Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lessons from the Nativity Story

The nativity narrative is in the Bible mainly to provide some proofs that Jesus is the Messiah. This is done in two ways.

We see fulfilled prophecies. The story provides proof that Jesus is the Messiah by showing how he fulfilled certain prophecies from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). He was born in Bethlehem of a virgin, and he was of the house of David, for example.

The second way we see proofs that Jesus is the Messiah is by the special occurrences surrounding his birth. We see angels announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds and even Gentile Magi coming from the East to worship the Christ Child.

What We Learn

In addition to providing proofs of Jesus’ messiahship, the nativity story teaches us with some important lessons as well.

I think a major lesson for us is the obedience we see exhibited by Mary, Joseph, and the Magi.

a. Mary’s Obedience. Mary yielded to the will of God when she replied to the angel (Luke 1:38): “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” NRSV

She must have known that her rather “unusual” pregnancy would cause her, Joseph, and their families grief and heartache. There were some unanswered questions as well. Nevertheless, Mary trusted in God and submitted her will to God’s.

b. Joseph’s Obedience. We read in the Gospel of Matthew about his obedience to the angel who appeared to him in a dream (Matthew 1:24): When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife. NRSV

Like Mary, he must have known that this ride wasn’t going to be easy. Given all that had happened up to then, Joseph could have very well said “Forget about it. I don’t need this drama.” Yet he stepped out in faith and took Mary as his wife.

c. Lastly we see the obedience of the Magi to God’s calling of them through the special star to come and worship the King of the Jews. Travel wasn’t easy in those days, but they knew the long and difficult trip would be worth it. They were obedient and were rewarded by being the first Gentiles to see the Jewish Messiah, as far as we know.

At the very beginning of his life these Gentile Magi considered Jesus to be the “King of the Jews”. At the end of his life, another Gentile referred to Jesus as “King of the Jews,” the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. He ordered a sign to be written and put above the cross saying: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in three languages: Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. That’s what the INRI on a crucifix stands for – in Latin it is “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum.” While Pilate’s inscription was more sarcastic than sincere, Jesus the “King of the Jews” did come for all, both Jews and Gentiles.

There Is Often a Cost to Obedience

The last lesson we learn from the nativity story is that often there is a cost to obedience. Mary and Joseph didn’t have it easy. Joseph had been humiliated by Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, Mary was looked down upon as being of questionable virtue, and their families were embarrassed by the whole thing. Then to make matters worse, Mary and Joseph had to take a long trip on foot, thanks to the Romans. She ended up giving birth in a barn in a strange town, surrounded by unfamiliar people. Then they were uprooted once again, and had to flee to Egypt to save the baby’s life.

33 years later, Mary suffered unimaginable heartbreak – just as Simeon had prophesied when he said to her: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:35, NIV). She had to watch her son suffer and die a cruel death on a Roman cross. Even when we are in God’s will, we aren’t guaranteed an easy time of it.

But God was with them, as we see in the nativity story. God guided Joseph through visits by angels, and God provided a private place for Mary to give birth, and the gifts of the Magi most likely financed their unplanned trip to Egypt.

I hope this explains why Christmas and the Nativity Story should be important to Christians, and why the holiday goes well beyond gift-giving, Santa Claus, and good cheer.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas

I. Introduction

We often focus on the wrong star. We are so easily distracted by things of this world because we are of this world. The ways of God are mysterious and often hard for us to understand, while the ways of the world appeal to us. Besides, we can’t see God, we can’t hear God, and sometimes we wonder if God is even there.

Maybe God hasn’t answered your prayers as you would have liked, and you feel abandoned or betrayed by God. While God isn’t a genie in a bottle who fulfills our every wish, God does love us and is there for us in times of need. Maybe you can testify to that because you have experienced God’s presence in times of trouble.

Stars that Point to God

How do we know that God loves us so much? Jesus coming to earth is a sure sign of God’s love. Would you leave the comforts of heaven to come to earth, especially knowing what was going to happen to you? I know I wouldn’t.

We also know God loves us because God makes it easy for us to find him. At his birth a special star pointed the way for the Wise Men to find Jesus. Today we don’t have that star, but we have other things pointing the way for “wise men” to follow.

For example, we have the Bible, we have creation shouting out the glory of God, and we have the life stories of believers. At a particular time in history the people of that day could actually see, hear and touch God, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. Today we can still see, hear and touch God through prayer, Bible reading, worship, and the people God puts in our lives.

The Magi followed the star because they knew that baby was someone special – they referred to him as the “King of the Jews.” People come to him today because Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Redirect Our Lives

As we begin to understand that, our focus changes.

Worldly things will have less appeal, because we know there is something much better. The things of the earth lead to a dead end – when you’re dead, they end. On the other hand, the things of God last forever.

As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we will have more of an eternal perspective and less of a worldly viewpoint. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we will experience hope, love, peace, joy, and reconciliation. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.


So which star are you following? The star of success or career? The star of materialism? The star of escapism? (thru busyness, drugs, food, porn, booze, denial) Or are you already following the Star of Bethlehem?

If you are, then you are fulfilling your God-given purpose in life – to be in relationship with God. That’s why you and I were created – to know, love, and serve God, and to be with him forever. If you are following a different star, then why not pray the words of the fourth stanza of the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. I’ll personalize it by using the first person:

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to me, I pray;
Cast out my sin, and enter in, be born in me today.
I hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to me, abide with me, my Lord Emmanuel!

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Meaning of Christmas

As we approach Christmas Day, people talk about the “spirit of Christmas” and “good cheer”. Most of these sentiments have little to do with the true meaning of Christmas. The day is one of the “high holy days” on the Christian calendar, and it commemorates the birth of Jesus. Of course we don’t know the exact date of his birth, but that is relatively unimportant.

Calling Christmas the “birthday of Jesus” is good for kids to grasp the basic meaning of the holiday, but it sort of trivializes the day for adults. That’s because Christmas goes much deeper and is more significant than simply a birthday.

To Christians, Jesus is not only the Jewish Messiah (the “Christ” from the Greek), but he is also God in a man. God came to earth in the form of a man, born of a woman (John 1:14):
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

This coming to earth of God in a human body is called The Incarnation (from the Latin) or the enfleshment of God (from the German). God had, from time to time in the past, been a physical presence among his people Israel, such as in the cloud and pillar of fire to guide them in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22):
The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. (NRSV)

But God never came to earth as a human being and lived as one of us for a period of time. So the Incarnation is unique in human history. God, in the form of Jesus, came for a specific purpose, which is outlined in Philippians 2:5-11:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

So as we celebrate Christmas, let us remember the true meaning of the day – not gifts, but the greatest Gift.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Seventieth Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Sunday, December 7, 1941, was a date that will live in infamy, in the words of President Roosevelt in his speech to Congress on December 8. On December 7, 2011, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of that attack by the Japanese on our military facilities in Hawaii.

Comparisons to 9/11

Sixty years after Pearl Harbor, on 9/11/2001, we were once again attacked on our own soil by foreign forces hostile to us. At that time comparisons were drawn between Pearl Harbor and 9/11:

•Both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were unprovoked, and both caught the US by surprise.

•Both took place in the morning, and both involved aircraft. The first bomb at Pearl Harbor fell at 7:55 and the first plane hit the WTC at 8:45.

•Both involved substantial property loss. At Pearl, 18 ships were sunk or seriously damaged, plus there was damage to 300 aircraft and to various facilities. In NYC, the entire WTC complex and some nearby buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged.

•Both involved a substantial loss of life. At Pearl, 2,403 men and women lost their lives, all but 68 were military. Over 3,000 were killed on 9/11, and most of those deaths were civilians.

•Both attacks were personal to Americans. Hawaii was an American territory and the attack was against our military installations there. Many knew servicemen who lost their lives or were in Hawaii at the time.

The attack on 9/11 was even closer to home, and involved ordinary people at work, like any one of us. Many people, particularly in the New York metropolitan area, were personally touched by these attacks, knowing people on the airplanes or in the buildings.

•Evil as it was, the Japanese had a strategic objective in attacking Pearl Harbor. The Japanese saw us as an obstacle to further expansion into the Philippines, Australia, and elsewhere. The US had become increasing hostile to Japan and had initiated trade and oil embargoes against it. Their objective was to neutralize our Pacific fleet so it would be out of commission for several years. This would allow the Japanese to continue their conquests in Asia without US interference.

Regarding 9/11, I can not find any strategic objective to an attack on civilian buildings such as we saw on that terrible day. That’s what makes those attacks senseless and diabolical.

Pearl Harbor Strategic Failure

Interestingly, from a strategic point of view, the Pearl Harbor attack was a failure.
It failed in four ways:

1.The most important naval weapon, the aircraft carrier, was untouched in the attack. Not a single carrier was in port at the time. Within a few months our carriers had engaged the enemy in significant naval battles.

2.The second most important naval weapon, the submarine, was also untouched by the attack. The sub base at Pearl was only moderately damaged and was soon back in operation. US subs were attacking Japanese shipping all over the Pacific.

3.The enormous fuel depot at Pearl was completely untouched. Even if no ships had been sunk but the fuel depot had been destroyed, our fleet would have soon been rendered useless for a substantial period of time.

4.The Pearl Harbor attack united Americans as never before. I suspect the Japanese wanted to demoralize us, but the effect was just the opposite. We were resolved to defeat an enemy that was devastating Asia and had now hit our home shores.

Why was it that Pearl Harbor was a failure to the Japanese? I believe it was because God protected us so that we could be instrumental in defeating the evil of Nazi and Japanese expansionism. Without the involvement of the US in the war, I don’t believe these evil expansionist empires could have been stopped. Because of US involvement in the war, Europe was eventually liberated and large parts of Asia were freed from the harsh rule of the Japanese Empire.

So rather than excluding God from our society and our individual lives, let us give thanks for God’s divine protection. Yes, we did have to fight a terrible war with a significant loss of life, but God was with us in that war and gave us the victory.

You may say, “It was the bomb that gave us victory over the Japanese, not God.” Remember, both the Germans and the Japanese were working on atomic bombs, but we were the only ones who succeeded in developing the right technology – that was God’s provision in my opinion.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Thanks (with a Grateful Heart) – Part 2

I’m exploring the issue of being thankful in light of what the Bible tells us. I’m hoping that by doing so, Thanksgiving Day this year might be a little more meaningful for you and your family. This is the second of two posts on the topic of thankfulness.

IV. Your Life Is an Offering

Although most people are not working in full time ministry, they can still live out their faith in their everyday lives. We, if we are people of faith, should make our lives an offering to the Lord.

1. Show Thanks by Serving God

How do we do that? We make our lives an offering by serving God out of gratitude for all that God has done for us. We should also do it out of love for God. Because we want to know, love, and serve God, we join the church at some point in our life.

When we join Christ’s community of grateful believers in the United Methodist Church, we make certain commitments by answering in the affirmative to these questions:
As a member of Christ’s universal Church, will you be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?
As a member of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?

Let’s look briefly at each of these because they are the key components of the Christian life:

a. Prayers

“Your Prayers” means you’ll support the work of the church by praying for the church every day. It also means we’ll pray for each other – that’s why we have the prayer time in the service – so we know how to pray during the week. Praying for each other during the week keeps us spiritually connected to each other and to God.

b. Presence

“Your Presence” means you’ll regularly attend worship, joining the community of believers as we have been commanded to do. No only is God worthy of your regular attendance at worship, but you will be blessed as well.

c. Gifts

“Your Gifts” refers to supporting the work of the church financially by your regular offerings. Offerings are given as a sign of our appreciation for God’s provision by giving back to God some of what he has entrusted to us. Giving is a spiritual discipline just as much as prayer, worship, Bible study, and serving in various ministries.

d. Service

“Your Service” refers to participating in the ministries of the church. We need to have various ministries and people participating in them, so that the church becomes a vibrant community of faith.

e. Witness

“Your Witness” refers to telling others about Jesus and inviting them to church if they don’t currently have one. In a broader sense, your witness also means you live your life in such a manner as to bring glory to God in all that you do. People should see your life and think, “I want what she has.”

I encourage you to prayerfully look at each aspect of your commitment: your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Regarding your gifts, the best way to do that is to look at your giving as a percent of your income.

2. Look at Percent of Income

If your giving is one or two percent of your income, that’s not showing much gratitude to God. If you are giving five or so percent, that’s not bad but falls short of the biblical standard. Hopefully you are working your way up to 10%, which is what the Bible says is the preferred percentage. If you think 10% is a lot, think of what you pay in taxes: federal, state, and social security taxes amount to something over 30% of your income. Want to reduce those taxes? Your offerings are tax deductible if you itemize.

a. God’s Provision of Transportation

As you increase your percentage giving each year, you’ll notice that you are being more and more blessed by God. For example, as Sue and I increased our percent giving over the years, we saw God’s blessings in a number of ways.

One way was God’s provision of cars to us, which was important because I used to put on about 30,000 miles per year with my daily commute. God is so generous that once we even got a free car! When Sue’s Aunt Doris decided to give up driving, she gave Sue her car with only 8,000 miles on it. Not only was the car free, but Sue drove it for many years, and it is still on the road with its new owner.

One day in 1989 I noticed a blue Pontiac Grand Am parked on the front lawn of a house with a “For Sale” sign on it. After seeing that car still there after a week or two, and knowing that my car would need to be replaced soon, I stopped in. I believe God directed me to this guy, who became my source of four reasonably-priced cars over a 10 yr period. Buying these used cars in a private deal saved us a lot of money.

When I bought my last car from him, the red Grand Prix I had up until 2 years ago, he showed me what he had just bought as his next car. It was a bright red Corvette. He said, “Here’s your next car!” I said, “I don’t think so.” So the moral of the story is: increase your giving and watch how God will bless you – perhaps in unexpected ways.

V. Conclusion

I think the bottom line is that Christianity isn’t a religion, but a relationship. It isn’t an add-on to your life, but it is a way of life. Christianity is counter-cultural in that we no longer have the world’s priorities but we have God’s priorities. As transformed people we have the mind of Christ, was we read in Philippians 2:3-5:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. NRSV

If you are living that way, I hope this is an encouragement to you – that you are living as God wants you to live. Then you also know that because you are generous and are thankful to God, you are constantly refreshed with God’s joy. Hopefully you will continue to live a life pleasing to God, serving his church through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. May our lives be a sweet-smelling offering to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering JFK

Today is Nov. 22, and this date calls to mind Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was killed by an assassin. I vividly remember most of the events of those days, starting with the news the President had been shot, and concluding with the funeral early the following week. No matter what your politics, it was a dark day for this country. Five years later we had more assassinations: Jack’s brother Robert F. Kennedy, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More dark days, and I think the many terrible events of 1968 and following set this country on a path that led to more discontent and mistrust of authority, especially of governmental authority.

Today we are facing discontent, as we see from the Occupy movement. College campuses are erupting in demonstrations as well, and the middle class is feeling the financial crunch. Moreover, it seems the poor are getting poorer, and college kids graduate with huge debts to repay. The failure of the so-called “Super Committee” to come to an agreement regarding reducing the federal deficit brings out even more discontent and mistrust of government. Essentially what we have is a non-functioning Congress, that even as a crisis approaches can’t compromise. Haven’t they heard the saying, “Politics is the art of compromise?”

What should our politicians do?

-Close tax loopholes for individuals and corporations so there is a little more fairness while not penalizing people for being successful (as other countries often do).

-Eliminate costly weapons systems that are of questionable value in this post-Cold War era, and focus on the basic weapons needed for today’s conflicts.

-Eliminate subsidies or tax breaks for special interests, whether they be companies, the arts, or other non-essential things.

-Government at all levels should narrow its focus to what government does best or what are government’s main functions: education, police, fire, roads, infrastructure, defense, consumer protection, etc. Just as the European countries will have to reduce their “womb to tomb” social benefits, our government will have to stop subsidizing or paying for non-essential things, beneficial as they may seem.

As people of faith, we must pray for our country daily. I fear for the future of the United States given the mess we’re in and the even bigger mess coming down the pike. Discontent can lead to ugly riots, crime, and even anarchy. Just look at what’s happening overseas in such places as Egypt, Greece, etc. We, of course, must put our faith in God, not in government, but we should pray that God will direct our representatives and senators to make the tough decisions for the good of the nation.

And by the way, we should stop trying to eliminate God from our society, and remember that the holiday coming up is called “Christmas”, not “Holiday.” How do we expect God to bless this country when God isn’t even a part of our life, except as an expletive? So choose this day whom you will trust, God or government.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Give Thanks (with a Grateful Heart) – Part 1

I. Introduction

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day set aside for us to think of our many blessings and be thankful. Although the meaning of the holiday may seem obvious, Thanksgiving Day can raise a question or two for some people: One question is, why should I give thanks when things aren’t going particularly well? “What have I got to be thankful for these days?” Another question might be, to whom are we supposed to give thanks?

I’d like to explore this issue of being thankful in light of what the Bible tells us. I’m hoping that by doing so, Thanksgiving Day this year might be a little more meaningful for you and your family. This is the first of two posts on the subject of being thankful.

II. Why Give Thanks?

Let’s look at the first question, “Why should I give thanks? What have I got to be thankful for these days?” You might be asking that question:
-if you have lost your job or think you are about to lose it;
-if you have lost a loved one or someone you care about is very sick;
-if you have health, family, or other problems that are wearing you down;
-if you have an incurable disease or some kind of chronic condition; or
-if you are worried about the future because of the bad economy.

So why should we give thanks when there are so many things that aren’t going well, or the future is questionable?

1. Give Thanks in All Circumstances

One reason we should give thanks, even when we may not feel like it, is because the Bible says we should (in 1 Thessalonians 5:15b-18):
Always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. NRSV

This was written by the Apostle Paul, who, as you see in the Book of Acts, didn’t exactly have an easy life.

2. Learn to Be Content

The second reason we should be able to give thanks is because we have learned to be content despite problems, something easier said than done. We can’t do that in our own strength, so God helps us to do so as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13:
For I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. NRSV

Similarly, we read in Hebrews 13:5-6a about being content and trusting God to get us through any difficulties we might be facing:
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for [God] has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. NRSV

It’s difficult to be content when the future seems to be so uncertain, yet trusting in God’s provision will ease our worries and give us confidence. Jesus gave us this wise advice about our priorities and worrying (in Matthew 6:33-34):
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.” NRSV

3. It Could Be Worse

Another reason we should be thankful despite our fears and worries is that compared with most of the rest of the world, we’re doing pretty well. Many parts of the world have inadequate drinking water, a very limited diet, the constant threat of attack, terrible diseases, and oppressive governments. Even Europe is going through a period of severe financial distress. On a personal level, we aren’t doing so badly when compared to others we know or hear about, such as those:
-Suffering from a serious illness;
-Suffering from severe injuries;
-Suffering with the recent loss of a loved one;
-Dealing with difficult family or relational issues; or
-Having significant financial issues.

Think about those Pilgrims who had the first Thanksgiving, and what they had gone through. They lost many of their own during a very tough winter, yet the surviving Pilgrims still gave thanks for what they did have.

III. Whom Should We Thank?

The second question might be, “Whom are we supposed to thank?

1. Original Thanksgiving Distorted

I think most children today are told in school that the Pilgrims threw a party as a way of thanking the local Indians for helping them survive. Without a doubt the Indians were invited to the Thanksgiving dinner in appreciation for their help. But the reason for the dinner was to thank God for his provision. While Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, people of faith should not lose sight of whom we should be thanking.

2. God Is Our Source

You might ask, “Why should I thank God? I work hard to earn a living.” We thank God because God is our ultimate provider. We may work hard to earn a living, but it is God who gave us that job. A farmer may plant the seeds, but it is God who provides the sun and rain so the crops can grow.

God may not give us everything we want, but God is with us and will take care of us. We will still go through some tough times, but God helps us through them.

More on the topic of giving thanks in a future post.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Penn State Scandal

It’s a shame that Joe Paterno’s career had to end so disgracefully. When the story broke about this sex scandal involving young boys, I immediately thought of the Catholic Church’s problems with priests sexually abusing young boys. What makes these things so bad is not only the crime itself, preying on innocent children, but the cover-up by those who should have known better. Because of the sinful nature of humankind, we have to realize that organizations can’t police themselves and can’t be counted on to root out the bad elements.

We have high medical malpractice insurance because the medical profession couldn’t police itself, and people needlessly died or had their lives ruined by incompetent doctors.

We had the terrible situation with the pedophile priests because even the church couldn’t police itself, but continued to pass these predators on to another parish and a fresh new batch of victims.

We have incompetent practitioners in many different fields because they can’t police themselves, or union rules make it nearly impossible to eliminate them (such as teachers).

I think the mentality is often one or both of the following within professions:

(1) People are hesitant to punish or remove incompetent practitioners or those doing bad things, thinking “There but for the grace of God go I.” They identify too closely with them because they are one of them.

(2) It’s all about protecting the institution, whether it’s Penn State or the Catholic Church. Sometimes it’s protecting your buddies, such as the wall of silence with the police or failure to report crimes in the military.

Sadly, people don’t think of the victims:
-Children who are scarred for life by sexual abuse;
-Children who aren’t getting a quality education because incompetent teachers can’t be removed thanks to the union;
-Patients who die or are harmed by incompetent doctors and surgeons like the one recently fired from a practice in Poughkeepsie recently.

Because of the sin nature of the human race, we need to have laws, regulations, and outside agencies watching over companies, institutions, or professions. Left to our own devices with little or no oversight, we’ll do it wrong much of the time.

Let’s keep the victims of abuse in our prayers, and let none of us hesitate to tell authorities if we find out that a child is being abused.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Government Responsibility

In an earlier post I wrote about the lack of corporate responsibility to many of its constituents, such as customers, their employees, etc. The government “of the people, by the people and for the people” has become the government of the special interests, by incompetent politicians, and for the party. Nowhere do “the people” fit into governmental priorities these days. The politicians are answerable to, and should be working on behalf of those whom they represent. Instead, their priorities are elsewhere: the party, special interests, and ideology.

They throw crumbs to their home districts or states through earmarks, which are often a colossal waste of money (think bridge to nowhere). Their districts and states would be much better off if these politicians just did their job and forgot about wasteful earmarks.

Sadly, congress and statehouses are so divided ideologically that they’ve lost the ability to compromise. The main goal of politicians these days is to work towards achieving or maintaining a majority position for their party so they can stay in power. Yet what’s the point of being in power if you accomplish nothing?

Government was established by God for the good of people: keeping order, defending against enemies, etc. The Founding Fathers of this country established a government that was supposed to be limited in power, that guaranteed certain rights to the citizens, and that worked on behalf of the people. We’ve lost that vision and must get it back so that “… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vietnam Memories

I recently saw the Vietnam-era movie “Full Metal Jacket” on TV, and it brought back memories of my basic training experience. Although the training in FMJ was Marine boot camp at Parris Island, it was almost identical to my Army experience at Fort Dix, NJ. I went through basic at the same time as portrayed in the movie, which was 1967-1968 timeframe. By the way, a young Vincent D’onofrio (Law and Order) is a key player in the first part of the movie.

Although my basic training took place over 40 years ago, I can still remember much of it vividly. I still have the occasional dream about it.

The second part of the movie portrays some of the Marine unit’s experiences in Vietnam. Interestingly, this week the History Channel is running a series on that war called “Vietnam in HD”. Watching both of these reminded me of how terrible and mismanaged that conflict was. Fortunately, I was not sent to Vietnam, so the remembrances of that war are more from war stories I heard from guys who had been there, news reports of the time, and movies. Unfortunately, our politicians haven’t learned the lessons of Vietnam and continue to engage us in wars in places where we shouldn’t be (such as Iraq).

War should be an absolutely last resort. Not only are people killed and wounded, but many are emotionally scarred. Moreover, we have an economy that is not in good shape, and a huge federal deficit. We simply can’t afford to fight a war right now.

As Veteran’s Day approaches in the U.S. (on 11/11/11 this year), let us remember those who served and continue to serve. Let us also remember not only their sacrifices but also the sacrifices of their families. Pray for all of them, and pray that our troops will soon be able to leave Afghanistan. Pray for peace, and pray that the forces of evil in this world, which seek to oppress or attack others, will be restrained by the powerful hand of God. We look forward to that Day of the Lord when swords will be beaten into plowshares.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Changes in the Mass

There was a recent article in the Poughkeepsie Journal concerning some changes in the English language version of the Roman Catholic liturgy for the Mass (worship service). For the tradition-bound Roman Catholic Church, this is major, since change doesn’t come easily.

The last major change resulted from Vatican II in the 1960s when the Mass moved from mostly Latin to the language of the people. At that time, some lamented the loss of the Latin Mass as if that were the sacred language of Jesus and the prophets (Jesus spoke Aramaic, the prophets spoke Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek). In my opinion, moving to the language of the people was a tremendous step towards making the Mass more “user-friendly” and meaningful to the people.

While traditions are nice, they can’t become dominating. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for placing their traditions ahead of the Law of Moses in Mark 7:8: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (NIV) Some Christians have followed in the footsteps of the Pharisees, becoming hypocritical, legalistic, and placing too much emphasis on tradition. Speaking of himself, Jesus said in John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV) Yet Christians put themselves into bondage to traditions and rules when we are supposed to be free from all that. In addition, traditions can become a god to us if we place too much emphasis on them.

While the wording of the new liturgy could be better, I applaud the Catholic Church for attempting to make the Mass a more meaningful spiritual experience for the congregation. Now if we could only get them to sing more.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Corporate Responsibility

One of the themes of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration and its offspring demonstrations around the nation is “Corporate Greed”. There are also complaints about the unfairness and abuses of the capitalistic system. Can we do better than the capitalistic system?

As of now, capitalism is the best economic system devised by man. However, it has its risks, so that’s why we have laws and regulations. A totally unregulated economy will result in abuses. Despite our system of laws and regulations, “corporate greed” has resulted in all kinds of problems, including our current economic crisis. On the other hand, the economy can’t be over-regulated or it won’t work as efficiently. What we need are more enlightened and socially responsible corporations and labor unions.

What does an “enlightened” corporation look like? Right now, corporations are all about maximizing profits, paying their top executives very well, increasing market share, and striving to prevent more regulations from being enacted. An “enlightened” corporation realizes it has multiple constituents and many responsibilities that it must take into consideration and serve. So it must balance these priorities effectively. Who or what are these constituents?

Shareholders: at the heart of the capitalist system is investments made in a business by investors, which can be pension funds, mutual funds, individuals, unions, etc. For the capitalist system to succeed, there must be a fair return on investment. One way to improve return on investment is to not pay top executives outrageous salaries, bonuses, and granting overly generous stock options.

Employees: the employees must be given a fair wage, must be provided with competitive benefits, and must be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. The employees must, of course, give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage, not demand wages that are out of line with the industry, not go on strike, and follow company policy.

Customers: without customers, a business will quickly fail. Customers must be provided with safe, good quality, and innovative products that deliver what the company’s salespeople promise.

The Nation: the corporation has responsibilities to the city and country in which it is located, and these include no polluting, no exporting jobs overseas, payment of taxes, following regulations and laws, and generally being a good citizen.

An “enlightened” corporation, following these guidelines, would minimize “corporate greed” and make a positive contribution to society. Employees would feel secure and have more loyalty to the company.

You can’t legislate this, but hopefully companies will see the error of their ways and become more enlightened. Let’s pray it happens soon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More on Inequality

Entrepreneurs helped make this country great and raised our standard of living to what was once the highest in the world. They did everything from build the railroads to invent the iPhone. Most entrepreneurs became very wealthy as a result of their creativity, risk-taking, and pioneering efforts. They generally made positive contributions to society, and used much of their wealth to support worthy causes.

On the other hand, you have the obscenely high compensation paid to CEOs and other executives – millions of dollars in salary, bonuses, and stock options. I ask: “What did these guys do to deserve such remuneration?” Generally, these executives are nothing more than overpaid managers, and sometimes not very good ones. They lay off American workers, export jobs to China, and cheapen their product, then they get paid exorbitant bonuses for “making the tough decisions”. Even when they fail, they get severance packages that are very generous from boards of directors who are more concerned with taking care of their own than the good of the business.

A CEO with vision is worth a decent salary, but paying such large amounts is what has the Occupy Wall Street folks riled up. While I may not agree with Occupy Wall Street’s leftist bent, they do have a point about the excessive executive compensation. It makes us all angry when banks and financial institutions that had serious problems and required a federal bail-out to stay solvent pay their executives huge salaries and large bonuses. It’s a slap in the face to every American taxpayer.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure what you can do about it in a free society. Certainly limitations on salaries and bonuses should be placed on companies receiving bail-out money or federal loan guarantees. Perhaps laws can be passed that limit executive compensation according to a formula. While we don’t want to stifle free enterprise, executive compensation has gotten out of hand and something should be done in all fairness to the other 99%.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

More on the Occupy Wall Street Protests

After writing a recent post regarding the Occupy Wall Street protests, I read an article on-line by Brian McLaren, author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders.

Below are some highlights from his article that I believe are worth considering. You and I may not join the protests in the streets, but we can make our wishes known to our representatives in Washington and the State House. That’s why I’ve posted portions of his article below – so you and I can do something constructive to help turn this country around. Most of all, pray for this country, which has been the hope of so many who came to our shores to escape oppression, to be able to worship freely, and to prosper materially. All of those are under threat. Below are excerpts from the article:

The substance: both the market-driven disease and its government-driven cures have further enriched and advantaged the most powerful economic elites (the 1 percent) at the expense of the rest of us. After the crisis and bailouts, the 1 percent has a larger share of the wealth and power than before, and the 99 percent have more unemployment, more debt, and more frustration.

Here are a few unsolicited suggestions.

1) Name what's wrong. I think the movement is right to diagnose the problem as the concentration of wealth and opportunity among powerful elites (including banking, corporate, media, military-industrial, educational, and political elites).

2) Protest what's wrong. Protesting isn't everything, but it is something, and it matters. Protest mobilizes frustration and anger. It seeks to tap reservoirs of potentially destructive emotional energies so they can be directed toward constructive ends.

3) Name the goals. Just as naming the problem matters, so naming the solutions matters. And that will probably make all the difference for the movement.

4) Pro-testify for solutions. Protesting is being against something worth being against. But that's not enough. We must also pro-testify for something worth being for. That's why urban occupiers and their sympathizers will need to pro-testify for a concrete list of proposals.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Inequality in Our Society

One of the complaints of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators is the high level of inequality in the United States. European Communism tried to do away with inequality, but failed, except to give most of the population a substandard life. Meanwhile the elites (the nomenklatura in Russia) lived very well. Some inequality will always exist, but it shouldn’t be so large that you don’t really have a middle class any more.

In the United States, the disparity between the richest 1% of the population and not-so-rich rest of us has become too large to ignore. This widening gap has been caused by a number of factors, resulting in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and the middle class getting terribly squeezed economically. I believe the worst is yet to come. The factors causing this gap to widen are:

(1) High salaries of the elites. Business executives receive ridiculously high salaries, bonuses, and stock options. Even the incompetent ones receive a generous “golden parachute”, getting rewarded for poor performance.

(2) Sports figures also receive ridiculously high salaries, and still they want more as we see in the NBA walk-out.

(3) With the economy the way it is, the poor have even less opportunities for earning a living, so many are unemployed or underemployed. The poor are getting poorer.

(4) The middle class is getting economically squeezed by a number of factors:

(a) Many are unemployed or underemployed. As a result, some have lost their house, and some have had to declare bankruptcy, moving these families into the ranks of the poor.

(b) Even if they have a job, they haven’t received a raise in years, property taxes are going up, they have to pay more for health benefits, the cost of college has been increasing much faster than the rate of inflation, and other costs (such as transportation) are on the rise.

(c) The first wave of the Boomer generation is now retiring, but they are financially unprepared. Research has shown the Boomers haven’t saved as much for their retirement as they should have, and it will be especially tough for single women when they retire. I believe that the Boomers will swell the ranks of the poor or lower middle class when they retire, since many will be living mostly off social security.

For these reasons, I believe the inequality will get worse, even if the economy turns around. Some Boomers will find themselves working – if they can find a job – well into their 70s in order to keep their heads above water.

While some inequalities are inevitable for various reasons, the current and the future level of inequality is unacceptable. I’m not sure what the answer is, but something will have to be done. Pray that our leaders will have the wisdom to deal effectively with inequalities so that people don’t have to live in abject poverty, especially in their “golden years.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wall Street Demonstrators

Sometimes I think that those out demonstrating against such things as “globalization” and “fracking” don’t have a clue about what they are protesting against. They latched on to some kind of cause, and they want to relive the glory days of the 1960s (even though they weren’t even born then). Back in the 1960s, we had real causes: a terrible war in Viet Nam and civil rights, to name the two main issues.

Now we have demonstrators in the Wall Street area, and the protests are spreading to other cities and countries. Do these people have a legitimate cause or are they hippie wannabes? What is their gripe anyway? As I understand it, they have several complaints:

(1) The greed of the financial system (banks, mortgage lenders) which caused the current economic recession.

(2) The inequality between the richest 1% of the population and everybody else.

(3) The leadership crisis in Washington resulting in no agreement as to how to fix the mess we’re in.

(4) Overall dissatisfaction with government and the capitalist economic system.

In all of these, I believe the protestors have legitimate cause to demonstrate their disappointment. These aren’t fictitious or trivial complaints, but they get to the heart of the breakdown of our government and economic system. Our type of government is the best in the world, but it isn’t working as intended because of politicians who put party, ideology, and special interests ahead of what is best for the country and their constituents. The capitalistic economic system is the best way to go (as opposed to communism or socialism), but greed and incompetence have caused our system to falter and fail.

The items listed above are very simplistic, but I believe they summarize well what is wrong with this country and why the demonstrators are out there calling attention to our plight. Demonstrations may get people’s attention, but we need to vote the politicians out and keep doing so until we get folks in power who actually work for us and our best interests. We also have to pressure Washington to have appropriate regulation, oversight, and auditing over the financial system since banks, left to their own devices, will mess things up every time.

Watch for a future post on inequality.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Passing of Steve Jobs

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs after a long battle with cancer. A few lessons from his life:

Failure isn’t the end, but an opportunity to start again smarter and wiser.

Use your God-given creativity and think big.

Look for opportunities where others see none, and run with it. Jobs saw what Xerox had developed at its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and immediately recognized its potential, while Xerox was clueless.

Death is the great equalizer: everybody will experience it. The question is, where will you find yourself when you wake up on the other side?

All the money in the world can’t save you from a terminal disease, but may prolong your life for a while.

Think about this: What if Steve’s unwed mother had aborted him rather than putting him up for adoption?

Geniuses (or those who think they are the smartest guy in the room) are difficult to work for, no matter how likeable they may appear (Gates, Jobs, Zuckerman).

Steve Jobs and Apple represent the best of American technological innovation, but where is most of the hardware made? China, of course. What about American jobs, Mr. Jobs?

Steve Jobs came up with many technological innovations and left a tremendous earthly legacy, but good works done in obedience to God have eternal value.

The world has lost an innovator in a league with (or above) Edison, Ford, Watson (of IBM), and Wilson (of Xerox). In addition his business instincts and organizational abilities were excellent. Steve Jobs will be missed. I thank you for what you have given to us and for what is still in the pipeline.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes the Pain Is Too Much

I read recently in the Poughkeepsie Journal that the father of a murdered college student from Hyde Park committed suicide. I was very saddened to think of the grief that family has had to bear already, and now this.

I imagine that this father just couldn’t take it any more: constantly thinking about his daughter’s murder, about the upcoming trial of her alleged killer, the “what ifs” running through his mind, trying to comfort his distraught family. Sometimes the pain is just too much.

We can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to have such a tragedy in your family. Let me suggest that when we read about something like this in the newspaper or hear about it in the news, we stop and say a quick prayer for the people involved. Better yet, write down something on a prayer list and pray for them whenever you pray for the concerns on that list.

We might feel tempted to denounce that father for abandoning his family, but let’s not be too quick to do so. Sometimes the pain is more than anybody can bear. It certainly was in this case. I can’t believe that God, knowing such pain, will condemn him when be comes before the judgment seat. I believe God will wipe away his tears and welcome him to that place where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering.

Finally, as a pastor I receive many prayer requests concerning terrible things people are going through, often health-related. The human body is a masterpiece of design and engineering, yet things do go wrong. When they do, it can be awful. So those people need our prayers too: for healing if God wills it, but also for peace, acceptance, strength, and comfort for all concerned.

In God We Trust? (Part 3)

In earlier posts I presented the sermon I gave on the Sunday after 9/11/01. On 9/11/11, the tenth anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11/01, I gave a sermon that I’d like to share with you. This is part 3 of that sermon. I hope this post helps you in some way:

e. Nancy Yambem Example

If we look to God and follow his plan for us, God can, and usually does, have some sort of good come out of an ordeal. Nancy Yambem is an example of some good coming out of tragedy. In the heartbreak of 9/11, her faith was tested and became stronger as she realized she had to depend on the Lord to get her thru the unimaginable pain of losing her husband on that terrible day. Her faith was made so strong that she was able to forgive those who killed her husband. Such forgiving comes from God, and the good news is that relieves us of a lot of baggage.

In addition, Nancy now leads a bereavement group here at the church, and she has helped people to come to terms with their loss. I recommend her group if you have recently suffered the loss of a loved one. Of course to live according to God’s plan, we need to be plugged into God through prayer, worship, and Bible reading so we can discern his plan for us.

V. Christ Is Our Hope

In addition to trusting God in the midst of a trial, we also should look beyond our present circumstances to a much better future. That better future may, or may not, be in this life. But we do know that as followers of Jesus we are assured of eternal life in heaven, and for that we rejoice. We obviously aren’t exempt from trials in this life, but we have Jesus – who himself endured suffering on this earth – to help us thru difficult times. We have the confidence that he loves us and that he is greater than any of the challenges or disappointments that we face. The Cross is proof of his love for us, and the Resurrection is proof of his power over evil. In addition, we have hope in Jesus because he promised us in Matt 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” NIV

The Good News is that anybody can be a part of his family – just come to him in faith. So why not put your trust in Christ today, and he will help you get through this life and give you eternal life in the hereafter.

VI. Conclusion

1. We Groan

With all the bad news and uncertainty, I can’t help but sometimes feel depressed and pessimistic about the future. Along those lines, Second Corinthians 5:4a says, For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden… (NRSV)

Why do we groan? Because this world has problems, injustice, wars, strife, illness, natural disasters, and grieving, as we all know. One of the big questions of life is, “Why is this world like that?” It’s because we live in an imperfect world, subject to the laws of nature that can sometimes cause destruction, and human sin, which causes suffering. We long for peace, security, contentment, and comfort, but they are elusive, because this is earth, not the Garden of Eden or heaven. When we all get to heaven, there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, but for now, we have to endure trials from time to time.

2. Wrong Solutions

In our trials, we often look for worldly answers, or we try to escape it all through diversions. We expect politicians or the government to be our saviors when they can’t even agree on how to fix the mess we’re in. Humans don’t have the answers, but God does. That’s why we need to look to him, both individually and as a nation. We have to realize that life is too difficult to handle on our own, and there are issues of life that cannot be fixed with human efforts.

3. Trust in God

Only Jesus offers us true peace and comfort, plus the assurance of a secure future in heaven with him. Only Jesus gives hope to those without hope. As I said before, God may not change our circumstances but he will help us through whatever problem or trial we are facing. We don’t have to face our problems alone.

So why not turn to him today? I know that when I feel pessimistic and down, I stop and realize that I have hope. I have hope because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, whose power uplifts. So let the wise words of Proverbs 3:5-6 be our guide:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In God We Trust? (Part 2)

In earlier posts I presented the sermon I gave on the Sunday after 9/11/01. On 9/11/11, the tenth anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11/01, I gave a sermon that I’d like to share with you. This is part 2 of that sermon. I hope this sermon helps you in some way:

IV. Trust in God

With this bad news and fear about the future, what are we Christians to do? Do we just resign ourselves to the possibility of a bleak future, or spend most of our time worrying, or lash out in anger?

1. Lamentations

Let’s look to the Book of Lamentations for some answers. In chapter three, Jeremiah admitted his profound sorrow. “I remember my affliction and my wandering… and my soul is downcast within me.”

Yet even in the depths of his despair, as his people were being carted away into Babylonian captivity, he could proclaim the faithfulness of God:

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:19-26, NIV)

So the first thing we must do, difficult as it may sometimes be, is to look to the Lord for help and place our trust in him. Of course we know from experience that God may not change our situation, much as we’d like him to. God didn’t restore Jerusalem for nearly a century, but God did help Jeremiah to get through the sorrow and heartbreak, and he will for you and me as well. So God is faithful to help you deal with your situation, to accept it, and God will give his peace, as we read in Philippians 4:6-7:

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NRSV
We sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” but do we really believe it?

2. Examples of God’s Work

This trusting God sounds good, but can we really have hope in our lives? Let me give you a few examples of God’s work in the world:

a. Marriage Example

At a party recently we met a couple we didn’t know but we had been praying for their marriage. They are doing very well and their marriage is back on track.

b. Illness Example

At another party recently we met a man we didn’t know but we had been praying for his health. He is now doing fine and is healthy enough to go back to work.

c. Job Example

For over a year we’ve been praying for somebody who needed a better job, and recently got one – in this economy, no less! We’ve also been praying for the financial situation of a family, and he is scheduled to get a raise, something rare in this economy.

d. My Example (Jer 29:11)

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God told the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. NIV

I believe we can claim that verse for ourselves as well, and I did that back in the 1980s when I was about to lose my job. The economy wasn’t as bad as it is now, but people weren’t hiring. I sent out a lot of resumes and got very few responses – I was getting desperate. Through my wife Sue and other people, I came to realize God had a plan for my life, so I prayed to God to reveal it and to get me a job as well.

God did come through with a job, on the day I got the pink slip, and he has been revealing his plan to me ever since, bit by bit. I might add that God’s plan contained a few surprises, like becoming a pastor. I know it was in God’s plan to have me appointed here as well, and for that, I’m grateful and pleased to be your pastor.

More in a future post.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In God We Trust? (Part 1)

In earlier posts I presented the sermon I gave on the Sunday after 9/11/01. On 9/11/11, the tenth anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11/01, I gave a sermon that I’d like to share with you. I hope this sermon helps you in some way:

I. Introduction

I remember my parents talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor. They would say how they vividly remembered where they were and what they were doing when they received news of the attack. I thought that was strange, and then the Kennedy assassination happened. Then I understood – these were defining events whose details are etched in your memory for the rest of your life. The same thing happened on 9/11 – I clearly remember everything about that terrible morning, as I’m sure you do.

II. Emotions of the Day

1. Feelings of Hopelessness

Besides clearly remembering the events, I also recall my range of emotions. I went from surprise to shock to sadness to anger to feelings of helplessness and even hopelessness, as I’m sure most people did. In a matter of minutes, the world as we knew it had changed drastically. Our sense of security, false as it was, was shattered.

2. Pearl Harbor Comparison

Coincidentally, the attack on 9/11 happened a few months short of the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the case of Pearl Harbor, terrible as it was, the attack was a military operation with a strategic objective, plus there was a clear enemy – Japan. With terrorism, civilians are targeted and there’s no strategic objective. How can you prevent attacks by fanatics willing to die on suicide missions? As a result, we have a sense of frustration, helplessness, and even hopelessness when it comes to terrorist threats. In the face of terrorism, as well as crime, economic downturns, personal loss, and natural disasters, we often feel helpless and hopeless.

III. Various Disasters

1. Jeremiah’s Feelings

This morning we read from the Book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Jeremiah 2,600 years ago. His beloved city of Jerusalem had been completely destroyed by the Babylonians, and the world as he knew it had come to an end. Even God’s beautiful temple, built by King Solomon, was leveled by the enemy, and the sacred temple vessels were taken to a pagan land. Even in translation from an ancient language, his emotions come through.

On 9/11 and the days following, I could identify with how Jeremiah felt. In that next Sunday’s service following 9/11, I used passages from Lamentations as the Scripture reading because they seemed appropriate. Although a whole city had not been destroyed in 9/11, a major landmark had been, plus nearly 3,000 innocent lives were needlessly lost. Some of those lost were co-workers of mine, so it was very personal.

Life as we knew it had been changed forever, and I think we learned that safety in this world is really an illusion. Obviously we must do everything we can to protect ourselves against attacks, including putting up with some inconveniences at the airport. But thanks be to God, we haven’t had another attack on American soil since 2001.

3. Other Tragedies

a. Natural Disasters

Sadly, though, we’ve had some devastating natural disasters.

I mention natural disasters because the destruction from Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee is still fresh on our minds. With the stream next to the parsonage overflowing during Irene, we were concerned as we watched the water creeping ever closer to the parsonage. Although we didn’t get any water in the house, I can sympathize with those who did – we came close!

b. Uncertainty about the Future

Even as 9/11 fades into a 10 year old memory, there’s still tremendous uncertainty about the future: uncertainty about the country, the economy, our personal situations, and where the next natural disaster will strike. Many people I talk to are pessimistic and have feelings of fear and hopelessness, because things seem to be going from bad to worse.

More in a future post.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sermon on 9/11/01 – Part 3

In two earlier posts I recounted the sermon I gave on the Sunday following the events of 9/11/01. I entitled it “Lessons from Pearl Harbor”. This post has the conclusion of that sermon.

Where Was God?

You may still ask, “Where was God in all of this?” I saw God many times as I watched TV this week.

•I saw God in the firefighters who ran into a severely damaged building to try to save lives, losing their own in the process.

•I saw God in people helping their co-workers to get out of the building.

•I saw God in the dedicated rescue workers who went on past the point of exhaustion in the hope of finding somebody alive.

•I saw God in the reaction of Americans, who lined up to give blood, who sent in donations, who gathered at churches and synagogues to pray and comfort one another.

•I saw God in those people holding candlelight vigils and mourning over the loss of life of people they didn’t even know.

•I saw God in the encouragement people were giving to the rescue workers, including local merchants giving food and drink to them without charge.

•I saw God in those who called for us not to take out our anger on Americans of Middle Eastern descent or those who practice the Muslim religion.

•I saw God in Washington, DC, as those of all religions and political persuasions gathered in the National Cathedral as one to worship God in all of this.

•I saw God in the moving memorials held in Canada and countries throughout the world, honoring the victims and upholding the United States in this time of crisis.

Where was God in all of this? He was in each one of us.

What Happens Next?

Our job is just beginning. We don’t know what the future holds. The most important thing we can do is pray for our national leaders.

We should pray that our national leaders:
-Will be open to God’s leading and follow His wisdom.
-They will maintain a spirit of unity consistent with God’s direction to them.
-They won’t be driven by emotions or hatred.

We should also pray for leaders around the world, that:
-Those harboring terrorists will shut down the camps, & give them over to justice.
-Nations will back up their claims of support for the US with appropriate action.
-The community of nations will have a spirit of unity and mutual support.
-Terrorism will be stopped dead everywhere through the determined efforts of every nation’s leadership (incl Northern Ireland and Israel).
-Pray in particular for Pakistan, which will probably be on the front line of any action and without whose support, our job will be more difficult.

We should also pray for the nation in general, that:
-No more terrorist attacks will occur on our soil or against our people anywhere.
-We will have a spirit of reconciliation and love for one another after seeing how ugly hatred can be.
-We as a nation will turn back to God and revival will take place.

We must realize that God will not support us just because we are Americans. I don’t believe God supports one nationality over another. He will support us if we are his people, called by his name, dedicated to him and committed to him.

Our money says “In God We Trust.” Now is our time to prove it.

Prayer is effective and is our main weapon against the evil we are fighting against, because that evil is of a spiritual nature. Ephesians 6:10-13 tells us that our struggle is a spiritual one:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

I repeat: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We may talk of military action, and that is certainly one weapon we may use, but the most effective weapon we have is trust in God and prayer. The best thing we can do in this time of national (and even international) crisis is pray to God and put our trust in Him.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sermon on 9/11/01 – Part 2

In an earlier post and this one is the sermon I gave on the Sunday following the events of 9/11/01. I entitled it “Lessons from Pearl Harbor”.

Current Attacks Strategic Failure

Do I believe the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon were strategic failures?
Yes I do.

Certainly they were successful in their execution and in causing short-term disruption. But from a long-term strategic viewpoint, I believe they will be shown, just like Pearl Harbor, to have been failures, by the grace of God. I’m not sure why these attacks were carried out, but by almost any measurement, they will be determined to have been strategic failures.

1. They caused an interruption in the heart of our financial district, but there won’t be serious long-term effects. Life will go on pretty much as before.

2. They caused a disruption of business and commerce, but I am guessing that the effect on the economy will be relatively mild. Increased spending for the military may actually help the economy.

3. They have united America in a way not seen for 60 years. Philosophical and political differences have been set aside and a spirit of unity prevails. If the objective of those attacks was to discourage Americans, they did just the opposite.

4. Much of the world has rallied around the US in an unprecedented show of international solidarity. The war against terrorism will be a united front because countries now realize all are vulnerable.

5. It will make the US more sympathetic to Israel and more supportive of its struggle against Palestinian terrorism.

Why were the recent attacks strategic failures? Again, I believe God will protect us from serious long-term harm so that we can be used as his instrument to fight against this new evil.

Although the death and destruction is more than we can bear, it may have been the only way we could be united as a people and have to resolve to do what only the US can accomplish in the world.

So the reason for the history lesson this morning is to show that God’s sovereignty always prevails, and ultimate good can come out of disasters, terrible as they are.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sermon on 9/11/01 – Part 1

As a pastor, you had to talk about 9/11 that next Sunday. Since my congregation at that church was older, most of them remembered Pearl Harbor. Therefore, I decided to draw parallels between 9/11/01 and December 7, 1941, which was a few months short of being 60 years ago. I also attempted to answer the major question on most people’s minds: “Where was God?” In this post and the one to follow is the sermon I gave on the Sunday following the events of 9/11/01. I entitled it “Lessons from Pearl Harbor”.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, is another date that will live in infamy. Many of you were alive at the time of Pearl Harbor, and I’m sure you recognize many of the emotions associated with Tuesday’s events. Since some are calling this a “Second Pearl Harbor” I would like to draw some comparisons to that event 60 years ago.

I find it interesting that after 60 years there is still strong interest in the Pearl Harbor attack as we see by the recent popular movie called “Pearl Harbor.”

•Both Pearl Harbor and the recent acts of terrorism were unprovoked, and both caught the US by surprise.

•Both took place in the morning, and both involved aircraft. The first bomb at Pearl Harbor fell at 7:55 and the first plane hit the WTC at 8:45.

•Both involved substantial property loss. At Pearl, 18 ships were sunk or seriously damaged, plus damage to buildings. In NYC, the entire WTC complex and many nearby buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged.

•Both involved a substantial loss of life. At Pearl, 2,403 men and women lost their lives, all but 68 were military. We don’t know the death toll yet, but I estimate Tuesday’s attacks will probably result in 6,000-7,000 deaths. (266 in airplanes, 200 at Pentagon, and 5,500-6,500 at WTC) Most of these deaths were civilians.

•Both attacks were personal to Americans. Hawaii was an American territory and the attack was against our military installations there. Many knew servicemen who lost their lives or were in Hawaii at the time.

Tuesday’s attack was even closer to home, and involved ordinary people at work, like any one of us. Many people were personally touched by these attacks, knowing people on the airplanes or in the buildings. My company had an office at the WTC. We lost 5 employees. We could see the burning buildings from our office in White Plains, knowing we had people there.

•Evil as it was, the Japanese had a strategic objective in attacking Pearl Harbor. Their objective was to neutralize our Pacific fleet so it would be out of commission for several years. This would allow the Japanese to continue their conquests in Asia without US interference. The US had become increasing hostile to Japan and had initiated trade and oil embargoes against it.

For the life of me, I can not find any strategic objective to an attack on civilian buildings such as we saw on Tuesday. That’s what makes Tuesday’s attacks senseless and diabolical.

Pearl Harbor a Strategic Failure

Interestingly, from a strategic point of view, the Pearl Harbor attack was a failure.
It failed in four ways:

1. The most important naval weapon, the aircraft carrier, was untouched in the attack. Not a single carrier was in port at the time. Within a few months our carriers had engaged the enemy in significant naval battles.

2. The second most important naval weapon, the submarine, was also untouched by the attack. The sub base at Pearl was only moderately damaged and was soon back in operation. US subs were attacking Japanese shipping all over the Pacific.

3. The enormous fuel depot at Pearl was completely untouched. Even if no ships had been sunk but the fuel depot had been destroyed, our fleet would have soon been rendered useless for a substantial period of time.

4. The Pearl Harbor attack united Americans as never before. I suspect the Japanese wanted to demoralize us, but the effect was just the opposite. We were resolved to defeat an enemy that was devastating Asia and had now hit our home shores.

Why was Pearl Harbor a failure to the Japanese? I believe it was because God protected us so that we could be instrumental in defeating the evil of Nazi and Japanese expansionism. Without the involvement of the US, I don’t believe these evil expansionist empires could have been stopped. Because of US involvement in the war, Europe was eventually liberated and large parts of Asia were freed from the harsh rule of the Japanese Empire.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11 – An Historical Perspective (Part 5)

Certain momentous events “shock” the American public. They were generally unexpected, sudden, and had a significant impact on the country. In three earlier posts I explored some of those shocks that have happened during my 60+ years of life. In my last post I began to share my recollection of the biggest shock of my lifetime, the attacks on 9/11/01. This post is a continuation of that recollection.

After a little while, somebody mentioned that one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. I never thought of a collapse, just severe damage. I felt that if the building could survive a direct hit from a large airplane without toppling over, it wouldn’t collapse. However, the intense heat from a large amount of burning jet fuel resulted in the softening of the structural steel. Moreover, the outside steel was more than decorative. It was also supporting. Those vertical supporting steel beams had been breached by the planes, ultimately resulting in collapse. I looked out the window and saw a huge amount of brownish smoke and dust rising from lower Manhattan in a wide inverted cone.

I went into the other office to watch the television, and saw reruns of the collapse. It was at that time that I found out that it was tower two that had collapsed: the tower with our employees in it. It was the second tower hit but the first to collapse. Shortly after that the second tower collapsed. I went back into our office, and the employees were very upset. Some of the women were crying, knowing they had probably lost friends and co-workers in the disaster. I realized I needed to do something as a part-time pastor, so I went into our CEO’s office and asked if I could have a time of prayer for those employees who would like to participate. He agreed that it would be a good idea.

We gathered the employees in the accounting area and I said a prayer and then we had a moment of silence. I finally reached my wife Sue and told her to turn on the TV, that we were under a terrorist attack. After a little while I went home to be with her since she was very upset and was crying. I knew I wouldn’t get any work done in the office, and I had done all I could do to comfort my co-workers. The office closed shortly after I left. Either just before leaving or while I was on the way home I found out that a plane had crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania. I suspected at the time that it must have been headed for Washington and either there had been a struggle on the plane or it had been shot down by the Air Force (which was an initial rumor).

I knew that the World Trade Center had 40,000 – 50,000 people typically in the buildings on a work day. Knowing how fast they collapsed after being hit and how long it takes to evacuate such large buildings, I figured that at least 20,000 people had been killed. Once we got reasonable estimates of the casualties I couldn’t believe that less than 3,000 people died there. Similarly, I suspected that several thousand had been killed at the Pentagon, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that less than 300 died there. Certainly that was God’s grace, limiting the number of casualties. While that is small comfort to those who lost loved ones, it does show, I believe, that God is at work, even in the midst of tragedies, even if he chooses not prevent them from occurring.

As with the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, all television programming for the next few days focused on the events of 9/11. There were no commercials and no regular programs. The planes hitting the towers and their subsequent collapse were replayed endlessly. Interviews with government officials and new information were broadcast and repeated. We were all hungry for information and were looking for answers to our questions. Who did this? Why? Why didn’t we know this was coming? What could have been done to prevent this?

As a pastor, I was asked by the company to conduct a memorial service on a conference call to the company’s 40+ offices in the U.S. and Canada. I believe it was early the following week that I conducted an interfaith service on that conference call.

As with Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination, people who lived through these attacks will remember vividly where they were when they got the news. Moreover, I will never forget what I saw out our office windows. Even though the events were 40+ miles away, I vividly remember what I saw in the distance. I remember the small plume of smoke, then the larger one as the second tower was hit, and then I remember the enormous wedge-shaped cloud of smoke and ash rising from the scene after the collapses that appeared to cover all of lower Manhattan. With television showing us these events live and in many reruns, those images will be in our minds for as long as we live as well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11 – An Historical Perspective (Part 4)

Certain momentous events “shock” the American public. They were generally unexpected, sudden, and had a significant impact on the country. In three earlier posts I explore some of those shocks that have happened during my 60+ years of life. I’d now like to share my recollection of the biggest shock of my lifetime, the attacks on 9/11/01.

On September 11, 2001, I arrived at work around 8:30 at my office on the fourth floor of 100 Manhattanville Road, Purchase, New York. The building is on a small hill in Westchester County and from our windows we could see the skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance. At around 8:45 or 8:50, somebody in the office said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Since we could see the towers in the distance from our office windows, I went to the window to look. On the horizon I saw black smoke coming from one of the towers. The smoke wasn’t rising up but was blowing sideways parallel to the ground in an easterly direction. It was not an enormous amount of smoke, but it was clearly visible from even 40+ miles away. Looking down towards the towers, I was surprised to see that the weather was clear with no fog or haze. I wondered how a plane could have hit the building in such clear weather. It didn’t make any sense. At that time we didn’t know whether it was a small plane or a large one, although I suspected it was a small plane that had veered off course.

One of my co-workers (Cheryl) called our offices on the 93rd floor of Two World Trade Center to find out what was going on and if it was their building that had been hit. Cheryl reached one of the employees and learned that their building had not been hit: it was One World Trade Center that was hit. We were relieved to hear that. The employee told Cheryl that the announcement through the PA system was telling everybody not to evacuate the building, but to stay put. Our employees remained in the building.

I tried to get some information from the Internet but couldn’t connect with any of the news sites that I could think of. AOL only had a headline that a plane had hit the WTC but no details. I tried to call my wife, Sue, at home, but her line was busy.

A few minutes after hanging up with our employees at the World Trade Center, we heard that the other tower had been hit by an airplane. All of a sudden it became very clear: this was a terrorist attack and not some terrible accident. We also realized that our employees were probably doomed. Since they were so high up in the building and the plane had hit just below them, we believed that if they hadn’t been killed almost immediately by the impact and resulting fire, they were trapped with no way to escape the heat and smoke. I went to the window and saw much more black smoke pouring from the buildings.

Somebody said there was a television in the offices of a neighboring company on our floor, so I went over there and watched the smoking towers for a few minutes. When I went back to our office, nobody was working. Everybody was distracted by these momentous events taking place.

At some point, and I can’t remember exactly when, word came to us that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. I was shocked, since I believed that the World Trade Center had been the only target. It was clear to me that we were under a coordinated attack, and I wondered when this was going to end. What other landmarks had been targeted? How many more were going to die? What could our armed forces do to stop this? Were they going to start shooting down civilian planes?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11 – An Historical Perspective (Part 3)

Certain momentous events “shock” the American public. They were generally unexpected, sudden, and had a significant impact on the country. Two earlier posts explored some of those shocks that have happened during my 60+ years of life.

1990s – Terrorism and Saddam

The early 1990s saw another shock: the bold and unprovoked attack by Iraq on Kuwait. A positive shock was the quick defeat of Iraq’s large army, including the elite Republican Guard, by our forces. The war was carried out professionally and expeditiously with few American casualties. This may have been the first of the “high-tech” wars using different tactics: bombing to soften up the enemy prior to engaging him in battle, the use of high tech smart bombs and other ordinance, and the execution of a carefully pre-planned strategy developed in anticipation of such a situation. Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwartzkopf, plus Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and President Bush handled the war much better than President Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the generals (such as General Westmoreland) did in Vietnam. Some level of confidence in government and our armed forces was restored.

In 1995 the U.S. received another shock, this one not involving Islamic terrorists. Timothy McVeigh filled a truck with and explosive compound, parked it in front of a government office building in downtown Oklahoma City, and detonated it. The explosion blew off the front of the building and killed innocent men, women, and children. This was a shock to the nation that an American could hate the government so much that he’d do such a thing.

Other shocks in the 1990s happened in the Middle East and Africa against Americans. A building housing American troops was destroyed by a truck bomb, with a loss of life. The USS Cole was bombed by a small boat loaded with explosives that pulled up alongside it in a port in Yemen. Two US embassies in Africa were destroyed by powerful truck bombs. However, all of these happened outside of the United States and did not involve large loss of American lives. The Clinton administration did little to combat terrorism or support Israel in its battle against terrorism. I suspect this was perceived as weakness on the part of terrorists and made them bolder.

1993 – First WTC Attack

Even the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993 resulted in little response against the terrorists by the U.S. In this first attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the terrorists drove a truck full of explosives into an underground parking area. I’m familiar with that spot because I once parked my car there when I was attending several days of meetings in the WTC and stayed at the hotel there. As a result of the explosion of that truck, the hotel was weakened structurally and had to be torn down. Having such a bold terrorist attack in the U.S. by foreigners still didn’t wake us up to the dangers we now faced. It was about to become a whole new world for us and eventually Western Europe.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11 – An Historical Perspective (Part 2)

Certain momentous events “shock” the American public. They were generally unexpected, sudden, and had a significant impact on the country. This series of posts explores some of these shocks to the nation that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, ending, of course, with the events of 9/11/01.

1970s – Oil and Iran

In the 1970s there were some disturbing incidents such as the killing of an anti-war protester by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University. The two oil crises demonstrated that the United States was heavily dependent on foreign oil, and was very vulnerable to disruption of the oil supply. Americans waited in lines at gas stations, something we aren’t used to doing. Although it was humbling and inconvenient, we didn’t learn from the two oil crises. Unfortunately we did nothing to end our dependence on foreign oil and the percent of oil we import from foreign sources has actually increased since the 1970s.

At the end of the decade, the attack and takeover of the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, and the imprisonment of Americans in the embassy, was a shock to the nation. That was our first taste of radical Islam, and we were helpless to do anything about it. While our citizens were languishing as captives under these radical students, President Carter initiated a rescue effort by our armed forces. I presume he felt that if the Israelis could do it at Entebbe, we could do it in Iran. It failed miserably and several of our troops were killed. This failure of our high-tech armed forces was a further shock to the nation.

1970s – Nixon Resigns

The biggest shock of the 1970s was the resignation of President Nixon. This had never happened before. Between the mishandling of the Vietnam War by the government and the disclosure of the sleazy side of the Nixon presidency, the boomer generation developed a serious mistrust of government. Up until the time, the government was generally viewed as positive and beneficial, even if inefficient, wasteful and occasionally corrupt. After Vietnam and Watergate, there was generally a more negative view and mistrust of government. The government’s negative image wasn’t helped by the morally deficient Clinton presidency in the 1990s. Remember Monica Lewinsky?

1980s – Shuttle Disaster

There weren’t too many shocks in the 1980s and 1990s. The big one in the 1980s was the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle shortly after launch in which all of the astronauts, including a civilian schoolteacher, were killed. What made this more of a shock than it otherwise might have been is that practically every school child in the country was watching the launch because of the schoolteacher on board. Thus millions of children saw the event live on TV and were somewhat traumatized by it.

The late 1980s saw a rare positive shock: the demise of European communism. Within a very short time, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Eastern European countries were free of Soviet domination and could re-establish democratic governments. We patted ourselves on the back for having been instrumental in destroying communism, but conveniently forgetting that over one billion people were still living under harsh communist regimes in China, North Korea and Vietnam. Communism wasn’t dead, just defeated in one part of the world.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11 – An Historical Perspective (Part 1)

Certain momentous events “shock” the American public. They were generally unexpected, sudden, and had a significant impact on the country. Pearl Harbor was one of the big shocks of the 20th century, resulting in the United States entering World War II. It was a defining moment for my parents’ generation. The terrorist attacks on September 11 were significant shocks of a very young 21st century, and resulted in domestic and overseas initiatives by the United States. I have lived through a number of shocks in the second half of the 20th century, which I will recount before giving my recollection of what happened on September 11, 2001 as we approach the tenth anniversary of those terrible events.


The first shock I can remember as a child is the launching of the first artificial satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957. When Sputnik was successfully placed in an orbit around the earth, Americans kept asking, “How could the Soviet Union beat us?” There was much soul-searching and angst. What was wrong with our educational system that the relatively unsophisticated Soviet Union could beat us into outer space? The result was an intensified emphasis on improving American education, especially in the sciences, and increased spending on our space program. Ultimately we were the first to land a man on the moon in July 1969, one of the few positive events from the 1960s.

The JFK Assassination

Speaking of the 1960s, the next major shock, which was the defining moment for the boomer generation, was the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Anybody over the age of 6 at the time remembers where he or she was when he heard the news that the President had been shot. Everybody remembers being glued to the TV for the next several days as events unfolded: the swearing in of Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald (the alleged assassin), the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on live TV, and the funeral of the President on that Monday. The nation was in shock, and realized that the end of an era had come.

Cuban Missile Crisis

An earlier event, while not a shock as I am defining it, was something that had the whole nation on edge and was perhaps a defining moment in US-Soviet relations. It was the Cuban missile crisis. It was a shock in that we saw the real possibility of having Soviet nuclear missiles right off our shores. This gave us a heightened awareness of our vulnerability to missile attack. After President Kennedy addressed the nation on TV about the crisis and the actions we were taking, we all went to bed not knowing if we would wake up to a war.

1968 – A Year to Forget

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the nation experienced a series of shocks in 1968. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the former president’s brother, was shot and killed in Los Angeles while campaigning for the Democratic presidential primary. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader, was shot and killed in Memphis. This sparked several days of serious rioting in many of our major cities, including Los Angeles (Watts section), Baltimore (where I was living at the time), Washington, and Detroit. With the assassinations and riots, it seemed the country was sinking into anarchy and had many people worried about the direction our society was taking.

To make matters worse in 1968 (an already disastrous year), a small spy ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo, was attacked and captured by the North Koreans in international waters. Its crew surrendered without a fight, valuable papers and equipment were captured by a hostile nation, and the crew was taken prisoner for an extended period of time. The United States was humiliated by this incident, and was shown that the mighty United States can be humbled by even a minor-league country such as North Korea. It is interesting to note that 33 years later, in the unfortunate year of 2001, the Chinese government did something similar with a U.S. spy plane flying over international waters.

Another incident in 1968 was the events at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Anti-war protesters demonstrated outside the convention hall and were brutally attacked by the Chicago police. Having seen images of peaceful anti-segregation protesters in the South being attacked with fire hoses and police dogs, it was a further shock to the nation to see the Chicago demonstrators so viciously attacked. Overall, 1968 was not a good year in the history of the nation.

Monday, August 29, 2011

“And Jesus Calmed the Storm”

Now that Hurricane Irene has passed the NY metro area, some are complaining that the media hyped the hurricane too much, and/or government officials over-reacted with the mandatory evacuations and shutting down all NY metro area public transportation. After all, it was “only” a category 1, downgraded to a tropical storm when it hit land.

Hindsight is better than foresight. Not only that, but I’d rather have everybody err on the side of caution. If officials hadn’t acted out of an abundance of caution and the hurricane had been stronger than it was, guess who would be vilified in the media and by the public? I think we have all learned something with Hurricane Katrina. Local and state officials weren’t adequately prepared in New Orleans, and many people paid the price. FEMA and the President were criticized for Katrina, yet the federal government is not the first responder. I can still picture all those New Orleans school buses under water in their parking lot when they could have been used to bring hundreds of people to safety.

Rather than complaining, why aren’t more people thanking God for sparing us more death and destruction from Irene? Many are quick to blame God for natural disasters, or as least ask why God let such a thing happen. We aren’t as quick to give God credit for sparing us. Let me go on record right now: Thank you God for sparing the New York metro area, and we pray for those who did have more severe damage and disruption (such as Vermont). Amen.

Will you join me in that prayer?