Faith and Freedom

During this long weekend of celebrating, let’s take time to reflect on the privileges we enjoy as Americans and remember the many patriots who helped make it possible.  Among the many we should be most thankful to is Almighty God who continues to bless us, in spite of our lack of gratitude, our arrogance and our self-centered nature.

As we continue goosestepping toward a totally secular nation we need to pause and rethink the decisions we’re making as a country regarding what God teaches through His Word.  While seeking to be inclusive of all forms of belief, we’ve eroded the very foundation of America’s strength.  On this path, collapse is only a matter of time.

“Without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.”
— Ronald Reagan

Why is this so?  A culture that worships athletes, entertainers, comfort, wealth and pleasure above a relationship with the God of the Universe, cannot remain free.  This is true both individually and collectively as “we the people.”  Cultural idolatry is an unholy alliance between a self-centered, pleasure-seeking electorate and a power hungry governing body that will promise anything to perpetuate and grow its own power.  Each increase in power results in loss of liberty and one step closer to  a voluntary form of enslavement.

“The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God;
it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”
— Bible, Romans 8:7 (NIV)”

 “Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. How is it possible
that society
should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened
in proportion as the political tie is relaxed?
  And what can be done with a people
who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?”

— Alexis de Tocqueville

American culture has changed radically over the last 200+ years.  I wonder if historian de Tocqueville would recognize America today.

“The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in
their minds,
that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other;
and with them
this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith
which seems to
vegetate in the soul rather than to live.”

— Alexis de Tocqueville

Is turning our backs on God an effective strategy for human progress?  I say, “no!”  Yet, we’re on the same circular path that the Old Testament records.  It looks like this.  God blesses His people.  The people rejoice.  The people become complacent, taking God for granted.  The people succumb to their own selfish desires.  God punishes the people, which includes the consequences of their own actions.  Out of desperation, the people repent.  God forgives.  God blesses His people.  Decide for yourself where America is in the cycle.

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of
God,
neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

— Bible (NIV), Romans 8:6-8

A friend of mine once said, “We would be better off if we would just forget about all this God and Jesus stuff.”  He had it backwards, upside down and inside out.  Our spiritual sleep is what put us in the current mess.  We need to wake up.  He NEVER sleeps.  What we need to do is welcome Him back into our once faithful country by inviting Him into our own hearts.

Freedom: the gift whereby ye most resemble your Maker
and are yourselves part of eternal reality.
— C.S. Lewis

Building Community

You don’t have to be a Christian to learn and benefit from the wisdom contained in the Bible.  However, its fair to say that it can be challenging to find the specific wisdom you are looking for and correctly interpret its meaning.  This is true when reading any ancient writing whether its the words of Aristotle or the Word of God.  That’s why I appreciate books like Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”

In Day 19 (i.e. Chapter 19) Warren writes about building community, a practice that is important to our organization’s teaching and coaching models.  On page 146, he says, “Cultivating community takes honesty.”  A page later he goes on to say, “Real fellowship, whether in a marriage, a friendship, or church, depends on frankness.”   (I would add “at work” to his list.)  “In fact, the tunnel of conflict is the passageway to intimacy in any relationship.  Until you care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, you will never grow close to each other.  When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other by facing and resolving our differences.”

Warren continues building his case for honesty in relationships by paraphrasing Proverbs 28:23, “In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.”  The actual words from the New King James translation are these …

“He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward
Than he who flatters with the tongue.”

Next, Warren provides instructions using the following similes from 1 Timothy 5:1-2.

“Never use harsh words when you correct an older man,
but talk to him as if he were your father.
Talk to younger men as if they were your brothers,
older women as if they were your mothers,
and younger women as if they were your sisters.”

This lesson about building community through honesty and love concludes as Warren once again paraphrases the Bible.  This time he refers to an occasion when the Apostle Paul was compelled to rebuke the church in the ancient city of Corinth for their “passive code of silence in allowing immorality in their fellowship.”  Paul said, “You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own.  Bring it out in the open and deal with it…. Better devastation and embarrassment than damnation…. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that…. you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory.  You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior.  I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?”    — 1 Corinthians 5:3-12 (Msg)

The Bible was written to tell the story of God’s relationship with His people.  With a skilled teacher like Rick Warren leading the way, it can also be your user’s manual for living a purpose-driven life.

Quotes Plus 3/4/2012

“When possessions and money become a surrogate
for our real identity, who we are
is tied to things that rust and rot away.”
The Man in the Mirror, by Patrick Morley, p. 72.

It seems to me that maturity reflects a true understanding of
“success.”  Instead of wealth and fame, as our culture defines
success, true success is achieving a significance based on
meaning and purpose.  Now, if I understand my Bible correctly,
meaning and purpose (my true identity) come from God.
Therefore, true success is simply this: discovering God’s purpose
for me and living it.  l have lots to do–time to get busy!