False gods of American Culture – Part 2

Are you successful?  What does that mean?  Did it make you happy?

In this second installment in a series on American false gods, I want to deal with the most American of false gods – success.  I pick this term because it is general and can mean different things to different people.  I talked about money in my last post, and that can certainly be how some people measure success.  However, I think most people define success in a more subjective fashion.  Self fulfillment might be a descriptive synonym for success.

I place this particular idol near the top of the list partly because it was (is?) my own idol.  For years I aggressively pursued my career in the hopes of gaining prestige and influence over others.  I also had an interest in politics for a season.  This was perhaps partly to “change the world,” but mostly I have to admit I wanted the notoriety that came with it.  Luckily for me (and everyone else) it was clear early on I had no talent for politics.

I now have had a 25 year career in whatever it is I do.  During that time I have worked on some interesting things, but I found that I could not find peace or joy in the work that I do professionally.  It is a necessity due to the needs of my family, but I can say without reservation that my life with family has given me much more peace and joy than my career ever has.  In fact I find that I am disenchanted with my career and would like to try something completely different.

Perhaps God is thinking the same thing.  The last company I worked for had problems, but I made a personal commitment to stay with them as long as they would have me.  Unfortunately that wasn’t very long and I was downsized in 2014.  Of course, I see God’s hand in this because I had made my career an idol and was seeking satisfaction in it rather than God.  Now God has provided a job for me that is less than satisfying.  I am constantly thinking about changing jobs, but God has made it clear in many ways that he wants me here, so I am learning to not seek joy in my work, but only in God.

Of course, I have ambition to do more professionally.  Bono said in The Fly that “ambition bites the nails of success.”  Is ambition a good thing or a bad thing?

It is quite rare for someone to be an important person in history without having more than the normal allotment of ambition. One of the greatest figures in history, George Washington, whom I have written about previously on this blog, was known to be a man of great ambition. From his youth he aspired to have land and wealth. He also was unwilling to share the spotlight with other men, which actually worked against him from time to time during the Revolution.

Washington’s contemporary, John Adams, was driven by his desire for fame and the respect of other men. Many of the choices he made in his life were made because it was the most expedient way for him to achieve fame.

Of course, ambition has also been behind an army of other men whose impact on history were not so positive. Hitler, Napoleon, Alexander, Julius Caesar…The list is endless.

Ambition is perceived to be a bad thing. The dictionary definition has a negative connotation as well. It is the ardent desire to achieve rank, fame, or power. These are all things that Judeo Christian culture teaches us to be wary of, or at least to give less importance to than more noble and spiritual pursuits.

The problem is that if men did not have ambition very little of value would be accomplished. Another definition of ambition is a desire to achieve a particular end. This definition is more neutral than the earlier one and implies that ambition can be good if the end you are pursuing is worthy, such as helping others, or otherwise honoring God.

Unfortunately, the majority of us display the negative side of ambition in our lives more than the positive.  This is because we may be pursuing success as our ultimate objective.  Consider Bill Gates, who is a billionaire revered by progressives.  It is common knowledge that he stole ideas from his colleagues to build his own business.  His ambition caused him to put his success ahead of his relationships with his friends.  Is that really where we want to go?

Our culture tells us that people like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have reached the pinnacle of success.  Yet both of these celebrities recently ended their own lives.  We will never know exactly why, but one lesson we can learn is that wealth and success in business or entertainment does not guarantee peace or joy.

Our nation has also mourned the recent passing of Billy Graham.  Was he an ambitious man?  Was he successful?  I would say a quick reading of his biography would illustrate that both were true.  What made Graham different from almost everyone else is that the end he was pursuing was a spiritual one in line with God’s will for his life.  Any success that we perceive he had was simply God’s grace in his life.  We should all learn a lesson from Graham to channel our ambition towards the work of God.  Success will follow, whether God’s grace will be apparent in this life, or only in the next.

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False gods of American Culture – Part 1

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There are a lot of people I talk to every week who are troubled by the continuing decline of Western civilization. This has manifested itself in efforts to undermine the sovereignty of western nations through globalism, the total depravity of the militant politically correct crowd, the destruction of the family, and so much more. One of the primary reasons for this is the majority of people have turned away from God, if they haven’t denied Him altogether. Without the Judeo-Christian belief system that comes with faith, there is no absolute standard to regulate the behavior of individuals.

A.W. Tozer and John Piper have written eloquently about their belief that God has designed the human being for worshiping Him. They refer to scripture verses such as Isaiah 43:7, Colossians 1:16, and Ephesians 1:12 to help make their point. However, in this broad statement there is room for debate, so I will amend it to “God created man with a strong tendency to worship.” If He did this, His obvious intention was that people would worship God.  If men decline to worship God, the corollary to this theory would be that people will be inclined to worship something else.

Those of us who are faithful to God know that there was a hole in our lives that God filled at the moment of our salvation. Those who haven’t accepted Jesus Christ have to try to fill that hole with something else. Additionally, many professing Christians also allow themselves to be distracted by things that essentially crowd Jesus out of the place designed for Him in their hearts. In Biblical terms these God substitutes are known as idols, or false Gods.

God warned His people continually about worshipping idols. In fact, this sin merited its own commandment in Exodus 20:4-6. Upon initial reading of this commandment, it appears to pertain to physical statues and images that were worshiped in ancient times. However, scripture makes it clear that the term “idol” refers to anything that we worship in place of God. While there are few people that worship statues and pictures these days, there are many in America who replace the worship of God with an idol, such as money or leisure. I plan to examine a number of these idols in some depth over the course of several articles on this blog.

The first idol I want to address is money. The Bible famously says in 1Timothy 6:10 that “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” In fact, this is the favorite verse in the Bible for many people, including some that have never opened the Bible in their life. It is a great verse to lead into a discussion about how people who are rich do shameful things to those who are poor, or at least insignificant. The verse is also proved correct by the telling of any story about how someone put aside their moral principles in order to become wealthy. There is certainly no shortage of those kinds of stories.

However, those of us who are not wealthy should be very careful not to absolve ourselves too quickly. One of the problems in the American church today is the wealth of the average Christian. There is nothing like money to distract us from what is truly important. Let me provide an example.  Consider a young family of four. Financially they are able to cover basic needs – food, shelter, clothing – without difficulty. In fact, at the end of the month there is even a little money left, which Mom and Dad dutifully place in a savings account in case it is needed for a crisis. Because they are young and not yet wealthy, this family creates good habits of living within their means.

After several years pass, they realize their frugality has paid off. They now have a considerable sum in their savings account. What do they do now? Perhaps a vacation is planned. Maybe they will decide to put an addition on their house or buy a new car. Some families don’t buy a lot of big ticket items, but will invest in video games, home theaters, or sporting events.

Whatever this family decides, their wealth is about to become a trap. It will distract them from the disciplined lifestyle they were living and provide an excuse for skipping more noble and godly activities. If they decide to invest in a home or a boat or a motorcycle, they now have something in their life that requires time and money to be maintained. These things, while they can be enjoyable, will always succeed in taking time and money away from the things they were doing before.

People complain about the complexity of modern life, but the fact is we make our lives complex because of the wealth we have acquired. There is societal pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” and compete with others in the accumulation of material things. We all know people who have mortgaged themselves to the hilt to own a home that is above their price range. We also know people who spend the majority of their time and resources taking care of their property.

Property is not bad in and of itself. This is not a criticism of capitalism. Where we have gone astray is in believing that having material things will solve all our problems and make us happy. While money can certainly solve some problems, particularly at the lower income levels, generally the happiness that money gives us is quite fleeting. When determining how to use our wealth, we should weigh carefully whether the object of our desire will crowd God and other priorities out of our life.

For those who are not believers, the trap of wealth is even more tempting.  In the modern political arena, we are regularly confronted with social justice warriors who cry about the wealthy abusing the poor.  Of course, they do not criticize the wealthy men who espouse the leftist ideas they promote, only those that believe in free market capitalism.  This hypocrisy is enough to destroy their credibility in my eyes.  If that is not enough for you, keep in mind that the primary motive is to redistribute the wealth of other men into their own pockets.  This is a bald display of pure envy which makes them worse than the wealthy men they are trying to rob, since they have no intention of working for the money they hope to obtain. This love of money has resulted in all kinds of evil, such as riots and looting about feigned outrage after the acquittal of a police officer.

The wealth trap is also among those who are not social justice warriors.  For anyone who is envious of his wealthy neighbor or determined to purchase enough luxuries to keep up with his neighborhood, I encourage you to consider Solomon. It is said that he was the wealthiest man that ever lived. When considering wealth and happiness he wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:10 “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” From my own experience trying to accumulate wealth before I was a Christian, this statement is right on. God is the only one that can provide the peace you are seeking.

The Nature of Evil

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It is no secret that the American polity today is divided as profoundly as it has been at any time since the Civil War. One side believes Trump is an evil collaborator with foreign governments who has limited competence and only became President for personal gain. These same people almost never criticized Obama and in many cases worshiped him as the utopian messiah. On the other side you have people who consider everything that Trump does as an application of the “Art of the Deal”. He is a brilliant strategist who is always at least three moves ahead of his opponents. To these people, Obama is a closet (or not) Communist whose utilitarianism justified illegal acts of domestic espionage and weaponization of government.

So which side is right? Which of these men is good and which is evil?

I used to watch James Bond movies all the time. In most of these movies (at least the older ones) there is a villain, like Dr. No or Goldfinger, who is diabolical. These villains are evil, and seemed to take pleasure in this attribute to the point of coming up with new ways daily to expand their resume of evil by tormenting new people in new ways.

Because of this cultural legacy, it is easy for us fall into the trap of believing the people who do not share our world view are diabolical like Goldfinger. The reality is quite different. Neither Trump nor Obama see themselves as evil. Their beliefs and actions are a direct result of their world views. No doubt they are doing what they believe is best to support and promote their world views, not what is most effective to torment and oppress opponents. This has to be our starting point when evaluating human actions.

History has been unkind to men like Hitler, Mao, and Stalin because they were responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Yet they did not see themselves as evil. They made compromises and forced sacrifices that they felt were necessary to achieve their visions of a better world. We judge them harshly because in our estimation the benefit was not worth the sacrifice.

Today there are world views that assert, like the evil men above, that the ends justify the means. Some sacrifices are necessary, they say, to achieve the utopia envisioned in these world views. Soldiers must die to defend the freedoms of a nation. Freedoms must be sacrificed so the safety and provision of people can be guaranteed.

A fundamental conclusion that must be be drawn is, while men are never irretrievably evil, some world views are. Any world view that requires the death of other human beings as a necessity for the achievement of its ultimate end is evil. Any world view that places one group of human beings in a superior position over another group is evil. Stalin and Mao believed dissent was an obstacle to the full implementation of their utopia, so dissenters needed to be removed. Hitler believed genetic impurities were preventing the human race from being all it could be. If you examine modern belief systems you will find the same flaws because human nature has not changed. The human heart is capable of justifying anything.

There is a world view that is superior to all of these because it does not require sacrificing people on its altar. In Romans 12:1 Paul said “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”. The Bible is not saying we are to pass a law that requires other people to sacrifice so the needs and wants of better people can be satisfied. We are to sacrifice our own interests voluntarily for the benefit of others.

The Bible also states in 1Timothy 2:1-4:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. “

This passage speaks of peace and quiet as the environment that is most desirable for the human condition. This is in direct opposition to the present environment. While at times political leaders make it impossible for their people to live in peace, that is not true in the United States. Nevertheless, there is no respect for people in positions of authority and it is now acceptable to wish death to political opponents and their families.

Verse 4 says that God wants all people to be saved. As evil as we perceive leaders in our world to be, God wants them to have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Even Hitler and Stalin. Even Trump and Obama.

I once met a man who was a prison guard in the prison where Jeffrey Dahmer was being incarcerated. You may remember Dahmer as the serial killer who baited young people to his home and killed them before eating them. My acquaintance was quite convinced that Dahmer had sincerely professed faith in Christ in prison before his death. If this is true (and we can’t know for sure), it gives us hope that nobody, whether a political opponent or a serial killer, is beyond the power of being changed by God. No person, no matter how evil their acts may be, is beyond redemption.

Review of Darkest Hour

I recently had the opportunity to see Darkest Hour, the film about Winston Churchill’s early days as the British Prime Minister. It had been on my short list of movies I wanted to see, partly because I enjoy historical films, and partly because I had heard Oldman’s performance was outstanding. I was not disappointed in either respect.

I love movies, but I must admit that most contemporary movies are not as appealing to me as classic films because the emphasis in newer films is always on the CGI and the larger than life look of the film, sometimes at the expense of the content. To me Darkest Hour was a throwback film in a couple of ways.

The director of the picture, Joe Wright, successfully depicted the gravity of this moment in history using lighting and color. In particular the smoke filled room where the War Committee met regularly had an ominous feel to it in which the conventional wisdom was almost oppressive. Another way in which this film seems like a classic film is in the dominance of dialogue and the near absence of any special effects. This fact amplifies the stellar performance of Oldman, whose portrayal of Churchill was nearly perfect, no doubt the result of hours of study of the man.

This movie also boasts one of the best scenes I have ever seen in a picture. This scene takes place in the Tube (the London subway) and depicts the emotions of Churchill and the citizens on the train poignantly. There are many different aspects of the relationship between Churchill and the people portrayed in this scene. Though there is no reason to believe that this scene is based on an event, it certainly illustrates the fact that the people played an important role in Churchill’s position and his decision making. Because he understood the people, Churchill ultimately did not succumb to the conventional political wisdom of the day, even though the pressure was mounting for him to act against his instincts.

As with most films concerning WWII, I inevitably end up comparing the toughness and resolve of the average citizen of that era with the average citizen of today. Unfortunately, modern day citizens always come up short in this comparison. I wonder if I am judging fairly. Even our culture would fight hard against something they thought was evil. Right? The problem is, there is little agreement today about what is good and what is evil. By the time the British withdrew from Dunkirk, the shadow of Hitler had darkened Europe and there was no question of whether the evil was there, only whether or not it could be defeated. I have to ask myself, in this era of mass abortions and gender bending, is there any force in existence that all Americans today could agree is evil?

Review of The Warlord by Malcolm Bosse

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I just finished reading one of the best books I have ever read. I never heard of it before. It is called The Warlord by Malcolm Bosse. I picked it up from somewhere (my Father-In-Law I think, who passed away quite a few years ago). I have been holding onto it for all this time because I always had something else to read. I finally got tired of all my other books and decided to read The Warlord.

WarlordThe Warlord is a sweeping story that takes place in China in 1927, which was during what is known as the Warlord Period. The protagonist is a Chinese warlord named Tang, who is devoted to Chinese tradition, particularly Confucianism. His worldview is being challenged from all sides by Bolshevism, Nationalism, Democracy, and foreigners who are affecting his life in spite of himself.

The book is multi-dimensional. It is a history book that thoroughly teaches about both the Chinese Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, even including some historical characters in the story. The book also compares and contrasts Chinese religions and religious traditions, such as Buddhism and Confucianism with different forms of Christianity. It also successfully portrays differences in the cultures of different nationalities, from Chinese, to German, to Russian, to American. The character development is extraordinary. The main characters are diverse, yet all believable; those that are likeable are also seriously flawed. The book has adventure, romance, war, cutting edge social commentary, and philosophy to boot. There is a gritty realism that makes this a book for adults only, but the adult content is not gratuitous, it is essential to the story.

Malcolm Bosse, I believe, was trying to tell us something about China. We often think of China as a closed society historically, but this book shows us that foreigners were always present trying to influence events. The portrayal of daily life is vivid and frank. Life has always been hard for the majority of Chinese peasants and laborers, who seem to be always on the brink of starvation or worse. It’s as if without maximum effort, mere survival would not be possible. With that said, the sense of tradition is stronger in China than almost anywhere else in the world. I think the author is telling us that outside forces can’t change China, though change in China is inevitable. Of course, I just said it here much more plainly than it was ever said in the book. Subtlety is another distinct characteristic of Chinese culture that the book reflects throughout.

I mentioned before that the character development is superb. The only fictional author I have encountered that does character development this well is Stephen King. There is a Czarist Russian woman that experienced the war between the Reds and the Whites. These horrific experiences have forced her to make many immoral decisions out of necessity that she struggles with continuously. There is an American missionary whose strict Protestant upbringing is challenged and changed forever by China. Tang, the likable main character, is a conservative militarist whose calling was to be a scholar, but whose fate was changed by his family history. His struggle to hold on to his traditional beliefs in the midst of turbulent forces of change is one of the main themes throughout the book.

Another thing I found interesting was how the book treated Communism, which was a relatively new idea that was just being put into practice at the time the story takes place. Bosse was very astute in his portrayal of the reasons and circumstances that may have led to the adherence to Communism by much of Asia in the last century. He also makes arguments against it, but not by openly criticizing it. His portrayal of the Communist characters and their motivations and attitudes says more about what drives Communism than any description of the political philosophy ever could.

As I said at the top of the post, The Warlord is one of the best books I have ever read. I highly recommend it. I learned a lot about Chinese culture and its potential to dominate us. However, do not take this book lightly. It is a substantial undertaking and will challenge you intellectually, but it will satisfy in the end.

The Brain

As human scientific knowledge continues to advance, we are gaining knowledge of the human body that we could not have imagined only a few years ago. Consider the advances in pharmaceuticals. Many conditions that had to be treated with invasive surgical procedures in years past can now be treated with drugs. While I do acknowledge that there is a certain aspect of our dependence on drugs that is disturbing, in the majority of cases, pharmaceuticals have improved the quality and duration of human life.

One area where our knowledge is still limited is the study of the human brain. Certainly our knowledge of this subject has improved over time, but the main body of our knowledge continues to be an understanding of what part of the brain controls what human activities. This knowledge is not known to us in very much detail and there is very little scientific evidence about HOW the brain actually does what it does. The most basic function of the brain, self-consciousness, remains a mystery to us.

brain

From a philosophical standpoint it can be asked whether the brain is complex enough to understand itself. Put another way, the brain must be simple enough to be understood, but complex enough to understand itself. This line of thinking can easily lead us into a paradox.

When consulting the Bible there is little about the human brain. In Job 38:36 God claims credit for putting wisdom and understanding in our mind. This is consistent with other passages, such as Exodus 36:2 and 1Kings 3:12, where God places understanding into the mind of a man. Other than these few examples, the Bible is more focused on the depravity and changeability of the human mind, along with a need to transform the mind to become a spiritual person.

People can’t seem to understand the human brain, but God does. In fact, he has intentionally placed limits on human knowledge in order to create mystery and doubt where human beings want certainty. The very existence of God is one such example. If God is all powerful, isn’t he able to show himself to exist without a shadow of a doubt? Yet in our world there are examples all around us of the existence of God without the presence of that undeniable proof that will stand up in a court of law. Rest assured that God has done this by design. He shows us the way to Himself through creation and through the lives and works of other people. However, He requires our faith to make the final connection to Him. Why? Because God does not primarily want our minds, which are unloving and easily changed with circumstances. He wants our hearts, which are capable of love for Him, fellowship with Him, and loyalty to Him.

God has withheld from us certain wisdom and understanding so we are required to live by faith in this world. Because of God’s goodness towards us and His desire for fellowship with us in eternity, I have to believe that upon our arrival in heaven we will be gifted with a more complete understanding of everything. God will fill in the gaps with knowledge that were spanned before with faith. Keep in mind that at this point I will not be interested in knowledge about quantum physics, (which I may get anyway), but knowledge about life and existence. My mind today can comprehend the idea of infinity, but my mind in heaven will be able to have a complete understanding.

This supposition is certainly an extrapolation outside the limits of scripture and could be disputed by any number of arguments. However, I take comfort in contemplating these possibilities as a way to take a break from the difficulties of this life.  The gift of knowledge could be one more of a plethora of comforts that my next life in heaven could provide, thanks to God.

 

 

 

My Testimony

I was recently given the opportunity to share my testimony to a group of men at our church. I am posting the outline of the discussion here.

I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to hear my testimony. My conversion is not a dramatic story with a tearful ending. I was not an addict. I did not beat my wife. I was just a dude trying to find satisfaction in something – anything.

I was saved during a creation seminar. I have always had an interest in how things work and how they came to be. I was also an engineer devoted to logic and science, and convinced that in order to be a Christian you had to give up on reason. This is not an uncommon view. The seminar fascinated me because of how it obliterated the conventional wisdom that separates science and Christianity. I watched some of Kent Hovind’s videos to delve more deeply into the subject, and became quite embittered at the public school education that seemed to intentionally mislead me when it came to the fallacy of evolutionary theory.

For those who have been to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati, they do a great job presenting possible scenarios that show that the Biblical account of the creation of the world can be believed. However, I would have to say that the exhibit that had the biggest impact on me was the first one that dealt with how our world view shapes how we process information. For those who have not been there, the exhibit explained how when a fact is discovered, how that fact is used depends almost exclusively upon one’s world view.

Consider the Grand Canyon as an example. Someone who believes in evolution will explain how the soil and rock was laid down over millions of years. The over the next few million years the Colorado River cut the canyon out of the rock. I recently watched a show by a new earth creationist that explained that the Grand Canyon had to be created over weeks or months and not over millions of years. These people came to completely different conclusions while evaluating the same evidence.

We Christians know that the Bible is true. We also can’t deny facts that have been scientifically proven. We have to be careful not to deny a fact because it contradicts the interpretation of Biblical events that we are familiar with. Instead we must try to understand how to interpret scripture in the context of known scientific facts.

Young earth creationists are looked down upon in the scientific community. If you don’t believe me search young earth creationist on Wikipedia and see the results for yourself. Certainly some of this may be due to a natural hostility towards Christianity, but some may be due to how young earth arguments are presented. I think it is important to acknowledge both science and the Bible are true, and sometimes we don’t understand how they work together because we were not present during the events described. Creation is a powerful argument for the existence and character of God, but as Christians we should point to the greatest examples of this, such as the complexity of the human eye or a single cell organism and let God do the talking from there.

Though it played a part in my salvation, my intention here is not to discuss creationism. That discussion can go on interminably. Creationism was not even the main reason I answered Jesus’ call.

While my story does not involve addiction, I was a slave to pleasures and was completely self-serving. I didn’t do anything if I did not perceive a personal gain or pleasure. I was a textbook example of someone that would do the right thing for the wrong reason. For instance, I gave to charities because I wanted to be seen giving to charities, not because I cared about any of the people who needed my help.

America offers a rich canvas for those who want to pursue personal gain. The elevation of career as a false god is something that Americans have turned into an art form and exported throughout the world. I was a willing participant in this religion for many years before I realized the emptiness of materialism. Ecclesiastes was my first favorite book of the Bible because it hit home for me when Solomon bemoaned the futility of finding happiness apart from God. What is great about the Bible is that it is not only true when it comes to history and prophecy, it is also true when it comes to basic truths of existence, like the vanity of materialism and living in the world.

God used this crossroad in my life to orchestrate my salvation. My wife was saved before me. I am very thankful for the pastor at the Baptist church in Plymouth, Wisconsin. He came to my home at my wife’s instigation. It was a hostile environment for him. But he persisted and shared the gospel. It took 3 months at war with God before I finally admitted defeat and accepted Christ.

If my testimony ended at salvation, this would be a very short story. Our conversion is only chapter one of our testimony. What we let God do with our life after that is the rest of the story.

After salvation the emptiness that I had felt subsided. Unfortunately, my pursuit of my career had become a habit. Intellectually I realized that God wasn’t all that interested in my wealth or my career goals. God requires us to give our lives to him. Some men more obedient than I am give their all to God by entering the ministry or the mission field. Men like me are forced by God to give their lives one piece at a time. First alcohol, then rock music, etc. Eventually, God asked for my career, or, more accurately, the love of my career. In 2012 I experienced room spins at work during a particularly stressful period and in 2014 I was downsized. God had his way. Again.

The thing with us men is we need to have a purpose to our lives. God put Adam to work in the garden for a reason. Genesis 2:15 says

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Subsequently, verse 19-20 describes Adam naming the animals in the Garden.

We are made in the image of Adam. We have the need to occupy ourselves and have a purpose. In this period before the fall, Adam’s perfect relationship with God allowed him to dedicate his life to bringing glory to God. After the fall, God punished Adam with a curse (see Genesis 3:17-19):

cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread

This curse provides us the pretense to fulfill our need of purpose without glorifying God. We occupy ourselves with fighting against creation to support ourselves and our families. However, as believers we are called to trust Him for our sustenance, like the lilies of the field in Luke 12:27: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.“

God wants us to trust Him for our basic needs because He is calling us to think bigger than just supporting our families. The apostles were men with severe flaws, but they took their faith in Christ and changed the world. In Acts 4 as an example, the disciples are brought before the Council and told to stop preaching Jesus Christ. In response, they preached the gospel to the council. When they were told to leave and stop telling people about Jesus, they left and continued preaching Jesus Christ. The disciples had a faith that allowed them to act with a boldness, even when their lives were in the balance.

Of course, the apostles had the advantage of walking with Jesus during his life on earth and witnessed his resurrection. Things were easier then because the world was much simpler. We can’t possibly be expected to do what they did in our day and age. Right?

This may sound harsh, but low expectations of this kind are commonplace in the American church today. How did this happen? In Numbers 13 the story is told of the spies sent to Canaan to bring a report back to the Hebrews. It is a story we know well that ends with the generation of the Exodus, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, being condemned by God to live out their days in the wilderness. We look at this story as a lesson about faith and living in God’s strength (not our own), which it is. I have to ask though, what made the following generation better or more inclined to be obedient to God when it came to taking the promised land? Maybe the older generation’s experience with a slavery ethic/lifestyle/culture did not allow them to be bold in taking the promised land. Even the great miracles of God they witnessed were “dependence” miracles – deliverance from bondage through the plagues, parting of the Red Sea, manna. What was needed to take the promised land was a boldness to trust God as a General instead of a provider. Being raised in the wilderness and not in bondage may have given the next generation the boldness required to grasp the promises of God.

Perhaps our generation has faced a similar dilemma to the Exodus generation. Perhaps our culture of leisure and prosperity has not prepared us to be active defenders against attacks on Christianity and morality which seem to intensify every week. Perhaps we are doomed to our fate and need to rely on the coming generation, which doesn’t remember the Reagan or Clinton years, to turn the tide and lead the next great revival.

I prefer not to embrace such a passive and defeatist attitude. In his book Kingdom Man, Tony Evans has a whole chapter devoted to Joshua 1. Verse 3 says: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you…”

Whatever you are doing with your life, if God has called you to do it, he has already given you victory and success if you will only have the boldness to place the sole of your foot there.

I have lived my life differently since I lost my job. I try not to waste my time and treasure on enterprises that are not part of God’s plan for me. That has caused me to move my family half way across the country. It has caused me to continue working in a job I don’t enjoy. It has caused me to lead and participate in ministries I never would have considered doing on my own in the past. Like teaching Sunday School, visiting shut-ins, and sharing my testimony in front of a men’s group. I have even attempted to start a discussion group for Christian men through a blog.

Romans 8:31 says “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Another pithy saying I like says “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God will not protect you.” When God keeps his promises to us because we are obedient to Him you can feel God sharing His glory with you. Did you ever have a bad day at work and then have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone? You forget about all the troubles because being willing to serve God faithfully is its own reward.

In summary My experience during the first 12 years of following Jesus has had high points, but much of it was spent fighting God over things from that old life that He knows I am better off without. Yet, there is still the possibility of a remarkable ending, because when we realize how far God can be trusted, and we are willing to do so, He will use us in ways we can’t imagine. That will be the rest of the story.

The Continued Denial of Human Nature

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Recently we have been barraged by seemingly endless accusations of sexual misconduct among public personalities. These stories are usually accompanied by shock and outrage even though most of the accused persons had a reputation for the behavior they have proven to exhibit.

Personally, I am not surprised by any of this. The Bible is very clear about the fact that people are sinners. In fact, the Bible warns against sexual immorality more than 15 times, mostly in the New Testament. God repeats these warnings because he knows the nature of man and our predisposition towards this kind of activity. At the same time our culture has become more and more permissive when you consider how people dress and what is on television (even commercials!). There is so much temptation, human weakness can’t withstand this assault.

However, the world looks at things from a different point of view. Most people say that humans are generally good, not evil. Consequently, they are surprised when permissiveness results in bad acts.

The solution that leftists chose to solve this problemm was to socially engineer distinct maleness out of American culture.

We have seen the women’s rights movement, accompanied by the sexual revolution. Subsequently, supposedly scientific studies attempt to minimize the differences between men and women. Here is an example of one from the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/research/action/difference.aspx):

Mars-Venus sex differences appear to be as mythical as the Man in the Moon. A 2005 analysis of 46 meta-analyses that were conducted during the last two decades of the 20th century underscores that men and women are basically alike in terms of personality, cognitive ability and leadership. Psychologist Janet Shibley Hyde, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, discovered that males and females from childhood to adulthood are more alike than different on most psychological variables, resulting in what she calls a gender similarities hypothesis. Using meta-analytical techniques that revolutionized the study of gender differences starting in the 1980s, she analyzed how prior research assessed the impact of gender on many psychological traits and abilities, including cognitive abilities, verbal and nonverbal communication, aggression, leadership, self-esteem, moral reasoning and motor behaviors.

At the same time, traditionally male characteristics in mainstream culture are mocked and ridiculed. Watch any commercial or TV show that portrays a dad, and you will witness adolescent, moronic, out of touch behavior. To test this, imagine the role of the father and mother, such as Homer and Marge Simpson, switched in these situations and ask yourself if it would be a sexist representation of a woman.

Certain behaviors that were once frowned upon in men, such as crying, oversensitivity, and talking about feelings are glorified in our culture. In the 90’s the politically correct culture took off, which forced men to bury some of their natural behaviors when interacting on a daily basis.

With all these social changes being implemented, the intention was that “bad” male behavior would be eradicated. Unfortunately, the heart of man did not change. At the same time, our culture has become more and more permissive. The negative behaviors being discouraged were in fact occurring with greater frequency, but being driven underground. Now we have a revelation that $50M of taxpayer money has been used to cover up sexual scandals among Congressmen.

These episodes of sexual deviancy expose once again the fatal flaw of leftist philosophy. Time and again they spend capital on engineering human behavior and every time it is proven that human nature can’t be denied or changed. If we examine history we find that people crave liberty and consistently act in their own economic best interest. Efforts by centralized economies and governments to control behavior have been futile. The last two centuries are littered with Socialist/Communist regimes that prove that “the human heart is desperately wicked.”

Hard Truths About the State of the American Church

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1 Peter chapter 4 talks about a number of difficult topics. He talks about God chastising us as we would chastise our children. It talks about the church being persecuted by the world. This passage culminates with verse 17, which says “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.”

These are placed here together by Peter because they are very much connected. If we look at this passage in a modern American context, the Church has sinned by failing to resist attacks against the Bible, the Church, and many other institutions that were established to allow us to be governed in a way that acknowledged the Creator as the source of our liberty and sustenance. Our failure has resulted in the need for God to chastise us. He is choosing to do this by raising up worldly men, like the rainbow jihad, to persecute the church. In this way he is judging the Church, but those persecutors better beware – verse 17 ends with a warning to those who are Gods instruments of chastisement.

The end of the story is almost exactly parallel to the story of the Babylonians in the judgment of Judah. Babylon was the instrument that was used to chastise Judah, but ultimately Babylon was destroyed as a punishment for their role in sinning against God’s chosen people.

Is there anything the Church can do to avoid being judged by God for the spiritual decline of America? Or is it already too late? Perhaps it is time for the Church to recommit to its own purification. Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the tares. He spoke of how the tares (non-believers in the Church) were coexisting with the wheat (true believers). Ultimately, the Lord will complete the work of the Church by throwing the tares on the fire at the time of harvest. However, the Church has a role in addressing the tares here on earth.

Church discipline is a tool that Jesus gave us to address those who make a profession of faith and join the body of Christ, but whose works are not consistent with someone who has given their life to Jesus. The Bible is clear (see Matthew 18:15-20) about the process and the purpose of church discipline. However, it is rare to see it practiced in the Church today. Within its own ranks the Church seems to have unwittingly adopted the permissive and tolerant ways that it has been quick to criticize in the world. We are afraid to offend a fellow church member, even if our actions are for his eternal benefit. We do not offer any deterrent for a brother not to stray from the narrow path, other than the natural God given consequences of his actions.

This lack of discernment has severely compromised the purity of the Church and made it difficult for the Church to set itself apart from worldly institutions. This lack of purity causes the world to ignore the Church when it rightly speaks out on moral issues on the basis that the Church is hypocritical. If we are to win back American culture, moral lines need to be drawn quickly and the Church needs to regain its credibility by staying true to those lines and making itself pure.

George Washington: Our Best Role Model

I have recently completed a highly acclaimed biography of George Washington called The Real George Washington.  My expectation when I began this biography was that the admiration that I had for Washington would be tarnished by the inevitable human imperfections that plague us all. The worshipful admiration I had as a school boy would make way for a grownup up respect laced with cynicism.

I am glad to tell the world that a deeper study of Washington only makes his character seem more ascendent than before and my admiration of him even more profound. Here we truly do have one of the greatest men that ever lived, not because he achieved a list of accomplishments that the world expects of great men, but because he had principles.  Not only did he have principles, but he lived them out. Not only did he live out his principles, but he did so with a knowledge of his own imperfections.

To the highly educated man of the 18th century, Washington’s education was unimpressive. Thomas Jefferson wrote “…his education was merely reading, writing and common arithmetic, to which he added surveying at a later day.” Washington himself was embarrassed by his lack of education. Additionally, Jefferson commented on Washington’s shortage of “invention or imagination” as well as inability to speak effectively in public situations.

How did a man of such evidently little political talent achieve the pinnacle of achievement? The answer is a word commonly used in our contemporary cultural language – VISION. In the same eulogy quoted above, Jefferson describes Washington’s mind as “great and powerful, without being of the very first order..” and “sure in its conclusion.” Patrick Henry marveled as his “solid judgment” and, most telling, James Madison once wrote that his mind was “capable of grand views.”  When taking these descriptions together, we get a picture of a man who was very capable of leading, but always as an arbiter of the ideas of other men.

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This leadership ability was reflected in the fact that George Washington was usually one of the first men to take a bold position. For instance, like most colonists, he entered the conflict with England in hopes of achieving an understanding with the British government that would allow the colonies to continue as subjects of the king. It did not take him long to determine that this outcome was not practical due to the remoteness of the colonies to London and the patronizing attitude of the British government. Therefore, Washington became one of the first men to champion a permanent break with England.

Throughout his career a theme repeated itself. He was never the most intelligent, most philosophical, or most educated man in a debate. However, he had an amazing ability to see the benefits that an independent republic would have on the rights of man. He may not have been a writer of great works that showed new ways of thinking, but he could envision the practical results of applying innovative concepts correctly better than any man who ever called himself an American.

The part of Washington that is perhaps the most unconventional is his character, which most men who encountered him called nearly perfect. Of course, he was not perfect. He was known to get angry at times. However, over the course of a lifetime he is described as having benevolence, dignity, generosity, honor, modesty, optimism, patience, perseverance, self-discipline, etc. In addition, he would always ask the advice of other men and after much deliberation would make his best decision. Once decided, he would tenaciously pursue excellence and overcome all obstacles as he executed his policy.

Washington was believed to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  It was well known that he spent much time in prayer and his impeccable character are the mark of a man who was striving to emulate his savior.  The Bible clearly teaches that we can identify Christians by the fruit that they produce.  Even if George Washington wasn’t a true believer, a man could not have a better example of Christian behavior in a secular setting than George Washington. I have certainly been inspired to emulate him.