Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage

If the Constitution protects the "right" to same sex marriage, does it also protect the "right" to incestuous marriage, or the right for adults to marry children? If not, why not? On what possible basis could you find a "right" to same sex marriage in the Constitution without affirming these other "rights" as well? (I suspect it will now only be a matter of time before someone asserts such "rights").

And then there is the hypocrisy of Justice Roberts who said that the Constitution had nothing to do with this decision. I'm sure he's absolutely right. But the the Constitution also had nothing to do with the decision on Obamacare which HE supported! When justices stop interpreting the Constitution, and start re-writing the Constitution, their decisions can become quite arbitrary.

When Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House, she (and other Democrats) publicly mocked the idea that Congress should be bound by the Constitution. We have a President who ignores the Constitution. Now we have a Supreme Court that thinks their job is not to interpret but to re-write the Constitution!  The Constitution was supposed to protect citizens from government. When government ignores the Constitution we are in deep, deep trouble. Americans (both Republican and Democrat) should be (peacefully) protesting in the streets by the millions at this massive usurpation of power.

Germany was a democracy before Hitler took over. I have sometimes wondered how could they let their democracy be stolen from them like that? I suspect our grandchildren may one day be asking the same question of us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shut up and Dance

There is a very popular song--number 4 on Billboard's top 100 this week--called “Shut up and Dance” by a group called “Walk the Moon.”  As I was listening to this song recently, I started thinking of the story of how Jesus called to Peter to come out of the boat and walk on the water with him--and the words below came to mind (go figure)! To the tune of “Shut up and Dance”:

Oh don’t you dare look down
Just keep your eyes on me
I said “But I might drown”
He said, look up and walk with me
This Savior is my destiny
He said, “I’ll rescue you…
Look up and walk with me”

On the sea in fading light
The wind was blowing
Lightening flashing bright
Tossed around and helpless in the night
But, He’s stronger than weather
Much stronger than weather

He took my hand,
I don’t know how it happened
He pulled me up and He said,

Oh don’t you dare look down
Just keep your eyes on me
I said “But I might drown”
He said, look up and walk with me
This Savior is my destiny
He said, “I’ll save you-ou…
Look up and follow me”

(If you don't know "Shut up and Dance" you can find the video on YouTube).

I think I would be on shaky, even dangerous ground (or in over my head?) to say that God gave the these words to me. The entire thing didn't just pop into my head--I did spend some time editing and tweaking it. More importantly, in the OT God strongly condemns those who say God spoke when God did not speak.

But on the other hand, I have no musical talent or song-writing ability whatsoever (some readers will say, "Amen!"), and "Shut Up and Dance" has absolutely nothing to do with Peter or Jesus, so where did the words come from? 

Some Christians might say that God never directly speaks to us today. Other Christians seem to assume that almost any random thought, feeling or inclination they have is God speaking to them.

The point of my post is this: How can we know when or if God is speaking as opposed to when our thoughts are just our own thoughts? 

Friday, June 05, 2015

Illegal Immigration

On a talk radio show today a caller voiced his opposition to illegal immigration. He said, suppose someone broke into your house. Would you allow him to stay and offer him amnesty? Of course not. You’d call the police and have him removed! The Illegals have broken into our house. We need to kick them out! The talk show host—echoing what most Republicans believe—heartily agreed.

On this issue I disagree with the caller, the host and most Republicans. I don’t think the illustration is accurate. Let me modify it. Suppose you not only deliberately leave your doors unlocked, you never even close them. When outsiders start wandering into your home, you don’t have them removed, you let them stay. You give them jobs around your home and if they get hurt, you bandage their wounds. You even teach their kids and give them food.

Then, after they’ve lived with you for years, you suddenly, call the police yelling about those terrible intruders who have invaded your home! Well, it is your home. I suppose you technically have a right to ask them to leave—but they have hardly invaded. You practically encouraged them to come in!

That’s what we have done with illegal aliens. When they came, we did not have them removed. We looked the other way while they got jobs. We let their kids into our schools and gave them school lunches. We gave them medical care. We actually encouraged them to come and stay! And now we (Republicans) want to send them home? For many of them, this IS home! I think it is just plain wrong to try to force them all back after we have encouraged them to come and stay.

Of course my fellow conservatives will say, “WE didn’t invite them in, the Democrats did.” That’s not entirely true. Reagan gave them amnesty and then neglected to secure the borders. That’s encouragement to come. So it is not all the Democrats’ fault (maybe just 90% their fault). Like it or not, our government encouraged them to come and stay. It is just not right after all these years to suddenly try to force them to leave (even if that was possible).

So what should we do?

First, we should do everything we can to close the borders to ensure that no more people enter illegally, and to ensure that those who do come are not criminals or terrorists.

Second, after the border is secure, we should give illegals a set amount of time to apply for a green card. These green cards would be guaranteed to all illegal aliens who 1) have not committed felonies or multiple misdemeanors here or abroad, and 2) will wholeheartedly express agreement with our Constitution (for example, any illegal alien who thinks it should be illegal to make a cartoon of Muhammad should be deported immediately).

Third, we should significantly expand the immigration department. Make it possible for them to handle a much greater influx of immigrants, to adequately screen and track those immigrants, and to deport those who overstay their visas. Then we should open the doors to legal immigration and make it substantially easier and quicker for immigrants to enter—Specifically, immigrants who are good, honest, hardworking people who want to learn English and agree with our Constitution (Personally, I would focus on substantially expanding the number of persecuted Christian immigrants but that would probably be a non-starter).

Where would we get the money and manpower to do all this? I would suggest abolishing the IRS and Department of Education which would provide both the money and the manpower, but I’m sure others could come up with other suggestions (By the way, if the Democrats had really wanted to solve the immigration problem they could have used the trillion dollars spent in stimulus money to do all of this).


OK, I know the devil is in the details and there are probably a lot of things I haven’t considered, but broadly speaking, I think we should build a very high fence with a very wide gate (figuratively speaking), and allow honest, hardworking immigrants who are already here to stay.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The most serious danger facing America

I think it was Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev who warned that America would one day be destroyed from within. His words may turn out to be prophetic. America is under attack—from within. I’m fully aware of how radical this sounds to most Americans but I am convinced it is true. 

One of the things that made America great and free was the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights has been the foundation of American freedom since it was adopted, and yet that foundation is being undermined from within. 

Take for example, the right to bear arms. Americans have always had the right to bear arms—and yet progressives have fought tooth-and-nail to reinterpret the Bill of Rights to eliminate that freedom. When those efforts failed in the Supreme Court, some progressives sought to sidestep the Court’s decision, not to mention the Constitution, by attempting to restrict access to ammunition. The right to bear arms, of course, is meaningless without ammunition. 

Freedom of Association is also under fire by secular progressives. There have been movements, especially in higher education, to force Christian campus organizations to open up their membership and leadership to people who are not even Christians! This would be like telling a student Democrat club they must be open to Republican leadership! If non-Christians could join a Christian group in sufficient numbers, they could elect their own into leadership and then radically change the group, or vote it out of existence—which is probably precisely the point! When any association—whether a Christian group or gay rights group or environmental group—does not have the right to control their own membership and leadership, there is no Freedom of Association.

Freedom of Speech is also under attack specifically by secular progressives in the gay rights movement. Now just to be clear—I don’t believe businesses should discriminate against gay people simply because of their sexual orientation. But when the government seeks to force people of faith—caterers, bakers, photographers, etc.—to support, by their services, a political cause with which they disagree (gay marriage), that constitutes forced speech, not Freedom of Speech.

No group should be forced to directly support a cause with which they disagree. For example, pro-choice bakers should not be forced to bake anything for a pro-life rally. A sign-making company owned by a member of PETA should not be forced to make a sign in support of hunting. This is not a hard concept to understand. It is hard, however, to avoid the conclusion that progressive “ignorance” on this point is willful.

Our First Amendment protection of Freedom of Religion is also under fire from progressives who want to force people of faith to support actions they believe to be sinful. Progressives simply redefine Freedom of Religion as “Freedom of Worship.” What they mean is that you can believe anything you want, or worship any god you want, as long as you don’t bring that belief to the public square.

The First Amendment, however, was not written simply to protect your right to worship. It was written to protect you from a tyrannical government that would seek to force you to violate your conscience by compelling you to do things that you believe to be sinful. This is precisely what progressives seek to do, for example, when they try to force Christians and Christian-owned companies and organizations to assist in, support or pay for abortion. The intolerance of such progressives is demonstrated when they fight against exemptions even for Christian Colleges or Christian book publishers!

The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Progressives have (wrongly) interpreted the first clause so broadly and strictly that many of them would even see a Bible on a school teacher’s desk, or a student’s prayer before lunch, as government establishment of religion! Yet they seek to prohibit the free exercise of religion anywhere but homes or places of worship! Secular progressives are seek to re-interpret the First Amendment out of existence.

The attacks against our Constitution have become so widespread that they do not just come from higher education or media, but from the highest levels of government. When Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House, for example, she openly scoffed at the idea that we should follow the Constitution, and President Barak Obama has (fortunately for us) been slapped down by the Supreme Court numerous times for trying to sidestep or outright ignore the Constitution.

Secular progressives claim to champion tolerance and yet they are tolerant only of the causes and people with whom they agree. The truth is that they are often among the most intolerant people in the country. Secular progressives claim to fight against discrimination, but they are not really against discrimination at all—they fully support discrimination against Christians. When they, for example, would defend a gay baker’s right not to put anti-homosexual Bible passages on a cake, but deny a Christian baker’s right not to bake a cake for a gay wedding, they are discriminating against the Christian baker.

The reality is that progressives are just against discrimination when it comes to causes or people they support. They use the word “discrimination” as a power-ploy to beat their opponents into submission—and somehow Americans have swallowed their ploy hook-line-and sinker.

Secular progressives are attacking the very foundation of America itself…the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular. Such attacks are fundamentally anti-American and—I mean this literally—are more dangerous to our future than al Qaeda, Isis or al Shabaab put together. That is because we are (no thanks to progressives) still powerful enough to handle any attack made on us from the outside. But secular progressives are attacking America from within—and they are winning because Americans keep electing and supporting them. I fear that Nikita Khrushchev may turn out to be right.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Homosexuality and Freedom of Speech

I love ham and BBQ pork. I understand that Jews and Muslims generally do not share my views on pork. In fact, I would imagine that some of them think my eating pork is downright sinful. That's OK. I respect their right to their opinion. I would never dream of trying to smear or sue a Muslim or Jewish restaurant owner, much less try to run them out of business, just because they woudn't serve me a ham sandwich or cater some event I was having by providing BBQ pork.
There is something sick or even evil (and certainly un-American) about people who are so hateful and intolerant they would threaten, sue, or try to force someone out of business who will not violate their personal convictions. That's what's happening to numerous businesses. I never dreamed I would live to see it happen in America.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Obama's message at the prayer 2015 breakfast

At the national prayer breakfast, President Obama was technically correct in saying that terrible things have been done in the name of Christ, just like terrible things are being done in the name of Muhammad.
Our President, however, doesn’t seem to be aware of the difference—perhaps he doesn’t know.
Muhammad got rich and powerful by robbing merchants who followed trade routes near Medina. Muhammad became a warrior who ordered and took part in numerous battles in which he personally slaughtered people with his sword. He personally ordered the execution of those who insulted him or turned away from his new religion. He personally ordered the beheading of over 600 Jewish men of Qurayza for resisting his attack, and then after keeping one of their wives for himself, he had the other wives and all their children sold into slavery.
When ISIS, al Qaeda, al Shabaab, Boko Haram or other Islamic “extremist” groups, slaughter people because they refuse to submit to Islam, they can point to Muhammad’s example, as well as to the fact that he claimed to receive revelations from Allah like the one saying, “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, so strike off their heads and cut off their fingers, because they oppose God and His apostle.”
Jesus, on the other hand, never commanded his followers to subdue or slaughter the unbelievers. On the contrary, he commanded us go into all the world to make disciples, loving even our enemies, doing good even to those who hate us and praying for those who persecute us.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Peace and safety

I turn on the news and see endless stories of ISIS which almost seemingly sprang up out of nowhere—as if “rising out of the sea.” I learn that they are extraordinarily well-funded and have rapidly taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq, including military bases containing aircraft. As they crucify and behead their enemies, especially Christians, some have said they are more brutal than Hitler or Stalin. ISIS would like to develop a one-world government or “caliphate” and are now being called a clear and present danger to the West.

Meanwhile, thousands of people—including many Christians—are fleeing Islamic extremists in Nigeria and Cameroon. The persecution of Christians is widespread in Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Eritrea, Mali, Pakistan and numerous other places. In fact, for the first time in history American Christians are being dragged into court for simply living out their faith!

Elsewhere, the Israeli/Hamas war goes on, thousands continue to be slaughtered in Syria, and the Russian military is on the doorstep of the Ukraine. Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons and North Korea continues to develop the means to deliver the nuclear weapons they already have. If all that wasn’t enough, someone from the CDC is now saying that the Ebola epidemic is out of control!

I pinched myself and I don’t’ seem to be having a nightmare, so I’m beginning to feel like I’ve stepped into the beginnings of a futurist view of Revelation 6 and 13! But there’s nothing to be concerned about, right? At least we in the West live in peace and safety (1 Thessalonians 5:3-11).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review of Aslan's Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth



 My article on Reza Aslan's Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, published in the Minnesota Christian Examiner, 2007. http://www.minnesota.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Nov13/Art_Nov13_oped3.html

Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan is a New York Times bestseller, and for good reason. Aslan is a brilliant story-teller. In Aslan’s story, Jesus grew up under the oppressive rule of corrupt temple officials and brutal Roman overlords. It was a time of numerous uprisings by Jewish rebels and would-be-messiahs who sought to overthrow Rome by force. All this helped to foster Jesus’ resentment and rage against the rich and powerful.

According to Aslan, Jesus shared the anti-Temple feelings of other Galileans and his preaching of the kingdom was “a call to revolution, plain and simple” (120). Armed only with zeal, Jesus was welcomed as royalty as he rode into Jerusalem and confronted the Temple authorities with his claim to be Jerusalem’s rightful king. As a result, Jesus was arrested and executed by crucifixion, which the Romans reserved for the most serious political crimes.

So if Jesus’ message was a call to revolution, why don’t the Gospels tell the story this way? Aslan’s answer is that the Gospels were all written after the fall of Jerusalem by Christians who didn’t know Jesus and were trying to distance themselves from the rebellion. They, therefore, revised the story of Jesus to remove the fact that he was a zealot.

I found myself enthralled by the story and even agreeing in many cases. I agree with much of Aslan’s historical background material (though not always with his “spin”). I agree that most Jews in Jesus’ day opposed Roman rule and that some actively sought to overthrow it. I agree that Jesus thought of himself as Israel’s Messiah and that he envisioned a literal kingdom on earth. I also agree that Jesus was crucified by the Romans on charges of sedition.

But while there is much with which I agree, my disagreements are far more significant.

First, just because Galilee was a violent province before and after Jesus’ lifetime does not mean that Jesus grew up preaching a call to revolution.  Imagine, for example, a book detailing all the violence of the civil rights era and arguing that Dr. King, therefore, must have been an advocate of violent revolution! Jesus’ peaceful message, like that of Dr. King, was “radical” because it was so countercultural.

Second, while I agree with Aslan that Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah, Aslan seems to think that this fact must necessarily mean that Jesus was a zealot intent on overturning Roman rule. Aslan seems unaware that many Jews in Jesus’ day thought the Kingdom of God would be established by the direct divine intervention, not by human violence. They need only wait and be faithful until God acted.

Certainly the Essenes were one such group. Interestingly enough, Aslan argued that Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist who may have been influenced by Essenes. Yet Aslan doesn’t even entertain the possibility that Jesus agreed with the Essenes in their view that the kingdom would come by divine intervention, not by revolution.

Third, the extreme skepticism Aslan brings to the Gospels is unwarranted. He argues that the only two firm historical facts we can know about Jesus are that Jesus “was a Jew who led a popular Jewish movement in Palestine at the beginning of the first century C.E.”(xxvii), and that this resulted in his crucifixion by the Romans. Aslan seems unaware that even most of the radically skeptical Jesus scholars believe that the Gospels contain more historically reliable information about Jesus than this.

More significantly, however, although Aslan says “there are only two hard historical facts about Jesus,” (xxvii) he builds his case on other facts in the Gospels that he considers to be reliable. It appears that Aslan is very skeptical of everything that undermines his theory but accepts everything that he thinks may support his theory. Unlike many serious Jesus scholars, Aslan never sets forth the criteria by which he determines what is reliable.

Fourth, Aslan’s creative writing skill is one of the strengths of the book, but it is also one of the most serious weaknesses. Many readers will no doubt find it impossible to tell where the facts end and the creative storytelling begins. For example, when Aslan describes Jesus’ followers as “hiding in Gethsemane, shrouded in darkness, and armed with swords” and adds that they “will not be taken easily” (147), the reader is led to imagine a well-armed band of resistance fighters hiding out in wait for the Romans. This impression is pure fiction.

In Aslan’s view the reason not one ancient source presents Jesus as a zealot is because they were trying to cover up Jesus’ true identity.  On the other hand, a second possibility might be that the reason none of our ancient sources present Jesus as a zealot is because Jesus—like the Essenes and other Jews of his time—was not preaching rebellion against Rome but was proclaiming God’s direct intervention. Jesus was warning people to repent in preparation for the day when God would directly intervene in human affairs to set up his kingdom.

This second option is precisely what the Gospels teach, it coheres well with what we know about first century Jewish groups, and it does not require extensive, speculative historical re-imagination.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bill Maher: God is a "psychotic mass murderer"



The Washington Times (Saturday, March 15, 2014) reported that “during a conversation on the biblical story of Noah,” Bill Maher called God a “psychotic mass murderer” who “drowns babies.”  Maher asked, “What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at?”

If Maher is going to attack over a billion Christians and Jews around the world, he should at least get his facts straight. The story of Noah in the book of Genesis does not portray God as punishing “everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at.” According to the story, the whole earth was “filled with  violence” and “ever inclination” of people’s heart “was only evil all the time,” “all the people on earth had corrupted their ways” and the whole “earth [was] filled with violence” (Genesis 6:6-12).

The story implies the culture of the entire world was thoroughly and pervasively wicked and violent. We might imagine a culture in which rape, robbery, murder, torture, retribution and revenge were the norm, with no hope of turning things around. I haven’t seen the Noah movie but if I were going to produce such a movie it would have to be rated R for violence.

By way of modern examples, think of cultures in which lying, cheating, stealing and corruption are a thoroughly ingrained part of life. Think of cultures in parts of the world in which children are taught lies from earliest ages in an attempt to foster rabid hatred against Jews; or other cultures in which children are taught how to shoot and decapitate anyone who gets in the way of whatever they want. Think of cultures which imagine they are serving God by kidnapping, raping and torturing innocent women and children—often by the hundreds or even thousands (or in Sudan, by the millions)!Think of the honor killings and revenge killings that go on in the world. Now imagine an entire world like that with no civil restraint and no mediating good influence. That’s the story of Noah.

When Maher goes on to attack Christians for “the restrictions they put on themselves” it sounds like he is actually angry at the restrictions that the biblical God would put on human behavior.
Those of us who side with Noah in the story, believe that God, as the creator, has every right to restrict the behavior of his creation—especially since those restrictions, if actually followed, would produce a much more loving and peaceful society. We also believe that the Creator has every right to put an end to horrible wickedness and start over, which is the story of Noah.

Those who hate God’s restrictions and oppose the God of the Noah story, are unwittingly siding with a culture of pervasive corruption and intense, world-wide violence.

I’m sure Maher doesn’t believe a word of the story, of course, but if he’s going to criticize it, he should at least take a few seconds to read it and criticize it for what it actually says rather than creating a straw man that he can blow down.

Maher's response tells us much about his own rabid hatred of Christians, but nothing about the story of Noah. (And by the way, he needs our prayers, not our hate mail)!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Witnesses for Jesus



I recently attended a pastor’s workshop in which the leader—if I understood him correctly—taught that Christian witnessing is about telling what God is doing in your life.

Like many others, my life has often been filled with enormous emotional pain. When I was about six years old my cousin and best friend was walking behind a horse when he was kicked in the head and died. My best friend and brother-in-law was crushed in the back of the garbage truck he was working on. My two younger brothers died suddenly of massive heart attacks. My father-in-law died of Lou Gehrig's disease. 

My mom and dad both died of emphysema (and other complications) struggling for every breath they could get. My first grandson died during delivery. The pain of all of these deaths put together doesn’t even compare with other emotional pain I’ve experienced.  I suspect that if I shared with others that this is how God has worked in my life, they would say, “You Christians can’t even get drunk to ease the pain! Why would anyone want that?!”

I suspect that the workshop speaker was talking about sharing the good things God is doing in our lives, but that can be deceptive. Becoming a Christian does not mean that life will then be a bed of roses—it may become a bed (or crown) of thorns! The fact is that God often works through the trials in our life.

Take St. Paul for example. Imagine Paul telling people how God had worked in his life: Before he met Jesus, Paul was well-respected and rising in status faster than many of his contemporaries. After he got saved and started preaching Jesus, Paul got death threats in Damascus, Jerusalem and elsewhere. He was run out of town in places like Pisidian Antioch,  Iconium, Thessalonica and Berea. He was stoned nearly to death in Lystra, and was imprisoned in Philippi, Caesarea and Rome.

In Second Corinthians11, Paul summarizes what God was doing in his life saying that his ministry had resulted in hunger, thirst and sleepless nights. He says that five times he had been whipped, three times he had been beaten with rods and once he had been stoned. Before finally being beheaded he would spend years in Caesarean and Roman confinement—and we’re not talking modern prisons with weight rooms, basketball courts and TV’s. It was more like darkness, cold hard floors, and vermin.

Jesus taught that those who would follow him should count the cost—because it could cost everything! Those who leave the impression that following Jesus will solve all your problems are lying to you!

Telling people what you think God is doing in your life is hardly sharing the Gospel! The Gospel begins with the biblical teaching that “all have sinned and come short God’s perfect standard.” Our sin has separated us from God and places us under his terrible wrath. Paradoxically, however, in God, love and wrath coexist. In his love, God became human in the person of Jesus Christ, and endured mocking, beating and torture on a cross as a sacrifice to save all who would turn to him in repentance and faith (i.e. allegiance, loving devotion).

Following Jesus in faith does not always lead to personal peace and prosperity in this life. In fact, for many people following Jesus makes life worse—for some, much MUCH worse! But we follow a Lord who endured unbearable suffering for us. Why would we expect anything different?

Bottom line, being witnesses for Jesus involves talking about Jesus, not necessarily about what you think God is doing in your life.