Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Amateur

Cross-Posted From:

The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House is the title of a book by Edward Klein that was first published May 15, 2012. The Google eBook synopsis of this publication says:

"It’s amateur hour at the White House. So says New York Times bestselling author Edward Klein in his new political exposé The Amateur. Tapping into the public’s growing sentiment that President Obama is in over his head, The Amateur argues that Obama’s toxic combination of incompetence and arrogance have run our nation and his presidency off the rails. 'Obama was both completely inexperienced and ideologically far to the left of Americans when he entered the White House,' says Klein. 'And he was so arrogant that he didn’t even know what he didn’t know.'... From Obama’s conceited and detached demeanor, to his detrimental reliance on Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett’s advice, to the Obama's extravagant and out-of-touch lifestyle, The Amateur reveals a president whose blatant ignorance and incompetence is sabotaging himself, his presidency, and America."


Of course, at the time of its publication, there were reviews praising it (generally, by right-leaning individuals/organizations), as well as reviews trashing it (generally, by left-leaning individuals/organizations). Since the book's publication date was well into the primary season for the 2012 presidential election, it came at a time when I had already decided to vote for the Republican Presidential Nominee that November. So, although I don't think my views were quite as harsh as those presented by the Google eBooks synopsis, I'd say that I had come to be in general agreement with its theme. Since then, sadly, I believe that President Obama has continued to prove that Klein's allegations were completely accurate, if not understated. And, sadder still, affirmation of this truth seems to continue to grow and even accelerate, on a nearly daily basis.


Undoubtedly, those whose reviews trashed Klein's book professed that he had only assembled his assertions to support opinions of Obama that he had held from the outset of his presidency. And, I'm just as sure that they would level the same charges at me. With that, I'd remind them of an article I wrote at the time of President Obama's first inaugural, entitled A Prayer in Baltimore. In that piece, I said:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

When Did The Evening News Become The 24/7 Conjecture?

Cross-Posted From:


There has been much marvelous advancement in broadcast journalism since I came into this world. At that time, we only had a console radio in our home. When I was a toddler, we got our first black-and-white TV but we could only get reception from one local TV station. By the time I was old enough to start paying attention to the news, we were able to receive broadcasts from local affiliates of the three major TV networks, as well as a weak signal from an independent station in another city. In the past 50 to 60 years, technological improvement has been phenomenal and the sources to choose from have increased by several orders of magnitude. However, as has been glaringly obvious lately, along the way, a key element of the news has been frighteningly perverted, if not lost. That key element is, simply, the reporting of the news. “Back in the day”, you could count on the fact that when you tuned in to news programs, like The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, you would just get the known details of that day’s current events. That seemed worthwhile and productive. Today, to a great degree, news reporting has become lost in a nearly endless supply of conjecture. This seems, at least counterproductive, if not dangerously destructive.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Going To Heaven Alone


When I express strong views on a sensitive topic, I’m not surprised when I get pushback from those who see matters differently. But, when I’m rebuffed by those who I think are friends, accepting me and my beliefs, it’s sort of shocking. I had that happen recently and it led me to do some introspection that I’d like to share.
The specifics of this recent occurrence involved a meeting I attended with a small group of people who I’ve worked very closely with for several years. Without inappropriately sharing intimate details of that meeting, let me just say that there was mention of another person who we’ve known through our work, who seemed to be going through a difficult time and that they were attending a Bible study being conducted by someone else we’ve known through our work. Hearing that was a pleasant surprise to me so I responded by saying something like, “I just hope (that person) is truly paying attention at the Bible study.” With that, I sensed a reaction that I later described as a unanimous rolling of the eyes by the other participants.
Since my comment came just from my truly caring about the person we had been discussing, that added to my bewilderment over being chided as I was. So, the following day, I approached one of the other attendees to discuss this. In addition to getting affirmation of my sensing that unanimous rolling of the eyes, I was reminded that there are some settings where discussion of topics like religion and politics is just not welcome. And, beyond that, I was told that I was just more spiritual than the other attendees.
In reflecting on that one-on-one follow-up conversation, I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t really anything in it that I didn’t already know. And, in reflecting on my follow-up self-conversation, I remained sure of my caring intent with the comment that led to my rebuke. To me, though, the disapproval I had received from my friends clearly indicated the need for me to examine how I share my Christian faith in order that it’s received as intended. So, I determined to do just that.
In the course of making this examination, I thought of a point that I’d heard Pastor Brian Brodersen, of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, make in a teaching from 1 Corinthians. As a side note, I ended up going through 11 of Pastor Brian’s teachings to find what I was looking for. At first, that seemed like a nuisance but it turned out that I was richly blessed through a fresh look at much more of God’s Word than I’d had in mind. Anyway, I did find what I was looking for in Pastor Brian’s lesson, entitled “Tending to Our Own Issues”, based on the following Scripture:
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
The point that I had been thinking of was made by Pastor Brian in addressing the part of this Scripture that says, “I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” Pastor Brian’s comments here were: “ … notice, first of all, that the issues of sin go beyond sexual immorality … notice the other sins included there … we have a tendency to isolate a specific sin and focus in on that sin to the exclusion of other sins … that’s part of the problem we have right now, in the current cultural situation, in regard to homosexuality. I think that we, the church in general, have over emphasized this one sin. If you think about it, as we share the gospel with people, generally, we don’t begin by talking about specific sins. But, with homosexuality it seems we focus in on that particular thing. That’s the wrong way to understand it. I was thinking the other day about the idea that so many gay people have in their mind … I’ve heard them say this, ’You think I’m going to Hell because I’m gay.’ The reality is, they’re not going to Hell because they’re gay. They’re going to Hell because they’re lost. They’re going to Hell because they’re a sinner. They’re going to Hell for the same reason an adulterer is and the same reason a swindler is and for the same reason a slanderer is … because they haven’t turned to Christ to have their sins forgiven.”
Although the subject of homosexuality played no part in the discussion I mentioned when I was rebuffed by my friends, Pastor Brian’s comments about how many Christians treat that sin differently made me consider whether or not I’ve done that. My truthful answer is, that hasn’t been my intention but I believe I have. Recognizing this disparity between my intentions and my actions brought to mind something I’d written on that very subject, not long ago, in an article entitled Lookin’ For Hate In All the Wrong Places. In that piece, I said:
“I see intentionality as the key issue … I believe any hurt resulting from … comments(addressed in the article) was unintentional. However, that doesn’t make it right and as Christians, I believe we must stop accepting this in our conduct. ‘Hate the sin and love the sinner’ can be an appropriate attitude for a Christian to take. However, in practice, there is often an unspoken extension to that cliché that says something like ‘but, if it hurts the sinner’s feelings, that’s too bad.’ We might as well say, ‘Hate the sin and though it’s OK to rub his nose in it, love the sinner.’ The Lord’s commandment to us is, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ – Matthew 22:39. It seems obvious to me that letting the chips fall where they may (not being intentional) doesn’t fit in with this.
I believe the key to a better way for Christians to deal with sin they see in others is found in the following Scripture:
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3-5
Not long ago, I heard a Bible study focusing on this, taught by Pastor Dave Rolph, of Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills. Of course, the specks and planks mentioned by Jesus are metaphors for sin. Appropriately, the common teaching on this is for us to first recognize and deal with the sin in our own lives before we concern ourselves with the sin in the lives of others. However, Pastor Dave’s teaching added a significant dimension to that by pointing out the following:
“When we have a speck in our eye, as a result of its irritation, we’re aware of its presence. However, since the eye is so sensitive, we’re not likely to seek help in removing the speck from the first person who comes along who notices the speck. But, if someone comes along who loves us, it is likely that we will develop enough trust in them that, at some point, we may say, “You know, I think I have something in my eye. Would you help me to get it out?’”
Ironically, this reflection on my own writing helped to shed some light on the self-examination I had been conducting. I recognized that, just as I’ve missed my intended mark in sharing my Christian faith with homosexuals, it was likely that I could be missing my intended mark with sinners in general. With that recognition, it seemed to me that my self-examination should, specifically, be of how to assure that my intentions and my actions match. Based on what I got out of Pastor Brian’s teaching, it seems clear that needs to include not focusing on the practicing of a specific sin nor even focusing on practicing sin in general. And, based on what I’d reminded myself of about Pastor Dave’s teaching, it seems just as clear that what I do need to focus on is my love for the person and making sure they understand my loving intent. The remaining question from that was, what is the best way for me to clearly communicate all that? For me, the answer, when I share my Christian faith, is for it to be obvious that I’m doing so only because I care about the person I’m sharing with and that I love them too much to willingly go to Heaven without them.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Blessing Of Boxing With God

Cross-Posted From:

Are you familiar with the saying, “Your arm’s too short to box with God”? I guess I first heard that phrase sometime in the 1970s or 1980s but I wasn’t sure of its origin. When I looked into it, I was a bit surprised to learn that it came from a sermon, entitled The Prodigal Son, by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. It was published in 1927 in his book of sermons, entitled God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Regardless of where it came from, its core message always seemed apparent to me … It’s ridiculous to disagree with God; you should just accept His will and get on with life. As a result of a Bible teaching I got to take in recently, from Exodus 32 and Exodus 33, I now see that my thinking this way has been off-the-mark and that it’s been very limiting to me in truly getting to know God.


The Bible teaching I mentioned was from Pastor Dave Rolph, of Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills. His lesson on Exodus 32-33 is from a series he is doing on Bible stories. This one is called The Heart of Moses. The story starts when Moses is up on Mt.Sinai receiving the law from God while Aaron and the people are below worshipping a golden calf they’ve made. When that happens, God switches from giving the law to Moses, to telling him he has a problem. The rest of the story covers what happened from that point forward and it focuses on the related interaction between God and Moses. Continue reading