Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For Thanksgiving Day - Thank is a Transitive Verb

Ira Stoll has written and excellent editorial this morning in the Wall Street Journal regarding the historical development of Thanksgiving Day. I quote just a portion:

In 1778, a Thanksgiving resolution drafted by Adams was approved by Congress on Nov. 3, setting aside Wednesday, Dec. 30, as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, "It having pleased Almighty God through the Course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold Mercies on the People of these United States."

The entire editorial can be seen at the following link:

Let us remember that “thank” is a transitive verb. It always carries with it a direct object. We should always be thankful to someone or something. The founding fathers understood that our ultimate thanks belonged to Almighty God, our creator and sustainer. We should take this idea to heart. We may be thankful for blessings. We may be thankful to other people. But our ultimate thanks goes to the one who made our blessings and relationships possible, Almighty God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, and by his Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wisdom From Jefferson

"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition."

—Thomas Jefferson (Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 15 February 1791)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reflections on Ezekiel

My eldest daughter delights in seeing a death and resurrection motif in most everything in life, but especially in literature. Ezekiel is a delight in its description of that motif. We can be delighted and be delightful in our recognition that God was faithful to his word to bring his people back to the Promised Land after the exile. Ezekiel describes a second exodus to the Promised Land and in so doing describes a death of his people and his temple and a resurrection of the same.

The book starts out like most of the other prophets with condemnation for Judah. It is more sever in its detail of the actual devastation brought upon the people and the atrocities inflicted by Babylon due to the closeness of Ezekiel to the actual events. Israel must die and so must the temple be destroyed. The initial portion of the book ends with the description the death of Ezekiel’s wife in which he is commanded not to morn.

The next portion of the book describes a judgment on the nations with a particular focus on Egypt. Much as in the first exodus, Pharaoh must die.

Then in chapter 33, the focus returns to Israel. While it continues its theme of death and destruction initially, the theme shifts at about chapter 36 to resurrection and the design of the new temple in chapter 40. The new design is given at Passover. Passover will be celebrated. 45:11. And water will flow out of the temple. Chapter 47.

God was faithful to his word given in Deuteronomy 28 and 30 to scatter the people and bring them back, to devastate and renew, to kill and make alive. Israel was “born again.” God would live with them once again.

The church is the same. With Christ, God lives with us. We, as individuals and as a community, are also subject to death and resurrection. We must be “born again.” The difference is that Christ promises never to leave us. He will be with us to the end of the age. As we go through individual and corporate trials, we can be sure that although there is a sense of death in what we suffer we will be brought resurrection through those sufferings. We can rejoice in our sufferings then. We can also be sure that God will be faithful to us because He has been faithful to us his people in the past. We can be faithful. This joy gives us motivation to worship and to serve.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives."

—John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Others Think of the Bailout

"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men." --John Adams

"If an American is to amount to anything he must rely upon himself, and not upon the State; he must take pride in his own work, instead of sitting idle to envy the luck of others. He must face life with resolute courage, win victory if he can, and accept defeat if he must, without seeking to place on his fellow man a responsibility which is not theirs." --Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Sea Change In America? I Don't Buy It.

We are now being told that the 2008 Presidential Election signaled a sea change in America. I don’t buy it. For the first reason, I learned very quickly from my days as a lobbyist in Jefferson City, you can never believe what the media tells you regarding the political system. Second, look at our recent history of U.S. Presidents. The only time we have not changed our President’s party after eight years in recent history was after Ronald Reagan. And that was only because he was a wildly popular President. Four additional years of George H.W. Bush gave us William Jefferson Clinton. It seems that every eight years the American people need to change the party of their Presidents. That period can, of course, be shortened for a particularly bad President. Add to these factors that this year the media went to unprecedented levels of bias in reporting, the extreme financial difficulties arising in the country, a particularly weak Republican candidate and the groundbreaking character of this election. I would prefer to wait a year or two and see the electorate’s response to the new policies of our new President. I seem to recall many similar prognostications upon the election of William Jefferson Clinton. It was fascinating to see what happened just two years later.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wisdom From George Washington

"It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn."

—George Washington, letter to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, September 5, 1789

The Economic Bailout is a Bad Plan

There is one simple reason why the economic bailout plan proposed and passed by our Democrat President and Congress is a bad plan. It puts control of the money in the wrong hands. Where does the government get its money for the bailout plan? From the taxpayers, from you and me. In taxing the people, the government is taking away from the people the very thing necessary to get the economy going again, spending power. Oh, sure the government will give the money to those in need, the banks that are failing. But that is just the point; they will be giving the money to failures and to the failed policies and activities the government has already established. You and I would more likely put that economic power into enterprises we deem successes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reflection on Obadiah

The book of Obadiah expresses the wonderful observation that God will go to great extents to protect and defend his people. Because of their violence done to Jacob, Edom would receive the punishment of God. God would call shame down upon them and cut them off forever. It goes further. The passage warns that Edom shall not even gloat over the Day of the Lord falling on Jerusalem. Obadiah proclaims at the end of the book that the remnant would once again rule over Edom.

This oracle provides me hope on two fronts. First, Yahweh will defend his church. As the church is maligned and persecuted, Yahweh will keep a record of the abuses against his church and judge the nations for those abuses. Matthew 5 makes clear that the church is blessed when it is persecuted. I look at events such as the hurricane relief after Katrina. The church responded. Government did not. The media completely ignores this fact, rather it maligns the church. Yahweh will not allow these events to go unnoticed.

Second, this message makes me hopeful for our nation. Judgment on a nation falls on the nation in proportion to its abuse of other nations. Edom had plundered and not helped Judah in its day of judgment. How does America fare on this front? The fifth verse of the Battle Hymn of the Republic reads as follows:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

What other nation has ever had a motto like this? What other nation has ever used its military to liberate rather than conquer another nation? America is not perfect by any means, but it is helpful to reflect on history. World War I and II were conflicts over seas to combat totalitarianism. When our military goes to the middle east, it builds schools and infrastructure. It sets up independent free governments for the people. No other nation can make such claims. I don’t know what Yahweh has in store for this nation, but we must remember our heritage and continue to communicate God’s desire to bless the nations.

We must remember that on of the church's primary purposes is to bless the nations. We must also remember our heritage. This message must be communicated in our church and in our nation.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Justice II

In my last post I started to explore the concept of justice. I left many loose ends. I hope to clean many of those up in the days to come. One particular aspect of justice is the issue of abortion. I recently heard a criticism of the older generations and their approach to politics as being too one issue oriented—abortion. As the criticism was related, the younger generation said it was time to move on and look at broader issues. I, for one, have never been a one issue person. I recognize the point of the younger generation. Some people are driven by this one issue. However, I am not willing to make it a point of criticism. If one must be driven by one issue, abortion is the issue by which to be driven. There is no principle more critical in our culture today or in any culture for that matter. If the sanctity of human life is diminished all of the other aspects of the law between people is diminished. What is it to steal from another man if that man’s life is of little value? What is it to bear false witness against another man if that man’s life is of little value?

In addition, in many respects, the issue of abortion embodies the broader issues of justice that I discussed in my prior post. Protecting the life of the unborn is the protection of the rights of someone other than me. By its very nature, being pro life is not being self interested. By its very nature, the position defends the most innocent person in the culture, the unborn. This is justice.

I am not sure what the so called younger generation is seeking to change to in its admonition to the older generation, but if it is at all reflected in the rhetoric of the recent Presidential campaign, it is self interest. All of the candidates declare what they will do for each interest group, as if the execution of justice was some benefit with which to buy the interest group’s vote. This is not justice; it is the opposite of justice. This may be unfair to the criticism, but the issues the candidates portray is telling.

Taking this discussion full circle, Yes, a voter can be driven by the one issue of abortion. However, abortion is a symptom of our me centered culture, our anti-justice culture. We are so self centered in this culture that we look past the question of is this just and focus only on what is good for me. If someone must focus on one issue, I prefer that they focus on an issue that is not one of self interest and one that embodies the principle of justice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

“Spreading the Wealth Around”

For some time, I have been thinking of the principle of justice in our civil government. What is justice? How should it be defined? And what will it take for this country to undertake the effort to get back to first principles of a government based on justice. Nothing has better crystallized this discussion than the recent quotation by Barak Hussein Obama, when, in response to “Joe the Plummer,” he declared that his goal is to “spread the wealth around.” Is this an adequate definition of justice?

When I try to analyze first principles on any subject, I like to start with Scripture. For me, there is no passage that summarizes the concept of justice better than Romans 13: 3 and following:

3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

As I have pointed out before in this blog, all of creation is covenantal. Typically, every obligation will have a reciprocal obligation. I will be their God and they will be my people. To parents: remember the Sabbath day before your children. To children: honor your parents. Here the obligations are no different. Citizens, be subject to the governing authority for conscience sake. Governing authorities, punish wrong conduct and do not punish wrong conduct. The obligation of the citizen is fairly strait forward: obey the law and pay taxes. The obligation of the governing authority is to execute justice, and this focuses on conduct.

The extent to which our corporate understanding is all screwed up is highlighted by the reaction to the counter position to the “spread the wealth around” philosophy. That reaction in this presidential debate has taken the form of a condemnation of greed. The McCain straw man has been summarily portrayed as a position protecting greed. I am willing to admit for the sake of argument that the characterization may be true, although I am not sure McCain's position actually protects greed, but would rather spread the wealth around just a little less. So assuming, just for the sake of argument that the characterization is true, I ask the next question: Is the characterization relevant? Is the correction of greed something that justice can remedy? And, if so, should it?

The answer to these questions is resolved by our reflection on Romans 13. Is the action of the government contemplated by the governing authority based on good conduct or bad conduct? If a man, out of selfish motives, works hard and saves, where is the wrong conduct? If such a man is punished in the form of confiscatory taxes, is this not punishment for good conduct? I think we would all have to agree that it is. If the man steals out of his greed, he is liable to punishment for wrong conduct. This is justice. However, to take from some just because they have is not based on justice, but is itself wrong conduct arising out of greed.

We must all be willing to admit that we all are tainted by some sense of self interest. Whether this takes on the character of greed in the form hard work to achieve or taking from someone else is the critical question. Taking by the usurpation of power makes the taking no less wrong than taking by physical force or deceit. What we also must be willing to admit is that justice can not remedy greed because it is a motivation and not a conduct. The governing authorities can not correct motivations, because they are internal. As long as these motivations work themselves out in proper conduct, the governing authorities have no place to act, because they can not change what is inside a man.

Does this cause us to conclude that there is not remedy for greed? No, but the answer is not in the governing authorities, it is in the church. It is the church that must teach compassion and generosity. It is only the church that can speak to the heart. Will the governing authorities allow that to happen or will they take on a task that they are incapable of completing?