Not a very good one, mind you. While I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, far too often I take the precepts within its pages as suggestions rather than commands. I think if I were more obedient I would be more patient, more kind, more generous. I would have more courage to speak the truth and more wisdom to speak it gently.
A fundamentalist Christian should, over time, be more like Jesus of Nazareth. Think what you may about His claims to deity and salvation, Jesus is universally understood to be a good man.
My friend posted to his Facebook wall an example of odd things agnostics say:
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” ― Marcus Aurelius
I say that this is odd because it has a number of flawed suppositions that I would think would be self-evident. Continue reading →
This year, the pending holiday season found me feeling out of sorts. Black Friday turned into Black Thanksgiving Day, a sure sign we are losing our balance. Then came a raft of bad news, sad news, and outright horrific news that made this December feel bleak and ugly.
The economy is performing worse than was reported in the runup to the election. The president seems determined to run us over the fiscal cliff. Then reports came in from Newtown that broke our hearts. Continue reading →
I am a Christian, but I really do not care what consenting adults do. I do not think homosexual relationships are all that healthy, but I’m not all that impressed with heterosexual relationships.
Honestly, if a gay couple can experience the love and companionship I have been blessed with in my marriage, I say all power to them. If people want to form extended relationships like those Heinlein imagined in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, I really do not care. If asked I might advise against it but I have my hands full doing a good job with my own relationship.
Without going too deep into the theological details, I know that any hardship our family might endure from whatever depredations are over the horizon are borne with Christ right alongside us. I know that whatever the pain I might suffer is bearable, because the Almighty has promised it would never be more than I can bear.
It is impossible to explain the feeling of peace one can get meditating on God’s love and provision at any time, but especially in the midst of a trial.
Temporally, I am a citizen of the United States of America, and I love my country. I love it because there is hardly a place in the 50 states where you cannot find a kind and generous person who will put themselves to great trouble to help you. We have been the liberators of the 20th century. We are the go-to people when there is disaster in the world. I am proud of America. I am blessed to be an American.
That said, eternally I am a citizen of Heaven. As His ambassador, I have all of Heaven looking out for me. No matter what comes, I am secure.
I am very sad to see what my fellow citizens are determined to do to themselves. The pain of an illness or destruction following a natural disaster somehow seems less painful to witness than when someone falls into addiction or gives into their baser instincts. If you care for them, your self-righteousness ought to be short-lived. Self-imposed suffering is still suffering, and it ought to break the Christian’s heart.
America is heading for a fiscal cliff, brought on because Americans want a lifestyle they cannot afford. The 2012 election was between a candidate who promised fiscal discipline and one who eschews it. We borrowed six trillion dollars over four years, and enjoyed just under one trillion in economic growth. No business could do that indefinitely, eventually nobody is stupid enough to lend you money.
It is only a matter of time before the game collapses and the lifestyle provided by the governmental Bernie Madoffs is reduced to ashes. We know what things like hyper-inflation looks like in third-world economies. Billion dollar notes, skyrocketing prices. Savers quit saving which destroys capital markets that in turn retard economic growth. Food rotting in the field because farmers cannot afford the fuel to harvest it. Hunger. Anger. Envy. The pathologies that made the election and re-election of Obama possible will metastasize.
Katrina, Joplin, Mt. St. Helen’s – nothing could precisely predict the severity of the destruction. This disaster is coming and it will be the most well-predicted economic disaster in all of recorded history as well as the most preventable.
We’ll have to pray for the generations that will follow that they will rediscover faith and liberty. It will be after a long, slow spiral.
While attending a rally in opposition to President Obama’s health care proposals, some of the counter-demonstrators held signs making an appeal from the perspective of faith. As I recall one old fellow held up a sign stating that Jesus would support the sick. Of the arguments for “Obamacare” perhaps this is the most compelling.
The president himself states that we are “partners with God” over these grave issues. I would not say that I am God’s partner, but I am certainly His servant, and I am both humbled and delighted to serve. Being a follower of Christ, among the general commands articulated by The Master himself are these: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless and visit those in prison. Pure religion is that widows and orphans receive care and mercy. Anything that I have done to the least of these His brethren, I have done for Him.
This may seem alien to my secular readers, but the Judeo-Christian tradition of charity is obedience to God’s call on our lives. Giving and mercy are both spiritual gifts that scripture teaches must be exercised to do the work of the Church, which is to glorify God and make him known in the world. Charity is an act of worship, expected of the believer as an exercise of faith.
The point that I am spooling up to is this: The power to tax is the power to send a man with handcuffs someone’s home and exact money. How can I as a Christian demand that the tax man go to my non-believing neighbor and exact resources to do God’s work? When I write a check to support a clinic, I am drawing upon the resources of the Most High, who gives me all things I need to do His work in this world. The non-believer may not make this claim (though God may still provide).
Christians who agitate for government-funded charity like health care are well motivated, but whatever appeal to my conscience they are trying to make is on shaky ground. Forcing a charitable enterprise upon the unredeemed upon pain of law is not materially different than sending a cop to drag a man to church.
The very foundation of the health care system we enjoy in the US was built out of the pockets of Christian and Jewish congregations uniting to bring mercy to their friends and neighbors without regard to their creed, and for the most part without regard to their ability to pay. The faithful, and those inspired by the faithful did this voluntarily and found great joy in the work.
If my Christian brothers and sisters wish to provide clinics and hospitals for the poor over and above what is offered now, I encourage them to join with the charitable institutions already in place and help. Christian Charity is rewarding and commanded. We can’t relieve ourselves of our obligation by subcontracting this work to a bureaucrat. Perhaps that’s why it’s been such a dismal failure.
Luke 2:8-9 – …there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
In the old testament, Isaiah has a similar reaction in the presence of the Lord.
Isaiah 6:5 – And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Many who are familiar with this passage in Luke know that the Angels tell the shepherds to not be afraid, that they bring good tidings of great joy. Linus, in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” gives what I think is the sweetest version of this event in our culture. Sweet news though it is, I grew up thinking that the shepherds were freaking out simply because the faced the unknown.
I now believe that the fear these men felt was the fear an employee who had been embezzling funds would feel if an FBI agent appeared unexpectedly in his office, only multiplied by an infinite amount. In Isaiah’s encounter, the prophet – who had dedicated his whole life to serving God – recognized instantaneously his wretched, sinful condition once exposed to the glory of God.
God’s glory exposes the hidden crevices where our wickedness is hidden. God’s angelic messengers bring with them that penetrating power. Like an enemy combatant who sits in a ruined fortification with an empty rifle, the sudden sight of Marines freezes his blood. Doom crushes his heart.
Mankind knows that it is at war with God. We fool ourselves for a while as we busy ourselves with daily living. We do our deeds both kind and cruel and somehow deceive ourselves into thinking our kindness is counted and cruelties forgotten. Because of the nature of the warfare, we do not recognize the whistling of the artillery overhead, though hospitals, battlefields, and cemeteries are constant reminders of sin’s curse. We turn our face away, but our false oblivion changes nothing.
Then God’s glory appears, and whether a prophet or a shepherd the Glory of God pierces you and you know you are unspeakably wicked by contrast. Doom is here. All you can do is tremble and await.
“Do not be afraid” His agent says. “I bring you tidings of Great Joy” His herald proclaims. God’s justice will be satisfied, but not by your doom, but by His son, who lies in a manger just a few miles away. Just as the old prophet’s sins were taken away by the burning coal, God’s Son has come to take away the sin of the world. God’s Glory will still illuminate the heart, but instead of doomful wickedness it will only reveal the perfect cleanliness of His Son if we will only surrender to Him.