Wednesday, November 30, 2011

But what a bout the bunnies and kitties?

I was listening to Ravi Zacharias this week, and a story he told just really slapped me across the ears.  He was talking about the time he lived near Cambridge University and when he went jogging in the morning, the numerous signs posted around the university, declaring the need to ban meat, fur, animal testing, ect.  This was the seventies, nice to know some things haven't changed right?  The crux of this story was his realization that all this focus on animal rights and hyper-environmentalism was the modern equivalent of what Paul was lamenting in Romans 1, with the line "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." (Rom. 1:22-23)  I've heard the reference before, it just really jumped out again.  We're sitting in the midst of a huge push for green energy, and a constant view of how everything we do might affect the birds and the bunnies.  For example, a recent attempt to start a pipeline to bring oil down from Alaska to the lower forty eight states was shot down by Congress because of the possible environmental effects.  Those possible effects seem to outweigh the jobs and other positive human effects the pipeline would effect.   Kind of like the way the BP mess in the Gulf of Mexico might not have been as bad if the regulations hadn't required the company to be drilling so far out in the ocean.
Some people have probably already tuned out, declaring that I'm just going to say that we humans get to sit on top of the world and tear everything up and down for our own selfish wants and needs.  That's your call, but it's not my point.  My point is that while modern man may not bow down at idols shaped like cows or birds or snakes, many of us have moved those animals or the earth itself up to a holy position, one that is to be revered above anything else, a concept that God has been warning us about throughout the Bible.  When we hold up anything before the instructions God gives us, we are practicing idolatry. Even if it seems like what we're doing is in line with God's commands, if the act or the cause becomes more important than God, it turns into an idol, same as that golden calf or those various ancient statues.  When we put our time and energy into activities that distract us from God's plan for us, even if those activities seem to be good, Christian stuff, we are still practicing idolatry.  (That one's for me as much as anyone else)  
Obviously, God has given mankind a call to take care of this earth, which cancels out ideas like strip mining the whole planet for the sole purpose of making gold trinkets or razing the rain forests to make toothpicks that some people like to try and tack to Christians.  Going back to the Mosaic Law we find instruction to leave all the land to rejuvenate for an entire year out of  each seven, one of the earliest "green" movements.  There's nothing wrong with wanting to take care of the planet, or loving your animal friends, or even eating vegan.  The trouble comes when those actions get placed higher on our priority totem pole than God.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Than....Conquered?

I was listening to a sermon from Charles Stanley (audio archives here, you'll have to search for "Spirit That Conquers" for the message in particular, too much Javascript for an easy direct link) and it got my wheels spinning.  We as Christians talk a great deal about our freedom and our ability to conquer that is granted us by our faith in Jesus.  Yet a little digging into the Bible finds many references to our being conquered by God and being slaves to Him.  This is seems very contradictory, especially to our freedom loving Western minds.  Romans 6 puts this contradiction bluntly, verse 18 declaring that we are "set free from sin, and have become slaves to righteousness."  How is it we can be free and slave at the same time?  Numerous Psalms declare our freedom, with 119 declaring our freedom comes directly from obeying God's laws.  Freedom only by obedience seems a bit contradictory to many mindsets today, especially a few very loud ones that I'm not delving into right now.  Their mindset is nothing new, Peter spoke of it in 2 Peter 2:18-19 "For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for 'people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.'"while at the same time hitting on that contradiction, that even if God is our master, we are slaves to Him.  Peter mentions it previously in 1 Peter 2:16, imploring believers to "live as God's slaves". 
So, we are conquerors and conquered, free and slave at the same time.  The ability to conquer our old worldly selves is granted only by being conquered by God's will.  To be free from sin and the fear of death, we have to let God be our master.  It's a meshing of spiritual and physical that is difficult for us to wrap our minds around, and as I mentioned earlier, I think that our Western mindset has a big part in that difficulty.  No, I'm not advocating a leap to Eastern spiritualism for the Church, or even the need to study various spiritual "techniques" to bring us closer to God, that is not where I'm going with this.  But I am amazed, that after many great revivals in Europe and America, after great works of building faith over the centuries, that when you read of exponential church growth and miracles now, they almost consistently are coming out of Africa, India, China, and South America, and I think that a better cultural understanding of how the spiritual and physical worlds mesh is a large part of that.  That understanding has been bent and twisted over the centuries in a whole lot of very unGodly directions, but the move is on to return these sheep to the fold, and hopefully bring with them that understanding so that the rest of us can get out of our ruts, tear down those walls in our own minds, and become more than conquerors, but properly conquered.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Greatest Commandment and it's National Implications

Last week, I ended with a mention of the Golden Rule, and the possibility that applying the rule before it would solve a lot of the problems tackled in the post.  Well, first off, I messed up.  The passage I was thinking of doesn't have that golden rule, per se, but it's pretty close. "Do to others as you would have done to you" is Matthew 7:12 or Luke 6:31.  I was thinking of "love your neighbor as yourself" from Matthew 22:39, preceded by "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Matt.22:38.  The lesson here, always double check your references, even if you're 100% positive that you are correct and have known said reference for ages.  So with that little misappropriation cleared up, onto the train of thought.

Whether we say it as treating others like we want to be treated or loving others as we love ourselves, either way it is almost universally accepted that doing so makes the world a better place.  If I don't want my stuff stolen, I shouldn't steal from others.  If I don't want people to talk nasty about me behind my back, I shouldn't talk nasty about other people.  Yet that preceding rule, the greatest commandment as Jesus called it, generates much more debate.  The debate comes from many directions.  People have trouble defining love anymore.  Western culture has love and sex so intertwined that those Biblical concepts just go completely over our heads..  We have our concepts of parental love so far askew that we don't do parental things like discipline kids or set expectations for them.  People have trouble defining God anymore.  We get into the Bible and find out exactly who God is, and what loving Him entails, and we don't want to give up those worldly thought patterns and habits.  Or we don't get into the Bible, and get inaccurate definitions of who God is and what loving Him entails, and can't reconcile those wrong ideas with that innate vision of Him that is somewhere in our soul, whether we pay attention to it or not.   

My not so humble opinion has long been that the Old Testament nation of Israel was intended by God to be, among other things, an example of what can happen when a large group of people truly do follow that greatest commandment.  When Israel was standing on the Law, not out of responsibility and in action only, but had God first in their heart, mind  and soul, the nation experienced unparalleled prosperity. I'm sure that even in those high times, there were dissenters and people who fell short, but that is what the Temple sacrifices and the Day of Atonement, with it's scapegoat were for.  When they, as a group, fell from grace and lost sight of that love, the proverbial stuff really hit the fan.  Does any of this sound familiar?  While the U.S. has never been a theocracy, Christian morals and values have (contrary to the revisionists) been the foundation of our ideals and laws for the majority of our existence.  The Declaration of Independence cries out that we are endowed by our Creator with those unalienable rights.  For two hundred some odd years the United States was, for the most part, a bastion of prosperity.  Yes there were hiccups in there, yes bad stuff still happened to people, that's why I said for the most part.  It has been in recent history, as attacks on those founding ideals grew, that the prosperity has slipped away.

I'm not saying we need to turn around and enforce a Christian faith on every American citizen to dig us out of the pit the nation is sitting in socially and economically.  A forced faith is no faith at all.  I'm saying that we all need to admit that when we were proud of our Christian heritage and acknowledged it instead of trying to bury it or deny it for fear of offending some folks, the country was in much better shape.  I'm saying when anybody, but specifically teachers, politicians, cops, and other folks who happen to work for and in the government could freely talk about their own faith and how it shaped decisions they made without fear of accusations of harassment or bigotry, those decisions seemed to be a bit more productive and positive. Even the most vehement "wall of separation" folks should be honest enough to admit that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Holding to high (double) standards

A bit of writer's block today.  Lots of interesting tidbits to build off of in the news, like why is Lindsy Lohan even on the news and not relegated to Entertainment Tonight or Extra where such fluff belongs?  Or how about a discussion of the Occupy folks not realizing that protesting is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end unto itself?  Europe is getting closer and closer to economic collapse, which in this constant movement to a one world economy, is going to strike the sinking ship that is the American economy.  The new Cain harassment allegations remind us that character counts, but only if you're not a Democrat, reference Bill Clinton or Chappaquiddick or John Edwards if you don't believe me. I think we'll go off of that one today.  Herman Cain is a nasty threat to both the Democrat and Republican establishments.  He's not a career politician, he's not an extremist nut that can be easily dismissed, and more importantly, right now he's gaining a lot of support.  Suddenly, with that support rising, these old allegations arise.  Details are sketchy, just enough to generate headlines and speculation.  I'm not giving the man a free pass, but it's fascinating the furor and firestorm he gets, particularly from people who think Bill Clinton was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Clinton settled his suits out of court, for a lot more money than what we've been told the Cain cases were settled for, and people moved on. 

The disturbing thing about all of this is the blatant double standard that raises it's ugly head.  Just not liking President Obama's failed attempts to fix our economic woes is reason enough to declare a person an evil racist, but the (left) attacks on Herman Cain have been some of the most disgusting racist garbage I've seen in a long time, calling him the Republican's "black friend" and accusing him of sucking on the conservative crack pipe.  Nobody but the evil conservative pundits are pointing this out, and even then it's still just more Republican racism. 

Another blip popping up on the news radar is a renewed fight between healthcare reform and Catholic organizations.  Many of these regulations are being used to try and push providers, especially adamantly opposed religious ones, to provide medications and services that go against their beliefs, specifically birth control and abortion.  Again that nasty double standard shows up.  You can't have a prayer at a high school graduation on the grounds someone in the crowd might not be a Christian, but you can force a Christian hospital to provide abortion services in the name of equality and freedom.  It's insane.

But, pointing out a problem isn't enough.  What's the solution?  Unfortunately, like last weeks topic, that solution isn't easy or quick.  It still lays squarely on all of our shoulders.  It requires us to step up and call out so called journalists who perpetuate these double standards.  It requires stepping up and teaching ourselves and our sphere of influence that what's good for the goose is good for the gander too.  It requires acknowledging that it is impossible to remove all the offensive bits from life without creating a flat, empty grey world.  It requires going to that Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have done to you.  Applying the rule before that would go along way to solving these nasty issues to, but maybe we'll just save that one for next week.