Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Other Christmas Story

Everyone is familiar with the story of Christmas as expressed in song, Nativity scenes, pageants and those lovable TV Specials we all can't wait to watch. The most common image is of Mary, Joseph, shepherds and assorted livestock, the 3 wise guys (actually there may have been several more Magi) the guiding star, angels singing (theoretically, though the Bible doesn't say that) and last but. certainly not least, the most famous Jewish kid in the world, the Baby Jesus.
But, there is one set of folks you'll never see in any one's manger scene nor hear any yule tide refrains about; the ones who bore the wrath of the then Roman allowed Monarch of Judea/Palestine. I'm referring to the monster named King Herod I and the actions he took against the innocent that first Christmas.
As your Bible makes clear, the Magi and their entourage were looking for this new born King of Kings. He was the one their star charts and their study of Hebrew/Chaldean manuscripts indicated would be born at that time and place. It was natural for these out-of-towners to assume that the Nation of Judea would also be anticipating and awaiting and perhaps, celebrating. Though scripture doesn't say much about what these foreigners were thinking as they entered the Capital City, I suspect they were puzzled by the clueless-attitudes they observed among the majority of the people and their leaders as to what their own prophets and forefathers had predicted and yearned for. Sound familiar? These wandering astronomers and theologians were so excited, they traveled two thousand miles or more to catch a glimpse of this child king and honor him with their wealth.
Very little enthusiasm existed in Judea either among it's citizens, religious leaders, or corrupt political heads. According to Matthew Chapter 2, These wise "Kings" of the east were asking King Herod I where was this "King of the Jews?" Those ancient sages were excited, but Herod was troubled Scripture says. So was everyone else in town and according to the Bible he summoned the Chief priests, scribes etc. to figure out where the Scriptures said the Christ was to be born. Once he was told Bethlehem, he "secretly" summoned the wise guys (so much for your transparency in government) and charged them to diligently search for the child. If they found this Christ Child, they were to let him know so he could go himself to worship the child. Of course, as the story progresses, you see that Herod had ulterior motives. How often political leaders use the zeal of the faithful as a ruse to promote quite a different agenda!
As the story goes, after the Magi found, honored with gifts and worshiped the Baby Jesus, they were warned by God not to go back to Jerusalem or tell old Herod anything. God also told them to travel a different way home. God knew exactly what was in King Herod's heart. Herod was jealous of Jesus, was afraid of losing his throne and power base. He wanted to "off" this kid. Joseph was also warned by God in a dream and was told that King Herod wanted to find the Christ Child and destroy Him. So according to Scripture the little family slipped out of town and fled to Egypt. The valuable treasures that the Wise Men had given them would sustain them for several years while hiding in Egypt. Isn't it astounding how God provided for this poor carpenter and his young wife?!
Now, here is where the story turns ugly. Once Herod realized he had been "tricked" by the Wise Men, Scripture indicates he was enraged. He summoned his soldiers to go and kill every male child aged 2 and under who lived in Bethlehem and the entire region. This too was also prophesied in Scripture. Matthew 2:18 recounts: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."
Dozens, perhaps hundreds of toddlers and pregnant mothers were butchered because an old King was jealous for power, wealth, status and personal glory. He was not going to submit any of this to any Christ even though Scripture made clear this baby Jesus was the Savior. He was, in reality, warring against God. Pure insanity was on full display!
In a Bible study/home church I attended a number of years ago, a young lady in our group was having trouble with this part of the Christmas story. Why would a loving God allow all of those innocent children to be murdered, she asked? I blurted out something to the effect that He still does. Ever heard of abortion? Yet that still didn't answer the heart of the question. The leader that night expounded upon it this way. In God's wisdom and mind, which none of us on this side of eternity can fully fathom, He apparently allowed, innocent blood to be shed to save the helpless Jesus and family and to buy freedom for them. Joseph, Mary and child escaped into Egypt eventually. Herod was probably convinced he had killed his rival for the throne and thus ended his search and efforts to destroy the Christ Child. After all, isn't that why Christ died for us? Are we not helpless to save ourselves? Are we not sentenced to death for our sins? Are we not facing the rage of this world and it's usurper "king," Lucifer?
Now, you may or may not accept the rationale of that Bible study leader. It seems plausible to me. Honestly, I don't 100% know why God allowed all of those children to be slaughtered. I know He is sovereign, but he allows man fee will.
Nevertheless, I believe there is a stark object lesson here that speaks to anyone who possesses a tender heart.
This too is a part of the Christmas story. No, I have never seen figurines of King Herod I, his soldiers, bloody toddlers and gouged open mothers as part of Nativity scenes sold in department stores or otherwise. I probably never will. It doesn't fit well with the Yuletide decor or the soothing Johnny Mathis Christmas Music wafting out of the store sound system. I suspect if somebody had the "juevos" to put something like that along side the manger scenes and call it "The Other Christmas Story" it would be met with more protests and horror than the ACLU or Atheist activists give regular manger scenes on Courthouse and Statehouse properties!
The fact is, a REAL Baby Jesus was born into an ugly, gritty, evil, world teaming with the naive and wicked. Most of the world then was not happy that Christ was born and most of it is still not. Just look at the dubbed "War on Christmas" that is still waged by all of the modern day "Herods" and their lawyers. Sadly, not much has changed overall with mankind, in over 2000 years.
A just God will eventually take His revenge on those who destroy the innocent, you can count on that like next December 25. He allows man to choose life or death; salvation or destruction.
We each have our own Christmas Story of sorts. Will we choose to honor, worship and trust this now grown up and resurrected Jesus, this God in the flesh? Or, will we be a Herod, rejecting His authority and living in rage or indifference towards God and hurting the innocent in the process? The choice is yours. Will you live like it's Christmas all year in giving to and serving others? Or, will you live a selfish life of destruction, hurting others or living in apathy? Which character in the Christmas Story will you choose to be? Like my old story telling Choctaw friend, Tim Tingle used to say in Choctaw- "Cha tah ha piah ho kay." Translated, "Now the Story...is yours."

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Attitude of Gratitude

On a fairly mild, autumn day in October, 1621, the surviving half of a Christian congregation we call "Pilgrims" (though they rarely referred to themselves as such for that was their state, not their name) displayed a tremendous amount of thankfulness to the Lord for his provision. Most of us in some way or another attempt to replicate this event the fourth Thursday of every November. Sure, we have the turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed and or sweet potatoes, corn and or cornbread, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole and all served with a generous side of parade coverage and football on TV. We will also pull up that same grid iron determination to bear with our family's dysfunctions, and perhaps, relatives we are thankful we only have to deal with once or twice a year. This is the typical Thanksgiving tradition as experienced by most Americans to a more or less degree. Oh yes, and we try to stir up within ourselves some form of gratefulness to God for all of it. Not exactly a Norman Rockwell scene or "The Walton's," yet about average.

It's easy to think of the first Thanksgiving participants as stoic, funny dressed, stern faced, Puritans sharing their corn, deer and pumpkin pie with a bunch of friendly yet naive Indians, then engaging in a dry, pious exercise of thanking "Ye Olde Man Upstairs." right there on Plymouth Rock. Then there was something about the Mayflower, a cool Indian named Squanto, a swashbuckler named Miles Standish and that about sums up most American's and even many Christian's understanding of those folks and their little feast. While the afore mentioned, cartoon image is what most of us walked away with from school, movies, and television commercials for crescent rolls, the kernels of truth are scant and warped at best concerning this caricature of those tried souls.

There is not enough space on this blog for me to even begin to attempt to dissect all of the things factually wrong with our myths about those people of Faith and that historic event. However, I will try to put in real world perspective as to what those first group of Reformer/Congregationalist Christians to this continent had endured just months earlier. And, how ironic and unlikely it would be for most people to even dredge up any sincere giving of thanks to God while not letting him have it with their anger, complaints and deep depression.

The previous winter was so unusually brutal, even the local native tribes, who were generally used to and usually prepared for such, barely hung on. These European sojourners in this hostile land were not very well prepared physically nor skilled to deal with such climes. They did the best they could. Yet with food scarce, and shelters barely adequate, they were fighting a losing battle.

One after the other of the just 100 or so settlers began to die off due to exhaustion, exposure, undernourishment and disease, the latter of which can spread rapidly in cramped quarters. Many of them were still weakened from the three month voyage at sea. Nearly each day, for several weeks, one of their number perished. Also, the Mayflower and its crew were still anchored in the harbor and even many of the sailors were becoming ill and dropping dead. The crew couldn't share much of their provisions with these pilgrims as they barely had enough for themselves and were simply waiting for the weather to turn so they could get out fast. At one point, there were only about a half-dozen men and boys who were well enough to engage in the daily chores of simply taking care of the rest of their fellow Plymouth settlers.

The nightmare continued as husbands lost wives, wives lost husbands, and some of the children literally became orphans. Graves were dug when the ground was soft enough to do so. Sometimes the corpses were simply left outside. Often, loved ones would stand guard to keep the wolves from devouring the dead. Cannibalism became a real temptation too. It was in these darkest hours as these "pilgrims" veered between despair and madness that they began to dig deep into their Christian faith. They went deeper than they had gone before or even knew they could. Some prepared themselves for death and relentlessly, it came. Yet, others were fated simply to watch death take their loved ones, powerless to stop it. They even mustered compassion for a young, dying sailor who had cursed and mocked them just weeks before. By the mid-March thaw, they had lost 47 of their original members and many were just barely clinging to life and faith. Miraculously, almost none of the children had died. Still, there were only three complete families left intact at Plymouth Colony by Spring.

A second miracle happened at this same time as well. His name was Squanto. He was a local native who had been captured a few years earlier by seamen and traders who eventually took him to England. There, the young Indian learned the language and customs of the English. In a fabulous story too long to relate here, the young brave made it back to find his own tribe had all died off from disease. Now he ventured into the shanty village of these desperate colonists. Speaking perfect English, Squanto taught these literal "babes in the woods" how to plant corn, gather eels from the shore and acted as an ambassador between them and the local Wampanoags under Chief Massasoit. Was this all just fantastic coincidence or Divine
Providence and answer to dark hour prayers? I am convinced it was the latter.

That spring and summer, the weather produced perfect growing conditions and the Plymouth Colonists had a bumper crop of corn and many other vegetables and fruits that they planted. Game was also plentiful and they learned to harvest a variety of seafood. Their continued reliance and strengthened faith in the Lord was paying off in spades...and they knew it. But let's be honest here, these were human beings who, while rather young and some just children, must have longed for the love, touch and assurances of parents and spouses. There must have been many hearts still riddled with the holes of loss. Nor can we discount the trials and awkwardness of now blended and adopted families as they sought some semblance of normalcy.

The last of the Fall harvest was still coming in as the leadership of the Colony, namely Gov. Bradford, William Brewster, Captain Standish etc., decided to set aside a day in October to feast and give thanks to the Lord for such a successful harvest, the completion of homes, store houses and the amazing friendship of Squanto and the Wampanoag Indians.

Now lets think about this a minute. Squanto was a man of faith, but not Massasoit and his bunch. These Indians witnessed what the colonists endured, mainly one of the worst winters the Indians had, themselves, ever seen. Plus, they watched the relationship between Squanto and these English settlers flourish. Next, they witnessed God's power multiply crops into bounty for the "Pilgrims." Finally, they observed the faith of the colonists grow in their Great God. And to top it all, these odd looking Englishmen wanted to throw a feast of Thanksgiving while staring at nearly fifty graves?

 Make no mistake, these Indians were not stupid nor naive savages. On the contrary, they were well versed at the art of spying, gathering intelligence, stealth and observation. They must have watched this whole saga play out with intense curiosity and fascination. And now, they were being invited to feast with these strange Englishmen in honor of their God...to give thanks?? Massasoit must have responded in his own language with something like "Are you kidding me? You better believe I gotta see and be a part of this thing. These people lost half their community and they aren't packing and leaving or turning on each other? They got more graves than houses and they are THANKING their God? I have to know what's going on here. I have to see this and learn about this faith!"

In fact, Massasoit and company showed up a day early and unannounced with ninety some braves and their families in tow. The Plymouth colonists almost gave into despair, but eventually, some of the braves showed up with many deer, several dressed wild turkeys and other game as well as berries, pumpkins and baskets of corn...some of which they parched in earthen pots much to the "Pilgrim's" delight. In fact, according to diary accounts of the event, including a moving prayer by William Brewster, the Indians and their chief hung around for three days! They must have been touched by the love of Christ they saw flowing.

I admire and envy the faith of those old Protestant, Reformed Congregationalists. Not just their sense of family and community amongst themselves (the likes of which are sorely lacking in our churches these days) do I admire, but an astounding faith that allowed them to posses an attitude of gratitude in the face of so much death and heartache. Honestly, how many of us would have just thrown in the towel or perhaps drunk ourselves into a stupor or worse. There was no Prozac or grief counseling centers back then-no Oprah or Dr. Phil shows or self help books were available. All they had was the Holy Spirit, the Bible and each others love. They had come to realize that their life in this New World was unmanageable and they needed God's power, which was greater than themselves. While life for those colonists was never a bowl of cranberries, that community of Christians discovered they could have a life of not only political and religious freedom in the New World, but spiritual freedom as long as in all circumstances, they maintained an "Attitude of Gratitude."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The following is a response I recently sent somebody who e-mailed me after reading my face book profile and questioning my views on the Founding Fathers

On Tue, May 11, 2010 at 5:22 PM, I **** **** Town wrote:
Hi, your Facebook page says you believe the same as the founding fathers. So you don't want women or non-white men to own property or vote?

If you truly believe that about the Founders, I'll give you some slack and fault your educators. Put down the talking points and please READ for yourself what the Founding Fathers wrote and said. It is easy to fall into the trap of "presentism" when critiquing the past. By the way, not all of the founding fathers believed that either. Most did NOT own slaves nor supported slavery. Many felt Native Americans were getting a raw deal too. I will grant you that at the time, most men felt that women shouldn't vote. However, after the Revolutionary War, and with Great Britain out of the way, many property rights were conferred to women and on certain occasions, wives of legislators were allowed to vote as proxy for their husbands who were too ill to attend legislative sessions. Also, many free blacks living in the Northern Colonies and even some in the South owned property and could vote. African-American Crispus Attucks was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770. It was a Black Militiaman (Prince Estabrook) who was the first to fall wounded on Lexington Green April, 19, 1775 in the first Battle of the American Revolution. I would challenge you to learn about Bishop Richard Allen of Philadelphia who is considered by many historians to be a Black Founding Father.

The Founding Fathers (who believed our liberties and freedoms came from God) GAVE us an amazing Declaration of Independence which declared ALL men (people) are created equal. This was an astounding statement at the time given that so few ANYWHERE on the planet believed this. It is BECAUSE of the groundwork of this statement by the founders that women were ultimately given the right to vote, and that slavery was abolished in this nation and that property rights were extended to all law abiding persons! The Founders also gave us The Constitution, and the form of government that we have; a Democratic Republic, with its three branches of government. It was the legislative branch which passed a Constitutional Amendment to abolish slavery. It was the Legislative and the Supreme Court which proclaimed women the right to vote after years of struggle by women in the suffrage movement. Though it took many years, the system established BY OUR FOUNDERS worked.

It was to those words written by our Founding Fathers, that many oppressed in this country and around the world have pointed to in the assertion of their rights and liberties! In fact, it was Benjamin Franklin who exclaimed this separation from Great Britain was necessary since every attempt by many of the colonies to end slavery had been thwarted or reversed by the British Crown! Not to mention, the property rights of all Americans had been in many cases, trampled. Both Ben Franklin and Benjamin Rush founded an anti-slavery society in 1774. John Jay was president of a similar group in New York. Constitution signer William Livingston and later Governor of N. J. encouraged them in their efforts including allowances of full property rights and liberties. Rufus King (signer of the Constitution) authored a bill signed into law by then President George Washington, banning slavery in the "Ohio" frontier territories.

It was the Founding Fathers who started the Freedom Train down its glorious and sometimes bloody tracks. Yet, that freedom train still rolls. Had those few dozen or so brave men not met on that stormy eve of July 2, 1776 to plot sedition against their government (a crime punishable by death at the time) by declaring themselves free, and ultimately all of us free, you and I might not be having this conversation. We may still be saluting a King or some other Tyrant. Jesus Christ never directly spoke out against slavery either. Nor did he campaign for women's right to vote. Should I quit following Him??? I'll let the Founders respond to your question:

"Proclaim Liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof."-Leviticus 25:10 The above verse is inscribed on the Liberty Bell.
"Why keep alive the question of slavery? It is admitted by all to be a great evil."-Charles Caroll (signer of The Declaration of Independence)
"We recognize no sovereign but God, no King but Jesus."-John Adams &; John Hancock, April 18, 1775
"That men should pray and fight for their own freedom and yet keep others in slavery is certainly acting a very inconsistent as well as unjust and perhaps, impious part."-John Jay, President of Continental Congress.
"I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery]."-George Washington
"My opinion against it has always been known. Never in my life did I own a slave."-John Adams

Monday, March 22, 2010

Charity Does Not Belong to Government

In the Preamble to the U. S. Constitution, the term welfare as used by our founding fathers, in the vernacular of that day, meant the "well being" or "soundness" of our nation i. e. "..to promote the general welfare..." It did not mean charity in the form of a monthly check from the Federal Government.

Regarding the protion of the pre-amble to the U. S. Constitution--"promote the general Welfare..." For the authors of the Constitution, it was limited ONLY to the acts necessary to maintain the citizens' rights to life, liberty, and property under Natural Law, not distribution of charities. The 10th Amendment limits the scope of activities allowed by both the "General Welfare" and "Necessary and Proper" Clauses. Unfortunately, Courts and some presidents have expanded the federal government's authority to subjects not enumerated under the Constitution through individual Judges' loose interpretations of the "spirit" of the Constitution. However, when comparing the rulings with the official records from the original, Constitutional Convention, it becomes plain that any ruling expanding the role of the Federal Government beyond its intended scope is in direct conflict with our Founders' vision. The Founders repeatedly voted down language that would have allowed presidents or Congress to determine the scope of their own responsibilities because it defeats the purpose of enumerated powers and checks and balances in the first place!

Thomas Jefferson wrote much on the limits intentionally imposed on federal power. Quotes, for example::

"The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits." -Thomas Jefferson

“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1798

Thomas Jefferson insisted the Tenth Amendment was “the foundation of the Constitution” and added, “to take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn … is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

“With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”
– James Madison, Letter to James Robertson April 20, 1831

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined . . . to be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” – James Madison, Federalist 45

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.”
— James Madison, remarks on the House floor, debates on Cod Fishery bill, (February 1792)

Madison; “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on the article in the federal constitution which granted a right of the congress of expending on objects of benevolence the money of their constituents.” - Annals of Congress house of representatives 3rd Congress, first session, page170 (1794)

James Madison, objected to loose interpretations of the General Welfare Clause, arguing that it was inconsistent with a concept of government of limited powers and that it rendered the list of enumerated powers redundant. He argued that the General Welfare clause did NOT grant Congress additional powers other than those enumerated. So, in the Founders' view, the words themselves served no practical purpose other than to avoid repeating the enumerated powers.

“This specification of particulars [the 18 enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8] evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 83

“No legislative act … contrary to the Constitution can be valid. To deny this would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 78

In short, Hamilton tells us that since the powers of Congress are enumerated and limit Congress to those powers, any assumed authority outside those specified that don’t have a direct relation to those explicit powers must be contrary to the Constitution and therefore — unconstitutional.

"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."  -Ben Franklin

It is also not an enumerated power. It states the purpose for the Union and US Constitution in the preamble as well as the purpose of raising taxes, but the phrase itself does not create any power itself. If ‘general welfare’ was carte blanche authority, it would render the limits of the Federal government to the enumerated powers meaningless. Article 1, Section 8 is not a list of suggestions of power, it is a list of delegated authority. If a power is not listed, congress is not authorized to write a law requiring an unlisted power and would need to seek amendment to the US Constitution.

I don't know if The Federalist Papers are still required reading in school. It's the Founders' own words that answers this and many other modern definitions people like to erroneously poor into that phrase.

Charity is NOT the primary job nor first job of government. Again, the preamble tells us that the first job is Defense of our nation's sovereignty, "...provide for the common defense..." The primary job of our President is as Commander & Chief, not social activist and chief executive of government charity. By the same token, Congress in this regard, has the duty to declare wars, help negotiate or ratify treaties, deal with foreign trade issues, etc. and insure funding for our military, and regulate interstate commerce. THESE are it's prime, enumerated duties and powers as outlined in the Constitution.

By the same token, one of the primary jobs of the Church, from the beginning, was to care for the sick and poor. This is why so many churches over the last two centuries or so, established hundreds and hundreds of hospitals, orphanages, shelters and soup kitchens across this nation. Increasingly, over the past few decades, the government has seen fit to take upon itself the primary job of the Church. Why? Because, many leading the government have despised the Lord and his Church and believe government can do a better job. And, to be honest, many churches have dropped the ball in this realm, favoring bigger buildings, dead religious programs and materialism over the mandates of Christ and the Apostles. Thus, the Church bears some of the blame in this disastrous trend. As well, the government knows there is great political influence in being seen as benign and helpful rather than the dangerous threat to Liberty that our founders viewed it as. Government uses this perception of itself by many of our citizenry to expand its powers and grow itself larger. I find it deliciously ironic that those who scream the loudest for the separation of Church & State now want the State to be the chief provider of charity! If the State hi-jacks the duties of charity from the Church/faith based organizations, isn't this a violation of the heart of the Separation Clause of the 1st Amendment? I say, YES!

According to that clause, Congress is not supposed to establish a religion. Yet, they have taken over the primary functions of religion via legislation. By default they have made themselves a church and your tithe to this government charity is more taxes. Now Caesar is asking not simply for what is his his, but also God's! In pure Communism, the State is the religion. Most Communists and Socialists believe that the State can do a better job than the Church at these programs of charity. However, one essential ingredient is missing; the love of God. This is why it never works and why so many former Communist nations and dictatorships are now clamoring for help from religious organizations. This is a lesson we have not learned yet in this nation. Brace yourself because the Lord is about to teach this to those who would play God. Our Federal government has set itself up as a religion, of sorts, with an attending faithful who think government can solve and help all. The Lord will have no Gods before Him.

With higher taxes and high unemployment, it will be more difficult for Christians to support charities, ministries and their brother or sister in the pew who is struggling. Yet, we must still give to those in need despite the heavy burdens Caesar now lays upon us. If we dedicate our giving and finances to the Lord, He will give us discernment on who to share our daily bread with. He will also fulfill his promises to provide for us, no matter what!

The Church in the New Testament was largely a self contained economic system. The early Christians not only worked for a living, but for a giving! The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians he coveted no man's gold or silver, but how he worked night and day at his tent making job, not only to provide for his needs and his ministry team, but to help those in the Ephesus Church who were in desperate need. He said he did this as an example for the Ephesian Church. He desired that they would do as he did and he led by example. This is still a good example for us today.

When the government charity system fails, and it will because God and his love are not in it, the Church of Jesus Christ will be standing tall by contrast. But, only if we get back to the Early Church model of giving and caring for one another as Christ Commanded us. We will put the broke, government programs of health care and welfare to shame. Just as with most of our founding fathers, Americans will once again put their trust in the Divine and distrust the schemes of Liberty eroding governments.

"We recognize no sovereign but God, and no king but Jesus! -John Adams and John Hancock (April 18, 1775) *a requote of Oliver Cromwell

Richie L.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Christians in Politics

It is a question that has come up again and again in many fellowships of Christians. How far do we dare tread into the murky waters of politics and government? Aren't we members of a Heavenly Kingdom? Aren't we, as the Apostle Paul urged, as soldiers in God's army to avoid "civilian affairs?" Isn't Christ returning one day to establish or, more accurately, claim his earthly throne? Consequently, wouldn't that make the governments of man obsolete and mute? The simple answers to these questions is, yes. However, the full orb ed answer is a little more complex. I will not attempt in the confines of a simple blog to delve into the the complexities or minutia of this issue. Volumes have been written on this very question and subject. Instead, I'll attempt to hit on a few pertinent and practical points for those who feel they must no longer sit on the sidelines and remain inactive or silent. Or, you may be a Christian who is unsure about even being involved in the political process at all.

Let's begin with a good working definition of the word politics. In our modern, American vernacular, we tend to think of it as the business of dealing with the issues of governance, policy, rule making, etc. and those who become appointed or elected to govern us, along with their particular social and governmental philosophies. In recent years, Conservative talk show hosts have codified categories of politicians and their supporters into to distinct camps of "Liberal" and "Conservative." More recently, other talking heads, commentators and authors have defined these groups in the terms of "Progressives" and "Traditionalists" or even "Constitutionalists." Then we have the two party breakdown of Democrat generally means Liberal or Progressive and Republican usually means Conservative or Traditionalist, though there are sometimes exceptions to these rules too. Then, there are those pesky Independents who choose to have no real affiliationwith the two major parties. Some are rather Conservative or "Right" leaning. Others are Libertarians who probably have more in common philosophically with Conservatives and Constitutionalists, yet, who are as close to anarchists as they can safely get. Still, other Independents may lean "Left" or Liberal but, are disenfranchised with their particular party. Many of these diverse independents make up the TEA Party movement. TEA is an an acronym for Taxed Enough Already. In general terms, Democrats/Liberals/Progressives tend to want bigger government, tend to look to government to solve many problems and believe that certain socio-economic ills should be solved primarily by the efforts of government. Republicans/Libertarians/Conservatives/Traditionalists/Constitutionalists, on the other hand, generally want less government at all levels and believe that private enterprise, capitalism and faith based organizations should be primarily involved in the solutions to socio-economic ills. These are the primary groups and their agendas now clamoring for control and influence in our Nation. Some would argue that the divide between most of these two main camps is turning into a gulf with the potential to divide us along the lines of secular humanism vs. Judeo-Christian ethos. Alas, it is very difficult and perhaps impossible to separate a belief system from politics because one tends to influence the other!

Given that these are the main players on the political game board in America, Christians must realize the immense influence and power these groups of folks have on our everyday lives to the point of affecting, potentially, how and where we are allowed to express our faith, conduct our ministries and even our enterprises. Yet, here in America, we enjoy a certain personal power that many in the rest of the world don't and, that, is the power to vote. The majority of the people who govern us can only do so with our permission. This is the genius of our Constitutional Republic. That permission slip is the ballot. When we vote for an individual running for public office, we are basically granting that person permission above the other choices of persons, to govern over us. If more people give one person that permission over the others asking for it, then that person with the most "permission slips" wins the election. Politicians in this democratic republic of ours are really asking for that permission when they ask for our vote. They do not demand it.
Since our system of a Constitutional Republic requires the citizens to vote for those who will be "Caesar," then when we vote, are we not rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's in a sense? Jesus said that we are to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's i. e. pay your taxes. But, Caesar also wanted worship which Christians, by the very nature of our faith, could not do. So, clearly there is a line as to how far we go in our service to Caesar and we should resist Caesar when he asks for that which is not his to take nor ours to give. By the same token, we as Christians should be involved in performing our duties as good citizens, which scripture exhorts us to be, and vote. That, by default, makes us a part of the political process whether we like it our not. As we render our vote for one Caesar over another we at least send a message to all the other Caesars sitting in office that we are a portion of the community that they must, to some extent, deal with. It at least gives us a chance to have a place at the table for our voices and concerns to be heard.

It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to sit back and do nothing. If we as Christians sit back and do nothing with regards to the political process in this country, then we have lost our standing to justly complain about the ills and hazards of our society and its governmental policies that may undermine morality, justice and virtue. As Americans, we have all been given stewardship of our Democratic Republic. We are charged by Scripture to be good stewards of things which we are given. We are also admonished in the Bible that to whom much is given, much is required. Therefore, since we have been blessed with such tremendous liberties, which by the way, our founders proclaimed came from God and not men, shouldn't we all the more be diligent in our efforts to maintain and preserve these liberties? Don't we have a moral obligation not only to ourselves but, to to our children and grand-children to pass on to them this precious, heirloom of freedom? If your answer to this is yes, then my friend, you must involve yourself, at least to some extent, in the gritty game of American politics. Understand this, the preservation of liberty is a constant and sometimes hazardous job. It is not for the faint-of-heart.
While I recognize that our nation will NOT be saved by political entities, and that God is not spelled GOP, I would contend that in our Republic, Christians must stand at the ready to engage in their civic duties, be informed and involved until Christ returns. You can consider this training for the day "we reign with Him."
Richie L.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hey Joe

It's the morning after the plane flown by Joe Stack was "kamekazied" into the Echelon building housing the IRS here in Austin. In this tragic murder/suicide the one blessing is only one person was killed, not counting the pilot. The similarities to the morning of 9/11 were eerie. Just as on that morning, I looked up at a very blue sky on a beautiful day wondering when the next plane would drop out of the atmosphere to bring more death and destruction with it. My immediate thought was, 'oh no, here we go again.'

However, this proved to be different. This was an American terrorist of sorts. This was a middle aged, white guy with a beef against the U. S. Government and the IRS, specifically. Not to mention his anger against Catholics, George W. Bush, the Austin high-tech industry, Wall street and big corporations as well as corrupt political officials. I think many of us could agree with some of his issues, but at the end of his diatribe he bashes Capitalism and quotes from the Communist Manifesto; not exactly right-wing rhetoric. This man clearly was full of frutration and driven mad by it to the point of becoming a killer. In his mind, Joe Stack needed to add "his pound of flesh" to the body count in what he perceived was a war that had become personal.
Knowing the media as well as I do, I knew it wouldn't be long before they were looking for the back story to this heinous crime. All it took was a few scant hours after all of this nightmare unfolded that Chris Mathews of MSNBC's Hardball and a spokesperson from the Southern Poverty Law Center were spinning this as a Right-Wing extremist gone a-wry. They both claim to have read his diatribe, but somehow missed his bashing of Capitalism, bashing of former President George W. Bush, and quoting the Communist Manifesto. Nevertheless they coupled Joe Stack with Tim McVeigh and the militia movement, though in reality Tim McVey was not in a militia but was AWOL from the U. S. Army, the anti-income tax movement, though in his own words Mr. Stack attended conferences on how to play BY the IRS's rules, pay your taxes and get the maximum deductions like the big boys, and the TEA party movement etc. I will be nothing short of surprised if the DHS does not do a similar spin especialy if they see that the manuer coming from mainstream media sticks to the wall. The reality is, by his own words, and I've never known a dying man to mince his words, was that Joe Stark was LEFT leaning. But, let's not confuse hacks like Chris Mathews and others with the facts.

I'm not trying to turn this into the game of Left vs. Right. However, the truth is the truth. I've had some journalistic training and what is heading our way, like a bursting sewer main, is a smear campaign and yellow journalism on anyone who dares to dissent against those in government, question the existence and role of certain institutions, speak out against ever soaring tax burdens and run away, deficit spending which is endangering our republic as badly as Al-Quaeda. In the coming days, media elites will circle the wagons, omit or white wash the truth about this nut and do the best they can to couple Joe Stack with Joe "the Plumber," us hate mongers in talk tradio, and the TEA party movement. Yes, those 'tea baggers' who are so vicious and scarry to people like Rachel Maddow who apearantly is frightened by old, retired Korean and WWII vets, little old ladies, soccer moms and their vicious, little, loaded diaper, pacifier wielding, blood thirsty babies in strollers. In short, these media types would rather spend energies on an orchestrated, ad-hominem attack on the folks raising legitimate issues of concern rather than addressing the issues themselves.

Scripture says that "evil men love darkness more than light." As a moth is drawn to a light bulb on a sultry, summer night, many main stream journalsits and commentators are drawn to half truths and spin, which in truth, are still lies. Lies abode in darkness. These people can't take criticism of their Savior which is government. Cosequently, they worship at the altar of the preists of their idolitry which are politicians friendly to their god. Anyone who challenges their god and his servants will be mocked and crucified.

The poor soul who lost his life at the hands of the mad man Joe Stack will have the mad men and women of the media establishment stand on his remains and rail against that which they choose not to understand and, ultimately, at their own peril. That is the second tragedy unfolding of what happened in my hometown of Austin, Texas. Joe Stack was not a right-wing extremeist. Joe Stack is THEIR Timothy McVeigh.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear Facebook

Dear Facebook,

I haven't been on your site for long, but it has been fun. It was nice to meet up with old friends and family I haven't seen in a while and some I've never seen. You have provided a wonderful way for all of us to stay connected in an interactive setting. So, thanks!

Now I know you guys are sore at Google for wanting to step on your internet turf a little and I'm sure you want to go "Mafia Wars" on them and tell them to get their cyber-hineys back on their own "Farmville." But, you know, the internet is a big, big place and I think there is room for all of us to play nice whether in the social networking world, search engine universe or whatever our particular thing is on the net. I'm sure you guys have sat around sipping S-Bucks and strategizing on how you can push back at the Google clan and let them know who's boss. I got it. I understand. And, maybe part of that strategery was to make Facebook a little more spicier for us "Facers" so we wouldn't jump ship and onto Google's new party boat. Maybe you had the best intentions. However....

Fear is often a dangerous motivator and in your zeal to spiff up the joint, you actually made it tackier than Elvis and Lady GaGa decorating a basement for a Bah-mitzvah. Now I'm all for creative innovations, but the "new look" and layout of Facebook seems rather jumbled and overwhelming; not to mention all of the errors from things suddenly not working or freezing up. As an example, as a consumate "Twitterer," I love the simplicity of the layout there. Not too many whistles and bells and I can choose which functions and apps I want, to some extent. They make sense and Twitter is in constant touch with their users on feedback and suggestions and even critiques of the overall site. I know both sites work well together, so maybe, take a cue from them. I beleive they call that good 'customer service.' Granted, most of us don't pay for all of this Facebook fun and frivolity, yet if it weren't for us, Facebook wouldn't have the clout of huge numbers to help sell ads and links.

I have heard rumblings and grumblings from many a "Facer" who is considering ditching Facebook all together. That would be too bad. It would ultimately play into the hands of all the other social networking sites and, dare I say, Google? Yes, this could all blow back in your face(book). This situation is analigous to a wife who thinks that the new secretary at the office where hubby works, may turn her man's head too often. So, feeling insecure, the wife gets a make-over and ends up looking like a cheap hooker or a clown and actually turns the hubby off; the very thing she feared! In reallity, the husband loved his wife just the way she was. Facebook, we users are the husband and you are the wife. We loved you just how you were.

That tired, Billy Joel song comes to mind right now, "Just The Way You Are." We still love you Facebook. Take off that silly wig and the fire engine, red lipstick. Look in the mirror and love what you see and what you have done to change social networking. The Beatles said it well; "Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged." Please Facebook, get it back to something a little less error prone, confusing, and more like it was. Otherwise, the song by One Republic, "Too Late to Apologize," could becomes your theme. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Thanks.

From my smiling face to yours,
Richie L.