I am so lucky... Blessed
My eldest daughter is having a pacemaker inserted tomorrow morning at 7:00am. She’s 33 years old. We found out last week that her recent fainting spells were due to her heart actually stopping for long periods of time. At one point her heart did not beat for 14 seconds! That’s a long time. . . I timed it. . . I’m scared.
Fifteen years ago I lost my first wife Janie to Lukemia. I was left with three teenage daughters and no hope. I always thought I was in charge of my life. That she and I made a great team, had a great love and would have a great life together. God is sovereign.
I guarded my daughters closely after I lost their Mom and worried that tragedy might spin their lives out of control. But in that pit God granted me grace. My three girls blossomed and God sent me a new love. When you are in a low place it’s impossible to see the horizon. It’ dark and cold and you wonder if the sun will ever shine again. God is sovereign.
Are you ever surprised by how much we love our children? What we are willing to do, to sacrifice, in order to give them what they need? My daughter needs a healthy heart but I cannot give it to her. God is sovereign. What a blessing to know, to rest, in the love of Our Lord. What I cannot give, He can…..what I cannot endure, He will…. what I cannot understand, His grace clarifies. There is a song we sing at church that always rings true to me:
Blessed be Your name when the sun's shining down on me
When the world's "all as it should be"
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
I do not know God’s specific will, but I do know God’s plan. His plan is for all to come to Him and be saved. My daughter knows this. As she faces a problem that I cannot solve she does not depend on any man’s luck, but rather she can lean on the God-man who loves her better than I. There is no such thing as chance occurrences or luck, only God’s sovereign Will for our lives. I often say we don’t really live our lives as if we believe what we say we believe. Me most of all. God is sovereign.
Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
... How do I escape the "Tyranny of the Urgent"?
As I sit down at my keyboard to write this I am already past my deadline and frantic to email this article in to “The Spirit”. Even though I have a list of the deadlines for my columns taped to my computer, it is always so easy to put it off. I tell myself there is still plenty of time, then suddenly it's too late. Why does this happen? Why do we put off things we know are important? It's the TYRANNY OF THE URGENT!
It's hard to think about fire safety when your house is full of smoke. We are faced each day with so many demands for the living of our daily lives that we put off those things which may be vital in the long run. The kids must get to school, the bills must be paid, the lawn must be cut, and on it goes….
A few years ago my wife Laura and I agreed that we needed to schedule time each week for our children, grandchildren and each other. I agreed to take Fridays off to spend the day with Laura, often doing nothing or going to garage sales. Each Tuesday Laura has dinner with her daughters, while each Wednesday I go to one of my daughter's homes to have dinner. These are special occasions not for what we actually do but because of the time that is set aside for one another. I cherish these "family" days and yet they are too often cancelled because something has "come up" that demands someone's attention. TYRANNY OF THE URGENT!
My body clock won't allow me to sleep past dawn any more. So I am up early this time of year. I tell myself that if I start at six in the morning I'll get a lot more done each day. I often rush out by 6:45am, but by 6:45pm there is still plenty left undone.
When I am waiting for the coffee maker each morning I am torn between checking my Email or checking in with God. I often make the wrong choice. My Bible sits on the table waiting while I tell myself I'll get to it later. I rarely do. Yet when I begin my day with scripture and prayer my day ALWAYS goes better. I don't get more done but I seem…I feel… more peaceful about what is left undone. Like so many bad choices we make, we know what is important, but we choose something else.
To escape the urgent we need to focus on the important. We know in our hearts what is important….. God, family, country…and in that order. Spending time with God helps me put all things in perspective, which in turn helps me make better choices. It's not easy, even St Paul struggled with this … "I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Romans 14 & 15
Just who are we thanking on Thanksgiving Day?
That’s a good question. In a world where secularism seems to triumph, even the mention of God in public places is often met with suspicion if not outright animosity. It has not always been this way. In 1789 George Washington declared the first “day of thanksgiving” and did not hesitate to recognize that God was in charge of our future and encouraged our young nation “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor”. As the war with England had just been won, Washington even thanked God for His help and for the “manifest mercies and the favorable interposition’s of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war”
“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Can you imagine any politician today being so religious in public? The ACLU would be filing lawsuits and going on Larry King demanding “separation of church and state” ! But keep in mind, that phrase is NOT in our Constitution. It’s a made up principle from the Supreme Court. The actual words from the Constitution are: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To me this phrase sounds more like a guarantee of religious freedom rather than a restriction on religious practice.
In fact if our Government ever declared that there is no God, then the basis for all of our freedoms and civil rights would be lost. That’s right. The very foundation of American and western democracy is the principle that our creator (God not Darwin) gave every person rights that no government can legitimately take away. As stated in our Declaration of Independence: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”
So as you are watching the football game or parade this Thanksgiving remember just who it is we are celebrating. You might even take a moment before carving that bird to remind yourself and your family that it was faith in God that allowed our founding fathers to establish this great nation. We should all be grateful and give thanks and praise to Him. We should try this and every Thanksgiving to live up to the responsibilities that come with our God granted liberty.
"For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone." 1 Peter 2:15
Should Believers Celebrate Halloween?
My wife says I should not even use the word “Halloween”. Maybe she is right. Halloween is said to have originated in Ireland as "Oíche Shamhna" or "Samhain Night". The pre-Christian Celts apparently had an autumn "fire festival" and feast, when the dead were believed to revisit the mortal world. The Celts believed Samhain, the lord of death, would send evil spirits to attack humans, who would hide by disguising themselves. It was believed that the waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Large community bonfires would be lit during the night to ward off the evil spirits.
However Halloween is still celebrated as a sacred day for those who follow “Wicca” or witchcraft, ie Satanists. It is considered a high and “holy” day for the occult. The Celtic belief in roaming spirits and the actual worship of Samhain are still practiced on Halloween. For witches and warlocks there is no question that they believe Halloween is an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.
So Halloween is historically a Christian holiday, but also an old pagan ritual, and also still a dark holiday for modern Satanists. So what should the modern Christian do? The best guide to this or any question involving right and wrong is to read what Scripture has to say. The Old Testament is pretty clear, Deuteronomy 18, 10-12 “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD” Even the new Testament condemned witchcraft, Galations 5, 19-21 “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” So the Bible condemns witchcraft and sorcery in all its forms and rightly so. In essence these are the worship practices of Satanists. While most of us would shun the idea that we would ever practice devil worship we should not fail to notice that “rage, ambition” and a few other sins that are more familiar to everyday life are right there next to witchcraft.
The controversy over Halloween reminds me of the annual debate over the secularization of Christmas. As Christians we want and expect the secular world to allow us to have December 25th as a day set a side to celebrate. We deplore policies that diminish the religious significance of Christ’s birth. But we still welcome and practice non-religious traditions like putting up Christmas trees and dressing as Santa (Don’t tell my grandkids) and those practices do not diminish our faith.
In the same way I believe we as Christians can accept that most Americans practice the traditions of Halloween as a purely secular holiday. They do not adhere to or are even aware of any evil or satanic meaning to what they do. While I discourage my grandchildren from dressing as the walking dead or as witches, I see no harm in dressing as angels or firemen in an effort to collect as many sweets as possible.
Still, we must be aware that there is evil in this world which originates from the spiritual world. While our children are in many ways innocent, the battle still rages around them and us. I think I’ll follow my wife’s advice and stay away from “Happy Halloween” and just say..”Trick or Treat” !!
Do we still trust in God?
Not quite as much as we once did. It seems there is a dedicated group of secularists who are determined to drive out any recognition of Our Creator from public view. This is such a strange development in a nation where each Sunday there are far more people attending church than will watch any Superbowl game. Every Easter my wife and I organize an Easter Egg hunt for our seven grandchildren. Our kids say they eat too much candy, so instead of chocolate or jelly beans we fill plastic eggs with coins for the hunt. This year I decided to use the new Presidential $1 coins. They are a little larger than a quarter and gold in color. When I brought them home my wife and I were admiring the newly designed coins when she asked, “Where is God?”. “What do you mean” I said. “God is everywhere!”. “No”, she insisted. “He’s not on this coin!”. When I looked again I could see she was right. I pulled out a quarter and there next to George Washington was our nation's traditional recognition that “In God we trust”, but on the face of the new $1 coin there was no such declaration. I flipped it over, surely it was just moved to the backside, but no, not there either. “Take them back”, my wife demanded, “we can’t use these!”
Have we really become so modern, so educated, so smart, that we just don’t need to “Trust in God” anymore? I looked at the coin again. I thought of the many Old Testament stories about the Jews wandering in the desert. Again and again they would lose their faith and turn from God. Each time the almighty was incredibly patient, bringing them back to Him, although often only after great pain and suffering. Where, I thought, was our nation wandering ?....and what would be the cost of our failure to recognize our dependence on God. Then I noticed it…there on the edge of the coin was the inscription…”In God We Trust”. It was barely visible to my old eyes without reading glasses, but it was there! Those who would abandon God had not yet won the battle. God had been pushed over the edge, but He was still hanging on!
I could not help but think how much my life was like this coin. Valuable to me and shiny on both sides but with God only at the edges. Maybe filling our churches is not enough. I need to fill my life with ‘Trust in God’ all seven of the days a week. Like our nation, I cannot exclude faith from my daily experience or I will wander….. and wonder, where is God? If a secularist looks at the believer, front and back, and cannot see faith being lived each day, if they must look at the edges of our lives to find God, then we have failed as Christians. If we who claim Christ can keep our trust in Him up front in our own lives, then perhaps one day our leaders will also reclaim His place in our nation’s life.
Deuteronomy 4:7 “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
Why would anyone run for elected office?
2007 Christmas Thank You–
I’ve been a news and talk show junkie all my life. When I was in high school my friends would stay up late listening to ball games on their transistor radios (remember those?). Not me. I was listening to talk radio shows all night long. This was long before conservative talk radio became so popular. In the mid 1960’s virtually all talk radio was local and featured local public officials who discussed issues of crime, business, economic growth and local politics….lots of local politics! I remember listening to radio discussions when Carl Stokes was elected the first black Mayor of Cleveland (1967), when the Hough riots broke out in 1966 and when the first indoor mall was built in the Cleveland area (Severence Center in Cleveland Heights in 1963). Of course it was the 60’s, so there was also talk about Vietnam, the psychedelic drug scene and the “free love” movement. You can imagine that at school there were not many kids who shared my fascination with these political and cultural issues. (Ok, I know, I was a NERD!)
My mother always taught us to appreciate the incredible blessings we enjoyed in America and our obligation to understand and participate in the political process. Heated debate about local, national and international issues were part of our daily fare along with our meals. I have joked that we did not have dinner plates around our table, only lecterns.
I have, therefore, always been a close observer of how our Township government operates. With our children grown I am now able to devote the time it takes to be more involved. I hope to be able to give back to this community some of the joy that it has given to me in the past twenty years. The freedom to govern ourselves is not shared by many on this planet and we should not take it for granted. I am humbled by the faith that the citizens of Bainbridge have placed in me and take the responsibility very seriously. With God’s grace and support we can work together, as neighbors, so Bainbridge will continue to be the wonderful community we all know and love!
Philippians 2:2 Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Are we all Socialists now?
The recent cover of Newsweek declaring that “We Are All Socialists Now!” (2-16-09) caught my eye recently in my Doctor’s office. My Doctor is located right here in Chagrin Falls and his office was crowded with patients. No one in the waiting room seemed too concerned. Apparently Socialism is no longer a dirty word. Too few remember that it was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that threatened us with nuclear annihilation for decades, or that the full name of Hitler’s NAZI party was the National Socialist German Workers' Party.
“Marxism-Leninism reveals the universal laws governing the development of history of human society…….and shows that socialist society will inevitably replace capitalist society and ultimately develop into communist society.”
Scared yet?…..you should be. Socialist China limits the family size of its citizens by forced abortions and uses internet Police to make sure its citizens don’t learn too much. These measures are justified to insure that the needs of “society” are met. In a socialist nation the needs of the group, the society, are elevated above the needs of the individual. Individual freedom cannot be allowed to get in the way of the group. Overpopulation in China is dealt with by making pregnancy a crime if you have more than two children. Searching for words such as “freedom” and “liberty” on Google in China will get you thrown into prison. (without a trial). But that cannot be where the United States is headed! It can’t happen here…right?
Last year I wrote about the alarming trend in our country to elevate equality over liberty…..our nation has drifted into a well intended but harmful culture of ‘me tooism’. In this world nothing is fair unless it is equal. Equal housing, equal education, equal healthcare, equal rights to everything. Of course this notion is not new. Karl Marx said it a hundred years ago… “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”
Sadly, we are no longer just “drifting” towards Socialism; we have now slid into the abyss.
I know you are probably thinking that this is not so bad, after all, wouldn’t a little socialism be a good way to temper the excesses we have seen recently under capitalism? The AIG mess, bank failures, housing foreclosures……isn’t all this the result of a capitalistic society gone wrong? Well you are unquestionably correct. Capitalism is an economic system that inevitably leads to wide swings in the marketplace. Companies can and do take advantage of the consumer in order to make a profit, but Capitalism will not tolerate such abuse for long. In a free market any business must face the reality of competition. If a company routinely overcharges its customers, they can only get away with it until another business steps in to sell the same product or service at a lower price. If a corporation provides lousy service you can bet another company will compete by offering better to its customers. The essential characteristic of a successful capitalist society is liberty, i.e., the freedom to bring your skills and creativity into the marketplace to compete. As long as freedom is assured those businesses who abuse their clients or customers will ultimately fail and be replaced by businesses who respect the consumer. Therefore, the only proper role for government in a capitalist society is to promote competition and by doing so insure that the marketplace functions to avoid abuse of its citizens.
So what happened? Desperation always leads to bad judgment. In the First Great Depression the Federal Government, in an attempt to help hurting people, grew the power and authority of government immensely. Every objective reading of history concludes that the “new deal” that FDR promoted was a bad deal for America and actually worsened and prolonged the suffering. Nonetheless, for at least the last 75 years our Government has continued to pass laws and regulations designed to avoid every pain that may be caused by the rough and tumble world of competition. Today our government regulates… everything.
When George Bush declared last fall that he would “abandon free-market principles to save the free-market system" he fell into the same trap as FDR. He denied well known truths in the hope of avoiding short term pain. It did not work in the 1930’s and it has not worked now.
Do you think that FedEx and UPS should exist? After all, we have a government run delivery system, the US Post Office! Private delivery services flourish because the government has no motivation to improve its delivery service. The US Post Office is completely insulated from competition and can simply go to the taxpayer for more money. Perhaps in the new socialist America we should not allow private delivery companies to operate. After all, aren’t they just stealing business from the Post Office, making it harder for it to deliver the mail by sucking up delivery dollars that the government could use to make the Post Office better and cheaper? And did you know that the President of FedEx made over $10 Million dollars last year!? How can this be allowed in a socialist, i.e. "fair" America? ANSWER: IT WON’T BE ALLOWED!
Now replace healthcare, or housing or energy for “delivery services” in the paragraph above and you will find what many in Washington are already insisting is the answer to all our problems…more government, more regulation and of course more taxes…and less freedom.
Our founding fathers understood this:
“A Government Big Enough to Give You Everything You Want is Powerful Enough to Take Everything You Have” — Thomas Jefferson
The lessons of the Twentieth century are clear and predicted by the Chinese government on their website: Socialism leads inevitably to totalitarianism. If the welfare of the society is paramount, then the freedom of the individual must be eliminated.
As I look over the people in my Doctor’s crowded waiting room I can’t help but wonder how many will object when our government soon insists that they go to the Post, I mean, Healthcare Office to see a Doctor. We will be told it will be better, cheaper, and more fair….we merely have to exchange our liberty for Socialism.
2 Peter 2:19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.
Liberty vs. Equality
Conservative vs. Liberal??
July 4, 2008–
As we prepare the barbecue for yet another 4th of July we should not lose sight of the wars our nation is currently immersed in. The war with terrorism rages in the Mideast, Bin Laden still evades us, Israel prepares to attack Iran, and so it goes. However the other war, perhaps even the greater war in terms of its long term implications, is the war for the heart of America. This is a war of philosophy and belief. A war which seeks to answer the question of just what kind of nation we will be in the years ahead. It’s a war in which we will all be either victims or victors, depending on your values.
It occurs to me that this illustrates the primary distinction between how liberals and conservatives think. Liberty is the highest of values to a conservative, while Liberals favor equality over all else. Thus a liberal thinks it is better that no one enjoys a cone rather than exclude anyone. I know some might think my view harsh. In fact a few years ago someone coined the phrase “compassionate conservative” as if to suggest most conservatives were mean spirited. However, in my opinion, if there is no liberty or freedom then compassion is not even possible. After all if I am forced to be generous, or polite, or just plain nice, am I really doing good or just doing what I must? Real change requires an internal commitment not external compliance to government mandates. Freedom in the end is the freedom to choose our own way, to make our own mistakes, to suffer our own consequences or reap our own rewards.
Unfortunately our nation has drifted into a well intended but harmful culture of “me tooism”. In this world nothing is fair unless it is equal. Equal housing, equal education, equal healthcare, equal rights to everything. Of course this notion is not new. Karl Marx said it over a hundred years ago.. “from each according to their ability to each according to their need”. Sounds fair right? But if you burden those in our society who produce with the mandatory obligation to carry those who do not, then what incentive is there to achieve? Human nature has not changed. If you “tax the rich” because they make a profit, then why will they bother? The Soviet Union learned this lesson after a century of struggling with socialism and “Red” China is now becoming the center of world capitalism. How ironic it is that the United States is driving entrepreneurs to invest in a “communist” country!
If we choose to do good as free citizens then we honor the greatest principles of the American Revolution. If we simply bow to the greater good as dictated by society, then we live as slaves. We should recognize that we do have institutions which assure complete equality… the same food, the same clothes, the same level of care for all… their called prisons. Happy Independence Day!
1 Peter 2, 15:17 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone.