Does he not see the dissimilarity there? You can just NOT drive, if you
don't have car insurance, and there is no FINE; but you can't stop being
YOU, and if you don't PAY for some Plan, you're FINED (starting at $750).

Seems like anybody even remotely connected to Obama these days has gone
completely off the rails, saying and doing things that has the average
sensible Voter (and TAX PAYER) out in the streets scratching our heads
and saying "HUH???"

These sure are some Looney-Tunes times we're living in!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Some thoughts on Abortion

Certainly one of the most divisive issues in modern times, abortion needs very little
introduction; this post is an attempt to address the weaknesses of some typical
pro-abortion positions on the subject. The Pro-Life position is pretty clear:
The life of a child, a unique human individual, begins at conception, when brand-new
DNA is established and the first evidences of a Baby become apparent... By the time
a woman and her doctor discover that she is pregnant, this new child already has the
foundations of a brain, a spinal cord, and a nervous system; the baby's heart is
also beating. This, it would seem clear, is a distinct, unique, individual
Human Being.

The pro-abortion proponents would argue otherwise; but how strong
are their typical arguments?

The LEGAL aspect

This is perhaps the weakest argument the pro-Abortion people toss out there:
Ever since "Roe vs. Wade" in 1973 -- in which the Supreme Court had neither
the authority nor the qualifications to rule as it did, and has therefore been
deemed by many legal experts as "bad law" -- the abortionists have insisted that
this "choice" is their legal, "constitutional" right... Well not only was it a
flimsy legal decision, but consider the broader perspective on the "legal" angle:
It was not that long ago when it was "legal" for a diner to serve only "whites",
or to have "whites only" restrooms, or for "black" people to have to take a seat
at the back of a bus; but enough people expressed enough moral outrage for a long
enough period of time, so that the courts were impacted and the laws were changed,
and what was once "legal" became illegal. So hiding behind the skirts of
a very weak Supreme Court ruling does nothing to strengthen their case, since Law is
established by people and can be changed based on their collective will.

A quick word about "viability": A "viable" fetus is supposedly one that could
potentially survive outside the womb of the mother, one that is not completely
dependent on her body for its own survival; but here again, could we not easily
list MANY situations in which other people are not "viable"? Is a person on
life support "viable", by this definition? And truthfully, when have we EVER heard
of a woman who was determined to abort her child but changed her mind when
her doctor demonstrated to her that her baby WAS in fact "viable"? This is a
smoke-screen, merely a legal word used to try to sterilize a life-destroying act...

The CHOICE aspect

The basic premise here is that a woman's body -- and more broadly, her reproductive
decisions -- is a very private matter between herself and her doctor (and, rarely,
the biological father), and that the government has no business at all telling a
woman what she can or cannot do with her body... But the weakness in this argument
is also easily seen: If "choice" is the primary consideration in highly
personal medical and family matters, why limit it only to pregnancy?

What if a couple gives birth to a profoundly retarded boy, with grotesque, severe
physical deformities, such that the first year or so of the child's life is utterly
unbearable to the parents, who are drained financially, emotionally, and physically...
What if at the end of that first year they simply CANNOT take it anymore... Should
they have a "choice" to quietly euthanize this boy? Why should the GOVERNMENT have
any business meddling with their highly personal medical/family matter??
If "choice" is the PRIMARY consideration (and the pro-Abortion people try
to pitch "freedom of choice" as some sorth of soothing, "who-wouldn't-want-that?"
type position), then why should it be limited to one side of the birth canal
and not the other? How DARE anyone who supports a "choice" to destroy a little boy
or girl turn around and tell this couple they cannot "choose" to arrange their
lives in a similar fashion and for similar reasons??


This is the only real argument anybody should ever be having about abortion:
Is the fetus a HUMAN BEING -- a PERSON -- or not? Because if it is a Person, then
plain common sense will read the Constitution as guaranteeing Life as an
inalienable Right, protecting that Person, and the "choice" to destroy another
Person seems -- again, as common sense -- to be repugnant to any civilized society.

So how do we define Personhood? The heart beating, as distinct from the mother's?
A unique nervous system? A unique DNA structure? Eyeballs? Hands? Feet?
Genital organs? Brain waves? These are all present very early in the pregnancy.
What about the other end of the timeline: Does a fetus "become" a Person as its
head is in the birth canal? The head out but the torso still in? The whole body
all the way out? Do C-sections count? Accordingly, there is an broad lack of
clarity on the Personhood issue (for some!) and the pro-abortion people most
often REFUSE to address this issue directly: They'd rather scream and kick and
thunderously proclaim their "legal" right to "choose" (again, very weak arguments),
condemning anyone who sees the fetus as a PERSON. It is very rare to meet a
pro-abortionist who is willing or even able to walk through these issues calmly
and intelligently; instead they vehemently lash out at anyone who attempts to
confront them with even the slight possibility that this is a Baby, a Child,
a Human Being, a Person... Because if it is, then abortion is murder,
and they know it.

The RADICAL Result

And what we have seen happen in our society since Roe v. Wade has been just the
sort of out-of-control INSANITY that a sensible person might expect from
such a horrible and tragic decision: Millions of abortions every year,
mostly for the convenience of the mother; doctors who are trying to kill the baby
one minute but then are forced by law to try to save the baby if the delivery
happens anyway and the baby is born alive (burns, scars, and other wounds, inflicted
just moments before, notwithstanding)... We even have the pro-abortion clan demanding
it be "legal" for a doctor to cut open a baby's skull and suck out the brains AS IT IS BEING DELIVERED, simply because the mother doesn't want the baby
(the so-called "partial-birth abortion")... It doesn't take very long to go down the
slippery slope of "a few" abortions to "many" to "hell-bent on destroying babies
any time, anywhere we choose
"... Indeed, stories of complete and radical disregard
for human life, like this one, are a predictable result of the pro-abortion agenda.

I continue to be dumbfounded that any seemingly sane, seemingly civilized adult
would actually believe that it should be "legal" and acceptable to KILL the Unborn,
the most innocent and vulnerable Persons on the planet. Perhaps I should say,
instead, "dumbfounded" only to a point, because I agree with the Bible when it says
that "the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things".
I take solace in the fact that murdered Babies go straight into the arms of a Father
who loves them perfectly and eternally, and with Whom they will be safe forever;
and I tremble a bit as I consider the fearsome Judgment that God will pass on those
who commit these murders as well as those who help others do so.

May God help all of us, in all areas of our lives, to approach Him with our faces
to the ground, willing and honest enough to know and do His will.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Gospel Up Close: Marriage and Family

As something of a "skeptical", thinker-type Christian, I (like many Christians)
often find it very difficult to grasp or appreciate most of the typical Christian
dialogue around what our Faith is supposed to look like, sound like, feel like,
etc... Everything for me, literally, begins as Philosophy, starting with the broader
perspective -- the WHY -- and narrowing down to the specific "how" and "what"...

So in order to move beyond a Faith that is largely a "philosophical abstraction"
and closer to a dynamic, experiential Reality, I spend much of my time
listening to and reading great material from those who I believe understand the
Gospel on a very deep level, and who are skilled at helping others see
the practical realities of a Life with Christ...

So ponder this for a bit:
If you REALLY want to enter into a very deep understanding of the true Gospel,
get married and have kids:

I've written on this Blog about the need for "soul-sanding", and how the primary
aim for every Christian is to become a Saint; that is, to finally, someday, once
and for all, be made perfectly complete, shining bits of Gold and Silver in the
crown of God's Glory (and each of us has a unique place there).

But in order to BECOME that, we must be CHANGED, from what we are (in our fallen,
sinful state) into what He has made us to be. This requires a great deal of pain
and suffering, and the spiritual disciplines we participate in are intended to
melt us down, burn away the impurities, mold us, shape us, polish us up, and
produce a Saint.

And there is no "smeltering" process (that I can think of) that is more immediate,
more personal, and more effective than a Marriage relationship: It is here where
we can learn, often through a tremendous amount of pain and frustration and
difficulty, how to be HUMBLE, how to FORGIVE, how to be PATIENT and LONG-SUFFERING;
how to give up Grudges; how to PUT THE OTHER PERSON FIRST; and how to focus on the
BLESSEDNESS of another Human Soul (their Ultimate Good - to become
a Saint, too!), instead of ourselves (primarily). Marriage is God's institution
for LOVE between a Man and a Woman; LOVE is passionate about practicing
Christian Faith, and we cannot claim to love God (the first and greatest
Commandment) if our entire manner of living is not centered around Love.

Marriage is the "crucible" in which this process can occur; and I can't think of
a more realistic, pragmatic, effective scenario than Marriage in which the
work of Sanctification can happen. Marriage enables us to practice
(all of our married lives) both the first AND the second Great Commandments;
indeed, in my opinion, if you want to love God, you love what HE loves:
OTHER PEOPLE! So we love GOD BY loving other people... And who BEST
to begin with than our spouses!

God loves me in precisely the same way I love my kids (only perfectly, infinitely):
I am not always happy with their behavior, and I even have to "punish" them
sometimes; but my LOVE for them never ever changes, not one bit: No matter WHAT
they may do, I love them with a white-hot, passionate, radical love, because
they are my kids, and because it thrills me to do so (it's FUN!), and
because I want to see them grow up into mature adults with God-pleasing Character.

I want to enjoy watching them go out into the world and use their skills and
talents and abilities to be a BLESSING to those around them, and to give God the
glory for it. And of course my highest and deepest desire for them is that they
submit to the work of Sanctification, too, and one day become Saints, themselves...

Is it hard to understand, then, how God views me as HIS kid? Doesn't it make
perfect sense to realize that God loves me in exactly this same way, and doesn't
that realization fill our hearts with Joy and with a longing to finally, someday,
look into His face and hear His voice and experience His pleasure with us?
As C.S. Lewis said, "If the Master is satisfied with the creature, the creature
may be satisfied with itself". Perhaps we need to hear this much more often:
God loves us as His dear Children, the way a Father (and a Mother) loves his kids...

So take some time to mull over these ideas. Doing so has, for me, been a very
meaningful way of moving beyond Philosophy into an on-going splash-fest in
the Water of Life.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Death in the News


In the last 10 days, there have been some major stories in the news marking
the Deaths of 2 famous, and one suddenly (tragically) famous, people:

Michael Jackson died of (what is currently believed to be) "Sudden Cardiac Arrest",
this past Thursday. He was 50 years old. Perhaps no other entertainer had the
success and global impact that Michael Jackson did; despite his troubles in more
recent years, it seems obvious that for most of his life he enjoyed every bit of
the fame and fortune that this Life has to offer (and I personally liked almost all
of his music).

Farah Fawcett was the icon of "gorgeous" during the "Gen X" years when most
of us in that demographic were going through puberty. She too, though troubled in her
later years, surely enjoyed much fame and fortune during her stroll across the stage
of Life...

Neda was a beautiful college-aged Philsophy student who was gunned down last week
in the midst of the uprising in Iran. She was rather passively participating in
the tumult following the recent elections there, and is said to have only wanted
"freedom for all"... She had her whole life ahead of her, but a bullet pierced
her chest and she died right there where she fell, on a crowded Iranian street in
a pool of her own blood...

In all three of these cases, as in virtually every other Death the world has ever seen,
one moment a human being is Alive, the very next moment they are Dead, and what had been
the body of a person instantly becomes just a corpse, and the Person who
used to occupy that body is gone...

Life ends in the blink of an eye, suddenly, abruptly, often unexpectedly.

I myself, of course, could drop over Dead before I finish writing this paragraph; or before
I get to my son's baseball game later this morning; or as I'm driving to my Client engagement
tomorrow morning (it's sobering to picture myself having "sudden cardiac arrest", and I
slump over the wheel, and the car drifts to one side and careens to a halt in the ditch,
rocks and dust flying all over...)

To anyone who might respond by saying such imaginings are "morbid", I would reply with a
question and a comment: The question would be, "Are you a Christian?" If the answer is "No",
then we view this subject (and most others) very differently. If "Yes", then I would submit
that we Christians need to talk about Death openly, honestly, and frequently, for three
very poignant reasons:
    1. God never intended Death. Man's sin "broke" the world,
    and Death is our constant reminder that there is
    something wrong with the world as we know it...

    2. The Bible encourages us to live circumspectly, keeping in mind
    the frailty of human life and of our bodies, remembering that we
    enter into Eternity the moment we breathe our final breath...

    3. Perhaps most importantly, Death helps us ponder the idea
    that we are essentially spirit beings, merely encased, temporarily,
    in shells of muscle and bone, blood and water...
    When we interact with one another, we are spirits interacting;
    the real ME is the person, the spirit, having these
    thoughts and merely using my fingers to type and my eyeballs to
    view this screen... Someday (maybe today), those fingers and eyeballs
    will cease to function, and the REAL ME will be gone...

No wonder, then, that the Bible says "Man looks on the outward appearance, but
God looks on the heart"
... Quite literally, this verse is talking about PERSPECTIVE:
We humans are so geared toward This World, the physical, temporary, tumultous
world, and toward the drives and desires we have as physical, animal creatures;
but God's world -- the REAL "Reality" -- is a Spirit world that is eternal.

So let us live, every day, with the realization that we may very well be only one
short breath away from stepping through that portal; we need to have Death on our
minds constantly, in order that we might LIVE as we ought to before we pass into

Sunday, June 21, 2009

100 Years of Fathers Day

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the creation of what has
come to be celebrated as "Fathers Day" in this country. Read this
interesting, short article to learn how it all began...

I remember how stunned Sharon and I were when our first child
was born - Sarah - in 1998; we kept saying aloud to each other, "Wow
man, we're PARENTS now!!" We realized then that we had crossed one of
the major mile-markers in Life, and we were thrilled at the thought of
what was ahead for us (as well as duly concerned!)... Then we had our
second child - Sam - 16 months later, and we then had what a friend
of mine calls "a King's family" (one girl, one boy; a "complete set").

So I'm feeling a mixture of Joy and Sadness on this Fathers Day, a little
over 11 years after I became one: Joy because I believe I have two of
the greatest kids I could have ever possibly hoped for, and Sadness as
I think of how much I have done and said over these 11 years to fail them
as a father.

I've been too angry, too often; I've not spent as much time with them as
I probably should have; I've said things in front of them that I am
ashamed of; I've sometimes treated their mother disrespectfully and they
saw it; and I've not provided enough spiritual training for them, relying
instead on the church to do it for me. I could go on, of course; seems
like we're never where we ought to be...

But like my own father has said to me, "Failure is an event, never
a person, so I'm contemplating some "improvements" this Fathers Day
and I hope I have the discipline and endurance to carry through on them...

To encourage myself -- and perhaps you, if you're a father too -- along
these lines, check out these resources, here... All three take only about
10 minutes, total, and they're enjoyable... So put on your headphones, click
the links, and ponder with me these ideas on Fatherhood:
    A Father's Love for his son: Watch the VIDEO

    A "father figure" Coaches his Boys: Watch the VIDEO

    Fathers are Models: Watch the VIDEO

So on this Fathers Day, I'm asking God to forgive me for my failures as a
father; and I'm going to forgive myself for past mistakes, and to encourage myself
to do better -- for my KIDS' sake -- starting today.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Congregation-Driven Church

OK so it's kind of a play on the popular "Purpose-Driven Life"
(a great read... I highly recommend it), but I've been thinking
lately more about this idea that the pastoral staff (the "Session",
in our case) should perhaps be more like facilitators rather
than "leaders" per se... Allow me explain:

Seems to me like a more negative spin on "sheep" (the congregation)
and the "Shepherds" (the pastors) is that THEY basically dictate
everything and WE just follow along... Oh now they're not "dictatorial",
to be sure; our Session is comprised of some very wise and very kind
men, and their leadership is comparatively sound and certainly biblical.

But here's what the "typical" approach to pastoring a church looks like:
They set the budget, determining (pretty much on their own) whom to
support, what programs to fund, who gets paid what salary and benfits,
etc.; they determine what Sermon Series gets preached; they decide
how worship will go, how Community Groups will be conducted, what material
will be covered in Sunday School, who will speak at the Men's Retreat,
etc. etc... In sum, pretty much every detail that is of any real concern
to the life of the church as a whole...

Perhaps a better approach would be a Community-driven approach,
that might look something like this:

The CONGREGATION tells the Session its will in the following:
    What topics they would like to hear preached on
    What subjects they'd like to study in Sunday School
    How often, and where, they'd like to meet
    Whom to support (i.e., missionaries and so forth)
    What Salaries -- if any! -- to pay the Staff
    What the Budget LIMIT will be (e.g., whatever gets collected and no more)
    Whom to invite to speak at retreats, breakfast meetings, etc.
    What gets studied in the Men's bible study and who will lead it
    What Community Groups will look like and how they will function
    What music is done during worship, and how worship is conducted

You get the idea. Now of course some will object, saying that such an
approach will quickly descend into chaos as everyone puts their two cents
in; but surely part of what should be imparted to the members is a sense
of Order, and surely a system of "getting your voice heard" in some
organized fashion could be constructed...

Others will object by saying that "if you want to get active in your
church, then DO it! Find a place to serve and go serve". There is definitely
a great deal of validity in that idea, but serve how? In what capacity?
In the programs and duties that the STAFF has set up? That seems to beg
the question, to me...

Instead, wouldn't it be refreshing to have a Session that continually and
regularly stresses, at every opportunity, the idea that "this is YOUR church,
folks; things are set in motion here because YOU have said that is what you'd
like to see in your church and because YOU make those things happen"?

Wouldn't it be good to hear the Staff routinely ASK the Congregation for its
input, its feedback, its ideas, its suggestions and constructive criticism?
Would you get some nasty notes, some complaints, some whining? Well certainly,
and yet those TOO would be opportunities for members to learn lessons in
Charity, and Humility, and Deference, and Patience...

These ideas are not directed at any particular church, but at what seems to
be the "norm" in MOST churches. Imagine a church where most members are
learning and practicing their Gifts, full of JOY in so doing, and where everyone
is routinely encouraged by the Staff to do so, where the Staff LISTENS to
the membership and guides them responsively?
    They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them,
    "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because
    on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down,
    Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first,
    he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
    -- Mark 9:33-35


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lewis on Prayer

As I've noted here before, sometimes what's already been written
on a particular topic is all that needs to be said...

Download and read this article prayerfully, quietly, contemplatively...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Christ's Church, Then and Now

There have been, in recent years, several "grass roots" movements that have been
encouraging Christians to look at "church" in new ways; among their agendas are
things like leaving behind "organized religion (for dis-organized religion?),
focusing more on social issues, laying aside the great old hymns of the faith in
favor of more "modern" music, and de-emphasizing "restrictive" and "negative"
theological themes like damnation and sin in order to project more "positive" themes
like love and compassion and freedom-in-Christ... They call themselves things like
"Acts29" churches, "the Emerging Church", etc., and they promote a new vision of
Church with catch-phrases like "freedom living", "Church outside the walls", and
"a new kind of Christian" (which is also a book I've read and wouldn't recommend)...

There may be some value in these trends; few people would argue that "Church" as
we have traditionally understood the term has done a great deal of harm to the name
of Jesus, and at times has been about anything BUT Jesus, even perpetrating crimes
against humanity in His name (e.g., inquisitions, heresy trials, witch burning, etc.).
Even in more modern times, often the Church has turned a deaf ear to the pain and
suffering of the world around it, pronouncing judgement on "sinners" and condemning
the "cultural decay" it sees outside its doors.

But for all its mis-steps and failures through the centuries, the Church is still
the "Bride of Christ", and remains the central mechanism by which God works to make
Saints out of sinners. The New Testament Church was originally comprised of a
community of people who believed that Jesus Christ had recently lived among them,
was killed, and who bodily and literally rose from death and would return again some day.

That group -- this new "church" -- suffered tremendously for their faith in Jesus;
virtually all of the apostles were tortured and killed, and for hundreds of years after
that, the foundational growth of the church was soaked in the blood of martyrs
who also proclaimed this faith...

The Apostle's Creed includes the statement, "I believe in the holy catholic church";
Wikipedia comments on the word "catholic" like this:
    "Protestants sometimes use the term "catholic church" to refer to the entire body of
    believers in Jesus Christ across the world, and across the ages.

    Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and some Methodist Christians hold that
    their churches are catholic in the sense that they are in continuity with the
    original catholic (universal) church founded by the apostles."

So the universality of belief in Jesus Christ -- as the Risen Lord, as One
with God, and as the Sacrifical Lamb -- has been the defining characteristic of the
Church since the very beginning.

It is this belief, shared by this community, that binds us together
with those 1st-century Christians. And in this community we are to wash one another's
feet, partake of the Lord's Supper together, and worship God -- in reverence and awe --
even as we welcome other sinners to join us and be reborn and remade.

Fads and trends come and go; preferences in worship styles are sometimes important;
and Truth and sound doctrine must never be diluted or compromised, no matter how
distasteful or unpopular these may be to the world. But as we imagine ourselves reaching
across Time to grasp the hands of Christians in all ages, we can affirm -- quietly, with
bowed heads and humble hearts -- that we are HIS Church, remembering "the love the Father
has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Three Big Words, One Very Big Gospel

I put a very high value on Clarity, and so I appreciate it when
I come across big concepts that can be compacted into a few choice words.
Accordingly, the entire Gospel of the Christian faith can be compacted
into these three big -- weighty, meaningful, profound -- words that the
theologians and seminary students often use with great dexterity:

This is the explosion in the carburetor of faith that puts the whole
engine in motion (if you'll pardon a forced metaphor); it was accomplished
by Christ's humility, obedience, and ultimate power over even Death, and
is freely given to anyone who will accept Him. A sunday-school rendering
says that Justification means "Just-as-if-I'd never sinned", which is a
very good utility for the concept; a more complete exposition is available
in this article...

This is the very long, arduous process of "working out one's salvation"
as God Himself is at work in us, and this is where Christians spend most
of their journey in this life. To force another metaphor, becoming a
world-class hockey player (such as Pavel Datsyuk, of the Red Wings) is
not something that happens over night; Pavel has spent YEARS in training
of all sorts, developing the physical and mental habits that have made him
a champion. God slowly changes us, over time, from the inside out, as we
practice obedience and the spiritual disciplines, to make us into the
Saints that He created each of us to become, for His glory. You can read
Ezekiel 36 to get an idea of God's perspective on Sanctification, and there
is a good summary of the concept here...

Sometimes I hear a preacher (or another Blogger) say something like,
"It's not about US, it's about HIM"... I know what they mean, but that
comes dangerously close to heresy, if you ask me: The most famous verse
in all the Bible tells the story of God's perspective on mankind (John 3:16);
apparently redeeming us IS such a high priority with God that He
sacrificed His own dear Son to win us back to Himself, to FILL us with
Himself the way a mirror is full of light. We will, someday, finally be
glorified; God's work will be perfected, finished, in us, and we will
spend eternity offering back to the Father the glory that is Himself.
If you've never read C.S. Lewis' sermon, "Weight of Glory", you absolutely
must download a copy, here, and read it over and over...
Peter Kreeft summarizes it pretty well, too, here...

I love a great movie, one that has a definite beginning, middle and end;
the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no mere movie, but the only thing in this life
that has any real eternal value.

What a great concept.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Nature of Truth

If you want to understand how something works, ask an Engineer:
He designs a thing and tests out his theories until he produces a prototype that
works the same way nearly all the time...

I say "nearly" because we know of very few things that work the same way every time,
without fail and without even the possibility of some degree of failure...

Ask a satellite Engineer if it's possible that his design will fail and (if he's honest, and
humble enough) he will say, "Sure, I suppose it's possible that my design may
fail -- there are, in fact, a number of variables inherent in the design --
but I've put the prototype through just about every testing scenario anyone can
think of, and my colleagues have done the same, and the result is a product that is
reliable enough to 'prove' my theories and to establish it as Fact"...

A great deal of what we would say we "KNOW" falls into this category, a category
whose methods are sometimes called "the Scientific Method": develop a theory, test
its many variations, make modifications, and test again, repeating the process over
and over... The end result is to (hopefully) arrive at validation...

Some truth is "demonstrable": Test "2 plus 2" and, unless you are a fool, you will
ALWAYS and every time arrive at 4; but most of the Truths that guide our minds and
our lives don't meet this criterion. When we speak of "Truth", we most often mean
philosophical Truth: You would probably smirk a bit if someone said
they "believe" that 2 plus 2 is 4 (because it is so easily demonstrable); but if
someone said they "believe" that their spouse was having an affair, they would not
seek "demonstrable" Truth, in the same sense, but EVIDENCE. And with that evidence
they would hope to prove one "theory" or its opposite, namely, that an affair has
or has not taken place...

The courts have a phrase that guides most legal proceedings where a jury is
involved: "Beyond a reasonable doubt". And the lawyers use (among other things)
two of the primary tools for arriving at truth -- Logic and Reason -- to establish
Reasonable Doubt in one direction or the other...

Logic has to do with the structure of an argument, and Reason has to do with the
content and arrangement of arguments so as to reach a conclusion. If I say
"All A's are equal to all B's, and all B's are equal to all C's", the logical
conclusion of that syllogism is that all A's are equal to all C's; but when I use
Reason to assign values to those variables (A, B, and c), I may get Truth and I may
get nonsense: "All white people are rich; all rich people play golf; therefore,
all white people play golf."

The structure of the argument is sound but of course the conclusion is
false because the values assigned to each of the two premises are clearly False:
Not all white people are rich, and so on... So the "theory" breaks down immediately,
and would convince no honest thinker (or jury) because there is reasonable doubt...

There are two more elements we most always include when discussing matters of Truth
that we (most of us) care about: Authority and Experience. If the authorities tell
me that the electrical wire connected to my house carries 120 volts and "X" number
of Amps, I don't question it because I accept their Authority on the subject; and if
I am careless when I do renovations on my house, I may arrive at Truth about
electricity based on a very unpleasant Experience...

So it would seem that certain criteria for arriving at Truth are a part of nearly
every important topic we might assign that word to: Reason (and Logic), Authority,
and Experience.

Christians add one more category to the search for Truth: Divine Revelation.
Either (what we mean when we say) "GOD" is a) completely incomprehensible to
man, or b) completely comprehensible to man, or c) partially (perhaps mostly)
incomprehensible to man and yet partially comprehensible to man. If (A), then
all our talk about "God" is mere babble; if (B), then "god" is merely the highest
of human intellects and qualities; but (C) must be true (if you believe in any kind
of "god" as we normally use the term), since, in contradiction to (A), we don't
usually believe we're "babbling" to talk about God, and since, in contradiction to
(B), no human person that any of us have ever met has claimed to actually BE the
transcendant "god" we typically have in mind when we use the term...

And because He is, by definition, Transcendant, and could therefore completely
conceal Himself if He chose, we can only know Him if He chooses to REVEAL Himself to
us, in however finite a fashion might be required in order to keep from completely
overwhelming us. This is not hard to imagine: If an Ant farmer wanted to reveal
himself to the ants in the colony, he would have to "dumb himself down" to a degree
that the Ants would know that he is A) enough like us for us to even comprehend him
at all, and yet B) so vastly UN-like us that we can be very sure that even our "best
and brightest" ants are not HIM...

I moved immediately to the "God" question in this post about Truth because I can
think of no greater subject for the feeble mind of Man to ponder than God's existence
and what that existence might mean for us...

So the search for Truth is, many of us believe, the search for God, and everything
else PALES by comparison. In future posts, I'll talk a bit about applying these
"tools" to the question of God's existence, and why Relative Truth is the position
of Fools.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Obama Years: Popular Sentiment trumps ALL

It's probably safe, at this point, to just come right out and say,
in plain language, what we have all known to be true ever since
it really began to look like Obama was going to take the election:

The reigning Modus Operandi guiding Obama's decisions, and the
current Democratic party, and apparently many American voters, is
that what we might call "popular sentiment" will TRUMP common sense,
wisdom, and reason whenever any important subject comes up.

Anyone who did any SERIOUS reading of Obama's positions, views,
orientations, and circles-of-friends in the 15 or so years prior to
his presidency learned what an out-right, extremist, left-wing
Liberal he is; but whether or not those Facts were considered, we
are all now seeing just what a Radical Leftist would do if he/she
became president...

... but all this was apparently ignored by enough people to get
him elected (though surely not even Obama-circle-sticker-toting Democrats
are HAPPY about the fiscal train wreck he and his Democratic disciples
are creating as fast as they can???)... What carried him into the
presidency -- let's be honest -- was a combination of
several things that appealed to POPULAR SENTIMENT more than anything else:

    He's black
    He's the polar opposite of absolutely anything Bush-like
    He -- like any good snake oil saleman -- is a smooth talker
    He looks good on TV (some say)
    He's young
    He's into computers and techie stuff (and he uses them well)
    Let's face it, McCain was just too "old school"... and Old...
    He's black

Americans are free to do whatever they choose with their one single vote;
that's part of the beauty of this type of electoral system; but it's the
WHY that I'm interested in here... I have yet to have ONE SINGLE
PERSON who voted for Obama give me a SINGLE reason for their choice
that does NOT fit into one of the above SENTIMENTAL categories...

And now we have a major milestone in the news, for this presidency:
Obama has named Sonia Sotomayor as his pick for a Supreme Court spot.
Right off the bat, a SIGNIFICANT comment made by Ms. Sotomayor comes
to light:
    "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness
    of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion
    than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

As I pondered this radically biased comment this morning, it dawned
on me that THIS IS, indeed, WHERE THIS PRESIDENCY IS; THIS is the kind
of statement that not only does not bother them but one that they
actually agree with!

Newt Gingrich's response was succinct and right on target:
    "Imagine a judicial nominee who said 'my experience as a white man
    makes me better than a Latina woman.' Wouldn't they have to withdraw?
    New racism is no better than old racism."

But that kind of common sense, practical WISDOM, that basic sense of
FAIRNESS, is lost on this administration. Obama is riding the wave of
Whatever-We-Feel-Like-Doing, and he is finding out -- like a spoiled and
bratty teenager -- that he can break all the old rules right in front of
our eyes and nobody's going to do anything about it. He's going to put
a Racist on the Supreme Court, and he knows that nobody is going to
stop him, because he has Popular Sentiment on his side.

It's truly "Alice in Wonderland" in D.C. these days, and Obama does seem
like the Cheshire Cat, grinning into the TV cameras...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Listening Skills

Sometimes I half-jokingly say that Preachers and Car Salesmen are two groups of people who never know when to stop talking; and of course it's virtually impossibleto LISTEN when you're talking; no wonder, then, that as you read through the Bible you see many instances where we are admonished to be quiet, be still, listen, be "slow to speak", and so forth. There are even a few times in Scripture when God (or an angel) removed, for a short time, a person's ability to speak at all!

There are lots of resources on the Internet, like this one and this one, that can help us understand how to listen (if only we will take the time toSTUDY them and put them into PRACTICE)... We chuckle, too, when we recall how our late Grandma Kate used to get so bothered by what she felt was any surplus of speaking around her (she used to turn off the sound on Cardinals baseball games, which she loved to watch on TV, and when asked why, she'd say, "too much talkin'!")

I wanted to mention Listening Skills here to draw attention to the role that LISTENING plays in the all-encompassing mandate for Christians, the focus that overshadows everything else about the Christian life:

Good LISTENING skills send a message to the speaker that you care about what they are saying and therefore about them, in general. You can use not only your ears but your face, your eyes, your shoulders, your hands, the overall position of your body, and even your voice (for appropriate, responsive, non-interrupting Feedback) to convey to the speaker some unspoken messages, like "I'm interested in what you're saying" ... "I care about what you care about" ... "You, and what you are expressing, are important
to me" ... "You are a valued person!"

I've been in "discussion classes" where there wasn't much "discussion" going on because the leader of the class was not only driven to deliver his material (short-circuiting any "discussion") but also, when anyone did insist on getting a comment in there, he would "hurry them along" with a stream of "uh-huh...right...sure...that's right"...  I've seen "debates" where the exchange of ideas never got off the ground because neither side was LISTENING to the other, and shouting matches took over... I've seen fathers berate their sons, verbally over-powering the poor boys who were just trying to make a point that, if heard, would have changed the father's position on a certain issue; and I've watched their exasperation as the father shouted them down... I've been at club meetings, and work meetings, and church meetings, etc., where I am asked a question and I hardly get two words out of my mouth before the questioner is talking over top of me, never letting me finish, and then asking their question again...

The Bible has much to say about controlling the Tongue; so imagine what it would be like if we began to regularly and sincerely practice LISTENING SKILLS? How might it soften our relationships with our spouses if we conveyed LOVE to them simply by listening to what they have to say and demonstrating that their thoughts and expressions are important to us? How might we deepen our relationships with our kids if we spent more effort listening to their thoughts and feelings and responses, instead of over-powering them with our authority?

How much more successful would we be at work if we sharpened the skill of listening to what bosses, peers, and subordinates want to say to us? How much more vibrant would our CHURCHES be if the leadership regularly, pro-actively, and sincerely sought out the thoughts and feelings and Feedback of the congregation? (When was the last time you heard the pastor say something like, "drop me a note, or send me an email, and let me know how you think the Staff is doing here... Help us understand how to SERVE you better... This is YOUR church"? Probably never?)

One of the practices we enjoy at our church is the several segments throughout the service where we are all QUIET, for several minutes at a time. And just as we need Quiet as part of the practice of showing reverence to God, we need Quiet so that we can demonstrate LOVE to those around us by LISTENING to them.

May God help us all to be "QUICK to LISTEN, slow to speak, and slow to Anger"...

Friday, April 17, 2009

McCarthyism is Back!

In addition to other threats to our Freedoms that I've noted in this Blog,
the news of the past few days has revealed yet another giant leap in the
Obama race toward government domination of the lives of Americans:

We learned this week of the Department of Homeland Security report in which
"right-wing extremists" are now being watched by the U.S. government...

Since the U.S. government tends to abuse whatever power they're given
(we also heard this week a report that the NSA has been abusing the
wire tap powers given to them by the Patriot Act(s)... Gosh, what a shock!),
what this will MEAN, in the very near future, is that the government will
label you as an "Extremist" -- and therefore a "terror threat" -- to the U.S...

...If you, for example, declare that homosexuality (and gay "unions")
are an abomination, or if you are opposed to abortion, or if you go public
with your "limited government" views, or if you proclaim that Jesus is
the only way to God, etc. etc...

Basically, if you're a CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN, look out, the government
has branded you as an "Extremist" now, inclined toward "domestic terrorism"
and probably a "threat" to national security...

We've seen this kind of thing before, during the dark years of McCarthyism,
when LABELS could ruin a person's life (and did, in many cases)...

There is a phrase that I am hearing over and over, these days, and it has
never been more true than during these first 80 days of the Obama-nation:
    Those who fail to heed the lessons of history
    are destined to repeat them
All of this helps to strengthen the conviction that putting all our Hope
in anything connected to this world is just so foolish...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Story of Easter

If God knows everything, past, present and future, surely He saw
the whole story all laid out ahead of time: God creates man,
who really could choose to rebel; man in fact does so; and then
God is angry. So His plan -- which He surely had in mind the
entire time! -- is to take the penalty for man's rebellion on
Himself, thereby saving man and restoring things to the way
He made them in the beginning.

Why the whole charade, then? It's like a game of checkers played
with one's own self, feigning strategy and plotting moves, and then
moving around to the other side of the board and pretending to
counter-attack, perhaps with a playful "a-HA! Gotcha!" thrown in
just for entertainment...

God knew before He created man that man would fall; why the
seemingly pointless round of heavenly solitaire? He knew what
would happen, He knows what's happening now, and He's there at
the end of time, with absolutely no surprises (to Him) at how
it will all end.

There is only one reason why the Christian story exists at all:

God's "grand experiment" was to create Souls -- I like to call
us "Conscious Choosing Agents" -- who could, if they so chose,
enter into a Love relationship with Him, of their own volition,
freely, and to whom He could direct the perfect Love that is
central to His very nature.

Love always GIVES. The eternal Trinity, existing before all time
in a three-way community of Love, created Souls because that Love
spilled over and could do nothing BUT seek to take Love as far as
it could possibly go.

There was risk, to be sure: The awful, terrible, real Risk that
a Conscious Choosing Agent could actually spurn that Love,
opting instead to focus on itself, eventually self-destructing,
feeding on its own wretchedness forever even as it is fed to the
demons who hate God with a profound hatred.

The Ressurection of Jesus means nothing until this Risk is fully
appreciated: The precise intersection of Supreme Justice and
Perfect Love requires Punishment with one hand and offers Redemption
with the other; but the damned Soul, still perfectly loved
by its Maker, cannot be given less than what it, ultimately and
finally, demands to have: independence from Love.

The death of Jesus -- very God Himself -- satisfied the requirement
of Justice; His ressurection revealed for us the glorious New Creation
that this Love story intends for those who choose Him: Perfectly
glorified sons and daughters of God, able to love as perfectly as
we are loved, bound together forever in a joyful servant-Master relationship.

Yes, God certainly does know the whole story, and He is surely
at the end of Time already loving and being loved by His children.
WE, however, are hemmed in by Time, and on Easter we celebrate -- with
tremendous fanfare, and wonder, and awe -- the single moment in Time
when victory over even death itself was guaranteed for us.

He is our triumphant Groom, and we will be His purified Bride;
there will be a wedding, and a feast, and singing and dancing,
and never-ending eons of joy and peace and radiant beauty.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is first and foremost a LOVE Story,
and we can choose to marry Him and enter into His eternal Life,
or spurn His affection and spend a loveless eternity
in darkness and misery.

On this Easter, I choose Him, all over again.

Hosannah!! He is risen!!

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Importance of TRUTH

Let's say you have one hundred million dollars, and you're looking for a bank
to place your money with, having become unhappy with your prior bank. So you
arrange a meeting with the bank president -- perhaps a nice lunch at a local,
expensive restaurant -- and you begin to ply this bank president with a series
of questions related to the stability of his bank, and how they treat their
"high rollers", and what sort of rates you might expect to enjoy given your
enormous wealth, etc. etc.

(I don't know much about how all this works, really... I'm just using it as
a loose analogy)...

What if that bank president told you something like this: "Well, sir, we like
to let our clients take their OWN view of our bank. We're not into a lot of
self-promotion, so if you think we're a good bank -- if it 'works' for you to
think that we're stable and so forth -- then that's what we are. The most
important thing is that your perception of us gives you fulfillment and peace."

Well of course you'd look at that bank president like he had gone absolutely
insane, and you'd let him know in a flash that he had better come up with
a much better response than that! Or perhaps you'd excuse yourself with a polite
but terse rebuff along the lines of "baloney" and leave him sitting there...

Or what if you were taking a parachuting class, and your Jump Master asks you,
just prior to take-off, if your chute has been properly packed and is ready
for the jump, and you replied, "Well, I feel like it is, yes.." If his tack
was anything like the military, he'd jump down your throat, curse your "feelings"
and tell you you'd better make damn SURE it's ready...

Why? Well because there is so much at STAKE in these two scenarios... If you
fail to ascertain the TRUTH in these matters, you stand to lose a great
deal (your very life, possibly, in the second one)...

We can all think of world events where, when the Truth came out, the "shock and
awe" of its impact changed things forever... The Holocaust is a good example...

Our contemporary culture's relativistic attitude toward Truth is no less significant,
because of what's at stake and because of the potential impact when the Truth
does finally come out:

When Oprah -- and those like her -- say "we all find our own way to God", she
is affirming a Truth statement whether she realizes it or not. And of course the
right response is, "Is that statement TRUE?" If it IS, then those who claim that
there is only ONE way are a menace to society and a blasphemous affront to a god
that "welcomes any old way we choose" to get to him; if it's NOT True, then those
who listen to this Lie are doomed, and will, sadly, discover the Truth in the first
moment after death...

Let the weak-minded pursue "whatever works for them", but personally, I am willing
to do the work required to find the Truth (and hopefully Wisdom, too). When it
comes to these most important of questions, it's the TRUTH we should be
seeking, not some self-focused "realize your potential" mantra nor a system of
beliefs we accept by default because we were raised that way...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sam is TEN

Today my son Sammy turned 10 years old. This is one very
unique little boy: Sam (or "David" as he is known at school... his
middle name) is a very kind-hearted kid, with a very sweet disposition.
He is extremely smart, with a great mind for Math and Science, though
he prefers, above all, Hockey and Wrestling. And like most kids, he
loves video games... He's a very intense little man, he laughs easily,
he can be very silly at times, and he can sometimes be a little shy.
We sure do LOVE this young man!!! He's our one and only son.

In every way we consider Sammy to be an absolute Gift from God.
He is a lot of fun to be around, and we love him dearly!!!

Happy Birthday, Samuel David!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Obama "wins", America LOSES

Today the Congress of the United States approved the largest
and most pork-laden SPENDING Bill that has ever come to the
floor: The much-vaunted, widely-despised "Stimulus Package"
that Obama has pushed so hard for, saying that "only Government"
can resolve the current economic crisis (and that should send a
chill down the spine of anybody who really THINKS about that
statement even for just a minute)...

But, for me, the last straw came this afternoon when the current
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, hailed today's approval of
the Pork-ulus Bill with a comment that showed her true agenda:
    "This is a remarkable achievement for
    President Barack Obama ... Never before has a president
    passed his first economic policy so boldly."

I thought the primary goal of this Waste-o-Rama was to help
the American people??? I thought it was about JOBS,
about Lay-offs, about people losing their homes, and
about "getting America back on track"???

Turns out the primary concern of his followers was making
Obama look good; the plight of America was manipulated
by Liberals to secure funding for dozens of dead-end projects
that won't "stimulate" anything... Voting on this
Government Gorge-a-thon split the Congress along party lines,
with all the Democrats but 7 (who came to their senses) and
all the Republicans but 3 (who lost theirs) voting "Yea"
and "Nay" respectively...

... clearly demonstrating that Obama Mania Syndrome (this
wild-eyed, giggling-high-school-cheerleader INFATUATION that
Liberals and ignorant Democrats have for him) is worse than
we thought, since even the dire circumstances of millions
of Americans, and the REAL help that they need, is little
more than an whisper amidst the clamor of adulation...

If the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 3rd in line
for the Presidency and ostensibly representative of the
American people cannot respond with anything greater than,
"this is a remarkable achievement for president Barack Obama",
then I must conclude that Liberal politics is indeed
exceedingly blind, these days, to absolutely anything but
its own agenda. Where were the comments along the lines of,
"This will be great for America", or, "We look forward with
great anticipation to helping the American people improve
their lives and brighten their futures", and all sort of other
campaign-trail Jibber-Jabber?? Where was the trademark
Obama clarion call for "hope"?? Everyone knows it would be
complete hoo-hah, but at least it would be FAR more appropriate
in this context than childishly boot-licking their "rock star"...

I try to strike a tone of Grace on this Blog, but today I am
taking an unusual side trail to vent a little about how sick and tired
I am with what we're seeing; and I'm completely fed up
with all the fawning over Obama; and I'm deeply concerned
(though not surprised) about the sprint toward Socialism
and governmental domination that is happening right before
our very eyes: Newsweek says "we are ALL Socialists now",
and oh, have you heard that Obama wants control
over the U.S. Census??
And then there is the so-called
"Fairness Doctrine"... Obama's considering that, too...
And if you've not heard yet of the United Nation's CRC, that's
another disturbing possibility that Obama supports...

We should hold onto our Freedoms loosely, knowing that this
old World was never intended to be our real home anyway; but
today, America LOST even as its president basks in his "victory".

Pathetic. Sad. Is it too early for us Conservatives to start
saying "We TOLD you so"??

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Hangover

With the wild-eyed euphoria of the Inauguration beginning to die down,
here are just a few thoughts on what we've just witnessed:

Enough Already
From my observations in the past few months -- most especially in the past 48 hours --
the primary groups showing their slap-happy-drunk Giddiness over the Obama presidency
are the Liberal Media and Black Democrats. The young girl who took my ticket as I
left the parking garage yesterday nearly leapt out of her booth as she beamed about
"Barack Obama"... And the media is indulging in an absolute ORGY of coverage over the
tiniest and most minute details surrounding Obama... You cannot turn on the TV or
tune your radio these days without more "coverage" assaulting your eyes and ears...

It's time for the "party" to be over and to see what the much-vaunted "Change" will
bring us (so far it ain't been much... Most of Obama's appointments have been what
Hannity calls "Clinton-era Re-treads)... It's time to put some substance into
what "Time" magazine labeled "the Triumph of 'Hope'"... "Hope is not a strategy",
they say, so enough with all the pomp and circumstance and let's see if the vocal Criticizer
of Bush can do any better, himself. I truly do hope so, but I'm already way past WEARY
of all the hub-a-loo...

No Class
I heard that there was a large section of people, in the millions that packed
the area surrounding the speaker's podium at the Inauguration, who, when seeing
George W. Bush taking his seat on the stage, started up with that college sports
taunt, a tune, that goes, "Nah-nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey-hey, Good-BYE..." This was
truly class-less and extraordinarily disrespectful, and yet the
frenzy of some -- stemming from this whole "savior" complex they have about Obama --
makes it easy to see why Common Deceny is of no concern to them.

The Next Election
It occurred to me on the drive home last night that the election of Obama, and
the historical installation of an African American to the office of president,
has now thrown wide open the door for ANYONE, from ANY social group, to push for
"one of their own" to hold that office, as some sort of bellwether that they,
too, have finally been "accepted"...

So expect a Woman candidate to run a strong campaign leading up to 2012 (let's hope
it's someone with the Looks and Style of Palin, the polictical muscle of Clinton,
and the conservative Values of Liz Dole)... But are you ready for a GAY candidate?
A Latino candidate? A Jewish candidate? How about a Handicapped candidate?

My only point is that Obama's appointment has radically and permanently changed
HOW and WHY we put a person in that office, and it is now far more about finding
a Poster boy (or girl, or... well...) than it is about finding a Statesman.

The Future
It's easy to be discouraged at this point, as a Conservative and as a Christian:
Washington is throwing away hundreds of BILLIONS on pork; Unborn children are in
more danger now than at any other time in history; the Strength of the Christian
message has been being watered down for years, and now seems imminently threatened
by even "liberal" so-called "Christians"; The Gay Agenda is more violently aggressive
than it has ever been; this Recession ISN'T going to go away; it will be followed
by deep Inflation, as the Dollar grows weaker as it flies off the printing presses;
nations who HATE us are threatening our (and our Allies') destruction at every turn.
Oh yeah, and the Earth is quickly running out of its natural resources.

Despite all this, true Believers in the lordship of Jesus Christ, and His eventual
return, and all that is ahead for us -- hopefully very soon -- can be at peace,
knowing The One who is sovereign over all of it. The Promise of Glory is not a
"MIGHT gonna happen", it's a GUARANTEED To Happen... Let's pray for strength as
we wait, work for Justice and Peace and Truth in the meantime, and find Peace
as we rest in that Promise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama becomes president

Today our country witnessed the inauguration of the first African American president
in the nation's history; we have been completely saturated with coverage of Obama for
over two years now, and today the "talk" begins to be the "walk". Let's hope, for
the sake of America herself, that he does well.

In the absence of any compelling "theme" for this post, I'll just list some thoughts
and concerns that I have about this particular president, and what his assumption of
the office may mean for America's present and future well-being:

1. I'm very happy about the legitimate encouragement that Americans-of-color, those
who used to be called "minorities", seem to be finding in the fact that "one of
their own" is now the President of the United States. This is certainly a shining
moment in the Civil Rights movement, and it should go a long way toward advancing
the idea that ALL men are created -- by God, and having a JOINT Ancestry in Adam --
as equals.

2. Ironically, one of my concerns turns on this very point: I'm encouraged by the
installment of a Black man in the Oval Office, but this Black man??
Some of the delight of seeing African Americans finally get representation at the
highest levels of American government is tarnished by the fact that the first to
accomplish this significant achievement is arguably the most liberal of
political figures to ever move about in Washington, D.C.... And then, I recall that
this is the city who voted in a Black mayor, who then was convicted of, and served
jail time for, felony involvement with drugs, and who THEN eventually was voted
back into the Mayor's office...

And of course there are representatives of every ethnicity who've lowered the
Character bar in American politics, so Color, here, is not the point at all...

The point is that the content of one's character -- which the iconic Civil
Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. held up as the standard by which ALL citizens
ought to be judged -- seems to be FAR less important to minority constituents than
"minority" status itself; and it's becoming more and more evident that "minority"
status is very often used as a smoke screen for ushering in Liberal politics...
Just look at the way "Women's groups" treated Sarah Palin, a Conservative: Those
groups turned a blind eye to the sexism that the Media aimed at her; if she had been
a Liberal, that same sexism would have been angrily condemned by those same groups,
if it even occurred at all, as a "cover" for the real agenda:
The advancement of Liberal politics.

3. I have been disappointed to hear a couple of men whom I respect say things such
as, "Obama is a good man", and "I think he might make a fine president". Good???
By what standard? "Fine", if he tramples the Constitution?? I'll happily point out
here -- in contrast to all the "Obama-mania" -- that this Emperor has no clothes:

One has to wonder how "good" a man is when he holds EXTREME Pro-Abortion
positions, and who has pledged to do everything he can to advance those
positions... How "fine" can a person be as president who has zero Foreign
Policy experience, zero Military experience -- and who, on that score,
is determined to force an establishment that already does not respect him to
allow openly-gay service members in -- and who maintains long-term, on-going ties
with some extremely questionable characters, some of whom are virulently
anti-American?? THIS is "good" and "fine"?

4. A Liberal will - by definition - hold to the idea that Government is the
answer to most (if not all) of the country's ills. This is never more true than
when deciding how to spend the government's money. Among the scores of details
swirling around Obama's plans to pass out Federal money, there are these nuggets:
    485 BILLION to the UN, to "help" them fight "world hunger"
    265 BILLION on various "Community Development" programs
    300+ BILLION to prop up Medicare and Medicaid
    BILLIONS for government-controlled Health Care
    BILLIONS to "help" private citizens with their mortages
    Dozens of other "initiatives"

This comes on the heels of numerous news stories exposing the Fraud, Waste and Abuse
of hundreds of BILLIONS of Fed dollars that have already gone out the door under
this "TARP" program; and we've watched in disbelief as entities from the State of
California to porn slinger Larry Flynt, and just about everyone else in between,
stepping up with their hand out, whining for "bailout" money...

This free-for-all Money situation going on in Washington -- sure to be made worse by
a Liberal Democrat and his "spend our way to Utopia" visions -- should be of very
grave concern to ALL Americans...

5. Most of all, it's what I might call "the Religion question" that concerns me the
most: Obama might very well be a Christian, and ALL of us fall short of
living out what we say we believe... But I'm troubled by the idea that Obama's
version of Christianity will come to be seen as "orthodox", and that traditional
doctrines of the Faith will increasingly be seen as "radical" and "extremist".
"Even the demons believe," the Scriptures tell us; let us hope and pray that a real
sense of humility before God, and a new allegiance to the Absoluteness of God's Will
-- as revealed in Scripture -- takes place in Obama's heart and mind.

This is, of coure, what I pray for myself, as well.