Thursday, October 11

A Brief Word about Politics

I have a lot of opinions that I don't mind sharing; but when it comes to politics, I usually try to allow for a difference of viewpoints among my friends, family, congregation, and community. I fully realize that it takes a large group of differing views to make a country like ours work successfully. What follows are my personal thoughts and conclusions. You are welcome to disagree, and I hope that if you do you won't write me off as a 'crackpot'. Now you will know just where my pot is cracked!

My political thinking has drastically changed over the last 12 months, due in large part to the influence of Mike Winthers and the Institute for Principal Studies. Mike lead a 10-week discussion on the Biblical role of government, and to say it was paradigm-changing would be an understatement. I gained much from the investment of time. This election cycle is where I put into practice the lessons learned.

A few brief disclaimers: Had you asked my political views 12 months ago, I would have told you 

  1. I'm a conservative voter.
  2. I have no problem voting for a "losing candidate" in order to let my voice be heard.
  3. I find the best candidate in the race and support them win/lose/draw.
A lot has changed. If you were to ask me today (and I will assume you did since you are reading this...)
  1. I am a liberal voter. The reason for this change is that I find very little in the present government system that I wish to conserve. Since I hold a position that would radically alter the way the system looks, that makes me by definition liberal. It is the nature of the beast - one is liberal when they wish to change the current system, but every liberal becomes conservative when their policies are in place.
  2. I have no problem voting for a "losing candidate" in order to let my voice by heard in the primary races. When the final candidates have been decided, it becomes time to vote from among them, not from among the "wish they woulds". 
  3. I find the best candidate in the race and support them as long as possible.
The reasons for this shift are simple. For years I have said to many "The lesser of two evils is still evil." I still believe that; but, really, any human candidate is evil. None will ever be perfect. So this argument is fast losing its appeal for me. The same goes with the 'pick the best candidate and support them at all costs' line of thinking. In the upcoming election, there are two major candidates and a host of others. The incumbent party almost always has a slight advantage, the challenger party is almost always at a slight disadvantage. Mathematically, the challenger has a larger deficit to overcome. Any votes cast for candidates/parties other than the two major parties becomes, in effect, an advantage for the incumbent candidate/party. But let's also consider this: should a candidate other than one of the two majors win an election, where is their constituency in Congress? Which Representative or Senator would sponsor their legislation or agenda?

Do I believe a third party (or more) is needed? Yes! I also believe the place to begin is not in the White House. Who has the most power in government? The person with the most power is held to the most frequent accountability, lest they abuse that power. According to the Constitution, the most powerful person in government is the Representative which is why they are held accountable by election so frequently (every 2 years), next is the President (every 4 years), then the Senator (every 6 years), then the Supreme Court Justice (a lifetime). To effect REAL change in the country, start putting alternative parties in the House of Representatives so a base is built on which a President can stand and accomplish something of substance.

Start changing things where it will help most. Start with the space between the ears!

Friday, December 17

Job Description

Haven't been posting frequently (read:  not at all) lately.  I intend to restart at the beginning of the year, perhaps with a slightly different focus.  Regardless of all that, I found a great job description that I want to emblazon on my heart, mind, and life.  

"I am an agent of the Living God, armed with the power of the Holy Spirit, sent on a mission to assist people in finding, knowing, and experiencing God's shalom."

Wednesday, November 24

Luke 23 - 24

The Roman overseeing the Judean district, Pilate, tried Jesus but found nothing that merited a further trial or sentence.  He sent him to Herod, the King of the region for further questioning.  Herod was not able to procure the answers he sought, so he had Jesus beaten and sent back to Pilate's custody.  Pilate again tries Jesus, but finds no fault in Him.  He attempts to have Jesus released, only to find that the people would rather have a known and convicted terrorist released instead of Jesus.  The crowd, fomented by the religious leaders, call for an execution.  Pilate releases Jesus to the custody of the religious leaders so that He could be executed by crucifixion.  Jesus was crucified outside the city gate, buried in a tomb and left there.  Very early in the morning of the first day of the week, women went to the tomb to further embalm the body, but found the tomb empty and an angel waiting with a message that Jesus had risen.  Several of the disciples went to investigate this claim and found no evidence to the contrary.  Jesus Himself appeared to two men traveling from Jerusalem that day, as well as to the disciples gathered in Jerusalem.  He proved to them that He had died and risen from the dead as He promised, then commissioned them to preach His message to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem.  He left them with a promise that He would return.

Tuesday, November 23

Luke 21 - 22

Jesus, in Jerusalem at the temple, observed the giving habits of the worshipers.  One woman who only gave 2 of the smallest coins gave more than anyone else, as she gave all that she had (not just all she had in her pockets; but the last two coins left to her name).  The disciples were more concerned about when all the fantastic events that would inaugurate Jesus' kingdom would occur, so Jesus began to describe the general conditions of a world into which He would interject His kingdom.  Jerusalem would be destroyed before His kingdom would be established; the disciples were to themselves be watchful for these events and were to teach others to be watchful as well.  Judas, one of Jesus' disciples, decided to betray his master to the religious authorities during the time of the feast celebration.  Jesus' other disciples prepare for the Passover and celebrate it together.  Although Jesus makes it clear that He is aware of the betrayer's presence and plans, Judas continues to carry out his arrangement while the other followers argue over who will hold the greatest office in the coming kingdom.  Retiring after their meal to a garden, Jesus prays while His followers sleep.  Jesus is arrested by those led to the garden by Judas; the disciples scatter; Peter denies having any affiliation with the man from Galilee; Jesus is beaten and tried by the Sanhedrin (the rough equivalent of our Supreme Court).  He is found guilty of blasphemy for His claims to deity.

Monday, November 22

Luke 19 - 20

Jesus meets and interacts with a tax collector named Zacchaeus.  The transformation made by Jesus in Zacchaeus' life is so drastic that he voluntarily pays back all that he has cheated out of his clients - with interest.  The fruit of repentance needs to be clearly seen; and Zacchaeus was showing it!  Jesus continued teaching that the kingdom of God was coming, but would not arrive as early as His followers anticipated.  Their responsibility was to faithfully complete the work given to them, and not to think that everything was already in order.
Jesus then entered into the city of Jerusalem shortly before the Passover was celebrated.  The throngs gathering in the city welcomed Him with a great reception that raised the attention of even the religious leaders.  Jesus cleansed the temple of those who sought to make a profit from their business dealings within the gates; and He promptly had His authority questioned by the leaders.  When He would not directly answer their questions, they kept asking other "litmus-test" questions, trying to catch Jesus in a contradiction that would turn the public's favor from Him.  Jesus, however, answered truthfully and wisely in each case and only highlighted the folly of the questioners.

Friday, November 19

Luke 12 - 13

Jesus began to warn His disciples about the dangers of hypocrisy in their lives.  It would eat away and infiltrate much like yeast permeates a lump of dough.  Another parable was given, illustrating the importance of preparing for eternity above preparing for an earthly future.  Those who seek God's kingdom will be in much better position than those who worry about temporal details.  The faithful disciple will be vigilant and prepared for his Master's return, will count the cost of his discipleship, and be aware of events around him.
Jesus then continued teaching about repentance.  He healed a crippled woman that was beyond the care of doctors, and taught about the kingdom using comparisons to mustard seed and yeast - small things with a great influence.  When Jerusalem rejected Him, Jesus mourned over the blessings that the city had forfeited.

Thursday, November 18

Luke 10 - 11

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into the neighboring cities and preach in the manner He had taught them.  They returned after having a successful journey, and Jesus reminded them that the power for such accomplishments came solely from His Father in Heaven.  He then instructed about eternal life and acting neighborly to one another.  In response to a request from His followers, Jesus taught how to pray - how to communicate with God in a manner that is both reverent and productive.  Several other parables were given to illustrate the dynamics of His coming kingdom.

Wednesday, November 17

Luke 8 - 9

Jesus continued teaching and aiding those with whom He had contact.  His teaching style utilized parables - stories that communicated a deeper meaning than just the story line.  He illustrated the coming kingdom by telling stories about soil and lamps.  After calming a storm and expelling demons from a possessed man, he healed a woman and raised a dead girl to life.  There was no power natural or supernatural that posed a difficulty to Jesus' power.  Jesus dispersed His disciples to reach a larger audience, and fed a crowd of over 5,000 in the process.  He continued to lecture and instruct His disciples, teaching them about true discipleship and greatness.  He did begin to tell His followers about His soon-to-occur death, but those who heard Him were too distracted by all the wonders their eyes were seeing to fully grasp what they were being told.

Tuesday, November 16

Luke 6 - 7

Note:  The blog posts were missing last week due to technical difficulties with the internet connection (translation:  a 20-year old wire decided to give out).  Posts resume beginning today!

Jesus and His followers are taken to task by the religious leaders because their actions do not fit with what the leaders expected would please God.  Jesus reminds the leaders that God is more pleased with our attitudes that lead to actions than with our actions that are not motivated by any loving attitudes.  Jesus then selects 12 of His followers to be intimately involved in His teaching - they become His disciples.  Jesus begins to instruct them carefully and fully about His expectations, teachings, and the rules of conduct they would be expected to live by.  He encounters the sick, the dead, the questioning, the critics and the admirers - and interacts with each group in a way that demonstrates not only a firm grasp of what God has commanded and expects, but does so in a loving and gracious way.  Along the way, He teaches His disciples about forgiveness.

Thursday, November 4

Matthew 27 - 28

Jesus was led from the gathering of religious leaders to the office of the Roman governor in Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate.  Judas, seeing all that transpired, regretted his decision to turn Jesus over to the authorities and tried to rectify the situation.  This was not possible, and Judas, distraught over the events, took his own life.  Jesus, meanwhile, was questioned by the governor and found to be innocent of any formal charge.  In an attempt to release Jesus, the people call for a notorious terrorist to be freed instead - they want to see Jesus executed.  The people's wishes are eventually granted and Jesus is beaten, led to the place of execution, and put on a cross to die for His claims to deity.  After His death, His body was buried in a sealed tomb to prevent a grave robbery that would further His followers claims to His supernatural ability.  In spite of the guard's presence, Jesus rose Himself from the dead and appeared to His followers, instructing them to teach others about Him and His teachings.

Wednesday, November 3

Matthew 25 - 26

Jesus continues to stress the necessity of preparation for the coming kingdom of heaven.  Those who are ready will be welcomed in, while those who delay or think they are 'well enough' prepared will be disappointed.  Because of His teaching and popularity, the religious leaders of the land plotted to put Jesus to death.  They would not, however, attempt this during the feast celebration, since the thronging crowds in the city would back the popular preacher and prophet.  Judas, one of Jesus' closest followers, becomes upset with Jesus' methods and arranges with the leaders to set up a time and place where Jesus can be quietly arrested.
Jesus and His disciples celebrate the Passover feast together, after which Judas leads the religious leaders to the spot in a quiet garden setting where Jesus has gone to pray.  Jesus is arrested and brought before the Jewish legislation and accused of blasphemy (speaking against God).  Peter follows at a distance, is recognized but denies any association with the teacher from Nazareth.

Tuesday, November 2

Matthew 23 - 24

Jesus warns His followers about the false religiosity of the Pharisees, who made a show of their worship to gain the attention and favor of men.  In doing so, they actually made the God they claimed to worship less attractive to those not rightly related to Him.  They had reduced the worship and praise of Almighty God to a grocery list of do's and don't's, rituals and regulations.  The holy city of Jerusalem, instead of welcoming His arrival, rejected their promised Messiah when He arrived.  As a result, the temple and the land would be destroyed and the people scattered.  Jesus' followers ask when these events will occur and Jesus takes time to discuss with them events as they would unfold in the future.  Some events would occur rather soon, others have yet to occur.  The question is not so much "What is going to happen and when?" as it is "Am I prepared if these events occurred today?"