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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Joke is on US!

    The cartoonist Walt Kelly once said in his famous comic strip Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us".  The cartoon was with regard to pollution and it was posted on the first Earth Day event. He captured the essence of the problem in a way no one else could and the phrase has been used by many others (including me here) over the past decades.
    Watching the debate the other night and listening to people discuss how this election has reached an all time new low has been another eye-opening experience for me.   I have talked to people on both sides and both feel betrayed by their parties in allowing people like Trump and Hillary to be their party's nominee.   But I often reply back saying it's not Trump's or Hillary's fault.  The fault is with us!   We put them there.   We elected them.  Trump and Hillary represent what we (or at least MOST) the American people have become.  We have become two-faced autocrats that care little (if nothing at all) about the rule of law or our Constitution.  We have treated politics like some sort of blood-sport like Football or UFC fighting. My team vs. Your Team.  Winner take all.

   Hillary represents the cynical side of America.   Politics is a joke.  The law is a joke.  All that matters is winning.  We can talk about the American Dream and our "Love of Country" all the while we mean something entirely different inside.  Words are just words.   They can be made to say one thing but mean something entirely different.   To Hillary, the truth doesn't matter.   As Pilat said to Jesus, "What is TRUTH?" so also the truth to Hillary is whatever she can con you into believing to keep you on her side.   If she can con you into thinking that 3rd trimester abortions (abortions that occur in the 7th,8th or even 9th month) are not bloody and not painful to the baby they so be it.  If she can con you into thinking she only had Yoga classes and wedding plans on her email server then so be it. If she can con you into thinking that she is for the middle-class when she gets millions of dollars from Wall Street banks and Saudi princes, then so be it.

   Trump represents the Anyone-But-Hillary crowd.  He is the other side of the same coin.   He too is "connected" and he has "name recognition" like Hillary, but  Trump represents those in America who only care about appearances (which is most of us).  He is the product of Reality-TV,  Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.   He represents us: vapid, self-righteous, fake and easily distracted.  Interested in only scoring points (or "likes" and "re-tweets") but not in winning hearts and minds.

   Trump and Hillary are reflections of who we have become in America.  They didn't pop out of a laboratory somewhere like Frankenstein's monster.  No.  They took their cues from us the American people.  Like a child learning to talk and taking it's language and ideas from their parents, so also Trump and Hillary learned their behavior from us.   Most of America doesn't care about hearing the truth so they don't bother telling us the truth.  Most of America doesn't care about the law, so they don't care about the law.   Most of America doesn't care about the Constitution so they don't care about the Constitution.  Most of America is vapid, fake and heartless so they become vapid, fake and heartless.  Most of America is godless so they are godless.

    Lament all you want about your choices this election but know you had a part in creating them.  They both truly do represent us the American people.

   What is funny, is that we laugh at them when Saturday Night Live comedians satirize them and poke fun at them .   It's all great fun watching Alec Baldwin squint and push out his lower lip to try to resemble Donald.  But the joke is really on us because the real buffoons are not the candidates up on the debate stage.  Instead it's us, the American people.

   We have met the enemy and they is us.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Let the Barbarians come in

   When I was a junior at the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana in 1984 I took a course called "Roman Achievement" and it was taught by a Professor Scanlan.  He was an incredible teacher and even though it was taught in a large auditorium of over 2000 there was still a waiting list to get into the class.   He covered the entire 700 year history of the Roman Empire from its early beginnings to the fall in the 5th century.    I was amazed at how similar their culture was to ours.  Their buildings, there culture, their education, their sports and arts and even their politics and military.   I never missed a class the entire semester.   Towards the end of the semester he began to cover the fall of the Roman Empire.  How the barbarians of the north had disguised themselves and pretended to be Roman citizens and soldiers in the military.   I remember him talking about the final collapse and how within a 100 years much of Romes knowledge was gone completely.  I remember leaving the class and walking down the Quad lined with buildings that looked like they were from the Roman Empire and wondered to myself "Why God?  Why did you have to let it collapse?".   I thought of how much more advanced we would be today if we did not go through a 1000 years of darkness.

    The question of "Why?" haunted me for many years.   It seemed so pointless to lose all this knowledge and culture.   Even more so, when you realize that near the end of the Roman Empire, Rome had turned from a pagan culture to a Christian culture.    Even its very emperors became Christian ( Constantine was the first ).   So why should God allow it to collapse now?   Shouldn't God have been MORE pleased with where it was going culturally? By most evangelicals today in our country, God should have been so pleased with Rome he should have been showering them with more peace and prosperity than ever before.   But just the opposite was about to happen.

     The answer would not come to me for many years.   Just recently as I was writing a blog about how God used the Roman Empire to spread the Gospel.  He used the Roman highways to allow missionaries to travel.  He used Greek language to allow them to talk to countless cultures across the Mediterranean.  He used Roman coin to pay for these missions and help build churches across the region.   He used the Roman military to provide a time of peace to the region it had never seen before.    All these things the Jews despised were useful to God and his plan to save the world.   It was at that moment I realized, God had maximized his mission to the Roman Empire and it was now time to reach beyond Rome and into the barbarian countries.   These people were not going to be receptive to the Gospel as long as Rome was fighting with them and enslaving them.   God needed to let the barbarians IN so now they can hear the Gospel for themselves.   And hear it they did.   They turned from their pagan myths to Jesus Christ.   They became believers and were baptized.

   In short, for God to win the barbarian's souls, Rome had to lose.

   And that is what God always wants to accomplish.   I don't think God cares about Global Economics or National boundaries.  He has a completely different agenda: saving souls.   In the end, all nations will be thrown down.  In the end, all the money of the earth will be burned up and lost.  In the end, all the knowledge of the universe will be forgotten.  In the end all that will matter will be whether your name is in the Book of Life or not.

   Today, like Rome, the barbarians are at the door.   This time they are not northern Germanic tribes wielding large swords and axes but instead are members of ISIS seeking our destruction.   But along with them are many people caught in pain and suffering of being Islamic who are in need of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   I don't often agree with President Obama, but on a recent occasion I did.   He was giving a speech about how to confront Islamic terrorism and he offered his opinion that we need to provide a "better alternative to Islamic extremism".   Of course he was referring to high paying jobs and better opportunities for them.    I say, Christianity offers the ONLY solution for them and it is so much better than what they have right now.   The problem for us right now is that so many of these countries where they live don't allow missionaries to preach to them and our efforts are thwarted.  So our only way to reach them is for them to come here inside our country.

    Does this strike fear into my heart?   Some.   Will some of these people from the Middle-East be terrorists?   Probably.   But if God can save more people isn't that what I should want too?   I hurt for the ISIS followers.  I pray for their souls and that God can somehow reach them.   Imagine the passion a former ISIS follower turned Christian would bring to the Church!   St. Paul you might say was an early anti-Christian terrorist.   In Acts it says he went from town to town rounding up all those who were believers and brought them back to Jerusalem to stand trial.   He called himself "a man of anger and a violent man".   But God was able to re-channel that misplaced passion to be used for good.    If God can do it for Paul, how many  ISIS-Paul's are out there today he can use as well?

    This is why God calls for his children to "pray for those who persecute you" because he wants them to come to the truth as well.  It's not just for you!  It's for them as well!   All too often we fall victim to the Jonah-reaction.   Jonah saw 10 out of 12 tribes of Israel taken away by the Assyrians never to be heard from again.   Jonah HATED the Assyrians and the last people he wanted to receive God's grace and forgiveness was them.   That is why he fled on a ship to the west rather than go east as he was told to.   Even after God sent a violent storm and Jonah admits to the sailors that he is at fault, he still doesn't want to go.  Instead of asking for God to forgive him and send him back to Assyria he tells the sailors to "bind me hand and foot and throw me overboard".   He essentially is telling them "drown me!". (side note: a Jewish myth was that the sea was bottomless and that "maybe" a person might be out of God's reach for judgment day).   God has the last laugh and sends him to Assyria anyway and Jonah sends God's message to them and they repent (Jonah spending 3 days in a fish was probably bleached head to toe and was a hard preacher to ignore).    God accepts their repentance and spares them.   When Jonah in anger tells God "This is why I didn't want to go because I knew you would forgive them!" God smacks Jonah on the side of the head when he says "Don't you know there are over 10,000 who don't know their left from their right in Nineveh alone (that means little children) ?".   God doesn't want to destroy them.  He wants to save them.

    We too must not become like Jonah and let our hatred get in the way of God's love and forgiveness.  God wants to save the ISIS followers too.   He wants to save the Islamic people too.

    He wants to save ALL people.