Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Deadly Debate Corroborates Corruption

Is the current political rancor the worst our country has ever experienced?

Not by a long shot.

Antebellum America had plenty of violence in the political theater. The following is an excerpt from Joanne B. Freeman's book, The Field of Blood.
On one memorable occasion in Washington in 1857, three nativist gangs -- the Plug Uglies, the Chunkers, and the Rip-Raps -- joined forces to terrorize immigrants casting votes, causing a riot. When the panicked mayor called in the Marines, the three gangs hauled a cannon into play, though they never fired it. By the time the brawl subsided, several people had been killed. State legislatures also erupted into uproars from time to time. In 1857, there was an all­ out row in the Illinois legislature featuring "considerable wrestling, knocking over chairs, desks, inkstands, men, and things generally." In 1858, state assemblies in both New York and Massachusetts dissolved into fisticuffs. "[T]here was a most heavenly time in the House for an hour or two," gushed a New York Times reporter about the Boston out­break. It "would have made a sensation even in Congress." The Arkan­sas House deserves special mention. In 1837, when a representative insulted the Speaker during debate, the Speaker stepped down from his platform, bowie knife in hand, and killed him. Expelled and tried for murder, he was acquitted for excusable homicide and reelected, only to pull his knife on another legislator during debate, though this time the sound of colleagues cocking pistols stopped him cold.

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Truth is...The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be. (Jeremiah 17:9-10 The Message)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

First Prayer

How do you pray if you've never prayed before? How do you figure out what to say?

Well...a person could do worse than singing the first song on side two of Randy Stonehill's Welcome to Paradise.


I've been waiting for a long long time
Hopin' You're a friend of mine
If there's one thing that I need to do
Well that's to find out more about You
I have been wondering all of my days
So if You're there show me the way

I see people in a world of lies
Staring out through lonely eyes
Watching as the years go by
Knowing they're living only to die
There must be something missing somewhere
So if You're listening answer this prayer

I will follow if You'll lead me
Help me make a stand
If You'll breathe new breath inside me
I'll believe You can
I'll believe You can

Well I never really learned to pray
But You know what I'm trying to say
I don't want my life to end 
Not ever knowing why it began
So if You'll trust me I'll do my best
And I'll be trusting You for the rest
©1976 King of Hearts Publishing

Truth is...(From Randy's liner notes for the 25th Anniversary CD) I wanted to explain that God isn't waiting for us to be good enough to come to Him. We don't need to be great orators and He doesn't require some exotic incantation to be recited. He just wants us to trust and obey  -  like a child would rely on a father. It dawned on me later in the recording studio that I had been subconsciously paraphrasing the very prayer I had prayed in Larry's kitchen on that special day back in June of 1970. At that crossroads moment, I remember saying to God, "I don't really believe in You but I believe in You enough that I'm talking to You. So, if You are real then come be real to me in a way I'll understand. I don't know why You'd care, but if You truly want me, I'm Yours."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Add to the Beauty

Funny how one word can change a person's whole perspective.

I was reading Paul's letter to Titus and started focusing on the ninth and tenth verses of chapter two:
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
I knew better than to get hung up on the whole "slaves" thing. I knew that indentured servanthood in the first century shouldn't be confused with images of kidnapped Africans on an auction block.

What caught my attention was that last phrase that spoke to WHY anyone should live in a particular way: "so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."

That's a nice enough thought as expressed by the NIV translators, but how is it stated in other versions?

The Message says "adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God," more-strongly implying that I can actually be an asset to the gospel...not just a beneficiary of it.

And then I read the Amplified Bible:
...so that in everything they may be an ornament and do credit to the teaching [which is] from and about God our Savior.
The word ornament really caught my eye.

It's one thing to think that my honorable and upright behavior can make the teachings of God more attractive. It's another thing to realize that I am one small part of a beautiful Christmas tree; impressive enough on my own, but when viewed in the context of the whole tree...stunning.

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Truth is...There are plenty of examples of ugly ornaments hanging around today. So much so that many people characterize Christianity as being hateful and anti-this or anti-that. In the face of that, we are called to be model employees, honorable citizens, and helpful neighbors. Together, we can add to the beautiful attractiveness of God's love, poured out on us through the Holy Spirit and demonstrated by Christ's sacrifice.

For a musical exploration of this thought, listen to Sara Groves' "Add to the Beauty" by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

If All Your Friends Were Jumping Off a Cliff

You've heard the interchange before, haven't you?

A youngster gives the reason for wanting to do something  -  something that the parent sees as wrong, foolish, dangerous, or a mixture of all three  -  by saying, "All my friends are doing it."

The immediate parental response: "If all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you want to do it, too?"

Of course, the youngster in question probably has a whole list of "it depends" statements flowing through his or her head, but if they're a little bit smart, they'll bow their head and meekly say, "No."

This whole scenario popped into my head upon reading a commandment (not part of The Big Ten) in Exodus 23:2 - "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd."

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Truth is...Evil is still evil, no matter how popular it is; no matter how big the crowd of people is that rushes to do it; no matter how loudly it is supported on how many channels, news feeds, or Twitter accounts.