Monday, April 29, 2013

"What Is Truth?"

There is such a thing as the ‘Politics of Belief.’  Opinion shapers know this. Consider these thoughts for a moment. If you walk in to a room full of global warmers - you are marginalized regardless of your opinions and information about the fact that global warming is not caused by the current popular belief of automobile and power plant carbon emissions.  A room full of liberal democrats will mock a conservative for his opinions without any consideration when he attempts share his ideas.  A room full of republicans will reject without thought a leftist leaning speaker.  A room full of young people will reject the viewpoint of an old person.  A room full of Christians are not pre-disposed to listen to an atheist with an open mind.  Now, is there an objective truth in all of these arenas?  I think so, but getting to that truth is often a hard road.

Belief is reliably more stubbornly intransigent than truth.  It is why it took so long for the scientific community to accept the fact that the world was round instead of flat.  Pontius Pilate understood this when he said to Jesus, “What is truth?”  He knew that political winds and current belief were the only truth that he would consider in order to function in the world.  Objective, provable truth was irrelevant, since it held no functional sway in “the way things were (perceived to be.)”  In other words, if all the bus drivers in the world believe this is Sunday when it is really Monday, you better plan your life on the Sunday bus schedule or you may be walking a lot.  Belief is reality…not a good reality, but nonetheless a kind of reality.  It is one we live in every day.

Sir Francis Bacon, pioneer of the scientific method once wrote “If a person begins with certainties, he will end in doubts: but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties.”  I am encouraged when I talk with someone who openly expresses doubts about things, especially Christianity.  Doubt is healthy if it is inquisitive doubt.  I remember reading Letters From A Skeptic by Gregory and Edward Boyd with a great deal of appreciation, because even though faith has to have an element of doubt to be “faith,” it is eminently intelligent and supportable in regard to Christianity when questioned honestly.

What is your reality?  Do you have enough of an open mind to question commonly held beliefs -- whether it’s about healthcare laws, global warming, or faith in God?  Do you recognize that those who hold a belief will see and use only the facts that support that belief to ratify its truth, and that political power is based on shaping your belief irrespective of objective “truth”? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Controversy Over Privacy

There is a lot of talk these days about privacy rights.  Google, Facebook, your phone records, all are of interest to the FBI and others.  Even businesses want the right to mine you private data so as to better be able to market and sell to you to make money.

On the surface, I find it disturbing and I would prefer they mind their own business.  But then I think, it is their “business.”  The FBI is trying to deter illegal activity.  What we determine through the political process as illegal should be our main concern, not the enforcement of those laws by rooting around in our information.  Certainly we should guard against the abuse of the information gained by the intrusion into our privacy.

Rats and cockroaches scurry from the light.  Integrity is an interesting word.  It comes from the root word “integrate.”  What it means is that you are consistent.  What you say is what you actually do.  There is nothing hidden in you.  We live in a society that lacks integrity on all levels from our families to the heights of the halls of congress.  Perhaps privacy doesn’t do us all that much good.

Lawbreaking, sin or even pure evil is usually the kind of thing we don’t want revealed.  It is what we hide in the dark.  You know it and I know it.  One of the things I found over the years that shows how beneficial the lack of privacy is came from a college professor of mine.  He pointed out that the anonymity of big cities favored the development of crime.  Studies showed that in small towns when everyone knew everyone else’s business, people we a lot less likely to do something wrong and think they could get away with it.

Perhaps as Matthew, the notorious Tax collector and sinner once wrote, “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” is what we need to focus on doing, rather than hiding everything and guarding our privacy.

What do you think?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Who Is Managing This Circus?

More information continues to surface about the Boston terror bombing.  Apparently, the FBI knew about these guys from Russian intelligence warnings that they had been radicalized, and the FBI didn’t follow up, apparently out of a sense of political correctness that prevented them from doing interviews at the Mosque that had ejected them for their radicalization.

In a country where we have no hesitation and go absolutely nuts over a Christmas tree put up in the town square or demand people stop saying the offensive phrase “Merry Christmas” to customers at WalMart, we don’t ask polite questions about a terrorist suspect of those members of a mosque who might have information????? 

If we are that stupid, maybe we deserve to be destroyed by these guys!  Darwin would certainly approve.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Render Unto Caesar

Congress is once again debating an internet sales tax.  It is yet again another way to obtain more money for the government to spend.  I am astounded that when you take into account your state income tax, federal income tax, state and local sales tax, gasoline tax and etc., it’s estimated that almost half of your income is given over to the government to use as it sees fit.  The new sales tax plan is to even give the government more money to spend on a variety of programs that are largely entitlements for social welfare like health care and social security (none of which existed during the first one-hundred plus years of our country’s existence.)  Last I heard, nearly half our budget at the federal level went into health, education, and welfare --- and paying the interest on our debts.  Distressing, too, is that we are 16 trillion in debt and still increasing.

I think it is important to recognize these trends as an informed citizen and to vote according to what you think is right.  It is interesting to me, however, that this controversy over the internet sales tax is being touted as a business fairness competition issue.  Why?  Is small business really hurt by large companies that operate purely on the internet and pay no sales tax?  Small companies can operate their storefront and still set up an internet business along with it out the back door.  Many of them do, and compete quite well.  Obviously, this is really only about the government taking as much money in through taxation ploys as it possibly can.

Jesus said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” when the disciples were faced with having to pay taxes.  There was huge anti government sentiment over occupation and taxation by the Romans.  Fortunately, all the disciples had to do was go down at Jesus’ direction and pull a coin out of a fishes’ mouth.  (I lack this ability, unfortunately.  I think it would be quite handy, but I can barely even catch a fish in the first place!)  Jesus wasn’t saying it is a good idea to pay as much in taxes as possible.  He was making a point to recognize that money is not the thing we should focus on, but rather we need to focus on is our relationship with God.  We often focus on our wealth and material possessions to our detriment.  It’s a bad habit that mankind has.  Well-designed social programs and an efficiently managed government that provides them is not a bad thing.  A country such as ours (founded on Christian principles) should be caring of those needs in a big way, whether funded charitably or governmentally.

The bigger question is are we holding our government’s feet to the fire to design programs well and efficiently manage the money we give them.  Secondarily, are we crippling the will and motivation of our populace by having the “wealthy” provide everything free for a segment of the population that soon will approach what some estimate at 40%.  Wealthy may soon be defined as “anyone who decides to work for a living.”  The Old Testament writing that “He who does not work, shall not eat” still has value in our considerations of where to put our charitable care.

What is your opinion?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

And They Let Him Die!

Many of you know that I serve as a medic in my community.  I just read about couple serving probation for the 2009 death of their toddler after they turned to prayer instead of a doctor, and have once again allowed another son to die without medical care. They will face charges on this one, too, I am sure.  It is a controversial arena where child abuse laws come into conflict with first amendment religious freedom rights.  And make no mistake, the media and Satan love to use it to demean Christianity.

Many fundamentalist Christians believe only in faith healing. I get that, and I know that faith healing has been practiced for centuries.  Jesus did it.  The disciples did it.  Luke talks about it in the New Testament.  But there is something very wrong when you demand that faith be the only avenue to healing.  I suspect that Luke, as a physician would have clearly spoken about the need to only rely on faith healing if it were what Jesus had taught, but it simply isn’t so.

These people allowed their 8-month-old son to suffer for at least a week and die after he experienced diarrhea and breathing problems and stopped eating.  The other one died from bacterial pneumonia four years ago.  All of these are eminently easy to treat medically with very good outcomes.

God gave us brains and hands to implement what we learn.  Christianity is an intelligent faith.  It is one of the things that I find most comforting about it.  The earth and mankind are the result of an intelligent design, and even many unbelieving scientists admit this.  God gave us the charge to be in dominion over the earth, and that includes implementing what we learn about disease prevention and cure in the context of God’s design of the universe.  The same applies to healing starvation and poverty and evil governments.  We are to pray, but we are to also “be Jesus Christ to the world” in what we do.  We give food and medical care to those who can’t afford it, we stand up for the weak and abused, we don’t just pray that food and medical care will miraculously appear.  That’s just not the way God expects us to live out our Christianity to those around us.

I believe the first amendment rights are important, but this crosses the line.  It is no more logical than not driving a car, because God didn’t provide it or not living in a house because God didn’t make it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Wobble

When I was a kid, I remember having days in the summer when there was NOTHING to do.  I was so bored, that I ALMOST longed for school to start.  Life, even in the big city that I lived in was slow enough that I could find nothing to keep me occupied.  Today, we have a much different environment filled with entertainment from literally hundred of TV stations, internet that seems to stretch to infinity, and a news media that keeps our head spinning with an ever accelerating array of world events.  We can’t even keep up with everything that is out there.

I remember watching a demonstration in high school physics class of what happens when you spin a dish (we used a hubcap – something no one even knows about these days!) and watch its spinning orbit decay in a predictable manner.  As it slowed its whizzing high-speed rotation it would at some point quickly develop a wildly erratic wobble before it suddenly and totally collapsed.

Do you see the possible parallel here?  Everything in our world is going faster.  Technology changes are evolving in hyper-speed.  You barely have an Ipad 2 when the Ipad 4 is announced.  Wars and civil unrest are spanning most of the globe.  Terrorists are blowing up innocent children.  Debts of whole countries, including our own are expanding exponentially.  Population growth of the world is off the chart at 7 billion or more. 

Faster, bigger, louder all over the globe…until the we run the train off the rails (or as we railroaders actually say… “we put it on the ground.”)  I still see the hubcap I spun as a kid.  I think we are approaching the first wobble of that decaying spin.  Jesus said no man knows when the end of this era of mankind will come, and I certainly am not here to prognosticate like the loonies do.  But it does seem that we are headed in a negative direction.  One of the things that highlights my thoughts on this is the fact that depression is now the third-most frequent disease in the world…and predicted to be the most frequent disease in another ten or fifteen years at the rate it is growing.  Can there be a connection?  Is what we have become as a society affecting us that much?

A recent World Health Organization study found that regular attendance at religious services offered “significant protection” against depression (about 80 percent of the religious practitioners were Christians in the study, by the way.)  People who never attended had the highest incidence of depression.  Those who identified themselves as “spiritual but not religious” derived no health benefit, and those who attended more frequently had less depression than those who attended less frequently.  None of this surprises me.  God gives us hope in the death of Christ as atonement for our sins and His guarantee of our acceptance by Him now, and when we die.  Frankly, it matters little if the world is spinning out of control and falling apart…we all will die someday.  Where will you spend eternity? What comfort and calm depressionless hope will you possess as you move toward that final day of your life?

The hubcap eventually falls silently on the ground.  You don’t have to.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Being Intentional

How much of what you do is being “intentional?”  I’ve always loved John Maxwell’s comment “you cannot win if you do not begin!  The people who get ahead in the world are the ones who look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.”

I think that applies to so much of life that it can’t be over emphasized.  When I think of all the times I’ve heard someone say “I want to do this” and then they never actually wind up doing it, I am amazed.  I’m not amazed at their desire, but rather their complete lack of knowing how to move in the direction of success.  Excuses predominate their mindset.  Their dream is clouded by being “too poor” or “too busy” or “not educated enough” or any other number of reasons, but the real underlying problem is they are simply not “intentional” in their approach. 

When I get up in the morning and tell myself I need to clean out the garage, I can think that all morning long.  Until I take the first step of opening the garage door, moving that box aside and finding that broom, I am not moving forward.  Even if I stop and go have a cup of coffee, I have at least begun moving forward and engaged in a process that can produce a solution.  Still, I have to be intentional in my forward momentum and take the steps that lead me back to my solution instead of away from it.  My thoughts need to remain focused on the garage.  If I run into a problem that I can’t handle, I can search out some help to get me to my goal, always remaining focused on my goal.

Why do I bring this up?  Why is it important?  Well, it’s more than just getting the garage organized and clean.  What does your life look like?  Is it organized and clean?  Are you “intentional” in the way you live it?  Every step you take, what employment you choose, each love you invest yourself in, every moral decision you make, every friend you spend time with, where you place your faith, etc., all go toward controlling what the end result of your life will be.  If you are not clearly “intentional” in how you handle those things, you will wander aimlessly through a world of pleasure distractions and perceived roadblocks to your goals and desires.  We live in a culture that emphasizes all those pleasure distractions.  Trust me, they will divert you from your end game

Yeah, I know, not everyone will get what I’m talking about here.  It took me years of hard knocks to understand it myself.  I like the way Paul puts it about his faith in the New Testament: “run the good race.”  The runner has his eye on the finish line all the way.  He is “intentional.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Everyone Matters or No One Does

I can’t believe what is going on in America.  We are literally schizophrenic.  We fanatically argue for gun control to protect the lives of our school children and others, and yet we are practicing partial birth abortions and full birth murders as acceptable.  One of our leading federal congresswomen said: “Life begins when a baby leaves the hospital.”  Is that the nuttiest thing anyone could utter and still hold public office?

One doctor is on trial as a serial killer of full term birthed babies in his clinic, and the media isn’t even covering it.  Not CBS, ABC, NBC or the major print media.  Dr. Gosnell in Philadelphia was arrested for this more than two years ago!  And it's not newsworthy???  Why is that?  I can only say that it is because they don’t want to hurt the cause of the “Pro-Choice” movement.  Even very liberal democrat news commentator Kirsten Powers thinks it is disgraceful.  Funny, too, how it is that we have a society that says you can't choose to own a gun, have a large soda, smoke cigarettes, burn coal, express your Christian beliefs, or own an incandescent light bulb...but you can freely choose to murder your own babies with impunity.  We have a liberal media that is not filled with journalists, but rather “opinion shapers.”  Selective reporting and shading of articles to favor one viewpoint are commonplace.  Real news reporting doesn’t exist.

When our society begins to decide with impunity who matters and who doesn’t, we are doomed.  The downhill slide will be fast.  Everyone matters…or no one does.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Angels And Pin Heads

I remember the question that was posed “How Many Angels Can Dance On The Head Of a Pin” from my youth.  I wondered why anyone would ask such a question, but as the years passed and I learned more I realized that the question had validity.  You see, everyone seems to think of angels in some fashion, whether you believe they exist or not.  Are they winged creatures in the sky, are they human form, or are they so different that a thousand of them could dance on the head of a pin?  And more importantly, is there a spiritual battle going on between angels and demons for ownership of mankind?

It’s funny that we live in a society in America that has over 90% of the people saying they believe in the concept God, and have TV programs that show angels and demons in action, and yet have so few people really having any real knowledge of God or relationship with Him. Regular churchgoers in this country are down to less than a quarter of the population, and most of us really live our daily lives as though God didn’t exist…or for that matter that evil doesn’t exist. (Why do I harp on going to church?  Churches are there to promote faith and do good works, and when you are part of an organization that acts in that manner, you are encouraged and held accountable.  Growth happens when we act and are held accountable.)

Our concept of evil is what troubles me most.  In our humanist and materialistic society we rarely consider the existence of a genuine spiritual force that is evil.  The self-centeredness that typifies evil is prompted by a very real force of evil and is rarely identified and named.  In Ephesians we are clearly warned that there are spiritual forces at work for evil in this world and that this is not simply a “man against man” situation.  We have murderous drug cartels taking over in the southwest and sending advance teams to cities all over our country.  We have 200,000 honest to goodness slaves in bondage in this country (mostly in the sex trade industry.)  These are two genuine examples of evil spiritual beings at work if you ask me.  We don’t have to look to Iran or North Korea to find Satan at work.  And most importantly, this is a battle that must be fought in the realm of mankind’s genuine spiritual relationship with God and acceptance of Christ.  Where are you in your spiritual journey?

How can we so blithely accept these foolish entertainment-based concepts of spiritual beings so easily and yet not see a real spiritual personification of evil?  Satan is really clever and uses every tool he can find to advance his spiritual warfare.  I suspect his new tool is the internet. Consider how blithely we often accept internet “facts” in our society.  I read that Joel Osteen rejected Christ today on the internet in a well done presentation that included “real” news networks commenting.  Of course it was all fake, just like the fake claims of Bill Cosby dying so many times over the past several years.  I get political emails for webcasts that twist and distort facts almost daily.  How many people actually fact check this information when they encounter it?  As Henry Kissenger once said, the internet has given us the chance to trade “mere information for true wisdom and understanding.” (my paraphrase.)  I suspect that is exactly what Satan wants.  He is master of the “Great Lie.”

Perhaps angels and demons are actually small enough to be electrons forming our internet messages and can truly dance on the head of a pin.