Archive for October, 2010

Terrorism Scares

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

With the latest terrorism scares (sending explosives in packages) I’m sure that the terrorists again have us right where they want us.  They’re probably sitting back and laughing at how we will now spend as much in resources to ensure safe packages as we did on airline security.  It’s unbelievable that we can’t defeat these terrorists, especially if we’re a military super power, with supposedly decent intelligence. 

One report said that they’re going to run DNA testing on the packages.  What good will that do?  We still won’t be able to catch the terrorists, even if we know precisely who they are.  We’ve know about Osama Bin Laden for twenty years now, and he’s still resting comfortably in some cave somewhere.

Is Blended Faith Genuine?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

A recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that many Americans are personalizing their faith, picking and choosing from a diverse variety of religious traditions according to how they meet their individual needs.  This type of flexible faith has resulted in 60% of Americans blending their beliefs with New Age and Eastern beliefs, including astrology, reincarnation, and the spiritual benefits of yoga.  More Americans are also folding rituals of other religions into their faith.

The result of this is a blended faith.  People go on some sort of a personal spiritual journey, through a buffet line, mixing and matching the beliefs and practices of various religions into an individual faith that suits them best.  Many people even practice more than one faith, taking the term “diversity” to its extreme.  This practice is defended by noting that God loves all of us, so we shouldn’t just ignore the people and practices of other faiths.  The idea is that any place where people are getting in touch with their own sense of the divine is a place of worship.

However, is this blended faith genuine?  In the Old Testament, this practice–adopting beliefs and rituals from other religions–was considered to be idolatry.  We frequently see God judging Israel and other nations for this.  In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul condemns these practices as “pagan revelry,” and he calls for us to flee from such idolatry.  1 Peter 4:3-5 says, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

No, this blended faith is not genuine–it’s just an individual convenience.  Furthermore, it doesn’t change the gospel message.  God is immutable, and the faith that he commands us to live is a pure faith, free from sin and free from any non-gospel beliefs and rituals.  We must simply acknowledge our sin, accept the saving grace of Christ through faith, and live our lives for Him, according to His will–not ours.

The Question of Islam

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

There is currently a raging debate as to how to categorize Muslims.  Some argue for the rights of peace-seeking Muslims, while others tend to equate any followers of the Quran with the jihadists.  Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician who is quite concerned about Islam, and he has offered the following observations:

– The Quran is of ultimate importance to Islam, and it calls for hatred, violence, submission, murder, and terrorism.  Islam strives for violent jihad against non-Muslims–especially Israel and the West, following the example of the warlord Mohammed.  Since the Quran applies to all Muslims, there cannot really be a moderate Islam.

– Although Islam is considered to be a religion, it is much more than that.  It is also a political ideology with rigid rules for every aspect of society and individuals.  Islam means ‘submission,’ and it seems much more compatible with the totalitarian ideology of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than with freedom and democracy.

– Islam is taking over Europe.  There are 54 million Muslims in Europe, out of a total population of about 800 million.  The population of many European cities is already one-quarter Muslim.  Some studies suggest that 25 percent of the population in Europe will be Muslim in ten years.

We know that there are many Muslims who follow the Quran religiously, and Islam’s goal is to rule the world, by violent take-over.  Of course, there are many moderate Muslims, just like there are many moderate Christians–ignorant of what their Holy Book says.  However, as with any movement, the extremists become the activists, and the complacent become the followers.

The fact remains that the United States is not far behind Europe.  Although there is a wide range of estimates, some suggest that there are currently some 7 million Muslims in America.  What’s true for Europe now will be true for the United States in just a few years.  Islam is succeeding in its goal to rule the world.

Biblical Directives about Work

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

When we get tired of our jobs, or tempted to retire, it’s a good idea to review what God has to say about working and laziness:

Genesis 2:15:  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Exodus 23:12:  Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.

Proverbs 6:6-11:   Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.   How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

Proverbs 10:4:  Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.

Proverbs 10:5:  He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

Proverbs 10:26:  As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him.

Proverbs 12:24:  Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

Proverbs 12:27:  The lazy man does not roast his game, but the diligent man prizes his possessions.

Proverbs 13:4:  The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

Proverbs 15:19:  The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.

Proverbs 18:9:  One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

Complaining About Our Wars

Monday, October 18th, 2010

After sending some two millions troops into Iraq and Afghanistan during the past ten years, I think we have to start asking some questions.  Have these two wars been worth what they’ve cost us, especially in casualties, and are they worth continuing?

– Military Deaths – 5,768 young U.S. troops have lost their lives in these campaigns so far, as well as 1,139 allied troops.

– Military Injuries – Over 30,000 U.S. troops have been severely injured.  Some 250,000 have applied for mental health help since returning home.  Thousands more have acquired drug and alcohol additions, and many are undergoing rehabilitation.  Many families have been split up.  The unemployment rate among returning veterans is double the national rate.  Many of these troops are among the 800,000 troops have been re-deployed, serving more than a single deployment in one or both regions.

– Civilian Casualties – Countless hundreds of thousands of allied Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been killed and injured.

– Military homeless – Thousands of returning veterans are now homeless.

– Civilian Displacements – Countless hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been displaced from their homes.

– We’ve spent about one trillion dollars on these wars.

Has it been worth it, and is it worth it for us to continue staying in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Nearly 6,000 U.S. and allied troops have been killed, and hundreds of thousands of our troops have been injured and are facing dire circumstances since leaving the military.  In addition, hundreds of thousands of our allied civilians have been killed or displaced from their homes.

The monetary cost of these wars has been more than both Obama’s stimulus package and his health insurance bill, which everyone is complaining about.  What about complaining about the fact that our young troops continue to lose their lives by stepping on IEDs almost every day.  What about complaining about the plight of their families, and their inability to successfully re-enter society when they return?

We lost 2,977 people in the 9/11 attacks.  The real question is:  Has it really been worth all of these additional losses?  Are we that much safer than before?  Can we objectively point to instances where our losses have prevented other attacks?  Perhaps it’s time to weigh the cost of war.  Furthermore, are we really trying to win?  If we’re a military super power, why are we unable to win, and why are we unable to kill Osama Bin Laden?

What If God Examines You?

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Job 13:9 asks a frightening question:  “Would it turn out well if God examined you?”  Job 31:14 goes on to say, “What will I do when God confronts me?  What will I answer when called to account?”  It indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God–to have Him examine you. 

Well, God will indeed examine each one of us.  Unbelievers will be examined at the Great White Throne, where they will be found lacking.  Believers will be examined at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and they will be rewarded (or have rewards withheld). 

While we are still on this side of judgment, perhaps 2 Corinthians 13:5 offers the best advice to us today.  It says that, before God examines us, we should examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (believers).  It challenges us to test ourselves.  After all, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”  Do you know that Jesus Christ is in you?

A Profound Discovery about Prayer

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

I’ve recently discovered a profound truth about prayer.  I had an experience where I prayed for a friend, claiming Mark 11:24, which says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Although this seems simplistic, I truly believed that my prayers would be (and had been) answered, but they weren’t.

However, I was then struck by the profound truth that we must be true to applying particular Scriptures passages only as God intended.  For example, we cannot necessarily take God’s words to Israel in the Old Testament and apply them to ourselves.

Likewise, I realized that I could not call upon this verse in Mark for direct application to myself.  Although it is sometimes quite difficult to tell, this verse applies to the earthly reign of Jesus Christ during the millennium–not to Christians in this age of grace.

Instead, for us Christians, it is more appropriate to look to James 4:2-4, which says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Our prayers today will not necessarily be answered just because we can somehow believe, or imagine, that they are.  Instead, we must ask God with pure motives.  This is quite difficult, even for the most honest among us.  I believe this is why the best answers I’ve seen to my own prayers have concerned people that I hardly know; i.e., acquaintances, or “a friend of a friend,” instead of my own personal friends.

For example, even though I’m not praying for myself, I can selfishly benefit if my friend is healed.  If so, I will continue to have that friend in this life, and I won’t have to suffer the loneliness which would be accompanied by losing him.  In other words, even through my prayer for him, I can selfishly be praying for myself, if my motives are impure.

This is an example of knowing how to discern God’s words and apply them appropriately–to our temporal lives of today; to life in the earthly kingdom of Christ; or to eternity.

Obama’s Failed Stimulus Plan

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Obama’s stimulus plan was supposed to stimulate the economy and create jobs.  Due to what we’ve found out in the latest reports, it’s no wonder that the stimulus plan isn’t working: 

– The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued more than 72,000 checks ($18 million) to deceased Americans.  I wonder how Obama thought that they would help to stimulate the economy by spending their money. 

– The SSA also issued more than 17,000 checks ($4 million) to criminals behind bars.  How does rewarding our criminals stimulate the economy? 

– Many of the projects to replace the Main street sidewalks in small towns across the country were so poorly designed and constructed that they had to be re-done.  Maybe Obama thought that he could create twice the number of jobs through rework. 

– Over $100 billion of the stimulus money cannot be accounted for.  My guess is that it went to the lobbyists, and Chicago-style gangsters.

Medical Errors

Friday, October 8th, 2010

A recent article in Reader’s Digest included some testimonials from doctors about mistakes they have made while treating patients.  Of course, everyone is human, and many mistakes are relatively benign.  However, studies have indicated that there are approximately 100,000 unnecessary deaths each year due to avoidable medical errors.  Furthermore, we don’t know how many other errors are covered up. 

While I’m glad that the doctors in the article came forward, I was still taken aback about the way they described their errors.  Even when they admitted them, they almost always blamed them on something other than their ignorance or poor judgment.  Here are some of their excuses, and my comments: 

– “I hadn’t slept.”  When I was five years old, my mother would make me take a nap, even when I didn’t think that I needed one.  She was always right on this, although she wasn’t even a medical school professor. 

– “The ICU was overcrowded.”  That’s why you make the big bucks. 

– “I was under pressure.”  Who isn’t? 

I’m glad that these doctors had the courage to step forward.  However, if 100,000 deadly medical errors are documented each year, then there are probably easily twice that number in reality.  Furthermore, for every mistake admitted by a doctor, there are probably thousands more. 

Now, I’ve often been quite critical of doctors, but here’s my bottom line, and it might be somewhat surprising:  I could never do what they do, knowing that peoples’ lives are on the line every day.

My First Miracle – A Prayer Paradox

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I’ve always been careful not to use the word “miracle” flippantly.  The dictionary defines a miracle is an extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers, and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.  I believe that this is an accurate definition in the Biblical sense.

True miracles are extremely rare.  Even in the Bible, there were really only a few short periods when miracles were documented, primarily as follows:

– The ten plagues in Exodus
– The miracles performed during the watch of a few Old Testament prophets, such as Elijah
– The miracles performed by Christ

Well, I’ve just witnessed my first miracle.  Nearly three weeks ago, a friend of ours was rushed to the hospital due to an apparent heat stroke.  He had lain sick in a hot car for hours, and when he was admitted to the hospital, he was in a coma, and his body temperature was 107 degrees.  Tests showed “little or no” brain activity–basically flat-lined.

For two weeks, we all prayed for his recovery.  I distinctly prayed for a miracle, even knowing that I had never really witnessed one before.  I prayed that he would suddenly wake up and be ready to go home.  Well, he did suddenly wake up.  He quickly started talking, walking, and sending e-mails, and he’s almost ready to come home.  Because of the flat brain scan, and even the doctors’ expectations that he would never wake up, I have to claim this as a miracle.

Now, on the other hand, we recently had another friend who lay in a coma in the hospital for sixteen months as we prayed for a miracle.  He died recently, and I just can’t seem to get my arms around what the difference was in these two situations.  In both cases, fervent and unselfish prayers were prayed by God-fearing believers.  When does God choose to answer prayers with a miracle?

Even in the Bible, the purpose of miracles was not simply to answer a prayers, or to make someone feel better.  The purpose of miracles is to give a sign of God’s power and to bring glory to him, often by/for unbelievers.  In the case of our friend who recovered, that miracle was certainly a strong sign of God’s power to all of us, and we all give Him the glory.  But why wasn’t our other friend healed as well?  I feel as though if we could somehow pray more effectively, we could harness the true power of prayer, and we could glorify God like never before.  Maybe someone can help me to understand this better.