Category Archives: Global Issues

The Enemy Wins When We Hate

Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).

As I have watched the events unfold both before and after the election, I am aware that my real enemy is not the person who disagrees with me politically. It is not the person who has a different worldview or follows another religion from mine. My real enemy is Satan, the forces of darkness, lying spirits and sin. In the Beatitudes, Jesus called on His followers to love those who hate you. As a Christian, I am called to love everyone, including those who anger or annoy me. It is hard, and I struggle with it just like the next person.

The real enemy is anger, hate, sin, pride, lies and those things that would divide the body of Christ. Some “Christians” have said some horrible things over the past six months. And any way that I have fueled those flames, please know that I apologize. I am asking for forgiveness for the body of Christ for those who claim to be Christians and have spewed hatred, malice and anger.

Can we disagree? Sure, we can. Can we vote for different people? You bet. Can we believe in different futures for America and the world? Yes, we can. But at the end of the day, we need to treat each other with mutual respect. This means allowing those who are upset about the outcome of the election to vent or mourn. And it means those who are happy with the result can celebrate. This situation calls on everyone to be aware of the feelings of others. The guy who I openly liked (Gary Johnson) didn’t win either.

Elections have real outcomes, and those who win get to decide what the agenda will be. So this is not an editorial calling for the Republicans to fold up and sheepishly put away their agenda. But it is a call for civility to listen and understand the other side. All the major players in the presidential stage have acted with extreme grace and maturity since the election. This includes President Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President –elect Donald Trump. I hope and pray this continues even though I know the various sides will work to defend the principles they hold dear.

As President Obama said this is an intramural scrimmage not a war between two different countries. I have friends and family on all sides of this election. And I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I am here to listen. Do I believe that God is still in control? You bet. Do I understand how that thought might not be very comforting to those who are overcome with grief in the moment? Yes, just like it may not have seemed a comfort to the Israelites in the Bible who were oppressed and lived in exile.

Even though I was not a fan of Barack Obama, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for him. I was a bit afraid when he was first elected because of strong disagreements with his policies. As a person, I liked Obama and was proud that the country had overcome racial barriers. As a politician, I feared his solutions would only make our problems in the country worse. And I understand that at this point in time, there are millions who feel the same way about Trump.

I have no idea what the man I have called “Hair piece” will do as president. But I am going to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt as Obama. And I hope that Trump can be a better man in the White House than he has shown on the campaign trail. I do believe that people can change. Otherwise, the cross would be useless. I do believe that Jesus can redeem anyone.

If Trump turns out to be a nightmare and tramples on the rights of U.S. citizens or acts in inhumane ways, I will be right there with the oppressed standing for them. And I will publicly stand up for them in any way that I can. I will fervently defend the Constitution if Trump tries to become some sort of fascist leader.

Do we need to move on from hysteria? Yes, at some point. And I will be patient enough to realize that some people need a chance to decompress. Do many people have legitimate grievances with Trump and his rhetoric? Yes, I think so. I have personally criticized many things that Trump has said and done in the past. But even for Trump’s harshest critics, the best thing they can do is be vigilant, pray and act to mobilize socially to defend their rights in peaceful, non-disruptive ways.

Upon reflection, the real enemy is within when I and others let anger, fear, frustration, disillusionment or resentment lead me/them to act in ways that do not reflect Christ, who is the essence of love. The real enemy is not the other person but the powers of sin and darkness in the world. The real enemy wins when we hate.

Can a Christian Be a Libertarian?

It seems that the core of the Libertarian worldview is both very Biblical and also anti-Christian at the same time. I am not talking about particular political positions as much as its  focus on individual liberty and what it means to be free.

Christianity is full of apparent paradoxes. One of the hardest to cope with is the fact that to be free from sin we have to submit and give over our liberty to Christ.

The official Libertarian party platform preamble states, “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.” It goes on to further state, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Scripture in many places suggest that God has given man free will to make decisions, and that we will indeed be held accountable for our actions. Instead of stamping out robots, God created humanity with the ability to reason and make choices. Although God does intervene in many cases, He also takes a very hands off approach at times allowing us to discover for ourselves the folly of our ways. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is a perfect example of this situation. Just like that father who allows his son to squander away his inheritance, God doesn’t micromanage our lives, and indeed in many cases He seems to hide so that we have to really search to find Him. God could blind us with His glory at any given moment and create a situation where we would have little choice to acquiesce to His demands. But God doesn’t want that. He wants us to truly love Him and become like Him in character. And that is more caught than forced upon us by an edict.

So in many ways, God seems like a classic Libertarian. But then again, He is far from it when you see the values that He demonstrates and calls His people to follow. The perfect symbol for Jesus is the cross. And that is the ultimate example of Him setting aside his rights and making sacrifices. It was direct divine intervention to solve humanity’s biggest problems. Instead of running the show, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father. Jesus demonstrated complete humility and selfless love. True, it was His own decision. But he set aside His rights for a greater glory and purpose. For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. And that joy was you and me coming to salvation and true freedom. Jesus knew that freedom comes at a cost. And many times it requires us to set aside our rights.

One of the pitfalls I see for Christians when it comes to Libertarian political philosophy is the emphasis on individual liberty can easily turn the focus to self and our own desires. But that is not what Jesus promoted. He said that whoever would follow Him, must take up a cross, deny himself and follow Christ’s example (Luke 9:23). This is symbolic language with a real world application. We are to put aside our desires for actions that achieve God’s purposes in the world. And that is exactly what Jesus did. He is our example.

Libertarians came make their arguments so much about freedom that they don’t realize the things they fight for actually cause addiction, depression, bondage, self loathing, or possibly even death. While God calls us to be His sons, we are also His slaves. And that means true Christians lay down their rights knowing that they can trust God and His ways to be best.

I am reminded of what Michael Card wrote in his book, A Better Freedom, “The New Testament does not offer the choice between slavery or freedom, but only whose slave we will be — the world’s or Christ’s. Jesus does not offer freedom from slavery but instead a a new kind of slavery that provides the only true freedom. I cannot buy my own freedom. Only Jesus can.”

This is difficult if not impossible to do without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t that liberty and personal choice are bad. The problem for a Christian is when we elevate personal choice over the Word of God.

These are tough words, and nobody really wants to hear them – certainly not Americans. What the Christian Gospel offers is a radical reversal to the values of humanity. The cross is freedom. Death leads to life. And renouncing our rights to God’s direction leads to true freedom. Our pursuits are our undoing when they lead us away from God’s best. It isn’t that desire is bad. It is that our desires take pleasure in lesser things  that lead to less and less freedom.

Can you be a Libertarian and be a Christian? Yes. Just like you can be a Democrat, a Republican or a third-party voter and be a Christian. We are not saved by our politics. But our spiritual beliefs should guide our political stances and positions. The problem with some Libertarians that I have met is that they value their freedom above all else. And in that they will find it difficult to let go and truly trust God who offers the greatest freedom imaginable.

Mosque/Islam Center Near WTC Site

It isn’t every day that I find myself agreeing with Harry Reid. But I do today based on his recent comments about building an Islamic Center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Senator Reid called for the building’s organizer to find an alternative location in another part of Manhattan further away from the World Trade Center site. This entire thing has become too political and won’t do much to improve relations between Muslims and the average Americans.

While I agree with President Obama that the organizers have every right to build this facility since they meet all local zoning and other laws, it isn’t wise if the stated aim is to build bridges and allow for healing between Muslims and those of other faith/worldviews. According to the Associated Press, the project is headed by the Cordoba Initiative, whose aim is to improve relations between Islam and the West. This organization wants to host leadership conferences for young American Muslims, organizing programs on Arab-Jewish relations, and empowering Muslim women.

The imam behind the project is Feisal Abdul Rauf who leads a mosque in the nearby Tribeca neighborhood. He has worked with the U.S. government to improve relations with Arab countries around the world. Yet, he is also a contoversial figure for his statements.

In a CBS News interview shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Rauf said, “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” In a radio interview this year, he refused to call the radical Islamic group Hamas a terrorist organization, saying “the issue of terrorism is a very complex question.”

You can see why some might not like Feisal building a mosque/Islamic Center in this area. Nobody with any real concern for our religious freedom is seroius about stopping this project by legal means. That is why it is odd that President Obama would focus on the constitutionality of the issue when the real concern is the message it sends.

It seems that this may be the wrong place, the wrong guy, and the wrong time. Any consideration of opening the facility on September 11 is very bad form. And it seems to run contrary to the stated purpose of the organization behind the project.

As a staunch supporter of religous freedom and property rights, I would fight for the right to build this facility even though I think it is a bad idea. If I were a political leader, however, I would have the guts to say both of the above things. I would support the project against any efforts to stop it all the while trying to work with the organizers to find a more suitable location.

True, there are other mosques in the area. True this is far from completely “hallowed ground” since there are fast food restaurants, a strip club, off-track betting parlor, and other small shops in the area. But it wasn’t a Dunkin Donuts delivery guy who flew a plane into the World Trade Center either.

This is all about sensitivity. Just as Muslims expect us to respect them, there should be some concern for how locals in New York City feel. While this is mostly a local issue, it is also a national one since we all felt the weight of the towers come down in some respects.

So how far is far enough away? I don’t know. Maybe 4-6 blocks. Maybe more. That really depends on the people of New York City.

I think finding a location further away from the WTC site would be the best thing to meet their stated goals. This would also really help the healing process. At the same time, I recognize their right to freely meet and do whatever they want to with properly zoned private property.

My primary hope is that Muslims in other countries will start affording the same kind of protections to Christians, Jews and other faiths. My experience so far traveling to both the Middle East and Africa has been that Muslims are not very tolerant of other faiths. This is especially true when they are in the majority and in control of the political system.

May we be better than that in this country.

An Appeal to Heaven

“The Conquered, or their Children, have no Court, no Arbitrator on Earth to appeal to. Then they may appeal, as Jephtha did, to Heaven, and repeat their Appeal, till they have recovered the native Right of their Ancestors, which was to have such a Legislative over them, as the Majority should approve, and freely acquiesce in.”

–  John Locke,  Two Treatises on Government

The phrase “An Appeal to Heaven” is used multiple times by John Locke in his work, Two Treatises of Government. The phrase suggests that after all other alternatives of seeking justice have been exhausted, only an “appeal to heaven” remains. That  is exactly how I feel about the current course of the U.S. government. This has nothing to do with either major political party. Both have followed a similar path that could cause long-term devestation for our economy and future generations.

I am talking about debt beyond comprehension, bailing out bankers while ordinary citizens are struggling, rewarding incompetence, betrayal of the public trust, and the like. This cuts across all parties and political idealogies. Where is the Common Sense that led to the founding of this country?

Calling Obama a “communist” and labeling Republicans as “sell-outs to the rich” does nothing to help the situation. We need average Americans to care and tell their government representatives that enough is enough. No more grand standing for the cameras. No more empty promises. No more blank checks. No more double standards. No more spending or wars without oversight. No more letting foreign interestes dictate our policies. No more greed and corruption in government.

Both parties are guilty of betraying the public trust. The Republicans started the ball rolling with the last year of the Bush administration that saw stimulus checks, a bailout of our financial sector, massive government spending, etc. The Democrats have picked up right where the Republicans left off. They have ballooned the debt beyond absurdity and come to the rescue of some of the companies that got us in this mess in the first place. We are printing money that we don’t have. What does it say to the world when the European governments are the ones calling for less debt and government spending? I fear that we have turned into Rome.

Capitalism has its faults. It needs some regulation and oversight. But we must not rush into writing sloppy laws, which is what happened with the most recent economic stimulus package. Hastly constructed legislation leads to the worse kind of reform – a solution that turns out to be worse than the original problem.

This past week I bought an “An Appeal to Heaven” flag. I plan on taking it with me down to the Tax Day Tea Party being held in downtown Richmond next week. The gathering is for all of those who are fed up with the current course that both parties have steered for us over the last 10-20 years. It is not a rally against taxes. It is not an effort by the rich to keep the government from taking their money to help the poor. The goal of the gathering is to call us back to founding values that have stood the test of time. You can find out more at http://www.richmondteaparty.com/

I see these values as…

  • Limited government that relies every law that is passed equates to individual liberties that are lost to promote the common good. Thus, laws should not be written unless the common good is important enough in that case to trump individual liberties.
  • Government debts and spending should be kept in check so as to free succeeding generations from debt obligations that don’t provide long-term benefits for the people as a whole.
  • Political leaders should work for the common good of the people. Political service is just that service. It should not be a lifelong career or source of private economic gain. Government leaders must be held accountable by the people and avoid even the appearance of partiality or impropriety.
  • Excessive government spending must be limited because burdensome taxes will not lead to long-term economic growth. Overprinting of currency will cause destruction in wealth and discourage saving.
  • Laws should be past with careful consideration about all the potential long-term effects. This means that no massive expansion of government power or spending should take place without the final bill being given at least a month’s worth of open debate and scrutiny. When it came to the most recent economic stimulus bill most lawmakers didn’t have time to read it before they were being required to vote on it. 
  • The law of unintended consequences is the biggest political reality that most lawmakers don’t take the time to consider. It is usually the thing that leads to success or failure of any policy. Prudence requires a government that will do what is best not always what is popular. This means that we should not rush to judgment except in rare instances. 

There once stood an elm tree at the corner of Essex Street and Orange Street in Boston, Massachusetts, under which a group of men calling themselves the “Sons of Liberty” met to protest the notorious British Stamp Act sometime during 1765. From that time onward, the tree was popularly called the “Liberty Tree.” In 1775, the British seized Boston, cut down the tree and used it for firewood. Flags bearing the symbol of the “Liberty Tree” almost immediately began to appear. So it is no wonder that when, in the fall of that same year, George Washington outfitted a squadron of six schooners at his own expense, he fittingly used the symbol of the tree and his own personal prayer to the Lord with the phrase, “An Appeal to Heaven.”

The pine tree flag with the motto “An Appeal to Heaven” was by Massachusetts’ state navy vessels in addition to privateers sailing from Massachusetts. The Massachusetts General Court established the flag of the state navy on July 26, 1776: “that the Colors be a white flagg, with a green Pine Tree, and an Inscription, “Appeal to Heaven.'”

This flag accurately reflects how I feel about the path of our government over the last 15-20 years. It seems like the best thing we can do now is continue to make our voice heard and pray all the louder for sanity to return to federal, state and local governments.

Here is my warning to the current situation: Any right that is quietly removed by the stroke of a pen today may take bloodshed to regain tomorrow.

Incoming…

Imagine living in a place where you have to scurry to hide from rocket fire several times per day. You’re in the middle of school, cooking dinner or working outside when warning sirens go off. You have 30 seconds or less to find shelter. That is what many Israelis (both Jews and Arabs) face every day as they deal with Hamas rocket fire.

Since 2003, about 10,000 rockets and mortars have been fired from the Gaza Strip against Israel, most of them after Israel pulled out its 9,000 residents (settlers) of the Gaza Strip in 2005. Over 1,000 Israelis have been wounded or killed.

Palestinian casualties tend to grab most of the foreign headlines. But the current situation in Israel is bad for all sides. Both Palestinians and Jews are sending their children off to fight a needless war. While I believe the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is far from perfect in how it has handled some of its operations, at least the IDF tries to avoid civilian casualties. The IDF targets Hamas rocket sites while  Hamas targets Israeli cities and hides behind civilians for protection. The IDF drops leaflets warning people to avoid hot spots. Hamas gives no warning before it launches attacks.

The real enemy here are the men who think shooting missles into Israel will solve the plight of the Palestinian people. That is no way to get the world to see you as anything other than terrorists who are making the situation worse.

The IDF has been too zealous at times by taking out power stations and other facilities that were not high priority targets. Blockades have made the conditions very tough for the Palestinians who are caught between Israeli and Hamas fighting.

I truly believe that Israel just wants peace and the rocket attacks to stop. Hamas still seems to support the destruction of Israel. Unfortunately, the Fatah Party is seen as the rich, elites who have not taken care of the people, which explains how Hamas won an election in the first place. As long as radicals run the show in Gaza, I don’t see how there can be a lasting peace.

Christians around the world should pray for peace and that a new government would rise up in Gaza that would seek to help the people and live at peace with Israel. We need to pray that aid would get to those in need and that civilians on all sides would be safe.

If you want to find out more about what is going on in Israel, I suggest you sign up to receive e-news alerts from http://www.jnnnews.com/

This is a problem that the world can no longer afford to ignore.

It’s The End of the World As We Know It And I Feel Fine

As I watched the election returns, my heart sank because what I had expected for months actually came true. My choice for president has just lost. It looks like the Democrats will pick up huge gains in both the House and Senate. Senator McCain was never my first choice. But he is a decent public servant. His steadfastness shown through as he just delivered a very eloquent and gracious concession speech. It was actually one of the best speeches of the campaign.

While I feel a bit sad, I know that my security rests not in my country, our leaders or even our economy. I trust in God and His sovereign power. Even if our nation crumbles under the weight of its own debt and blunders, Jesus will supply all my need according to His divine power. And whatever I don’t have, the Lord must think I don’t need.

This doesn’t mean that I have high hopes for an Obama presidency or the future of our nation. I believe the American Century has come to an end. I expect greater government control, higher taxes and more stringent requirements will limit individual liberties and lead to further degradation of our economy. The die was cast long before this election. The failure of both major parties has sunk us with debt, wars, failed government programs and a sense of entitlement that has robbed us of hunger to succeed.

America has serious problems facing us. And none of the major party candidates really have the courage to truly solve them. That is why McCain was the better of two inadequate options. I long for the days of great leaders, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. May we see the likes of these great leaders soon. I hope that Obama proves me wrong and rises to the challenge. Obama just said, “America… we as a people will get there.” I hope we do, and I hope that “there” is a place we want to be.

In some ways an Obama presidency, has broken an evil glass ceiling, and it could help heal some racial tensions in this country. It will forever eliminate the thought that race can be an impediment to success. But at the same time, this election was about a lot more than just race. Obama is the first real postmodern candidate, and it will be interesting to see how the world reacts to his leadership style. It will either be a welcome change or an open invitation for aggression. Only time will tell the outcome. 

Despite all my gloomy predictions, I know that my life is securely in the hands of the One who is truly faithful and able to more than I can imagine. And I am not talking about any man. I am talking about Jesus, the incarnate God who holds all things together by His words. All that I am belongs to Him.

The darkest part of the storm is truly before the onset of the dawn. I believe we will one day reclaim a greater country. But we, the Church, must first go through a great trial. And our testing in this country has just begun. As the U.S. economy continues to falter and global problems mount, the USA will be tested. And the American Church must be ready to lead the way.

Well Church… are you ready? I know that I am because my trust is secure in Christ alone.

Mixing God and Politics

Everyone knows that there are two things you aren’t supposed to talk about in polite conversation. Those are religion and politics. Spiritual Shots, a Christian forum for non-religious thinkers, recently tackled both taboo topics in one night. Corey Widmer spoke about the intersection of Christianity and politics. Corey called for “cruciform engagement” where Christians use power to serve not to dominate others.

The Kingdom of God is supposed to be a different kind of kingdom. Power equips service not selfishness in God’s way of doing things. Corey said that we have to be careful that we don’t use religion to advance our agendas. He disagreed with those who said that religion and politics should never mix although he was quick to point out that it has frequently been abused through the years.

Corey said, “Political power is an inadequate vehicle to accomplish God’s will because it doesn’t address the human heart.”

The key is to ask the right questions and to make sure that our objectives line up with God’s call to love, serve others and hold to the truth. We have to ask, “What has our primary allegiance?”

http://www.spiritualshots.com/