Monthly Archives: November 2016

Don’t worry, be…

A look back through the millennia makes clear that liberty has been a rarity for the fallen sons of Adam. Even if we Americans claim that we live in “the land of the free,” we must be brave and qualify that claim. Liberty and justice have not been enjoyed always and by all here. And the republic brought forth on this continent in the 18th century is now only eleven score and seven years young – we are a toddler nation, and an experimental one as well.

But there is an ancient kingdom that has been growing and flourishing for two thousand years, founded in the days of the Caesars just as the captive prophet previously foretold (Daniel 2:44). This kingdom is firmly rooted in the past even more deeply than that. Its truly human Ruler is invisible not on account of His being ethereal or having only the existence of a philosophical construct, but because He is transcendently exalted over all the earth. His righteous and kindly rule is the bountiful source of every good thing received by every human being under Heaven.

As hymnist Ernest W. Shurtleff (A.D. 1862-1917) phrased it, “for not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums; with deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”  As history marches onward to His final triumph over death itself, people of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue are increasingly bowing the unfeigned knee to King Jesus. As they keep His holy and righteous commandments and thus live in genuine love, His beneficent rule becomes quite visible. It is made manifest by its fruit, full of the sweet nectar of peace.

“Don’t worry be happy” is pollyannaish*. Bitter disappointment and worse will continue to be the legacy of every heroic looking figure in our endless pantheon** of false christs. “Think globally, act locally” comes closer to the mark but lacks the life giving marrow that comes from certain bones which were never broken on that ancient Roman cross. God’s word reveals the only empowering hope for living triumphantly through the greatest darkness of this world.

The sure hope of the citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven is celebrated in the 37th Psalm, one of those timeless songs that the Spirit of God breathed out through David son of Jesse, Christ’s ancestor and foreshadower. Are you are able to receive them with joy?

“Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.”

* derived from the name of a child heroine created by American author Eleanor Porter (A.D. 1868-1920), the word means unreasonably or illogically optimistic

** a domed, circular temple at Rome, erected c. A.D. 120 by the emperor Hadrian, gave us this word which refers to the gods of a particular mythology, considered collectively.

Previously published elsewhere, March 13, A.D. 2016

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Government

What comes to mind when you hear that word? The “beltway jungle” a.k.a. Washington D.C? The source of your angst over the taxes you pay? Your local city hall?

Starting with the premise that civil (state) authority – i.e. the magistrate, to use a good old fashioned term – is only one dimension of government, let’s explore more of what government entails.

DIVINE government is the fountainhead of all government, and every realm of human government is subject and accountable to God. No rule or authority is excluded from the prophetic declaration about the coming Messiah, “the government will be upon His shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6). What government will be upon His shoulders? ALL government! That prophecy has been fulfilled. ALL power in heaven and earth already has been given to the risen, reigning Son of God (Matthew 28:18)!

When God the Arch Governor created Adam pure and upright and gave him a vocation, SELF government was established. Self-control as it relates to wicked excesses (anger, lusts, various evil desires) is only a part of self government in a sinful world. It also involves purposeful determination to find and fulfill one’s role in the divine plan. Self government was designed to be perpetual, pervasive, and exercised voluntarily. People who govern themselves well are the most powerful of people (Proverbs 16:32).

When God added a wife to the first man, taken from his own body (Genesis 2:21,22), and told them to be fruitful and multiply, FAMILY government began. It is within the family led by a father and mother to whom honor is due (Fifth Commandment) that self government under God is taught, exemplified, and passed on. Self governed children outgrow the need for parental government, and in most cases become the next generation of parental government over new families.

CHURCH government, equally established by God, is that which pertains to the extended family whose members are the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). Professing Christians who deny the legitimacy of church government or despise its authority rob themselves. Those outside of the church and not united to Christ are in rebellion against God to begin with, so it should not surprise us when we see little success in self or family government among them.

STATE or civil government was also established by God for this fallen world. When citizens of a state are primarily self governed members of well governed families and churches, this fourth realm of government can also perform better in its limited role. To the degree that self, family, and church government are dysfunctional in a society, the magistrate tends to take over their roles, and proves itself unable to fill them without clumsy waste that grows into oppression, and from there into forceful and even violent coercion. Sorry, philosopher G.W.F. Hegel: the state is NOT “god walking on earth!”

Imagine government as a pyramid. Christ the sure foundation, Christ the only foundation, Christ the cornerstone is that pyramid’s foundation. Self-governed people who are members of solid families and churches are the middle tiers of the pyramid. State government is the topmost and smallest part. A people with that kind of government structure will endure. A people who turn the pyramid upside down (making the civil magistrate the foundation of, or even the only kind of government) tumbles into chaos.

Perhaps in that figurative scenario we see the words of Jesus the Cornerstone fulfilled: “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18)

Previously published elsewhere, November 1, A.D. 2015

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Citizen Wayne

One fine day, citizen Wayne walked into his local convenience store. He waved to his friend Drew Idde, the manager.

“On foot today, Wayne?” said Drew.

“Car trouble”, replied Wayne. “Postmodern Auto promised me it would be ready in a couple of days.”

“They do good work”, said Drew amiably. “You should be rollin’ soon!”

Having made his selections, Wayne brought them to the counter to be rung up.

“That’ll be $45.72”, said the young checkout person, and Wayne forked over a fifty.

Much to Wayne’s surprise, he was given a few Monopoly money bills as change.

“Is this a joke?”, he offered.

“Whaddaya mean?” replied the wide-eyed checkout, gum popping.

“Well…this isn’t real money!” said Wayne incredulously.

“Mr. Idde told me it was OK”.

“Well…er…would you call Mr. Idde? He’s a friend of mine.”

“Sure!”

The friendly faced manager hastened over.

“What’s wrong, Wayne”, he inquired, genuinely concerned.

“Well…Drew, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but this change I got…”

Wayne showed it to his friend.

“So what’s the problem?” demanded Drew. Wayne was flabbergasted.

“Well, since when is Monopoly money legal tender?”, he asked.

Drew suddenly smiled. “Oh! I understand, Wayne! You’re following a different ECONOMIC path than we do here. Yes, it’s true for you that U.S. currency is the only real coin of the realm, but not for us! This Monopoly money is as valid as greenbacks, to us. Do you get it?

“Well, I DON’T get it, but you’re my buddy and I gotta go, so we’ll talk about it later, OK?”

Hoping that his friend was suffering a temporary delusion, Wayne picked up his stuff and hastened out the door.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next day, Postmodern Auto called Wayne. His car was ready.

“Good as new!” said the mechanic.

“I’ll fill it up before I go”, said Wayne. “And ah… please put it all on my credit card”, he added a bit urgently.

A young man promptly uncoiled a garden hose attached to a spigot on the side of the garage, and began filling Wayne’s gas tank.

“Yo! What are you DOING, my man!” Wayne gasped.

“Whaddaymean?” replied the gas attendent, yawning.

“That’s not gasoline!” yelled Wayne, yanking out the hose.

Ms. Relativo, the owner of the garage, sensed the commotion and came running. “What’s wrong, citizen Wayne?” she questioned evenly.

“Well…I don’t want to get anyone in trouble…but…aah…well, to be blunt, water was just put into my gas tank!”

Ms. R. vacantly blinked her eyes. “Yes, and…?” she appeared quite puzzled.

“Well, how is my engine going to function on H2O?”

“Oh! I understand, citizen Wayne!”, said Ms. Relativo. “You’re following a different PHYSICAL path than we do here. Yes, it’s true for you that cars run on gas only, but not for us! This water is just as valid, to us. Do you get it?

Wayne took his keys and asked them to help him push the car to the side. “Er….ummm….I’ll be back, OK Ms. R?”

“Sure, citizen Wayne”, she responded. We’re sincere, caring people; we’ll work with you. Leave the car and do whatever you have to do.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Wayne left, then returned with his spare can of gas and a siphon, did what he had to do, and drove back home. He was hungry, and took a can out of his pantry. A tuna sandwich would hit the spot. Regrettably, when he opened the can, he didn’t see those concentric rings of pinkish-white flesh to which he was accustomed. Instead, therein was a brown, gelatinous mystery meat he instantly recognized: dog food!

This can’t be! thought Wayne. He grabbed the can and looked at the label. Sure enough – CAP’N HARPOONLESS BRAND DOLPHIN SAFE TUNA – PACKED IN HOLY WATER. Wayne sighed, but something caught his eye as he put down the can:

If you are dissatisfied with this product for any reason, you may e-mail us at dogstar@connedusir.rip.off

Wayne headed for his computer and fired up an e-mail. “Shades of Lorne Green”, it tersely concluded. “I didn’t expect Alpo to come out of that can!”

It wasn’t long before a reply streaked through cyberspace to Wayne’s mailbox.

“You must understand, Mr. Wayne!”, wrote the public relations rep from CAP’N HARPOONLESS. “You’re following a different NUTRITIONAL path than we do here. Yes, it’s true for you that what you found in that can was dog food, but not for us! Our product is valid as tuna, to us. Do you get it?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

That Sunday morning, Wayne woke up feeling discouraged by the perplexing events of the week. He decided to visit a local temple – The First ChurMosquAgogue of Whatever Works for You, Baby. He entered and sat down on a day-glo velour upholstered pew. On his right was a woman that looked like Saturday Night Live’s church lady. At his left hand was a man with purple dreadlocks wearing roller skates. He lifted his eyes toward the dais, where he noticed a troupe of nude dramatists. They appeared to be the back up for an impassioned speaker. The speaker was standing below a crystal pyramid, and making a point with these chanting words –

“You must understand”, intoned the preacher. “We’re all following different SPIRITUAL paths! What’s true for you may not be true for your neighbor! There can not be one, supreme, personal God, nor one standard of morality! Only narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant, arrogant, reactionary, judgmental, hypocritical, anal retentive, non-globally oriented products of the pathetic traditional western culture believe THAT!”, the amplified voice lilted. The applause was thunderous. “Christians are a good example! All the world’s other religions agree on this one and only thing – the Bible thumpers are categorically, definitely, absolutely wrong with that “One Way, Jesus” spiel! There are many, many valid ways to the Divine!”

The preacher paused effectively…leered out at the congregation with a look that both expected and sought commendation, and asked…”DO YOU GET IT?

The uproarious din of approval that immediately filled the former movie theatre sounded like pandemonium.

But Wayne didn’t get it. He suddenly arose as if from the dead, exited without looking back, and made his way toward a truly alternative place of worship. It was one against which his friends at First of Whatever had cautioned. In warning him, they had used many of the words their preacher had just used, in describing the people to be found there. Wayne found these words above the arched doorway into the steepled old building –

“Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; she has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table; she has sent out her maidens, she calls from the tops of the heights of the city: “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks understanding she says, “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.”

Wayne’s heart was strangely warmed as he went in. The preacher here was in the middle of a very different message. He was quoting the words of Jesus of Nazareth:

“I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Previously published elsewhere, once upon a time before bar code scanning existed, and in a state where no citizen can pump his own gasoline…

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Speeders and Other Scofflaws

As a result of the recent San Bernardino, California mass shooting and other tragic events this year, there is much discussion and debate going on in our society about firearms and whether or not they should be regulated and how. In other words, so-called GUN CONTROL is a hot topic of the day.

How should we think about this issue as Bible believing Christians?

First, we know that God created a very good world which did not include death, misery, and sorrow of any kind. There were no guns or shooters in the garden of Eden. Human sin is the reason we have death, misery, and sorrow. Sin is the ultimate cause of the existence of war, violence, or any weapon. And we know that God’s plan to save the world through the Lord Jesus Christ will bring about the final and eternal overthrow of those all these things.

In the meantime, God has given us directives for handling sin when it occurs. He ordains punishment for various sinful deeds that never should have been committed in the first place. Another example is divorce. God hates it (Malachi 2:16) and normally marriage should be for life. Yet in this fallen world and in certain circumstances, divorce is permissible.

Similarly, the use of weapons to defend oneself or one’s neighbor is just and permissible, even though in a sinless world there would be no need for weapons at all!

Abraham armed his household and forcefully rescued Lot (Genesis 14), and Scripture does not condemn him for it. Just before His arrest, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “…he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)

The next time you see a 55 MPH speed limit sign, and you notice that everybody (perhaps including you!) is zooming along at 65 MPH or more, think about the idea of gun control laws. If people were by nature righteous law-keepers, we would obey God’s commandments and  the rules established by God ordained authorities which do not violate God’s commandments. In other words, not one motorist would exceed the speed limit.

That’s obviously not the way we are by nature! We are disobedient sinners…disobedient to God, to parents, and to other lawful human authority God has placed over us. So what will gun control laws or signs that read “Gun Free Zone” accomplish in terms of stopping violent acts committed with firearms? They will be as effective as speed limit law and signs are in controlling traffic!

Neither the United States Constitution, nor its Second Amendment which affirms that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” has the authority of Scripture. However, that document, the law of our land, reflects the life preserving requirement of the Sixth Commandment, which  requirement the Lord Jesus upheld with His words recorded by Luke.

Guns are only inanimate objects. What must be restrained and dealt with in this fallen world are the sinful human hearts which can use inanimate objects for good or for evil.

Consider this hypothetical situation: a terrorist is about to begin a shooting spree, and the difference between life and death is a matter of SECONDS for many people. Meanwhile, the “professionally armed,” that is the police, are several MINUTES away.

Should we have laws that would restrict an armed citizen, present at our hypothetical place of wicked violence, from acting decisively to preserve his own life and the lives of his neighbors? Would those laws be obeyed by any deranged terrorist, determined to kill many innocent people?

Previously published elsewhere, December 13, A.D. 2015

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