Have Some Compassion

I’m a naturally compassionate person. It’s just the way I am. The first time I can recall wanting to help someone, I was 2 or 3. My mother took me shopping. Those were the days before shopping malls. She drove to the part of town that had her favorite shops and department stores. The sidewalks were full with shoppers migrating from store to store.

I was holding my mother’s hand as we left a store where she had made some purchases. We passed along the sidewalk, randomly window-shopping with a vague anticipation that soon we would find another shop to enter. Drawn to sights at my own eye level, when I paused too long to examine them, the sure tug of my mother’s hand told me I was not to dawdle.

Then I saw something that made me stop and pull against my mother’s hand. Leaning against a store front, just below the big show case, was a little man playing a little concertina. He wore a funny old hat and was missing several teeth. I looked him in his face, which was almost even with mine. But he did not respond to my glance. My mother gently explained to me that he could not see, and that the coffee can in front of him was for people to put money in. He played his concertina, and that was how he made a living.

I didn’t think he played that well, but even at my age I knew the little blind man was doing the best he could. My mother asked me if I wanted to put some money in his can and I said yes. She took some change from her purse and put it in my hand and I carefully dropped it into the can. Up to this point, I did not think the man even knew I was there. But as soon as he heard the coins clink in the can, he smiled and said, “Thank you!”

I knew that something very important had just happened. For just a moment, my life had connected with another’s in a meaningful way. I learned that sometimes people need help, and sometimes the person who can help them is me. That made me feel significant inside. I had done something good. This all happened in 1947 or 1948. It established a pattern in my life. Ever since then, I have felt compassion toward people in need and have been willing to help others as best I can.

Growing up in my home town of San Diego, my compassion extended to the poor people in Mexico, just across the border. I remember men coming to our front door, asking for any kind of work. They spoke no English, or very little, but because my mother understood a little Spanish, she knew they were asking if they could work for food. She fed them lunch, gave them some yard work to do, then sent them on their way with a little food and money to take with them. This happened a couple of times. The men were very polite and thankful, and we were happy to help them.

We were aware of the poverty in Tijuana. We not only went to Tijuana for the usual tourist and shopping reasons, but we took money, toys and food to orphanages. During Christmas we collected things to take to them. They were very needy and grateful to receive these gifts. I became comfortably familiar with Mexican culture (my first memory of music is listening to a Mariachi band) and in high school, I chose Spanish as my foreign language, as did most of my contemporaries.

Throughout my life I have known Mexican-Americans — people who moved to the U.S. from Mexico to become Americans. I attended college with them, served in the Army with them, worked alongside them and called them friends. Those whom I have known have been law-biding, had a strong work ethic, good morals, family values and a respect for faith in God. They are the kind of immigrants who make a significant contribution to the fabric of American society. They ask for no special treatment — just a fair opportunity. They obey our laws, and they succeed — as Americans. The same can be said of legal Latino immigrants from other Central American and South American countries.

However, while those previous immigrants worked hard to become inculcated as Americans, an opposite trend was simultaneously at work. The number of illegal immigrants (people who simply walk across the border) has become so great, no one really knows how many there are. Those who come from Spanish-speaking nations aren’t as motivated as their legal predecessors to learn the English language, obey American laws or “melt” into our American culture. More common now are illegals who fight to retain their separate cultural and national identities, an attitude that guarantees they will remain separated from main-stream America, unprepared to participate in a political and social system foreign to their cultural upbringing.

Another way in which illegal immigrants today differ from their traditional predecessors is that there is a far greater criminal component now. Roughly one third of the American prison population is comprised of illegals. Gang violence and related crime has greatly escalated as a result of international drug and prostitution rings originating from south of the border, creating a law-enforcement nightmare in many cities. Illegals are bringing the worst elements of society with them, and our own federal government carelessly disregards how that adversely effects our nation. States and municipalities are burdened with unsustainable financial obligations, not only in terms of prison systems and law enforcement, but on health costs, education costs and housing costs, not to mention a job market that continues to be depressed.

Another difference is that there are many young Mexican immigrants who are convinced that a huge portion of the Southwestern United States really belongs to Mexico and their goal is to take back that land. These young people have no desire to become Americans. They do not respect American laws, traditions or our form of government. They actually want to take over the Southwest and force us to become Mexicans. This is not hyperbole. See http://www.mayorno.com/WhoIsMecha.html.

But the biggest difference between immigration policy now and during the 1950s when I was a kid, is that immigration laws used to be designed with our national interests in mind, and those laws were actually enforced. But many prudent and protective laws were struck down, including laws that prevented immigrants from bringing diseases into our country. Diseases we had eradicated were re-introduced into our population, because sensible immigration regulation was dismantled.

That is not to say our current immigration laws are all bad. But the call for “Comprehensive reform” is meaningless when even those laws are not enforced. When the federal government sues an Arizona sheriff for actually trying to enforce immigration laws, the only rational explanation is that our own federal government doesn’t want those laws enforced. The “broken system” we hear about is nothing more than the refusal of government to do their job according to the law.

Relaxing law enforcement in order to sustain an “open borders” policy is contrary to our national interests. No nation in the world can tolerate foreign nationals simply walking across their borders without going through the legal process of applying for residency. Why should we abrogate our national interests, our national identity, our national security?

Go to the other nations of the world and find out what they require in order to allow foreign nationals to relocate to their country. You will discover that it isn’t easy to immigrate to other countries. The reality is that the desire to protect national identity and cultural cohesion is universal. Legal restrictions to immigration are to be expected and respected by all potential immigrants. When legal immigrants weigh the difficulty of meeting immigration criteria against the promise and hope we offer, the U.S.A. still stands out as the land of golden opportunities. People from all over the world are still welcomed (legally) to our shores.

So, why should our government allow for additional millions of undocumented (illegal) immigrants to cross our borders without concern for our immigration laws? The short answer: cheap labor. Keeping labor costs down is a concern of big business that has both Democrats and Republicans looking the other way. By letting illegals enter the work force they are able to sustain their profit margin and keep prices artificially low. It’s similar to keeping costs down by sending jobs overseas, where they pay workers less. Only in this case, the low-paid foreign workers are right here in our own country.

Proponents of this arrangement like to say that these illegals do the work Americans aren’t willing to do. But I don’t believe that for a moment. Since the economy tanked in 2008 a lot of Americans have learned to appreciate having a job. If the younger generation isn’t willing to roll up their sleeves yet, they will eventually. Necessity is the mother of invention. My generation certainly was willing to work hard. When I was young, I did my share of menial labor. A lot of us did. That’s how you got your start in the working world. Then, after you got experience and education, you moved up. That used to be the American way. We all had to start at the bottom and earn the respect and trust of employers. Why should American youth think they’re any different today?

Now we have a crisis situation. Thousands of children from Latin American countries being brought into our country at the hands of cold-hearted smugglers. Children are separated from their families, exposed to untold dangers, diseases and criminal abuse. Their stories pull at our heart strings and we are asked to have compassion on them. And on a purely compassionate level, I applaud the efforts of Glenn Beck and mercuryone.org to provide relief to these children, but ultimately, they need to be returned to their own countries. We cannot feed, house and care for everyone. Nor should we, when many of our own are in need.

Recently in the news I saw someone holding up a sign calling for open borders. It said something to the effect that the land belongs to everyone. That sentiment is born of ignorance, and simply is not true. Laws of land ownership are supposedly respected by every sovereign nation. Much of the land over-run and trashed by illegals on our southern border is private property, owned by people who paid for it and still are required to pay taxes and buy insurance for it. It’s their land, not “everyone’s”. It certainly doesn’t belong to Mexico or mythological Aztlan. Americans deserve to have their land protected. But their own government is failing them, choosing to ignore them in order to show compassion on foreign mobs.

It’s Americans who deserve our compassion — people who obey the law and take their responsibilities seriously. For these same fair-minded Americans also have compassion for the illegals, and try to do right by them. These Americans already have been helping and sharing and giving. We are the world’s deep pockets. But if things continue as they are, at some point our pockets will be empty, and strong-arm tactics will prove fruitless. Who will have compassion then? We should not allow false compassion for illegals to justify the continued criminal invasion of our land.

While there is still time, have some compassion for America.

 

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near — Isaiah 55:6

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. — Amos 5:24

 

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What Is Truth?

I recently was surprised to hear someone I thought was a traditional Christian enthusiastically quote and endorse Mata Amritanandamayi (or Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, or just plain Amma), a guru in India. I wondered why a so-called Christian would look to an Indian guru for wisdom, rather than referring to the deep riches of wisdom we find in the Bible. A pearl of that wisdom (something Jesus said) can be found in John 8:32: “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It seemed to me this person was a bit confused about the truth.

In John 18:38 Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?”, responding to Jesus who had just said, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate was the Roman prefect of Judaea from AD 26 – 36. His interview with Jesus was to weigh the charges made against him by the Sanhedrin.

Did Pilate ask Jesus to clarify what he meant? What did “bear witness to the truth” mean? Who did Jesus refer to when he said “Everyone who is of the truth”? These seem to be crucial questions. Yet, in the context of this Biblical passage, Pilate did not wait for an answer. John 18:38 continues, “With this he went out again”. So Pilate’s famous question was rhetorical. Rather than seeking an answer, Pilate was implying a statement, that truth is something up for grabs, a matter of opinion, subject to one’s interpretation or viewpoint.

Today it’s popular to espouse world views that consider truth relative, not absolute, in the sense that Jesus intended. Many people today see truth the way Pilate saw it two thousand years ago. They see absolute truth as dead, while relative truth is “living”. It grows. It evolves. It changes. They liken the idea of absolute truth to the simplistic convenience of “one size fits all”. And in order to ensure truth is the right size, they believe each person should be empowered with the authority to judge for themselves what is true.

So, take a moment of honest introspection. In terms of spiritual reality, what do you believe is “truth”? Do you believe it is absolute or relative? Obviously, Jesus considered truth absolute, because a relative truth renders the phrase, “of the truth” meaningless. So, do you consider yourself a person who is “of the truth”? Do you believe in the God of the Bible? Do you believe he will welcome you into his heaven when you die? And if so, what is the reason you deserve to be rewarded with eternal life in God’s presence?

These questions are primarily addressed to those who claim to be Christians yet exchange sound Biblical doctrines for a variety of non-Biblical beliefs. A myriad of religions and belief systems outside of Biblical Christianity provide different responses to these questions. Inevitably, those who are Biblically ignorant, misinformed, disenchanted or deceived will accept many non-Biblical teachings as attractive options to unsatisfying dogmas.

For instance, karma and reincarnation are teachings that are not found in the Bible, and in fact undermine Christian theology. However, it is not difficult to find professing believers who include those teachings as part of their faith. But the problem with this phenomenon is that in order to include karma and reincarnation as part of your faith, you have to reject the Bible as being the foundational authority for your beliefs. You end up making yourself your own authority, because to you, truth is relative. This is mainly accomplished by relying on feelings, rather than the examination of a premise.

The appeal of karma and reincarnation is that they allow for an ever-unfolding progress toward spiritual perfection which can apply to anyone. While the reality of cause and effect produces consequences for everything we do, that’s not karma. Karma is like a spiritual tally sheet of rewards for doing good and punishments for doing bad. The idea of reincarnation gives everyone unending time and opportunity to develop the good, overcome the bad and move up the spiritual ladder. These feel-good doctrines are critically flawed and overlook a fundamental spiritual realization. They are impersonal forces that are part of the fabric of existence, the cycle of life. And as such, they obviate the need for a personal Savior.

The gospel, in a nutshell, is this: Sin separates us from the infinitely perfect, holy God. No amount of our own efforts to do good or do penance for bad can ever make us holy enough to have fellowship with God. So, in order to restore that fellowship, God provided the perfect sacrifice of his only Son to atone for our sin, that whoever receives him, that is, believes in his name, should be given the right to become children of God (see John 1:12).

If karma and reincarnation are “truth”, then there was never a need for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Christianity is gratuitous. But the Biblical reality is that God loves us and desires fellowship with us. There is no love with karma or reincarnation — no need for a personal God at all. Is it not crystal clear that our view of “truth” has critical consequences?

The Bible says, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:7). We must meet God’s expectations, live up to God’s standards, and answer to God’s authority because we are subject to God’s judgment. Do you believe that? Do you believe that God created us? Do you believe he has sovereignty over us, requiring our obedience? Do you believe you are accountable to him? Or do you think that somehow you will eventually, by some long, protracted, hit-and-miss method drift closer and closer to heaven? What exactly do you believe?

The Bible says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). (Notice that Jesus referred to himself as “the truth”. Don’t you find that interesting?)

Right about now someone may be labeling me a “Bible thumper”. Please note, I am making the claim that the Bible teaches the truth, as opposed to Hinduism, New Age thinking or any other religious system. If I’m guilty of “thumping” anything, it’s the truth. And it is that truth that offends the ears of some. It sounds like a thump to them because they do not know the truth. It assaults the edifice of their fantasy. They are annoyed by the truth because it thumps against their relativity. Thump, thump, thump. Truth, truth, truth.

As fascinating, complex and diverse as Hinduism is, it is a far cry from the truth the Bible teaches. If you reject the truth of the Bible, could it be because you don’t want to admit you are a sinner who will stand before God’s judgment? Is it because you don’t want to answer to an authority higher than yourself? Is it because you want to be free but have forgotten that in order to be free, we must accept our responsibility to God? Freedom isn’t just being our own boss or doing what we like. It’s the relationship we have to God in Christ.

PS   Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15).  He didn’t say look to karma or trust in reincarnation.

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Fighting For Freedom

“I, _______, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” — U.S. Armed Forces Oath of Enlistment

 
This oath is administered to all entering members of the armed forces. As it clearly states, the Constitution is the object to which they are swearing or affirming allegiance. Most of us would agree that the purpose of the armed forces is to protect and defend our nation, but the Oath of Enlistment doesn’t say, “My country, right or wrong”. A soldier’s ultimate authority isn’t a political entity or the person in charge, but the Constitution. There is no obligation to obey orders that violate the Constitution.

Armed Forces Day is an appropriate time to pay tribute to those American men and woman who have chosen to serve in the military. Often, we appreciate and honor their service to our nation based on what they do, forgetting who they are. Sometimes we tend to think of those in the Armed Forces as a special “warrior class” — Rambo types who are drawn to war. We like to think of the heroes who are killed and wounded in battle as somehow different — more adventurous or daring than we are. But my experiences in the Vietnam war taught me something contrary to that notion.

The men and women of the Armed Forces are just like everyone else. They are part of our communities. They are co-workers, neighbors, friends and relatives. They come from different backgrounds, have different interests, skill sets and beliefs. The single common factor that binds them together is their commitment to serve. According to the Oath of Enlistment, the purpose of their service is to support and defend the Constitution. So, what does the Constitution say about the military?

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution lists 17 powers of Congress. In addition to the first power, which includes the phrase, “provide for the common defense”, powers 11 through 16 further develop that idea. Read it for yourself. These powers of Congress include declaring war, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a navy, making “rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” and providing for “organizing, arming and disciplining the militia”.

Article 2, Section 2 says, “The President shall be the commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into actual service of the United States”. Notice that the President as commander in chief doesn’t make the rules, Congress does. The job of commander in chief is to lead the armed forces according to the dictates of Congress.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the U.S. Constitution designs our military for purposes of national defense. But through the implementation of various international treaties, the scope of national defense has been broadened to include issues of “national interest”, used to justify sending forces into hostile situations all over the world, using U.S. troops, in U.S. uniforms, under the command of U.S. officers. Many Americans seem willing to accept this blend of military involvement and foreign policy and they think of Armed Forces personnel as a warrior class for whom armed conflict is natural or routine. They stop thinking of them as friends, neighbors and family.

In February of 1993, a young man named Michael New enlisted in the U.S. Army. In October of 1995 he was removed from his battalion formation, read his rights and told he faced a court-marshal for refusing to wear a U.N. uniform. And in July of 1996, Michael received a “Bad Conduct Discharge”. Ever since that time he has been fighting in the courts to clear his good name and to set the record straight — that a President doesn’t have the legal right to order American troops to fight under a foreign banner or under foreign officers.

Before you write this story off as the doings of some wacky malcontent, please read the detailed time-line of events of Michael New’s story at http://www.mikenew.com/thecase.html You will see that well in advance of the U.N. deployment he voiced his concerns in a reasoned and principled manner, yet was never given a legal rationale for the authorization of the order. In fact, a consistently recurring theme in this case is that citizens (remember, soldiers are citizens too) must do whatever the government says because… “We say so!” To those believers who chant the mantra, “We are to submit to those in authority over us”, I suggest you read Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission by Timothy and Chuck Baldwin. We are never justified in doing anything illegal or immoral just because those in authority order us to.

In 1994 President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25). Please remember, Congress did not produce this document, yet Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly states Congress is to make “rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces”. Obama has made so many Executive Orders that many people think that’s what a President is supposed to do. But not according to the Constitution. The President is not authorized to make laws. Only Congress is.

According to J. William Snyder, Jr. in “Command” versus “Operational Control”: A Critical Review of PDD-25″, “…PDD-25 states that the President, on a case-by-case basis, may authorize the placement of U.S. troops under the operational control of a “competent UN commander for specific UN operations authorized by the Security Council.” (http://www.ibiblio.org/jwsnyder/wisdom/pdd25.html).

Michael New’s legal team was denied access to this document by bureaucratic run-arounds typical of the abuse of power we see in a federal government out of control. Bottom line, they were unable to use it as evidence. The government has done everything imaginable to prevent this citizen from having any recourse to their abusive “We Say So!” attitude. This is not constitutional government. Learn the facts at http://www.mikenew.com/index.html

Recently I received a letter from Michael New’s father, soliciting donations to his legal defense fund. It began:

When my son Michael joined the US Army, he swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign AND domestic. Little did he know that the enemy he would be fighting was his Commander-in-Chief. When Bill Clinton tried to hand control of our military over to the United Nations, my son was the only man who stood up to him. Michael chose to be arrested and court-martialed, rather than become a mercenary for the United Nations…and he’s paying a heavy price for that patriotic decision. What happened to my son, Michael, can happen to any soldier. Which is why, when I’m done telling you this story, I need to know…Did my son do the right thing?

Though the Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2007, his legal team has not given up. Since then PDD-25 has become available and now may potentially be introduced as evidence. Unfortunately this year their petition was denied in U.S. District Court, so now it is a moot point. In a recent email, Michael New’s father wrote:

“We are currently working on a series of FOIA requests to try to determine if there was “command influence” on the court-martial (we are sure there was, and it happens to be illegal). The question was how high it came from – we think it came from the White House, and our source is second hand, but reliable…Of course, we’re getting a run-around and the usual “stone wall” treatment. Six requests brought letters telling us nothing, yet sending us in fifteen new directions (no exaggeration here). In pursuing those directions, we’ve called agencies who have said, “What? We haven’t handled those requests in years!”

Their dogged determination to fight this is admirable. The Michael New story goes to the heart of who we are as a nation. Aren’t those who serve in the armed forces just like us? Are they not our very own friends and family? Are we not under the Constitution? Or are we simply beholden to whatever personality occupies the White House?

Free men don’t simply bend to the will of autocrats, bureaucrats or oligarchs. They act on principle and when they act in concert freedom wins. If you think like a free person, then the Michael New story should inspire you to live like a free person. We all should take a moment this Armed Forces Day to think about what our freedom means, how we got it and how we hope to keep it. We need more Michael News in the military if we ever hope to remain free.

You can listen to the Ballad of Michael New at http://www.mikenew.com/ballad.html

To paraphrase the end of the Oath of Enlistment, “So help us God”.

 

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Puzzling Reality

As I was trying to solve a “Hard” crossword puzzle, I came across this clue for a five-letter word: “Hadrons’ superiors”. Unable to figure it out, I looked up the answer, which was “atoms”. Atoms? I didn’t get it. So I did a search for “hadron” to find out who or what it was. Without realizing it, I had entered a portal into the realm of particle physics.

A hadron, as it turns out, is a composite particle made up of quarks. A quark is an elementary or fundamental particle, along with leptons, antiquarks and antileptons, called fermions. They are the matter and antimatter particles. Bosons are another kind of fundamental particle called “force particles”, which “mediate interactions among fermions”, whatever that means. Any particle made up of two or more of these elementary particles is called a composite particle, and that’s exactly what a hadron is.

Scientists used to think that the atom was the most elementary particle of matter, but they discovered the atom is made up of these even smaller building blocks. It’s all quite amazing. Scientists are continually finding ways to look deeper and closer into the heart of matter.

One would hope that their discoveries would help us all to better understand the reality we live in. But interestingly, the more questions science answers, the more new questions are created. Understanding reality has become a function of whatever theory seems most acceptable you. Without pretending to understand it, I offer this paragraph from Wikipedia’s article on the elementary particle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle):

Around 1980, an elementary particle’s status as indeed elementary—an ultimate constituent of substance—was mostly discarded for a more practical outlook, embodied in particle physics’ Standard Model, science’s most experimentally successful theory. Many elaborations upon and theories beyond the Standard Model, including the extremely popular string theory, double the number of elementary particles by hypothesizing that each known particle associates with a “shadow” partner far more massive, although all such superpartners remain undiscovered. Meanwhile, an elementary boson mediating gravitation—the graviton—is generally presumed, but remains hypothetical.

In other words, despite all the knowledge gained through scientific study, our understanding of the physical universe we live in (our reality) is still basically a mystery. One of the questions string theory introduces is how many dimensions there are. My generation was told space has three dimensions and time was the fourth. In 1969 I heard the 5th Dimension sing the Age of Aquarius, and I mistakenly thought my consciousness was expanding. (C’mon, lighten up!)

But string theory concludes there are ten or even more dimensions to reality. At first glance, such a theory is mind-boggling, especially to someone raised on mid-twentieth century conceptualizations. However, when I consider that my idea of reality includes God, heaven and supernatural matters beyond a simple four-dimensional explanation, maybe science is onto something.

It’s hard to read the Bible without thinking there are dimensions to reality we simply do not understand. Where is heaven, if not in another dimension? Where are the “heavenly places” of Ephesians 6:12 and Hebrews 9:11-12? What did Paul mean in 2 Corinthians 12:2 by “caught up to the third heaven…whether in the body or out of the body”? Supernatural phenomena, such as miracles and angels or even the omniscience and omnipresence of God become easier to grasp as realities when you see them as functions of other dimensions we don’t understand.

Despite the greatest efforts of our finest minds, the mystery of what reality is persists. There is no unanimity in the field of ontology (the study of the nature of being). Just think about that for a moment. Those who study the nature of existence don’t even agree on what existence is! Similarly, there isn’t even agreement on the theory of knowledge (epistemology), as to what we can know or how we can know it. What this boils down to is that people see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe.

Our ability to live well isn’t as dependent upon our understanding of reality as it is our beliefs about reality. What we believe fills in the empty spaces in what we can know. If you are driving down a road and a tree has fallen, blocking your way, it’s not going to make any difference how well you understand the sub-atomic structure of the tree. Solving the problem of getting around the obstacle remains.

The scenario of a fallen tree in your way includes many more considerations. Perhaps it means you should turn back. Perhaps you are frustrated by the delay. Perhaps you see this as an opportunity to examine your purposes. Should you focus on yourself or help someone else, whose way is also blocked? Perhaps you are reminded to be thankful that this tree didn’t fall when you would have been driving on that very spot. Or you might even relish the challenge of the situation. The “reality” of the situation is partly the tree and partly you. Your part is what you believe.

It’s tempting to focus on the tree and miss the forest — just like it’s tempting to focus on a hadron, or even a quark. But they’re only tiny specks in the big picture. And to me, the big picture points to God. Assembling all those parts together is like solving a puzzle. What do we see when the puzzle is solved? In Romans 1:19 it says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

The big picture is that we can see the universe God created and recognize his handiwork in it, just like we can recognize a painting by Rembrandt, a building by Frank Lloyd Wright, a book by Hemingway or music by our favorite composer. Creation points to the Creator. Particle physics points to something greater than tiny particles — not just to a solved puzzle, but to the Maker of the puzzle.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16a, 17

 

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Resurrection Day

The Dating of Easter

This year Easter falls on my birthday. Not that it means anything, but the coincidence has caused me to do some thinking about Easter and what that day means to me. Dates hold a particular significance for us all. We look ahead on our calendars and mark the important days — vacations, dentist appointments, birthdays. But sometimes we get the wrong idea about dates. I have the same birthday as Adolph Hitler. That makes me living proof that astrology is bunk. Being born on a particular date doesn’t make me who I am. So, let’s not be so set about the date something happens that we lose our sense of responsibility for how we respond to it.

This year, on April 20th Christians will celebrate Easter — that is, in most Western churches. In 325 the Roman Emperor Constantine assembled the First Council of Nicaea, consisting of approximately 318 bishops, each of whom was allowed to bring two priests and three deacons with him, making the total number in attendance perhaps 1800 or more. One of the items on their agenda was to agree on when to celebrate Easter.

A problem existed because originally the date of Christ’s resurrection was marked according to Passover, as set by the Jewish calendar. Scripture instructs the Passover lamb to be slaughtered, roasted and eaten on the 14th day (beginning at twilight) of the first lunar month (Nisan) of the Jewish religious year. (The Jewish civil year begins in the month of Tishri, but that’s another story.) By the fourth century, the Christian church no longer identified itself as a Jewish sect. It sought to establish a distinctive Christian church calendar with its own non-Jewish time of year, in place of Nisan.

Calendar problems like this can seem pretty esoteric and confusing. A wide variety of civilizations and cultures have produced diverse calendars — none of them without flaws, including the now popularly standard Gregorian calendar. In 46 BC Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar, introducing the Julian calendar. That was the calendar in use by the Roman empire in 325. The First Council of Nicaea came up with its own method for setting the date for Easter. They decided Easter should fall “on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring (Vernal) Equinox.”  http://www3.nd.edu/~pantsakl/dateofeaster.pdf

The decision to separate Easter from the Jewish calendar was not without controversy. But the majority ruled and a new tradition began. I do not pretend to understand the formula set forth by the First Council of Nicaea, but apparently, tying the celebration of Easter to the vernal Equinox had the effect of causing the date to gradually “drift” away from the time of year set by the Council. So, in 1582 Pope Gregory upgraded the Julian calendar, giving us what is known as the Gregorian calendar, solving the problem of the drifting date. I use the term, “solving” advisedly. From The Dates Of Easter Sunday (linked above), Panos Antsaklis writes,

The Eastern Churches have fixed the above “Vernal Equinox” to be March 21 of the Julian calendar, which currently is April 3 in the Gregorian calendar. So, in Eastern churches, Easter falls between April 4 and May 8, while in Western churches Easter falls between March 22 and April 25.

The above “first full moon after the Vernal Equinox” is not the actual full moon, but it is a calculated, ecclesiastical full moon called the Paschal Full Moon.

If you’re anything like me, all this seems so unnecessary. The Jews still have their calendar and they still celebrate Passover according to the Biblical date. My opinion is that as long as we have Scripture that links the Resurrection to Passover events, why shouldn’t Christians celebrate it according to the timing of the Jewish (Biblical) feast of Passover?

Those 318 bishops back in 325 decided to set the date of celebration to a time of year, and chose the vernal equinox as their standard reference. But there is absolutely nothing in Scripture that ties either Passover or the Resurrection to the vernal equinox. The Council’s decision was strictly pragmatic, and strictly for the purpose of separating Christianity from the Jewish calendar, which as it turns out is the most reliable and accurate method for dating the Resurrection. Was this decision a mistake? I strongly believe so.

For one reason, Christians have largely lost the significance of Passover, particularly the fact that Jesus Christ fulfilled that Biblical feast. In fact, so far, Jesus has fulfilled four Biblical feasts. For Pesach, he was our Passover Lamb; for Unleavened Bread, he was our sinless Messiah; for First Fruits, he was the first to be raised from the dead; for Shavuot (Pentecost), his Holy Spirit was given. Three Biblical feasts yet remain to be fulfilled: Rosh Hoshanah, the announcement of Jesus’ second coming; Yom Kippur, the day of his judgement; and Succot, his kingdom banquet. Christians should not miss the fundamental and meaningful prophetic connection our faith has with the Old Testament.

Another reason is that by using the vernal equinox to determine the timing of Easter, an association was made with pagan fertility celebrations that has continued to this very day. Most Christians are not offended in the least by the supposedly “secular” aspects of Easter, such as the Easter Bunny or Easter Eggs. But traditions like these have their origin and find their meaning in ancient pagan religions, which celebrated goddesses of fertility: Eostre, Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Astarte and many others. The ancients celebrated “new life” in the Spring, but it was sexual fertility that they celebrated, not new life in Christ. These Easter traditions persist in the church. Yet nowhere in Scripture are we directed to participate in them.

The Meaning of Resurrection Day

When I was growing up, my family rarely went to church, and those few times we did go were on Christmas or Easter. I think that describes a lot of families. They aren’t that familiar with the Bible, but they’ve heard that the gospel is important. When I was in the 3rd grade, my mother sent me and my sister off to Sunday School at the neighborhood Methodist church, in order to “expose” us to religion. My mother went to the church for a while, but stopped attending after they transferred the Pastor who had made her laugh. After that one year of Sunday School, she no longer made me go. I had been “exposed”.

What I didn’t like about my brief exposure to church was that while my parents and older brother lounged around, reading the Sunday paper, I had to polish my shoes and put on a suit. In those days, going to church meant getting dressed up. And Easter was like that on steroids. My mother would buy new dresses for herself and my sister, and a new suit for me. Then, we’d have to pose for a photograph, documenting both our Easter outfits and Easter baskets. It was a kind of ambivalent ritual — having to dress up, when I would have preferred to don my knee-worn Levis, but enjoying the fun of dying Easter eggs and eating chocolate rabbits.

The fact that Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:6; John 3:13; Luke 22:69) never really made that big of an impression on me. I didn’t really understand it. I believed in God, but I didn’t understand why Christ had to die on the cross. So, of course I missed the whole purpose of his resurrection. The only religious thing I took away from my Easter experiences was that God makes things grow. Seeds, plants, flowers, baby animals, and even people. But I didn’t understand the resurrection. That’s most likely because neither of my parents did, either.

Thinking about that makes me sad. My parents grew up during a time when church-going was commonplace and very much a part of one’s sense of identity in the community . Born in 1909 and 1910, they were young adults from the depression through WWII, an era marked by a predominant appeal to Christian values and Biblical authority. My father considered himself a Christian by association. He felt that since America was a Christian nation, that made us Christians — sort of like a social distinction, without much of a theological distinction.

Fortunately that changed, and by the time he was in his eighties, he did make a personal profession of faith. When I became a believer, I learned that God forgave my sins because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid for them, and that when I received him as my Lord and Savior, not only were my sins forgiven, but because Christ rose from the grave, he made it possible that when I die, I will live again, forever.

1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” That means understanding the resurrection of Christ is vital to our faith. Being raised is all about who Christ is and what Christ has done. It’s not about being a religious person, or even a good person.

That is the message of Easter. Christ has conquered sin and death, not just for himself, but for everyone who believes. The Bible says it so many ways, but let me cite the verse that is probably best known. I don’t think it can be overused:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16

The Christian faith is about eternal life in God’s presence, and the resurrection of Christ is key to understanding the gospel. Jesus was the Passover Lamb, sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 1:29), he conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:55) and he went before us to prepare a dwelling place for us in glory (John 14:2). That is what Christians should celebrate on Resurrection Day — nothing more, nothing less.

Posted in American Culture, Christian Faith, Easter, Resurrection | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

“Treason, Bribery, Or Other High Crimes And Misdemeanors”

Article II, Section 4 of the constitution addresses charges that call for the impeachment of “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States”. The term, “high crimes and misdemeanors” refers to illegal offenses committed by those in “high office”, not crimes that rise to the level of a felony. The constitutional standard for all civil officers of the federal government, up to and including the President, is that they should be bound by the law, just as all citizens are. They are not above the law, but are required to obey the law because it is their sworn duty to uphold and enforce the law. Law-breaking on the part of any government official demonstrates a breach of trust with the very citizens they swear to serve.

In a recent letter, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) wrote,

…President Obama abuses his “Executive privilege” to write and rewrite laws on his own, without the consent of Congress, without the consent of the people.

Like onlookers who see a rape being committed before their very eyes, yet do nothing because they are too afraid to get involved, many Americans are standing by, doing nothing while their constitutional form of government is being assaulted. Because they are ignorant of our constitution, our history and our form of government, these bystanders do not really understand what is happening right in front of them. The ACLJ letter continues:

In just the past few weeks, he has

  • raised the minimum wage on his own –
  • relaxed immigration restrictions on his own (to allow immigrants with “limited” terrorist contacts into our country –
  • and rewritten ObamaCare, AGAIN, on his own (even his Attorney General couldn’t tell Congress how he justified this).

He also

  • gave Congress and their staff members special taxpayer-funded subsidies for ObamaCare –
  • suspended the layoff-notice law –
  • cancelled the work requirement for welfare recipients
  • and stonewalled a nuclear waste storage application –

All on his own. Without an act of Congress.

The letter goes on to talk about the “recess appointments” Obama has made when the Senate was not in recess. This short list of unconstitutional actions by President Obama is nowhere near exhaustive. But the point is that Obama consistently assumes and exercises powers that are in violation of the constitution and therefore illegal and warranting impeachment.

Everybody today likes to whine, “That’s unconstitutional!” any time they don’t like some law. So, it seems no one cares or listens when it actually is the case that something is unconstitutional. And that is exactly what is happening now. Too many Americans are simply being ignorant bystanders, doing nothing to stop the demise of our constitutional government. But they are not innocent bystanders. They voted for “change”, and they got it. But change is an abstract concept. It can mean anything. And the change we are now witnessing is looking more and more like the transition from life to death.

The change America got was in our form of government. We changed from something like a representative republic to something like a dictatorial kingdom. Obama rules as if he were a monarch, with the powers of a monarch. But for anyone who cares enough to examine it, the U.S. constitution does not give the President the power to make laws. That power is reserved to the Congress. The President’s job is to administer the law. Constitutionally speaking, the President is an executive administrator, not a law maker.

Additionally, our constitution doesn’t design the federal government to regulate people’s lives beyond the limited powers it specifies. All other powers to regulate — most of them — are reserved to the States and to the People. Citizens who are standing around, doing nothing to fight government tyranny don’t understand that.  They think the government should ensure that their every need be met. But the fact is that American constitutional freedom means each person is free to do that for himself. When it’s the government’s job to take care of everyone, then the government is in charge of everyone’s life and there can be no more freedom, because the price of freedom is personal responsibility. The compassionate care of those who are unable to care for their own needs was not written into the constitution. That function was never intended to be part of our constitutional government. It is a function of private, voluntary charity.

NOTHING ABOUT ANY OF THESE STATEMENTS IS RACIST. Yes, previous (white) presidents have also abused the constitution. But they are not in office now. Obama is. And NO PRESIDENT HAS EVER ABUSED THE CONSTITUTION TO THE EXTENT THAT OBAMA HAS. To make things worse, celebrity commentators are calling for major amendments to the constitution. But the problem isn’t that the constitution needs to be changed. The problem is that the constitution isn’t being followed. If the constitution isn’t being followed now, what makes them think a new constitution would be followed?

These misguided efforts to make more “change” completely miss the sad and outrageous fact that representational government simply can’t work if the citizens don’t participate in their own self-governance. Without across-the-board citizen participation, government ceases being representative.  Those in leadership become a professional ruling class who decide they know best what’s good for everyone. So they gradually assume more and more power. And while the government increasingly resembles a dictatorship, the electorate increasingly resemble sheep — not free men.

Too many people want the government to be something it was never designed to be. It follows that they want the government to do things it was never designed to do. And when those people end up running the government, they simply do what they want to do — regardless of whether or not it’s in the constitution. Equally, they assume discretion in the enforcement of laws that are already on the books, acting as if they are sovereign and therefore entitled to ignore any laws they do not like.

This spirit of lawlessness characterizes Obama but is not limited to his administration. The “dictatorship” of Obama is enabled by the “oligarchy” of Congress and complicit courts. They represent themselves and their own agenda, not the people. Congress is culpable because they have participated in the breaching of our constitution by not doing anything about it. They have stood by, not wanting to get involved, while Obama exercises his imperial rule. I consider it outrageous that Obama’s actions, listed above, in the ACLJ letter, have not yet resulted in his impeachment. A congress that truly represents America’s interests would have already begun impeachment proceedings. But Obama seems to be able to do whatever he wants to do, without any accountability to the citizens of this nation or to the elected officials who represent us.

I see three reactions to this issue: 1) “It simply doesn’t bother me. I don’t see it that way”; 2) “It bothers me. I’m going to get involved or take some action”; or 3) “It bothers me, but I can’t do anything about it” (so they stand by and do nothing). I’d like to make some suggestions to those who identify with reaction #3. When the mid-term elections come up this year, plan to exercise your right to vote. Don’t be a bystander. Bystanders are no longer innocent in this day and age. Get informed. If you don’t trust the Republicans, consider a party who stands for what you believe. I recommend the Constitution Party.

But regardless of your political inclinations or your stand on various issues, consider adding your voice to a call for the end of Obama’s unconstitutional government. Check out the petition to impeach Obama and the Candidate Pledge to Impeach at http://www.pledgetoimpeach.com. It’s up to you whether you choose to care enough to act, or just stand by and do nothing. You’ll have to live with that choice, too, because whatever happens, it’s going to affect us all.

Posted in Constitution, Freedom, Government of the people, Obama, Obama (OWHNI), Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Chrislam': Is Allah God?

At http://vimeo.com/90086516 Brian Houston, of Hillsong Church in Australia is seen comparing Christianity and Islam to two different birds, a vulture and a hummingbird: “…they both find what they’re looking for. Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you, we actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim, to us Abba Father God. And of course through history, those views have changed greatly.” This man is dead wrong, and I mean that literally.

His seemingly minor comment, taken from what might otherwise be considered an orthodox sermon is more than just a bad analogy. It is full of misstatements and distortions which should send up red flags. Can we trust any message from this mega-church preacher? His main error is in equating faith to “the way you see God”. This error leads to the false conclusion that because Christians and Muslims see God in different ways, they may find him differently and serve him differently. Houston says “they both find what they’re looking for”, which apparently is more important to him than God’s revelation of himself through Scripture. By allowing for differences in the ways we see God, his tacit presumption is that there is no incorrect way to look at God. It follows therefore that the Bible cannot be held to be authoritative in how we either see God or serve him.

He further distorts this presumption by lumping together, in a total non-sequitur, “back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you”. The Old Testament was written roughly between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 millennia ago. Islam was founded by Mohammed, who lived from 570 to 632. “And you” I take to mean everyone currently living in 2014. How, exactly, is Brian Houston putting these three elements together to make a cogent statement? I think he wants to say that these are three disparate ways of “seeing God”. If so, he has gotten himself into deep waters.

“back into the Old Testament”

Let me take one issue at a time. Does the Old Testament in fact see God differently than the New Testament? In order to believe so, we must conclude that the two testaments contradict one another, not only in the religious sense (comparing Judaism to Christianity) but in their respective textual descriptions of God. The old argument that the God of the OT was vengeful and demanding, while the God of the NT is loving and forgiving is without merit, glossing over the entire weight of Scripture. If the OT supposedly describes an angry God, then how can it contain passages such as, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22)? Equally, if the NT supposedly describes God as loving, then how can Jesus say such things as, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34)?

The truth is that the Bible — both the Old Testament and New Testament, taken together — sees God one way. Yes, he is loving and forgiving, but he also judges and destroys unrepentant evil. Though his judgments may seem harsh, God is good all the time. There is no evil in him. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Hebrews 13:8-9a says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings”.

While Hebrews 8:13 says the new covenant makes the “old covenant” obsolete, the “Old Testament” is not the same as the “old covenant”. Remember that Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). His audience was Jewish. To a Jew, “the Law” and “the prophets” was clearly understood to mean their Bible, which we now call the Old Testament. The “Law” is the Jewish Torah. Torah in general means the teachings of God, so in that sense it represents all Jewish Scripture. Also called the Tanakh, this is what the Bereans examined every day, when they checked to see if what Paul and Silas were preaching was true (Acts 17:10-11). In other words, the Bereans used the Old Testament to check to see if the New Testament gospel was correct…which proved to be the case.

“and the Muslim”

You won’t find Muslims in the Old Testament. They didn’t show up until another 6 centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, not only had Judaism been around for a long time before Islam began to “see God” differently, but so had Christianity, including the New Testament. When it comes to how we view God, the Bible clearly states not to go beyond what is (already) written (1 Corinthians 4:6) and not to add to or take away from Scripture (Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18-19). Do not miss this point: Both Jews and Christians worship the same God of the Bible. The fundamental difference between them is that Jews do not recognize that Jesus is their Messiah. However, the same cannot be said of Muslims. It’s not that they see God in a different way. They actually are looking at a different god.

This fact is confirmed by the fundamentally opposing descriptions of God given by these decidedly different belief systems. Christians believe that God desires a personal relationship with believers. John 1:12 says that those who receive Christ “he gave the right to become children of God”. Galatians 4:6 says, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:17 says, “…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”. But the Allah of Islam is not knowable, not relational and has characteristics of both good and evil. For further comparison, see:

http://radicaltruth.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=95:who-is-allah-is-he-the-god-of-the-bible&catid=11:radical-truth-christianity&Itemid=9

“and you”

So here we are in 2014, according to Brian Houston, each of us is “seeing God” in our own way. And because our way supposedly is different from the Old Testament, we should also accept the “differentness” of the Muslim way of seeing God. In other words, we are to align the attitude of our faith with the politically correct notion that diversity trumps truth and authority. But wait, there’s more: There is no reason to think the alternative ways of “seeing God” can be reduced to these three choices.  Using his analogy, each and every different religious “view” should be considered equally valid. I’m no ornithologist, but I know that there are more than just two different kinds of birds in the desert.

But many “truths” is the same as no Truth. With one stroke of his broad brush, Brian Houston has completely painted over the infallibility of Scripture and the authority it holds for our Christian faith. By saying “views have changed greatly”, Houston denies the immutability of Truth; he denies the “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5) that we of 2014 share with the first century believers.  He denies the Christ of Scripture.

“those views have changed greatly”

This statement implies that faith in God is not based on the absolute truth of the knowledge God has revealed to us. By “those views” does he mean our views are different because people’s views simply change? If Jesus fulfilled the OT teachings, what specific views about God changed? Wasn’t that change, brought about in Jesus, referred to as good news? So what are we talking about? Do we give the views of Mohammed and his Koran the same deference, awe and respect that we give the Bible and the Lord, who continues to reveal himself to us? Or do we reduce faith to nothing more than our “view” of God, subject to the whims of changing environment and cultural influences?

Jesus didn’t say, “I am one way you can see God”. He said he is The Truth, that no one comes to God the Father except through him. This was “good news” when God in flesh walked among us; it’s the good news now. That has never changed. No matter how anyone chooses to look at God, the only way they will ever come to truly see God is through Christ. Islam leads people away from God, toward eternal death. But if a Muslim repents of sin and turns to Abba Father through Jesus, he will have eternal life. We are either looking at the true God or looking at some counterfeit. How we see God doesn’t matter if it is just a delusion. Religion is not the issue. What really matters is whether or not the “God” we see is really God.

“we actually serve the same God”

How we choose to see God is a life-or-death proposition. Muslims who look to Allah will die in their sins. Muslims who turn to Abba Father will find Christ, the one and only “life” and “light” of men. The danger in Brian Houston’s message is that if we truly believe that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, then by extension, we must assume that all religions serve the same God. The moment we fall into that trap, we are refusing to believe the word of God. And if we do not believe his word, how can we obey it? And if we do not obey his word, how can we say we love the Lord?

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” — John 14:15

The 16th chapter of Revelation speaks of the seven bowls of God’s wrath, poured out on those who “had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image” (Revelation 16:2). Using Brian Houston’s thought process (or lack of one), you could say they were just “seeing God differently”. As we move closer to the end of time, more and more people will be sucked into a black hole of deception — diversity — not discerning between truth and error. As this happens, many will be deceived into thinking Satan is God. “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). But by the time God chooses to rain down his judgment against these people, they will have become so hardened, that even in their agony they will curse God and refuse to repent (See Revelation 16:11, 21).

No. We don’t all serve the same God. Serving Allah is not serving the LORD. Allah is a false god. We can’t just choose any old way to think about what God should be like. We are answerable to him just the way he is, whether we know him or not. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to be stuck with a “view” of who God is. We can actually know him. God is who he is, regardless of how we choose to see him, or not see him, if that’s the case. The one and only God, the Creator of the universe, not only can be known, but wants to be known by us. For that purpose, he has revealed himself to us in the Holy Scriptures which have been preserved, not changed. He is who he is. He is life and he offers life. He is available. You can meet him, know him and serve him. Or you can choose death by accepting a counterfeit view.

So what’s so all-important to you? Finding what you’re looking for? “Seeing” God your way? Or knowing the absolute Truth and being set free?

“…choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” — Joshua 24:15

Posted in Allah and the Qur'an, Bible, God | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Locker Room Follies

Last year, California’s governor signed into law Assembly Bill 1266, which directs that in our public schools gender is something students choose, rather than something they are born with.  If a student with male genitalia self-identifies as a female, he/she is allowed to choose to use the girls’ bathrooms and showers.  The upshot of this law is to respect the feelings of  those who are conflicted with their own gender identity at the expense of the privacy rights of the majority.

In response to this travesty, Privacy For All Students (PFAS) was formed and circulated a petition to get a referendum on the ballot, to give the people of California the opportunity to voice their opposition to this invasive social engineering.

504,760 signatures were needed to place the referendum on the 2014 ballot.  PFAS garnered 619,346 signatures and submitted them to the State.  PFAS even had to take the Secretary of State to court to force the full count of signatures in two counties.  In its examination of the signatures, the State has only deemed 487,484 to be valid, disqualifying 131,857 signatures — a whopping 20% of all signatures submitted.

From their latest email update, PFAS writes, “The law allows for PFAS to now look at the rejected signatures and to challenge the results.  Election officials are not making this easy for the PFAS representatives and attorneys that are seeking to examine the rejected signatures.

But we will not be bullied. We will fight to have fair standards, consistently applied.  And we will demand that all valid signatures be counted.”

In their update, PFAS talks about some of the reasons that signatures have been thrown out:

If your signature on the petition looks different than your signature on a voter registration card or even a DMV record, then your signature may have been thrown out.

If the printing of your address looks like the printing of any other signer on that page, then your signature may have been thrown out.

If you left out or transposed any numbers in your address, then your signature may have been thrown out.

If you were mistaken about which county you live in, then your signature may have been thrown out.

Some believe that this is fair, that a signature and all accompanying information should be filled in perfectly by the signer.  Nobody should help fill in the address (or if you had help, you should write a note on the petition that says so).  There should be no leniency for age and infirmity or even cultural issues.  If you signed the petition quickly or your signature has changed over the years, that is too bad.

That may sound good.  We all want to be sure that the system is not manipulated and that all of the signatures counted are legitimate.

But it also looks like the goal is to find a reason to reject–not accept–signatures.  And the results (more than one in five thrown out) show it.

We know that election officials are very lenient on who can vote.  Efforts to assure the identity of voters has been fought throughout the country.  But when citizens want to challenge a misguided law, suddenly these same election officials become experts at handwriting and printing and are not so interested in letting everybody be counted.

For now, it remains to be seen if PFAS will successfully challenge the signature count.  The good news is that AB 1266 will not go into effect until the outcome of this challenge is determined.  Gender selection proponents are pulling out all the stops to see that attitudes toward their agenda become sympathetic.  There was even the recent story of the student who identified as a boy, who claimed to be assaulted in the boys’ bathroom by three intolerant students of the same gender.  Turns out he/she made the whole thing up.  But before that confession came out, I heard one radio talk show say the real problem was parents teaching their children that things like transsexuality and homosexuality are sins.

This LGTBQ ideologue insisted it isn’t a liberal versus conservative issue, but equated the teaching of children that certain sexual behaviors are sins with teaching hatred and intolerance.  (Just a note on tolerance: It was invented by Christians, who were committed to treating with respect those with different religious convictions.  But failing to call sin sin is not tolerance.  It is the loss of all moral compass.)  But that’s where our society is now — well, at least a large part of it.  No individual sexual practice or preference or sense of gender identity is seen as wrong.  And those of us in the morally conservative or traditional majority have no right to say what’s right or wrong, because, “It’s all good.”

The LGBTQ agenda is so important to its proponents that they don’t care about the 15 year-old girl, struggling with her normal (there, I said the word) issues of self-confidence about her own body, being forced to share space in close proximity to someone with a male body who wants to be a girl.  AB 1266 cares only for the gender-challenged teen.  Regular kids will be forced to have their privacy violated.

Privacy was established to protect children from embarrassment and prevent unwelcome and inappropriate scenarios from arising.  In school settings, the practice of privacy and modesty were established to prevent teasing, bullying and other social behaviors that can victimize, humiliate or intimidate innocent children.  What kind of insanity is it that is causing us to sit idly by, while traditional wisdom and prudence are so carelessly discarded?  What do you suppose our Creator is thinking about all this?  And what do you suppose he’s going to do about it?  Shouldn’t that make a difference when we think about what we might do?

Additional information on AB 1266 can be found at http://www.privacyforallstudents.com

[UPDATE:  Soon after posting this article, I received the email copied below.  I think it demonstrates that the government in California doesn't care about the words, "liberty and justice for all".]

 

What Are they Hiding?

More than 131,000 referendum petition signatures were thrown out by elections officials throughout the State.  That was more than one out of every five.  But the law allows me as the proponent of the referendum to examine these signatures and to challenge them.  And I am allowed to authorize others to help me with that task in the 58 counties.

We knew that his would be a difficult process.

We even figured that some employees in each county would take it personally as we search for mistakes, misapplications of the law or even deliberate rejection of valid signatures.

But PFAS did not expect the hostility and intimidation that we are now receiving.

In some cases, it has been a challenge just to get past the front door.  In one county our entry was delayed for more than a week as election officials argued (without any basis) that it was their right to delay the examination for up to three weeks.  They added that once they did allow the examination to begin, they could only handle two people at a time to review thousands of rejected signatures.

In many counties we have been allowed to examine the invalidated signatures so long as we do not touch any document.  In one case, staff even tried to enforce their personal rule that we could not take notes or we had to sign detailed documents that limited our legal rights.  No county yet has agreed to voluntarily allow PFAS to make the copies that we will need as evidence when these signatures are challenged in court.

Of course PFAS is standing up to these bullying tactics.  We have a team of attorneys that is addressing the ever-changing rules and obstacles that are being introduced at each county.

But there is a level of bullying and intimidation that should not be tolerated.  That level may have been reached yesterday in Sacramento where volunteers were pulled away from their examination and asked to wait in the lobby for more than three hours before they finally went home.

The reason they were pulled away from examining signatures was a sudden change in rules.  As proponent of the referendum, I had provided authorization forms to our volunteers throughout the State.  The form and my signature are copied.  While that was sufficient for entry for several days, now Sacramento had decided that the signature needed to be “wet ink”.  While they backed off later, they were arguing that I either need to be there in person or have hard copy documents delivered.  No FAX.  (This was odd since these officials have been accepting and rejecting petition signatures by comparing these to electronic copies they have on file.)

That was a delaying obstacle, but the next revelation was pure intimidation.  Sacramento election officials offered to give a list of those who were authorized and unauthorized to one of our volunteers.  But first they had to make a copy for the ACLU. Apparently the ACLU had requested and Sacramento was giving them the names of each person authorized and not authorized to examine signatures.

Put another way, while elections officials were delaying the right to challenge signatures by making volunteers sit in a waiting room, there was no delay in delivering the names of those volunteers to an outside group.

Privacy For All Students began this fight a little more than six months ago with the simple notion that forcing boys and girls to share a bathroom was bullying.  Legislators with their sex separate facilities were bullying school children by forcing them into a situation that compromised the children’s privacy and safety.  Now election officials and the ACLU have joined the gang of bullies that wants to intimidate anybody that objects to their radical social experiment.

Thank you for your support and prayers for those that are volunteering to examine these signatures and those who are working to take this challenge to court.  If these bullying tactics and intimidation anger you, please donate to help us fight until we have the necessary number of validated signatures.

Gina Gleason
Proponent

Privacy For All Students -Stop AB 1266
660 J Street, Ste., 250
Sacramento, CA 95814
ID# 1359959

Posted in American Culture, LGBTQ, Tradional Morality | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s Always Hope

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted anything.  I guess I misplaced my writing mojo (no reference to hoodoo intended).  Oh, I’ve been writing, but just not up to the standard I try to maintain here.  But I need to turn this thing around.  I need to post something.  So this morning I decided it’s time to put up or shut up.  Here goes…

The pastor of my church is preaching a series that goes through the entire Bible — every book.  He began the series a while back, before I even started attending the church, which was about six months ago.  So he’s been at it for some time.  He finally completed his overview of the Old Testament, and now we are into the New.  Next Sunday, he will be preaching on Mark.  So, I am preparing myself by reading ahead.

This morning, as I was going through chapter 10, I decided to write down my thoughts pertaining to the story of the man who asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  I guess you can call this a commentary, though I do not pretend to be particularly qualified to call myself a commentator.  Nevertheless, here are my thoughts:

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.   Mark 10:17-22

The man’s question (What must I do?) is indicative of his point of view: that eternal life is something one gains by his own actions, something he does.  His question is particularly religious in nature, anticipating religious instruction.  He expects to be told how to live, how to pray, or what rites he should perform.  In asking this, he assumes Jesus is teaching something new, something to be added to established, traditional, Jewish religious practices.

His question also shows that the religious leaders of his day had blurred the eternal aspects of their own religion, which had come to be seen more as the cement for their national, ethnic identity and the power base for their political unity.  The belief that God offered eternal life had become of secondary importance, as had the idea that the Messiah would come for the purpose of offering eternal life.  These fundamental issues became a matter of sectarian dispute, obscuring the teachings of their own Scripture.  There are some great Old Testament verses about eternal life listed in the article at      www.nightflare.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=160:eternal-life-in-the-old-testament&Itemid=225

Rather than directly answering the man’s question, Jesus caught him up on the very first words out of his mouth: “good teacher”.  He asked, “Why do you call me good?”  I’m sure the man’s choice of words was nothing more than a formality, a respectful way to address Jesus.  But immediately, Jesus jumped on the word, “good”.  Why do you suppose that is?  I think it’s clear that the man was thinking about being good, thinking if he were only good enough, he would enter into eternal life.  And his natural assumption would translate being good with doing good.

Jesus cut through all that by saying, “No one is good except God alone.”  No matter what this man did, it would never make him “good” — at least not good enough to inherit eternal life.  By so doing, Jesus underscored that neither being good nor doing good will result in inheriting eternal life.  God alone is good.  But in heaven, God isn’t alone.  Therefore it must be something other than being good that gets us there.

Then Jesus reminded the man, “You know the commandments,” giving him six examples.  The reminder was that the Torah has already given him instructions for what he must do.  Thus, technically, the Torah has already provided the answer to the man’s question.  But the man’s response (“all these I have kept from my youth”) tells us the reason why he approached Jesus with his question in the first place.  He had done what his religion taught — all the right things, but still did not have the assurance of eternal life.

At this point, the Bible records, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'”  The man’s question had been about inheriting eternal life.  Jesus told him it’s not about being good, it’s not about what you do, but its about something he lacked.

He did not lack for material possessions.  Some might be tempted to say it was treasure in heaven that he lacked.  But while that is true, it is not true that everyone who sells all his possessions and gives to the poor will inherit eternal life.  So, what is that one thing this man lacked?  And why did Jesus give him instructions to sell his possessions and give to the poor, rather than tell him what he lacked?

Don’t miss the end of Jesus’ instructions: “and come, follow me“.  What Jesus was telling this man to do was to get rid of the one thing that stood in the way of following him — the man’s attitude toward his possessions.  Perhaps he saw his possessions as feathers in his cap.  If so, he may very well have looked at inheriting eternal life as just another feather in his own cap.  So, when the choice came down between one or the other, he lacked the faith to follow Jesus.  Lack of faith is what prevented him from putting eternal life before everything else.

At the end of the story the man was disheartened and went away sorrowful.  Jesus loved him.  He obeyed the Torah.  But he didn’t have that saving faith.  I want to think that maybe sometime later this man thought things through and eventually did sell his possessions, give to the poor, and then follow Jesus.  There have been folks just like him who did just that.  When it comes to matters of faith, there’s always hope.

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Hey, I’m Not A Bad Person!

Once, when I was talking to a friend about the Christian doctrine of salvation, he told me he didn’t feel like he needed to be “saved”.  “I’ve never done anything seriously bad, like stealing or murdering.  And whenever I’ve hurt anyone, I’ve always apologized and made amends.  No one needs to die for my sins.”  This attitude is fairly common.  Lots of people don’t think of themselves as “sinful” because they equate sin with specific anti-social or criminal acts.

To their way of thinking, sin is bad because it violates moral or civil standards of behavior.  So, if they are responsible members of their community, living according to the civilized rules of society, they don’t see themselves as sinful.  This attitude fits nicely into relativism.  If moral and civil standards are subject to change, according to how society evolves, then concepts such as good and evil are equally subject to change.  A sin in one society or culture may or may not be identified as sin in another society or culture.

Often, those who equate sin with specific sinful acts (transgressions of the law) point to various Old Testament laws against acts that are no longer considered sinful by most people today (such as the eating of certain “unclean” foods).  If those things are no longer “sins” (they argue) then the Biblical standard for sin is obsolete — not absolute, as Christians argue.

But this thinking does not reveal the Biblical concept of sin.  The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish sect who were known for their strict (legalistic) obedience to all the Jewish laws (about 613 of them).  As a result, they had a reputation for being the most righteous Jews.  But Jesus pointed out that sinlessness wasn’t a matter of perfect legal or religious behavior.  “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Notice Jesus said that even if those sins are dealt with satisfactorily (as in the case of the scribes and Pharisees) a person still won’t be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.  It’s not only a person’s sins that will keep him from going to heaven, but his sinfulness — the intrinsic sinful nature we all share, which separates us from God.  If we hope to ever be with God, we must be holy, because God is holy.  This message appears several times in the book of Leviticus and is repeated in 1 Peter 1:16.

Someone reading this might be thinking, “No one’s perfect.  God should know.  He made us this way.”  But that’s only half-true.  Yes, no one’s perfect.  But though we were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), we chose to rebel against God.  We chose to sin.  On hearing this, a lot of people get bent out of shape.  “I’m not evil!”, they insist.  “I’m not doing anything wrong!”  Maybe it would help to examine a Bible story about pride.  God considered this particular sin so egregious that he divided the “one people” of the earth into many peoples — each with its own language.  They were forced into being separated and going their own ways — a pretty extreme measure.

The story of the tower of Babel is considered a myth by those who choose not to believe it.  And if that includes the reader, I ask that you suspend your disbelief long enough to grasp the Biblical concept of sin, as it is illustrated in this story.  First of all, for some historical perspective, the destruction of the tower of Babel occurred during the lifetime of Peleg (“in his days the earth was divided”, Genesis 10:25).  According to my computations based on Genesis 11:10-18, I determined that Peleg was born 101 years after the flood and that when he was 30, his son Reu was born.  That means the destruction of the tower of Babel occurred sometime between 101 and 131 years after the flood.  (If it had occurred after Reu was born, the Scripture would say that the world was divided in Reu’s lifetime, not Peleg’s.)

This means that Noah was still alive at the time, because Genesis 9:28 tells us Noah lived another 350 years after the flood.  The significance of this is that those who decided to build the tower of Babel apparently ignored the option of consulting the wise counsel of the oldest man living — a man who had “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).  Granted, there was migration to take into account, but we also know that traveling great distances was not unknown in Biblical times.  Also, as cited later, God called them “one people”, which implies at the very least a familiarity with Noah and the story of the flood. Surely those who had survived the flood would have remembered God’s judgement against the wickedness of Man and would have advised against the hubris that motivated the builders of the tower of Babel.

Noah was Peleg’s great, great, great-grandfather (Noah – Shem – Arpachshad – Shelah – Eber – Peleg).  In Peleg’s day, the story of the flood had apparently lost its freshness.  It was yesterday’s news, old and irrelevant.  As always, for the younger generation, “that was then, this is now”.  They had big plans.  In Genesis 11:4 they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name…”.  They weren’t just aspiring to greatness.  Their aim in building their tower was to create a reputation — a name — that would put them above all others.  We see their focus in a repeated phrase: “let us build for ourselves…let us make for ourselves“.

At that time Noah’s name and reputation would have still been large.  Also, Nimrod had a big name: “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Genesis 10:9).  But even Nimrod was older than Peleg’s generation.  He was only three generations removed from Noah (Ham – Cush – Nimrod).  The younger folks who conspired to build the tower of Babel wanted to make a new big name — a name for themselves and for their generation.   They wanted to leave names like Noah and Nimrod far behind them and reach even higher heights.

So, why was that a bad thing?  Wasn’t it nothing more than the desire to excel and achieve?  To answer that you have to know what was in their hearts.  What motivated them is the issue.  The act itself of building a tower wasn’t sinful at all.  But the desire of their hearts was.  After God sized up what they were doing, he said in Genesis 11:6, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”  God saw their unity (“they are one people”) and knew that together they could achieve whatever they wanted.  Again, God did not see this as a good thing because they were doing it for no other reason than to exalt themselves.

God is not opposed to progress, excellence or achievement.  He is opposed to rebellion against him.  The building of the tower of Babel was nothing short of rebellion against God.  When God said, “this is what they began to do”, he was referring to making a tower for themselves that “reached into heaven” as if to say they were gods themselves.  They literally wanted to put themselves in the place of God, using all the resources of their unity to achieve a goal that fed their own self-interest.  This is clearly understood because had their plans been intended to glorify God, they would have made that clear.  What they did make clear is that they were doing it for themselves.

Because of our sinful nature, exalting our self-interest is rebellion against God.  Looking at self-interest in this way helps us to understand verses like 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  What this means is that we are to love God more than the world, more than our self- interests.  It’s all about our priorities, because when we consider God and his purposes above our self-interest, he supplies us with all the blessings of life.  “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  So, even though we deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) we receive abundant life from God (John 10:10).

Life from God’s perspective is putting him first, last and always.  Death is the consequence of not doing so.  And that is what Eve doubted when the serpent lied, “You will surely not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it” [the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden] “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4, 5).  There was just enough truth in the serpent’s lie to deceive the unwary Eve.  Eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did indeed open her eyes, but as God had warned, it also brought death.  Why?  Because the knowledge of good and evil can only be handled by an infinitely perfect, eternal, holy, righteous God, not a disobedient humanity, looking to satisfy its own self-interests.

But, the good news is that just as self-interest is turning away from God, repentance is turning back to God.  Maybe you see yourself like those builders of the tower of Babel.  Maybe you’ve got your own project, your own castle in the air, your own self-interest.  Take an honest moment to consider.  Is it self-serving or God-serving?  If your way isn’t God’s way, it’s rebellion against God, even if it doesn’t seem wrong at the time.  But you aren’t the judge, nor am I.  God is our judge, and his word tells us what sin is.  Don’t let pride get in the way.  If there is any meaning to the phrase “give back”, then consider giving back your heart and life to the One who gave it to you in the first place.  Give your life to God and you will not lose it, you will find it (Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24).

Posted in Bible, Christian Faith | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments