Is This Happening Too Fast?

   I don’t claim to be an expert in economics. Wall Street has always been a somewhat fuzzy image for me. I tend to think of it as I would, say…Camelot or Atlantis. You know, places that sound really cool and magnificent, yet are somehow not on the route of my destiny.

   All the same, I tried to pay attention in school during economics and civics class. One thing I learned is that a free-market economy is the best system for growing and managing the wealth of nations. Free enterprise stimulates growth, allows someone with little or nothing to work hard and prosper and it also provides a money machine that is self-correcting.

   I also paid attention in history class. I learned that once government gets involved in something, it seldom, if ever gets uninvolved. Occasionally this is a good thing, but more often than not it leads to unnecessary restrictions, and somehow, less money in the pockets of taxpayers.

   This leads me to my title question, is this happening too fast? You’ve probably figured out that I’m talking about the proposed financial bailout. I’ve heard many pundits say with sad resignation, “Something must be done.” All eyes seem to turn to Washington where opinions are like armpits–everybody has two and under close scrutiny both of them smell funny.

   Honestly, I’m still playing catch-up on this issue, but I get the idea that perhaps Congress is as well. As I peruse this situation, however, there are some thoughts that keep emerging from the fog.

   First, this situation can be traced to one problem: greed. It is nothing but greed that caused some to abuse the opportunities of the free-market system. As my brother recently said in a conversation we were having about this topic, no system will be better than the people who are in it. What we are seeing is not a failure of the system, it is a failure of human character.

   Second, I hate to see the government get involved. While it has been somewhat refreshing to see the bi-partisan effort at helping Americans out of this mess, we are looking at scenario where the government is about to buy a $700,000,000,000 slice of the American economic pie. Anybody who pays that much for something is going to feel obligated to keep it. I can’t help but feel that this is going to bring us much closer to the brink of socialism.

   Is the banking business the only one to be this close to imploding? What about health care? What about energy? What about insurance? The problems of the banking sector will doubtless cause ripples that touch these other industries. If they begin to cave, will the government attempt to nationalize them as well? I can’t help but feel that this bailout may be establishing a dangerous precedent.

   Again, I’m no expert. These are just questions that I have about this situation. Maybe I’m wrong–I certainly hope I am.

   I do know one thing, I’m glad I know the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns the hills, also. As a country boy, I can’t help but think that He owns the ‘taters in the hill, too.

I Then Shall Live

Over the last few days, I have been receiving a large number of hits on this video. It appears to be blessing a lot of people at this sensitive time. For that reason, I am going to stick it at the top of the blog for a while. Newer posts will appear below it.

This song has been blessing, as well as challenging me, for the last couple of months as I have listened to it. Give it a listen, not just for the beautiful harmony, but for the power of the words.

The Glory That Is Due

My latest column at Baptist Press Sports is up. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Editorial note: I just noticed how it might look to some when they read the title of this post and then the post itself. “The Glory That Is Due” is the title of the column on the Baptist Press website. I am not asking you to give me glory, obviously, it all belongs to Jesus. I just wanted to clarify. 😉

Movie Review: Fireproof

   This last weekend, my family and I had the opportunity to view the newly-released movie, “Fireproof“. I had read several reviews by those who had screened the film prior to its release and was looking forward to the chance to see it for myself.

   I’ll have to say, I certainly was not disappointed. Produced by the members of Sherwood Baptist Church, in Albany, GA, (the makers of “Facing the Giants”) it illustrates the story of a captain of a fire department who is seeing his marriage crumble.

   Caleb, played by Kirk Cameron, is a self-absorbed public hero who eventually turns to his father (Harris Malcolm) for guidance. At his father’s request he embarks on a journey that teaches him to demonstrate a love to his wife that reflects the love of God for us.

   The movie, shot on location in Albany, moves along very well. The quality of the acting is very good for a low-budget film, greatly improved over that of “Facing the Giants”. The dramatic moments are genuinely suspenseful and the comedic relief provided by the interaction of the firefighters, while a bit contrived was funny nonetheless. The film quality was by far the best I have ever seen in a Christian production (we have come a long way since “Thief in the Night”).

   While the focus of the movie is the strengthening of marriages, the message of the Gospel is central to the plot making this worth seeing for the family. The film is rated PG due to the intensity of a couple of events the fire department faces as well as the “religious” content, but there was absolutely nothing objectionable that I found in it.

   I would encourage each family to go see this movie. It is well worth the time and the price of the ticket.

The Heart of the Gospel

   In all the world there is not, never has been nor will there ever be anything to compare to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Simple in its truth, yet profound in its origin it is the only power that has the ability to transform the lives of sinful men.

   In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he describes the presentation of the message of the Gospel. In verse seventeen of chapter one he states:

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of non effect.

   I have emphasized the phrase, “cross of Christ,” because it is the very heart of the Gospel. It is the cross that reveals our sinfulness as well as the righteousness of Christ.

   The message takes precedence over everything else. Baptism is not wrong, but it is no substitute for the power of the cross. There is certainly nothing wrong with wisdom, in fact God places a high premium upon it, but wisdom cannot replace the proclamation of the cross.

   Paul clearly states that he has been called to preach the Gospel. His conviction concerning his call and his determination to let nothing neutralize the cross are a direct testimony to the centrality of Christ’s crucifixion to the message of the Gospel.

   There are those today who do not believe the cross is essential to the content of believing unto salvation. Some choose not to preach the cross for fear of repulsing the lost with the message of a “bloody salvation”. Some preach the cross, yet do not believe it is necessary for one to be aware of the death and resurrection of Christ. I would submit that without believing in the cross, there is no hope of the lost being saved.

   Verse 18 tells us that this message of the cross is not just for believers, but for those who do not believe, as well.  Consider with me the words of verses 21-24.

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

   The desire of the unbelieving Jews to see a sign was to establish in their mind the credentials of the Messiah. The unbelieving Greeks desired the wisdom of a god. In other words, if they were going to believe in Christ, it would be on their own terms. Those, however, who placed faith in Jesus did so by believing on God’s terms, that is receiving the message that was given to them, the message of the cross. Only those who embraced this truth experienced the transforming power of God unto salvation.

   To those Jews who believed, the cross became the power of God. To believing Greeks it became the wisdom of God. Both of these were superior to the expectations of man. Literally, the cross has become the credentials of Jesus Christ to the world. When we remove the cross from the message of salvation, we have gutted it, rendering it no more able to save than baptism or earthly wisdom.

   Jesus, Himself, pointed to the crucifixion as His credentials in John 20:24-29. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was alive, until Jesus pointed to the scars of His crucifixion. The Lord used the cross to establish His identity, even among His own disciples.

   How can we do less than proclaim the message of the cross? How dare we elevate our wisdom above God’s plan and think that it is not essential to power of salvation? I’ll cherish the cross, I’ll proclaim it, I’ll remember it, I’ll hold it forth as the last and only hope of salvation for fallen man.

Foundational Criteria

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.

The very birth of our country was spawned by this belief. This conviction led our founding fathers to risk their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in order to form a Union that would provide these rights for successive generations.

Our nation is also based upon the principles of democracy. While our government is a form of republic, it operates under the premise that the voice of every citizen carries weight.

This places upon the shoulders of government the immense and priceless burden of protecting these rights for every citizen. A government that fails to pursue the protection of these rights with the same zeal for all citizens is lacking in meeting the criteria of a true democracy.

This also provides to the citizen a yardstick by which each candidate for public office may be measured. As we evaluate the two tickets that are legitimate candidates for the presidency we should apply this yardstick to each.

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have both stated unequivocally that they believe that life begins at conception. Sen. McCain has a consistent record in Congress of voting pro-life and has stated his intention of appointing judges who share his view. Sarah Palin’s views on the matter are well-documented as well. Both have shouldered the responsibility of protecting the right to life of even the youngest of citizens, even those who are deemed to have special needs.

Sen. Obama has publicly confessed his ignorance on exactly when life begins. This raises questions about his ability or inclination to protect the right to life of all Americans. Sen. Biden has stated that he believes that life begins at conception but does not feel obligated to protect that life. Both of these men have a congressional record that indicates their deficient value of the life of the unborn.

Additionally, Obama’s website states his position that the most fundamental right is the right to vote. While voting is undeniably an important privilege, it is not to be mistaken as being as weighty as the right to life. Again, confusion and ignorance seems to characterize Obama’s position on the matter.

For those who read this, I would pose this question, “If we cannot trust the Democratic ticket to protect the first and most basic of all rights for our weakest citizens, how can we trust them to protect any of our rights?”

If the right to life is denied, the other rights are meaningless.

The value of life is determined by the fact that man was created in the image of God as a living soul. It is not based upon the circumstances of their conception, the abilities of their parent(s) to provide for them, the environment of their birth or their mental and physical abilities.

When presidents, judges and lawmakers start determining whose life is valuable enough to protect, we are treading on a slope that is nothing more than oil-coated glass. When we surrender the right to life to the judgment of others, we place them in the role of God and we risk forfeiting our own right at some point.

Let us elect leaders who recognize the sanctity of life so that the blessings of liberty and the pursuit of happiness may continue.

Carried By Adversity

   Every so often in the world of sports, there comes an act of sportsmanship that causes even the most cynical and jaded fans to sit up and take note. Such was the case in the recent college women’s softball game between Western Oregon University and Central Washington University.

   Western Oregon senior, Sara Tucholsky, was at the plate with two runners on and her team trailing 2-1 when she hit the first home run of her life. Missing first base, she collapsed as she attempted to return and touch it. She apparently suffered a torn ligament in her right knee.

   With Tucholsky unable to continue around the bases, Western Oregon coach, Pam Knox was faced with her only option of substituting for the injured player and causing the home run to be reduced to a single. Although rules would not allow Tucholsky to be assisted by her teammates, it had no such prohibition against her opponents offering her aid.

   Central Washington first baseman and Great Northwestern Athletic Conference career homerun champion, Mallory Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace carried Tucholsky between them, allowing her to touch each base as they made their way around the infield.

   This selfless act of sportsmanship essentially handed the Western Oregon the game and caused Central Washington’s elimination from the league playoff.

   Before the game, these two teams would have undoubtedly viewed each other as rivals, and yet, in a moment of crisis, a demonstration of character caused victory to emerge from adversity. It could be argued that this act went beyond what would be considered sportsmanship and entered into the realm of grace. Holtman and Wallace were certainly not obligated to help Tucholsky in such a generous manner, but they did so anyway without regard to what it would ultimately cost them.

   Often, we find ourselves in the batter’s box of life with the game on the line. Circumstances that would seem to be against us stand between us and victory. We can give it our best shot and still not have the strength to make it all the way home.

   It is in these times that we may be surprised to find that things that would at first blush appear to be against us, actually are working for us. God’s grace takes elements of adversity and actually uses them to move us to where we need to be.

   We would do well to remember the words of Joseph when confronting his treacherous brethren, “You thought evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

   There are no circumstances that are greater than the grace of God. Don’t be daunted by the enormity of the task to which God has called you. Don’t be intimidated by the strength of the opponent. By faith, swing for the fence, and when you have done all you can in the strength of the Lord, you may be surprised to find yourself being carried to victory by adversity.

Blog Spotting and New Links

It’s been a while since I’ve done any blogspotting and there are a few articles that I have found to be intriguing recently as well as a couple of new bloggers I am adding to my blogroll.

The articles are written by three men whom I consider to be smarter than the average bear. The first of these is Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary. He has posted an article on Joe Biden’s view of when life begins that is most interesting. The second is an article by Denny Burk, also of Southern Seminary, relating to some theological ramifications of the role of women in leadership. The third is a series of articles written by my brother some time back comparing the moral issues of slavery and abortion. Many are writing about this now, but his work was the first that I have seen on the topic and the best. It should be required reading for all voters. I sincerely hope he has the opportunity to have this work published someday.

I have also made some updates to my blogroll. I have dropped some due to inactivity. Others were dropped because of either aberrant theology or because they had developed a voice that is not consistent with what I want my blog to represent. I firmly believe that how we say something is just as important as what we say. (And that’s all I have to say about that.) 🙂

You will notice that I am adding a couple of new links, as well. One of these is long-time commentor and visitor here, Kansas Bob. KB is always willing to engage in stimulating conversation and yet maintain a gracious tone. He posts some interesting articles on politics, theology, culture and humor. If you don’t find him at home, you might check the nearest Starbuck’s.

Another occasional visitor who has a blog worth reading is Sis. Harriet Peterson, better known as SelahV. She is a pastor’s wife who is a gifted writer. She has the ability to speak her mind with a Christ-like spirit and that is something I value.

I have also added a link to Baptist Press Sports where you will occasionally find articles that I have written. This is a good website of sports information from a Christian perspective. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

I link to blogs and sites that bless me and challenge me. Some are very close to my views, some are rather radically different on some points. The links in my sidebar may lead to blogs of people with whom I disagree theologically, politically or even about sports, but I have come to realize that through gracious exchanges, we can become better people. I hope these sites will bless you as they have me.

General Observations on the Election

I can say, without a doubt, that this has been the most interesting presidential campaign that I can recall. The almost unlimited stream of data on the candidates that is available has certainly made it possible for voters to make informed decisions. The minute details of the candidates lives are exposed for all the world to see. It would not surprise me in the least to see Wolf Blitzer report that John McCain fell asleep with his dentures still in, or for Sean Hannity to bring breaking news that Barack Obama switched brands of deodorant.

Another thing that has made this an enjoyable campaign is blogging. I had not yet discovered the world of online, self-published punditry in the previous presidential race, so it has been provocative, to say the least, to read the thoughts of so many others and interact with them in the discussion.

In many of the discussions in which I have participated, invariably theological questions and concerns are raised. This is probably due to the fact that most of the blogs that I frequent are operated by Christians and we understand the dynamic of our faith touching every part of our lives. I have seen many of these conversations escalate to the point of name-calling, questioning ones salvation, slurs, twisting of words, etc. Come to think of it, it really hasn’t been all that different from a lot of theological conversations after all. 😉

I wanted to share just a few thoughts that I am using to help keep my perspective on track (I think).

1.  We are electing a president, not a pastor.

There is a difference between leading the country and leading a church. To confuse the two may be an indication that either ones church is over-politicized (gasp, that could never happen), or that we are assuming that God’s kingdom may somehow be hamstrung if we don’t elect the right candidate.

I find it ironic that many of the extreme right consider themselves to be adherents of Ronald Reagan and yet turn up their nose at John McCain. Now, I am not dissing the Gipper, I admired the man greatly (I came within a whisker of naming my oldest son after him), but many of the same theological objections I have heard some raise about McCain would also apply to Reagan. Ronny was known to imbibe, he was divorced from his first wife and while he professed to be a Christian, his church affiliation could hardly be called evangelical.

In our nation’s history, we have never had a president who would make a good pastor. Why is this election suddenly different?

The Bible gives a list of requirements for the office of bishop/elder/pastor, it does not do so for the leader of a country. It does tell us about the consequences of having ungodly leaders, but if there is an inventory of qualifications I have not seen it.

2.  Change does not begin at the White House.

I know I am leading with the trump card of both candidates, here. I honestly believe both men are sincere in wanting to bring change to this country. However, if we as voters are naiive enough to believe that even the Apostle Paul could change the course of this country we are dreaming.

No, change begins at my house and your house. In four years, we will be doing this whole process again (won’t THAT be fun?) and it is highly unlikely that the political landscape will be changed significantly by that time. What brings lasting change is what happens in the homes of the American people. We each have the opportunity to bring change.

Someone wisely stated it this way, “If the Ten Commandments were on the walls of more homes, it wouldn’t be as big an issue about putting them on the walls of the courthouses.”

3.  We will always be voting for the lesser of two evils.

By its very definition, an election means that I am choosing a candidate that I believe is better suited for the job at hand than is his/her opponent. For me to think otherwise is to distort the intent of the process. There has never been a perfect candidate and there never will be. Mankind is inherently sinful and everyone who has their hat in the ring is in that category.

I do not intend for this to be offensive, although some may find it to be so. Those who abstain from voting, simply because they cannot find a candidate who agrees with them on everything deserve to live in a dictatorship.

I owe it to our forefathers, our veterans, our troops, my family, myself, you and the generations that will follow to vote.

4.  The sun will come out tomorrow.

‘Nuff said.

Fearless Predictions

I realize that college football season started last week, so maybe this is fudging just a little. However, my Seminoles don’t play their first game until tomorrow evening so, technically, the season hasn’t started for me.

Here are a few random predictions for the world of college football.

Oklahoma and West Virginia will play for the national championship with the Mountaineers taking home the hardware. As much as I would like to see Georgia do it this year, the SEC schedule is simply murder. Oklahoma on the other hand has a much softer schedule (I can hear Missouri fans screaming at me now) and the tools to get it done. If first-year coach, Bill Stewart, can keep the ‘Eers focused through the Big East schedule, they will win this rematch of last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

Florida State will win 10 games in the regular season (I told you these were fearless predictions). I hate to admit it, but Florida will probably prevail again this year and possibly Wake Forest. After last week, though, I have to believe our guys can play with Clemson, Virginia Tech and the rest of the ACC. New quarterback Christian Ponder will bring a better arm and more mobility to Jimbo Fisher’s offense and if the defensive line can stay healthy, the Seminole nation just may be back on the warpath.

Michigan will have a losing record.

Alabama will win the Western Division of the SEC.

Contrary to Lou Holtz’ predictions, Notre Dame will NOT go undefeated this year, but they probably will beat Michigan.

UCLA will upset USC and knock them out of the BCS Championship game.

USC will beat Ohio State, but the Buckeyes will beat Michigan.

Penn State will beat Michigan, but Bobby Bowden will finish the season ahead of Joe Pa in total victories.

Utah will be the surprise team in the BCS picture this year. After all, they have already beat Michigan in the Big House.

Michigan fans will attempt to hang this blog in effigy.

You heard it here, first, except for the part about Ohio State beating Michigan. The news is all over Ohio right now.

What sayeth thee, noble and informed reader?