Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Humiliation Day

The modern mind may think of several things when remembering Thanksgiving Day, but how many would consider this to be a time of serious contemplation and even…humility?  For those who would dare to examine the beginnings of our Thanksgiving Day holiday, they would find that prayer and humiliation formulated the basis of and necessary prelude to this day of joy and celebration.  Frankly speaking, one cannot find the latter lest they seek the former. 

History reminds us of this truth, especially when we consider the writings of Mr. William Bradford who served as the governor of Plymouth Plantation almost continuously from 1621 to 1656 (except for five of years of this period).  His description of the early pilgrims, their devotion to God, and their endurance through suffering, helps us to comprehend better the significance of what we now refer to as Thanksgiving Day.  Before their own day of thanksgiving came about there was an even greater event which it. In Bradford's record below we learn of the hardships that visited Plymouth, even after new supplies and passengers arrived on the ship called the Anne:

"These passengers, when they saw their low and poor condition ashore, were much daunted and dismayed, and according to their divers humors were diversely affected. Some wished themselves in England again; others fell a-weeping, fancying their own misery in what they saw now in others; other some pitying the distress they saw their friends had been long in, and still were under. In a word, all were full of sadness. Only some of their old friends rejoiced to see them, and that it was no worse with them, for they could not expect it should be better, and now hoped they should enjoy better days together. And truly it was no marvel they should be thus affected, for they were in a very low condition; many were ragged in apparel and some little better than half naked, though some that were well stored before were well enough in this regard. But for food they were all alike, save some that had got a few peas off the ship that was last here. The best dish they could present their friends with was a lobster or a piece of fish without bread or anything else but a cup of fair spring water. And the long continuance of this diet, and their labours abroad, had something abated the freshness of their former complexion; but God gave them health and strength in a good measure, and showed them by experience the truth of that word, (Deuteronomy 8:3) 'That man liveth not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth a man live.'"

"When I think how sadly the Scriptures speaks of the famine in Jacob's time, when he said to his sons, 'God buy us food, that we may live and not die,' (Genesis xlii.2 and xliii.1) that the famine was great or heavy in the land. And yet they had such great herds and store of cattle of sundry kinds, which, besides flesh, must needs produce other food as milk, butter and cheese, etc. And yet it was counted a sore affliction. Theirs here must needs be very great, therefore, who not only wanted the staff of bread but all these things, and had no Egypt to go to. But God fed them out of the sea for the most part, so wonderful is His providence over His in all ages; for His mercy endureth forever.""I may not here omit how, notwithstand all their great pains and industry, and the great hopes of a large crop, the Lord seemed to blast, and take away the same, and to threaten further and more sore famine unto them. By a great drought which continued from the third week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat for the most part, insomuch as the corn began to wither away though it was set with fish, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it began to languish sore, and some of the drier grounds were parched like withered hay, part whereof was never recovered. Upon which they set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians' admiration that lived amongst them. For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance was that the earth was thoroughly we and soaked and therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving."

[Note: "...A law of 15 Nov. 1636 (Plymouth Colony Records XI 18) allows the Governor and Assistants 'to command solemn days of humiliation by fasting, etc., and also for thanksgiving as occasion shall be offered.'"]. Excerpt of William Bradford - Of Plymouth Plantation [1620-1647] by William Bradford, edited by Samuel Eliot Morison.


What I love about this excerpt is that the institution of their thanksgiving celebration came some time after a day of prayer and humiliation. Here is a great lesson for us all: Genuine thankfulness can only grow and flourish in a heart that has been softened and prepared by humility (Philippians 2:1-14; 1 Cor 4:7). In view of the truth of God's word, and in view of the historic example of these godly brethren, let us all seek the Lord prayerfully, with humility, and with thanksgiving!

Soli Deo Gloria

(Repost from The Armoury, November 2005)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Playing the Devil’s Advocate

Washington D.C. is lost. 

By this I mean that, in the broader scheme of things, our nation’s capitol is spiritually dead.  Thus whatever kernels of wisdom may still exist there, we can be sure that such rarities are utterly buried beneath a mountain of chaff…

…and it doesn’t appear that this vast pile will be blowing away anytime soon.   

Despite the better intentions of our nation’s founding fathers, America’s governmental structure has become a self-absorbed and self-perpetuating monster, and the politicians who direct this behemoth do so for the sake of their own wealth and empowerment.  It is for this reason that we see a growing tendency for lawmakers to legislate in a vacuum of consideration of our nation’s genuine needs, not to mention the needs of the future generations who will follow us.  What has been dizzying about the past year and a half is that the number of bad policies streaming out of capitol hill has been gushing at a rate which makes it impossible to filter and sort through it all.  But this is no accident.  Strategically speaking, Washington knows very well how impossible it is for the American public to drink from such a policy fire-hydrant; let alone from a gushing, unfiltered sewer pipe. 

The most recent policy fiasco comes to us via our nation’s characterization and treatment of Muslim jihadists.  Liberal educators, the media, as well as politicians have practically written, in blood, their own manifesto regarding what everyone must think and believe concerning Islam: that it is “a peaceful religion.”  Politically speaking, this motif has been created by both Democrats and Republicans (to one degree or another), and thus my criticism here is not partisan, nor is it about politics per se.  What I write here is a rebuke against what has become a bipartisan convergence of foolishness that is endangering our nation.  Those who prescribe the mandate for the presumption of Islamic innocence reveal a false dilemma that should be quite obvious to anyone who would care to observe it: if Islam is such a “peaceful religion” (as we are instructed to believe), then why do we see such a steady stream of bloodshed and violence committed in the name of Allah?  Rather than admit the obvious (that Islam is not an inherently peaceful religion), liberals are compelled to find another villain in order to sustain their precious narrative; after all, someone is to blame for all this violence.  

And who or what is this villain?  Well, depending on who you may ask, the answer usually lands in the realm of -anyone who may criticize and oppose Islamic ideology.  Thus, the Muhammad cartoons of yesteryear were thought to be a legitimate basis for Islamic retaliation and violence.  Our foreign policies toward Islamic states (which are mostly hated for their advancement of religious freedom) are thought to give Muslims a cause for slaying more infidels.  And after 8 years of the supposed “Bush-Hitler” era, we find that our military is a part of this equation of blame and justified violence.  The left’s diatribe against our nation’s war on terror became so vehement that they had no problem vilifying our military (thereby endangering them and our nation overall) all for the purpose of political power back home.  Therefore, the forced narrative of the liberal community became this: until we stop fighting Jihadists, we will only exacerbate and facilitate more Jihadist attacks against America.  Or to put it more succinctly:

the only way to achieve peace is by surrendering to our enemies. 

This form of thinking was fodder for the antiwar crowd leading up to Barack Obama’s election late last year.  Now that he is in office, President Obama is realizing that the real world is much more complex than the mythological one in which he, and the people who voted for him, hoped to live.  Even now, the political ramifications of a hasty withdrawal of troops would be damaging to the Democratic party – and so we now wait to hear about the President’s next chess move in what is a perpetual pursuit of a checkmate for political power. 

In this vein, I would like to play the Devil’s advocate for a moment, and offer advice on how this “Islam is a religion of peace” narrative can be advanced even further, especially in the wake of two unpopular wars, and as well, in the wake of two significant tribunals: the trials of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and Maj. Nidal Hasan.  I would submit to the reader that in the trials of KSM and Maj. Hasan, we have a potential convergence of this “if a victim, then a justified aggressor” motif that will further enrapture the left into their imagined Nirvana.  Never mind reality, facts, or believability – I am addressing those who rest on unreasoned hope and change, thus, here is my Devil’s advocacy:

Their Victimhood:  The narrative of Islamic victimhood must be advanced at all costs – even if it endangers our nation in its wake.  This will be necessary for our Attorney General, Eric Holder, as he requires more public support in order to probe and prosecute those public officials who supported the Bush-torture-era.  These two trials should supply him with all the help that he needs.  Concerning our two pawns in question, Maj. Hasan is a victim in view of the fact that he was constantly tortured by those who failed to endure his open advocacy of Islam; and he was tortured by the personal testimonies of those who received psychiatric counsel from him.  Leniency should be granted to him because he is a Muslim, and was no doubt psychologically abused by the testimony of such violent military personnel.  As for KSM, he is a victim in view of the fact that he was never read his Miranda rights when captured.  As well, he was water-boarded such that he, no doubt, was coerced into making confessions against his will.  Such an argument is no small matter.  KSM has a strong precedent of self defense based upon the recent release of the Cole bombing suspect Adb al-Rahim al-Nashiri who was also waterboarded, as confirmed by CIA director General Michael Hayden on February 6th, 2008.  As a defense against his prosecutors, al-Nashidri’s claimed to be compelled, through such torture, to render false confessions.  On February 5, 2009, al-Nashiri's charges were withdrawn without prejudice.  

Their Publicity:  Maj. Hasan and KSM will require a world stage upon which their victimhood can be seen by all.  America must be punished for its failure to appease the Muslim world, and the trials of these men will further this cause.  Maj. Hasan’s victimhood is already an established fact, especially as the media has been working overtime setting the stage for a proper narrative of victimhood – even disdaining the apparent ties between his Islamic convictions and his violence.    As for KSM, his trial has been advanced to the world stage in view of the fact that he will be judged in a civilian court.  Protected by a presumption of innocence, his accusers will be required to work from a legal ground zero in order to seek prosecution.  With the privacy that would have attended a military tribunal now eliminated, the media will have an unfettered stage in order to broadcast the story of a man who was tortured by the CIA and forced to make his confessions, just like al-Nashiri, whose story was muzzled because of his “enemy combatant” status.

Their Example:  The stories of these men, when dictated by the media to a listening world, will establish a paradigm of foreign policy for ages to come.  The anti-military narrative will enable us to further discussions concerning the need for American passivity, anti-nuclear proliferation, world cooperation, and ultimately, world peace.  Our ultimate goal will be the subjugation of all nations beneath a one world government, headed by the UN - which is the sine qua non institution for world peace.  These are only two trials of two different men, but the convergence of their victimhood narrative will, in time, serve much greater purposes beyond themselves.

I apologize for the disturbing nature of the above “Devil’s advocacy” – but I fear that it is all too real.  As the trial-circus proceeds, we should wonder: how many future “Maj. Hasans,” residing within the US, will be radicalized through the open testimonies of these two men?  These trials could last for years, and the liberal media will be running alongside them in order to broadcast the narratives of such victimized Muslims. 

On another note, it is strikingly odd is to hear our political leaders pontificate about KSM’s guilt, and how he will pay the ultimate cost for his crimes.  But here’s a much needed news flash: he’s now being tried in a new legal venue (civilian court) as one who is not an “enemy combatant,” and within this new paradigm, no one is in a position to presume his guilt in this case.  What is revealing in these contradictions is the fact that many of our nation’s “lawmakers” have very little regard for the law.  Apparently, they just make things up as they go along. 

Washington D.C. is lost.  The political monster which drives it is more interested in power and control than truth or justice.  The Lord said to the nation of Israel in Hosea’s day: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).  History reveals that the signs and symptoms of national sin are very much the same, generation after generation. 

May God have mercy on America.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Friends from Facebook

A Grouchy Disclaimer Regarding Facebook:  Some time ago I received an e-request to sign-up for the popular website called Facebook.  This was initiated by someone that I know personally, and the purpose for the request was so that I would be able to see pictures of this individual, along with his family.  Reluctantly, I signed up as one who is not much of a fan of such things.  In fact, let me admit right here and now that I am the official e-curmudgeon of all such personal e-sites – a veritable Grinch, green skin and all.  Yet despite my worst complaints and criticisms, I have found that it has afforded some helpful contact with various people.  As the website grows, more friends from the past will be able to connect and keep in touch in time. 

Yes, I’ll admit it - my appreciation for Facebook is growing a little.

But I do have some points of minor caution regarding this new e-tool.  One thing that still makes me uncomfortable is this concept of having “friends” of whom I have no personal knowledge.  Like any other biblical concept, friendship is a very important one, and let us remember that it doesn’t take much to diminish the meaning and significance of words – words like friend, or righteous, or even the word awesome.  For example, in our modern culture the terms righteous and awesome have become synonyms for something that is considered to be “cool.” 

Such is the plight of modern society.

Let me suggest to the reader that we who are Christians have a mandate from God to preserve the meaning of language, especially as it relates to God’s Word.  Particularly in this relativistic, post-modern culture of ours, we should be uniquely careful about this matter of upholding the meanings of such key words.  For example, concerning our word in question - friend, we are commanded not to be the friends [philos] of this world (James 4:4).  Jesus said: “you are my friends [philoi] if you do what I command you,” and as well, “greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends [philon]” (John 13:13).  Above any other friendship that we might claim, our friendship (loving affection) with the Lord is the sine qua non of the Christian experience, such that “If anyone does not love (philei) the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Cor 16:22). 

In the N.T., the Greek word philos is a word which speaks of the tender affection, love, devotion, and care that is attributable to the relationship between family members or even of close friends.  Unfortunately, most English translations of the Bible will also use the word “friend” for the Greek word hetairos which actually means an associate – which can connote a very close or remote idea, depending on the contextThus, when Judas came to betray Christ, Jesus said to him: “Friend (hetairos) do what you have come for” (Matt 26:49-50); and in the parable of the Marriage Feast (Matt 22:1-14) the man who attempted to enter the King’s presence without the prescribed wedding clothes was called hetaire (NASB - “friend”) before being bound hand and foot and being cast out “into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

Now that’s some friend.

If I could have my own way on this matter, based upon the language of Scripture alone, my Facebook account would have levels of “friends” to comport with the layers of thought presented within the words - philos and hetairos:

1.  Friends who are believers that I know personally and trust explicitly by observance of their life, words, and actions [philos].

2.  Friends who are believers that I have known personally in the past, who I still trust implicitly [philos]. 

3.  Friends who are e-acquaintances, whose testimonies of faith I trust implicitly [philos].

4.  Acquaintances of the most general kind who, for all I know, could be a James, John, or a Judas [hetairos].

The reality is that it is hard enough to know well the people with whom we have direct contact on a regular basis.  Christian accountability within the local church is difficult enough as it is, and I would submit that developing genuine friendship relationships is becoming increasingly difficult in time.  In reality, e-friendships belie the depth of genuine accountability that we really need, and the folks at Newsweek even understand this.  My only goal here is to avoid shallowness, rather than exalt it.  The world has enough such shallowness and we all need to work against such trends without developing a hard heart.  Thus, I submit this as my official Facebook disclaimer: should I ever fail to “accept” someone as a Facebook friend, this may be that I am just generally slow with such things.  In other cases, I may have reviewed the requestor’s information and found something uncertain or even questionable.  I might add that If you ever find something ambiguous or questionable about what I have listed about myself, then please feel free to query the matter; or if you ever visit my facebook account and find associates there who have questionable lives/testimonies – please let me know.  I want to be generous, not foolish.  I’m not a perfect man myself, nor do I claim to be, but neither do I want to exalt sin so that “grace might abound” – may it never be (Romans 6:1-2).