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All items Copyright 2003-2004 William Meisheid

We the people - In Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address, Tuesday, January 20, 1981 he stated a fundamental truth, "All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government...We are a nation that has a government--not the other way around." In our ongoing move to centralized control, confronted primarily by Reagan as President, we sometimes forget that the United States Constitution starts out "We the people" reminding us that the foundation of the American political experiment is in the consent of the governed.

This consent of the governed is not just the foundation of the United States, it is the foundation of the Christian Church. The Church was created by God for his people, not his people for the Church. Without their consent the Church ceases to exist, it is only a minister preaching to himself in a whitewashed sepulcher.

For the United States to exist its people must submit to moral commitments and to the rule of law. Their commitment to government, to the state is only in the service to that morality and law. Likewise for the Christian Church to exist the people of God must submit to Jesus Christ, to the sanctification of their souls for the sake of holiness. Their commitment to the Church, to their denominations and leadership is only in service to Christ and his holiness. If the "Church" is no longer in service to Christ and his holiness then the people of God must no longer submit to it, to their denominations and leadership. They must come out of Babylon and abandon the harlot as the Church left the synagogue and the Jewish leadership that rejected the messiahship of Jesus Christ, and as those in the third and fourth centuries left the Arian Bishops and their leadership,  who denied the Trinity, for the orthodox faith.

When you stand before Jesus Christ on the day of judgment, he will not ask you what the Church said and did, what your denomination said and did; he will look into your heart to see what you said and did. Therefore the goal of all Christians should be to adhere to the words of Jeremiah, "ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." (Jer. 6:16b) 6-15-02

Know - Knowing and being known are something Christians, in opposition to the current existential and deconstructionist worldview, take for granted. There is a fundamental assumption every Christian makes: God is knowable; He has revealed Himself both by revelation, as recorded in the sacred Biblical text, and in the flesh of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. There is a problem, however, with that religious assumption. Rarely do Christians make the required effort to really know the God who has made Himself known. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the effort involved. Couple that with the awesome responsibility of coming that close to the creator of not just the universe, but of one's self, the One who knows even the number of hairs on my head (a constantly diminishing number in my case...) and you can understand at least some of the reticence. However, since God has always demanded that His people love Him with their whole heart, mind, and soul, failure to "know" Him is in essence a failure to love Him, since how can one truly love what one does not know.

One book in the history of Christian writings has successfully addressed this problem, so much so that after 31 years it is still a best seller for Inter Varsity Press. That book is Knowing God by J.I. Packer. This week I begin a study of this seminal book with the men's study group at Emmaus Anglican Church. While you may not be able to physically join us I invite anyone reading this to follow along with our study. Lessons will be posted each week, along with answers to the study question on the week following the actual study. You will need a copy of the book to join in with our study. You can order from my link (I get 6% to help defray the cost of this Web site, but it costs you no more) or if you cannot afford it, let me know and I will have a copy sent to you.

I would challenge any Christian reading this to make an honest effort to "know" their God. If not, why are you a Christian in the first place? 6-10-04

Slippery Slope - I got into this discussion by reading and posting to a blog, but then I decided the idea was worth expanding, so here goes. The nature of the slippery slope argument is that once one thing is done it is easier to do the next thing. Those who care about these things say that while it can be argued that this might be true for individual moral (or amoral) decisions, in which the effects of the current decision on future decisions and their justification process must be considered, it does not apply ipso facto to situations of law. That said, in our current fluid legal climate, in which activism prevails and legal arguments are primarily the search for loopholes or some tortured means to support the desired outcome, I no longer think that is true.

Laws, constitutions, etc. are like contracts and contracts are properly adjudicated by examining the intent of the creating parties, since it is impossible to overtly state absolutely every possibility in an absolute sense, much less cover every contingency. So, you deal with the unknown by referencing the known along with the intent at its formulation. The problem with law today is that its deliberative process has been removed from this cognitive framework. As a result, things like the contract between the state and its citizens, as well as its citizens with each other, evidenced by things like the constitutions that govern our social/political/governmental existence, no longer are judged by original intent as a fundamental principal of interpretation.

The logical progression (or slippery slope – circular pun intended) of this type of legal governance is the eventual debasement of the contract and the loss of meaning of the plain and simple. What is even worse is that we lose all security of knowing what was originally agreed upon. As a result the court in Massachusetts can say that since the original framers of their constitution as well as the citizens who ratified it did not define the meaning of marriage as limited to be between a man and a woman, it doesn't mean that, regardless of intent or assumed framework of the writers and ratifiers. In doing this the court not only denies original intent, they make the words of the constitution plastic and meaningless, destroying the contract made between those citizens, the government, and the constitution they ratified. Everyone who was part of the process knew what marriage meant and didn't mean when the constitution was ratified. It was an institution as old as mankind and didn't need clarification. No matter, original intent and understanding no longer apply.

If the normative process of law and interpretation supported this type of oxymoronic activity then why have an amendment process? Even if the original parties to a contract change their mind about how it should be interpreted, they can't just do that without documentation for later adjudication. They change it; they amend it; they write codicils, because change has to be documented and agreed upon or there is no basis for later interpretation in case of conflict or by a third party. It appears that we no longer do that at any level in our legal system, so it seems to me that the slippery slope is inevitable in everything, including the law and in this case is opening the door to just about anything being called marriage, including polygamy or any union of convenience, if for no other reason than venial tax considerations. I know there are many who call this argument absurd, but on what unchanging basis do they make that statement when everything is changing underneath their feet. When the Hebrew prophet Hosea said ""They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind" he was making the ultimate slippery slope argument. It appears there are a lot of whirlwinds on the horizon. 5-21-04

Respect - The simple dictionary definition is 1. To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem. 2. To avoid violation of or interference with. In relation to the recent revelations of U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners, the second definition should apply, specifically "to avoid violation of." The corollary to showing respect is acting with honor or specifically "A code of integrity, dignity, and pride, chiefly among men, that was maintained in some societies."

War in the technological era lacked both respect and honor in the treatment of prisoners which forced nations to sign and swear to follow the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 75 U.N.T.S. 135, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950. Who can forget the Japanese and German treatment of prisoners during World War II. The U.S. is a signatory to that convention and as such bears responsibility for its treatment of Iraqis in its custody.

However, war is not the only place, merely the most extreme example of men struggling to act with honor and respect to those they consider enemies and it is not just on the battlefield where we fail to meet the test. Our current political discourse appears to identify "the other" as enemies, not as opponents or those we just disagree with. While this has been an historic problem in politics, the current politicization of almost every aspect of our national life seems to have broken down the remnants of honor and respect within our society as a whole, making debasement of the opponent the chief goal of any interaction. Too sad by far.

Abuse in Iraq stands beside an ongoing climate of political abuse of opponents as coming from the same wellspring, separated only by degree, not context. Since both respect and honor require character and moral convictions, it comes as no surprise to me that as the Judeo/Christian religious foundations of our social contract are removed from developmental influence and marginalized in the public and political arena, replaced by secularism and its subjective and utilitarian view on all things, we see the social fabric unravel and atrocities become acceptable until caught. Common decency, respect, and acting with honor is what Christianity brought to Western Civilization and they are dying as it fades into memory. These revelations are not an aberration but the early signs of what is coming. When you sow the wind the whirlwind eventually comes round. 5-7-04

Aspirations -  While human aspirations are generally looked upon as a good thing (we all need aspirations it is said), if Robert L. Park, author of Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud, is correct, most of our aspirations open us up to cons and thievery. Park noted, "It seems to me that people want two things: one, to live forever; and two, to do no work." Since no one, except maybe the severely depressed, wants to die, people become marks for all sorts of cons offering life extension, and in the religious sphere, eternal life, usually for a price. Combine that desire with wanting to do no work and you have a potent draw in which a unique pill, formulation, or religious system will solve all your problems without you having to barely lift a finger. Christians are not immune from this scenario and in many ways the downward spiral of the Episcopal Church is a prime example.

Having abandoned the "no pain, no gain" principle of Christian growth and discipleship, the Episcopal Church, especially through its con men Bishops such as Jack Spong, a disciple of the late and unlamented James Pike, has offered a gullible and biblically naive Church cost-free discipleship and sin-free salvation, along with the siren song of the human potential movement. Why work through the pain of repentance and sanctification, struggling to reign in your appetites and baser sexual impulses when these wolves in sheep's clothing say go for it with gusto?

Thad Barnum, AMiA Bishop for Emmaus Anglican Church, preached a sermon on January 16th at the annual AMiA Winter Conference on the difference between Straight Street and Broadway, between salvation in Jesus Christ and damnation in self-delusion by taking the easy road to perdition. It hit the issue and men like Spong right between the eyes and has caused many a hearer to "examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves." 2 Cor. 13:5. Indeed we should examine ourselves, our aspirations, and anything that might separate us from the love of Jesus Christ, doing everything we can to make our way to Straight Street, the only pathway to salvation so we can enter the narrow gate. Now that is one aspiration that God can honor. 4-29-04

Retrosexual - Someone who believes in the retro idea that Biblical sexuality and morality is the right approach to sexual identity and sexual activity. In this age of mega sexual discovery, Joseph Farah of WND waded through all of the various new sexual identities (homosexuals, bisexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, transgendereds, metrosexuals, and whatever else is out there) and decided nothing quite fit him. After some reflection he decided he was a retrosexual, a biblical and traditional male reared in the feminine honoring tradition of Western Civilization (somewhat in line with Mark Simpson's coining of the term). Count me in, in spades.

Having said that, upon my own reflection I discovered it was time for me to reexamine my commitment to the newly identified retrosexual lifestyle--not an easy task. It means taking responsibility for being the provider of my family, of considering my wife worthy of the supreme sacrifice and all of the little sacrifices leading up to that (he who is faithful in little...), of treating my wife, my daughter, and indeed all women with the utmost dignity and respect. In short, it means being both reliable and accountable. No wonder retrosexuality is not popular in our culture.

No matter. What is right is right and if you want to be tight with God, slackers need not apply. He expects total commitment. So, it is time to measure up. If you think you might be a retrosexual, then I challenge you to measure up also. To make a pun on the old Army commercial, "Get tight with God and be all you can be". It appears that promise keepers was onto something. 4-20-04

Habit - ''We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.'' Aristotle was on to something there. I now understand those relentless drills we did in Catholic school to learn things like the common prepositions or arithmetic formulas. To this day I remember how to find the volume of a cylinder (pr2h), among many other things. Aristotle also gives me insight into Paul's statement in Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Habits are acts of will or accident, solidified over time. They can be bringers of good or ill. Without them sports, driving your car, even typing this essay would not exist. Combine Aristotle and Paul and you get decent people. Isn't that what we want to be, want our children to be, want our society to be. I guess there was something to be said for manners after all. 03-24-04

Mausoleums - They look good on the outside, but inside it is all death and decay. Jesus called the Pharisees of his day "whited sepulchers/whitewashed tombs", saying these teachers of the law were like mausoleums, looking good on the outside while inwardly holding only uncleanness and death. There are those that feel much of Christianity has become nothing but mausoleums, edifices that have lost power of the Holy Spirit and the newness of life in Jesus Christ. Just don't look beneath the surface because there is nothing there. This is a serious problem beyond the Christian community. As the growing Muslim tide confronts a weakened Christianity on almost every front, who will stand for Christ and the uniqueness of his salvation claims? Where will the energy and zeal come from to meet this extremely serious threat? Who will answer the call of the watchman; who is willing to stand in the gap? These are serious and perilous times indeed. 3-22-04

Aboutness - In thinking about the atheist's ability to produce a cogent moral system, along with a system of "rights" I discovered a secondary problem is how do they arrive at the "aboutness" of what it means to be human? I work in the information technology industry and one of the hot topics these days is metadata or the exposed or named properties that give the "aboutness" of the information object. Someone has to make cognitive external assessments in order to analyze and assign these understandings.

After some reflection I realized that these two issues intersect and create a fundamental problem for atheists/agnostics, and that is, if you only have an internal frame of reference and there is no external assignation of "rights" and "aboutness", then where does it all come from? If the rights and aboutness only come out of the internal human dialog, then they are totally subjective and malleable and cannot produce anything inalienable.

In the end, looking at history, we as a country, as a social and political system, only exist because our forbearers lived and moved and breathed in the ether of Christendom, with its fundamental dignity of man and God-given rights, inalienable rights. Atheists could not have produced that. On the contrary, they owe their intellectual and moral framework to us who created the ether in which they swim.

That is at least how I see it. 03-17-04

Context - I was watching O'Reilly the other night and he was discussing reactions to Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. I heard for the umpteenth time the tired and felicitous argument "But I know some atheists who are good moral people, blah, blah, blah." That statement is useless without context and the significant context is that those people that Bill knows, and any others like them, have grown up in the context of a society built upon the moral foundation of Judeo-Christian Western Civilization. They did not grow up in a vacuum and develop their "good moral" underpinnings out of nothing. They inherited the moral structure of our religiously founded and sustained civilization (though how much longer is anyone's guess). While they reject the theistic foundations and the common Christian beliefs that created the water in which they swim, they owe their morality to its conscious and unconscious instruction. There is no way around this fact. Remove the religious underpinnings from our society and you have nothing to replace it. The moral relativism you are left with is not a replacement but a mere bow to expediency and one step removed from the rule of fang and claw, and still is dependent on the inherited wisdom of the religious moral systems that inform any moral efforts. Besides, without deity bestowing "inalienable rights", there are no inherent or fundamental rights and power, wants, and desires rule the day. Ask the survivors of Pol Pot and the return to "Year Zero" in Cambodia or any of the other historic attempts to remove the influence of religion from the heart of man and society. Atheist and agnostics successfully survive only because of their symbiotic relationship to the religiously structured societies in which they live. They are parasites, incapable of sustaining social structures on their own, despite their protestations and it is time they faced up to the fact. 3-3-04

Deicide - No, I am not referring to the heavy metal/death metal band Deicide (though they are defiantly anti-Christian and into deicide in a big way), but the problem of blaming the Jews throughout history for killing Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is God incarnate to Christians, those who killed him are guilty of deicide. Despite the fact that historic Christian theology has laid the death of Jesus at the feet of the sin of every human being, the Jews and the Jewish leaders of the day were the physical agents of his condemnation, and the Romans through Pilate the tool to carry it out. That fact is only disputed by those who play games with the facts and cannot admit the obvious. However, it is VERY IMPORTANT to note that the guilt died with those who participated in the event, a guilt that was further expiated in 70 AD by the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. No Jew of the second century, much less any Jew of the twentieth or twenty-first century bears any guilt for what happened on Golgotha two thousand years ago. None. Nada. At least not any more guilt than any human being guilty of sin bears. Not any more guilt than you or me. So let's give it a rest.

For a more nuanced look at this issue read my Who Killed Jesus? article. 2-23-04

Lent - The Christian liturgical period of Lent is one week away, and this year it arrives amidst the controversy surrounding the release of Mel Gibson's seminal film, The Passion of the Christ, which even its critics admit is an exceptionally powerful movie. Traditionally, Lent's purpose, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia was, “...above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be." In observing 40 days to match Christ's preparatory 40 days in the wilderness, we prepare ourselves for the rigors of Holy Week and the joy of Easter. Its official observance dates to 360 AD and the Council of Loadicea. Its emphasis was on the spiritual renewal that the preparation for Easter demanded. For many Lent has become the season for penance, for sorrow for sin and rededication of one's life to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Lent has its many detractors, with some trying to trace it back to the period of preparation for the Babylonian "Feast of Tammuz", which took place in June, and celebrated a pagan "messiah" of sorts.

However, for liturgical Christians, Lent holds the possibility of being a fertile time of reflection and self examination, of repentance and renewal, a time to be tested, as Christ was tested, and like Christ a time to resist the influence of the Devil in our lives. With a properly prepared heart, it can be a spiritually significant time, an extended pilgrimage of the soul that takes up the challenge of Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise."

I am looking forward to Lent this year, to its rigors, its demands, and yes, to Mel Gibson's movie, since I hope to use that movie to remind my soul in a graphic way of the enormity of Christ's sacrifice for me and my sin. I pray that God uses this Lent to draw me ever closer to himself and I pray the same prayer for you. May God grant all of us our heart's desire. 2-18-04

Love - As we approach the romantic Valentine's Day holiday, our thoughts drift to love, and due to the nature of our social discourse, to love for our significant other, whether wife or husband, or boyfriend or girlfriend. However, while the culture centers on eros and the erotic nature of loving relationships, we as Christians should be focusing on agape and the sacrificial nature of our loving relationships. God has an interesting economy when it comes to agape and commitment. Jesus said whatever relationships you give up to follow him (a true act of sacrificial agape), then you should expect to get back more than you gave up (see Luke 18:29-32), a sort of endlessly bubbling up reservoir of love for those in Christ. Now that is one promise in scripture that we should examine more closely, especially on Valentine's Day. 2-13-04

Compromise - Sometimes compromise is a good thing, as we seek the middle ground in a demanding situation. However, in situations touching on truth and especially on the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, compromise is the stuff of syncretism, of a tacit denial of the faith once delivered unto the saints. In his February 5th Breakpoint Commentary, As Long as We Get Along: Selling the Truth for Unity, Chuck Colson lays bare the syncretism, in the name of unity, of our compromising age.

Episcopal Bishop Peter James Lee of Northern Virginia, in an effort to address the mounting dissatisfaction of conservatives in his diocese over the ordination of Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as Bishop of New Hampshire, called upon those at his diocesan convention not to split the church. He said to those gathered, "If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy.” Chuck Colson sees Bishop James' words as a wake-up call to all conservative Christians and evangelicals, not just to Episcopalians.

I say thank you God for such frankness by the enemies of the faith, for no clearer distinction can be made than that. In making that statement, Bishop Lee admits to heresy and that Robinson's consecration advanced heretical doctrine. I am not sure if that was his intention, but I thank him for his clarity. Uncountable numbers of Christians over the history of the church have given their lives rather than bow their knee to Baal and acquiesce to heresy. During periods of extreme trial God has raised up men like Athenasius and Luther, Cramner and Wesley, and many others, some known and many unknown to history, to fight the good fight for the faith once delivered to saints.

With their sacrifices before us, it is time for all of us to accept the call, to be God's voice within our areas of influence, to stand for truth and the integrity of God's demands on our lives. I thank God that Lent is only weeks away and that Mel Gibson's movie about the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, The Passion of the Christ, opens on Ash Wednesday. May God use this movie and the upcoming period of Lent to gird up the loins of His Church and prepare them to stand as one for His Truth. May we never accept heresy to avoid schism, either in our churches or in our own lives. To God be the Glory, now and forever. Amen. 2-09-04

Pushing the Envelope - Janet Jackson's "exposure" at the Super Bowl half-time show, culminated what FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell called a "whole performance [that] was onstage copulation." The backlash and outrage has rightfully begun. There is a symmetry to recent events. The Episcopal Church consecrates a Sodomite Bishop and is surprised at the backlash, first thinking it will die down and now realizing it is escalating against them. MTV brings its amoral sexual hedonism into public living rooms, not on its depraved TV network, but at the world's most celebrated family and friends event and it is surprised at the backlash, first thinking a simple disavowal will be enough, but now is realizing it is escalating out of control against them, as well as against CBS and their parent company Viacom. Seminal symmetry, two events linked by presumption and depravity, both causing an unexpectedly fierce reaction. Only God knows where it will go from here, but European laughter at our "prudish" reaction to what they see is no big deal demonstrates again how different our once similar cultures have become. Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, who said in response to FCC reaction "I find that to be a bit of a flap about nothing," may have finally gone over a line he cannot return from, as it shows how completely out of touch he is with the core of American values. We appear to have reached a "tipping point" in the culture wars. Which way will it fall? 2-2-04

Bible Study - Like carbohydrates, Bible study comes in two basic varieties: simple and complex. Simple carbs include sugars and starches, the things known to cause flabby weight gain and numerous health problems when we eat them as our regular fare. They are easy to like, hard to stop, and invariably destructive. Simple Bible studies, like simple carbs, are easy to enjoy, giving you a quick sense of satisfaction, but tend to become addictive. In the long run however, simple Bible studies are not good for you because they fill you will the illusion that you are doing something significant when you are not. This is the problem Paul discusses in Hebrews 5:11-6:3. Complex carbs are digested more slowly, have a much higher nutritional value, and tend to provide balanced energy throughout the day while fostering much better health. Likewise, in-depth Bible study moves slowly and delves deeper into the truths of God as well as our own strengths and limitations. In-depth study is as necessary to grow spiritually mature as complex carbs are needed to help you maintain health and vigor. There is nothing wrong with a simple study now and then, just like simple carbs taken in moderation won't seriously hurt your health. But without including complex Bible study in our spiritual lives, we are headed for trouble, just like the absence of complex carbs would hurt our health. Protect your health and your spiritual life by watching what you eat and how you study. 1-27-04

Politically Correct Persecution - WorldNet Daily reports a story that shows the political correctness of Europe exceeds even that of the United States, so much so that the following statement, in a parish letter to his congregation, caused a French Catholic priest to be found guilty and fined for "provoking discrimination, hatred or violence."

"The Asiatics proliferate and invade our land, bringing with them an ideology that threatens the whole world,"

"Indeed I would add there is no such thing as 'moderate' Islam. All the populations infected by the Muslim religion are indoctrinated by the Quran – a holy book which is the manual for the extension of the kingdom of the devil at the expense of the kingdom of Christ."

The article fails to say which part of his statement was the offending verbiage. The good father's assertion, however, that the Quran is the manual for the extension of the kingdom of the devil at the expense of the kingdom of Christ is true, as it is true for all of the holy books of all religions outside of the Jewish/Christian scriptures. If Christ be true, all others are liars and fronts for Satanic deception and fall under Paul's prohibition in Galatians 1:8-9 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" The truth only unites those who believe; it divides all others. 1-20-04

Dreams - Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Leaving aside the continuing arguments about the validity of the holiday, one that thing that continues to get lost in the noise of the occasion is the central tenant of King's philosophy, the crux of his "I have a dream" speech: that he wanted America to be a color-blind society, without privileged classes, with a level playing field for everyone. Three passages from that speech emphasis this basic premise (emphasis added).

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

With those statements as a foundation, it is toxic to both the character and hopes of a nation to build into law and its social structure a system of preferences for anyone, since once established, not only are they nigh unto impossible to extricate, they are fundamentally destructive to the goals they claim to foster. They create a sense of entitlement where non should exist in a society of equally created persons. They substitute one prejudice for another, one evil for another.

We should always endeavor to level the playing field, but we can't distort the rules, lower the standards, or hobble some of the players and remain true to Martin's dream or the dream of our forefathers whom Martin appealed to. You don't address evil with evil, but with good. You don't create equality by imposing inequality. You can never guarantee outcomes, only opportunities. Remediation is preparatory in nature, so the formerly unprepared can compete, but how well they compete is up to them. That is the nature and nobility of character and it is on the character of its citizens that a nation rises or falls.

Yes, compassion should exist, for some will always need it, but compassion is by its nature an act of character and can never be codified into fixed formulae or law, since character, and as a result compassion, is the substance of individual persons. The character of a nation is bound by the character of its individual citizens, not apart from them.

I have a dream and that dream is that all men, who have been created equal by their creator, would become people of character and treat their fellow men with equality, expecting only a level playing field to expend their efforts. If that were true, then I believe both Martin and I would be satisfied that the dream that began as America would be on the road to becoming what its founders intended. 1-19-04

Bullies - There is a new study out from UCLA that says bullies, contrary to prevailing wisdom, do not suffer from low self esteem, but instead, according to Jaana Juvonen, lead author of the study, are popular and feel good about themselves. "They don't show any signs whatsoever of depression, loneliness or anxiety," Juvonen said. "They look even healthier than the socially adjusted kids who are not involved in the bullying." The respect they get from the general student population arises from the fact that students do not sympathizing with victims. Teenagers tend to respect those who show dominance.

Finally, we see research that bears out what even the casual observer sees in schools, neighborhoods, and anywhere children gather in groups. It is a universal given that having power makes you feel good about yourself, at least for a while. During the raging hormones period of adolescence, few of the downsides of bullying become evident, at least in a generally restrained society, which puts limits on really excessive behavior. However, as our moral and social climate loses the restraints that religion and personal responsibility within community used to demand, the limits get pushed further and further out, until they become meaningless and bullying behavior becomes not just the painful experience of the past, but dangerous and even lethal.

As the self-discipline that Christianity placed on social interaction, under fire from humanistic triumphalism, melts from the public sphere, where does the "new mankind" think the necessary restraints on human behavior are going to come from? If there is no God, and we are no more than the most evolved animals on food chain, what is there to stop us from behaving like the dominant animals we are told we are? Don't these people realize that throughout the history of humanity, only religion has succeeded in reigning in humanity's baser impulses, and only Christianity has succeeded in giving true dignity to life itself? No, bullies have no problems with self esteem, and they will have no problems refining their baser natures now that the internal restraints of religion have been removed from the playing field. As the prophet Hosea warned, "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." 1-13-04

Renovation - We are remodeling our old, old, house. First we gut a small section and then fix what we can, trying not to let the dirt, dust, and the efforts needed to move things around or bring materials in and out destroy the rest of the house in the process. While it would be so much easier to have moved out and gutted the whole thing at once, that wasn't an option financially. Instead we are approaching our house like God approaches our lives, fixing one aspect at a time. So from my perspective, remodeling and sanctification have many things in common. Both engender a certain amount of impatience, the desire to finish the job and get the messiness of reconstruction out of the way. However, just like you have to take your time and  be careful not to miss anything that needs doing when you rip the plaster off the walls of an old house, you have to be careful to address what is the real sin when God exposes the bare desires of your heart to the light of day. If the foundational work in each aspect of these efforts isn't done right, the mistakes and out-of-true elements will distort everything that you build either out from or on top of them. In construction nothing replaces sound structural work, and in our spiritual lives, nothing replaces sound biblical understanding and theology. Yes it takes time to do things right, but the results are worth the effort, and a slipshod job will always show through to remind you of what you should have done. In both remodeling and sanctification dedication and attention to detail pays off. 1-11-04

Pride - Emerson argued that pride always injures ("No man ever had a point of pride that wasn't injurious to him."). Maybe not immediately, but eventually pride, to quote Proverbs 16:18, goes before the fall. It is pride that helps elevate, exacerbating the fall in the first place. The apostle Paul had a cure for pride, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12:3) Sober judgment, now that is good advice. We could all use a little more sober judgment, a little less pride, and definitely a few less damaging falls, especially as we get older. The older we get the harder it is to recover and the price of pride becomes increasingly expensive. So, examine yourselves and evaluate the extent of your pride before it produces a new fall, then work to reduce it. That's it, we all need to go on a diet and shed more than a few of those pounds of pride. The time to start is now. Right now. I mean it. Right this very minute. 1-5-04

Resolutions - It is that time of year again when we make promises to ourselves, to our family, and if we are religious, we may also make promises to God, about the things we want to change or do in the coming year. No one is quite sure how the practice started, but it has become an integral part of our culture's yearly ritual.

However, our attitude towards the attempts are often similar to what George Stephanopolous said about President Clinton. "The president has kept all of the promises he intended to keep." As Jesus said about his disciples, sleeping in the garden the night before his crucifixion, "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Matthew 26:41) Our intentions do not always live up to reality.

There is an admonition attributed to St. Francis of Assissi, which was put into a song for the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon, that goes "Do few things but do them well, take your time, go slowly." I think Francis offered those of us making New Year's resolutions good advice. It is better to succeed at a few things done well than make many failed promises.

One last thought to those considering making a promise to God this new year. God expects us to keep our vows. Deuteronomy 23:21-23 says, "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth." God keeps his promises; he expects us to keep ours.

Happy New Year. May you succeed in keeping all your promises. 12-30-03

Happy whatever -
I wanted to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year BUT I was advised that I might get sued by somebody SO here is the best I could come up with..

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

In addition, please also accept our best wishes for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2004, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great (not to imply that this country is necessarily greater than any other country or area of choice), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual orientation of the wishers.

This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. "Holiday" is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or observances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).

Note: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wisher her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non- implementation of it.

This greeting is void where prohibited by law. 12-24-03 (from an email I received today)

Anger - While not in an of itself evil, for even God gets angry, anger is the most emotionally powerful weapon in our personal arsenal and like all powerful things is subject to easy corruption. At the heart of Tolkien's story of the Ring, now wonderfully manifest in Peter Jackson's movie masterpiece, The Return of the King, is the knowledge of the corrupting nature of power. From Eve's temptation in the garden to the daily temptations of our everyday lives, the corrupting nature of of power lies close at hand, and the power of anger tempts us all. It is important to note that Paul in his letter to the Ephesians warns "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Even our righteous anger can easily become the foothold of the enemy in our life, as it is difficult to control the power of such an all encompassing emotion. Anger that spans the night into several days quickly becomes entrenched as seething rage, an ire that overruns the bounds of its original intent and spreads its infection throughout our person. That is why Paul's advice is so crucial, even to righteous anger, but especially to sinful anger, which by its very nature already has established a beachhead for the enemy in our person. The solution is forgiveness, of the cause, whether person or thing, and of ourselves for what we let it do to us. Forgiveness is the Balm of Gilead on the sore of our anger, able to cleanse the wound before it festers and corrupts everything it touches. So, treat your anger as the dangerous loaded weapon it is, a weapon that only God can wield without sin over time. 12-22-03

Kings - In our modern democratic societies kings are anachronisms, and where they can exist, as in England, they are primarily symbolic. This week, one of the most anticipated movies in recent memory opens, The Return of the King, the third and final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The reviews are as spectacular as the film must be (I have not seen it yet), but aside from the technical and cinematic achievements of Peter Jackson's adaptation of Tolkien's novel, there is something remarkable about the concept of a king returning to his rightful throne as one of the main streams of the story line. While on one hand it goes against modernity and our individualistic grain, on the other hand there is an ennobling heroism to Aragorn leading the kingdom of men in a last ditch stand against the advance of absolute evil. Our modern democratic and socialist societies lack true heroes, people of bedrock character who step up to the demands of history and the moment. Instead, we get celebrities along with movie and pop stars, certainly not heroes. And since we have emasculated our military leaders with straightjackets of political correctness, athletics is the last venue to approach the genetic memory of true heroism for us, but pursuit of money and the selfishness of the modern athlete dissipate even that remaining shadow of our longings. There is something fundamental about looking to heroic leadership, about the idea of the noble king. That is because it reflects a type of Christ, the Everlasting King of the coming Kingdom of God. We sometimes forget that heaven is not a democracy, but a theocracy lead by the King of Kings, but something deep in our hearts remembers and is stirred by the image of a noble king taking a heroic stand, even if only in a story. It still strikes a sympathetic cord in the music of our souls. 12-17-03

Form - It is axiomatic in design that form follows function. While there may be differences between two designs, sometimes aesthetic and sometimes due to a unique approach, the form still demonstrates its suitability to its function. The human body exhibits this basic principal throughout: hands grasp, teeth chew, eyes see, ears hear, feet walk, and so forth. It is only in the area of human sexuality that people attempt to deviate from this universal concept. It is obvious that those following "alternate lifestyles" are breaking these basic rules and are deviating from normality, breaking the form/function relationship, and are not following a naturally alternate way of being. All arguments for same sex relationships have to deal with this basic fact. However, they don't, they avoid the issue, since it reminds them of their attempts to square the circle. It never ceases to amaze me how our fallen human natures will cling so tenaciously to anything, anything at all except the obvious truth. The essence of repentance requires admitting you are wrong and maybe that's it, they are just not willing to be wrong, especially after they have made such a fundamental choice to deviate their lives at such an elemental level. What else can explain the self-serving and fatuous arguments glibly avoiding the elephant in the corner, in a failed attempt to extricate the blood of normality from the stone of deviancy. For Christians, the additional fact that Eve was created from Adam to explicitly complete an essential part of the human equation while also foreshadowing the relationship between Christ and the Church brings the form/function argument into the spiritual sphere. So, on some deep level, sexual deviancy is really an attack on God as creator and designer and a corruption of the foreshadowing of our relationship with Christ. 12-14-03

Ritual - The rites, services, and ceremonies that make up the liturgy of our lives. I have recently noticed that as human beings we are steeped in ritual. Left to our own devices we will soon devise rituals to give our lives a sense of continuity and purpose. They are the well-worn paths that give guidance to the course of life, both religious and secular. For some it is Sunday football, others Sunday Eucharist and for a few both. Historically, both Israel and the Church were imbued with ritual by God, to give His people the comfort and guidance of the familiar and to aid them in surviving times of upheaval and turmoil. But while rituals form a useful and necessary support structure to sacred living, in and of themselves they are spiritually useless as evidenced by God's rejection of mere ritual in Psalm 51:16-17 "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Rituals only have meaning when we pour our hearts into their supporting structure or the rituals are empty and without sustainable meaning. This is true for all rituals, secular and sacred. Sitting at a football game without having your heart in the game and rooting for your team is like going to church as a perfunctory exercise while keeping your heart distant from God. Liturgy is only dead because the heart that should inform it has long ago passed on. However, ritual imbued with heart and deep commitment is a riverbed filled to overflowing with life giving sustenance. Are your rituals empty or filled with life? 12-10-03

TRUTH - There is a theme that runs as an undercurrent in all of my reading these days. Whether it be opinion pieces, commentary, punditry, or just plain old folks, the undergirding issue is the loss of TRUTH. Not truth or Truth, both of which, while carrying some degree of intrinsic power in their innate self-referencing, are human constructs and predisposed to the subjective distortions of venal human thinking. As a Christian, I always see those efforts corrupted by the fallen nature of all humankind, even among people who have put on the new man in salvation through Jesus Christ. Yes, wood, hay, and stubble are used by even the redeemed to build houses of straw. By TRUTH I mean the fundamental absolutes that proceed directly from God, who alone arbitrates their meaning. We can only apprehend the meaning of those TRUTHS through divine revelation combined with a renewed mind, which is found only in those who are willing to submit their bodies as living sacrifices to God (see Romana 12:1-4). God's TRUTH is foolishness to the natural man, but even those in total rebellion have been enlightened by God's true light; so it is there, informing their conscience, whispering its still small voice against the tide of their insolence. In this wholesale abandonment of first things nothing has really changed. Going back to the first sin in Eden the issue was the trustworthiness of God's TRUTH, the veracity of His revealed Word. It is no different today. Whether from the manipulations of the homosexual lobby inside the Church and the obfuscation of those in authority who support their cause, to the arguments of secular men like Robert Reich who attack Christianity at every turn in the public sphere, God's TRUTH is rejected and man's truth/Truth is elevated as the guiding principle for all worthy thought and action. This politically correct, self-referencing humanistic construct is always subjective and relative, changing with the needs of those in power and the demands of the existential moment. While rooted in the enlightenment, it finds its fruition in the modern deconstructionist's abandonment of intrinsic meaning and all absolutes as it trumpets its intellectual bankruptcy as virtue. The inalienable rights of mankind in Western Culture find their foundations in God's revealed TRUTH. Remove that and rights become the consent of the power elite, without meaning or valid precedence and the door is thrown open to the final solution, the execution of God and all those who believe in Him and His TRUTH. W. B. Yeats was indeed prophetic when he penned his burning question

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

What rough beast indeed. 12-9-03

- Some of you may remember the outrage last Christmas produced by the Planned Parenthood "Choice on Earth" holiday card and campaign, which included t-shirts, bumper stickers, window stickers, and refrigerator magnets. The campaign was so successful that they have rolled it out again for this holiday season. Over the years, since the Rowe versus Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, choice has become the euphemism of choice (pun intended) for abortion. You could just as easily say "Abortion on Earth" and be accurate to the intent of the Planned Parenthood message. However, in the war of ideas, which are most easily driven by propaganda and simplistic slogans, abortion carries negative images which accurately reflect its essential meaning of termination, while choice carries positive images of freedom and the exercise of basic "rights." This positive image is fostered by the additional phrasing on the Planned Parenthood holiday card of "Justice on Earth. Human Rights on Earth. Equality on Earth. Civil Rights on Earth. Women's Health on Earth. Freedom on Earth. Religious Rights on Earth. Choice on Earth." Despite that, as Shakespeare so aptly said, "a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet," meaning that changing the name doesn't change anything of substance. A shoat is still a pig, and abortion by any other name is still the termination of life. The "Holiday Season" as modern secularists like to call the period between the Christian celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Epiphany is really a time of celebration for the gift of life, especially the newborn life of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of all creation.

So, in the spirit of true "Choice on Earth" I would remind Christians everywhere that if you call Christ Lord and you have been born again into the family of God, then you have made a choice, a choice to follow life instead of death, righteousness instead of evil, and you can celebrate "Choice on Earth" as the time when all humanity faces the same choice, to approach the babe in Bethlehem either like the Wise men of the time, and bow your knee in adoration to the King of Creation or instead choose to be like Herod and try to remove his unwanted presence by attempting to terminate or should I say abort his existence. Make your choice. 12-03-03

Advent - In Western liturgical churches the annual church year begins with Advent, the first Sunday of which is today, November 30, 2003. It is a time of preparation, both for the anniversary of our Lord’s birth at Bethlehem and in anticipation of his glorious second coming. Like Lent, the period before Easter, Advent is marked by a period of reflection and repentance in anticipation of joyous celebration, this time as we revere the unparalleled entry of God into His creation as the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The heart of Advent is represented by John the Baptist's cry to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Answering this ancient call we as Christians are challenged to prepare our hearts for the advent of the Son of God and to renew again our pilgrimage into the heart of God. To do so, we don’t only ask ourselves, “What have we done?” and react accordingly, we also ask ourselves, “What then should we do?” as we live out the reality of the Son’s presence in our personal and corporate lives.

So, as you encounter and hopefully participate in this season of Advent, may the Love of God in His Son, Jesus Christ, be born anew in your hearts and minds, and may that love bear its bounteous fruits of righteous in your life, my life, and the life of the whole of the Christian Church in the coming year. 11-30-03

Thanksgiving - Very few people wish me Happy Thanksgiving any more. From happy turkey day to happy holiday, people are avoiding the word thanksgiving. Maybe it's because the concept of giving thanks is related to prayer and God, with synonyms being grace, blessing, and benediction, each of which is overtly spiritual. That appears to be a problem to our overtly secular, post Christian culture. Well, I want to wish everyone viewing these pages a Happy Thanksgiving, full of grace and blessing, and I hope it leaves them with a sense of benediction, of intimate contact with the God who has granted them the bounty they enjoy. Thank you God!  11-27-03

Preference - In the article "The Episcopalian Preference" in First Things magazine, Philip Turner introduces the concept of preference as the driving principal of modern liberalism and as such, the undergirding theology of the liberal elites of the Episcopal Church. Gone are the prescriptive absolutes of classical Christianity, which when broken lead to what we commonly call sin, and instead we have choices rooted in preferences. Some may think that this shift in Episcopal spirituality is new, but Turner argues that it is much older, finding its first public expression in the church's attempt to deal with the heresy of Bishop Pike 37 years ago. After much waffling by the House of Bishops, all they could agree on, according to Turner, was that Pike was guilty of "a certain degree of irresponsibility and a lack of tact rather than false doctrine." Rather than being castigated, "Bishop Pike was viewed not negatively, as a heretic, but positively, as 'a casualty of the Christian mission in our day.'” Church leadership actually had the audacity to say “We believe it is more important to be a sympathetic and self-conscious part of God’s action in the secular world than it is to defend the positions of the past, which is a past that is altered by each new discovery of truth.” Turner believes that the church's action in the Pike case was the "birth of the notion that episcopal office is to be used as a 'prophetic' lever to pry people loose from the encrusted positions of the past." In other words, preference was poised to replace the absolutes of historic Christianity as the guiding theological principal of the new Episcopal "prophetic lever", to be wielded by bishops as a means of engaging the surrounding liberal cultural ethos and incorporating it into the church. Until the recent ordination of Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as Bishop of New Hampshire, John Shelby Spong was the foremost change agent of the new agenda. In 1973, the psychiatrist Karl Menninger lamented in a book of the same title, "Whatever Became of Sin?" We now have our answer. It has been replaced by preference, the end result of the "You're OK, I'm OK" epistemology, and if not checked by a resurgent Christianity, will lead to the fulfillment of  C. S. Lewis's prophetic warning in The Abolition of Man. 11-25-03

Sunday - Sunday is a day unlike any other during the week. Everyone enjoys its uniqueness in one way or another. While most Christians attend church services, taking time to remember God and substantively interact with family, and secularists enjoy a day somewhat free of the demands of work, we all have a chance to at least get some rest so we can recuperate and prepare for the week ahead. The reason for this scheduled break in the hustle of daily life is wholly due to our Judeo-Christian heritage. The Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday informed the foundations of Western Civilization with the fundamental right of all people to stop the wheel of labor and belay the incessant demands of "doing", of rushing to and fro, and instead to take some time to just "be." Even thought the sanctity of this period of rest has eroded over the last century as postmodern, post Christian life once more took on the incessant demands of 24X7 living, there is still enough of a residual effect for its call to resonate deep within our souls. No, Sunday is still unique, even if it has only become a shadow of what it was meant to be. 11-23-03

Sin - A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate. It is a word that has been out of favor for some time, even from church pulpits, where at one time it was a staple of honest oratory. One sermon on sin even became a classic, Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". By 1973 sin was so out of fashion that the sociologist of religion Karl Menninger would write the book "Whatever Became of Sin" where he lamented that sins were replace by crimes or symptoms. Where once priests preached and counseled, now the legal or psychological systems demand precedence. But while police arrest, judges incarcerate, and psychologists treat, they cannot forgive. As to the angry God, he (or she depending on your proclivity) is definitely out; God is now all luv, luv, luv, and especially solicitous of the same-gendered variety. The idea that God would ever judge someone with the archaic concept of sin, well it just isn't done. After all, we have redefined it out of existence. The problem is that in doing so we have fallen to the original sin, the first sin. The serpent tempted Eve with the ability to judge for herself good and evil, to know and define for herself what was sin. What has changed? Whether you are Griswold, the Episcopal Presiding Bishop, or Kim Gandy, president of NOW, or a myriad of others in modern leadership positions, you have taken the bait and feel it is your right and duty to define away sin. It appears there is only one sin left, that of intolerance, primarily defined as taking a position against the actions that used to be called sin. Isn't the serpent proud of himself? 11-17-03

Persistence of evil - There is one overriding quality about evil, it never quits. It may give up an avenue of attack, but it is always searching for a new angle, a new line of assault. In one sense, evil is the futility and decay that Paul talks about infecting creation in Romans 8:20 as the universe awaits the culmination of history and its chance to be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Until then, evil is doggedly persistent, but not because of any warped moral virtue, instead as the negation of what is good, and right, and true, and as the inbuilt frustration and uselessness of all our striving coming out of Eden's debacle. Therefore evil will be ever with us, collecting the fallen, those who have given up and surrendered to it, until God has completed His work of redemption. That is why being a disciplined, doggedly persistent follower of Jesus Christ should be the primary goal of all who call themselves Christian. 10-28-03

Simplicity - As I look around my environment, I have realized that I am awash with stuff; big stuff, little stuff, old stuff, new stuff, and all the stuff that fits in between. I was reading an article today that said our digestive systems have not been able to acclimate to the calorie-dense food we eat today. We are still programmed for an agrarian environment in which foods had considerably less nutrient density. We are being overwhelmed with too much foodstuffs and as a result we are all getting fat. Well I would like to point out that we are not just getting physically fat, but we have also gotten other stuff fat. My house started out as a two room cabin in the early 1800's with about 450 square feet. In the early 1900's a front L and second floor were added bringing the size to about 1200 square feet. We have considered several additions and rebuilds that would create about 2400 square feet of space. Why? We need space for all of our stuff. Also we like to entertain and to get 8-10 people in for an evening means more space, since like stuff, people need space. Lately, my wife and I are trying to rethink our needs and get rid of some of our stuff. The problem becomes, which stuff; what to keep and what to jettison? But then the nagging refrain echoes within our brain, "What if I need this next week, or next month, or maybe next year?" Oh, Lord, rescue me from all this stuff! 10-22-03

- In Martin Luther's great hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God there is a verse that says "Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing." One of the issues in the rugged individualism that undergirds the American ethos is that individually striving or struggling to better yourself by your own efforts is foundational to a successful life. In many ways this ethos has also permeated American Christianity, especially protestant Christianity. While much of our striving is indeed biblical (e.g., study to show yourself approved, resist the devil and he will flee, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal), those personal efforts, rooted deeply in the foundations of personal responsibility, are, if not supported by an absolute reliance upon God working within us, an anathema to the historic faith once delivered unto the saints. Some see it as a paradox, others an antinomy, but Paul dealt with the balance best when in Philippians 2:12b-13  he said "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." No man is an island, especially no Christian, for it is in God that we live and move and have our being, as Paul so ably argued at the Areopagus. The question then is to learn how to strive to the uttermost while at the same time having absolute reliance upon God. Oh yeah! 10-15-03

Rest - God said we should rest. For Israel, He even made it into a commandment regarding the Sabbath. In ancient times, rest meant having time to think; it didn't mean the recreation or sports or entertainment that we jam into our moments of "rest" today. When you rest, you put up your feet, relax, and allow the noise to quiet down, letting yourself hear the still small voice of God. Modern Christians have lost the quiet rest concept that our earlier spiritual brothers and sisters took for granted. In doing so we have lost our ability to hear anything drowned in the blaring cacophony fighting for attention around us. I would argue we have lost our ability to hear God's normal voice. He must then resort to more extreme methods to get our attention (e.g., see Hebrew 12). We need to recapture fundamental Christian rest. We need to do it soon. 10-8-03

Happiness - Externally induced happiness is like deodorant, it only covers over what is really underneath, which is why people seeking happiness through external means are doomed to failure. Deodorant always wears off; eventually you have to wash. The key is doing the things that build joy and and a positive outlook on the inside, in the center of your soul. That can only be done with an ongoing and maturing relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul was only able to say that he counted all of his past as fecal matter because attaining Christ was the source of his joy (see Philippians 3:8-11). The vagaries of external things no longer defined him or controlled his reality. Ground your search for happiness in the reality of Jesus Christ and you will find peace and rest for your soul and your life. 9-22-03

Hurricane Isabel -
During times of danger and when "acts of God" such as storms and hurricanes exert their force upon our homes, we need to remember who it is that controls all things, even numbering the hairs on our heads.

Psalm 55:8 "I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm."
Luke 8:25 "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."
Matthew 16:2-3 "He replied, 'When evening comes, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,: and in the morning, "Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.'" 9-18-03

Repentance - Balzac, considered the greatest French novelist, said in his novel The Human Comedy "Remorse is impotence; it will sin again. Only repentance is strong; it can end everything." So true, since without repentance nothing really changes. The apostle Paul knew this also. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 he said "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." Why is it that we resist so strongly the one thing that would allow us to put our past behind us and give us the hope of a truly better future? On this existential moment the life and death of a soul turns. 9/17/03

- There seems to be a run on foolish, trivializing comparisons in the social-political dialog of the day. Bush is compared with Hitler and the United States with Nazi Germany, which trivializes the Holocaust, since the proffered sins of the president and our nation are truly insignificant by comparison. Twaddling, while being justified by some as hyperbole, only demonstrates the severe propagandic nature that our public discourse has fallen into. Twaddling also leaves truth as its first casualty and advances a sense of despair in the body politic, since if those who would lead us have lost all sense of proportion and logic, what hope is there for any of us? 9/04/03

Compromise - This is one of those rare words that can mean something good or something evil depending on the context. At the root of the word's problem is whether we can find a valid ethical and moral purpose for our negotiation and whether what we are thinking about giving up will not alter the valid moral and ethical requirements of our position. In the Book of Revelation God makes an interesting assessment of most of the churches of Asia. Over and over He commends them on their faith, their remaining true to His name, but in every occurrence but one He holds something against them. What He condemns them for is compromise; in one form or another each church He praises has also ceded a portion of its integrity to the enemy. Only one church, Smyrna, escapes God's judgment for compromise, and they are the church who is under persecution. God makes it very clear, we cannot dance with devil and dance with Him at the same time. 9-02-03

- Feeling out of sorts, particularly in a way that brings on feelings of being alone, even when in a crowd, and of being weighed down by an event or events. I am sad today, very sad. After twenty seven years of attending one church as my primary connection to the family of God, I now see its end approaching. It is a strange time. For some of those around me it is just a new beginning, a chance for a clean start. For others, it is just another change, like finding some clothes they like just as much or even better. Yet there are others who are adamant that nothing will be different, and they will hold on to the bitter end. At the moment, sadness reigns for me and there is nothing to mitigate the depths of its intensity. 8-29-03

Travel - Basically going from one place to another. Travel has always been risky, especially for the common man. But over the course of history and civilization it has gotten safer. It probably reached its peak of safety (on average for all travel) a few years ago, before the current climate of terrorism. Air travel's only real threat is terrorism and even though you touch 30,000 plus feet at one point in your journey it is the safest way to move from place to place. The most common method, driving, has probably gotten to be about as safe as it is going to get until some serious technological breakthroughs. After side air bags and crumple zones there is not a lot left until computerized accident avoidance systems become practical. Why am I talking about travel? Well I am about to make a round trip between Baltimore and Tallahassee, Florida to move my wife home from a contract job she has been working on. I will be driving a pickup truck (the least safe road vehicle) almost 2000 miles over the next four days. Think of me when you say your prayers today. 8-21-03

Syncretism - When an attempt is made to blend or fuse outside ideas with an existing religious system we call the effort syncretism. It is endemic to religion that syncretism will be attempted. The religious system then has to either fight off the attempt or find some way to accommodate the new ideas. Some religions are inherently syncretistic, such as Hinduism. Various expression of Hinduism have had no problem absorbing external deities, such as when the Krishna's call Jesus one of the many avatars of god. Christianity, however, has always fought syncretism, seeing it as a corruption of the revealed truth of God. However, syncretism is not always the absorption of other deities, it can also be the inclusion of foreign philosophies. It is not without purpose that the early church father Tertullian asked, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" That question appears lost today as the cry instead seems to be "How can Athens and Jerusalem get along?" 8-18-03

- Who is responsible for Jesus' death? This is not a question that can adequately dealt with in a short reflection. However, while it is clear that the Romans crucified him, they did not initiate the proceeding and Pontius Pilate sought several times to release him, but was unable for fear of a riot.

Why am I asking this question? A great furor has arisen over a new movie, The Passion, made by Mel Gibson about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He and the movie are being accused of being anti-Semitic because in following the Gospels, the blame for Jesus' death is laid at the feet of the Jewish rulers and by proxy, all Jews. While I will have much more to say on this later in a fully developed article, a present day Jew is no more responsible for Jesus' crucifixion than I, as a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant am for early American slavery or a baby born today in Berlin is responsible for the holocaust. So to use the movie as an excuse for anti-Semitism is rude, crude, and without merit. That said, to try and say that the Jewish authorities were not directly responsible for Jesus' death is historically inaccurate. They were. More on this later. 8-13-03

Racial Preferences
- An interesting analogy to the debate about racial preferences is the concept of starting a car. When the engine is cold the choke gives preference to fuel over air intake so that the engine can successfully start up. As the engine warms up, the choke slowly opens until no longer exerts any preference to the fuel. Racial preferences are like a choke to a cold engine, arguably necessary to get things started. But, if they are left in place they choke the engine, preventing it from running properly, possibly evening stalling it. The choke is only a temporary measure and so should be racial preferences. Other measures are much more efficient in making the engine run efficiently. The real question is does the choke now need to be opened. We may have waited so long that the engine already stalling. 8-12-03

Liberalism - The fundamental view that people are basically good and it is the systems and institutions that distort and corrupt people and their decisions. So, you fix the world by changing the institutions and the systems and then the people will be free to be their "good" selves.

This is fundamentally opposed by Western Judeo-Christian thinking that says people are inherently flawed with an innate tendency toward evil. As a result, people must be taught to do the right thing (becoming civilized) and therefore we set up institutions and systems of laws and punishment to restrain evil, which lurks just below the surface in us all.

On one hand institutions and systems are bad, people are good. On the other hand people are bad and institutions and systems only reflect the people who control them. Who is right? Any fair student of history knows that the fundamental premise of liberalism is wrong and the basic premise of Judeo-Christian thought has been proved right over and over again.

Some people consider liberalism a child-like view of the world that is primarily driven by emotion. That is why feelings and compassion are high on the liberal list and character is not. Character is driven by decisions and an adherence to an external ethical system, which requires maturity and responsibility, two things distinctly un child-like. 8-12-03

Routine - Numerous routines make up the rhythm of our daily lives and the older we get the more important those regular reoccurrences become. As children we embrace novelty and if the course of the day is too regular we scream boredom. But as we age we depend on the cadence of comfortable routine to help us feel grounded. That doesn't mean we are opposed to change, but a certain structure is important for our sense of well being. When the balanced passage of our life is interrupted, whether by illness or radical change, such as being laid off from work, we are suddenly out of whack, things seem distorted, and we tend to drift. Work and the routines it weaves through our life are important components of our sense of balance. I have, due to recent events, come to appreciate those routines and look back at them with longing. Radical change is hard.

Pain - Our universal desire to avoid pain is well attested by the extensive lineup of analgesics found in any supermarket. From general aches and pains to the ubiquitous headache, we seek relief by consuming millions of pills and capsules daily. But pain serves an important purpose. It is a biological warning system. It alerts us that something is wrong or out of whack or injured, or in the case of surgical interventions, is in the delicate process of healing. Pain puts us in a quandary. We need pain, while at the same time we need to alleviate it. Such a delicate balance, pain management. Like most things in life, pain is best in moderation, as are our attempts to mitigate it. Why is pain on my mind? I recently had a surgical hernia repaired and its location makes almost any movement painful. They gave me pills that only take the sharp edge off the pain, which is good, since there has to be enough remaining pain to prevent me from damaging the healing process. Balance. Not too much, not too little. Aren't most things in life like that?

Patriotism - As July 4th approaches and we think about our independence as a nation, patriotism comes to the fore and all thinking Christians need to remind themselves of what God has to say on this important subject. Along those lines I would ask you to remember Paul's words to the Philippians where in two places he says things that should temper our uncritical patriotism. First in 3:20 he reminds us that "...our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ..." Second in 1:7-9 he prays an important prayer. "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God." He reminds us that all love, including our patriotism, requires knowledge, insight and discernment so that it be acted upon righteously. By all means be expressively patriotic, but also remember that your final allegiance is to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Friends - Friendship is one of the four expressions of love according to the Greeks, but it is unique. It is not driven by passion like eros or a sense of family like sturgos. It does not require sacrifice like agape though sacrifice is usually part of its lifeblood. It doesn't need presence and it can be as immediate after years of separation as it was before the goodbye occurred. I guess you can say friendships are like a good pair of shoes that still fit perfectly when the opportunity to wear them avails itself.

Goals - God obviously has goals, after all, the Bible says that He has a plan and having a plan implies having objectives and goals. Beyond the larger plan that God has for all of creation and humanity, one of the cornerstones of the Christian life has always been that God has a plan for you. You are not just a nondescript cog in a larger machine. You matter individually, "For Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Romans 9:13  So, logically it would appear that there are goals and objectives as part of God's plan for our lives. Didn't Jesus explain his goal for Paul's life when he called him to be an apostle to the Gentiles? Well then, what do you think God's goal for your life is? I think mine is to become an effective writer and use that to further the Christian witness.

- Eric Hoffer complained that alibis are more attractive than achievements because achievements require you to continue to produce to meet expectations, while alibis free you from ever having to produce since you have an excuse for failure. What an insight! I think that this insight also applies to sanctification in the Christian life. One reason many people embrace their sinfulness is that it is lot easier to deal with being a sinner than showing the continual spiritual growth that sanctification requires. Being a sinner is a good alibis for, well, being a sinner. While it is true that we are all sinners and any man who says he is not a sinner is a liar, we could use a few more people who struggle to put to death whatever belongs to their carnal nature. Aren't we also called by Jesus to "go and sin no more?"

Flaws - Part of our human condition is that we are all flawed, some worse than others, but all broken in some respect. What separates Christianity from all other religions or belief systems is its fundamental right of forgiveness when those flaws express themselves in unacceptable (sinful) activity. Christianity allows one to repent and move on, to change your life for the better, to overcome your failures. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery "neither do I condemn you" and then to "go and sin no more." As the political season winds up to another election cycle I am reminded that in the public sphere nothing gets forgiven or forgotten and everything will be used to discredit you if possible. Given a choice, I choose Christianity every time. Politics and the public sphere give no second chances.

Fatherhood - Since today is Father's day I have been thinking about fatherhood and while there are many definitions I have settled on a practical one: a father is someone who keeps promises and honors commitments. That appears to be to me the root out of which all the other attributes flow. It is also the measuring rod I have begun to use on myself in relation to my daughter. Do I keep my promises and do I honor my commitments to her?

Stuff - It has come to my attention that I (we actually, but I am seriously to blame) have too much stuff! Everywhere I turn there are stacks of stuff, stuff in boxes, stuff on flat surfaces, stuff filling drawers. It is in the attic, the shed out back, in a storage facility I rent; it is everywhere. Arrrgghhhhh!!! By this I don't mean the essentials of my daily life or work. I mean accretions, sort of like what happens to sunken items in the ocean, where things just accumulate all over the object, obscuring the essentials. The frustrating fact is that removing my "stuff" is just as hard as removing the oceanic accumulations. It is very hard work and never ending, since you no sooner free up one area that the accretions begin anew. No wonder a lot of us long for a simpler life in a simpler time. God have mercy on me. Please God, I mean it!

Order and Chaos - If a cluttered desk is evidence of a cluttered mind, what is the evidence of an empty desk. Sometimes we try to over-organize our lives, scrubbing out any disorder or chaotic randomness. While having a baseline of discipline and order is absolutely necessary, a modicum of disorder often leads to creative insight and unique problem solving. Many famous advances have come from experimental accidents. That is not to say we should purposely introduce disorder, but on the other hand we shouldn't fear the occasional breakdown.

Anxiety - Charles Spurgeon said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. A terrific insight, since without the necessary strength we don't have the resources to deal with anything. Jesus was so right when he said in Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Notice he said "not to worry", not "not to plan". There is a categorical difference between the two. Good advice from the source of all sound advice.

- It appears that the baby boomers (the post-WW II generation) to a large degree have become watchers. They are spectator driven, preferring to watch, rather than to do. Some may lay this passivity at the feet of their being the first media-driven generation; a generation who grew up in front of televisions and as they matured have had the financial wherewithal to make the technological explosion of video, music, and the Internet a integral part of their daily experience. Their energy is directed at watching and enhancing their ability to watch. It is almost as if they have become voyeurs rather than livers of life.

Risk - In the end we lose everything and can take nothing with us but who we are. So, rather than isolating and insulating ourselves in the fear of loss, we should push on, taking prayerful risks, since in the end, the success or failure of everything we do is essentially in God's hands. All we can do is act honorably and as intelligently as possible.

Pacifism - In man's pristine, unfallen state no one would have the need or desire to kill, either man or beast. But we did fall and the echo of that former perfection still resonates deep in our human psyche. It inexorably draws us, even though it is now corrupted by sin and its purity is unattainable; it is twisted into a trap and used by Satan to make us lambs for the slaughter.


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