Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Give What You Can

April 19, 2016

“If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give.  God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t”  2 Corinthians 8:12

So often when we are asked to give, we think “Oh I can’t give much right now, I have all these expenses.”  And we end up giving nothing.  But if we love God and we want to give out of love for Him, we will have a different mindset.  We’ll think, “What can I give?”  And we’ll look for ways and means to give all we can out of a heart of love.  The same thing happens as we age.  As the years go by there are things we can no longer do, and things we don’t do as well as we used to.  We may also have less income than we used to, and less in the way of things.  But when we think with a heart of love, we discover we have sources we never tapped before.  We have more time, more experience, perhaps more patience, well defined skills we can teach, the understanding that comes from having lived through many situations and survived them.  In the same way, asking “what can I give?” opens up venues we possibly haven’t thought of before.  We may not have a lot of money, but we may find money in items we no longer use, a skill we can donate, some money we can save by doing something differently, and so on.  The trick is to think “Can” instead of “Can’t”.  Two school age kids baked and sold cookies for a couple years until they were able to build a clinic overseas.  Who would have thought two school age kids could have funded the building of a clinic?  But they didn’t think about what they didn’t have–they thought “what can I do?”

 

Abortion and Eugenics

April 19, 2016

One of the things you will never hear from Planned Parenthood is that their founder, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist who desired to keep the population of “undesirables” small.  She thought the poor and uneducated shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce in large numbers.  That could be the motivation today?  By far, the largest number of babies aborted by planned parenthood today are from poor mothers, and the majority are mothers of color.  Could it be that the “pro choice” crowd are really not that fond of the poor or people of color?

Should a Christian drink alcohol?

March 22, 2016

While there are prohibitions throughout scripture against drinking too much wine, it is never prohibited outright. There are religious groups who do not drink alcohol, indeed they pledge not to drink alcohol. That is because they feel alcohol is such a problem in today’s world, they don’t want to be the cause of someone else falling into sin with alcohol. They believe that though they are free to drink, it would not be pleasing to God in their situation. I think it is somewhat similar to the situation in the Corinthian church (I Corinthians chapters 8-10) that Paul wrote about involving eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Strong Christians who knew idols were nothing believed they had the freedom to eat any meat and not worry about whether it had been in an idol temple. But other Christians believed it would be a sin to eat meat that came from an idol temple. Paul said for a person who believes it to be a sin, if they eat it anyway, for them it is a sin. He also taught those who believed it was not a sin, to be careful of the consciences of others, and not to trip someone else up. We are not to act in doubt, for anything we do apart from what we know to be right is sin. So if someone is in doubt about drinking, and our doing it pressures him to do it because of us, we have put him into a situation where he might fall. Love for others doesn’t do that.

Who is my Boss?

February 24, 2016

“We must obey God rather than men”  Acts 5:29

When should I ever disobey the laws of my government?  We are seeing, for the first time in the United States, civil laws which require obedience that violates the  conscience of some people.  For the first 200 years or so of this nation, laws were based, more or less on the Judeo-Christian tradition.  That was discarded by progressivism in favor of law based on majority rule.  Right and Wrong in a progressive democracy is decided by majority rule, and so is free to follow changing cultural mores, changing technology, changing ideas about science and changing ideas of what it means to be human.  The democratic majority is assumed to always get it right.

Speaking with a progressive, someone with traditional values is amazed at the utter lack of understanding about conscience.  Some progressives seem to feel that obeying the laws is always the right thing to do no matter what, and there is simply no higher authority to give anyone qualms about it.  Therefore some can be totally comfortable with the horrendous practices of late term abortions, if the law allows it.  Their mantra is:  your beliefs may be true for you, but not for me, and you can’t force your beliefs on the majority.  In other words, there is no absolute truth and no absolute morality.

Following such logic, it was totally correct for the Nazi officers to run the death camps.  The law was the law, and the Nazi party was democratically elected and authorized to make the laws of the land.  Individual conscience did not trump the law, and the party recognized no authority above their own.  Yet, when the allies conducted the Nuremberg war crimes trials, they did not recognize following legally justified  government orders as an excuse for what was done.  Why?

Compassion Fatigue

February 12, 2016

“He was deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need.”  Mark 3:5

When did you first hear the term “Compassion Fatigue”?    It is actually a medical or psychological term, and it was first described in disaster response workers.  It was a form of stress where the worker saw so much suffering for so long, that they were experiencing a special form of burnout.  They ceased to be able to feel emotion.  They couldn’t feel sadness, anger at the situation, joy at gains made, or  well, anything.  It was called “Secondary Traumatic Stress”.  However, if you hear the term today, it can refer to something different.  It can refer to the amount of human suffering before our eyes on the television every day–suffering about which we can do nothing–that we start to take an indifferent attitude toward it, not feeling much of anything.  It can also refer to the frustration and finally indifference someone may feel toward the panhandler they have seen on the corner every day for the past four years, who never moves on or improves.  Was this what Jesus was disturbed about?

In Jesus day, the streets seemingly were filled with beggars.  People begged because they were too disabled to work, and their were no programs, homes, or charities to help them.  Obviously these were people whose families could not or would not help them.  There were so many, and it must have seemed so endless, that people just walked on by, ignoring them.  This deeply disturbed Jesus.  So, how are we to respond?

I believe the best way to handle things like this is to recognize while we can’t do everything, nor likely even anything big, we can do something!  And that something we do keeps us engaged.  The fact we are doing something we are able to do, alleviates the frustration that the problem is just overwhelming.  We can learn more, or meet someone we’re helping, and that helps us feel care.  Even if its just a small financial sacrifice, or an occasional gift of our time, it keeps us involved.  When we can’t stop to talk with that panhandler because we’re driving and its not safe, we can still offer a prayer for his wellbeing.  It keeps us from being indifferent.

Who are the Swine?

January 19, 2016

“Don’t give holy things to depraved men.  Don’t give pearls to swine!  They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.”  Matthew 7:6

 

What did Jesus possibly mean when He said this?  In our modern Christian culture, we believe we are to give charity to everyone without question.  We are to preach the message of hope to all.  We are to persist without fail in giving, loving, and sharing Jesus.  Sometimes we feel we must knock endlessly at doors that never open, and even at doors where the voice inside yells “go away”

All Christian charities go through times of financial struggle.  When the economy is bad, donations dwindle, yet demands increase.  Would Jesus say to be good stewards of our resources and accountable to our donors and to Him to use what we have where it seems to do the most good?  Do we want to work where we see changed lives, or where we have labored in vain, sometimes for years.

Anyone who has worked in inner city ministries has seen two things that are distressing.  In the first case are the Christmas giveaways.  In some ministries some attempt at order has been forced by the situation.  People must pre-register, and people must come at an appointed time because the ministry can’t deal with a crowd that is too big.  Some ministries make an attempt to give a little five minute talk about the “real meaning of Christmas” and perhaps offer a prayer to the group that is pawing the ground waiting to get the gifts.  And many could testify to what always happens.  Huge crowds arrive early.  There is pushing, shoving and shouting.  People arrive who never preregistered and still expect gifts.  Usually there has to be a police presence to keep order.  There is always shouting and anger, and complaints about the gifts not equalling the expectation of the recipient.  The time, money and stress that went into the program drains the ministry, its staff and its volunteers.  And at the end of the day, some wonder why the ministry does this every year.  What usually isn’t asked is:  How did this honor the name of Jesus, and was His message heard by anyone.

Another scenario is the feeding program.  A lot of gospel missions, who otherwise do good work in rehabilitating the willing addicted, also feed anyone who comes in for the meal programs.  Often they do a little sermon or prayer first.  Those who came for the food are restless and distracted, angling toward the door nearest the food line.  Few appear to listen or pray.  At the end of the week, or the year, the staff could ask themselves if anyone’s life was changed by what happened at the mealtimes.  One could ask whether this honored the name of Jesus, or if it looked like bribery in order to hear a “sales pitch”, rather like the “free meals” at hotels which require one to hear a pitch involving real estate, investments, cruises, buyers clubs or something of that nature.   Might it not be better to just feed the hungry, and perhaps have a sign saying, “Be blessed, in the name of Jesus.”  It seems like this might at least be more honoring to Him.   He did indeed tell us to feed the hungry.

But who are the swine?  There are some who are absolutely hostile to the name of Jesus and His message of grace, and are indeed hostile to God himself, even in the “one God fits all, all religions are the same” open and liberal brand of God.  Should we argue the truth of Jesus with those who are hostile?  Possibly Jesus is saying “Don’t waste your breath”, but also may be saying “Don’t expose yourself to harm in this case.”   Its interesting that Jesus himself wouldn’t work miracles on command for those who came to see a spectacle.  They weren’t interested in what He had to say, they were just curious and wanted to be amazed.  He also did not feed the crowds a second time when they followed Him only because He fed them.  Indeed, He called them on their motives.   Jesus may be protecting those who serve Him from wasted resources, from burnout, and even from unnecessary exposure to physical harm.

But who are depraved men?   Depravity is the absence of a moral code, values or ethics.  A depraved person lives by the law of the jungle–“all about me, what’s in it for me, and I don’t care who I step on”   They also engage in “deeds of darkness” according to Jesus, and He leaves it to our imagination what those deeds may be.  They could range from illicit sex to plotting murder for gain, and everything in between meant to pleasure the self and harm others.   One thing is certain: while many encounter risk to self when they go into dangerous places to share the gospel, it would seem Jesus is not calling us to go into an Islamist terrorist encampment to preach the Christian message.

Old Wisdom

April 1, 2012

Sometimes a discovery will leave me pleasantly surprised.  We think our world is unique in its technological advancement and sophistication, yet some wisdom is timeless.  Here is my discovery today.

“You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken…Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?  We cannot…Anything received into the mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts…”

Who do you suppose said this, and how long ago?

Plato

Caribbean Chicken Salad

July 6, 2011

O God of Peace, we praise you and give thanks for your gentle, guiding calm in our lives. We give thanks for safety, food, shelter, and nations where we are free to pursue those things.

Caribbean Chicken Salad

Marinate chopped chicken breast in favorite marinade.

Stir fry chicken and allow to cool.

Arrange greens on plate.  Put 2 tablespoons of pico de gallo in the middle.  Arrange chunks of fresh pineapple and slices of orange around pico.  Put chicken on top of pico and crush some “hint of lime” tortilla chips over all.  Pass dressing around the table.

Dressing:

1/4 cup dijon mustard

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 TB sugar

1 1/2 TB oil

1 1/2 TB white wine vinegar

juice of a whole lime.

Shake together and put in small pitcher.

Enjoy this refreshing summer salad with rolls, flatbread or other bread, tropical fruit punch or tea.

Why do they do it?

March 18, 2011

I received a letter from a friend recently.  This man, who retired wealthy, has decided to give up a “Western” comfortable lifestyle and live in West Africa.  He lives in a communal building, sharing a room with two other men.  Their bath consists of a clogged sink, a toilet that flushes maybe one time in 10 because of “city sewer issues”.   The shower has no drain, only a hole leading to the outside, but it works–cold water only.  Rats live under the bed, and food often causes dysentery.  He has lost so much weight nothing fits.  Yet, he is so happy.  He is also well past retirement age.

Why does he do it?  He has sold out to Jesus Christ.  He identifies with the poor as Jesus did, and wants to live among them, sharing the life they live.  He knows for him it was a choice.  They have no choice.  He wants to share the message of God’s love with the poorest of the poor.  And he is able to actually help the poor.  He has a wide variety of skills and a lot of knowledge, and he has helped by starting many projects needing his “know how.”  He doesn’t know how long he will be able to do this, but he takes it a day at a time and lives each day on the “gift of grace.”

I actually know dozens of people who live like this man:  North Americans who live in conditions of hardship to try to make life better for the poor, and to give them hope.  You don’t see these people on the news.  They work quietly, and maybe its for the best, as it would be horrible if they were singled out for acts of terrorism.  As Christians, they work humbly and equally with Christians, Muslims and those who practice ancient religions or no religion.  They would be a goldmine of knowledge on how to get diverse groups to work together.

Why do they do what they do?  In many ways and many words, they all say the same thing.  The love of Jesus changed their hearts and changed their lives.  One man said to me: “When you know about Jesus, admiration for him makes you want to change your life.  When you know Jesus heart to heart, He changes your life and you can never be the same.”  Someone else said, “Jesus puts in so much love it has to come out.”

Love as a Virtue

January 12, 2011

In English, love has many meanings from romantic love to love for a favorite food, and all sorts of “loves” in between.  However, love can be a virtue.  If I want to strive for the virtue of love, I would define it as affection for others.  If I have affection for others, then I see the good in them first.  I can sort the wheat from the chaff and cherish the wheat.  To do that, I must put myself out for others.  Some wit once said “I love humanity, its human beings I can’t stand”.  We can have some noble sentiments regarding being a “lover of humanity”, yet despise certain people, especially the ones who get in our way or offend our sensibilities. 

To love people, I must go out of my way to get to know them.  A good person may be polite.  A virtuous person knows the name of the office maid and goes out of his way to speak to her and get to know her as an individual.  I need to be genuinely interested in the people I see around me on a regular basis, and go out of my way to meet my neighbors.  I need to remember names and use them.  I need to politely inquire after people as I get to know them.  I can pray for them and encourage them.  Yes, there are a lot of people whose paths I cross, and I may not be able to befriend all of them.  However, as with all good things, I need to look at what I CAN do and not use what I can’t do as an excuse not to do anything.