Thursday, May 21, 2015

Believe in Yourself

"You need to finish your math assignment," said Ms. Carver to young Frankie.

"I can't do it," replied Frankie.

"Frankie, you know you can do anything if put your mind to it," she replied. "You need to go in and talk to Mr. Potts, the principal."

"Now what is this you are saying about not being able to do things?" said Mr. Potts. "You must know that is heresy. If you can just believe in yourself, you can do anything you want to do. You need to get over this low self-image of yours or we may have to expel you from this school"

Frankie sat sullenly.

"This is the new sleep teacher," said Mr. Potts, holding up something that looked like a box with wires coming out in every direction. "You put it on at night and it sends a message directly into your brain, teaching you to believe in yourself."

Frankie did not have much confidence in the machine, but he did not want to get expelled either, so he took it. That night he plugged it in and followed the complicated instructions to attach it to the top of his head. He then fell soundly asleep.

The next morning his mother had produced him a breakfast of bacon and eggs from the food generator. "I don't want that," Frankie growled. And he pushed the buttons on the generator to produce two cinnamon rolls. As he left the house he saw the hurt look on his mother's face. But he had to believe in himself, after all.

On the way to school he ran into Becky Smith. He had always wanted to ask her out, but been too shy. "You do want to go out with me," he said to her forcefully.

"Not if you're going to take that attitude," she replied.

"What's the problem with my attitude; I believe in myself. And you are going to go out with me."

"No, I'm not. Now go away."

"You're really not that good-looking after all," he said, walking by. "I'm sure I can do better."

Next Frankie ran into Joe, the school bully. He was rushing down the hall and walked past Frankie, nearly knocking him down. "Out of my way," Joe pronounced belligerently.

"You can't treat me like that," retorted Frankie. "I'm a valuable human being, just like you."

"Oh yeah?" responded Joe, turning with fists cocked.

Later, in the school's infirmary, the nurse was cleaning up his black eye and bloody nose. "I understand your wanting to stand up to Joe," remarked the nurse. "But you need to be more careful about it."

"I need to believe in myself," returned Frankie.

Later at lunch he saw Becky Smith talking in a friendly way to, of all people, Joe. Frankie scrambled stealthily  up the hill behind them. He found a heavy metal trash barrel about two-thirds full. It had wheels for the garbage-bots to drag it away with. Frankie gave it a good push down the hill to where Joe and Becky were standing.

Mr. Potter scowled. "I do not know whether you care, but neither one of them were seriously injured," he snapped, looking at Frankie.

Frankie said nothing, but looked sullen.

Mr. Potter continued, "You have become a bully and a ruffian. If you do not stop this behavior, we will have to expel you."

"That's all right," responded Frankie. "I don't need your education anyway. I believe in myself."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Identity of the Enemy

While it is possible to be overly fascinated with them, it is important to remember the existence of Satan and his minions. This is because it reminds us who the real enemy is (Ephesians 6:10-13; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 2:11). Now we need to put this in perspective and realize that Christ is victorious (Colossians 2:15; 1 John 4:4; Revelation 20:10). But it is important to remember that we have a powerful enemy. That the things that get in the way of our serving God are not accidents. We therefore need to trust in God and in His power to overcome (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Isaiah 40:31). But this also means we need to avoid seeing other people as the enemy. We are to love other people no matter what they do to us (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:9-21; Galatians 6:10). In this, it helps if we can remember that those oppose us have been blinded by the real enemy (2 Corinthians 4:3,4; Hebrews 2:15; Ephesians 2:2). Therefore, we need to  remember who the foe is and what he does, that we may avoid becoming too complacent and be on the alert without becoming paranoid. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tolerance, the Loss of a Concept

Words tend to change their meaning or lose their their distinctiveness over time. This is simply part of the development of language. But it is tragic when it results in the loss of the concept involved. Particularly if the word is being changed to mean something contrary to its original meaning.

One such word is tolerance. Its original meaning, which was a good meaning, was people being able to live together peacefully without using force against each other, even though they disagreed. A good example of this was Catholicism and Protestantism. At the time of the Reformation there was a tendency for both sides to see their view as right and the other view as intolerable. But there were Protestants in Catholic countries and possessions and Catholics in Protestant countries and possessions. This was further complicated by the Church  of England, which tried to walk the middle ground between the two. The result was a series of wars and persecutions, resulting, in the end, with both groups in most places deciding they needed to tolerate each other. They still disagreed, but they decided to carry out their disagreement on a peaceful basis. If anything, our current situation seems even more polarized in principle. The question comes whether we can find a way to tolerate each other or whether we will end up settling it by violence. I sometimes despair of whether tolerance is even possible, if we really can find a basis for living together on a peaceful basis. But if we are to even endeavor to do so, we need tolerance in its original meaning.

It is therefore a real problem that this word has been given a new meaning. It has been used to defend one opinion and to label all who do not hold it as intolerant. And those who hold this opinion use "tolerance" to speak of accepting people they believe to be on their side. But there is no great virtue in tolerating your allies. Often this refers to things that are inappropriate under the original meaning. It is an insult to speak of tolerating people of other races, as if there was something wrong with them we need to tolerate. It is tolerating the people who we disagree with which is the point. Now one can argue there is a point where another view is intolerable and no peaceful coexistence is possible. But if the whole idea of tolerance is distorted and lost, it makes it impossible even to clearly consider this as a possibility.  And the new kind of tolerance can become totally intolerant, because the meaning of the word has been changed. I have come to fear that if there is any way that various factions of our society can reach a point of mutual toleration, it will have to be done the hard way. That only after things come to violence will they be forced to consider another solution. And this would indeed be tragic.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Touch of Humor - How Much

How should a Christian approach the idea of making money? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Old Erich Proverb - Darkness

Sometimes it is when we walk through darkness that we see God's light of direction in our lives.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Voice from the Past - John of Damascus

He dies, therefore, because He took on Himself death on our behalf, and He makes Himself an offering to the Father for our sakes. For we had sinned against Him, and it was meet that He should receive the ransom for us, and that we should thus be delivered from condemnation.

John of Damascus, 676-754 AD, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book III, Chapter XXVI i, (Translated by Rev. S. D. F. Salmond, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, T & T Clark and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, Second Series, Vol. IX; p. 72).

How does the fact Christ died for our redemption affect us today? What difference should it make in our everyday lives?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Great Mystery

Who then is Jesus Christ? He claimed to be God (John 14:7; 8:58; 10:30). He claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6; 17:2; Matthew 11:27). He claimed to forgive sin (Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 7:48-50). He claimed to be the One who would return to judge the world (Matthew 7:21-25; 25:31-46; 26:64). He received worship (Matthew 9:18; 14:33; 15:25), which is not appropriate for anyone but God (Matthew 4:10; Acts 10:25,26; Revelation 22:8,9).

Based on this there are different conclusions we could draw. We could claim that He was a swindler, who was telling lies to fool people. We could claim that He was someone who was off His head and needed to be taken somewhere to be cared for. Or else, He was who He claimed to be, God who became man to save us from our sins. I have to ask whether the teachings of Jesus really fit with His being a con-artist or a madman. Also, Chuck Colson asks, based on his own Watergate experience, whether such a plot by Jesus and His disciples could really have been pulled off without someone blabbing or it being exposed. And it is difficult to see why people believed them or what they thought they would get out of it. All the information that is preserved about them says that most of them died for it.

But wait, maybe there is a way out this. Maybe Jesus never really said those things. Maybe this was a legend that grew up slowly over time. Maybe Jesus was merely a moral philosopher who was deified by His followers. There are serious problems with this idea. It maintains that in a relatively short period of time Jesus' followers totally changed the basic substance of His teachings, changing Him from a moral philosopher to a supernatural personage who conquered death. Confucius and Buddha were moral philosophers. Both were later in some cases deified by their followers. But it is very clear from reading their preserved sayings what they were originally. However, from the earliest sources Jesus is put forth as the Son of God who conquered death. This is not only true of the New Testament, but of the earliest extra-biblical records of Jesus' followers, such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Irenaeus. Even the early pagan observers, such as Pliny the Younger and Lucian of Samosata,  claimed that Christians worshiped Jesus in place of other gods. The fact is, the Jews had their rabbis and the Greeks had their moral philosophers; and if Jesus had been just another one of those, He would have vanished into obscurity. But within about thirty years of the original events Christians were dying in the name of Jesus. It is extremely dubious that people would die in the name of one more moral philosopher, much less a legend not yet fully developed. So I am left once more with the original choices: Lord, liar, or lunatic. It is from these we must choose.