Monday, October 27, 2008

One Singular Specific Reason Why I Will Vote Against Obama

I was out weeding my unruly vegetable garden--which I never planted this year since it was too cold and wet too late into the spring, but we've had a phenomenal crop of weeds that I've never been able to keep up with. As it is, about half is still covered with weeds though I've been working hard on it. While I work, I ponder the issues that have recently surfaced in my life. Today, though it's hardly my favorite topic, I pondered the election.
I used to be passionately political, as if all earthly hope depended on my work (knowing logically of course that it couldn't even fully depend on the president)...and I got passionately burned out. I am thankful that I got burned out so fast, rather than further into the game, because I look back and really don't see that my place in it was all that fruitful or well-guided. If this seems a digression, I'm just setting the stage, relating my mindframe. When this political season heated up, I went about my business and did my best to ignore it. I didn't like either candidate. I still am not crazy about them. But I've found that I have to take a crazy-against-the-worst stance in order to roust any feeling in this campaign. And I've found specific material that defines the worst candidate, from my perspective, and I can say that I am now rather crazy against him.
It all came about in a very roundabout way. Katie's off to college and I keep tabs on her in a significant way via facebook. Lately, she and her schoolmates started up a website mockingly in favor of Obama, to the point that at first glance someone could think she went hook, line and sinker for him, and not only that, went a little more extreme than he had ever gone--which from what I read, is a rather extreme place to land. And I stress that it was all a mockery; but she got various messages from loving and supportive friends warning and pleading that she check her details a little bit further. I am very grateful to have such friends who check in on her! I love them! And I myself learned from what they had to share, particularly from the link to a Snopes article (Snopes is a website that investigates whether things such as "urban legends" that go around the internet are true or not) that related some facts about Obama, and had determined them to be true. I learned more than I wanted to know. I am thankful to know that God is in control and I have no reason to fear--or I would be afraid this moment, thinking that Obama could become our next president.
The defining issue for me is not just the pro-life issue, though that would be enough; it isn't the fact that Obama is documented by his voting record as more liberal than Clinton or Kennedy. It is Obama's murderous mindset that wants to keep a horrendous practice legal--not just regular abortion, that everyday (and also horrendous) practice that is such an old issue as to almost evoke yawns, an "oh, that issue again" type of reaction from hearers. How much more heinous can a person be than to perform an abortion, the killing of an unborn baby? Let me tell you, too, that last I heard, in every state in the union, abortion is legal right up to the point of delivery. That is heinous, but not what I'm referring to.
In my book there's a level that is more heinous and unthinkable, and Obama fights for this level of incredible practice to remain legal. It was for years legal to perform what is called "partial birth abortion," where the practitioner holds the feet of the almost-completely-born living, squirming baby, and violently enters the base of the cranium to suck out the brains of the baby, and then brings the limp dead baby into the world. I'm not sure what except just a murderous heart would motivate a mother or a practitioner to engage in such a thing, but there can't be any good or valid or even understandable motive though supporters claim it can be for the health of the mother. It's unthinkable. Obama voted to keep it legal in our country, on our soil, where we could vote in a candidate who would oppose it, and he wants your vote. He won't get mine, for this reason, if only this reason. I will vote for McCain, who doesn't excite the socks off of me, just if only for the hope of ending the practice of partial birth abortion on our soil.
For your own information, read www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/huntleybrown.asp
Washington Times Editorial: Barak Obama is a 'Liar' on Abortion
Yahoo.com, "Does Barak Obama still support partial-birth abortion?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Unfolding of His Word

I'm becoming increasingly aware of how God displays His glory only according to His timeline. He gives us understanding of Him only according to what He wants, when He wants, no sooner, no later. He will not show the fulness of His goodness to us before we are ready, and especially before we are seeking Him! And then He sometimes gives us more than we anticipate...sometimes He seems to unfold it much more slowly than we would have Him do.
We are studying the Gospel of Mark these days at our wonderful little church. It's clear in the study that Jesus is not giving His truth to people in such a way that they don't have to grapple with it a bit in order to make it their own. He wants us to seek Him, and He will respond fully then. He tells the demons not to tell who He is. He tells those He heals not to go announcing it everywhere, but to go see the priests, or whatever His will is at the time. It's surprising to me even though I have read this before; surprising in this American Christian culture that stresses the need to tell the entire gospel message at every opportunity, no matter how awkward it might be. I've never exactly understood this disparity, and in the past I believe I've sided more with the culture than with the Scriptures on this issue.
I remember in one church we had a Bible study where the teacher asked for questions, and I had asked why sometimes Jesus would tell people (or spirits) either to tell others or to be quiet about who He was and what He had done. The teacher did bring up my question and was just on the verge of giving his answer to it. However, Katie was a baby in the nursery at the time, and she started hollering in such a way that I could not see clear to stay there and listen to the answer, though people urged me to. I went to Katie and never did hear what our teacher had to say. Even though I asked others what his answer had been, I never found out. I think it was one of those things that God was holding for another time...such as just lately! Maybe the teacher's answer was misguided, and God protected me from that confusion. Maybe he was right on. I do not know.
A clarification regarding this question, from the Gospel of Mark, came about thanks to our Pastor Ken's latest sermon--that Jesus was clearly destined to be recognized as King, but kept suppressing it--why? Because He was to be publicly acknowledged as King only at His death--by the centurion, who said that surely He was the Son of God.
Why was He publicly acknowledged as King at His death? Why not in His life on earth? Why not especially after His resurrection, when by my thinking His whole ministry, suffering and sacrifice were fully validated or authenticated? This reminded me of when I had been in Bible Study Fellowship right after I became a new Christian. The lesson had to do with communion, and I was puzzled that it was a remembrance of His death, not of His resurrection! Why not His resurrection? Why His death? I asked the teaching leader, who was a gifted speaker and teacher, who expanded upon many of the Scriptures in what seemed to be a very clear and solid way. But when I asked her, she had no answer. I've asked a few people since then, and never gotten an answer then either. I asked our Pastor Ken, though, and he gave me John 12:23-26 to ponder, about a grain of wheat being buried and sprouting and producing a crop; it's basically about what Katie calls "dying to self"--that once we do that, we can be of use to Him. We need to die to self in this life, to be useful to Him in this life. We need constant reminding of Jesus' death, because we are so intricately embedded in these selfish, sinful...selves. We can't break free from them, and so we need to continually and repeatedly be retrained upon Jesus Christ. We need to remember His death for us, so that we can be coaxed to die to self for His Kingdom purposes, or we are just not any good at all. I'm still learning on it, and I gather we'll discuss it at our next lesson, but I'm making progress, I think. Finally! God has revealed two of my long-standing mysteries in this study of Mark already. I thought I'd be ready to learn them as a new Christian, and of course, I did "know" the importance of dying to self in other contexts, but this just sheds more light on the same thought, expands on it, makes it richer in illumination. Maybe I'll be better at breaking through this insistent old self as a result. I can hope and pray!
So Jesus is gradually unfolding His truth to me...a little more gradually in some ways than I would expect, but His timing is perfect. The way He's unfolding these things to me is so in keeping with the very Gospel we are studying. Who would have seen that coming? I should have! How good is that! It's marvelous to me. Hallelujah!
Psalm 119:130 The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Monday, October 06, 2008

I Know Whom I Have Believed

I wish I could just for a short time enter into the mind of another and receive an insight into the way that they think. I wish I could understand what blocks a person from receiving Christ, or all the more, from receiving the fulness of joy once a person has received Christ. I would only want this so that it might give me a key to unlock the door to all that God has for those who love Him. Not that I have attained all that God has for me, but I'm sure that at this point I couldn't contain much more than He has given me already.
Yesterday we were talking at prayer time about the Psalms; the sermon was on the Laments, and discussion covered them further. One of the women shared a prayer request for her niece, who has been going through some awful trials. It reminded me of when I was at the point of receiving Christ, and then the things that God lifted from me, and then the things that He has brought me through...and as a result, I have seen His love and kindness and power. So I tried relating it in a few sentences, but I could not adequately in such a short time.
The one who gave the sermon on the Laments didn't understand. I'm afraid perhaps he thought I was belittling the subject of his sermon, or that my joy is a glib happiness without substance, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't realize what God has brought me through. His walk of faith has been full of trials too, and perhaps being younger he doesn't yet see very fully the victory and the joy that God gives in faith.
This morning a song goes through my head, one that I learned when I was a brand-new Christian going to Bible Study Fellowship. I've never heard it anywhere else, but our pastor (who wasn't the preacher of yesterday's sermon) has lately been mentioning the verse from which it comes. This song shows me, as do so many others, that many other people have found reason to exult in the faith that God has given them, no matter what He brings them through. I long for this joy and exultation to be cast far and wide into the hearts of men. I wish I knew how to give it to those who lack it, especially once they have come to Christ! That is a puzzle for me. Perhaps it is just a matter of prayer. Anyway, here is the wonderful old song that comes to mind; you can get the words and the tune at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/k/ikwihb.htm:

I Know Whom I Have Believed, by Daniel W. Whittle, 1883
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

Refrain
But I know Whom I have believ├Ęd,

And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

Refrain

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

Refrain

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

Refrain

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.

Refrain


I am thankful to know this song and so many others, and that I see this joy in some other Christians, or I might be persuaded to think that I was just a little shallow, a little nutty, in my walk with Christ, that I wasn't grappling properly with all the issues that are set before me. Still I wonder whether I'm not, and it's good to keep in the Scriptures--but all the Word ever does is keep promising me that God is good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and that He has done great things, and that it isn't a matter of what I've gone through for Him, or with Him, but what He's gone through for me, and with me, and that He loves even me, and He will never leave me nor forsake me. What more can a person want?!
In case you were to think that this type of faith is really just old-fashioned stuff of the 1800s, something that is not really a modern-day way of looking at God, I would present to you a song sung by Chris Tomlin, "How Can I Keep From Singing Your Praise." (Scroll down, if you would. Listen to any of the songs along the way, for that matter!) If any modern song expresses my feelings, this one does it! I'm afraid to post the lyrics to it in case I should mess with copyright, but I have it in my playlist below. Many of the songs in my list reflect this whole idea, that there is nothing mundane about God, that we have every reason to rejoice in Him. It's not just that we should, but how can we not?
And so because of His goodness, I fly a couple of feet above the ground and hope that I can lift a few souls along the way! What can I do to help you fly too? All I can point to is the Scriptures. I remember when my Katie was about 12 and grappling with whether Christianity was her faith too or just something in the parental realm--and I told her something to this effect: "I can't make you believe, all I can do is tell you about the Old Testament prophecies that have been fulfilled in the New Testament, what God has done for us in the Scriptures, what He's done in my life, how He's answered my prayers. But I can't make you believe." After a little while of studying some more, she concluded rightly that He indeed is all the great things that anyone can say about Him and more. There is no trial we can go through that He is not right there with us. There is no good thing for which He has left us lacking. There is nothing we need Him to do for which He is incapable. He is able to make all things abound to all of us!
2 Timothy 1:11-13: And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We Live in Very Uncertain Times...

In our last church we had a program that taught us an evangelism method based on a memorized presentation. Katie and I were working on it at about the same time, and we'd try reciting it (I never did get too good at it...) and it started with, "We live in very uncertain times..." which somehow always made us laugh. I think it's because sometimes we imitated the way another member of the team said it with one eyebrow up and a look that was intended to be very convincing on his face. But it was true then, and it's all the more true now, with the economic instability here that is sending shockwaves clear to China at every move our Congress makes (or doesn't make) regarding it. We do live in very uncertain times.
That just makes me ponder, since when did anyone expect anything in the way of certainty? I've never been certain what was going to fill my day when I got up; each day is pretty much guaranteed to surprise me in some way or another. I don't know what my future on earth will bring--whether I will die in a moment or I might inexplicably live to be 120 and be one of those saying with a shrill, cackly voice, "If I'd known I'd last this long, I would have taken better care of myself!"
There have been wars going on in the world since I was a kid, and before that. If I'd pondered the state of society according to statistics, it might have given me pause in terms of ever bringing a child into this world. Our own finances, too, have always been in roller-coaster mode...sometimes great, sometimes on the ragged edge...and by God's grace alone, we have made it this far. I was telling a friend about it not long ago, what Gary's average earnings had been since we got married 25 years ago, and our friend was clearly stunned..."and you have this house...and two cars...and a daughter in college?!..." I shrugged and could only say that I couldn't explain it, it was all thanks to things God had done, things we didn't have our hand on. Gary's had at least three job gaps since we moved into our house 6 years ago; one was 15 months long...and we are still swimming along, maybe not exactly sailing, but our heads are above water at this point, only by God's grace.
I would estimate that Katie's faith, after the various things that God has brought us through, is probably one of the strongest in the family. She was young and impressionable when she watched God do some of His most amazing deeds on our family's behalf. She knows His power firsthand and the amazing ways that He cares for His own. On the other hand, Tim is ten years younger, and either wasn't around or was too young to remember, even though his very birth succeeded only clearly by God's gracious hand. Tim's faith is still more tentative; he doesn't personally know exactly how fully he can rest in God's lovingkindness yet.
So I've looked askance at the financial problems our country is having. Our family is, by our financial numbers, in no place to have the calamity that might befall us. I've pondered the idea that we could conceivably end up even out of our house and reliant upon the help of friends (who would doubtless be going through their own turmoils)...an idea which of course is far from comforting. Still, we do have friends, but above all, we have God. My stomach has never churned at this thought, and I know that if we went through it, it would be by God's will and for His glory. I thank Him and praise Him that He has brought us through all the things that He has over the last 25 years. He has taught me a great deal about Himself, about His love for us, about His provision, and I know that I don't need to fear. In fact, it's a sin to fear. It's a sin to be anxious, and you can understand why, if you think about it. It tells God that we don't really find Him trustworthy at all, that we rely so fully on our financial system that we can't imagine life without it as it has been throughout our memory. It's saying that He is too small, that He doesn't love us, that He doesn't have a handle on what to do and how to do it.
The population who endured the Great Depression of the 1930s is diminishing, and the average person today doesn't really know what the Depression looked like. They don't remember how people got through it. The faith that may have been more prevalent in those days isn't so widespread now, and I think perhaps for the sake of lost souls, who rely on their finances and take luxuries for granted, another depression might be the best thing that ever happened. It's when we get to the end of our own resources and power that we realize the need for Someone greater. That Someone is God. We already have access to Him. We don't have to wait until our lives hit the skids, but so many of us will. We can acknowledge Him today, "For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2).
And I can only end with one of my favorite verses, a verse that validates the various struggles that God has brought us through:
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.