Expand the Boycott!

For all the Congressmen who are boycotting Trump’s inauguration:  You could do us all a favor and also boycott Congress for the next two years.  While you’re at it, boycott the press by not talking to them.  Boycotting seems to be what you do best.

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What is Grace?

The concept of free grace is what sets Christianity apart from world religions.  But what is it exactly, and why is it so important?  Throughout the history of the world, men have attempted to understand their relationships with a deity and with other people.  At the very core of every system of government, religion, or any other belief, there’s always a central belief or doctrine which upholds that system.  That core doctrine then serves as a foundation to support the residual structures, or sub-doctrines, each of which must be consistent with that encompassing central doctrine.

A prime illustration in the realm of government is the Constitution of the United States, where we weigh all decisions against that Constitution.  Some systems have used various sets of laws as their constitution while others have used either historical records of past performances of humanity, or new guidelines concerning man’s deeds.

Most systems of religious beliefs have also used some form of legal constitution in order to govern themselves with respect to their relationships with deity and mankind.  This is where Christianity is unique and where it excels above any other system of belief.  Its central doctrine is that five-letter word called “grace.”  This grace still serves as a guideline to qualify our other beliefs, but in Christianity, this central belief is not a law.

What is this thing called grace then?  If it’s the pillar of the Christian faith, it would seem necessary that it be well understood by all Christians.  Indeed, we use this term liberally in hymns and phrases of worship, but do we really understand its significance?

Read more…

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What Retirement Should Look Like for Christians

Our society views retirement as leisure time with no working–a sort of reward for 20, 30, or 40 years of hard work.  It consists of lazy days, puttering around the house, hobbies, volunteering, travel, family, planning how to spend your time, moving, lower taxes, and living on one’s savings.  (Actually, it’s probably more about living on Social Security, health issues, Medicare, and dying).

Yes, retirement is all about withdrawing from one’s work or labor in order to live a life of leisure–enjoying life to the fullest without any obligation, commitment, or worry. As a result, we have the mentality that you can do what you feel like doing whenever you want to do it. The idyllic retirement is kicking back with friends, traveling, eating out, and playing golf and tennis every day.

Or, it’s a time to spend your inheritance, or to put even more money away.  Tony Soprano viewed it as “making millions of dollars sitting on his a__.”  Yes, retirement is all about ourselves.

However, what does the Bible say about retirement?  Not too much:

In reference to the work of the Levite priests in maintaining the Old Testament tabernacle, Numbers 8:25-26 says, “But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more.  They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work.”  These priests had to retire because they were no longer physically able to perform the demanding duties of their work in the tabernacle.  However, they didn’t go off to a life of leisure as a reward for a lifetime of work.  Instead, they were expected to take on the role of assisting the younger men in performing their work.  In other words, they were no longer able to work physically, so they became counselors and mentors.

Concerning widows, 1 Timothy 5:5 says, “Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.” Prayer is perhaps the most fruitful ministry outlet for those who have retired.  Generations of descendants have been impacted by the faithful prayers of an elderly family “patriarch” or “matriarch.”  In Luke 2:36-37, Anna was an 84-year-old widow who “never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.”

1 Timothy 5:6 then follows with a warning for those widows:  “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.”  Our older years are not to be spent solely in the pursuit of pleasure.  Paul says that this is death, not life.

2 Corinthians 12:14 says that “children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.”  Even if we have extra money in retirement, we’re not to consume it all on our own pleasures.  We should save it for our childrens’ inheritance.  However, regardless of money, our inheritance to them should include our spiritual heritage which we have saved over the years. Psalm 71:18 says, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

The Christian never retires from Christ’s service.  Even if he retires from his vocation, his life work of serving the Lord does not change. We can still relate how God has worked in our lives.

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What’s Worse than Animal Cruelty?

I see commercials on TV about the evils of animal cruelty.  Liberal groups want our money to save poor mistreated dogs and cats.  In previous years, they publicized the brutality of seal hunts.  All animal cruelty is indeed terrible.  However, how can these same people stand by without comment as we kill one million babies a year through legalized abortion?  What’s worse:  mistreating a dog, or killing a (human) child?

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Trump is Legitimate, or John Lewis Isn’t

Rep. John Lewis said on Friday that Donald Trump is an illegitimate president.  Maybe this is according to his own rules, but it’s not according to federal law.  I just re-read the U. S. Constitution, and it says:

Article 2, Section 1:

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot …  The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed;

The 12th Amendment:

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, …  The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President,

Donald J. Trump had 304 electoral votes, winning decisively over Hillary Clinton by 17 percentage points (57% to 42%).  According to the Constitution, Donald Trump is a legitimate president.  If not, then Rep. Lewis is not a legitimate Congressman, since the Constitution dictates similar rules for his election.

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How to Have Your Prayers Answered

I had a prayer answered this week.  It was one of those prayers where I’ve asked God for something many times over the past few years, and this week he answered it directly.  I know that God answers prayers every day, but my batting average isn’t that good.  Well, after years and years of prayer records, I believe that I’ve finally figured out the key to prayer.

You may be like me, in that most of the things that I have asked for in my prayers related to my family, my friends, my job, my church, my finances, my daily walk with God, etc.  Well, look at the number of times that I used the word “my” in the previous sentence.  Most of my prayers have been about me.  That’s the problem.  The Christian life is about grace, humility, and love; and, love implies a willingness for self-sacrifice for others.  My prayers should probably be more about others than myself (Philippians 2:3).

James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  I’ve been asking with wrong motives (asking “amiss” in the KJV).

Furthermore, my prayer records bear this out.  Here’s a profound reality:  The further that I am removed from a situation, the more effective my prayers are.  When my mother was deathly ill, I spent countless hours in praying for her healing, only to see her die after five years of suffering.  On the other hand, I have had the experience of praying for the health of someone who I hardly knew, and my prayer was immediately answered with healing.

As another example, when I’ve prayed about financial situations for myself, my prayers haven’t been answered as well as when I’ve prayed about someone else’s financial needs

In other words, when I have had a personal stake in a prayer, and I was going to personally benefit from an answer to that prayer, then the prayer has generally not been too effective.  However, when I take myself out of the equation, my prayers have been much more effective..

Unfortunately (for me), this also means that sometimes, when I am indeed very far removed from the situation, I may not even know how the prayer was answered.  I’ve taken international trips where I’ve met people and prayed for them, then I’ve come home and never seen them again.  I will never know how those prayers were answered.  However, according to this principle of removing myself from my supplications, I have to believe in faith that God indeed answered those prayers.

So, I believe that the most effective prayer is selfless (intercessory) prayer.  If I can stop being so selfish, I can have much more success in having my prayers answered.

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Another Great Performance by Meryl Streep

I believe that Meryl Streep is one of the best actresses in the world, and she has the awards to prove it.  So, what did I think when she got on stage at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards and demonstrated her sensitivity for a disabled reporter who had been imitated by a conservative politician?  Or when she was so broken-hearted about a conservative policy on immigration that she thinks would have crippled the entertainment industry, if certain (immigrant) actors had been denied entry to our country?  Or when she waxed eloquent on how we need a principled press to hold people accountable and to safeguard the truth (according to her vast knowledge and interpretation of the Constitution)?

Well, again I was reminded that she is a great actress.  She stepped onto the stage and assumed the role of crusader, representing all of the supposedly “vilified victims” of the arts–all of those liberal actors and actresses.  It quickly became obviously that she had carefully studied her script as she flawlessly delivered her rehearsed performance.  Yes, at this point I was beginning to wish that I had read the novel.  In a weak and quivering voice, in four short minutes, she was able to safeguard the truth by defending the disabled, the vilified, the immigrants, and of course, all of the poor downtrodden millionaires in the room.

Yes, her acting was amazing.  She played the part so well, but then that’s what she does.  She’s a professional actress, and she’s very good at her job.  A stage, a role, a script, a rehearsal, and a performance?  I thought how she again had proven her marvelous acting abilities, perhaps showing her stuff for the 2018 Golden Globes.  However, it got a little boring (and confusing) when she tried to play the part of a politician, and of a guardian of morality.  She should stick to the movies.  When you never stop acting, how could anyone ever take you seriously?  Oh, and I guess that defending the vilified victims of abortion was not in her script.  Those victims are more than vilified–they’re dead.  Maybe that’s one role that would be too challenging for her, since we kill one million innocent unborn babies each year.

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The Anonymity of Christianity (the Blank Headstone)

Romans 2:29 says, “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”  The true believer seeks praise from God instead of praise from men.

Jesus preached about this in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 6:1 says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”  Verses 2 through 4 tell us that when we give to the poor, we are to do it secretly.  Our giving is a good thing, and we will be rewarded for it, in one of two ways.  If we give so others can see and admire our giving, then our reward is the admiration of others.  However, if we give secretly, “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  We can choose the glory and admiration from sinful men, or eternal rewards from God.

Likewise, verses 5 and 6 say that the same is true for prayer.  We are told not to pray so that we “will be heard for (our) many words.”  Instead we are to go into a closet; close the door; and, then pray to God and “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  Again, we are free to choose our reward–from men or from God.

Verses 16 to 18 say the same for fasting.  We are to fast, but not to “be noticed by men.”  If we do, we already have (our) reward in full” (from men). We are to fast in secret.  Then “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

For the maximum eternal heavenly rewards, the Christian is to do things anonymously.  This is true even after death:  A believer’s headstone should have his name, birth date, and death date.  That’s all.  It shouldn’t tell how good of a husband or father he was.  In fact, it would probably be best not to even have a headstone, or to have a blank one.  If anything, it should have a verse from the Bible that glorifies God–not the man.  Maybe something like Jude 25:  “To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

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Romans 1:18 – NIV vs. NASB

I got the wrong idea when I read Romans 1:18-19 in the NIV:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”

The main idea here is that when God’s wrath rightly falls on sinful humanity, they have no excuse because the truth of God has been made plain to them.  However, when I read this, I got hung up on the words used to describe sinful humanity, as those “who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”  This didn’t make sense to me.  How can the truth be suppressed by wickedness?

Then I read the same passage in the NASB, and it made more sense:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”

This describes sinful humanity as those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  The word “suppress” here is the Greek word “katecho.”  The old KJV translated this word as “hold,” but the word “suppress” is closer to the Greek meaning to “hold down” or “keep back.”

Those who are unrighteous and ungodly restrain the truth of God’s righteousness.  Paul is saying that the heathen have had the righteousness of God revealed to them, yet they suppress this truth of His righteousness in themselves “because” they are ungodly and unrighteous.  They’re not suppressing the truth “by” their unrighteousness, but rather because of it.  It’s not that their wickedness suppresses the truth of God.  Instead, their unrighteous deeds suppress (in themselves) the truth that has already been made plain to them.

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If the Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill,” then is war wrong?

Many people have misunderstood the Bible on the subject of killing primarily because of an incorrect translation in the old King James version of the Bible. The sixth commandment, in Exodus 20:13, does not actually say, “Thou shalt not kill” as translated in the old King James. A more accurate translation is provided in many of the newer versions, such as the NIV, which says, “You shall not murder.” The Bible forbids the act of murder, which means the unjustified taking of a person’s life (including suicide, abortion, and euthanasia), but it doesn’t forbid all killing. In fact, it is sometimes very adamant that killing is the right thing to do, but it must be justified in God’s eyes. The Bible allows for three situations where killing is justified:

  1. Killing in warfare

    The Bible offers many examples where God commands His people to kill their enemy aggressors in warfare. In Genesis 10 through 12 (specifically 10:5 and 11:9), God created the institution of nations, and determined that people would be divided according to national entities. God condemned aggression from one nation against another, and he sanctioned warfare as a means of protection from aggressors. The Old Testament is filled with commands from God to Moses, Joshua, David, and many others, to kill their enemy aggressors. Deuteronomy 20:1 says, “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.”

    Sometimes God even commanded the unmerciful annihilation of evil nations. Deuteronomy 2:33-34 says, “The LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them–men, women and children. We left no survivors.”

  2. Self-defense

    By the same principles as for killing in warfare, we know that God wants us to defend ourselves, and if an aggressor is too threatening and persistent, especially if we are in fear for our lives, then we are justified in killing the aggressor. This is actually what is happening in warfare, when a nation becomes an aggressor and sends its troops to take over another nation, and the troops killing that nation’s innocent citizens. This is what Saddam Hussein did in Kuwait in 1990. This principle can be extended to apply to individuals as well as nations. If a criminal threatens someone’s life with a gun, then we are justified in killing that criminal on the basis of self-defense, and our courts definitely respect this argument as well. This is also why policemen are justified in killing criminals when the criminal has put someone else’s life in danger, and he will not submit to arrest.

  3. Capital punishment

    Genesis 9:5-6 says, “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” This passage tells us that God commands that murderers should be executed.

    Again in this case, killing is not only justified, but commanded by God. This passage can also be applied to the situations of warfare and self-defense as well.

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