Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Team Effort

My work as a fire captain requires my folks to work as a team.  We go in as a team and we come out as one.  Nobody leaves anyone behind.  We watch each other’s backs.  Sometimes we even put our lives on the line for someone we don’t even know. That is drilled into us from day one.  Can I say the same about our society as a whole?

In the last 100 years American society has advanced the idea of “rugged individualism, self-concept, being unique, do-it-yourself, me first” to new heights.  In the process we have lost something vital.  I’ve heard it termed the “atomization” of our society.  Satan loves that.  It’s not about responsibility, it’s about “self” thinking.

That process inevitably makes us less attuned to the moral values that shaped us as a country.  A hundred years ago, if you needed to build a barn, people you didn’t even know would come out to help you raise the roof or whatever you needed.  The social fabric was intact and its moral values were clear.  Now, we often live in impersonal communities where we don’t even know who our neighbors are or ever speak to them, let alone value their needs and problems as much as our own. Today, we expect government to teach and enforce values and to provide for needs.  That simply doesn’t work very well when the society as a whole is increasingly uncommitted to those values

I’m not advocating a purely communal viewpoint here, after all there is an element of responsibility that everyone must take for their lives.  We strive to prepare and care for ourselves, and that remains important.  However, the moral relativism when a purely self-oriented lifestyle takes over is a wholly different matter. 

If you don’t think there is an atomizing or fragmenting of our collective and communal nature and morality, then tell me, when was the last time you said hello to every stranger you walked by on the street or even went out of your way to give them all a smile?  Did you just look away?  When was the last time you came along side someone and said "let me help you" at a personal cost to you?  I know I often insulate myself that way, and it makes me think hard on it.

How about you?


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Pope Sez...

Huh!???!  This one is really a good controversy.  Just wait…

Everyone has wondered how the newly selected Pope would function and handle the critical issues facing the world and the church.  Well, the Pope recently announced that atheists who were good could go to heaven.  Yes, that’s what he said.  I think he breathed a little too much of that black and white chimney smoke they used to announce when he was elected.  Maybe he’s on a new membership drive and plans to allow atheists to join the Catholic Church on some type of limited pass system?

I guess the corollary to that would be that you no longer need to tithe, pray, go to confession, etc. if you are Catholic…all you need to do is be good.  How good?  Hmmm….he didn’t say.  I’m not sure how you establish those standards.  Maybe we need a papal commission to set up some “goodness” rules for atheists.  Of course we’ll have to get rid of teachings about how we are all sinners, since we now can be good enough on our own to get into heaven whether we are Christian or not.  We’re gonna need a lot of Bible revisions, too. 

We shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of revisionist thinking.  After all, the atheists probably think it’s pretty unfair that you can be a total creep and a murderous monster and still get into heaven, if you accept Christ as your savior and are sorry for your sins.  Like all the other dilutions of theology that are pranced forward out of political correctness, we see the fallacy of making a man like the Pope into what many consider God’s mouthpiece on earth.  I have no problem, by the way, with Catholics.  Many of them put Protestants to shame with their love of God, knowledge of the Bible and their concern for their fellow man.  But I do have a problem with the Catholic Church.  When you start thinking you are God and can speak and make policy for Him, you are in dangerous waters.  In this case, the Pope’s comments are completely contradictory to Jesus words “No man comes to the father but by me.” and many other parts of the Bible.  I learned a long time ago that it wasn’t a good idea to think I was speaking for God.  Historically, people haven’t fared well doing that.  I figured I ought to let God be God.  I have enough trouble just trying to be me.

So, if God wants to let someone into heaven, well, that’s his decision and I leave that up to him.  I’m not going to speak for Him.  He is the one who judges.  If He wants to set up lodgings for some atheists, that’s His choice.  I know what He has said in the Bible though, so I’m going to pad my chances on that basis and not the Pope’s comments. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Baby, It's The Real Thing!

I heard an interesting story today.  Several years ago we had an abundance of twenty dollar bills showing up in my little town that were better suited to being used on your Monopoly game board.  Local merchants were alerted and clerks began scrutinizing all cash purchases with extra care.  The federal government sent an agent out to assist, and when asked what a counterfeit bill looked like, he made an interesting comment.  He said, “I don’t know.”  Huh?!?  He quickly followed up with, “I just know what the genuine article looks like.  I can tell you what every number, drawing, color shade and lint piece looks like on the real thing.  I don’t study the fakes.”  That's how he could tell.  He had the real thing firmly in mind for comparison.

So, do you look to the “genuine article” in your life, or are you studying up on the fakes?  Whether it is people, relationships, or your faith, there are counterfeits out there in abundance.  Spending time learning what the genuine article looks like is essential to avoid making some serious mistakes in life and the hereafter as well. 

How much time do you spend studying the basic tenets of your faith and backing them up with what the entire biblical message is in its total context.  Have you studied the genuine article, or do you just accept the counterfeits from evangelists who promise to send you a blessed handkerchief for your donation.  Do you embrace the gospel of prosperity that ministers who have congregations of thousands preach to their followers totally out of context?  How about in your marriage?  Did you settle for that “TrophyWife” or the “Successful Executive” only to find they lacked any true ability to have a lasting relationship and to love you without restraint for better or worse?  Or maybe you have looked to sex, drugs and alcohol for happiness and given away the God given gift of your health and well being in the process.

Life is short.  Look to the genuine article.  Don’t study the fakes.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I'm Concerned

It’s become clear that the Obama administration has been engaging in tactics to control free speech by condemning organizations like the TEA party as “subversive” and using the government’s powers to harass those organizations.  The administration has employed the tried and true tactic of “plausible deniability” to keep the stain of Benghazi and the IRS scandal from tainting Obama himself.  Unfortunately, the “I didn’t know anything about it” line only goes so far before it falls flat.  We know for a fact that the White House Chief of Staff knew what was going on.  Incompetence as the top administrator is not much of an acceptable excuse for these crimes, even if you believe it.  Even if the President didn't know, at the very least the culpability exists from creating the culture and choosing the practitioners by the President.  Apparently, even the mainstream liberal media is getting concerned now, and the New York Times, etc. are coming out with comments that the surveillance of journalists by the federal government and probing into their private communications is crossing the line.  This administration has also used the Espionage Act to prosecute those who come forward with information.  Not just spies that sell secrets to the enemies abroad, but for “whistle blowers” and those who seek information, like the press.  This is chilling beyond belief!

What is most disturbing to me is the assault on God during this administration.  When the military comes out and says that a member of the armed forces can be tried for treason if they talk about God to the troops, then I think we have changed who we are as a country.

When I look at the various surveys taken of Americans it is clear that the majority are displeased with all of this, and yet when you see the surveys of their opinion of Obama himself the opposite is true.  I call it “The Rockstar Effect.” The polls show the majority of Americans approve of him, and this is the heart of what I want to present here.  How can we see this kind of government wrongdoing and yet show allegiance to the leader of it all.  What parallel can we draw from it?

I think it is this:  Somewhere in the vicinity of 90% of all Americans will answer the question “do you believe in God” with a resounding YES.  I really do think that deep inside we are “wired to believe.”  And yet, if you probe you will find that they do not believe in the things that God expects of them.  They are very unhappy if anyone suggests that they love their neighbor…unless of course that means having sex with them outside of marriage.  They will argue that cheating on their taxes, or coveting what their neighbor has is “the American Way.”  They will say “I want my ‘free’ food, health care, education, and the like.”  I could go on with the list, but I won’t.  So it doesn’t surprise me that the schizophrenic approach is apparent in their view of the political leaders of our country as well.  I really do think that healing our country will require a genuine return to God more than anything we could think of doing.  Electing leaders who have integrity and the welfare of ALL the people they lead at heart can only come from leaders who respect the principles that God has laid out for us.  The founding father’s knew that and frequently spoke of it.  Half of those who signed the Declaration of Independence had seminary degrees.  Jefferson, who together with Madison wrote our Constitution said “God who gave us life, gave us liberty.”  It seems we have lost that knowledge in our modern “enlightened” society and our liberty is at risk.

Many have claimed to be God throughout history.  It was common for political leaders like the Pharaohs of Egypt.  Even Julius Caesar was viewed as God by the people of the Roman Empire.  Perhaps we have leaders who believe they are above God in what they are allowed to do.  We even make that claim for ourselves when we seek to have our own way and become the “Gods” of our own lives and indulge in our selfish desires.  It is important to remember that never did a man speak as Jesus did.  Never a man lived like Jesus did.  Never a man died like Jesus did…and Never A Man Came Back From The Grave As Jesus Did.

Who is your God?

Friday, May 10, 2013

God Is Simple, Unfortunately Religion Isn't

My brother, not long before he died, commented that he finally realized that faith in God was a simple concept.  I think he wished he had figured that out long before.

We make our Christian faith such a complex proposition by wrapping it in the trappings of church and denominations.  No wonder when it becomes "Churchianity" that people fall away.  The God of the universe made it pretty simple.  I’m a pretty simple person, so I’m glad He did!…LOL.  It pretty much is summed up this way:

  1. I am God, not you.  Love me before all else.
  2. I want you to treat people well, love them and treat them like you would treat yourself…you are worth a lot to me, so treat yourself good, too.
  3. I came in the flesh and died for your sins because I love you no matter what mistakes you make, and I forgive you for them…if you just love me and believe that.

It’s not about attending services every week or praying 17 times a day.  It’s not about being on the church building committee or going on mission trips every year to Kenya.  It’s not about how much money you give or how nice you dress on Sunday morning when you shake everyone’s hand.  And most assuredly, it’s not about the complex theology and biblical interpretations about every little nit picky thing you can imagine that is said in the Bible.

Sure, it is good to attend church and be encouraged by the message and built up by the fellowship of hopefully like-minded believers.  Sure, being involved gives you a chance to do good for others through church programs.  Obviously, studying the Bible can build up your faith by understanding its history and seeing it lived out by early Christians.  It’s wonderful if the music praise program gets you tapping your feet while it sends you a message.  But if you use those things as a substitute for understanding your genuine faith principles, you will have a hollow experience.  Sadly, all too many people find the “form” of religion without the “faith” and the real experience of knowing God.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Heart Of Darkness

Amanda Berry has escaped ten years of very real Hell on earth (I find it interesting that the other three girls are less frequently mentioned by comparison.)  The media is in frenzy mode with the story. The neighbors and those who assisted in her release are having their fifteen minutes of fame.  The media is trying to make a story where there is none about the police not doing their job.  Just another day in America.

It sickens me.  I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of these female’s existence for the last ten years, but what surprises me is that no one is talking about the fact that the disgusting, twisted human being who did this was a school bus driver in daily supervisory contact and control with children.  How did that happen?  How did we miss who this man was and what he was for so long?  How did those close to him not know the life he led and say something?

This guy apparently was very sociable and spent time out and about on the town dancing with women, playing his guitar and singing in clubs.  He was liked enough to be referred to as a “regular guy.”  So why does behavior like this occur in someone who apparently has that much going for him?  I remember that Ted Bundy was often referred to as the kind of guy “you would never expect to do this kind of thing” -- sociable, well liked, but with a heart of evil, cruel self-centeredness beyond anyone’s imagining.  I sure don’t have a clue why we don’t recognize these people, but I do think that evil like this starts out looking harmless and fun.  I suspect if you met Satan himself walking down Main Street he would be handsome, sociable and well liked, and what he would offer you would be temptingly beautiful at first glance.

I believe mental illness is treatable and the result of many causes, but I also believe that our fallen nature of “self first” is often at the heart of many “anti-social” behavior problems.  God designed us to function in relation to Him and others.  Satan’s design is to have us function in relation to ourselves and our own desires.  Corruption of those desires to reach excesses such as what happened to Amanda Berry are the result of a complete self-centered approach to living.  Ted Bundy spoke at length about how he became the monster that he was just before he was executed.  He blamed much of it on the effects of pornography, but the truth of the matter is that he let his will and soul be taken over by the heart of selfishness that is Satan’s prime personality.  Amanda Berry’s keeper was playing God with her.  He wanted to be in complete control of his ready-made worshippers.

Me first!  I want to be God!  I want to do whatever I want to do!  That kind of thinking leads to what we are witnessing in Ohio now.  We need to be in proper relationship with God.  WE can’t be trusted with that kind of personal power.  Only God can.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Age of Lies

I remember back in school studying history and marveling at the names they gave to periods of time.  Names like The Age of Reason, The Industrial Age, and most recently the Space Age and the Digital Age.  I think now we should give ourselves a new label:  The Age of Lies.  It seems almost every day we are presented with information that has to be decoded and even verified.  Shading or outright misrepresentation of information on products, events, political positions, or virtually anything is the menu for the day.  They call it “spin, putting a good face on it” and any number of other terms, but basically it is all lying just the same.  It is no respecter of persons, and comes out of the mouths of men, women, liberals, conservatives, Caucasians and blacks, etc.  Here are some whopper examples.

The news today was all about the misrepresentations by our government about the U.S. Embassy attack at Bengazi in Libya.  I’m sure we’ll hear about that for weeks now, though the media bias that shades or fails to report the truth will be ever present even now after the whistleblower testimony.

I noticed recently that a sports figure came out and admitted he was gay.  The responses varied, but one I noticed underlines the attempt to confuse and misrepresent.  A prominent Christian said his faith and the biblical support for it says homosexuality is wrong, but he went on to say that he applauded the sports figure’s honesty and his right to play in the games without harassment.  (Remember, Christians are still under orders to love those who don’t follow biblical guidance.)  However, the liberal anti-Christian media immediately shaded and tailored their response to make the Christian minister out to be a hate mongering homophobic monster.

Corporations spend a fortune on advertisements to sell foods and drinks as “healthy alternatives” that are really not much better than the fat bombs at national burger chains. 

The government proposes to tax internet sales “to make it more fair to competing brick and mortar stores” that have to charge sales tax.  Unfortunately, it is just a guise to rake in more money for the government, since brick and mortar type stores can sell on the internet, too, and have the advantage over purely internet companies of allowing the other customers to fondle the purchase before buying to see if it’s really what they want.

School teacher unions are saying all manner of negative things about home schooling and other alternatives to public education in an attempt to abolish the competition.  Yet when compared to the effectiveness of public schools the alternatives are often far better at educating.  The real goal here appears to be safeguarding higher wages for union teachers and having a forum to indoctrinate children with the “correct” politico-religious viewpoints.

The liberal side of government seems bent on demonizing the wealthy and criticizing them for not paying their fair share, yet they never mention that the rich right now pay nearly all of the federal taxes and are taxed at a higher rate to boot already!  Over 40% of Americans pay no federal taxes at all!!  Once again, shading of the facts rears its ugly head.

The Bible says the father of lies is Satan.  The Bible also makes a big point of reminding us we are not to lie in the ninth commandment.  A lie is a lie, whether a little one or a big one.  Spin and shading the truth is the same as lying.  Eve did it first when she essentially said “the snake made me do it” and we’ve been following her lead ever since.  We do it to make money, we do it to make ourselves look good and others look bad, and we do it to protect ourselves from consequences of our behavior…and it seems to me we do more of it today than we’ve ever done it before.  Now with the internet providing false and misleading posts we have little control over mass produced lies that reach far into the fabric of our society.  Misinformation and disinformation proliferate far and wide.  The question for us all now is “What do we do about it?”  A society that can’t tell truth from lies and is based on lies has no stable future.