Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas

I wish you a blessed Christmas and all the best in the New Year. I encourage you to remember the reason for Christmas and what we are really celebrating.
It isn’t gift-giving – we already have the Greatest Gift of all time available to us.
It isn’t the human spirit – we already have the Holy Spirit to help us.
It isn’t family and friends, important as they are – what a Friend we already have in Jesus.
It isn’t sentimentality and tradition.

We are celebrating the Incarnation – the Word was made flesh (or took on human form) and dwelled among us. Jesus didn’t just come for a visit, to see how we were doing. He didn’t just come to teach, although he did that. He didn’t just come to perform miracles, although he did that. He didn’t come just to give us an example as to how we should live, although he did that.

He came so that “God and sinners [could be] reconciled” as that great Charles Wesley carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” puts it. We might not quite understand how that works or why reconciliation between humanity and God is necessary. We’ll never understand it completely, but try to accept it on faith. Jesus came because it was necessary – not for God, but for us.

One last point. I read this article on the e-newsletter “Pastor’s Weekly Briefing” put out by Focus on the Family. Judging from this article, people may be getting sick of being bullied by political correctness. See what you think.

According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas. However, in past years, due to political correctness, disinformation and even the threat of lawsuits from the ACLU and its allies, religious expression at Christmastime was becoming increasingly absent from the public square. But today, because of many Christian defense ministries, several of the “anti-Merry Christmas” stores and organizations across the nation have been silenced about their resistance in the wake of such overwhelming public enthusiasm to say “Merry Christmas.” The years of educating Americans with an awareness of their rights by organizations such as Alliance Defense Fund® and annual efforts to reclaim Christmas show that:
•69% of Americans now use the “Merry Christmas” greeting compared to 56% previously.
•61% of Americans now oppose generic “Happy Holidays” greetings, compared to 44% previously.
•69% of Americans prefer “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.”

Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chinese Junk

When is this country going to learn not to buy things made in China? Haven’t we learned from the problems we’ve had with shoddy and dangerous products made there? The reason I mention this is that I recently read in the AARP Bulletin (Dec. 2009, Vol. 50, No. 10, page 8) that there have been problems with houses built using Chinese-made drywall. Can’t we even make our own sheetrock these days?!
Apparently this sheetrock contains chemicals that cause corrosion. Appliances have corroded, hinges have rusted, TVs have failed, and there have been health issues for people living in these houses. The article estimates that 60,000 – 100,000 houses may be affected, mainly in Louisiana, Florida and Virginia. No definitive link between the drywall and these problems has been established, but the EPA and the Consumer Products Safety Commission are investigating.

Another frightening thought is that dietary supplements are not labeled as to the country of origin of ingredients. My wife and I investigated one particular supplement (a multivitamin) and found out that the ingredients came from many different countries, including China. Quite frankly, I don’t want to ingest anything made in China given their track record.

Speaking of poisons, I recently learned anecdotally that mattresses must be made to withstand a certain amount of heat before catching fire. This means all kinds of chemicals are used in the manufacturing of these mattresses. Yes, you may not burn to death on a mattress, but you’ll die of cancer! How many bed fires are there vs. how many deaths are caused by the chemicals they are using in mattresses? Makes you wonder. Another misguided government mandate designed to “protect” us.

Bottom line: be an informed consumer, and look at the country of origin. Try not to buy anything made in China if there is an alternative (and sometimes there isn’t). Let’s buy quality American-made goods instead of less expensive but inferior (and maybe dangerous) Chinese-made goods. “You get what you pay for,” my mother always said, and she was right.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brainwashed Americans

I find even devout Christians saying to me “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” We have become brainwashed by the political correctness crowd. God forbid that we “offend” someone by using the “C” word – Christmas! Oops! I just said the “G” word – God. Unfortunately today God is an exclamation – Oh my God! – rather than the Deity who created the universe. My, how we have fallen!

If you believe that God is more than just some vague Being out there, then don’t allow yourself to be beaten down and brainwashed by political correctness. If somebody is so hate-filled and intolerant that they are “offended” by the word Christmas, then they are a sorry excuse for a human being. They, more than anybody, need the God that they so passionately hate. I like what Ben Stein wrote about Christmas in a letter that has been making the rounds on the Internet. He’s Jewish, but isn’t “offended” by Christmas because he is truly tolerant – unlike those who merely claim to be tolerant but aren’t by any definition of the word. If you want to read his letter, google “Ben Stein’s Christmas Letter.”

As that holy day approaches, I wish you a very blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. And to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pray for Our Leaders

In an earlier post I suggested we pray for our leaders, since like it or not, our future is in their hands. They have inherited a terrible mess, and it will take determination and resolve to get this country back on track. I have doubts whether Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have what it takes to do what is needed. As a matter of fact, I question the ability of Congress and the various state chambers (especially Albany and Sacramento) to do the right things, even in time of severe crisis.

Health care reform is long overdue, but they shouldn’t wreck or dismantle what is in place. Congress must find a way to reduce costs, eliminate fraud, implement tort reform, and provide coverage for the uninsured.

Energy policy should have been well underway in the 1970s, after the Arab oil embargos showed how vulnerable we are. Congress and the various presidents did nothing for 30 years, and still aren’t addressing the problem.

We are heavily in debt to China because of our imbalance of trade with them. That is a scary thought, and I don’t know what we can do to reduce or eliminate that debt. I think we are well on our way to becoming a second-rate country that will be at the mercy of China, India, and other countries very soon – if we aren’t already.

State, county and municipal budgets are in terrible shape, but those leaders don’t know how the cut costs. They must stop increasing taxes and make the tough decisions. If they can’t or won’t, we must vote them out until we finally have leaders who can lead.

So pray for our country and its leadership (such as it is). I believe only prayer can turn this country around. Now would be a good time for this nation to stop trying to eliminate God from everything and turn to God in faith with prayer. God helped this country through tough times before (Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, and the dark days after the Kennedy Assassination) because we as a country put our faith in God. Now forces, small in number but powerful, are successfully driving God from public consciousness, and are ridiculing and marginalizing people of faith. Then we wonder why this decade has been so bad for the U.S.!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Taxed to Death

Taxes continue to go up in states, counties, and municipalities. I just read that the Dutchess County tax is going up by more than 10%, well above the average increase of county taxes in New York State. What’s wrong with our elected officials?

People are out of work, people are underemployed (hours cut back or forced to take a lower paying job), people are facing higher costs, and what do our leaders do? Increase taxes. This is happening in a state that already has some of the highest taxes in the nation. No wonder people are leaving the state! You can be sure I won’t retire anywhere in New York state.

This sad state of affairs reflects poorly on our politicians, who were elected by us and are supposed to represent our best interests. Are higher taxes in our best interests? I don’t think so. We already know Albany is dysfunctional, but right here in Dutchess County? You would think they would know better.

The problem is, I believe, that government entities don’t know how to cut costs. Of course they claim they are making the tough decisions and some costs are being cut, but they don’t go far enough. Programs take on a life of their own and it’s almost impossible to cut them or eliminate them. Special interests have tremendous influence (unlike the voter, it seems), and so they are well taken care of.

Government has tried to be all things to all people, but at a cost. Now much of this should be dismantled, and the taxpayer, the very foundation of society, should be given a break. But no, the taxpayer keeps getting taxed to death. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Government should stick to what government does best: maintain the roads, fire and police, things like that. Forget the nonessentials. Same with schools: give a good basic education, make most sports fee-based, and forget the frills. Our kids have been dumbed down by a failing educational system – let’s give them the kind of education that will make this country competitive once again, and at a reasonable cost.

It is downright immoral, irresponsible, and harmful to keep increasing taxes in such an economy. It may even created a “double dip” in the economy, meaning the economy will take another turn for the worse. Consumers have less money to spend, so they buy less, and the economy declines. Pray for our leaders to have the wisdom and the guts to truly make the right decisions regarding cutting costs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Artist Andy Warhol is said to have coined the phrase “15 minutes of fame” as part of a larger quote. Some people go a little too far in trying to achieve their 15 minutes. It’s a sad commentary on how desperate some people are to be relevant or to matter. Celebrity status becomes their god because they don’t have God in their lives.

Recently we had the “balloon boy” hoax which received national attention. The father of a young boy said his son was in a homemade balloon that was floating hundreds of feet in the air and riding the currents to who knows where. This received nationwide media attention and millions prayed the boy would be all right. It turns out the boy was hiding at home, and was perfectly safe. Further investigation revealed that this was a hoax because the family wanted to be on a reality TV show. What kind of a person does such a thing?

Then there were the uninvited guests who crashed the party at the White House. This couple got past Secret Service security and ended up shaking hands with the President at a White House dinner for Indian Prime Minister Singh. They got their 15 minutes of fame, which will hopefully be followed by a fine or jail sentence. You don’t just walk into the White House and get away with it!

If you feel you are insignificant or don’t matter, think again. “Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” You matter to Jesus, and that’s what counts. You can have your 15 minutes of fame, and then it’s over. Or you can decide to follow Jesus, and you get to spend eternity with him. 15 minutes or eternity – what do you think?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Obama Satisfies Nobody

It’s amazing how many politicians, when they become president, are no longer slaves to ideology. When “The Buck Stops Here” you become a realist very quickly. You realize that left-wing ideals are unworkable and utopian. You realize that right wing ideology doesn’t work either. So a president moves towards the middle and makes decisions less on ideological grounds, and more on what he thinks will work.

The Left is furious with Obama, one of theirs, for prolonging the war in Afghanistan. Yet we can’t just walk out, leaving that country in chaos and ripe for the Taliban. If we just packed up and left, the Taliban would take over in months and Al-Qaeda would have a safe haven from which to launch further attacks on the West. Does the Left really want that?

The Right is furious with Obama, mainly because they don’t like him, but also feel he should be more aggressive in Afghanistan. What really annoys me is that Dick Cheney is taking pot shots at Obama’s policies regarding the war. Yet who got us into this mess to begin with? It was mainly Cheney if the anecdotal evidence is to be believed. Why doesn’t he just fade away as Bush did?

The U.S. has a moral obligation to finish what it started. The moral obligation is to:

(1) Those who gave their lives in this conflict.

(2) The American people, whose safety and security would be compromised if we gave up.

(3) The Afghan people, especially the women, who would suffer terribly if the Taliban were to once again rule that country.

We as Americans must pray for our leaders, that they be given wisdom to make the right decisions. Pray also for victory over the Taliban and for a stronger and more effective Afghan government. The sooner we can get out of there, the better.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Adventures in Driving

Murphy’s Law says “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Pastor’s Tony’s Corollary goes like this: “If your car is going to break down, it will always happen when you are out of town.” This happened to me on Thanksgiving when we were, yes, out of town. However, God helps his people. Every time my car has broken down out of town, it happened in such a way that help was readily available.

A whirring sound started coming out of the engine compartment when we were on our way to Thanksgiving dinner, so I knew something was wrong. However, the car wasn’t squealing or screeching, so I figured we’d get home all right.

After dinner, my wife and I were driving out of a neighborhood we weren’t familiar with (we had spent Thanksgiving with my son’s girlfriend’s parents and I had used the GPS to find their place). I asked if I could follow my son out of that neighborhood so we wouldn’t take a wrong turn in the dark.

As we were driving out of the neighborhood at about 10:30 at night, the car was still making the noise. All of a sudden, it made a high-pitched squeal, and then “boing!” At that point, the lights dimmed and I lost the power steering, although the engine was still running. I knew where we were, since we had just come out of the neighborhood and were on a road I was familiar with. I knew there was a church immediately ahead, so I turned into the church’s parking lot. My son, having seen us turn, came to see what was wrong.

He drove us home (45 minutes away), and I had the car towed the next day. The dealer fixed it that same day and we could pick it up later in the afternoon. While it was inconvenient, look at how God made it less dangerous and more tolerable than it could have been:

-the car broke down at just the right place where we weren’t blocking traffic or stuck along the highway late at night.
-the engine was still running, so I could make it into the parking lot.
-my son was right there, and could give us a ride home.
-the dealer could fix the car the next day.
-it was the tension pulley that broke, not an expensive part (I thought it was the alternator).

So God may not always spare us from bad things happening to us, but he often mitigates the negative effects. I also believe that God spares us from many things that we are not aware of because they didn’t happen. So rather than blame God for bad things when they come, thank him that it wasn’t any worse.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger Woods’ Failure

When the story first broke about Tiger Woods’ car accident, we all knew there was more to the story than we were being told. Tiger has now admitted to having affairs with several women. This is very disappointing to many who viewed him as Mr. Clean. Unlike other sports, golf is relatively free of scandal, so this was especially surprising.

Think about what these affairs are going to cost him as his all-American image is now severely tarnished:

-His endorsements will dry up for the most part.
-He hurt the ones he loves the most.
-He disappointed his parents and fans.
-He embarrassed his children (once they are old enough to understand what happened).
-His legacy as a great athlete is compromised by his personal failures (similar to Billy Rose and Kobe Bryant, among others).

Some will say something like, “He’s only human, like the rest of us. Give him a break.” Of course he’s only human, and yes, he’s subject to probably more temptations than the rest of us. But that doesn’t excuse his behavior, because he arguably has more to lose than most of us. Moreover, celebrities and especially sports figures are role models for our children and youth, so they have an extra responsibility.

You can tell that this has been a painful ordeal for Tiger and his family. I wish him all the best in restoring his relationships and his image. I hope good will come out of this, such as people will see the effects of such behavior and will renew their determination to resist temptation in whatever forms it presents itself. The cost is just too high and pain just too great. Look at former NY governor Spitzer and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who is in the process of being impeached.

I encourage you to pray for Tiger Woods and his family, and pray that you don’t fall into temptation as well.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fear of the End – Part 3

In earlier posts I wrote about the fear of dying and the fear of the End Times. In this post I continue about the End Times and then wrap up.

2. Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid

If we are getting close to the End Times, shouldn’t we be afraid? I believe one major reason why we shouldn’t be afraid is that followers of Christ will be removed from the scene before things get really bad. The Apostle Paul clearly tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. NIV

This taking up in the air is called The Rapture. The hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” refers to the Rapture:

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air. (emphasis added)

Conclusion

Life on earth is difficult, although we have the assurance that this life ends in triumph for followers of Jesus Christ. We go on to something much better. As we approach the End Times, there will be an intensifying of the bad things that already happen too much on this earth already. But we won’t be around when things really get nasty, because of the Rapture. Eventually those End Times events give way to final victory in Christ, and we read about what will take place in Revelation 21:1-4:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”


So as Christians we have nothing to fear from death or the End Times, but instead we can look forward to the fulfillment of God’s plan. And thanks be to God, we are beneficiaries of that plan, and we share in Christ’s victory over sin and death. So let us look forward with eager anticipation to feasting at long last at that heavenly banquet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fear of The End – Part 2

In an earlier post I talked about fear of death. Now I want to discuss fear of the End Times.

Fear of the End Times

Another fear some Christians have is the fear of the End Times. Hollywood cashes in on these fears with such movies as 2012, coming soon to a theater near you. Listening to the news, it appears that the frequency and severity of natural disasters is increasing, which also feeds our fears. In reality, the frequency and severity of natural disasters may not really be increasing, it’s just there is better and more timely reporting of them. However, things will get worse as we approach the End Times, and we have been warned in the Bible so we can be spiritually prepared.

1. What Jesus Said

In Matthew 24 Jesus mentions several things about the End Times, so let’s briefly look at each one:

a. Temple Destroyed

The first thing Jesus mentions is that the temple will be destroyed. This is not an End Times event, but was apocalyptic for the Jews when their beautiful temple was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.

b. Deception

Next, Jesus said there would be widespread deception (Matthew 24:4b-5):

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” NIV

While there always has and always will be such deception, it will get worse as we get closer to the End Times. Technology allows deception to be disseminated widely.

c. Wars and Rumors of Wars

Next, Jesus warned of wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6-7a):

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” NIV

Wars are constantly happening, and Jesus said the end is still to come. Therefore, we shouldn’t be alarmed because war is a natural state of affairs, although the world situation will really deteriorate towards the end.

d. Natural Disasters

Jesus warned of natural disasters (Matthew 24:7b-8):

“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” NIV

Natural disasters have always been with us, so there is no cause for alarm. When there is a huge increase in their frequency and intensity, then we can assume we are getting close to the beginning of the End Times. I personally think that it will be very obvious to believers when we get close, as Luke 21:25-27 tells us:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.” NRSV

e. Increased Persecution

Next, Jesus said that persecution of believers will increase (Matt 24:9-11):

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” NIV

Persecution of Christians has always been with us, although it did increase significantly in the 20th Century. Notice that Jesus warned that false prophets will appear and deceive many people, one of many such warnings in the Bible. We should always be on the lookout for such false teachers and prophets masquerading as ministers of the Gospel. They mix just enough truth with false doctrines to seem trustworthy, but they are to be avoided.

f. Reached the Whole World

Lastly, Jesus says that the Gospel must be preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14):

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” NIV

With radio, TV, Internet, and many missionaries, this is becoming a reality.

More on this topic in a future post.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fear of The End – Part 1

Many people are afraid of dying and many are afraid of the End Times. In these posts I’d like to explain why Christians shouldn’t have these fears.

Fear of Death

Let’s first take a look at dying and why we fear it. Shakespeare put these words about death into Hamlet’s mouth:

“The dread of something after death, the undiscovered country from whose [domain] no traveler returns.”

Aristotle called death something to be feared because “it appears to be the end of everything.”

1. Jesus’ Promise

Yet as Christians we know that death is not the end of everything, but actually a beginning. It is a passageway to something better, a corner to be turned. We know this because it is the major theme of the New Testament. This theme is expressed well in what Jesus said to his followers in those familiar words of John 14:1-6:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” NRSV

Jesus didn’t just promise us an afterlife, but a better life in heaven basking in the glory of his presence. Your final glimpse of this life will open the door to your first glimpse of your Savior, Jesus.

2. Nature of Our Fear

We know this, so why do we still fear death, even after placing our trust in Jesus for our eternal destiny? After all, our reservation in heaven is guaranteed because it is not dependent on our good works or anything we have done, but by our faith in Jesus. We get to heaven only on the merits of Jesus Christ, not on our good deeds outweighing our bad or anything like that. We read in one of my favorite passages (Ephesians 2:8-9, NRSV):

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own do-ing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

We also read in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10:

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. NRSV

So why are we still apprehensive about death? Three possibilities come to mind.

a. Too Good to Be True

One possibility is that we believe that salvation by faith alone is just too good to be true. How can placing faith in what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf result in our going to heaven? There must be more to it than that! Where’s the catch? That leads me to the second possibility why we still fear death.

b. God’s Grace Is Insufficient

Second, we fear death because we may think God’s grace is insufficient, despite what we read in the Bible. Certainly there must be some works we must do in order to gain entrance into heaven. After all, we live in a performance-based world, and many of us grew up in churches where works were necessary to assure our salvation. So questions arise about what works and how much must be done. Yet nowhere in the New Testament does it say we must do certain things to assure our entrance into heaven. Quite the opposite, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:57:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. NRSV

The Bible states clearly we are to do good works, but those works don’t give us the keys to the kingdom. Once saved by grace through faith, our works store up treasures in heaven, but they don’t get us there.

c. Fear of the Unknown

The last possibility why Christians may fear death is fear of the unknown. When asked whether he feared death, Billy Graham answered, “I don’t fear death, but I’m not looking forward to the process.”

I think that expresses the feelings we all have. We may be confident of our salvation because we have placed our faith in Jesus, but that doesn’t guarantee our passing from this life will be pleasant. Often our fear is of the process, not of what will happen when we leave this life.

Of course we really don’t know what heaven is like, but we have been assured that it is much better than here. It is a joyful place in the presence of Almighty God, and there is worship of God and pleasant work to do for the Lord. Rick Warren says that this life is really preparation for the next. So let us be diligent in serving the Lord in this life, as Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthians 15:58:

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. NRSV

More on this topic in a future post.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Health Clinics

There are free health clinics scattered around the country providing basic health care to those who are not insured. They are run by churches and other charitable organizations, and have been very successful, working with volunteers and donated drugs.

My question is, why haven’t the geniuses in Washington considered a network of such health clinics to provide basic coverage for those who can’t afford insurance? This would take the pressure off hospital emergency departments, which are overwhelmed by the uninsured who use them as free clinics.

Of course such clinics couldn’t take care of more serious problems requiring surgery or other advanced treatments. Therefore, I would suggest that the government make available insurance for catastrophic health care needs, with the more routine care provided by the clinics. Those getting insurance from their employers would receive conventional care through the existing system.

These clinics would receive government support, so they wouldn’t have to be shoestring operations. The government could buy the drugs more cheaply. Because these clinics would be low overhead operations, they would be much more cost-effective than providing comprehensive insurance for our expensive existing system.

Hopefully our existing system would become less expensive because hospital emergency departments could be just for emergencies, hospitals wouldn’t have to cover the uninsured in various ways, and fraud would be reduced because these clinics would be monitored and audited.

Come to think of it, why not include Medicaid patients in this plan? There is so much fraud in that program that going the clinic route – with adequate safeguards and monitoring – would save the government substantial money. There is so much more we could do to improve the system, but Congress and the President aren’t even considering them, such as tort reform.

Write your senators and congressman and ask them to consider the clinic idea and tort reform.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Working with the Elderly

There are some things we should be aware of when working with the elderly, especially when it comes to talking about dying.

Grandma might start talking about dying soon or wanting to talk about her funeral, and what’s our usual reaction? “Oh grandma, don’t talk like that.” That’s the wrong attitude. The next big thing in grandma’s life will be her passing, and she’s thinking about it. She wants to discuss it, to make sure everything is in order. Let her talk. It’s not being morbid, just practical.

I work with the elderly, and another thing I’ve found is that sometimes they think God is punishing them by letting them live for so long or letting them live in a less than desirable condition, such as unable to walk, confined to a nursing home, or in discomfort. It is difficult assuring them that this is not God’s punishment. When you work with the elderly, you should be aware of this belief.

Lastly, you might observe that occasionally the elderly blow things totally out of proportion. You may be shocked by such an inappropriate reaction, yet this is how they perceive things. The reason for this is that they don’t have much going on in their lives. As a result, they have plenty of time to dwell on things, and molehills frequently become mountains.

Make sure the elderly know that you love them, you care, and you want them to be as comfortable as possible. Visit them often, make sure they are getting proper care, and work with their caregivers to let them know you want to be involved in any decisions that are to be made (if you are the appropriate person).

And lastly, be nice to your kids. Remember, they’ll be choosing your home when you’re old.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Cancer Guidelines

The recent change in guidelines for mammograms and breast self-examinations highlights one aspect of science that is frequently ignored. Science is ever-changing. New research results in new hypotheses or theories. Yesterday’s scientific “fact” becomes today’s discarded theory.

That’s why it makes me angry when people base many of their opinions and beliefs on “science” as if it were infallible and unchanging. In fact it isn’t infallible and it is constantly changing. Moreover, there is a lot of bad science out there. Studies are seriously flawed from a methodology point of view or are manipulated to fit a preconceived result. For example, it could turn out upon closer examination that this study had flaws in methodology, assumptions or interpretation of data.

While science is good in many ways, we must remember its limitations. Biblical principles are unchanging, handed down by God to guide us in our living. When “science” conflicts with biblical principles, we should go with the biblical principles.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quality Medical Care

There’s a lot of talk about the quality of medical care in the United States these days. Some say it’s terrible, and some say it’s the best in the world. Having just experienced two surgeries and a brief hospital stay (see my earlier post on protecting your skin), let me make a few observations on health care.

I believe our health care is the best in the world if you have decent insurance coverage or you have plenty of money to pay for expensive treatments. I don’t think the issue is quality so much as it is availability. I have great insurance coverage, so I have good quality care. Those whose coverage isn’t very good don’t always get the best care, or are very limited in their choices. So availability is limited for many people.

The uninsured do get some sort of coverage, but it is inadequate. What we need is not health care reform, but insurance reform and tort reform (as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts). But we have to do it in such a way that quality care is available to most people, not just those fortunate enough to have good insurance plans. Let’s hope our politicians will ignore special interests and do the right thing. We can tap into the experience of most industrialized nations and avoid their mistakes and take the best of their systems. Pray that our leaders in Washington do the right thing and don’t destroy what we already have.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Protect Your Skin

I just underwent a bit of an ordeal to treat skin cancer. These were basal cell carcinomas, the most “benign” form of skin cancer. Nevertheless, having any form of cancer in or on my body doesn’t not appeal to me. There were two lesions on my scalp and one on my face. I’m sure these resulted from childhood exposure to the sun. I had a crew cut, was blond and fair-skinned, and rarely wore a cap. As an adult, I became aware of the risk posed by exposure to the sun, and took precautions. But it was too little, too late.

I’ve had a number of precancerous growths removed over the years, but never skin cancer. These lesions required Mohs surgery which is a marvelous invention. The dermatologist removes cancerous tissue, and then tests the site to see if there are any cancer cells remaining. If so, he goes back in and removes more. This goes on until there are no more cancer cells left at the site. I went through five cycles before he “got it all.” This is done in the doctor’s office under local anesthetic.

Because these three wounds were rather large, I then had to have a plastic surgeon close them so they heal properly and scarring is minimized. That procedure lasted for about three hours and required general anesthesia in a hospital. Fortunately it was same day surgery and since I didn’t have any adverse reactions to the anesthesia, I was home by 6:00 that evening.

I felt comfortable going through these surgeries because I had many people praying for me and I had confidence in the skills of the surgeons, nurses, the anesthesiologist, and the technicians. I was also pleased with the quality of the care I received at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, where the plastic surgery was done. But having all those prayers said for me gave me tremendous comfort. And yes, I’ll be wearing a hat a lot more from now on. Not only because my head is now shaved, but also because I don’t want to have to go through this again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Identity Theft

After dealing with banks during my business career and reading about their lack of good judgment in the newspapers, I don’t have a lot of respect for them. This is reinforced by what they send me in the mail.

Identity theft is a serious problem, and the banks do all they can to enable it. I receive preprinted checks from the bank that my credit card is affiliated with. If I don’t shred those checks, I might be a victim of identity theft. Banks send me application forms with my name and address printed on them. If I don’t shred them, somebody else could apply for a credit card or line of credit in my name.

I don’t know why banks do this when there is such a risk. I guess they just don’t care about their customers (or potential customers). In addition to their incredible lack of judgment that we’re all familiar with, they put people at risk for identity theft because, I believe, the large banks are morally and ethically bankrupt.

I say that because the Bible teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. I believe those universal principles apply to individuals, companies, and governments. When banks flagrantly disregard the risks they are causing to people, I believe they are breaking God’s law (not that they care, but we should care).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Balloon Boy

I believe the episode of “balloon boy” is another indication of how self-centered our society has become. While Mr. Heeney is an extreme case, it does show the extent to which some people will go to make themselves known, and perhaps cash in on it.

The cost of Heeney’s self-serving scheme is large: expenses of those involved in the “rescue” effort, the embarrassment to his family, trauma to the kids, especially “Balloon Boy” himself who threw up on national TV, and Heeney may do jail time.

Before you and I do anything, we should ask ourselves some questions:
“Is this immoral, unethical, or illegal? Does it break one or more of the 10 Commandments?”
If you’re not sure, then ask yourself “Would I want my mother to know about this?”
“Is this strictly self-serving?”
“Could this harm others in some way?”
“Does this bring glory to God or shame?”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trust

The other day I was speaking with my grandchildren. One of them had lied to us, and so we explained how trust is important. I made the statement to them that “The whole world depends on trust.” That kind of raised eyebrows, and then I explained to them what I meant. Below is an expanded version of what I said to them.

Business

Business depends on trust. The vendor sends the customer the good trusting he will be paid. The customer orders the goods trusting they are of good quality and made according to specifications.

Flights

You get on an airplane trusting the pilot to be sober and unimpaired, in addition to being well-trained. You trust the mechanics prepared the plane properly and the air traffic controllers are paying attention.

Marriage

You marry someone trusting they will keep their vows made at the altar before God. You trust that person not to bring home STDs, to be faithful to you, and to do his or her share within the family.

So trust is important. If you have a reputation for being trustworthy and a person of integrity, that will help you in all your dealings. If not, your life will be hindered in various ways.

I believe the main reason why there are so many negative reactions by citizens regarding health care reform is that we don’t trust Congress or the President. Congress has a lower rating than even President Bush at his lowest point. President Obama hasn’t done anything yet to earn our mistrust, so he is right now a victim of the untrustworthiness of his predecessors and mistrust of government in general. You reap what you sow, and Congress is reaping what it has sown for decades.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Letterman: More on Sex – Part 3

More on why I think God did not want sex outside of marriage and why God instituted the family and marriage.

To Protect against Disease

Physical harm is also a prevalent consequence of sex outside of marriage. AIDS, venereal diseases and other problems result from sex outside of marriage. And unknown to many, adultery and promiscuous living increases one’s risk of certain types of cancer. Dr. Ralph Richart of Columbia University’s College of Surgeons says that, infidelity and promiscuous living drastically increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer. So we can see from these common-sense reasons why God’s way is the best.

Conclusion

In conclusion, morality, sex, marriage and the family seem to be the main battleground in the culture wars that we are experiencing in this country. Make no mistake about it, others chose this battleground, not the so-called religious right, the Church, or Christians in general. It is the other side that wants to totally remake society according to its values, and its values generally contradict Scripture.

The Church and Christians are simply reacting to this attempt to radically redefine society as we know it and the way God established it. Somebody has to stand up against these radical forces, and it should be the Church. As a matter of fact, the other side will ridicule family TV programs of the 1950’s such as “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver,” and “Ozzie and Harriet.” They will say such programs were not real, but were idealized and untrue versions of life.

My response is, So what? What’s the harm in that? At least those programs gave both adults and kids a model of what families should be like, rather than the dysfunctional families of Homer Simpson and Al Bundy. Moreover, those long-gone TV programs presented men as positive role models rather than the idiots portrayed on today’s sitcoms (such as “Two and a Half Men”). Better to have good role models that show that fidelity and a good family life are preferable to promiscuity and irresponsible behavior.

The other side in the battle will also tell us that Scripture is merely one ancient society’s view of how life should be lived, and it is time to move on to more modern thinking. I feel that’s not true: I believe, as I hope you do, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, given to us to reveal God’s will for our lives. Therefore, we should pay attention to what the Bible says in all areas, including sex, because “Father knows best.” God gave us the gift of co-creation, but it is to be used responsibly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Letterman: More on Sex – Part 2

Below are the reasons why I believe God instituted marriage and the family.

Why Not Free Sex

In the past 40 years, we have experienced what is commonly referred to as the “Sexual Revolution.” Is this a good thing? Some people certainly think so. They believe we have broken out of those repressive bonds left over from the days of Puritanism into a bright new day of sexual freedom. And what have been the results of this Brave New World of sexual liberty? A host of problems.

Common Sense Reasons

To truly understand the sexual prohibitions in the Bible, we let’s try to discern why God put them into place. Is God just trying to spoil our fun? God gave us sex. Why can’t we use it as we please? Why do there have to be strings attached? Let’s see if we can come up with a few reasons why God limits sexual relations to married couples.

To Protect Women

Sex without commitment usually hurts women, who many times are left with the results, with little or no support from the father. Women in such circumstances suffer economically, emotionally, and many other ways. With every “right” there is responsibility, especially when other people are involved. I believe God put the commandment against adultery into place so that men would act responsibly regarding women.

To Protect Children

God designed the family, as we know from Genesis. Studies show that children typically do better if brought up in a family with both a mother and a father present. Therefore, another reason why this commandment against adultery was put in place by God is to preserve the family for the welfare of the children who result from the co-creative act.

To Preserve an Orderly Society

Despite what a certain book title says, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a mother and a father, and that so-called nuclear family is the basic building block of society. Think for a minute, What would society look like without the family? We can’t even imagine it, but I suspect it would either be chaos and anarchy, or a repressive dictatorship put in place to maintain order.

To Protect Emotions

God created us in such a way, that we are unable to have a sexual relationship outside of marriage without guilt and emotional tension. Adultery and young people having sex outside of marriage destroys us from the inside. When sex is practiced outside of the protection of the marriage covenant, there is inevitable hurt and the damaging of emotions. Dr. Irving Sands of the Neurological Institute of New York said, “The Ten Commandments are old indeed, yet they comprise the greatest mental hygiene code ever produced.” Dr. Sands went on to say, “Adultery leaves a blight on the emotional part of one’s personality. Moreover it is a source of emotional conflict.”

Sex without commitment leaves people feeling used…even dirty. It frequently results in feelings of worthlessness. So sex outside of marriage can do significant emotional, spiritual and psychological harm.

More on this in a future post.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Letterman: More on Sex – Part 1

In an earlier post on the David Letterman affairs with employees, I talked about how sex outside of marriage is a sin. I would like to explain that statement a little more.

Although Christians are just following biblical guidelines in this regard, our sex-obsessed culture accuses us of being uptight, puritanical, and hung-up on sex. Meanwhile, it is the culture that has gone well beyond good taste, in everything from advertising to TV sitcoms to “wardrobe malfunctions” at the Super Bowl. Moreover, the culture tells us today that we are simply smarter animals, are driven by animal instincts that we can’t control. Our society believes that since we can’t control ourselves, especially our kids, we need to be better educated on how to protect ourselves from the consequences.

However, our society seems to have forgotten that for thousands of years, millions of people did control themselves. Until a society became decadent, people generally followed a moral code that permitted sexual relations only in marriage. Even the Romans, whom we usually consider decadent, did have a time earlier in their history when they were morally upright.
Has the quality of the American population declined so much that we have become unable to have any self-control? No, but society has deteriorated to the point that lies about sex and life are now propagated as truth, even in our schools, and people are buying into them.

Yet God made us, and the Maker provides us with instructions on how God’s creation should live. Just as your car’s owner’s manual tells you how often to change the oil and how not to treat your car, so God gives us guidelines for proper living, because he knows best. Remember that TV program in the 50’s: “Father Knows Best”? Jim Anderson was this wise father who always knew what was best for his family. Well, in spiritual matters, Father really does know best (your heavenly Father, that is).

More on this topic in a future post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Health Care Reform Is Really Needed

There is certainly a lot of debate and conflict surrounding health care reform. I think we really need need four kinds of reform:

(1) We need medial malpractice reform (also known as tort reform) which will reduce the cost of medical care significantly. The powerful trial lawyers (also known as ambulance chasers) are successfully fighting this because reform will mean loss of revenue for them. Forget the good of the public – just keep that money rolling in!

(2) We need medical insurance reform to eliminate bad practices on the part of insurance companies. These bad practices including dropping people who are sick and not covering pre-existing conditions.

(3) We need employer reform. Many employers hire people on a part-time basis so as to avoid providing them benefits, including health insurance. This country has a large number of under-employed people who aren’t able to earn as much as they would like and aren’t covered by health insurance. I don’t know this for sure, but I’ve heard most Walmart employees are not full time. I know it is a common practice in the retail industry.

(4) Finally we need coverage for people who can’t otherwise get health care insurance, the so called “government option.” I don’t know how that should be done so as to avoid unintended consequences, but I suspect if we did the first three things I listed above right, the fourth thing should work. The bottom line is that we shouldn’t have so many uninsured in a country such as ours. It is inhumane and unjust.

One comment about these town hall meetings and those who are saying we shouldn’t have and/or we don’t need reform. These are people who have adequate coverage, and seem to be unwilling to allow others to have coverage. For those who say the government can’t do health coverage, just look at what government employees get and look at Medicare. While Medicare isn’t perfect, most of the elderly think it is good coverage.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Letterman's Folly

David Letterman was in the news recently – in a way he probably didn’t anticipate or want. He had sex with a number of female employees, and was being blackmailed.

We know from the Bible that God does not want sexual relations outside of marriage. This is clear in both the Old and New Testaments. God also takes sexual sin very seriously. We see from God’s response to King David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba that this is serious business.
There are at least five problems with Letterman’s affairs as I see it.

(1) They were sin according to God’s law.

(2) If he had any of these affairs while married, it was a sin against his wife, breaking his vows taken at his wedding, and betraying trust.

(3) He sinned against those women, even if “consensual.” He was in a position of power, and abused that power with these subordinates.

(4) He embarrassed himself and his family. These things are pretty ugly when exposed to the light. God through St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:11-14a:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. NRSV

(5) What he did was highly unprofessional. These are sexual harassment cases just waiting to happen. In most companies, you’d get fired for doing such a thing. Sadly, the morals and ethics in the entertainment industry are so low that he’ll never get fired, and will probably be praised for "doing the right thing" by exposing his blackmailer.

I hope that when you’re tempted you’ll remember these five reasons and not to succumb to the temptation. Just ask yourself this question: “Would I even want anybody to find out about this?”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Presenting the Gospel

In an earlier post, I said that apathy and preaching a watered-down Gospel are two of the biggest problems we have in this country. How should be Gospel be presented in today’s politically correct, “mustn’t ‘offend’ anybody” atmosphere?

First, let me say how it shouldn’t be presented. The in-your-face “You’re going to burn in hell!” approach isn’t very effective, and is quite obnoxious. Just look at how Jesus interacted with people, and you’ve got the best model possible.

“But,” you may say, “Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed tombs and hypocrites. He was in-your-face with them!” Yes he was, to the holier-than-thou Pharisees, but not to the ordinary people. The Pharisees were the fundamentalists of the day who were legalistic, hypocritical, lacking in grace, and prideful. So Jesus was criticizing the religious leaders, but was gentle with the ordinary people he came in contact with.

So how do we present to Gospel? Speak the truth in love. Meet people where they are. Don’t talk down to them. Show respect to them even when their opinions are way off base. Give a good example so that your life is a powerful testimony of your faith – people can spot a hypocrite a mile away. Exude the joy of the Lord in your demeanor and attitude. Point out what the Bible says, not what you believe. What you believe in immaterial – what the Bible says is all-important.

We must present the whole Gospel, not just the warm and fuzzy parts we like. As we progress with someone and gain their trust, we must introduce them to those aspects of the Gospel that some folks might find objectionable but are critical to understanding the role of Jesus as Lord and Savior. For example, the thought of a place like hell is distasteful to them, yet without hell we don’t need Jesus.

Prepare the way with prayer, and let God’s Holy Spirit guide you. Remember that many modern Americans haven’t been brought up in a Christian culture, but in a politically correct atmosphere. They have been brainwashed with PC, humanism, and relativism so that they believe all religions are pretty much alike, all roads lead to God, religion is a crutch for the weak, there is not such thing as absolute truth, and we shouldn’t “offend” anybody by sharing our religious beliefs with them. We have some big hurdles to overcome!

The person may not make a decision, but you have planted the seed. Someone else will water that seed, and then another person may harvest the crop. Don’t be so eager to “close the deal” that you lose the prospect. It’s up to God and it’s in God’s timing, not yours. Remember, you’re God’s instrument of his grace and it’s all about Him, not you.

May God bless you as you are obedient to his call to spread the Good News by word, deed and example.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Watered-Down Gospel

A footnote to my last post: The evening before this Muslim event (Thursday evening), the National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDP), along with Lou Engle, Tony Perkins and other Christian leaders, will hold a national conference call to pray for America. The call is scheduled for 7:30 to 9 p.m. ET.

In that earlier post about the Muslim prayer rally on Capitol Hill, I wrote that apathy is the biggest enemy of Christianity, not Islam or atheists. I want to expand upon that thought in this post. Apathy is our biggest problem by far, but another problem is a watered-down Gospel. Let me briefly explore each one.

Apathy

As I mentioned in my earlier post, apathy has resulted in lower church attendance, people not bringing up their children in the faith, and a widespread ignorance of the Bible. When the people don’t have a solid moral foundation and believe that this life is all there is, then you end up with a society that is self-centered and ultimately without hope. What we need is a Third Great Awakening – in other words, REVIVAL! I think that’s our only hope in the long run, and we should be praying every day for it to come.

In addition, we as Christians must follow biblical directives when it comes to practicing our faith and doing evangelism. Every Christian has a role to play in building up he Kingdom of God on earth. It’s not a matter of when you have time, when you feel like it, or if there’s nothing else going on. That’s the wrong attitude. God comes first, then everything else. Any other attitude is wrong and insults God.

Watered-Down Gospel

Too many churches and preachers water down the Gospel to make it more attractive to modern politically correct ears. Do you want to be politically correct or theologically correct? You don’t get to heaven because of your theology, but you do get to heaven based on your faith in Jesus as your Savior. If that isn’t being preached in your church, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit and don’t look back.

Because of the politically correct liberal theology being taught in seminaries, graduates come out more confused than when they went in. Jesus is downplayed, and good works (especially in the area of “social justice”) are emphasized. When I was in seminary, I had to take a course on missions. The whole emphasis was on helping the less fortunate and nothing was said about telling them about salvation through Jesus. When I brought up the subject, the professor said something like “Of, we should do that too” and that was it. So much for Jesus.

A good example of watered-down Gospel is the very popular Joel Osteen. He is more like Doctor Phil than Billy Graham, but people love him. Why? I guess it’s because he gives helpful advice and maybe that’s all people want. But there’s much more to life than good advice. We need to learn biblical principles, not pop psychology. We need to hear about Jesus, not that all paths lead to God. We need to know that Jesus loves us and wants us for his own, not that we must earn our way into God’s good graces. We need to learn that we are saved by faith, not by works.
I encourage you to not be apathetic about your faith, and to seek out solid biblical teachings. You may have to visit quite a few churches, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll be blessed and the eternal rewards are fantastic!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Muslims Gather in Washington

Something that so far has not been widely reported in the mainstream press is that on September 25, there will be a gathering of Muslims on Capitol Hill. The scene of presidential inaugurations, Promise Keeper events, the annual March for Life, and various other activities will be the site for 50,000 or more Muslims to gather for prayer. This prayer gathering is being organized by a mosque in Elizabeth, NJ, and is supposedly not a political or “Islamic Pride” rally, but a spiritual event.

Event organizer Hassen Abdella said, “There are a lot of people who are Muslims who feel that the image of Islam has been portrayed very derogatorily. We believe that it's very important that the other side of Islam, the real reason people become Muslim, is portrayed as opposed to what people believe in the politics of Islam.

“We’re trying to illustrate the spiritual component. Because there’s too much emphasis on other things in Islam, and that's the problem. Too much emphasis on the politics as opposed to the spirituality. You're not getting to heaven for your politics. The politics will get you in hell; spirituality will get you salvation.” said Abdellah, who is African-American.
(quoted from Churchwatch: Craig von Buseck)

I’m sure there will be some negative reactions by some because of this Islamic prayer rally at the Capitol, but before you react, let me point out a few things for your consideration:

(1) The First Amendment guarantees freedom to practice your religion. Therefore, Muslims have just as much of a right to gather in Washington, DC, as any other religious group, provided they get the proper permits and obey the law. Militant atheists have been trying to suppress religious expression by Christians, and we have been fighting these attempts to trample the Constitution. Should we Christians now turn around and try to prohibit another religious group from gathering for prayer? That would be hypocritical and unchristian.

(2) This will certainly feed the fringe groups who believe Obama is a Muslim. The permit for such a gathering comes from the City of Washington, DC, government, not from the President of the United States. I suspect Obama had nothing to do with this, so don’t let this event fuel the persistent belief that he is a Muslim.

(3) Although this country is diverse religiously, the majority of people are Christian in some form or another. What we as Christians need to do is build up our own faith, reach out to the nominal Christians (the unchurched), and practice our faith as God calls us to do. This country is deteriorating spiritually, not because of Muslims or militant atheists, but because of our own apathy. We’ve raised a generation of young people that don’t know what the inside of a church looks like, and then wonder why they misbehave, don’t respect authority, and have no moral or ethical code to speak of. A strong Christian foundation is the best defense against our enemies.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why I Write What I Write

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll see I write on a wide variety of subjects. Even though I often write on “political” topics, my goal is not political. Underlying just about every post is a moral, ethical, or justice issue. My goal is to give you something to think about, pray about, and act upon. I try to give a viewpoint that you won’t find in the mainstream media.

If you’re familiar with the Bible, morality, ethics, fairness and justice are important. We are encouraged to care for the widow and orphan, for the poor, for the marginalized. What I attempt to do in my posts is to apply these biblical principles to today’s issues, whether it is health care reform or religious freedom. I don’t believe I’m partisan – I go after both the Democrats and the Republicans, and try to call it as I see it. I hope what I’ve been writing has given you some insight and perhaps a different slant on current events. Feel free to email me if you would like me to write on any particular topic or have a question you think I might be able to answer.

It is critical that we the voters stay well-informed, and have multiple sources of information so we can intelligently sift through the various competing viewpoints. Benjamin Franklin said:
“A nation of well-informed [people] who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Joe Wilson’s War

The British are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. A congressman shouts out something during the president’s speech. So what? Have you ever seen a House of Commons session on TV? Now that’s a spectacle.

However, Congress is trying to maintain a level of decorum and civility, at least on the surface. So given our tradition, what Rep. Wilson did was out of order, rude, and uncalled for. There are other ways he can express himself other than shouting out during the president’s speech. Having said that, I believe this hoopla about his outburst has gone on too far. Let it go.

Speaking of Congress, the decorum is only on the surface. Washington has become so polarized it’s amazing anything gets done (and very little of substance does get done). Write your congressman and senator, and tell him or her to not be so political and get the people’s work done. We have too many important issues that must be dealt with.

Republicans, be the loyal opposition, and make your opinions heard, even though you have become close to irrelevant because of your lack of accomplishments when you held a majority in both houses. You still have a meaningful (but non-political) role to play. But then be willing to compromise, and don’t be controlled by ideology or the desire to “bring Obama down.” Shame on you for looking at health care reform as a way to bring him down. That’s politics at its worst.

Democrats, don’t get cocky. I hope you learned something when we threw out the Republicans and voted you in. It wasn’t because we especially liked you, but it was because we were hoping you’d get the message and get the job done. So far you’ve been a disappointment. Listen to the people and the loyal opposition, and put aside agendas, special interests, and ideology. We voted you in, and we can vote you out! Remember that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Racism and Obama

There’s been talk in the media that protests against President Obama and the health care reform proposals are driving by the fact that he is African-American. I find such comments objectionable. What these media commentators are saying that those who protest against the President are ipso facto racist. Is it now wrong to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed rights? I believe this may be a tactic by the Left to try to silence the Right. If so, then they are trampling on the constitution.

I’m not na├»ve enough to believe there aren’t any racists out there, and I know there are some who persist in believing Obama is really a Muslim. Nevertheless, to label most of those protesting against proposed government policies racists is wrong. Our biased media is once again distorting the news, and gullible individuals such as former President Jimmy Carter are buying into these lies. The constitution guarantees us the freedom to protest government policies, and limits the government’s ability to stifle such dissent. However, this freedom of the press is being abused by the mainstream media by putting forth such lies.

Let me also say shame on those who are against Obama simply because he’s African-American. Read your Bible and learn how we are to treat one another. We can certainly criticize his policies and his proposals, but we should never go after him because he’s black. Doing so is ridiculous given the fact that he’s probably smarter than any one of us.

As I’ve said before, pray for our country and pray for our elected officials. They need all the help they can get.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wal Mart Mentality

Unfortunately this country has developed what I call a Wal Mart mentality, meaning that we want inexpensive goods. Nobody wants to pay more than you have to, but there is a point at which you truly get what you pay for.

This summer I went into a big box store to buy a light fixture for the ceiling of a storage space. It was one of those bare bulb simple pull-chain fixtures that used to be made out of white ceramic but is now made out of plastic. I installed the thing, and two or three weeks later, this fine product of China no longer worked. Yes, it was inexpensive, but is that really economy? I don’t think so.

What are the results of our Wal Mart mentality?

(1) Cheaply made goods wear out faster, so you aren’t really saving any money.

(2) American workers are put out of work because everything is made in China. This result is less income for Americans, with the result that more of us must look for inexpensive goods, thus perpetuating the syndrome.

(3) Because we import so much, we have a huge unfavorable balance of trade. China temporarily returns some of the money to us in the form of loans, but eventually they must be paid off. Where are we going to get the money?

My advice is to pay a little more for American-made goods (if you can find any). You’ll probably save both money and aggravation in the long run, and maybe save a few American jobs as well.

Health Care Debate – Part 2

Supposedly the health care proposals are looking to accomplish “health insurance reform.” By that they mean eliminating some of the unfair practices of the private insurers. These include insurance companies refusing coverage for preexisting conditions and dropping people who are “too sick.” Also included is the “government option” for people not covered by their employer’s health insurance. However, care must be taken to prevent companies from dropping their coverage and going with the government option.
Another issue is the cost of health care. For the past 20-30 years is has been growing at a rate that is higher than the rate of inflation. Health care is ridiculously expensive, and something must be done. Already Medicare and Medicaid are costing the government much more than the budget can afford, and that’s with doctors being reimbursed well below what they get from private patients. How in the world do Obama and Congress think they will save money? It’s a pipe dream. No savings will happen without tort reform, and that isn’t even being discussed. See my earlier post on tort reform.
Concrete actions must be taken to reduce costs. I don’t know what they are, but if effective cost-reducing actions aren’t included in the bill that ultimately comes out of all this, it will be a disaster. Pray for all those involved in putting together this health care reform package, that they will be given wisdom to do what needs to be done. They will need the wisdom of Solomon and them some.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Health Care Debate – Part 1

I’ve been watching with interest this health care debate, which seems to have the whole nation in an uproar. One positive aspect of all this is that the people are engaged. Health care hits close to home – everybody is affected by it. For the first time in a long time, people are actively participating in the political process.

Emotions are running high, and there seems to be a deep mistrust of the government in general, and Obama in particular. Why? I think there are several possibilities:

(1) People mistrust what government tells us because government has lied to us and let us down. Bush led us into war in Iraq because there were, we were assured, WMDs in Iraq. Went in, and guess what? No WMDs. The government spent billions to bail out banks, assuring us it was the only way to stave off financial collapse and get the economy going again. Yet the banks did not use much of the money in ways that helped the economy, making us wonder if the billions were wasted.

The people are not convinced that any government agency can do anything particularly well. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, government agencies, helped precipitate the financial crisis. Medicare and Medicaid are rife with fraud and corruption. VA hospitals are not well maintained. Why should we trust the government with our health care?

(2) We’ve all seen the unintended and unanticipated consequences that result from government programs. Health care is too important for us to suffer such consequences, especially when government (meaning Congress) is usually very slow to fix these problems.

(3) We know about the problems with the universal health care programs in other countries. Canada had severe problems, and I wonder how many people died there. I believe their system is doing pretty well now. Of course the system we come up with will be uniquely American, something a lot of people forget.

(4) Regarding mistrust of Obama, he came into office with ridiculously high expectations that no human being could meet. Many voted for him because of the Republicans’ failure to govern properly. Bush was an idiot, while Obama seemed like a breath of fresh air. The Republican-dominated Congress did little, so why not give the Democrats a chance?

Everybody knows that Obama is a liberal, but many moderates voted for him for the reasons mentioned above. Now that he has a chance to implement a liberal agenda onto health care, a lot of people who voted for him are getting nervous. Liberal rhetoric sounds good, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, many tend to back off. Liberal plans are usually utopian and full of unintended consequences.

It appears that many of the proposals floating around Washington are trying to build on what we already have, providing a “government option” for the uninsured. That sounds good, but what if companies drop coverage to their employees, dumping millions of people into the “government option.” The next thing you know, we have a “single payer” system run by the government. That’s what a lot of people are afraid of.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Too Much Time on Your Hands

In my last post I said I gained a sermon illustration from the experience of my computer becoming infected with a virus. See my earlier post “My Worst Nightmare” for a description of what happened.

What kind of a person writes these vicious little programs called viruses and worms? Intelligent but evil people with entirely too much time on their hands. Since my sermon that Sunday was on David and Bathsheba, this fit in perfectly.

The story of King David and his hanky-panky with Bathsheba starts out with this statement (paraphrased): “It was spring, the time when kings go off to war. But David sent his general Joab out with the troops to fight the Ammonites and David stayed home.”

Kings led the troops in those days, yet David chose the comforts of his new palace and the luxuries of the royal court to camping out in the fields. This gave him entirely too much time on his hands, and when he spotted the lovely Bathsheba from the palace roof, he gave in to temptation and had her brought to him. This resulted in a series of events that weren’t good. Read 2 Samuel 11 and 12.

The lessons for us are:
(1) Stay close to God so as to be able to better resist temptation. I suspect David had gotten caught up in worldly things and and drifted away from God.

(2) Keep busy and don’t give yourself too much free time, because too much time on your hands can result in sin.

(3) Don’t put yourself in a position where you can be easily tempted. Just don’t go to those places.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Worst Nightmare

Last Thursday I experienced my worst nightmare as a computer user. Despite firewalls and constantly updated anti-virus software, my computer became infected and was rendered inoperable. I have no idea how it happened because I don’t go to questionable websites, don’t open email attachments if I don’t know the sender, and do a complete scan every week.
Yet technical support said that based on the error message I was receiving, it was an infection from a new virus. What was the damage? I lost all my emails and my address book, and I lost all my files since my last backup in June (including this Sunday’s sermon). I’ve since ordered an external hard drive and will now do mirroring, plus the occasional additional backup to a stick drive. I’ll also make sure I back up my Outlook Express® address book, because it’ll take months to reconstruct it.

Is there any upside to this fiasco? There are a few benefits that came out of this.

First, it provided me with an opportunity to warn you of the possibilities of an infection or a hard disk crash (they do wear out and fail, you know). Do disk mirroring, backup your address book, and don’t go to questionable websites. I was careful and it happened to me. If it happened to me, it can happen to you.

Second, my thanks to Dell Tech Support. The rep spent hours on the phone with me reformatting my hard drive, reinstalling Windows XP®, reinstalling drivers and utilities, and giving me advice. Working with this guy was a positive experience and I appreciate all the time Vinay spent with me.

Third, by clearing out my hard drive, I got rid of 4-5 years of accumulated junk. My computer is now lean and mean, as fast as it’s ever been. It’s like having a new machine! It runs faster, boots up faster, and shuts down quicker. I’ve been told by experts that every few years you should do a complete backup and then do what I was forced to do. Of course you must also have all your program CDs, and it involves getting all the updates and Microsoft service packs since you purchased the software. That takes some time, and then you must configure the applications to the way you like them.

Fourth, I learned the value of frequent back-ups and backing up those things I don’t usually think of, such as my address book. I won’t make those mistakes again.

Fifth, I got a sermon illustration out of this experience, which I’ll relate in my next post.
Yes, most of Thursday and Friday were spent on this disaster, but there were some benefits. I just thank God I had my original CDs of most of my programs. I didn’t have my Word for Windows® CD (which was an old version anyway), so I downloaded the free suite from OpenOffice.org®, and they are working fine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

California Prisoner Release

California recently announced that it is considering releasing 27,000 inmates from its state prisons to save money during its fiscal crisis. Of all the ways to save money, that is the worst I’ve ever seen. All you’re doing is moving the expenditures from the prison system to the police and probation departments, and of course to the general public. The public is put at risk to save a few dollars. How short-sighted!

There is such a thing a restorative justice in which convicted criminals are rehabilitated as part of their incarceration. This doesn’t happen in the U.S. very much, so most inmates come out of prison worse than when they went in. Rather than rehabilitate prisoners, our system is a training ground for them. The recidivism rate is this country is pitiful, something like 70%. We should remember that the pervert who abducted the 11 year old girl in 1991 who was just discovered was out on early parole.

There is a proven way to reduce the recidivism rate and rehabilitate prisoners, but it is often rejected by our short-sighted officials. Prison ministries such as Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship and Kairos introduce prisoners to Jesus Christ, and Jesus can change lives. The Prison Fellowship track record is impressive. No prisoner is forced to participate in any of these ministries, but those that do are often transformed.

Rather than sending unrehabilitated prisoners back into the streets, why aren’t our state officials more enlightened? Why not let these proven and reputable ministries operate in the prisons? Ultimately the state will save money, the public will be safer, and these former inmates will become productive members of society.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ted Kennedy’s Legacy (Part 2)

Looking back over the Kennedy family’s history, and focusing on Ted, I find some interesting things.

First, this youngest brother was an embarrassment to the family early on. He wasn’t a good student, cheated at Harvard and got thrown out, and generally didn’t seem to have much potential.

Second, this late bloomer ended up having more of an impact on this country than his two high-potential brothers, President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, both of whose lives were cut short.

Third, despite appearing to be not too bright and having a flawed personal life, he grew into his job as senator. He developed a great speaking style, similar to his brothers, and effectively learned how to work the system: craft bills, negotiate, and compromise. Despite being on the far left of the American political spectrum, he could and did work with those in the middle and on the right. Too bad that doesn’t happen more today.

Fourth, his heart was in the right place in that he worked on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and the disadvantaged. Despite a brief run at the presidency in 1980, he appeared to be content in the Senate, where he built a power base and pursued his agenda.

Fifth, I believe he was better off and more effective as a senator than he ever would have been as president. Similarly, Lyndon Johnson should have stayed in Congress where he had power and influence, and not become Vice-President (and ultimately President). It may have been God’s provision for Ted and the country that he remained in the Senate. Otherwise, it is possible he could have gone down in history as a mediocre president rather than as a great senator.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy’s Legacy (Part 1)

There will be a lot in the media about Ted Kennedy now that he has died. Let me add a few thoughts of my own.

He came from a family that clearly wanted to create an American dynasty. When Joe Junior was killed during WWII, the baton was passed to Jack. He did, in fact, become president, although his presidency was tragically cut short by an assassin in 1963. Bobby ran in the primaries in 1968, but his run was cut short by an assassin. Finally Ted considered running but his scandals precluded him from doing do. I’m glad he didn’t run, because I don’t think he had what it takes to be president.

As the last male survivor of that generation of the Kennedys, Ted ran for the Senate. In reality, he may have had more power and influence for a longer period of time in the Senate than he ever would have had as president. It was a good move and from his safe seat, he could pursue his liberal agenda.

Unfortunately his lifestyle was not a good example for his children, extended family, and the nation. He chased women (despite being married to a beautiful woman) and drank too much. He apparently inherited the Kennedy sex drive gene, and it got him in trouble. As a Kennedy, he could do no wrong in Massachusetts, so his Senate seat was always safe, no matter what.

While I didn’t agree with much of his liberal agenda, I do believe that he sincerely wanted to make the world a better place, which is commendable. The problem I have with liberals, in a nutshell, is not so much their objectives, but their means of achieving them. Often their programs do more harm than good because they don’t consider the unintended consequences of their programs.

Hopefully the retrospectives of Kennedy’s life will provide us with a nice history lesson concerning the last 50 years. Some of that history was influenced by Senator Edward Kennedy, and he deserves credit for doing his best to achieve what he believed in.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Humanitarian Act (Part 2)

You may have read my opinion in part 1 concerning the release of the Lockerbie terrorist, and may be thinking, “Isn’t Christianity all about mercy and forgiveness? Where’s this guy coming from?”

Let’s take a quick look at the Christian understanding of God’s justice. If you repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus, you are spared the penalty of all that you’ve done wrong over your whole lifetime. Now that’s forgiveness! However, in order for that to happen, somebody did have to pay that penalty. If it isn’t you, then who paid? By his death on the cross, Jesus paid.

So God’s perfect justice demands that the penalty must be paid, either by Jesus or by us. If we trust Jesus for our salvation, we escape paying the penalty. If we don’t trust Jesus for our salvation, we pay the price, which is eternal separation from God. “Salvation” (from the Latin salvare meaning “to save”) means being saved from having to pay that penalty for our wrongdoing.

Man’s justice, while imperfect, also demands that a penalty must be paid for breaking the law. The worse the crime, the longer the time. If the full penalty, as determined by a court, is not paid, then justice is perverted. Even though the Lockerbie terrorist is dying, I believe he should die in prison in accordance with a life sentence. That what a life sentence means: you’re in prison until you die. No exceptions.

Another point is that governments are not necessarily subject to the same biblical guidelines as individuals. Jesus told individuals to “walk the extra mile” and “turn the other cheek.” Governments, by their nature, need to operate according to different standards because of the need to maintain order, seek justice, and defend its citizens. What might be a good act by an individual may be an irresponsible act on the part of a government agency. I’m not saying governments should be despotic, but their role is different.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Humanitarian Act? (Part 1)

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the recent release of the terrorist who had been imprisoned for the bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Scottish justice officials claim they released him for “humanitarian reasons” because he is dying of cancer. Ethically and morally, was this a good thing to do. Was it a good deed or an injustice?

There are a lot of unknowns in this case. Was there a deal for oil made with Libya? Was this guy really the perpetrator or a scapegoat? Were there some sinister goings-on that we’re not aware of? Assuming that this was strictly done for humanitarian reasons and this guy really is the perpetrator, was it the right thing to do?

On the surface, it appears to be humanitarian – let the poor guy die at home with his family and friends. However, every action affects other people and usually has unintended consequences. In this case, we have somebody who committed a horrific crime, killing hundreds of innocent people. You have the families and friends of these victims, numbering into the thousands, who are emotionally affected by his release from prison. So it may have been a humanitarian action for the criminal, but it was not humanitarian to these thousands of family and friends. To them, it opened raw emotions anew, and they consider this release a gross injustice. To make matters worse, he received a hero’s welcome in Libya – another unintended consequence.

You might say, “So what? The guy only has three months to live? What’s the big deal?” To that I respond with two points:

(1) The guy committed a horrific crime and deserves no breaks, even if he is dying. He showed no mercy to the hundreds of people he killed, and deserves no mercy himself.

(2) The criminal justice system gave him a life sentence and it should be carried out. Releasing him perverts the system, especially given the nature of his crime.

Had his crime been less serious, such as drug possession, I would say by all means, release him and let him die in peace. That would be truly humanitarian and an appropriate act of mercy. But releasing a person responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent people isn’t humanitarian, it is an injustice and hurtful to the families and friends of the victims, in my opinion.

A Good Deed

I was pleased to read a piece of good news in a recent Poughkeepsie Journal issue. Thanks, Journal, for printing an article about a good deed being done in Fishkill. A group of people have organized a volunteer effort to refurbish and repair a house so it can be sold for a decent amount of money. That money will then be used to help pay for the education of two orphaned boys.

These boys, who lived on Broad Street in Fishkill, had both parents pass away within a few years of each other. The house had fallen into disrepair, and these volunteers are working to get it into sellable condition. I believe they will be doing this through August 30, so please stop by and help. The house is across the street from the library, which has a container for monetary donations for these two boys.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New York City

This week my wife and I took a mini-vacation in New York City. Besides the heat and humidity it was a very enjoyable experience. We remember NYC back in the 1960s and 1970s when it was dirty, unfriendly, crime-ridden, and graffiti-filled. In those days most subway cars were ancient, dirty, and not air conditioned. Today the city is much better in many ways.

It’s still crowded, and there’s still crime, but less per capita than in many other American cities. The thing that struck us the most is the friendliness of the people. The hotel staff from the maid to the concierge, people in the subway giving up their seats to us, restaurant staff, and others seemed to be genuinely friendly and welcoming. If only more of our churches were as friendly and welcoming!

While in NYC we visited the Titanic exhibit at the Discovery Center just off Times Square. It was very interesting, and it pointed out one thing that I had forgotten. Of all the lifeboats that were launched off the sinking ship, most were not full. That means many people chose to put their faith in a sinking ship than in the safety of a lifeboat. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Yet we do the same thing. We put our faith in failing institutions or other things of this world that will soon disappear, rather than placing our faith where it really belongs – in God. Let’s not be like those passengers on the Titanic with misplaced faith in a ship that was doomed. Instead let’s go with God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who by the way loves you very much (whether you like it or not).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Health Care Reform

Obama’s “health care reform” is certainly a hot topic these days. There has been much anger expressed at these so-called “Town Hall Meetings” where people are outraged at the threat of government interference in their choice of doctors, plans, etc. Much of this emotion is based on ignorance and misinformation. I don’t have all the facts either, but let me point our a few things.

Tort Reform

As I mentioned in an earlier post, any changes to our health care system that don’t include tort reform are inadequate and counter-productive. Yet the politicians aren’t saying much, if anything, about limiting the liability of doctors, hospitals, and other medical people. See my earlier post in July for more on that very important subject.

The Uninsured and Under-Insured

I heard a statistic that said the number one reason that people file for personal bankruptcy is because of medical bills they just can’t pay. The uninsured use the emergency departments of hospitals as a clinic, which is expensive and not the use for which those facilities were intended. With something like 47 million people not covered by insurance, something must be done.

Do It Right the First Time

Whatever is done, it will dramatically change the health care landscape of this country forever. It must be done right the first time, or it will be a disaster. That’s why this can’t be rushed, but it must be moved along. All sides must be heard from. Government programs are subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences, and the possible unintended consequences must be thoroughly thought through, analyzed, and addressed. We can’t afford a health care disaster.

Quality and Quantity

The quality of medical care is generally good in the US. What health care reform must do is maintain that quality (and hopefully even improve on it) while making it available to more people. We should look to other industrialized nations and see what they are doing. Then we should take the best of each plan and put together something that will be the best in the world. In industry that is known as “Best Practice.”

Cost Control

Cost of universal health care is a legitimate concern. Government cost projections are notoriously optimistic, so this brave new world of universal health care must be done right, or it could bankrupt the country. Eliminating the cost of practicing defensive medicine and the outrageous cost of malpractice insurance are two big cost savings that can be realized by tort reform, which is desperately needed. Standardizing insurance forms, converting to electronic record-keeping, and eliminating other waste are other ways health care reform can help pay for itself.

Conclusion

The reason I’m writing about this is that it is a fairness and justice issue. We must, as a humane society, provide quality health care to everybody. Pray for our leaders, that they will have the wisdom to do this right.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Be alert

There is another lesson we can learn from the tragic accident on the Taconic Parkway in which eight people were killed when a drunken woman traveled the wrong way on that highway. The lesson is, pay attention!

Drivers must always be looking well ahead of the car in front of them, because you never know what’s coming up: a slow-down in traffic (watch for brake lights), a complete stoppage, merging traffic, an erratic or very slow driver on a high speed highway, or activity in the breakdown lane.

When traveling in any traffic, whether on a high-speed expressway or a lower speed city street, we always have to be alert and watching for the unknown. Even pedestrians must pay attention, obviously when crossing the street, but also while walking on the sidewalk. Pedestrians should watch for irregularities in the sidewalk, other pedestrians, and obstacles (trees, parking meters).

Despite this need for safety and alertness, people are distracted constantly. Cell phone use (whether walking or driving) is dangerous, and texting even more so. Texting while driving is the equivalent of driving while intoxicated and should never be done. In cars people drink, eat, fiddle with the radio or CD player, and all kinds of other activities. How about staying focused on the task at hand – driving!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Drunk Causes 8 Deaths

A couple of weeks ago there was a terrible traffic accident on the Taconic Parkway near Hawthorn, New York. A woman was driving the wrong way on this divided highway, keeping in her lane as cars swerved to avoid her. Finally she crashed into an oncoming car, killing all three men in that car in addition to four kids and herself in her car.

This was a big mystery, since nobody could figure out how she could have made such a terrible mistake in broad daylight, and not even react when she was obviously driving against the traffic. Finally the mystery has been cleared up. She was drunk and high on marijuana.

This is an example of how one person’s behavior can affect others. This woman’s irresponsible behavior caused the death of herself, her child, her brother’s children, and three others. What could make this even worse is that if her family knew of these tendencies and let her drive anyway. Sometimes family and/or friends must intervene.

Before doing something, such as drinking and driving, think of the possible consequences to yourself and others. I think, not only of this woman and her family, but of the New Jersey politicians that were arrested recently for taking bribes. What were they thinking? They brought shame upon themselves, their families, their cities and towns, and on the state of New Jersey. I think of the various politicians who have been caught in sexual sin, from Gov. Spitzer of New York to Gov. Sanford of South Carolina, and a lot of others. These things have a way of getting found out, so why did they think they were going to get away with it? Their careers are ruined, they and their families disgraced, their children ashamed, and their marriages gone.

There are consequences to your actions. Do the right thing, and the consequences will be positive. Do the wrong things, and there will most likely be disaster.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

David and Goliath- Part 4

This is a continuation of my discussion of the story of David and Goliath. See 1 Samuel 17-18.

Not Discouraged

David was not discouraged by the insults of his brothers, who told him he had no business being there and he should go home to his sheep. He wasn’t discouraged by Saul, who said he was only a boy and shouldn’t even think of fighting this experienced warrior. David wasn’t discouraged by Goliath’s taunts and, most likely, by the laughter and insults coming from the Philistines.

David wasn’t discouraged that this giant was armored with a helmet, coat of mail, armor on his legs, a huge spear with an iron tip, a sword and shield. This guy was formidable, but that didn’t discourage David. We, also, shouldn’t allow ourselves to be discouraged or overwhelmed by things in life, even when they seem too large to handle. Let us always keep our eyes on God, who is our ever-present help in times of need, as we read in Psalm 46:1-3:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. NRSV

God Prepared David

Finally, God used circumstances to prepare David all his life, just as God prepares us to do his work. First, God prepared David for his battle with Goliath by his experience with the wild animals while tending his father’s flock. This experience gave him the skills to bring down the giant with a stone.

Second, God prepared David to be the future king by having Saul bring him into the army. David learned leadership skills, military tactics, and got to know important people. David also spent time in Saul’s court, so David learned about that as well.

We can see that God arranges circumstances to fit with his plan.

Conclusion

You and I might not be fighting physical battles like Saul and his army, but we are fighting spiritual and emotional battles all the time. We are battling temptations, discouragement, frustration, and feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed. Yet God assures us in Romans 8:37 that “…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (NIV) Let us always keep in mind the words of David in Psalm 18:2-3:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
so I shall be saved from my enemies.

In his battle with Goliath, David fought for the glory of God. He came to the contest in the name of the Lord, the God of the armies of Israel. He wanted Goliath, the Philistine army, and all the earth to know that the true and living God was Israel’s God. Goliath had ridiculed Israel’s God and blasphemed his holy name, but David set the record straight. David saw this as a contest between the true God of Israel and the false gods of the Philistines.

Our life is also a struggle against the false gods of this world: greed, jealously, materialism, and self. Rather than giving in to these false gods, let us always do things for God’s glory, and not for our own.