Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dealing with Change

A little excerpt from my time as chaplain in the East Coast Hockey League. Hope you enjoy.


Someone much wiser than I once said that the only constant in life was change. Recent events in the US and around the world seem to indicate that fellow knew what he was talking about. Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is for the better. Sometimes change can be devastating. How do you face change?

Jesus knew all about change. He went from obscurity to becoming a wandering preacher, to becoming a candidate to rescue the nation of Israel from the hands of Roman oppressors, to becoming scorned, outcast and sacrificed so that the political boat wouldn’t be rocked. He went from “nobody” to “somebody” to “nobody” (in the eyes of his countrymen) in the course of three short years. If you have ever read the Gospels, you marvel that Jesus moved through all of these events with a sense of calm that overwhelms our ability to comprehend.

He gave us one insight as to how he did it in a parable he told. That parable can be found in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 7:21-28). He talked about 2 men who undertook a building project. One man, he described as wise. That man chose to build on a foundation of rock. The other man was called foolish, for he chose to build on a foundation of sand. When a furious storm came, with wind, rain and floods, guess whose building was left standing? That part is pretty obvious.

What’s not so obvious is why those two men chose the different foundations to build on. Jesus said that the wise man chose the right foundation because he not only heard what Jesus was teaching, but tried to live out those teachings. In fact, God was the foundation! The other man chose to do things his own way. His foundation was based on his own wisdom and supposed strength. He chose not to pay attention to all that ‘religious’ stuff.

At the core of the story is something very interesting. Jesus seems to say that relationship and motive are essential ingredients to handling what life throws at you. I’ve been around the block a few times myself. I’ve been abandoned by a dad and forced to look after 3 younger brothers. I’ve been all the way to the top of the corporate ladder and knocked back down again. I’ve had it worse than a lot, but much, much better than some. You know what? The ‘Boss’ that I work for has provided such a solid foundation for me that, although the storms in my life haven’t been a lot of fun, they haven’t washed me away! He promised a secure foundation if I kept myself in right relationship with Him and did the things I was called to do at work and at home with the right motive.

How’s your foundation? Need a little shoring up? If so, I know a ‘Builder’ I can put you in touch with that does an excellent job! Something to think about!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

When liberals hijack Scripture...

...logic and fact take a holiday.

I've recently been lambasted by emotional people who claim that no one can be a true Christian if they support war- especially the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is simultaneously amusing and saddening about their tirades is that they do the very thing I'm accused of; namely, taking snippets of Scripture to buttress a personal opinion rather than allowing their viewpoint to be formed by a wider understanding of the Bible.

Let's get some things straight at the outset. War isn't, by definition, a good thing. God's word says that He takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). God is certainly opposed to wars of conquest where one side seeks to subjugate another to its will for gain of wealth or power. However, I don't think a thorough, consistent reading of the entireity of the Bible can lead one to the conclusion that God is against all war. War is not what sane men desire, but avoidance of conflict when the envitable course leads to even more deaths is insane.

God used war for several reasons in the Old Testament. First, it was allowed to remove competing cultures that were intent on wiping out the fledgling nation of Israel. These cultures were steeped in pagan practices that included child sacrifice and ritual prostitution, and they were intensely hostile to the Jews. Strangely, another reason God allowed war was for the chastisement of the nation of Israel! When God could not get his chosen people to listen any other way, He allowed a pagan nation to wage war and defeat Israel. With these examples, it would be hard for a person to say honestly that God never made provision for war, or that the only view of war acceptable to God was when His name was used to fight against others.

The liberal's favorite tactic is to take the familiar sayings of Jesus concerning how His followers were to handle the personal abuse that was to be expected from the Jewish hierarchy and the Romans, and turn them into universal mandates with no allowance for contextual meaning.

The first quote they usually use is from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." If one does read this section of scripture in context, one might find that these were personal instructions on how to deal with persecution because of belief. Obviously, the best way to defuse a situation is not to let it escalate. A slap on the right cheek was considered a grievous insult; however, it surely was not in the the life-threatening category. In fact, a careful reading of the last part of the 5th chapter doesn't list any case in which a person's life is at stake- only their pride. It would seem that Jesus' injunction was against reaction based on a desire for personal revenge.

There's a vast difference between telling a person that they should not lash back because of a personal insult, and telling someone they should not defend themselves against an attack that is meant to injure or kill.

Truly, we do have an impact on others by the way we respond to personal attack. I will confess that I'm not always as contrite and forgiving of personal affronts as I should be.

Now, what I cannot fathom, and can find no Scriptural support for, is the contention that God disapproves of (or prohibits) the intervention of the able on behalf of the helpless. Nor can I find anything that prohibits a war whose aim is to force a cessation of continued violence from the other side. Neither of these scenarios could be remotely construed as revenge. To argue otherwise would put a unbearable moral weight on those who contend that the Allied response to Germany and Japan was wrong.

Just to ensure I don't give liberals room for misinterpretation, war in all circumstances, even justifiable ones, is cause for sadness. It indicates the abandonment of reason and reconciliation by one or both sides. The death or injury of innocents (e.g. those who aren't armed participants) is an inevitable byproduct of war and is cause for sorrow, as is the death or injury of soldiers themselves. I would remind those who are too quick to jump on the pacifist bandwagon that they should look to history and count the cost in human lives of the occasions when people stood by and did nothing. I might even refer them to Jesus' answer to the lawyer who asked Jesus "... and who is my neighbor?".

Principled differences can be respected. Disingenuity, cloaked in the guise of "Christian concern", deserves little more than scorn. Is the war in Iraq just? I believe it is. Has the war gone as those who planned it envisioned? Obviously not. I would love nothing more than to see all our troops home tomorrow. I had friends from my HS ROTC class that I never saw again after their deployment to 'Nam. I know there is a tremendous personal cost being paid. But I am as certain as one can be that the death toll of the very innocents that the liberals are wringing their hands over right now would be immeasurably higher should we leave before there is a stable government in Iraq able to police itself and protect its borders.

Count the cost for everyone- not just ourselves.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Proportionality? Preposterous!

Over the last two weeks, as Israel has responded aggressively to the murder and kidnapping of its soldiers, some world leaders have wrung their hands and whined loudly about proportionality. Obviously, these world leaders never saw military service or, if they did, they were never trained for combat.

Proportionality belongs in the realm of art and "touchy-feely" encounter groups. In the real world, if I am threatened, or my family is threatened, I don't believe that I will worry about whether my response is viewed as proportional to the threat. Israel should not either.

In the real world, a war is prosecuted to a successful conclusion only by utterly removing the will of the enemy to fight by inflicting as much pain as necessary to make continued aggression undesirable. This is the tack that I hope Israel takes with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

For those liberals who are suddenly concerned with the plight of Lebanese civilians, the question du jour is "why then weren't you proactive in demanding that Syria and Iran stop supplying Hezbollah with weapons that could be used to attack Israel?". Last I checked, Hezbollah had not been given the authority by the Lebanese government to defend its borders.

Let's get a reality check here. As a good acquaintance has put it, if the Palestinians lay down their arms, they get peace. If Israel lays down its arms, it gets annihilated.