Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Rise and Fall of the United States: The Rule of Law No Longer Matters

Last week, eccentric New York billionaire Donald Trump offered to donate $5,000,000 to President Barak Obama's favorite charity if the President would reveal his college transcripts and passport application by October 31st. Donald Trump believes that Obama's college transcripts and passport application will show that the President attended Columbia University as a foreign exchange student. In addition, Trump believes that the records will show that Obama was later able to enter Harvard Law School because of foreign aid and scholarships given to Obama, based upon Obama's applications that list him as a foreign student. Trump also believes that Obama's U.S. passport application will show that he applied for it as a foreigner.

It can be debated whether or not Obama was born in a foreign country. What can be clearly proved is whether Obama ever applied for a U.S. passport or college financial aid as a foreign citizen. We live in a culture saturated with deceit. From Lance Armstrong to Bernie Madoff, America's greatest sports, business, and political heroes have lied in order to get ahead. Lying and deceit seems to have become the norm, so no one should be surprised if a man running for President is guilty of deceit.  Though even the desire to deceive was once considered immoral in our culture,  as generations have passed, Americans have become more tolerant. The cultural attitude has become, "Everybody cheats to win, and if you are not willing to cheat and then lie about it, you lose. Just don't get caught." What has caused this change in attitude? Maybe the act of deceit is like wormwood; a falling star poisons culture, and we have had way too many falling stars.

The shocking thing to me about Trump's $5,000,000 challenge is the indifference that the American people have to the Rule of Law. People have mocked Donald Trump's hair, ridiculed the politics of his announcement, and paid little or no attention to the principle at stake. The Federal Constitution of the United States of America states in Article VI states that, “This Constitution … Shall be the supreme law of the land.” The Constitution also declares "that no person but a natural born Citizen" shall be America's President. That is the Rule of Law.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was considering a bid for the Presidency, Republican lawmakers considered either a Constitutional Amendment or Federal legislation to negate the Constitution's natural born citizen clause. It is the right for every American to seek to change the law through the legislative process. What destroys a Republic is allowing anyone, including a President, to deceive others in order to avoid the Rule of Law. Most Americans do not know if this is actually happening in Obama's case, but every American should care to find out--unless one's politics supercedes one's view of the Rule of Law.

The Forum accurately explains the Rule of Law:
"This means that no person, however powerful or talented, can be allowed to act as if he were superior to the law of the land. Public decisions must be made upon the basis of law, and the laws must be general rules that everybody obeys, including those who make and enforce the law. A law that violates the Constitution is not a law and is not, therefore, enforced. This was the principle that Marshall followed in Marbury v. Madison."
The problem we have in America is not another four years of Barak Obama. The problem we have in America is not even the polarization between Democrats and Republicans. The problem we have in America is that very few people care anymore about the Rule of Law.

That marks the end of a once strong Republic.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Message of Hope for All Us Crooked Sticks

After many decades of pastoring, I've come to realize that Christians often function very poorly in relationships. Dysfunction in relationships is so normal that when subnormal relationships become normal, they almost seems abnormal.

For example, we Christians often struggle to comprehend our full identity in Christ. It's difficult to understand that our performance in life does not define our personhood. Every one of us is a crooked stick, but none of us wishes to admit our crookedness. The flesh believes acceptance comes from our perfection. This is a lie that encourages us toward self-preservation, but in the Kingdom of God, whoever tries to save his life will lose it. God's grace will eventually enable us to crucify this desire for self-preservation, but the act of dying to self is a process, not a point in time, and it can be quite painful, rarely pleasant. "Take up your cross and follow me" is not nearly as enjoyable of an event as "Take up your picnic basket and join me." Jesus called us to the former, not the latter.

Dying to self involves the dysfunctions of our soul surfacing so that we can crucify them. Here's the good news:

Real love is best experienced in the midst of the agony of our dysfunctions dying.

 The greatest intimacy with others and with God comes during those times you stop hiding your desires to be perfect, admit your crookedness, and embrace love--risking the rejection of others who relate to you based on your performance. If you are rejected in the midst of your honesty and transparency, you were relating to someone who has never fully comprehended the difference between personhood and performance. Those who reject you should feel your pity, not your anger.

It is always healthy to not hide your problems in life. In fact, I propose you should embrace them. It is in the embracing of our personal struggles and sometimes ugly stories that we really begin to be spiritually refreshed. God's love is like an artesian spring. It is never pulled by the object being loved, but flows naturally, pouring itself forcefully into the sinner He loves. It is a faithful statement and worthy of your full acceptance that Jesus Christ came to love sinners. The more you embrace your dysfunctional and crooked life, acknowledge it for what it is, and then learn to open up yourself to His unconditional and everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), the more healing your soul will find. The reign of God through Jesus Christ in you is the only answer to your feelings of helplessness, lack of identity, absence of security, and loss of control.

When it comes to relationships, we crooked Christians need to learn to be honest. Real honesty and transparency is difficult because we struggle to try to get our acceptance, signficance and security from other people, rather than God's reign in us through Jesus Christ. How do we know if we are getting our sense of worth, identity and signficance from our performance and from other people's acceptance rather than from God and His love for us through Jesus Christ?

There is a test. A good one. Ask yourself this question: "Am I attempting to control the perceptions and opinions that people have of me?"

When you are attempting to control what people think of you or how they perceive you, you will use language like: "I just  really want you to think that I'm ...." or "I really don't want you to feel that I'm..." or "I  am praying that don't perceive me as ...."  I could give you hundreds of other statements that are clues to where you are finding your worth.

In addition, you can know you are trying to control others when you are afraid to say anything because of "How others will react." So, we are in very dysfunctional relationships when we are never honest about our feelings, our thoughts, and our thinking. Dysfunction is charactized by a paralyzing fear.

Interestingly, the people whom we desire to control the most (i.e. to control "what they think, what they feel, what they perceive") are the people we believe can hurt us the most.

Give it up. The One who counts already knows every wart, knothole and bend in the crooked stick that is your life--and He loves you. Rest in Him.  Follow your call to be a servant to others and stop trying to control others. Only then will you find true health and freedom.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Treasures of Egypt and the Reproach of Christ

The life story of Moses is fascinating. Born 1400 years before Christ, the infant Moses was placed in a basket of bulrushes by his Hebrew parents and set afloat down the Nile River. The Pharaoh of Egypt had ordered all Hebrew boys killed to cease the growth of the Hebrew nation.  Moses' parents had sent their son down the Nile to escape certain death. When Pharaoh's own daughter found Moses' ark floating in river, she took the Hebrew baby boy home and raised him as her own son. Most people know that Moses became the leader of the Hebrew people in their eventual exodus from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan, but few comprehend the privileged and plush childhood and teenage years of Moses. The writer of Hebrews says, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." (Hebrews 11:24-26). What were the treasures of Egypt?

As the adopted son of Pharaoh's daugher, Moses would have been considered a noble of Pharaoh's court. To understand the treasures of Egypt and the riches of Egyptian nobility, one need to look no further than the wealth of the Egyptian King Tut. The Pharaoh called Tutankhamun reigned over Egypt a couple of hundred years after Moses. King Tut died when he was only eighteen, and his abbreviated reign came in the declining days of Egypt’s glory. Moses' adoptive grandfather, Pharaoh Ramses, would have been far richer than King Tut. Explorer Howard Carter, the discoverer of King Tut's tomb, describes his initial view into the ante-chamber (just outside the burial room) which housed many of Tut’s treasures:
[A]s my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the glint of gold (Rapport and Wright 1964, 195).
Carter was the first man in thousands of years to lay his eyes on some of the treasures of Egypt in Tut's tomb. There were over 5,000 articles of pure gold, including "golden beds, gold-covered chariots, carved walking sticks and bows with inlaid gold, and a throne, encrusted with gold, silver and jewels." In the Pharaoh's chamber, there were three coffins fashioned in Tut's likeness. The innermost sarcaphogas was solid gold and over six feet long. In addition, there were six small gold coffins (fifteen inches high) containing Tut’s internal organs. Each small coffin, if melted down today for the gold, would be worth over $500,000.

The death mask (pictured above left) weighed twenty-three pounds and was made of gold and inlaid with semiprecious stones; it covered the head and shoulders of the mummy. The mask was fashioned by goldsmiths just after Tut died, and it respresents how Tut looked when he died. The 5,000 articles in Tut's tomb illustrate the ancient Egyptian saying that in Egypt, “gold is as common as dust.”

Prof. E. M. Blaiklock writes of these vast treasures:
If the tomb of a boy king could produce the beauty, wealth, and art which has so astounded the world, what must the palace of really great pharaohs such as Ramses II have been like? (1983, 459).
Indeed. Further, the writer of Hebrews said that Moses turned his back on the riches of Pharaoh Ramses' court "for the reproach of Christ."  Contrary to what many Christians think, Old Testament saints were very familiar with the Messiah. The sacrifices typified Him, the prophets proclaimed Him, and people of faith believed in Him. Moses deemed it more important to turn his back on the treasures of Egypt, experiencing the scorn and ridicule of his Egyption peers because he became a follower of the Messiah and believed in blood atonement, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.


Next time you get too caught up or bent out of shape over the politics and economics of America, ask yourself if you have helped others experience and enjoy the far more important Kingdom of Christ and His reign in our lives!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Looking by Faith for a 'Better Country'

Hebrews 11 is a chapter sometimes called The Hall of Faith. Over thirty men and women are named by the writer of Hebrews as examples of people possessing deep faith in God, faith that never wavered, even in the midst of difficult and troubling times for them. During their lives, these people of faith never became settled in this world. They were sojourners and pilgrims (v. 9) in this life, and they considered themselves foreigners and strangers (v. 13) to this world. For this reason, they never got too down when things were tough, nor did they get to high when things were good. Hebrews 11 is a great chapter for people of faith to study, particularly those of us who live in the very polarized and politically charged United States. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that believers "seek a better country" (v. 16), a country having"a city with foundations, whose Builder and Architect is God" (v. 10). Further,  people of faith declare openly and plainly to those around them that they are "seeking this country" (v. 14).

The word translated "country" in Hebrews is the Greek word patrida. The Greek word pater, the root word of patrida, means Father. Patrida is best translated Fatherland.  Our eternal home is the land of our Father. This land is alternately called His Kingdom, Heaven, or the earth where the curse has been reversed.  When Jesus said "The meek will inherit the earth," He was describing that time when people of faith enter the Fatherland.  All of history is moving toward that time when the Kingdom of God within me becomes the Kingdom of God around me. Christ reigns in my heart today by faith, but one day I will be living in a land where Christ reigns by sight. This is the country to which we should keep our eye of faith focused upon.

The Germans misused and abused the term Fatherland. The enemies of God are always producing counterfeits, and Hitler's vision of a Third Reich is a corrupt and twisted application of the beauty and simplicity of Christ's eternal reign in the Fatherland. Faith in the Fatherland is what allowed Abraham to live in a tent for seventy-five years (v. 9). Faith in the Fatherland helped Moses forsake the riches of Egypt (v.26). Faith in the Fatherland allowed Joseph to order his bones not be buried in the pyramids of Egypt, but carried to the Promised Land of Canaan, which is a type of the Fatherland (v. 22). Faith in the Fatherland helped people of faith endure torture and not accept deliverance (v. 35), experience beatings, imprisonment, and cruel mockings with triumph (v. 36), and find their lives ending in stoning, hanging, or by the sword (v. 37).

The writer of Hebrews closes by saying "this world is not worthy of them." (v. 38).

Next time you get bent all out of shape because somebody opposes your political viewpoint, or next time you read a book that convinces you that the world is going to financially collapse in the next five years, or next time you take a look around and see that you don't have a great deal of possessions accumulated from your decades of living in this world, remember Hebrews 11 and remind yourself that it is far better to store up for yourself treasures in the Fatherland (selfless love in all your relationships and intimacy with God), than it is to get too disconcerted about the things of this life.

A 'better country' is coming.