25 June 2013

Summertime ... and the humor is easy

So, it has been a while since I posted any homeschool humor. Here is the latest addition to that collection you've been working on.

18 June 2013

Is It 1984 in the US?

Viewed from afar (we currently live in the Czech Republic), events in the USA seem to indicate a nation slip-sliding into political and religious repression. A catalog of some of the political repression can be found in an article in the Washington Times (May 29, 2013).  

Websites listing persecution of religious groups have customarily focused upon foreign countries. Today, increasingly, the United States is among the leading nations in indices of offending nations, as this listing at Persecution.org indicates. (See this piece also).

In a sense all of this was academic, as Sandra and I sat in Prague and read about what was happening in our home country. The Czech Republic, of course, has it’s own history of political and religious repression, through the oppressive regimes of the Nazis and the Soviets. Today, however, religious freedom is the reality. Christianity is not particularly popular amongst the Czech citizenry, but neither is it repressed.

So, we traveled to the US at the end of May. During our visit we spent several days with our younger daughter in Connecticut. It was with shock that I saw, in numerous places, the billboard pictured here. The message is, “If you see something, say something.” The picture is fuzzy, due to rain on the day I snapped it, but the intent is clear: rat out your neighbor. Do you think that’s a harsh assessment? Consider this: the various billboards and other media (this is actually a national campaign launched by Homeland Security Czarina Janet Napolitano in July, 2010) do not indicate what sort of behavior is suspicious. 

Numerous “public safety” lists have been released with the identifications of groups who are to be considered “hostile” or “threats” to the security of the state. Included on many of the lists are returning veterans and  Christians. Are these the people who should be reported? 

A book review of The Whisperers, by Orlando Figes, states “Moving from the Revolution of 1917 to the death of Stalin and beyond, Orlando Figes re-creates the moral maze in which Russians found themselves, where one wrong turn could destroy a family or, perversely, end up saving it. He brings us inside cramped communal apartments, where minor squabbles could lead to fatal denunciations; he examines the Communist faithful, who often rationalized even their own arrest as a case of mistaken identity; and he casts a humanizing light on informers, demonstrating how, in a repressive system, anyone could easily become a collaborator.”

Is the US headed that way? Will informers be heroes; patriots? Will families be destroyed by mistrust and suspicion?

As Americans ponder the implications of such government policies and initiatives, its no wonder that sales of George Orwell’s works are skyrocketing. According to an article in the International Business Times  

Sales of George Orwell's 1984 have shot up following revelations that the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) is accessing data on people around the world.
Sales of Orwell's novel have risen by 6,000% since the Guardian revealed the allegations of former NSA sub-contractor Edward Snowden.
In the dystopian novel, all citizens are constantly spied on by an inner elite party in the government. Banners reading "Big Brother Is Watching You" cover the city and citizens are monitored by the Thought Police, who punish people for independent thinking.
Is this 1984 in the US? Is this the atmosphere our Founding Fathers anticipated when they created this "experiment in democracy"? Certainly this attitude among the leaders of our nation needs an adjusment. Even more certainly, this is a call to prayer - for both the leaders and the people. May God have mercy on this nation.

14 June 2013

A (Twelfth) Night's Adventure

So, on our trip to America we stayed with both daughters. While with the daughter in Connecticut (that's Sunnie, the librarian), we had the opportunity to go out to a Shakespeare play. We saw a wonderful production of "Twelfth Night." Then the real fun began.

We walked to a local restaurant for a snack. It was a good time of discussion and the food was excellent. Then we went back to find a darkened and quite closed parking garage. Uh oh!

Sunnie's friend began a walk around the building to find - anything. He came back and reported that the last stagehand was still outside enjoying a last cigarette of the night (not recommended, boys and girls, but helpful to us this night. God can use anything!). She agreed to take us through the theater, across the backstage area to the door adjoining the garage. She also showed us the one door with an "after hours" door opener.

We had two vehicles, so we had to push the button which raised the cross bar and the door twice. Then out into the Connecticut night - and home to Sunnie's.

It was just a little bit of adventure added to our night. A good time was had by all.

11 June 2013

World View Views

Christianity is under attack across the globe. I have written numerous blogs on the topic, the latest of which was in February of this year. Being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ takes work. It’s not easy when there are influences trying to tell us that we’re fools. This is no new phenomenon.

There are many challenges to the authority of God’s Word in our lives. People all around us want us to simply accept that the Bible is inadequate to meet the needs of “modern mankind.” Those who follow Jesus need to have a clear understanding that the Bible is God’s Word to us; written for us. It is the authoritative Word, which cuts across historical eras and provides timeless truth. It cuts across geographical boundaries and gives us universal truth.

Over the next few months, I want to review with whoever will read this blog some of the non- (and anti-) Christian views regarding the Bible. These are some of the shaky frameworks around which some of our friends, neighbors and colleagues are building their lives. Then, we will look at what God’s Word says about itself, for that is where we will find a framework will enable us to be imitators of God; a framework upon which we can build a life pleasing to God.

Romans 1:18-20 reads this way,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Man has, since the beginning of time, tried to suppress the truth about the world and its Creator. Many of us have probably tried to do the same thing. There are several ways in which men and women in our own time – and across geographic boundaries – try to suppress God’s Truth. There are also a huge number of variations on these themes. The point is for us to realize that a great need exists for us to both practice and teach Bible literacy. Most people simply do not understand what the Bible is about.

The first unbiblical concept about the Bible that I'd like to look at is this: "It was written for a “primitive” audience." We’ve outgrown the Bible, people tell us. We’re modern. We live in a scientific age. The Bible was written for men and women who needed its message of faith and explanation of the workings of the universe. After all, weren’t they what we might call “pre-scientific?” They were primitive. They could not answer all the “why” questions about the world around them. They didn’t quite understand the Sun and the relations of the planets in the solar system. They couldn’t explain natural disasters or seasons, or disease. They didn’t even have cellphones. So, they had to have their superstitious reasons for things that happen in the world around them. They needed to invent God –or a series of gods – who controlled their destinies.

This line of reasoning has been around a long time. And it persists today. In fact, it’s pretty common. You’ve probably heard people tell you that science can answer most of the questions (they didn’t do so well with the Tsunami or Hurricane Katrina). We just don’t need God.

Even those with little understanding of science choose to accept the word of the scientist/priests rather than God’s Word. How does this Christian respond to this?

1.    First, we deal with the word “primitive.” What makes us think that we’re any smarter than our grandfathers? Just because our pool of facts has expanded since the time of Abraham, or the Apostle Paul, or your grandmother does not mean that they did not have the capacity to understand our universe. To assume that we have a greater facility for understanding than our forefathers is to assume the evolutionary theory – which I do not. Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, and the Apostle Peter had no difficulty in accepting God’s Word. Anyone who has ever read the Epistle to the Romans must see there the writings of a highly organized and intellectually developed philosopher and theologian. One writer (CS Lewis) called this idea that we are necessarily wiser than our ancestors, “chronological snobbery.” One who has the capacity to reason knows better than to accept this fallacy.

2.    Next, we look to the answers being provided by science. It would seem that today there are many more questions left unanswered than in generations past. I know why there are terminal diseases. I know how the physical world came into existence. Our leading scientists are not yet ready to offer a definitive answer as to what was the First cause in creation. They may exclaim that everything began with a Big Bang, but are reluctant to discuss anything that came before that – while admitting that something had to precede the Big Bang. At this point, many scientists say that we have entered the realm of theology; but they are unwilling to accept the answers which responsible theology offers.

3.    Understand that I am not saying that having unanswered questions means that one is intellectually incapable. Nor am I saying that science offers nothing positive. I believe that science is a marvelous field of endeavor which uncovers the laws of the universe which God has put in place. But I am stating, without reservation, that modern science in no way renders the answers of the Bible unnecessary, faulty, or mythological.

What do YOU think?

07 June 2013

Sodden Land and Sovereignty

You may have noticed that there has been a flood of flooding in Central Europe in the past week. Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic, in particular were hard hit. We had friends staying in our flat (though we weren’t there) just prior to the beginning of the flooding and they reported that it rained the entire time they were there.

In 2002, Prague experienced flooding of historic proportions. Some of the high watermarks on the building near the Vltava River are amazingly high. This time the city was spared the worst of the deluge, although some surrounding villages were pretty hard-hit.

Now comes a report from climatologists (we believe everything they say, right?), that more of the same should be expected.   Czech climatologist Radim Tolasz states that, “The climate and weather conditions in central Europe are changing and in the Czech Republic, too. Since the end of the 20th century, since the 1990s, we have been observing a wet period in this part of the world. That’s the reality nowadays in the Czech Republic, and the results are apparent: today, we have big floods.” (See story here).

It is my expectation that the “Global Climate Change” (AKA “Global Warming”) crowd will make hay out of this type of report. “See we told you, “ will be their mantra. They will, of course, totally ignore the fact that there was (at least) one ice age and that we no longer live in that climate period. They will not take into account the fact that there were no autos or other man-made machinery about causing rampant explosions of greenhouse gasses.

I appreciate the stance taken by Tolasz. He says that we need to accept the reality of a “wet period” in Central Europe and prepare countermeasures like dams and flood plains. If nothing else, these catastrophic weather events ought to point us to the fact that we, mankind, are not sovereign. Science has not conquered climate.

The Bible teaches about preparation in several different manners. Of course, we are to prepare for the day of judgement (for just one example, see Matthew 24:44). But, there are physical needs that must be seen to as well. Just a couple of examples can be seen in the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs 6:6 tells us to take measures against famine. Proverbs 27:12 states that the wise prepare for trouble, but the foolish just coast along and suffer in the end.

God expects us to do what we can to feed and protect ourselves, while, at the same time, trusting Him. It can be a hard - and scary - balance at times. I say, pray while you’re building dikes and dams.

04 June 2013

Commitment and Leadership

There are seven parts to this series on leadership. We've looked at "Calling" and "Cost." What about the Commitment of Leadership? Any leader, Christian or otherwise, will only be successful if he/she is willing to take on responsibility and carry out the tasks of that leadership position to their conclusion. 

Very often the lack of leadership in a church or community results from the fact that potential leaders did not count the cost, made a grudging or uniformed commitment – then backed out. When the going gets tough; the uncommitted get going. They either simply don’t show up; don’t do the job; or sometimes, leave the fellowship altogether.  We’ll look at this quickly, but please note that this idea of commitment to Christian leadership is neither like the models you’ll find in the leadership books at Barnes & Noble; nor is even focused on the leader himself or herself. Christian leadership is focused on God.

Commitment is, in part, about truth telling. Jesus said, “Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37). James reiterated this when he wrote, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear--not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.” (James 5:12). If we tell someone – especially God – that we’re going to do something, we need to carry it out if it is at all possible. Yes, I recognize that sometimes it isn’t possible. But consider these verses: 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17; Colossians 3:23.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… We need to remember who it is we’re serving when we serve the church. It’s God. We are to offer up our work; our leadership; as an offering to God. Was He half-hearted when He went to the cross on our behalf?
Romans 12:1 says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Can we do this part-time? Can we offer ourselves up as a grudging offering?"

If you're going to take on a leadership role in the church, count the cost. The you either in or you're out.