Wednesday, May 21, 2014
As I write this piece, Memorial Day is just around the corner. By the time it is published, the holiday will have passed. It is never too late to mention Memorial Day or its purpose. It exists to remind us of the brave men and women who gave their lives in defense of American freedoms. As many speakers throughout the cities, towns and hamlets of America reminded their audiences on Memorial Day, freedom is not free. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a wide gap in the morality code of our country and others, not so blessed to have the Judeo-Christian ethic as a guideline. That is why we cherish freedom of speech, religion, press and so forth; that is why we see man as master of the state, and not servant of the state. That is why we embrace, at least in principle, a democratic republic. It comes close to the old Hebrew ideal of representatives from each tribe of Israel meeting to determine the country’s fate. America may have its faults, but it is still the land to which freedom seeking people come. The willingness of some to sacrifice their lives so that others may live in freedom is always a cause for wonder. Near my home is a small cemetery containing the remains of Revolutionary War soldiers. There are only four graves, but they fought for me and you over two hundred years ago. By the time you read this article, I will have paid my respects to them. There are the Civil War heroes, the heroes from World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They all, those who perished and those who survived, fought for a cause they considered more important than their own lives. They did not volunteer to die, but to fight for freedom and American values. Take time to reflect upon the values that have made America a bastion of freedom. Pray that we retain the values that have made us that bastion. Pray for people in other lands, where freedom and Judeo-Christianity is unknown. In 1982, President Reagan made the following statement on Memorial Day. “I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.” I am … proud to be an American.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
I was reading from The Washington Post recently. An article had caught my eye, its headline was Bloomberg launches new $50 million gun control effort. The report, dated April 16 and written by Aaron Blake, went on to share that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who apparently has more money than Fort Knox has gold, will use his wealth to begin a campaign against gun violence. All those of you who support gun violence, please raise your hands. Okay, I don’t see any hands. Is anyone really for gun violence, or is Bloomberg just indulging us to another propaganda campaign? Time will tell, I suppose. Frankly, I know a lot of people and none of them, zip – nana – nobody, is in favor of more gun violence. Especially is that true of gun owners, of whom I am one. This $50 million dollars is to be spent on the 2014 elections, according to the Post, aiming to push new gun control measures into law. Laws that all the criminals will suddenly and miraculously obey, presumably. What measures these are remain unspecified in the article, and perhaps Bloomberg is still trying to decide how to get criminals and mentally handicapped persons to obey new gun laws. What struck me as interesting, and the real point of this piece, is Bloomberg’s self-congratulatory remark. “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” If donating $50 million to a cause in which you believe is going to get you into heaven, then you may as well throw away all that we know from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (commonly called Old and New Testaments – I use the other designation because I think Mr. Bloomberg is an adherent to the Jewish faith). I ask you, the reader, on what basis do you hope to enter heaven? It is God’s heaven, and I have not read where your place in it is for sale. Jesus spoke to a man who thought he had earned heaven. The man had studied Torah, kept the Law as well as anyone could keep it, and given much money to a cause he believed in. The man’s name was Nicodemus, and this episode is recorded in John’s Gospel, Chapter 3. Nicodemus was truly shocked to learn that he had not earned heaven, it is not for sale. To him Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Jesus used the word “must” and then proceeded to share just what this meant: having the Spirit of God perform a supernatural work upon the heart. In other words, heaven cannot be earned. It is not a birthright. It is a promised gift, received by faith and based solely upon God’s grace. Grace is the great word of the Christian faith. Defined as “the unmerited favor of God”, it is not earned. It is what God does for us freely through faith. Both Hebrew and Christian testaments teach that we are saved by God’s grace (“mercy” is most often the word used in the Hebrew scriptures). Don’t try to get into heaven on your own. Please understand : it is not for sale. Trust in the grace of God.
Friday, March 21, 2014
I guess Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is in hot water again. You remember him as the object of a recall election in 2012. That was when union bosses from around the country sent masses of temp workers into the state to act as protesters against his alleged “union busting” policies. Whether union busting or necessary for job growth, as Walker contends, I don’t know. I do know that he campaigned with this policy proposal being presented publicly and the people of the state elected him. Just why his opponents then had a recall election, I don’t quite understand. Sore losers, presumably. But back to the current controversy. Walker professes to be a Christian. As a Christian, he posted a scripture reference from the New Testament on his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. The verse is the familiar Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” But please do not misunderstand. He did not quote the verse. He merely cited it. His Twitter and Facebook accounts read simply, “Philippians 4:13”. For this citation of Philippians 4:13, an aggressive atheist group called The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter to Walker asking him to delete the message from both accounts. Rather than considering his accounts personal, the argument made by the atheists is that “it is improper” for a politician to promote personal religious views using the “machinery of the state.” Dan Barker is the co-President of The Freedom From Religion Foundation (the other co-President is Barker’s wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor). Barker and Gaylor have become adept at mailing letters threatening legal action whenever any public mention is made of God - and making certain the press is told about these letters. The website for his organization is curious for sure: tabs at the top of the page are a pretty color of blue, with a garish gold tab sticking out like a sore thumb. The garish tab that is impossible to miss is inscribed with the word DONATE. One could reasonably conclude that the website is designed not so much to inform but to fleece. Sort of like having the press report on letters sent: the more press, the more donations. What little bit of information is on the website is mostly sterile, easily refuted and belligerent diatribes that parade as “Free Thought.” There is also an atheist radio broadcast, listened by someone, somewhere I suppose, that is promoted on the site. Barker and Gaylor’s comment on their website, regarding Scott Walker posting “Philippians 4:13” on Twitter and Facebook, was “seems more like a threat, or the utterance of a theocratic dictator, than of a duly elected civil servant.” Posting “Philippians 4:13” is a threat? By a “theocratic dictator”? See, I told you the web site was, um, let’s just say bereft of intelligent discourse. Their comments seem more like an attempt to bully a duly elected civil servant into silence. “Don’t tell us about the core of your being and the values that mean the most to you and influence public policy. We don’t want to know. Keep silent about your faith!” I prefer knowing what the core values are of my elected officials. I may or may not share them, but I find it helps to know. Okay, here is my take on it. The last time I looked, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of Religion, Assembly, Petition, Press, Opinion, and Speech. I know this is tough for The Freedom From Religion Foundation to accept – but there it is. I do not read in the First Amendment where an exception is made for an elected official. Particularly one who happens to cite a verse from the Bible on Twitter and Facebook. This is not like sending out the troops to convert people to his religion. So, I say Hurrah for Scott Walker! Way to keep freedom of speech alive, Scott. Way to protect the right of all Americans to practice the freedom of Religion, Assembly, Petition, Press, Opinion, and Speech, or what we commonly call… First Amendment rights.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Every morning after sipping on a cup of coffee, I call the local weather station. It has a computerized answering device that gives the day, the date and the current temperature. It then gives a recorded advertisement before proceeding to the forecast. Recently the advertisement has been that the caller can ride a bus very conveniently to the new “racino.” Nothing is said about the possibility of losing all you money and having to walk back home! The Bible does have principles that speak to gambling – and none condone it. Now, I am aware that, as I have been told, getting in your car and driving on the highway is a gamble. But, of course, that kind of rationale encompasses all of life. This article is not discussing a drawing to help a charity or a $1 bill stuck in a jar at work with coworkers to buy a group raffle or lottery ticket. The former could be considered a charitable cause and the latter is a desire to maintain cohesion and team unity in a work environment. What I have in mind is institutionalized, commercial gambling - the expenditure of a sum of money in hope of returning an instant larger return, and done at a gaming facility. You know, the internet cafes, the race tracks, racinos and casinos. The inherent dangers include: loss of money necessary to sustain life (known as gambling the milk money), an adrenalin rush that excites so much that the gambler wants it repeated (addiction), and with the above two always at work, the loss of family, career and even, in some cases, life. This is not an exaggeration. There is a reason that “Gamblers Anonymous” exists, after all. But what principles from God’s Word address this issue? What can we assume God thinks of the institutionalized, commercial ventures that we call “gambling”? The toil assigned to Adam by God in Eden (Genesis 3) makes it safe to assume that working and saving for the acquiring of wealth is God’s plan. This is the opposite of the “get rich quick” approach of the gambling establishments. Here is a Biblical principle not to be overlooked: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). I realize this verse says nothing directly about gambling, but it says a mouthful regarding the importance of work and implies that gambling is not the way we are to earn our keep. Working and saving is God’s appointed way of getting ahead financially, not gambling. Then too, the Bible warns that people who inherit wealth suddenly are those who frequently have not learned how to manage money. Consequently, they can (and often do) lose it quickly. Proverbs 13:11 states, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle.” I have read that ninety per cent of lottery winners are penniless within five years. How can this be? It is because they never learned the rules of money, i.e. how to manage it. The Bible, incidentally, transmits those rules to the reader. Then too, God’s Word has told us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Let me use myself as an example. For me to win at gambling means that a lot of other people have to lose. Hoping or even praying for their failure is not loving them. Stop to think about it for a minute: other gamblers want to see you lose. You have to lose so that they can win. How does it make you feel to know that others are hoping you lose your money? It is a pretty lousy feeling. Then why do it to others? Statistics show that those who gamble are disproportionately from the ranks of the poor or struggling. Addiction and criminal activity are associated with gambling; suicide rates for gamblers are the highest of any addictive group. Is your contributing to all these personal and social problems an act of loving your neighbor? Is your wanting to see them become losers a way of loving them? No, of course not. The old saying is “the House never loses.” The gaming establishment excites with false promises of instant wealth. But it loses just enough to keep people coming back. At the end of every day, the customers always lose and the House always wins. I don’t intend to take a bus to the racino. I don’t want to lose my money and I don’t want to walk home. I will not be a loser.
Friday, February 7, 2014
I was reading the 2006 book by Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. I was curious how a person of his stature could profess atheism and the book enlightened me: he makes people insensitive to issues like responsibility and accountability; in his writings it becomes apparent that “good works” is meaningless, as is “final judgment.” He contends that people who believe in these ideas are delusional. “When one person is delusional, we call it ‘insanity’; when thousands of people are delusional, we call it ‘religion.’ I choose to disagree. I will hang on to the ideas of responsible behavior, accountability, good works and final judgment. These ideas, based upon the Bible’s teachings, give me definition for life. Unlike Dawkins, I do believe there is that which is always and for all places bad and that which for all times and all places is good. Some day we will stand accountable for these deeds before God. This is God’s world, not mine. “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). If I find definition for my life in this world, it will be from a desire to know the Creator-God and His purpose in creation. “It’s not about you.” These powerful words begin the best-selling book by Pastor Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life.” No, it’s not about me. It’s about the Creator and His purpose in creation – and then me finding my role in His world and His plan for it. Dawkins, and others like him, patronize the idea that it is all about me. It may be subtly put, but the idea is there: I will choose how to spend my time and money. I will choose who and what to love and discard; I will choose how to spend my energy. Furthermore, I will answer to no one, especially a God who is greater than time and space, for these decisions. That God is beyond time and space places Him in a realm beyond our senses. We see Him, touch Him and hear Him, at His discretion, not ours. Many of us, probably far too many of us, have long ago learned how to rationalize our sin, justify our wantonness, and argue that the Bible has no relevance for today. It was written for a different people in a different culture and time. We want to be served, rather than serve. We demand our rights and ignore our responsibilities. We continually push God or any thought of God out of our lives. But all along, there is something deep inside that says, “God is – and someday you will meet Him.” And so furiously, we argue against the existence of God and rationalize guilty conscience. It is futile. We need to get over ourselves and realize, “it’s not about me.” It’s about God. “Look to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22). Want to know something? In the final analysis, it will never be about you. It never has been. The earth is the LORD’s. It’s about God.
Friday, January 17, 2014
I read in the paper where a United States District Judge, Clark Waddoups, ruled against a portion of Utah’s anti-bigamy law. This portion of the law was an effort by the state legislature to combat polygamy, a practice advocated by early settlers of Utah. The reason the law was passed originally is because polygamy causes big problems. But now that the outlaw of polygamy has been ruled unconstitutional, it might do us well to contemplate polygamous marriage. This was not a ruling in a state court. Since this was a ruling in a District Court of the United States, it will apply to all states in that district, and possibly the entire country (unless overturned, of course). What can we expect? Advocates of polygamy (and they are few) are usually quick to point out that Biblical characters had multiple wives: Jacob, David and Solomon. This is correct. It is also correct to point out that, without exception, whenever polygamy is presented in the Bible, it is presented as a situation that is troubling. God’s ideal, which is always best, is established in the Garden of Eden: marriage is between one man and one woman for life. This is certainly what Jesus taught in Mark 10:11, where He assumes monogamy to be the standard for marriage. Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, interviewed on Issues Etc. (http://issuesetc.org) about polygamy shared that in polygamous societies, universally, rich men have more than their share of wives; young men and men of modest means are left to scramble looking for a girl to marry. Dr. Morse also has observed that in polygamous societies, women are pressured to marry at a young age. And then younger, yet. And then, even younger. And then, – well, you get the picture. Child brides become the norm. In spite of some testimonies to the contrary, in polygamous societies the girls, not really women yet, don’t have much choice as to whom they will marry. So, what can you expect if polygamy becomes widespread nationally? You can expect less freedom for women, and men of wealth having several wives. The average guy will be out of luck. The age of wives will decline until there are young girls, actually, being snagged away by old men. The younger the wives are, the more status for the man among his peers. Naïve, young girls will run off with older men who promise them everything; the parents of these girls will probably have little or no ability to stop it from happening (since it will be legal and age of consent laws will be ruled unconstitutional – yes, that’s next folks). In polygamous societies, young men, the teenage boys, are driven off the homestead since their vitality and age likeness appeals to the youngest wife. Just where do these boys end up? Oh, doing lovely things like begging and robbing in order to get something to eat, or posing for pornographic pictures and engaging in homosexual prostitution. Some of them will make it in life and a lot will not. Of course, some parents will continue housing their sons, even when a younger girl comes into the home as his father’s newest wife. If the newest, youngest wife starts flirting around with the son close to her age, he will be sent out on his own. There is a good reason polygamy was outlawed several years ago in Utah. There is a good reason the Mormon Church, started by the polygamist Joseph Smith, now stands against polygamy. It presents a flawed picture of marriage, a jaded distortion of God’s ideal. It results in shameful practices that injure both the young boys and girls of society. Polygamy did not work in the Biblical days and it will not work now. Polygamy is wicked and depraved
Friday, December 20, 2013
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, you know the opening scene. Powerfully, it shows an elderly man being followed by his wife, adult children and grandchildren. They are in Normandy, France and make their way into the cemetery known as The Normandy American Cemetery. Here, James Ryan pays respect to the man who both saved his life during World War II and challenged him to live it effectively: Captain John Miller. As the story line goes, Ryan was dropped behind enemy lines prior to the D-Day invasion. One of four sons, the other three have been killed. General George C. Marshall, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has ordered Private James Ryan saved – and a military team led by Miller is sent to find him and send him home. In the process of finding and saving Private Ryan, Miller is shot and slowly bleeds to death. His last words to Ryan are “James. Earn this…earn it.” At the cemetery, the now senior Ryan concludes his visit to Miller’s grave by turning to his wife and imploring, “Tell me I have lived a good life.” She is bewildered, and then Ryan says, “Tell me I have been a good person.” An elderly man asking the question, “Am I a good person? Have I lived a good life?” captures the goal most seek. For most thinking and caring people life boils down to this simple request, “Tell me I’ve lived a good life. Tell me I am a good person.” The New Year is a time for resolutions - resolutions that we believe will help us live a good life and be a good person. Resolutions are those changes in attitude and behavior that make us stronger and better: a good person, living a good life. In the spirit of the New Year then, I offer some resolution suggestions. They are based on Biblical teaching and I think that any of us, incorporating them into our lives, will be good and live a good life. • Be honest, trustworthy and respectful in your dealings with others. These traits are foundational to any successful endeavor. • Be able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning as you are brushing your teeth and be proud of the way you treated others the previous day. • Choose your friends wisely. They will dictate your future to a great degree – “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” • Do the right thing. If you do the right thing long enough, eventually others will notice. • Enjoy the journey. By the time you arrive at the place you want to be, the journey will be over. • Avoid people who don’t like nature or animals. • View obstacles as opportunities because with God’s help, nothing is too difficult to overcome. And finally, I want to add one more suggestion. I saved the best for last. This one is the most important of all, for if you will incorporate it into your mind and lifestyle, it will definitely change you. Listen to this instruction from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” So, here is the last suggested resolution for the New Year: • Be thankful for what you do have, rather than complain about what you don’t have. As we go through life and especially when we enter the senior years, the realization hits us that the meaning of life is to live a life of meaning. Living with the attitude of gratitude is… The most important resolution of all! Happy New Year everyone!