Friday, August 31, 2007

The Michigan Presidential Primary: 1/15/08

The governor now has legislation on her desk, which she has said she will sign, that moves the date of Michigan's presidential primary forward to January 15, 2008. This would put Michigan into the first group of states (still growing) which are pushing their dates ahead of the February 5 date which the RNC and DNC had tried to put as a "boundary" before which primaries, caucuses, etc. could be held.

When I was at the state Republican Committee meeting last Saturday, I was given a list of reasons titled "10 Reasons that Michigan's Presidential Contest MUST occur before February 5." For the sake of brevity, I will summarize these. On the whole, I think Michigan is better served by an early primary; these reasons help explain such a point of view.

  1. On February 5, 56% of the Republican delegates to the national convention will be chosen [I assume that was correct at the time this list was printed], including some big states like CA and NY. If Michigan holds its primary later than February 5, the result will either be a foregone conclusion or the candidates may just not bother campaigning here.
  2. So far, among the "top-tier" GOP candidates, 40% of their fundraising time is spent in Iowa, 25% in NH, 20% in SC, 10% in FL, and 5% in states holding their primary on or after February 5. If Michigan does not go early, candidates will not spend time here.
  3. Michigan has as many delegates as Iowa and New Hampshire combined.
  4. In 1988, Michigan was an "early" state. Many people got involved; there was excitement. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Michigan? 1988. And for the next decade the Republicans virtually ran the state.
  5. In 2000, candidates spent almost $10 million in Michigan. Our economy needs this influx of spending.
  6. There are hundreds of campaign staff right now in IA, NH, and SC. Michigan has more delegates than any of them; if Michigan goes early, resources to hire staff, etc. will be spent here.
  7. If Michigan goes early, the presidential candidates and the eyes of the country will see what our economy looks like and we will see what answers they have to the question of how it can be turned around.
  8. If Michigan goes early, it is more likely to host a Republican candidate debate.
  9. If Michigan does not go early, the seven candidates already scheduled to come to the Mackinac Leadership Conference [this is a big-deal, biennial GOP conference which I really, really want to attend, but probably won't, due to fiscal issues] will likely cancel.
  10. "And the final reason that Michigan must go before February 5: The ONLY major Presidential candidate that wants Michigan to be irrelevant is liberal, pro-choice Rudy Giuliani. The Giuliani strategy is to have all states go on February 5 or later because he wants to run a national campaign that is less dependent on grassroots organizing and relies more on name ID and television advertising. This way he can hide his pro-choice, liberal record and make it difficult for lesser known candidates to expose him."
The paper goes on to explain why the "threat" of losing delegates to the 2008 GOP Convention is little more than a bluff, and not to let that dissuade the party from supporting an early primary.

The final reason, #10, is an exact quote. The other nine are summarized.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You might be from Harrisburg if....

Continuing an earlier theme, my youngest brother sent me this gem about how you might know if you are from the capital city of Harrisburg. For those of you not from the Harrisburg area, you may not find it as amusing; for those of us who grew it up there, it's really good.

You know you're from Harrisburg if:

You have to tell people from out of state you live near Hershey.

Steelton, pronounced Stilton, is "that area in between Harrisburg & Middletown."

Your city's idea of art is to stick Painted Cows in front of all important buildings.

You can pronounce Kipona correctly.

Camp Hill is pronounced Cam-Pill.

Camp Hill/New Cumberland/Mechanicsburg/Lemoyne/Enola are joined together to form the West Shore .

The Farm Show is good for three things: potato doughnuts, milkshakes, and usually bad weather.

Even a chance of snow warrants at least a one hour delay, and mass hysteria to raid Giant or Weis markets for bread and milk.

Anything over two inches of snow warrants a two hour delay with modified kindergarten.

You know that Forster Street is pronounced Foster Street.

You pronounce Progress with a long O.

You remember when the Point Mall and Camp Hill Mall were malls.

You still refer to the "Harrisburg Mall" as the "East Mall".

You know that Colonial Park refers to a neighborhood and a mall.

You know that Mayor Reed has the power to do anything he wants.

You don't know where the nearest Wawa is, but you can find 6 Rite Aids or CVS's within a five mile radius of your home.

You don't go to the Civil War Museum.

You don't use "to be" in sentences: "my car needs washed" or "the dishes need done."

You've been on the ride at Chocolate World more times than you can count and have definitely not always "kept your arms and legs inside."

You remember when Hoyt's was still called Hoyt's.

You used to listen to Wink 104.

You've been to every festival on Front Street at least once.

You know that the real shopping is at King of Prussia and you know that King of Prussia isn't actually a person.

You get frustrated when people think that Candy Lane is a board game.

You know that the BonTon used to be called Pomeroys.

You know what Turkey Hill is.

You've either eaten or known people who have eaten pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day.

You know Round Top is a poor excuse for a ski resort but have probably been there anyway.

You know every snack food factory in America is within a one hour radius.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thoughts on Modesty and Economics

Premise #1: Women, according to the Bible, are to dress modestly. This involves wearing modest clothing.

Premise #2: According to economic (free-market) theory, items which are high in demand will be supplied to the market.

My wife and I made (again!) the routine observation that it is difficult (but not impossible) to find clothes for adult women today which are modest. You may find them at thrift shops, Goodwill, or yard sales; on eBay; in a catalog; or if you're lucky, a major clothing retailer on rare occasions. (Perhaps you can afford to hire a tailor.) Why is this? Then I had a thought:

Is the demand for modest clothing so puny in the marketplace today, that manufacturers don't find it worthwhile to supply that demand? And if not, why not?

I will try to be more upbeat with my next entry....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Article on Religious Freedom

Pastor Keith Butler of the Detroit area, who ran for the Senate and lost in the Republican primary last year, wrote an excellent article pointing out the outrageous inconsistencies between the ACLU's positions on denying Christians their rights to religious expression while remaining quiet on Muslims whose demands for religious expression are granted. You can find the article here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hymn of the Week: What a Day That Will Be

I love hymns. The real, old-fashioned kind that come from a real, old-fashioned hymnbook. I had the thought before—and had it again this morning in church—that a hymn for each week would be something good to meditate upon. With that thought, and freshly blessed by this one sung today in church, I encourage you to think about this hymn this week:

What A Day That Will Be

Words and Music: Jim Hill

There is coming a day,
When no heart aches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye,
All is peace forever more,
On that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There'll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

DNC Observations and the Spanking of Florida

Where to begin!?!? The short version of the story is this (the longer version can be accessed here): The Democratic National Committee, in order to punish Florida for passing legislation to move its presidential primary before the DNC's set date of February 5, 2008, has announced that the state will be stripped of all its presidential convention delegates.

Several salient points come out in this article (feel free to read it and come up with more in the comments):

  • The state party has been told it has 30 days to put its primary back on February 5 or later, or it will lose its delegates. Let me get this straight: The Democrats have suddenly adopted a law-and-order mentality?? This sounds like, well, parenting? (Note: Children should not get 30 days to obey, but politics and politicians move a lot slower than children do.)
  • It gets better: Democratic leaders observe that if they let Florida go early, without punishment, that this would "open the door to chaos." And they're right. (This whole idea of Democrats punishing rule-breakers is still new to me. I must assimilate this.) They are even astute enough to realize that this "sends a message" to my state of Michigan and other states. (Democrats + good logic.....more assimilation needed?)
  • Florida Democrats claim they should not be punished because the GOP-controlled legislature passed the date change and the Republican governor signed it. Now we're seeing the Democratic mode of operation: Blame the other guys! The DNC points out that the state party did little to stop the legislation.
  • Most of the Democratic presidential candidates had nothing to publicly say on the matter yet. But, they haven't had much to say, anyway.
  • And my favorite: Jon Ausman, a member of the DNC from Florida, pleaded to the Rules Committee, "We're asking you for mercy, not judgment." HERE we see the true Democratic spirit: We don't want the consequences of our actions! We know we have willingly and intentionally broken the rules, but please let us off the hook!
I hope the Democratic party not only sticks to its guns with Florida, but also holds all of its presidential candidates to the same standard: If you are not honest with the rules, we're going to spank you.

RNC Observations and MRP Politics

Today I was a guest at the Michigan State Republican Committee meeting in Lansing, traveling with our county GOP chair and our county's representative to the committee.

The key issue of the day was the manner in which Michigan Republican Party delegates to the 2008 GOP national convention would be selected. It is still unknown (read my next entry for further information) whether the Democrats, after their DNC meeting today and the spanking of Florida, who run the MI state house and have yet to vote, will follow the lead of the MI Senate and pass legislation—which our Democratic governor has said she will sign—to move the Michigan presidential primary up to January 15. If they pass the legislation, we have primaries for president on that date. If not, the "fall-back" option for the Republicans is a state convention to select those delegates.

I had never been to a State Committee meeting before. This group numbers about 120 and there were an additional 30 or 40 others present. A great deal of preparatory work had already been done to achieve difficult but reasonable consensus on a convention and delegate-distribution plan. For this the state GOP party is to be commended. But thirteen amendments to the "Unity Plan," as it was dubbed, had been offered.

Some of these amendments were, in a word, buried; they had no real level of support. A few others drew passionate discussion (in the case of one amendment, passionate frustration), and some of these were passed. At the end of the day, nearly everyone was behind the idea that a January 15 primary was the preferred option, and that the convention plan passed today was the best possible "second-best" option. Some had to admit that their amendments lacked majority support and others were pleased that their own point of view carried the day; but in the end, it seemed that most everyone was on the same page.

It will be interesting to see if the Republican National Committee will follow through on its threat to decrease the Michigan delegation by half if the state holds its primary (or convention, which FYI, is scheduled for January 25-26) before the important February 5 date. There is a school of thought that says they would not dare do so, and it's augmented by the fact that most of the major candidates have assured Michigan (and Florida) that they will see to it that their state delegations are seated at the convention if each is the eventual party candidate.

Politics in Michigan is so interesting.

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 8: Politics

What is the Purpose of Government?
"According to the biblical Christian worldview, human government was instituted by God to protect each person's unalienable rights from mankind's sinful tendencies." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 126.
The state, or government, is very clearly a God-ordained institution (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). God ordains and removes governments (Daniel 2:21). Governmental rulers are to be God's ministers. Citizens are to submit to the laws of the government as long as those laws do not require disobedience to God (Acts 4:19, 5:29), because allegiance to God requires submission to the law.

There are some reasons God gives for the existence of the state. The most obvious may be the depravity of man and his wicked fallen nature (Jeremiah 17:9), which make government of men necessary. Government, in many ways, serves to protect man from man's sinful nature. Governments also exist to guarantee (secure) basic human rights to individuals and to promote and further justice (see Weeks 7A and 7B for more information).

Government has its roles and its limits. It does have limited, God-given responsibilities, which include:
  • Guaranteeing/securing basic human rights
  • Promoting, furthering, and dispensing justice, including the death penalty (Genesis 9:6)
  • Protection of its citizens from foreign and domestic enemies
  • Collection of taxes to fund its limited responsibilities (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25; Romans 13:6-7). Much as some people might want to deny it, government has the right to collect taxes and you have the responsibility to pay them!
History and biblical principles point to the conclusion that, in general, dispersed power is better than centralized power. The more power a leader has, the more tempted he will be to abuse it.

The government is not to infringe on the responsibilities of the church and of the family. Examples of tasks not delegated to government include:
  • Interference with religion
  • Tax-funded handouts to certain individuals
  • Control of family size
  • Interference with rearing children
  • Education of children
  • Control over the economy
History also teaches us that human government almost always attempts to overstep its God-given boundaries. But we also see that abandoning God and trusting individuals or the state will result in a power-hungry, abusive state (Note: I am reading a biography on John Adams right now, in which the French Revolution—and Adams' accurate response to it—is discussed. This atheist-led revolution toppled the long-standing monarchy, but quickly replaced it with a "government" that was incredibly bloody. That's just one example). Marxists, humanists, and others who seek a kind of "Utopia" put their trust in man and/or the state to bring about a perfect world order here on earth. It will never work, because it excludes God and is based on man.

There are some important reasons why America's form of government is superior. Notice that I said "form" of government; we recognize that even a great country like ours can have a government that gets a bit out of control. Our founding fathers had the wisdom to divide powers among the three branches of government, so that it was not possible for one person or small group to seize all control. They also established a systems of checks and balances which gives each branch both incentives and cautions about the possible excessive power of the others. These reasons acknowledge man's sinful human nature and try to thwart it. It is also important to note that our country's founding philosophy included an original recognition that man was created in the image of God, and that this Creator God gave him unalienable rights which neither government nor man could never take away. (See the Declaration of Independence.)

The Christian has four primary responsibilities toward government.
  • Submission and Obedience. It is worthwhile to note that obedience to just government diminishes the need for governmental power.
  • Honor and Respect. We may not like them; we may think they are wicked and godless. But God still expects us to show our leaders honor, and to show respect to the government.
  • Prayer. We are to pray for our leaders (although I am reminded of the rabbi's famous prayer in Fiddler on the Roof). Pray especially for wisdom and biblical decisions.
  • Participation. Here are some suggestions of ways you should be a participant in your local, state, and/or federal government:
  1. Voting knowledgeably. EVERY Christian citizen in America ought to register and vote for candidates whom they have determined to be the most likely to promote biblical principles in government.
  2. Passing out and signing petitions for causes with which God would be pleased.
  3. Running for elected office. God does not call everyone to do this, but he calls some. It is not a dishonorable one (Aside: Vote for Dorothy Matesevac, Highspire Council 2007!!).
  4. Serving in non-elected office. Even zoning boards and the like need Christian influence—do you really want a strip joint or a casino in your town?
  5. Persuading your elected officials and others of what is right and biblical. This may involve getting involved and getting to know these people. It may even giving them a gospel witness. You may feel led to write letters to the editor or to candidates; these are good practices.
One last thing: Government must only be disobeyed when it requires us to disobey God. God must be obeyed. Remember Daniel? The king commanded idolatry (Daniel 6:1-10), but he obeyed God. Notice, too, that he wasn't willing to compromise with God in order to avoid punishment. He was willing to be a martyr for God—those are the kind of citizens our country needs.

A few quotations to close this entry:
"If we are not governed by God, then we will be ruled by tyrants." William Penn
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." James Madison
"The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God." John F. Kennedy.

"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." Proverbs 29:2

Thoughts on Michael Vick and Abortion, continued

Michael Vick was apparently unsatisfied with some of his dogs. Therefore, he killed them.

  • The dogs committed no crime.
  • The manner of the killings was cruel and inhumane.
  • He did not want most of the world to know what he did.
  • His actions were illegal under federal law.
And most of the world now looks on Vick as a barbaric person.

Some women get pregnant and are displeased with the prospect of having children. Therefore, abortion "doctors" kill them.
  • The babies committed no crime.
  • The manner of the killings is cruel and inhumane.
  • Most try to keep their activities secretive.
  • Their actions are legal in this country.
Logically, then, are not these people at least as barbaric as Michael Vick? Why does the media portray Vick as an evil person, yet excuses the abortion industry?

If a woman has a right to kill her child, why doesn't Vick have a right to kill his dog?

Thoughts on Michael Vick and Abortion

Michael Vick has, in essence, admitted to criminal activity. Although he will cooperate with authorities in order to minimize it, he will be punished by the legal system, very possibly with jail time, for (among other things) the torture and killing of dogs.

If you are familiar with what has come out in the press, you know that he has done some cruel, barbaric, and disgusting things to dogs. He will deserve whatever punishments he receives.

In comparison, have you ever heard or read a description of an abortion?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Modesty: A Different Viewpoint

Last night before going to bed, I was watching a little SportsCenter (can you believe the Rangers scored 30(!) runs in one game? And 9 more in the second game of the doubleheader? Oh, yeah: They were playing the Orioles.) and was flipping channels during commercials and came across a show on Islam on CNN.

I can't claim to know what the main point of the show was, since I only watched a small part of it, but it seemed to be a look at various facets of Islam in the world today, from the Middle East to the Midwest. At one point, a young (late-20's?) American Muslim couple is interviewed. He is wearing typical business attire; she is wearing slacks, turtleneck, blazer...and one of those things that covers her entire head except the face. (I can't remember what those things are called at the moment.)

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the woman, in a pleasant tone of voice, describe how she found the religiously-required garments to be a good thing. Her most surprising comment was something like "why would I want any man, other than my husband, to see my body?" She went on to say more about the benefits of modesty, monogamy, and avoiding many of the sensual vices of our day.

If a Christian woman said these things—and she could plagiarize them quite easily—apart from the references to Islam, we would refer to her as righteous. If she lived them, we would believe her to be righteous.

So why don't more Christian women say these things?? Why don't more Christian women live them? Why don't more Christian women teach and model modesty for their daughters and granddaughters? Although our definitions of modesty do not involve public head coverings, why do so many Christian women dress like they are unrighteous or morally loose? Do we Christians need the Muslims to remind us what modesty's benefits are??

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good News From Our Home

For those of you who know me, there is some good news on the job front...

I learned today that I have received the thumbs up for the one job I was most certain I would qualify for and get: Substitute teaching in the county public schools. I have been cleared, paperwork is complete, etc. School starts here on Sept. 4. Of course, I would selfishly prefer a full-time teaching opportunity, but this should help pay the bills.

In the meantime, I should have a temporary job by Monday...I think. The temp agency had not hooked me up with a "good match" job all summer. More on this later.

I was providentially in the right place at the right time today...many of you know that I tutor online. Scheduling during the summer months is somewhat rationed, since demand decreases a lot; therefore, I am happy to get any hours I can. I was at the computer today when hours allotted for tonight and tomorrow evening were added—so I was able to add 11 hours to the 16 I had already managed to claim for this week.

We praise the Lord for His provision. For those of you who have been praying about this, thank you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thoughts from Charles H. Spurgeon

The following quotation is from the evening devotional for this date, August 20, from Charles H. Spurgeon's famous devotional, Morning and Evening. The verse is Nehemiah 3:8: "And they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall."

"Cities well fortified have broad walls, and so had Jerusalem in her glory. The New Jerusalem must, in like manner, be surrounded and preserved by a broad wall of nonconformity to the world, and separation from its customs and spirit. The tendency of these days is to break down the holy barrier, and make the distinction between the church and the world merely nominal. Professors are no longer strict and Puritanical, questionable literature is read on all hands, frivolous pastimes are currently indulged, and a general laxity threatens to deprive the Lord's peculiar people of those sacred singularities which separate them from sinners. It will be an ill day for the church and the world when the proposed amalgamation shall be complete, and the sons of God and the daughters of men shall be as one....Beloved reader, be it your aim in heart, in word, in dress, in action to maintain the broad wall, remembering that the friendship of this world is enmity against God."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

It's Raining!

This evening it is raining...a steady, un-stormy rain, even pleasant to listen to. We in Southwest Michigan, with our newly minted burn ban (effective 4:36 p.m. EDT yesterday, according to our local news) have had a very dry summer, so it is indeed pleasant.

Thanks be to God for the rain.

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 7B: Law

This is a continuation of the entry from last week (7A). Most people probably have little idea just how enjoyable it is to teach a class like this, or how rewarding—spiritually and intellectually—it is to study material of this kind. A reminder: This series of lessons comes from David Noebel's excellent book Thinking Like a Christian.

What is the Basis for Law?

This lesson is intended to focus on the laws which man, through governments, makes.
"Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws." William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Law of England, late 1760's
Human laws should first be founded on the "law of nature," sometimes called "natural law." This term refers to law as revealed through general revelation. We have discussed before that man has a conscience within him, and therefore is given by God an inherent sense of right and wrong. He has a fundamental knowledge—even with his fallen human nature—that transcendent laws exist, and yet he still chooses to disobey...which also explains why God can hold all people accountable for their sinful actions.

Special revelation, the Bible, reveals the framework and details of God's law, along with many specific examples. Together with general revelation, God has provided man with enough information for man to implement a legal system which does not depend on sinful men's "wisdom." In fact, man can establish a relatively just system of laws IF he uses general and special revelation to do so.

How then should government "make" laws? A key point to remember is this: The purpose of earthly government is not so much to create laws (for God has done this) as it is to secure laws—applying God's laws to various general and specific situations, and to impartially enforce such laws as are written. Government should concern itself with encouraging people to obey God's will and laws, and with punishing lawbreakers; because wrongdoers should be punished, while those who abide by the laws should be protected. The main focus should be on a system of law that maintains order and liberty, by promoting justice as much as man can make it possible.

Furthermore, the Bible gives guidance as to how a government should operate. God's ideal legal system would be both orderly and equitable, with justice being meted out impartially (see Ex. 23:6-9; Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:16-17, 19:15-21; Isa. 10:1-2). People would be held responsible for their actions, and the guilty would be punished. God's order would be restored where and when possible. Governments at all levels and in all countries today would do well to operate by these principles.

Courts have a role in government as well—but it is certainly not a legislative role! It is not the responsibility of courts to create laws, because they are institutions of justice, not legislative bodies. Our U.S. Constitution makes this clear. Courts must apply the laws, to see that justice is served. No one should be hastily condemned, and errors in the dispensing of justice must be minimized.

Deuteronomy 17:2-6 presents an excellent example of how a court should work, particularly in the judgment of capital cases. The crime must "be told thee" (a formal accusation), "and thou hast heard of it" (a legal trial). Then they are to "inquire diligently, and behold to be true" (satisfactory proof), "and the thing certain" (beyond a reasonable doubt). Notice that the American legal system, with all its flaws, still maintains these elements—and that is why I think it is still the most respected legal system in all the world.

Two other notes about courts: Even if courts err, all justice will eventually be served, either here on earth, or at the final judgment day. And when it comes to justice, restitution to the offended person is perfectly appropriate (see Ex. 22:1-15; Lev. 6:4-5, 24:18-22).

Now let us take a look at our own country. Please take a moment to read these two excerpts from the Declaration of Independence (these are portions of the second, and the last, paragraphs):

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;…. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Notice the facts about rights which this profoundly important document contains.
  • It is self-evident that the Creator (whom all the Founders would have acknowledged as the Jehovah of the Bible) gave men certain rights, which other men cannot take from them.
  • These rights include "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Note: A study of the Founders would easily demonstrate that by "Happiness" they did NOT mean the wanton pursuit of sinful pleasures or the selfish ability to do "whatever one wants."
  • Governments are instituted among men to secure these rights—this is the purpose of government!
  • Governments derive their "just powers" from the consent of the governed...which should make every American glad that we, unlike many peoples, have the ability to impact our government by the votes we cast.
  • The signers of the Declaration appealed "to the Supreme Judge [Jehovah, again] of the world for the rectitude of our intentions." Take a moment to look up rectitude in the dictionary if you are not familiar with its definition.
  • Their purposes were placed in "a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence," another reference to God.
In summary, the Declaration of Independence, while declaring the colonies to no longer be subject to the British, looked to God as the Giver of rights and to government as the institution to secure those rights to the citizens, while making government the servant of the people. This should make you proud to be an American!!

Even Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence and among the least religious of the Founding Fathers, said in his Notes on the State of Virginia,
"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?"
The Preamble to the United States Constitution (1787), the document which established the very basis of our government says,
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Read that again if necessary; it outlines the general purposes of the document and of the government to be established—in essence, it lays out the "rights" which the government is going to secure for its people. True, subsequent amendments (beginning with the Bill of Rights) specified other rights which the government is obliged to protect. The point is this: The purpose of American government can be summed up as procuring and protecting the God-given rights of the citizens. Praise God for America!

One other question to address: Can Morality be legislated? The answer: YES, and, furthermore, it is. Things like theft, murder, abuse, perjury, etc. are immoral violations of God's law, clearly condemned in Scripture, and appropriately legislated as illegal. However, not all sins, can be (or should be, or need to be) legislated and punished according to specific laws. Herein lies the debates.

A goal should be to formulate "a legal system that legislates morality only to the extent that order is maintained and human rights are protected" (Thinking Like a Christian, p. 115). A government that attempted to legislate and punish all sins would be frightfully bloated in size. Also, Law, alone, cannot cause people to always act morally. This is one of the overarching lessons of the Old Testament. No man is capable of living a life that is completely lawful in God's sight (Luke 10:29, 18:18-21)—another of the great overarching lessons of the Bible.

All mankind will someday ultimately give account for following God's laws. On that thought, a final quote:

“Thus, a Christian system of law, while stabilizing society and promoting justice (by protecting the weak and innocent, and by punishing the guilty), also leads individuals to the knowledge that they are fallen creatures desperately in need of a Savior. Much as general revelation points to natural law, earthly legal systems help the nonbeliever recognize the corrupt nature of every person and seek the reasons behind this corruption and the remedy for it. God in His wisdom uses law not only to ensure justice, but also to demonstrate that, in our fallen state, it would be folly to demand our just deserts.”

David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 116

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Book Review: "Washington's God" by Michael Novak and Jana Novak

This is a must-read book.

The core of the book is this: What did George Washington, deep down in his own heart, think about God? What "kind" of God did he worship (or did he worship at all)? Was he really a "Christian"?

The book focuses its effort on three central questions: 1) Was Washington a deist? 2) What was Washington's understanding of the term "Providence," a term which he used frequently? 3) Did Washington use Christianity only for civil and political purposes, while secretly maintaining a skepticism toward religion?

The Novaks (father and daughter) do an excellent and thorough job of answering all three questions. First of all, Washington was most certainly not a deist, in any understanding of the term. He believed that instead of God being aloof and "uninvolved" in the affairs of men, that instead God was actively interposing in history, and particularly in the affairs of the nascent United States. Washington appears to have understood "Providence" (perhaps his most frequent term for God) as being the sovereign God Jehovah described in the Bible and believed on by both Christians and Jews. He believed that Providence acted through men and circumstances to attain His Own will on earth. Last, he certainly seemed to be exceptionally consistent between his public and his private lives in his faith, beliefs, and actions, demonstrating fidelity and character in all that he did.

Part of the difficulty of researching the subject and obtaining a solid answer is that George Washington was exceptionally hesitant (by nearly any standard) to share what he believed—doctrinally, at least—in any public way, or even in most of his correspondence. His wife Martha destroyed all of their correspondence after his death, so that avenue of research is nonexistent. Furthermore, it seems that Washington took great pains to keep his religion in the background, so as not to offend any of the various religions in the new country (he, like most Virginians of his time and status, was Anglican); at the same time, he was to all a model "Christian" citizen, exemplifying virtue and upstanding character.

There is a great deal of background given into the religious atmosphere of Washington's day, especially the Anglican faith, and how followers of different denominations did or did not typically display their faith. There are also many quotations from Washington used to give weight to the Novaks' points of view. For those reasons alone, the book is useful.

Most of all, we see Washington as a model Christian, regardless of the specific doctrinal beliefs in his heart (which we will never know here on earth). His virtue and character were observed by many, and even his enemies, like Daniel's, could find nothing with which to accuse him. If we each modeled his character, our country would be so many times better off for it.

Get the book and read it. The Novaks did a great job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Some Thoughts On Modesty

Our church has separate Bible studies for men and women during the summer. This evening, the women discussed appearance and modesty. My lovely wife came home with the following tidbits:

True beauty is internal; it is enhanced by spiritual growth; it is a matter of the heart. Yes, it is also external, particularly in the areas of modesty, propriety, and moderation.

"Modesty is about saving the delight of your body for one man, your husband." We both agreed that does a great job of summing up the issue right there.

"Modesty is a matter of the Heart, Life, and Manner of dress."

"You are the only person on this planet who can protect your spouse sexually."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Phil Rizzuto, 1917-2007

As a lifelong Yankees fan who watched many games on WPIX Channel 11 growing up, it was always a pleasure to hear Phil Rizzuto announce the games. And not only was he a great announcer over his 40-year announcing career (not just because of his "Holy Cow" interjections, by the way), he had some other claims to greatness:

He was a Hall of Fame shortstop. His career numbers of .273 and a mere 38 home runs may not seem like much, but he was a 5-time all star and AL MVP in 1950, in large part due to his great defensive skills. He never struck out more than 42 times in a season—and he played nearly every game. He won seven World Series rings in 13 seasons. His #10 was retired by the Yankees. He was only 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds—is anybody in the majors that diminutive in size now? (Thanks to the Yankees website for the stats, and the picture)

Elias says that Rizzuto's Yankees teams won 62.7% of the games during his career, what they call his "personal winning percentage." While that may not sound like much, it is the highest of ANY active player with even as few as 200 career games. Derek Jeter, shortstop on some quite successful Yankees teams? "Only" 60.3%.

Unlike most athletes today, he saw fit to serve his country by taking a 3-year leave of absence from professional baseball to serve in the Navy during WWII.

He leaves behind 4 children, 2 grandchildren, and his wife of 64 years. Sixty-four years. How rare is that today?

He wrote a very interesting book (for us Yankees fans), The October Twelve, about the twelve players (he was one of them) who played on all five Yankees teams from 1949-53...the only MLB team ever to win five consecutive championships.

According to every account I've ever heard, he was just an all-around friendly guy. Everybody liked him. In all those hours of listening to Yankees games in my youth, I am not surprised. Some people exude friendliness. He was one of them.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 7A: Law

What is the Basis for Law?

Law comes from God alone. God is the only legislator, or lawgiver, in the universe. The Christian's concept of law should be the fruit of the realization that all law, whether natural or biblical, originates in the character of eternal God.

God has provided laws, and a means of discovering His laws, to mankind. Therefore, law is grounded on a very firm foundation and is not subject to change. Laws are needed because men are sinners, in rebellion against God; earthly laws are intended to curb that rebellion.

God established human government and the rule of law primarily to keep in check man's sinful nature and passions (See Genesis 9; week 7B will have much more to say about human governments and laws). When God's laws are obeyed, people and societies do well. We should be grateful that divine law gives a standard by which the laws of human societies can be evaluated. Furthermore, it is appropriate for Christians to attempt to restore God's order for laws in this world (more on this both in week 7B and week 8).

Human rights are based on the biblical teaching that man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Human government was established in order that human life, rights, and dignity would be protected (Genesis 9:6). Christian law, therefore, supports specific, absolute human rights. No other worldview grants people such guaranteed, specific rights.

But mankind not only has rights—it also has duties. Christians need to believe that the Bible is the ONLY source of rights, since it is the only revelation of God's truth. The right to life is perhaps the most foundational of these rights. Every human life is meaningful and valuable. Our rights beget our duties—our legal responsibilities to obey God's laws. Failure to obey God's laws will result in our rights being taken away (a simple example is when a person is jailed for crimes: He no longer has the same rights as other citizens). Our rights also have specified limits; it is not proper for a person to claim "I've got my rights!" and then behave in any manner he pleases. Ultimately, our duty can be summed up as this: To obey governmental authority, except when it requires disobedience to God, since we must always obey God (see 1 Peter 2:13-16, Acts 4:5-20, 5:26-29).

There is a belief called "legal positivism" which postulates that law is made by man, is "flexible", and can change with changes in time, circumstances, ruling groups, etc. It is how most modern nations and the UN are ruled. (A wise man once commented that if man is an accident of evolution, are not his made-up laws, too?) In such a system, laws will be arbitrary, and the concept of an all-powerful state gains traction. Why? Because there is no absolute standard of law; there is nothing to which laws can be compared or evaluated. No one can really even explain why laws must exist, or why man cannot create a just system of laws on his own.

Man, due to his sinful nature, wants to substitute his own law for God's law. What are some of the ramifications of this? Any system that denies God as Law-giver is doomed to fail, since it does not acknowledge the truth regarding man's creation by God nor the fallen nature of man. Societies that ignore God's laws will be out of touch with reality. Arbitrary laws will be promoted, and subjects will lose respect for the legal system. Furthermore, an arbitrary attitude will likely extend to other areas of society, particularly ethics.

If law is not considered sacred, it will not be considered binding. Laws will be constantly changing to "better suit" the selfish interests of whichever groups have the power to craft them. And no surprise: If God does not exist, isn't anything permissible? We must remember that a society which consciously turns away from divine law will suffer the consequences. Read your Bible; look at how many nations were punished for violations of God's laws—immorality and lewdness, violence, idolatry, oppression of other nations, etc.

A quote to leave you with:
"It is in everybody's best interest to ground a society's legal system in divine law. Indeed, it is doubly in the best interest of all people because obedience to divine law is the only true freedom—all disobedience results in personal and/or political enslavement." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 111.
This post will be continued next week.

A Political Joke for You to Enjoy

I heard this one today.

It is almost confusing to note that here in Texas, both Republicans and Democrats have "Run, Hillary, Run" bumper stickers on their cars. The Democrats put theirs on the rear bumper. The Republicans put theirs on the front.

Friday, August 10, 2007

How Can Unbelievers "Work the Works of God?"

In John 6:28-29, shortly after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus Christ is approached by the Jews. These verses are a portion of their conversation, and read:

"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
From the context it is clear that these Jews do not (yet) believe that Jesus is the Son of God; therefore, we might refer to them as "unsaved" or "unbelievers." It is interesting that they ask him what works they ought to do. We believe that salvation is not of works, but by faith (Eph. 2:8-9); and that salvation ought to result in good works which both demonstrate our faith to the world and fulfill our responsibilities to God (Eph. 2:10). Notice the key principle: Salvation is by faith, not works; but after salvation, good works are to be found in one's life.

Instead, notice what Christ tells them their obligation is: "That ye believe on him whom he [God] hath sent." Every living human being's obligation is to believe—to believe on the One who came to be the sacrifice for our sins, the only One who can redeem us from our deserved eternal destiny in hell. That One is Jesus Christ. Do you believe on Him?

A Quotation for Today

I read this today. The quotation is reportedly from Born for Battle by R. Arthur Mathews. Although I can neither vouch for the book nor the author, this part is great:

"Jesus Christ doesn't coerce men to follow Him by pandering to the taste of natural man. He doesn't sugar-coat His opportunities and then dangle them in front of us to lure us on. All opportunities on His list have a fixed price: sacrifice. They are available to those who repudiate self's claims."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

What do the Bible and Math have in common? Greek!

A large percentage of common mathematical terms have their origin in the Greek language...which is also the language of the New Testament. (The remainder, including terms such as radius and milli-, are primarily Latin.) Reading John 6:1-15, the story of the feeding of the 5,000, brought this back to mind, for it contains the following "Greek" numbers (my spellings are very approximate attempts at how they might have been pronounced):

5 loaves and 2 fishes (vs. 9, 13): The Greek numbers are "pente" (think: pentagon) and "duo" (the "o" would have probably have a short sound, not a long one).

12 baskets (vs. 13): The Greek number is "dodeka" (long "o" sound this time). Not a familiar-sounding number to you? Just think of the dodecagon (a 12-sided polygon) or dodecahedron (a 12-sided polyhedron with 5-sided faces).

5,000 (vs. 10): Yes, it has the "penta" root in it. It also has a portion of the word that might be a "kilo" in it...but I'm not scholarly enough in Greek to know for certain. Kilo-, of course, means one thousand.

But also in vs. 10, it says that the men were "in number about five thousand." What is the Greek word used here for "number"? Try "arithmon": The same root as arithmetic.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Repent ye, and believe the Gospel"—Mark 1:15

When I was reading John today, I thought about the verse (5:39) I just wrote an entry about...suspecting that the verb "search" was an imperative (a command; this a particular verb "mood" in Greek), I looked it up.

I was incorrect. "Search" in John 5:39 is not imperative, but indicative—Jesus was stating the fact that if they search the Scriptures, which they could freely do, they would see that the Scriptures testified that He was the Son of God.

Being curious, I investigated a little further, and came across this wise tidbit: In Mark 1:15, early in Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, he preaches a simple and clear message,

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe the gospel."
These verbs, "repent" and "believe," are in the imperative mood. My Online Bible describes the imperative mood, using this verse as its example, in this way:
"The imperative mood corresponds to the English imperative, and expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding. Thus, Jesus’ phrase, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" [Mark 1:15] is not at all an "invitation," but an absolute command requiring full obedience on the part of all hearers." [Greek lexicon entry #5794]
Although determining the imperative mood from the English text is not always obvious, we should all have the heart attitude that we are willing to give absolute obedience to the commands of the Scriptures—for that is what they are, and that is what we are required by our Creator to do.

"Search the Scriptures"—John 5:39

In this verse, Jesus told the Jews, in short, that if they search the Old Testament scriptures, they would see that Jesus was the Messiah of whom the O.T. testified.

The same is true today; but we also have the New Testament scriptures, which greatly expand what we know about Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Saviour.

The point I want to emphasize is that each of us is wise to search and read the Scriptures. Not only do we learn so much about our Saviour Jesus Christ, but we also learn how to come to Him, how to live as He wishes, and how to love Him and our fellow man.

Search the Scriptures.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 6: Sociology

How Should Society be Structured?

Individuals are important to God, and so also is society. God has ordained institutions within society, and has taught us about our place and responsibilities within them. Christian and secular sociologists have major differences in their thoughts on these matters.

The majority of secular sociologists view man as little more than an "evolving sexual animal," without soul or spirit. They believe that society determines man's consciousness and actions, and that man has little or no responsibility for his actions. While biblical ideas about original sin, the Fall, marriage, and the family are discounted as little better than myths, ideas such as sexual freedom, classless societies, and "non-traditional" families are promoted.

This is not what the Christian should believe. The Bible teaches us that man is created in God's image (Gen. 1:26-27), that man has the freedom to choose between right and wrong, and that man can shape society by his choices. The Bible also teaches that man must face the consequences of his decisions (the most momentous example being found in Genesis 3), and this certainly includes those decisions which impact society. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that man is a guilty sinner. Sin alienates man from God and causes problems in his other, earthly relationships.

In short, Christian sociologists attempt to understand society in light of man's free will and the consequences of his freely choosing to turn from God.

The Bible also teaches us that man has worth. Indeed, the fact that God provided for, and offers to us, His saving grace, is enough to demonstrate to us that we are valuable in His sight. Because mankind possesses free will and its consequent responsibilities, man is significant. This makes man different from the animals (yet another difference between Christian and secular viewpoints). Every individual is valuable and capable of making important contributions to society; in fact, the individual is more important than institutions or society.

Man is a social being. This is not only important to understand, but it is the good, natural, created order of things (Gen. 2:18-24). Sin causes alienation in human relationships. Society, though less important than its constituent individuals, is still important for the reason that man is a social being. Societies have collective responsibility for their decisions and attitudes. Individuals and society are both valuable. Man does not stand alone, nor is he a cog in an unfeeling social machine.

God has ordained three primary social institutions: The family, the church, and the state. (It can also be argued that labor is a social institution, for God has clearly ordained labor as something man should do [Gen. 2:14, 2 Thess. 3:10]; regardless, labor will be addressed in detail in Week 9: Economics.) All of society is relevant to God's plan for mankind. This lesson primarily deals with the family and the church; the state is covered in Week 8: Politics.

Marriage and the family are ordained by God (Gen. 2:23-25). Together, they form the fundamental institution of society. It is critically important that husbands and wives be lawfully married and committed to each other for life, and that the family be following God's values and God's order for it (e.g., Eph. 5:22-6:4). The family environment must be one which promotes spiritual and mental growth (not just physical or social). It is widely observed that the overall condition of marriage and families in a society is a good barometer of the state of the society. This does not bode well for us here in the United States, for there is a war in our midst—a war in which the forces of Satan want to tear apart our biblical "family values" and replace them with viewpoints that demean marriage, families, and what the Bible teaches. All of us must be aware of, and be willing to fight, the anti-family and anti-Bible teachings that pervade our society!

The church also has a role in the society. Certainly, it must proclaim the truth about sin and salvation. It must also be a living demonstration of community and Christian love among believers. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is much more meaningful when the world can see examples of it. The church also exists to edify believers, helping them to become better members of society. All of these things will have the direct result of making our society better.
"By regarding every member and aspect of society as responsible, the Christian sociologist naturally expects each institution in society to focus on governing its own realm of interest properly and to allow other institutions the same freedom." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 97.

"It is God's will that there shall be labour, marriage, government, and church in the world; and it is His will that all these, each in its own way, shall be through Christ, directed towards Christ, and in Christ....This means that there can be no retreating from a 'secular' into a 'spiritual' sphere." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, p. 207.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Faith Should Produce Action

In the last verses of John 4, we have the story of the nobleman who comes to Jesus Christ and asks him to come to his house, so that he would heal his son. He asks this of Jesus at least twice (vs. 47, 49). Instead, Christ says to him in vs. 50, "Go thy way; thy son liveth." How does the man respond (vs. 50b)?

"And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way."
The story ends with the nobleman arriving home to a healed child, and the servants reporting that the child was healed in the same hour that Christ told him to go his way.

We tend to praise the nobleman's great faith, and we should; but notice the man's actions. First, the man believed. After Christ tells him to "Go thy way," he asks no more questions, makes no more requests. He does not demand rationalizations nor does he express doubts. He believes. He has faith. Second, he "went his way." Having learned Jesus's will, he promptly begins to do it.

Notice how this is a simple picture of how our Christian walk is supposed to work! When we are confronted with God's will for our lives, we should trust—have faith, believe—in what He has told us to do. As some of you know, I am currently between full-time jobs; once God makes clear to me what the next one is, I should have faith.....and then do! Faith should always produce actions in obedience to God. May we all remember that today.

God's Glory: A Great Quotation

I picked up this great quote from my friend Todd Wood (see blog in right column) regarding the glory we ought to attribute to God. The picture to which he refers (click here to view) is of a very old-looking barn with a sunset in the background. The barn appears to be in danger of collapsing in the next strong wind.

This picture of an Idaho shack is a good illustration of our present earth (Isaiah 24:20). Morally polluted, the earth is on its last leg, swaying like a drunk before the judgment of God. Al Gore is leading a crusade to save it. But we definitely have bigger problems like mankind’s lack of acknowledging and exalting the majesty of God.

There is a scene by far more grand and beautiful than the sun filling the skies, it is when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion and in Jerusalem (Isaiah 24:23). One thing stands out before his ancients. It is glory.


Stop dwelling on man’s glory.