Monday, December 31, 2012

Gerry Anderson: Ahead of His Time

I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of British animator and TV producer Gerry Anderson at age 83. Most people are probably familiar with Anderson's puppet-action TV series such as "The Thunderbirds," but I remember him most fondly for UFO, a live-action series that only lasted for one season (1970-71 - I think production for some shows began in 1969). These shows were created alongside his ex-wife, Sylvia Anderson, who remains active in the entertainment industry to this day.

This is the BBC's obituary on Gerry. And you might consider purchasing the whole UFO series, which is available on DVD. It really was ahead of its time.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: "God's Wisdom in Proverbs"

Pastor Dan Phillips Mines the Motherlode and Strikes Gold

This review has been a long time in coming. Too long, really. Dan's book has been out for some time, and I've only now been able to get to reading it. It's been more than worth the wait, and the time spent with "God's Wisdom in Proverbs" has been time well spent.

Last January, I reviewed Dan's first book, "The World Tilting Gospel." When he mentioned his second book on Proverbs, he said that it would be a "slower" read and would require more time for study of Scripture along with the book, and pondering. This proved to be true, but it's a good kind of "slower" read, and is not dull by any means. I have seen various attempts to deal with Proverbs, but in my mind, this is one of the best approaches and best treatments of Solomon's wisdom that I have seen.

The key reason I make that assessment is because it strikes a very keen balance between two reading audiences. It is a book that will profit both the trained Bible scholar and the layperson. For the scholar, Dan frequently references the original Hebrew and digs deeply into the intended meanings of words and phrases—key in understanding the intent of Solomon and the other contributors to Proverbs. But Dan's writing and manner of explaining the biblical text is very user-friendly, accessible for the non-scholar, and is a tremendous resource for anyone who wants to mine this portion of God's Word for very rich treasure—the motherlode of His wisdom.

The book begins by laying out the groundwork for studying Proverbs, looking at the difference between Hebrew poetry and our more Western model. Proverbs is in the portion of Scripture known as "wisdom literature," and Proverbs is an assembled book of wisdom—wisdom from God given to the wisest man in human history (by the gift of God Himself). Dan also helpfully (and cleverly) describes what a proverb is— a "saying, not a dissertation . . . or an adage without "paddage." Definition: "A proverb is a compressed statement of wisdom, artfully crafted to be striking, thought-provoking, memorable, and practical." They are designed for "lean economy of expression." In a proverb, "the language is stripped down to its essentials for maximum impact and memorability." Dan illustrates this as follows:

This quality of terseness is both the genius and the challenge of Hebrew poetry. It is effective in the way the imagery or thought is embedded on the mind. But one feels the challenge in interpretation, as the writer expects the reader to use his familiarity with the imagery, and his imagination, to fill in the gaps. The challenge is particularly keen to twenty-first century English-speaking urbanites, who find the writer's terms tough to translate, and his imagery removed from our daily experience.

It can indeed be tough, but as Dan shows over the course of the book, far from impossible, and very profitable to make the effort to "get it."

I'd like to highlight a couple of key passages in "God's Wisdom in Proverbs" that really grabbed me. While there are many such passages in a rich study like this, I find these two passages hitting the bullseye in the attitudes prevalent in this world (and even in the church) that hold many back from finding the motherlode within God's Word ourselves.

In Chapter 5—"Relating to God by Trust and Worship"—Dan makes the point that human arrogance and pride stand in the way of understanding even simple matters from GOD'S point of view. Proverbs are very simple for understanding's sake, yet very, very deep. Stepping out of Proverbs for a moment and going into Psalm 119, Dan exposes a foundational fault in today's culture. (I am sorely tempted to make an Emergent Church dig here, but will restrain myself). He points out Psalm 119:21 and then verse 85. Both speak of human arrogance and the folly of wandering from the revealed Word of God. It's the opposite of TRUST in God. Albeit I'm abridging a little, I'll let Dan speak for himself:

First, note verse 21: — "You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments." Accordingly, the essence of arrogance is not (as the postmodern would have it) the claim to know anything with certainty. Rather, arrogance is exposed as the refusal to bow the knee to God's Word. Next, we turn to Psalm 199:85—"The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to Your law." 

What is arrogance, then? In God's eyes, there simply is no greater arrogance than rejecting Yahweh's viewpoint in favor of my own. It is grimly fascinating that some Christians abhor the believer who dares to think he or she knows something from the Word. To such folks, claiming certainty on any given issue is the height of arrogance. They are certain that certainty is bad. By contrast, it is the height of arrogance to have a word from God and refuse to trust it by incorporating it into our way of thinking and living.

Dan then compares this attitude to two fundamental sins—that of the Serpent in Genesis 3, beginning with questioning whether God said something, followed quickly by denial, and then to exalt one's own judgment over that of God's. As Dan puts it, "arrogance posing as humility" and "arrogance posing as open-mindedness."

Are you hearing the crack of the rifle and the bullet hitting the exploding target? Dan then (as Solomon often does in Proverbs) contrasts this attitude with the heart-attitude and mindset of the faithful, quoting "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe" (Proverbs 29:25). Trusting in the Lord (and in His revealed Word) has benefits and positive consequences.

The second passage that gripped me was in Chapter 8 - "Skill in Godly Child Training." How does the wise and discerning child (and really, adult believer) respond to God's correction? This paragraph succinctly nails the absolute necessity of our proper response—in faith and trust—to God's Word:

Parental training is not magic or automatically effective, any more than Biblical preaching is magically powerful. In a Bible-teaching fellowship, one is at least exposed to the teaching of the Word on a regular basis. However, simply sitting and allowing one's eardrums to vibrate to the proclaimed Word makes no difference unless we take what we hear to heart in faith [cf. Heb 4:2 NAS, NIV; and James 1:22-27] (emphasis mine).

Dan then quotes a key proverb . . . A dense man spurns the discipline of his father, but he who keeps reproof acts shrewdly (Proverbs 15:5). I have seen many, many instances of this throughout my Christian life, and am again seeing it currently in the lives of a beloved Christian family whom I know. A Christian family that attended church, was involved in ministry, yet the home broke apart and some of the teen and young adult children went wayward. As Dan puts it, "the dense son "shines it on," as the kids used to say. He rejects it. What sets the wise son apart from the dense son is that he keeps instruction; he hangs on to it, he takes it to heart and makes it his own."

The ultimate goal of any parent or caregiver, as far as training in righteousness is concerned, is that the child takes the godly precepts taught (and hopefully lived out in the parents' lives without hypocrisy), and MAKES THEM HIS/HER OWN. They become the child's OWN precepts and standards, not merely ones imposed from the outside. And this also applies to adults. We can mouth all the Scriptures we like, and mouth them self-righteously to other people. But the proof is in the pudding, and people see the reality of our faith if they see the Scriptures we quote actually lived out in our lives.

In the end, all the clever fads and ideas won't cut it. The church-growth programs won't cut it. Seminars won't cut it. The slickest preacher with the most entertaining platform style won't cut it. What cuts it is hearing, believing and living the Word of God. The Holy Spirit works through His Word, and through His obedient people.

There is much more to "God's Wisdom in Proverbs," but my hope is that you will buy, read and absorb the book. I don't want to give away all the candy on the floor. Some might think the book may be too deep for a Sunday school class, but I disagree. This book could and should be used for Sunday school. And I need to reiterate something I said before when reviewing Dan's "The World Tilting Gospel," I said that I rarely make recommendations for Sunday school material other than the Bible. In general, we use way too many "curricula" and materials other than Scripture, and we have a generation in the church that is biblically illiterate as a result.

Dan's "God's Wisdom in Proverbs" is NOT that. It is intended to be used with God's Word firmly in hand. I recommend it highly. You won't regret the time to read it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Reflection

Every Christmas, I try to get something up on the blog that points to the Christ of Christmas—the reason for the season. Here in the West, Christmas is so commercialized that it's so easy to forget the main reason we even observe the day. Christmas is supposed to be focused on the glorious truth and hope of the Incarnation—that God the Son . . . the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. He came the first time to be our Savior, to pay the price for the sins of His people on the cross, and to rise again from the dead for our justification. And we await His promised return—to take His people to be with Him for eternity, and to return the second time as Judge to make a final end of evil.

But this time, I had something a bit different in mind. This Christmas, I have fractured families and fractured friendships in mind. For many families—especially most true Christian families—the Christmas holidays are times of joy, not only focused on the Savior, but also on the joy of family. I won't say non-Christian families don't have joyous family get-togethers on Christmas, but knowing the Lord Jesus as Savior and having the Holy Spirit indwelling makes an enormous difference in not only appreciating Christmas, but also each other.

Yet for others, Christmas can be a lonely, miserable time. Families getting together by all means, but some in the family look forward to the event about as much as they'd look forward to a root canal without Lidocaine. Some are impacted by death in the family, and the Christmas table looks empty without the loved one being there. In some families, the fact that some are Christians and some are not also creates some tension. You have the get together, and there will be the obnoxious family member who has to pass gas or say something crude in the middle of your before-dinner prayer, or start a quarrel. You know what I mean. You know the type.

Even professed Christian families are not immune to problems. I know of one family in ministry that has completely fallen apart at the seams, and no doubt this Christmas is filled with sorrow—at least to those whose consciences have not yet been completely seared by rebellion. I won't go into details, but it is heartbreaking to me. I've suffered to some extent in their issues, and have lost relationship with the children, some of whom are living lives of rebellion and are clueless that anything is the matter with their behavior.

Depicting the last days, the Scriptures paint a very sad picture of what can happen in a family when Christ is not the center of it. I often wonder if these days aren't nearer than we think . . .

When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Mark 13:11-13).

Sad and grim indeed. Probably not most cheerful Christmas post you've ever read. But I do think it is worth pondering in the midst of the presents, the food, the television and its rather perverted depictions of "Christmas normalcy," etc. A lot of hoo-hah to swim through to try and find once again the reason for this Season.

So I would urge all of us to pause, reflect, and remember. If you aren't a genuine believer who has repented of your sins and given your heart to the Lord, don't waste any more time. Do it now. You might not have the time left you think you do. You might not even greet the New Year. Make things right with God.

For Christian families—truly Christian ones—I would urge you to remember again what this day is supposed to be about. Remember to love one another, and live to love one another. Don't hurt the ones you love, because you won't have them forever. Honor Christ, the center of Christmas, not just now, but all year long.

May you all have a most blessed Christmas. Christ is born, and is coming again. Soon.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Demonizing the NRA

It is a shame that here—only a few days before Christmas—we have to focus on guns, violence and society. A bit ironic also, because the little baby born in the stable and laid in a manger, the Savior of the world and the Creator Himself, is the ultimate solution for the ills that plague society. When one repents of their sins and trusts in Christ for salvation, certain things follow. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer, day by day conforming us into His image. Most importantly, enabling us to live the kind of lives God wants us to live. We learn how to love one another. And when we love one another (and love God), we're not out conducting mass murder.

I hope to put up a Christmas-themed post before Christmas, but in the wake of the NRA news conference today, I thought I should make some comment about it. Heaven knows, the rabid left and their media acolytes will.

You'll notice I used a drawn picture of an "average family." Why? Glad you asked!

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre made many excellent points and observations in his press statement. He didn't take questions, probably smart given the hostility of the media to the 120+year-old organization and our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I read the Reuters account of the presser, and had to chuckle because of their inaccuracy on several counts. They called the NRA "press shy," which is laughable. The NRA usually has a tough time getting its message out via the "mainstream" media because everyone has to filter out the bias of the reporters and editorializing over the top of their statements. Two protesters stood up and began screaming in the midst of LaPierre's remarks and had to be forcibly removed. True to form, instead of addressing the FACTS that LaPierre was giving in his presser, they insisted "How do you answer these protests?" I guess they weren't listening to what Wayne was saying.

From the media to politicians to activists, the NRA is a favorite whipping boy today. They demonize the organization and its leadership as if they were personally responsible for Connecticut, Colorado, or any other atrocity committed with a firearm. Ridiculous of course, but to the propagandists that love to wave bloody shirts to guilt-trip people into accepting their demands for social-ill solutions, who cares if it's ridiculous and untrue.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill no less pretty much said the same thing when she in essence told the NRA to stick it, and demanding that it "come out of hiding." Pretty stupid and risky from a rural, gun-owning state like Missouri. The NRA has been training police, military, etc. for decades as far as safety issues, and has spoken out repeatedly on punishing perpetrators of violence and gun crimes. But no, McCaskill wanted to wave the bloody shirt because she thought she smelled a chance to kick an opponent in the groin.

Now let me make MY point. McCaskill, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NY Senator Chuckie Schumer, President Barack Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, etc. all miss a very vital point. The NRA is not a nameless, faceless organization. The NRA is made up of law-abiding, patriotic men, women and yes, teens and children. People like me and maybe people like you. Four million members across the United States. And now, there will be likely more as the zealots mentioned above and others will do their best to take advantage of this situation, and impose nonsensical gun legislation that will violate MY (and YOUR) Second Amendment rights. I am the NRA. And when you insult the NRA, you insult me. A voter and a taxpayer, to whom this issue is vitally important. Don't try guilt-tripping me. Non causa pro causa. It won't work, and I'm getting tired of it.

It's been said before, and it must be said again. The Second Amendment was not put into the Constitution to protect hunters. It was put into the Constitution so the American people would always have the means to defend itself from a government gone tyrannical. And don't think it can't happen here. It can. I'll never forget the late Senator Ted Kennedy, beet-red in the face and at his bloviating, huff-puffing best, overdoing his "outrage" at such a notion when this was pointed out in a Congressional hearing. "OUR government?!? Tyrannical? OUR government?!?"

Yes, Ted. OUR government, if it ever gets into the hands of thoroughly evil men and women. We have enough now in power who hate our country's noble history. They're enamored of Europe, Asia and Latin America, where totalitarian regimes don't have to pay attention to us—the great unwashed. They'd love a system where they could rule by fiat and do what they want, no matter how we the people feel about it.

We have enough people originally from outside this country (such as the despicable George Soros) who do not value its history or understand what the American Revolution was all about, who are now in this country as citizens, trying to radically make this nation into something the Founders never would countenance.

We believe in freedom, and in holding on to the things given to us by the Founders to help us maintain that freedom. We believe in law and order, and decency. We are also not misty-eyed idiots who refuse to recognize the true, fallen nature of man that needs restraint, idiots who think the government could NEVER do anything wrong, or would EVER trample on our basic rights.

I believe in freedom, and I'm getting tired of those who want to take mine away. I don't think I'm alone in that feeling, either. Votes count, and this man will be watching and voting in every local, state and federal election. I will only vote for those who will hold to our Founding Principles. It's time we sent that message loud and clear, and it's time we refuse to fall for the false guilt that zealots are trying to foist on us.

Are you with me?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guns, Violence, Freedom and Demagoguery

Joel's Note: The following is polemic. It is not intended as a footnoted, researched position paper with documentation etc. This is written from the heart from a lifetime of watching the way "public discourse" happens. You may not agree with me and may challenge my conclusions, opinions, etc. And that's fine. But this is how I feel on a very painful issue. And there are much larger issues at stake rather than the immediate crisis. Nothing in this is intended as insensitivity to the many who have lost children and loved ones in Connecticut, or in any other mad, murderous rampage. But as bad as these things are, the loss of freedom is much, much worse. We can't see it as Americans. We've never known it. But other people from around the world where tyranny reigns know it all too well. We need to listen to their voices while we consider our own fate as a nation.

This fall and early winter have been days that I'd rather forget for many reasons. Personal health has been an adventure, with three kidney lithotripsy procedures since April. Then a touch of pneumonia. And we have to begin the Christmas holiday season with a senseless, evil mass shooting and murder of little schoolchildren in Connecticut.

I hoped (vainly) that people might hold off on the politics of gun control vs. firearm freedom and the Second Amendment to give people a chance to mourn the dead, but to the radical left activists with whom gun control is a sacrament right up there with abortion, no such deal. The demagoguery began before the children's bodies had even been moved out of the school.

I chose the famous painting of abolitionist John Brown for a purpose. It vividly depicts the kind of possessed, self-righteous zeal so many one-issue activists have when dealing with a controversial issue. Do not read into that statement (and some devious, malevolent-minded might try to tar me with such a suggestion) that I disagree with ending of slavery. I do not. Slavery needed to end, and African-Americans deserved (and deserve) to have the full measure of civil and human rights. Because they are human beings and of "one blood" (Acts 17:26) with me—Caucasian though I am. A tragedy indeed that it took a Civil War and 500,000 plus deaths to bring that result to pass, and even then, it took until the 1960s to get rid of Jim Crow laws etc. that gave blacks the rights that were rightfully theirs. But we got there. Our Constitutional system eventually worked as it should as hearts and minds were changed.

But the John Brown types scare us. And they should, because they have no compunction on bringing down the whole house if they think it will advance their cause. The more dead? So be it. To the zealous, possessed activist who knows no other cause, nothing is too extreme to reach their goal. No other viewpoint than their own is acceptable. And anyone who doesn't exactly see it eye-to-eye is an automatic enemy, even if they have similar goals. The demagogues always manage to get the attention, and the more reasonable, level-headed get ignored because they're not as entertaining and motivating. The media love them. Can you imagine a John Brown in today's electronic media climate and 24 hour news cycle? Oh, mercy!

Sometimes we need folks like this to galvanize public attention, and sometimes, they can do good. But more often than not, they end up damaging the cause they hope to accomplish because the general public is turned off by their overheated rhetoric and violent tenor. Some abortion activists are another good example. I am pro-life and have been for years, and believe that abortion is only acceptable to save the life of the mother. But I believe hearts and minds must be changed, and the tactics of some of my fellow pro-life comrades are so offensive they accomplish the opposite result. Showing up with pictures of bloody babies with young children present who could be traumatized by such photos. Yelling and screaming "baby killer" at women or young teenagers. They really are not helping the cause, and the media has a field day taking this small minority of pro-life people and making them representative of the rest of us. It hurts the cause.

Now we have another school shooting. And I have posted to the left a picture of the wording of the Second Amendment. I believe some of the anti-gun zealots out there salivate over horrendous tragedies like Connecticut because it gives them fodder to be John Browns and argue an important issue fueled by emotion instead of fact and truth. Unfortunately for them, at least John Brown was ultimately right on the evil of slavery. Those who want to shred the Second Amendment and ban private ownership of firearms do not have that high moral ground on which to stand, no matter how much they try to demagogue and use the tragedy of mass shootings to propagandize people and try to get their way.

Whether these folks like it or not, the fact that crazies get hold of guns and commit mass murder does not justify tearing out a piece of our Constitution and taking away the right of self-defense (keeping and bearing arms) from a law-abiding public. Contrary to some of what these anti-gun zealots tell you, the Second Amendment was not put into the Constitution to protect the right to hunt. It was not intended by our Founders to only apply to the military or state National Guards. The founders viewed the "militia" as every able-bodied man, and the primary intent of protecting the right of people to keep and bear arms was for one primary purpose—for the people to protect themselves from an overreaching, potentially tyrannical government. The late Ted Kennedy had near apoplexy when someone pointed out that truth, but that's Ted's problem. It's the truth, and it still applies. Ideas and principles are not invalid simply because they are old. Some principles and ideas are timeless, and so it is with the Second Amendment. Our right to keep and bear arms is inviolable and unalienable, and necessary. ANY human government can cross the line into tyranny. Even in American history, the government has overreached from time to time, and had to be slapped back by the courts or other means to remind them that they are to serve the public, and the public are the masters, not the government.

The rabid anti-gun activists—folks like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, billionaire immigrant far-left activist George Soros, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (and formerly, Mayor Daley)—find the Constitution a great hindrance to their goals. They were incensed when the Supreme Court recognized the Second Amendment to confer an individual right to keep and bear arms. But that won't stop them from trying to get their way through any means possible. President Obama has already indicated as much, Constitution be damned. And they wave the bloody shirts as an emotional bludgeon, hoping to guilt-trip and intimidate a grieving public into giving in and surrendering their rights. Their ultimate goal is not "reasonable restrictions" (Define "reasonable," by the way). Their true, ultimate goal is the total ban of weapons in private hands, no matter how much they lie and say that's not the case. Short of an outright ban, they hope to make exercise of the right to keep and bear arms as expensive and difficult as possible. They'll try ammo bans, bans on certain makes of weapons, taxes, and a host of other tricks. They will not give up until the majority of Americans who believe in their rights slap them down through the ballot box, and with their firm voices.

It is hard to make manifestos such as this at a time such as this. As Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto and others have ably pointed out, decorum would normally hold off on politics until the dead are buried, and people have a chance to mourn. We'd rather not have to argue this (AGAIN) now. But the rabid anti-Second Amendment activist politicians and groups know and recognize no such decorum. "Never waste a good crisis" is their motto, and they see this as their time to strike. Nature abhors a vacuum. As much as we grieve the deaths of the children in Connecticut, the other side of this issue is taking every advantage to bang their drum and scream as loudly as possible. That necessitates that we speak up and defend our views just as forcefully.

Understand this if you don't understand anything else. Our Founding Fathers were wise beyond measure. You like the Bill of Rights? You like freedom of speech? Freedom of worship and religion? Freedom of assembly? Guess what? The Second Amendment is the GUARANTOR of those rights that were so hard won in the American Revolution. Ben Franklin told a woman once that the Founders had given us a Representative Republic, "if you can keep it." If we surrender on this issue, we are well on the way to not keeping the Republic intended for us.

There have always been slayings and murders in American history. Sometimes large numbers of people. America is not alone. They've happened in other countries where gun laws are very strict—Norway being a recent example. Evil people can find other ways to kill besides firearms. Timothy McVeigh used a truckload of fertilizer to make a bomb. Where there's a will, there's a way. The human heart is wicked without the intervention of God, and daily life proves the truth of that biblical statement.

And that's another accomplishment of the far left. They've managed to excise God out of many things in our public discourse, and they'd love removal of God entirely from everything. They'd love it if Christians would shut up and keep their faith behind church walls, and keep it out of public life. Our Founders would be infuriated at such a thing, but so it is today. And they have the gall to call it patriotic and in keeping with our Founding values. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One more point on propaganda, demagoguery and doing things on purpose to hype emotion for maximum impact. Cynicism embodied. The photo to the left is the famous picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson and others at the Memphis motel where Dr. King was assassinated later. Much has been made of Jackson reportedly taking Dr. King's blood and wiping it on his shirt, and then using the bloody shirt for political purposes. Even some of Jackson's fellow civil rights leaders at the time (and today) were very uncomfortable with what Jackson allegedly did. But it was intended to have a galvanizing, emotional impact to fan the flames for a political objective. To repeat, my using this as an example is NOT to denigrate the CAUSE for which these men were fighting. Their cause was legitimate. But tactics like this can be misused—even evilly and cynically. The best of the civil rights leaders were fighting to gain rights that a class of citizens were due and justified in having. In the case of the Second Amendment, we have a host of zealot activists working overtime—not to GAIN OR KEEP a right of the people, but rather to take it away from law-abiding people. And they are shamelessly using deaths to advance their cause—in this case, a cause that is dangerous and dead wrong.

If the Chinese people had the right to keep and bear arms, the Tiananmen Square massacre could have been stopped. If the Russian people had the right to keep and bear arms, Joseph Stalin's midnight purges could have been stopped. If the German people's right to keep and bear arms had not been ended by Adolf Hitler, the great evil of the Nazi regime might have been stopped before 6 million Jewish people died in the gas chambers.

Dr. John Lott's book, "More Guns, Less Crime," discuss some of these matters. There are many other resources available on this issue. Read up on it, and stand firm.

Our opponents will do all they can to bully us into submission. They'll yell. They'll scream. They'll abuse. They'll call names. They'll litigate and litigate. They'll introduce legislation over and over again, not taking the Supreme Court's no for an answer. These same folks who say they believe in the legal principle of "stare decisis" will suddenly say "not in this case." They'll try to replace Justices who will vote their way and reverse the 5-4 decision recognizing our Second Amendment rights. They might even try a United Nations treaty circumvention if they think they can get away with it. They'll call us ignorant. They'll call us hillrods and hicks. They'll try to say we're responsible for the death of every child. They're shameless.

And we need to steel ourselves against the full court press of the guilt trip. We need to reject the false guilt entirely and with vigor. We need to get right back in their faces and make it clear that they will be allowed to take NO ONE's rights away. In fact, we need to understand there is a difference between a right and a privilege. A privilege can be lawfully taken away. In the view of our Founders (and I agree), rights are GOD-GIVEN, unalienable, and CANNOT lawfully be taken away. There was even a huge debate at adoption of the Constitution over whether there should be a Bill of Rights. Those opposed viewed these rights as natural, and they were worried that codifying them in an actual Bill of Rights would lead to the government thinking down the road that they could abolish the rights if they saw fit. Their caution in these days is shown to be justified, because that's exactly what some of the zealots think. They think if they repeal the Second Amendment, that takes away our rights. It will not. We need to stand on that.

In conclusion, I'll be the first to agree that there ARE things that need to be done to reduce gun violence. We need to enforce the adequate gun laws ALREADY on the books. We need to prosecute gun criminals to the fullest extent of the law and execute murderers if they don't kill themselves first. A good first step would be for our idiot government not to pull stunts like Fast and Furious, which put assault weapons in the hands of drug gangs. It is believed that this plot ultimately was intended to be used as a fulcrum to leverage for tightening gun laws in violation of the Second Amendment. It backfired, and that's why the liberal media tries to sweep this scandal under the rug.

We need to get back to foundational morality in the country, and reject the leftist notion that God, faith, moral lessons etc. need to be removed because "such things have no business in the schools or in the public square." We need to recognize the impact of violent films and entertainment. We need to be much better at spotting potential problem children, teens and adults. We need to re-visit the ACLU-driven drive to de-institutionalize the mentally ill in the name of "human rights." Some folks have no business on the street, but they've made it next to impossible to institutionalize someone.

Well, I've ranted enough for one night. Since I have only made a handful of posts this month, this long one will give you plenty to read for a while. I'll try to have something more uplifting and edifying for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Medical and Scientific "Consensus?"

Now that President Obama has been re-elected to a second term, chances for repeal of the gargantuan (and I believe, ultimately destructive) health care law are slim. But the debate won't end, and I won't give up hope for ultimate repeal.

In the meantime, I came across this commentary by Iowa surgeon Dr. Lee Hieb. Dr. Hieb is a practicing orthopedic surgeon, and in her commentary on the benefits of Vitamin D, she also paints a very disturbing picture on how official "consensus" could be helping to kill us.

This not only applies in the medical field, but we also see it in the overall scientific field these days, especially in "global warming" or so-called "climate change." The "consensus" on this really isn't a consensus, and quite a few meteorologists and scientists dispute the issue. But the politics are behind the official "consensus," and I strongly suspect the real motivation behind solutions to "climate change" aren't so much to impact the climate as they are to control people.

Regardless, very interesting article by Dr. Hieb. Tempted to go out and buy some Vitamin D!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Persecuted Atheists

I've been out of commission for a while, and noticed that I haven't had anything new up on the blog for a week. And what do I find awaiting me in the news right before Christmas? This little report about persecution of atheists around the world.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't like or condone persecution of anyone for their beliefs, no matter how much I might disagree with them. However, given the current atheist war on Christianity here in the United States and elsewhere, I find this news report just a bit ironic. It was just in the news the other day (from Little Rock, Arkansas) that a performance of a Charlie Brown Christmas at a school is now cancelled because one atheist complained.

Interesting, isn't it? They're so bothered by something in which they claim not to believe. When I was in public school, I had to sit through classes where Eastern mysticism or other philosophies (even atheism) with which I disagreed were on the menu. I tolerated it. And why? Because here in America, we're supposed to have freedom. But the tolerance I extended isn't reciprocated these days. Freedom now means taking it away.

How Orwellian.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Visit the Cliff House Inn!

Like the lovely view on the right? That's what you'll see in the morning after a peaceful night's rest at the Cliff House Inn near Jasper, Arkansas.

I don't often give business advertisements or endorsements on The Seventh Sola, but I will for the Cliff House. This place will always be special in my heart. It's located just south of Jasper along scenic Ark Route 7 in the Buffalo River country—in the heart of the western Arkansas Ozark Mountains.

I have stopped and eaten at the Cliff House several times through the years during my travels in AR. I have also stayed for several days in the inn part, located on the lower level of the restaurant building. The previous owners and the new owners are wonderful people and make you feel right at home. The food is great, especially the Angel Flake biscuits! There is a nice little gift shop where you can buy Ozark souvenirs. And the view from both the restaurant and the inn balcony is breathtaking. You can get up in the morning to watch the sunrise, and you'll find to your surprise on opening the door that there will be a carafe of hot coffee, mugs, cream and sugar on a tray outside your room waiting for you. Then, you can sit, relax, talk to the Lord and watch with wonder as the sun rises over the mountain ridge across the Buffalo River Canyon. If you're lucky, there will be clouds wafting below you through the canyon, especially if rain has fallen the evening before after a hot summer day.

The Buffalo River itself, of course, is the most beautiful river in the country as far as I am concerned. Stop in, take a dip, cool off, and even hike some of the many trails in the region. Be sure you take a camera.

The price of the rooms has gone up a bit since I last stayed, but to me, the $80 a night is well worth it. There is a larger suite if you want it, and the cost is a bit more. And after looking on the Cliff House website, I see that they have acquired some nearby cabins for guests to stay if you want a more rustic, private setting. I actually stayed at these very cabins when they were owned by someone else, and they're great!

So if you're in the mood for a vacation and a good place to get away from it all, visit this area, and stay/eat at the Cliff House. You'll be glad you did!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Never Waste a Good Crisis!

Most of us have heard the old adage, "The thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history." Well, I am a student of history and I do try to learn. What I have found, however, is that those of us who are students of history and give warnings are often in the same boat as the mythological Cassandra. We are seldom heeded until it's too late.

We're hearing a lot about the so-called "fiscal cliff." If Congress and Barack Obama don't come to some sort of agreement before the end of the year, automatic spending cuts kick in and the nation heads over the cliff into an economic Armageddon.

Folks will call me nuts for this, or a conspiracy theorist. I really don't care. I do know my history, and I do know the mindset of this group of clowns we have in power at the moment. Out of their own mouths, they have said "Never waste a good crisis." This attitude has permeated the Obama Administration from Day One.

In my opinion, Obama and his acolytes WANT an economic collapse. Why do I make such a charge? Let's go back in history to the period after the 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. Republican President Herbert Hoover took it on the chin for the Depression, although his term had barely begun. He believed (and I think rightly) that you let the market work itself out and economic recovery will eventually happen due to market forces. It is not my purpose with this post to argue over how much government intervention there needs to be in an economic collapse. My mother lived through the Depression in the South, and it was no picnic. The photo above shows jobless men and women waiting for a meal of coffee and donuts. The Depression was horrible.

There were no doubt things Hoover could have done to lessen the impact on the neediest folks. But my underlying point is what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did. He took full advantage of the situation, blaming Hoover for it all. Then, once elected to office, the economic chaos and the demands of people for help based on their own understandable self-interest gave him exactly what he wanted—the grounds to greatly expand federal power at the expense of states and local governments. He used compassion as a cynical means to an end. His ultimate goal was expanded federal power. If that meant self-reliance and individual freedom took a back seat, so be it. And he largely got his way. But Roosevelt did not end the Depression. World War II ended the Depression.

Fast forward to today. The United States is again teetering over the edge with economic malaise and trillions of dollars of debt. The balloon will burst. Republicans see the danger of the exploding debt, while also understanding that taxing job creators will do nothing to help economic growth. But President Obama and the big government Goodie Bag are tempting Sirens. If there is an economic collapse, the Republicans will again get the blame. And Obama will seize the opportunity to greatly expand federal power way beyond what even FDR dreamed was possible. Count on it.

And sadly, most people cannot or will not see it. People like me are nutcases.

We'll see.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kindly Caution to Young Christian Celebrities

The post I am about to make was sparked by tabloid headlines today involving teen singing idol Justin Bieber. According to this Examiner article (publicized by Fox News Channel) and some other tabloids, Justin has been allegedly boozing it up to his mother's concern, and it's led to fighting between the two. Add to this the very public breakup and courtship between Justin and Selena Gomez, this hasn't been a very good publicity season for Mr. B. But before I say my piece, a couple of parantheticals:

I am not one to pay a whole lot of attention to tabloid stuff. When I was in full time broadcasting—with much of it in hard news and talk shows—I didn't do this kind of garbage. Although I did the occasional celebrity interview, I chose to talk about what they wanted to talk about—and coinidentally what interested ME, which was their work i.e. their current music release, current movie/stage play etc. I avoided the personal/gossip stuff, and I think they appreciated it. When and if they did mention something personal, they were the ones who chose to do it unprompted by me, and I did my best to treat it respectfully.

Secondly, part of my delicacy in this area no doubt is due to recognition that those of us on air are celebrities of a sort, although our faces are not seen. I've been broadcast both via local stations and via networks, so someone might well recognize my voice if I speak. I've had my own share of 2 a.m. phone calls from listeners wanting to yak, counseling for their personal issues etc..and finally got smart enough to get a non-published phone number. Those days are past now, but I remember them and they have helped frame my thinking.

Now, what about Justin. Actually, it's not just about Justin. It's also about Miley Cyrus, Hanson, Britney Spears, the late Brad Renfro, and other young celebrities who early on were quite vocal in interviews about being Christians and loving the Lord Jesus. Well, we've all seen the aftermath. The Christian in these young people soon gets lost in the purple haze of fame, booze, drugs, sexual misbehavior, which leads those of us who are fellow believers to wonder if their faith is/was genuine, or if it was just some publicity stunt. It could well be they did have a good early grounding, then got caught up in destructive behavior. Some end up dead. And it really does break my heart when so much talent and promise gets squandered. The "candle in the wind" gets blown out way too prematurely.

Some of them have trouble coping with growing up and getting into adulthood. For some, the once cute aren't quite so cute anymore, and the vulture-like entertainment industry chews them up and spits them out like yesterday's garbage. It's cruel to use young people like that. Beyond cruel. They need a strong support system, and so many don't have it. If it's not the greed and avarice of "stage parents," it's the greed, avarice and even sexual lust of their managers. And the young star gets his/her guts ripped out. I hate it.

But here's my concern and advice for what it's worth. I make no demands or expectations on unbelievers of any stripe—young, old, well-known or not well-known. I interact with a few to this day. They know how I stand on things, and most are mature enough to allow me my views, and I allow the same for them. I do not expect anyone who has not made a profession of Christian faith, or who does not believe, to act, think and live like a believer. Sometimes, my fellow Christians make that mistake of being outraged when someone acts in a way that a Christian would normally not act. Well, duh!! They aren't Christians! Don't expect it out of them.

HOWEVER!!! - and it's a big "however." When you proclaim yourself publicly as a Christian, and are given an enormous public platform, all eyes are on you whether you like it or not. Of course, none of us are perfect as Christians, just forgiven. But if we are truly Christian, there is supposed to be a change in our lives and we are no longer the same. Our goals and designs for life are not the same, because His take over.

Above all, as Christians—no matter what our age—we are ambassadors of Jesus. That's the purpose of the picture of Queen Elizabeth receiving ambassadorial credentials. I'm illustrating a point. Here's how God's Word puts it:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

When an ambassador goes to a host country, they are to be on their best behavior, remembering that they are the visible representative of their people in the host country. As ambassadors of Christ to the world, we are the visible representative of Jesus in the circles where He has planted us. And honestly, we often represent Him very, very poorly, bringing shame and reproach on Him and His people—the church. We need to remember that we've been bought with a very precious price. We are no longer our own. We are His, and we exist to serve Him—sharing His great love with everyone we can.

There's another Scripture to remember. Luke 12:48—"To whom much is given, much will be required." If we've been blessed with a large platform, we will be held accountable by God for what we do with it.

When I hear reports of young, heretofore vocally Christian celebrities out pole dancing, being sexually involved outside of marriage, boozing and drugging it up, it is grieving. What message does that send to the rest of the world watching us? It makes the faith we profess a joke. We grieve the Holy Spirit who indwells us, and bring shame on the One who died for us.

We are ambassadors. Pray that the Lord doesn't have to call us home prematurely because we've been declared persona non grata. We won't be popular regardless. If we stay true to Christ, the world will hate us because it first hated Him. If we stumble and fall, the world will mock our faith as worthless, and us as hypocrites. But I'd rather suffer for being right than suffer for being wrong.

Think it over, my young brothers and sisters. And put on the brakes while you still can.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Ducking Stool

If we think we have it tough now, just imagine life during Colonial times in North America (and before that, in Merrie Old England).

To the right, you'll see depicted a little device known as the "ducking stool." Who was usually punished in the ducking stool? Usually women who were known as "scolds." One statute defines a scold as:

"A troublesome and angry woman who by brawling and wrangling amongst her neighbours breaks the public peace, increases discord and becomes a public nuisance to the neighbourhood".

In our current acid political climate, I can imagine some of my conservative colleagues wanting to inflict a brief, embarrassing ducking on Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. But no, let's not. And why am I using the ducking stool as an analogy for a larger point? Glad you asked.

Right now, some circles of the conservative/libertarian fold are cheering Glenn Beck for putting a small statue of President Obama in urine—reminiscent of Andres Serrano's infamous "P**s Christ" display, where a crucifix with Jesus on it was placed in a jar of Serrano's urine as some kind of "artistic" endeavor. No doubt, what sparked some of this recent awfulness was when black celebrity Jamie Foxx called Obama his "Lord and Savior," and another "artist" did a picture of Obama with a crown of thorns in a crucified pose before the presidential seal and podium.

I don't like blasphemy. I am a believing Christian, after all. But I also don't like the growing coarseness of our society and culture, and seeing such gleeful abandon in demeaning, mean-spirited insults. Before I point fingers at anyone else, I have to remind myself of my own admonition quite often. It's all too easy to let it fly when irritated or outraged about something. But at least from a Christ-follower, Scripture makes it plain that our Lord expects better of us.

Believe me, truth by itself can be just as devastating as the most vile insult. It's all the more devastating because truth is true, while insults often are either complete lies or significant distortions of truth. But truth and sunlight are the best disinfectants, and both can be applied without wallowing in the manure pit. Think about it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Blind Justice?

This morning, a brief comment on "justice," or the lack thereof.

If you follow the news, you no doubt have heard of the litigation involving Hobby Lobby and the Obama Administration over what Obamacare will force Hobby Lobby to do, i.e. to offer health insurance coverage for birth control and other things that the Christian founders of the company find morally objectionable.

My comment today isn't so much about this case, although I think my readers know where I'd line up in my view of it. Instead, it got me thinking about the judicial system overall, and what it's become.

Under the American constitutional system, there are three branches of government—the executive, legislative and judicial. Separate but equal is the usual dictum or idea. The three branches are to work as checks and balances to the other branches as intended by our founders, because FREEDOM was to be the operative philosophy in this nation. Limited government, self-determination etc.

The judicial branch is important, because a judge or justice's role on the bench (constitutionally) is to INTERPRET THE LAW impartially—the laws passed by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch. Judges are not to make law from the bench. They may—as established by Marbury vs. Madison—rule on whether a law is constitutional. At the time this case was decided in the early days of the Republic, there were those who were concerned about the precedent of this case, especially in the hands of an activist court whose "interpretations" of the law or Constitution were more according to their own desires and objectives rather than the plain meaning of the text and intent of those who wrote the law/Constitution.

History has borne out that concern. You can pretty much tell how a judge or justice will rule depending on what political party of which they were part before ascending to the bench. Ideally, that political/philosophical ideology is supposed to be put aside and judgment is supposed to be impartial. Largely, it is no longer. The battle for the Supreme Court is a battle because parties want to appoint justices who will rule according to their ideology.

This would make the Founders very upset. And—in my humble opinion—it's why they gave Congress the option of creating or abolishing courts, and placing restrictions on their jurisdiction. It passes my understanding why the legislative branch of government has been so hesitant to pull this trigger in light of the modern activist court—kicked off first by the late President Roosevelt, who tried to "pack the court" with justices who would vote to okay his unconstitutional moves during the Great Depression. Then came the late Chief Justice Earl Warren, whom President Eisenhower called "the biggest mistake I ever made" as president.*

Courts are especially dangerous in this age of postmodern thought. If there is no objective standard of truth, no objective, foundational epistemology, then man "does what is right in his own eyes, " (Deuteronomy 12 and Judges 17) For that matter, postmodern Congresses and presidencies are also dangerous when held by postmodern men and women. No objective standard of right and wrong. That is a recipe for ultimate disaster to any society. Time has borne that out over and over again to any student of history that is interested in how civilizations rise and fall.

No doubt, someone will argue the point with me. Another favorite pastime of the postmodern—endless quibbling and arguing over anything that resembles a principle. They love to argue, until reality sets in and the consequences of their free-form brains bite them in the derriere.

*One addendum thought, made necessary by anticipating some negative comments. I don't mind the intended RESULT of some of the actions taken by the Warren Court, especially in stopping racial discrimination. But I have enormous problems with "the end justifies the means" mindset given fallen humanity. Things are much better solved legislatively as intended, not by the courts. And some things are matters of the heart, which no court ruling can affect or change. That is a spiritual matter, and this society has done its best to kill any effort by the church to reach the human heart. Sometimes the church is its own worst enemy when it abandons biblical truth and "goes with the flow." If the church had remained true to Scripture, true to the Christian mission of the Gospel, and true to the heart of Christ, racism and many other social ills would have been greatly lessened without the upheaval of the Civil War and aftermath.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bigotry? Really?

Before I launch into the subject matter for this post, have a quick gander to the right at the beautiful waters of the Buffalo River in Arkansas. This is a great little swimming hole near Tyler Bend. Crystal clear water.

Ah. Okay, down to business. I am getting weary with watching talking head shows at night involving subjects that are controversial. Everyone's talking (or yelling) and name-calling, but no one is listening. It especially gets irritating when the subject is a moral or spiritual issue that has become political, and they have two or three guests on to purportedly discuss or debate the issue. But it isn't really an honest discussion. The main point of these shows seems to be to work people up into a lather and get them yelling, with the host/moderator throwing his or her own nonsense into the mix, and almost without fail, the traditional/conservative/Christian position on the issue gets the short end of the stick.

The flavor of the day seems to be homosexuality, but really, we could be talking about almost any issue where "sin" is involved. Abortion, sexual immorality, economic immorality—pick your poison. With homosexuality, as soon as a Christian gets invited onto a talk show to discuss, right away the "bigotry" charge gets thrown and the well of discussion is poisoned right at the outset. No one is willing to give the issue a real hearing and discover that there just might be a non-bigoted reason why Christians believe the way they do on this subject, or any other.

Now, let me insert a parenthetical before I make my main point. The "Christian/Traditional" side of the argument certainly has people that are not its best ambassadors. There are some (such as the ridiculous Fred Phelps bunch at the Westboro "Baptist" Church) who I don't believe really are true Christians. They are haters with spiritual clothes on who take biblical commands and positions on sexual morality and leave all redemption, grace and mercy out of the equation. And the media LOVES to get people like them on the air and claim that they represent most Christians with their attitude and distortion of biblical positions. They do not. Not even close. But the other side also has its yellers and screamers. It's not just the conservative side. But at least I'm willing to acknowledge the creeps on my side. The hard left doesn't seem to think they have any creeps on their side. But they do, and it's self-evident when you hear the vile that comes out of their mouths.

Let's Make Some Assumptions for the Sake of Discussion

Having said all of this, I would like to ask the far-left and pro-homosexuality side of this issue to honestly consider the possibility of something that maybe they might not have considered. (And again, it's not just homosexuality). Let's imagine for a moment that what Christians have believed for the past 2,000 years is true. Let's assume that man is fallen, and that everyone will stand before God and account to Him for their behavior. Let's assume that the Bible is true, its commandments and statutes are in force, and its warnings about coming judgment are true.

Let's assume for a moment that the Creator Himself, the Second Person of the Triune God—Jesus Christ—indeed willingly did come to earth, take on the form of a Man, and out of His great love paid the price for the sins of His people on the cross. And now that He has done so, He has given only a short amount of time (from an eternal perspective) for people to respond to His free offer of mercy. He is now calling for all to repent of their sin and rebellion, and trust in Him for salvation, thereby receiving His full and free forgiveness of all their sin.

What next for those of us who have become Christians? I'll tell you. We have a Master, and we've been given some marching orders. Now that we have received Him and have been forgiven, He has told us that "if you love Me, keep My commandments." Jesus further said that the greatest commandment was to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds etc..and the second greatest commandment was like it—to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. He also has commanded those of us to follow Him to share the Good News with others—that their sins can be forgiven and cleansed, and that they can live new lives of freedom and have ultimate hope of eternity with Him. But there is also a warning attached with that Good News. For those who do not respond in repentance, that means that Judgment Day is eventually coming, and that to refuse means eternal separation from God. And yes, that means Hell. Assume all of this is true.

Now, you tell me. IF all of this is true, certain things follow forth logically. The unbelieving world wants true Christians—who are MOTIVATED BY LOVE AND COMPASSION—to go away and shut up. And we could. We could just keep our mouths shut and not say a word. We could let people just la la la their lives away, and never offer the Gospel, never warn of the ultimate consequences of sin and rebellion, never talk about how people can be free of sin, evil and guilt. We could just let people do as they will, live, rebel, do evil and die—and face a Christless eternity in a very horrible place. Yes, we could.

Where's the Love?

Think about it from our perspective. If we know all this is true and coming, would it be loving to keep silent? Wouldn't we be guilty of an unspeakable crime against humanity? That we knew the truth of what was coming, and knew the only way of escape, yet remained silent? Would that be loving? I think not. It would be monstrous and cruel.

This never gets said on the talking head shows. And more than likely, it wouldn't be heard even if it was said. But that is really the state of affairs with most Christians who do their best to love God, love their fellow man and be faithful ambassadors of God in a fallen world. That's why we do what we do and say what we say. It isn't hate. It isn't bigotry. No matter how much the clever opponents and propagandists of libertine behavior and yes, SIN, try to paint us with that brush.

One more thought. Those who hate Christians for their message seem to forget that outside of Christ, we're in the same boat too. From our perspective, we have been granted rich grace, mercy and forgiveness that we don't deserve. We're beggars, and we earnestly want to share with others where we found the nourishing bread. Yet, that's not considered or heard. To the unbelieving world, we're just a bunch of self-righteous, moralistic busybodies who want to take everyone's fun away. They don't consider all the good that has come from people of faith. Schools, hospitals, rescue missions, food pantries, clinics for the poor, universities, etc. They've forgotten that part of it all.

And in all truth, it's just like Jesus Himself said. God is really the ultimate target. They hate Him, and because they hate Him, they hate us. They can't get at God, so they do all they can to get at us. To them, we're all fools. And that's okay. To quote the old song, "I'll be a fool for Jesus." And as long as I have life and breath, I'll do all I can to love my fellow man with both deed and truth. I'll help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the broken-hearted, and all the actions of love and mercy within my power.

But I'll also continue to speak truth to the issues of the day, regardless of whether or not it makes me liked or popular. Highly unlikely. But please, let's just stop the slanderous hate and bigotry charges. They're false, and the people who make them know they're false. Disagree freely with me all you like as to the issue, but don't attribute to me motivations that I don't have. You can at least have that much intellectual honesty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Where Cigarettes Came From

If you've never heard of James Buchanan Duke (pictured right), you're about to.

Duke is considered the father of the cigarette, and some consider him ultimately responsible for the millions of deaths since then from lung cancer, emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses.

The BBC has published this little history piece on Duke and the development of the cigarette. I found it very interesting.

I am not a fan of smoking, although I am a rarity among conservative Christians in that I don't think it to be inherently a sin. My dislike of it centers on the fact that most of the men on my father's side of the family (including my father and grandfather) died of emphysema. Two aunts on Dad's side died of lung and/or breast cancer. They all smoked like chimneys, except for Grampaw, who gave up smoking in middle-age, but kept up with chewing tobacco. Yuck.

And it stinks for the most part. The one thing that might be easy for me to do is smoke a pipe, because I do like the smell of some pipe tobaccos. However, with my family history, it would be stupid.

Back to the sin issue for a moment. It could be argued (and many do) that a Christian's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and you shouldn't do things that will potentially harm your body. Both are true, but if we're going to be legalistic, one shouldn't eat like a glutton either. One shouldn't participate in daredevil sports where you risk getting killed. It could be argued that God didn't give you your life to throw away. Smoking is not addressed directly in the Bible unlike drinking alcohol, and in the case of alcohol, drunkenness is what is condemned as sin, not the alcoholic beverage itself. And this subject has been debated ad infinitum ad nauseum in Christian circles, and I have no desire to argue it here. I don't want to go beyond Scripture, and Scripture does condemn drunkenness. So don't get drunk.

I would also recommend—for health's sake and the comfort of others—that you shouldn't smoke. I've watched the slow death of loved ones personally, and have been there for their final moments. It isn't pretty. It's awful. You never get the mental image out of your head. Why go there if you don't have to go there. Stay away from the darned things.

You'll breathe better and you'll smell better.

Monday, November 12, 2012

T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis

Recently, I have been re-reading Griffin's excellent biography of C.S. Lewis called "Clive Staples Lewis: A Dramatic Life." The book is unique in that it is largely assembled out of Lewis' letters and journal entries throughout much of his adult academic life. The pace of the book is almost like watching filmed vignettes that really serve well in helping to get a good glimpse of the man himself.

One thing that interested me in the bio was its description of how Lewis and noted poet T.S. Eliot "held each other at arms' length for years," only to be drawn together as good friends and Christian brethren in the last 10 years of their lives. Today, I discovered this essay in the Clarion Journal about the rivalry turned friendship between the two scholars. It's fascinating, and if you'd like something to do this evening over a cup of tea and before a roaring fire, take a peek. I enjoyed the read.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Petraeus: How the Mighty Fall

My comment on this sad, sordid matter is going to be limited to the spiritual. Enough news articles and political flak are out there to be had for the getting.

The resignation and affair of General David Petraeus as CIA Director over an extra-marital affair is a tragedy for the general as well as for his wife, and also for writer Paula Broadwell—the woman with whom Petraeus apparently was involved—the writer of his biography. Scripture says "be sure your sin will find you out," and it does. Always. We all ought to shudder.

The observation I have is that no matter how high a man (or woman) is in society, authority or popularity, he is still fallen and in need of the Savior. We all have clay feet. No exceptions.

King David found that out after he had a fling with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (whom the king had killed by putting him in a vulnerable, unprotected position in battle). David didn't get by with it. The Lord sent Nathan the Prophet to pay the king a visit.

Unlike many today, King David was sorrowful and broken over his sin. And in repentance, he penned Psalm 51. Ponder it and prayerfully read it. It needs to be the attitude we all carry. All the time:

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.

Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. 

By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Tom Chantry's Election Postmortem

This is the second time I've linked to Pastor Tom Chantry's blog, and I'm sure it won't be the last. It is a pretty straight-forward biblical analysis of the election, and what it means for Bible-believing Christians and this nation. Read well and ponder.

The Abortion "Gotcha" Question

I promised to address this question, and today I will. That's progress, because over the history of The Seventh Sola, I have frequently intended to write posts on certain subjects—even promised to get to it—then got overwhelmed by stuff and never got around to it.

Not this time.

As followers of the 2012 election here in the US know, there were a couple of male Republican Senate candidates who had the unmitigated gall to comment on abortion in the case of rape. (I say "unmitigated gall" a bit sarcastically) They articulated their position very clumsily, and of course, the liberal media and the left (synonymous) pilloried both men. I thought the remarks of Missouri candidate Todd Akin were stupid and ill-informed in terms of him saying a woman's body "has a way of shutting things down" in case of rape and pregnancy. That deserved a whack. But I think his use of the term "legitimate rape" was grossly and unfairly distorted to mean what he did NOT mean. He meant "forcible," not that any rape was "legitimate." He was still medically wrong, but it's not fair to insinuate he meant something he clearly did not mean.

In the case of the other candidate from Indiana, Richard Mourdock, he was asked the "gotcha" question by the media—"What about cases of rape and incest? Will you allow abortion then?" Mourdock gave an answer that was correct in a theological sense, but very badly articulated and the media (and the Democrats) of course ran with it. You never try to explain or argue theology in a secular media interview. Most of them won't get it anyway.

Republican candidates (and pro-life Democrats for that matter) should know better. Especially with a hostile media. These kinds of questions will come. Expect them. And more than that, know how to give a better answer that they'll have a tougher time twisting and distorting. Allow me to offer a suggestion:

"Let's be crystal clear on this subject. First, let's deal with the criminal. Rape is a violent, evil act. It's horrific, and in most cases traumatizes a woman for years, if not a lifetime. At one time in the history of the United States, rape used to be a capital offense, punishable by the death penalty. It's time to restore that to law. You forcibly rape a woman, and you will be executed. In the electric chair. Swiftly. 

Next, let's consider the first victim. The woman. Any woman who is subjected to the terrible ordeal and crime of a rape must be treated with the tenderest compassion possible. She needs to be surrounded by family, friends, and faith. People need to come alongside her, support her, and help her through the difficult days ahead. She is a victim of a violent crime, and deserves the swiftest justice against the perpetrator of the crime against her. 

Finally, let's deal with the forgotten, third victim. And this is what makes this a gut-wrenching subject for anyone who has to deal with it. The woman undergoes a horrific ordeal, but there is a third person involved. A baby. A human being. A human being who has come into existence through no fault of his/her own. The baby is not responsible for how he/she was conceived. I cannot in good conscience say that it is okay to kill a child because of the circumstances surrounding conception—even circumstances as horrific as rape is. Rape is a horrible crime against humanity, and a sovereign God. So is the killing of an unborn child. So let's stop using this subject as a political "gotcha," and begin recognizing that there are serious issues at stake here way beyond the shrieking of activists. As a potential lawmaker, I am compelled to do the right thing as far as my spiritual values and conscience dictate. You will have to make your determination to vote for me or against me, knowing my stance on this issue. But this IS my stance, and it is a stance that has been carefully thought out in the light of much prayer and reflection."

There you have it. That's what I'd say. Of course, to the wild-eyed pro-abortion activist to whom the right to kill the unborn is like a sacrament, what I just said is anathema. But it will be difficult for the media to twist and distort. And that's the whole point.

One more thing. Contrary to the opinion of some, men are not insensitive to the subject of rape, nor does their maleness make them incapable of understanding it. Men can and have been raped themselves. Anyone remember a convict by the name of Jerry Sandusky? How about 33 young men and boys raped and killed by executed John Wayne Gacy? How about Jeffrey Dahmer's victims?

While men can't become pregnant, the damage to their psyche can just as bad. It might even be worse. Think about it from a man's perspective—a man is usually stronger and is expected to be able to defend himself. Some aren't strong, and some can't defend themselves well. Prison rape happens all the time, and the humiliation to a raped man is horrendous. Rape is rape, no matter to whom it happens. It's heinous, and deserves the severest punishment.

Let's just not punish a child as we seek retributive justice.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Bryan Duncan's New "Conversations"

I wish I had jumped on this sooner, but I'd like to do my part in helping Christian singer Bryan Duncan promote his new solo album "Conversations.

If you're familiar with Bryan's music through the years, you'll know he was originally with the pioneering Sweet Comfort Band along with Randy Thomas, Kevin and Rick Thomson. One of the most soulful voices there is in Christian music.

This album was funded through Kickstarter by Bryan's many fans and supporters. He has also recorded some new Christmas music, which should be released soon.

If you haven't already, get a copy. You'll be glad you did.

Rush's Take: Can't Beat Santa

The 2012 election is over, and Barack Obama has managed to finagle himself into another term. I'll have more to say on the subject later, but for now, I'd like to offer you Rush Limbaugh's take on the election aftermath. Bill O'Reilly said much the same thing last night in predicting Obama would carry the night. Interesting, and likely true. But there is more to this than simply a nation of children wanting their "gimme gimme gimme."

I think there is a deep, serious spiritual component of this, and the abortion issue touches on it. We saw it in the way some conservative candidates very badly articulated their viewpoints on the subject, and were skewered in the liberal media. There is a way to answer that question, and I will be posting on that next time. Mind, it won't satisfy those to whom abortion is a sacrament, but at the very least, they won't be able to say it's heartless and cold.

And there will be more. We need to re-assess how America has changed, and what has happened to the American soul. And that's much more serious than we realize. Abortion and the politics of sex are only the veneer of the poison that's rotting the country from the inside. But that's for another day. In the meantime, read what Rush had to say and think about it.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief

Since Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent superstorm smashed into the New Jersey and New York coastlines this past week, the images and news coming out of the region are truly heartbreaking. It's just like Hurricane Katrina, only this time in the heavily populated northeast.

I urge anyone with some extra resources to give toward helping the thousands if not millions of victims of this storm. I recommend The Salvation Army or the the Red Cross for disaster relief. Obviously, if your local church or denomination has a humanitarian aid capability or fund, by all means give to and support that.

But I do want to add a word of caution. As usual when things like this happen, the dregs of human society also come out from under their slimy rocks with the intention of ripping off the noble, generous-minded. Beware of scams. Beware of phone calls from telemarketers raising money for this humanitarian relief effort. Only give to organizations with a proven track record of trust, which is why I recommend the Salvation Army or Red Cross. Allow me to add one more—Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse organization. He has done stellar work with humanitarian aid and disaster relief around the world.

Situations like this are great times for the body of Christ—the church and Christians as individual believers—to demonstrate the love of our Savior in action. Pray for those who have lost all they have. I've been there, and it's heartbreaking. I am thankful for those who helped my family when my home burned in 2003. I think disasters will always touch my heart deeply for as long as I live.

I'm Just a Throwback

You guys all know I'm a Genesis fan. Today I'm sharing this little heard gem from keyboardist Tony Banks' solo album "Bankstatement."

It's called "Throwback." Lyric line: "I guess I don't fit the times. I'm just a throwback." I can identify. Completely, LOL.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reformation Day is Nigh

While I knew Reformation Day is upon us, I didn't know about these resources available through the Triablogue team. Have to give a hat tip to Dan Phillips, who is, of course, one of the TeamPyro guys and also maintains his own "Biblical Christianity" blog—all linked on my right sidebar. It was reading over at Dan's blog that pointed me to the Triablogue stuff on this.

So, let me give a shout-out to all these brothers today, and thank them for their labors on behalf of the Lord and for the sake of the Gospel. Having read Roland Bainton's great bio of Martin Luther, the items rebutting some of the myths about Luther will be interesting reading.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NRB Chief on Election Stakes

As often happens on this blog, intent of a post gets subsumed by something else for a while. I had intended on doing a post about multiculturalism on Monday, but got busy and couldn't get to it. Then today, I see this comment by NRB president Dr. Frank Wright about the stakes of the upcoming election. I knew I had to post a link to it.

Dr. Wright has it correct. The stakes are enormous, and I don't think people realize how close we are to losing the America envisioned by our Founders. The rot has been eating away at the core of the Constitution and our values for a long time—under both parties. But this time may well be the game changer of all game changers.

Barack Obama said he wanted to fundamentally transform this country. I think if most Americans really understood what he means by fundamental transformation, they wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. Mitt Romney was—and is—not my first choice for a Republican candidate. But I have hopes that, if he gets elected, he at least will respect our Founding Principles and values much more than the current crop of radical left activists in charge now. But reversing the slide will take much more than one election cycle. It will take a spiritual rebirth of our country. And that will not come from any candidate for office.

That has to begin with a nation falling on its knees in repentance and turning back to the God who allowed the nation to rise in the first place.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dr. Michael Brown on Obama

Dr. Michael Brown is perhaps best known for his five-volume work answering Jewish objections to Jesus as the Messiah. Dr. Brown himself is a Jewish Messianic believer.

As he himself says, Dr. Brown seldom writes directly about the president. But given a recent question he received, he felt constrained to pen this article. And this article—in my humble view—clearly deliniates Barack Obama from mainstream, Bible-believing, evangelical Christianity. It's worth the read, and worth serious consideration by all true Christians.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pastor Tom Chantry on Politics

I first became aware of Pastor Tom Chantry when I began reading Phil Johnson's "Pyromaniacs" blog several years ago. Tom was (and is) a frequent commenter. He is the pastor of Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In this current election year, Tom recently tweeted a post he had written on his own blog back in the 2010 election cycle. I can honestly say it's one of the best essays on this subject I've read. So, I'd like to share the link with you here.

Enjoy, and think. Maybe you won't agree with every jot or tittle, but I think in the main he's got it right. Our first and foremost duty as believers is to serve our Lord and the cause of the Gospel.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dinesh D'Sousa Resigns and Scandal

I don't normally bump a post for a day, especially when you've been posting as rarely as I have these days. But today's news about the resignation of Dinesh D'Sousa as president of Kings College over a divorce scandal merits immediate comment. 

You can read the linked article for the gist of the story. The Christian news magazine "World," broke the story, and now it's all over The Christian Post and other media outlets. The allegations are that Dinesh, who has been separated from his wife for two years, stayed the night at a hotel with another woman not his wife, and reportedly represented her as his "fiance" even though still married.

I will take no position on this in terms of Dinesh's guilt or innocence. Obviously the matter was serious enough that he had to step down from Kings College. My greatest concern is spiritual for the sake of Dinesh, his estranged wife, his family, and yes—even the young woman involved. I pray for the reconciliation of his marriage and restoration to full productivity for the Kingdom. I pray for repentance where repentance is necessary, and salvation if that has not yet truly taken place.

I can't also help but be concerned with the timing of this story. Dinesh's movie about Barack Obama, called 2016, has been tearing up the theatres and might have an impact on the election as it vets the president like the media refused to vet the president. But now, we have this scandal, and like it or not, the left can use it and have a field day once again with a conservative who has clay feet. Remember Mark Foley? Remember Congressman Livingston? Remember Senator Vitter? The GOP is supposed to be the party of family values, and all stories like this do is shred credibility. "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." It is beyond sad. So predictable. And it all could have been avoided. It is hard to be someone so smart can be so politically naive.

Scripture says that teachers will be held under a stricter judgment. It's proving true yet again.