Thursday, March 29, 2012

One Person Can Change the World

When I was a kid, I loved reading comic books - especially those about super heroes who saved the world. I dreamed about being like Batman, Spider Man, and, of course, Super Man. I longed to do their exploits - I wished I could fly or turn invisible, to leap tall buildings with a single bound, to run faster than a speeding bullet, and to be more powerful than a locomotive. And I dreamed about making a difference. Alas, I was just plain old me. What could I do of significance?

Now that I am older by quite a bit, I like reading biographies of more regular heroes. This gives me hope, especially when I read about my current hero, William Wilberforce, who spearheaded the fight against the British slave trade. He was an unlikely hero. His contemporaries called him short and ugly with too long a nose. But even though tiny in stature, he was tall in significance. As J. Douglas Holladay would say, "Wilberforce arguably led the single most effective stand against evil and injustice in all history." Or as John Pollock wrote in his biography, William Wilberforce was "a man who changed his times." Indeed, this one proved that one man can change the world.

In spite of great opposition including the Royal Family and Admiral Lord Nelson (Wilberforce became the most vilified man in England), and in spite of the vast revenue it brought to the British Empire (hundreds of ships and thousands of sailors depended on the trade for their livelihood), Wilberforce overcame.

It was not without cost. It cost Wilberforce his health. He was physically attacked on several occasions. As one of his friends remarked to him,
"I shall expect to read of you being carbonadoed (scored and broiled) by West Indian planters, barbecued by African merchants, and eaten by Guinea captains, but do not be daunted, for - I will write you epitaph."
Indeed, there is great personal cost to changing the world for good. The devil doesn't give up any ground without a fight.

Most Englishmen of the time thought the Slave Trade was a nasty business, but they also thought that economic ruin would come to their country if it was outlawed. Few thought it wrong or evil. Wilberforce, on the other hand, saw it differently. He told the House of Commons,
"So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the Trade's wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition."
Like today, most people agree that abortion is nasty business, but most think it is politically untouchable. Few see it as the horrific moral evil that it really is. But those who understand the true nature of this slaughter of the innocent can never rest until it is eradicated.

Wilberforce answered the question, "Can a culture that is drifting from it's original ideals ever be won back?" He answered it with a resounding, YES! Sometimes all it takes is one determined person. Boris Pasternak concurred, writing, "It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days, but. . . someone's soul, inspired and ablaze." That was Wilberforce. In his diary on October 28, 1787, he wrote, "God almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners (meaning attitudes and morals)." He was motivated by a deep belief in a God who was concerned about individual human justice. It took a full 46 years for the British Parliament to vote to abolish the Slave Trade, and it happened just three days before his death. But he overcame.

We currently live in a world filled with great evils. Since 1973, over fifty million unborn babies have been slaughtered in the womb. There is now a full scale onslaught to destroy and redefine marriage. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion are under attack by this administration. Like Wilberforce, we have suffered defeat after defeat. But William Wilberforce would not be denied. We will not be denied either. By bringing to light the atrocities, Wilberforce changed the thinking of a society.

As he told Parliament, "The nature and all the circumstances of the Trade are now laid open to us. We can no longer plead ignorance. We cannot evade it." Likewise, since ultrasound technology became common giving us a window into the womb, no one can any longer deny that the life aborted in the womb is anything other than a human baby. And as God Himself said in Proverbs 24:12 immediately after calling on us to rescue those being led to slaughter,
"If you say, 'Surely we did not know this,' does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?"
Each person must make a difference. One person can change their world.

When the Nation of Israel was enslaved in Egypt for 430 years, God heard their plight and raised up Moses. When the evil Persian Prime Minister Haman was bent on exterminating the Jews, God raised up a reluctant young woman named Esther. Her uncle encouraged her with these words in Esther 4:14, "Who knows whether you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this?" Maybe now is your time to make a stand.

An interesting ice-breaker is to have everyone in a group write their own obituary. It isn't that morbid. Everyone thinks about how they want to be remembered by those they leave behind. Usually, after awhile and after the jokes quiet down, people begin to think about what truly makes a difference. As someone said, "It is easy to make a fortune, but harder to make a difference." We long to live lives that count for something.

The cynic claims that the individual can do nothing to change the world. William Wilberforce proved one person can. But will you? Will you make a difference within the group of people you influence? We can't all be members of Parliament like Wilberforce, but we have those we can influence, if we want to.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Marriage is a Good Thing

This past week, my bride and I celebrated our 38Th wedding anniversary. I am truly a blessed man. I have a marriage that has lasted through the years. It's not because our marriage has always been perfect or that we are somehow unique people who can survive through trials others can't. We've had our ups and downs like everyone does. But through it all, we have valued our commitment to one another and valued our covenant before God. We made the vow, "Till death do us part," and we intend to keep it.

I know people like to make jokes about marriage (How could she put up with me for all that time?), and some of them are pretty funny. But the topic of marriage really is serious. So today, I want to contemplate what a good thing marriage really is. It is good for a man and a wife to live together in a family. It is good for society to have intact nuclear families. Marriage is a good thing.

The wisdom of the Proverbs, in Proverbs 18:22, states that, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord." That is God's intention. When God created the world, repeatedly He paused and remarked that it was good. When He finished, Genesis 1:31 summarized God's opinion, "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good."

Oh, but there was one thing that wasn't good. In Genesis 2:18, it says, "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone.'" The solution? God created for Adam a wife forming her from a part of his own side. Since that day, marriage between one man and one woman has been the foundation of society. All human societies have formed some sort of heterosexual marriage as the basis for the nuclear family and the environment for raising children.

Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries writes,
"Marriage's goodness colors nearly every imaginable aspect of public life. As salt preserves food for a banquet, Biblical marriage preserves whole societies as well as individuals and families. . . . No matter what metric is chosen, marriage and family are the greatest stabilizing influences for personal relationships and all of society."
Glenn Stanton, author of The Ring Makes All the Difference, lists the benefits. Married people are generally healthier. Married households have about five times greater net worth. Married people report being much happier. And numerous studies have shown that children having two biological parents are happier, better educated, and healthier children.

Of late, however, marriage has been on the rocks. No-fault divorce laws and the sexual revolution that separated sex from childbearing took their toll. The Industrial Revolution with women entering the workforce in mass has given more opportunity for adultery to flourish. The divorce rate reflects this disintegration.

Harry R. Jackson Jr. writes,
"The depressing state of marriage in our nation provides more fuel for the fire for those who advocate redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. After all, as the joke goes, how can homosexuals make more of a mess of the institution of marriage than heterosexuals already have?"
We haven't done such a hot job as a society.

But the answer isn't to throw out the institution of marriage or to cheapen it by making it so broad it takes in any combination. The answer is to return to revering marriage for what it is intended to be. Jackson continued,
"The enfeebled state of marriage today is all the more reason to fight to preserve it and hopefully to restore it to its former strength."
He's right!

But, that will only happen if people return to following the Biblical mandate for marriage. Marriage doesn't exist primarily to satisfy our own needs or wants. Rather, marriage provides the right kind of environment for procreating and raising the next generation. Malachi 2:15 gives us this reason for marriage from God's perspective, "And did He not make them one? . . . And why one? He seeks godly offspring."

As a pastor, I've counseled numerous people having difficulty in their marriages. I always tell them Scripture gives the secret to marital bliss. It is found in Ephesians 5:22-27. The passage is the one that calls on wives to humbly submit to the leadership of their husbands, and for husbands to humbly sacrifice for their wives even to the point of dying for them. When that happens, there's no way a marriage can fail.

There's no 50-50 in that - no keeping score to see who is ahead - no selfishness in the relationship. This kind of marriage involves totally committing yourself to meet the needs of the other, not marrying so that your needs can be fulfilled. There would never be a problem in your marriage if you each followed the mandates of Ephesians 5. The husband's needs would be met, because his wife would be dedicated to meeting his needs even at the expense of her own. The wife's needs would be met, because her husband would be dedicated to meeting her needs even at the expense of his own. Both can be fulfilled.

However, if both parties are only in the marriage for what they can get out of it, they will always be disappointed. No person, no matter how super, can be expected to meet all of our desires. Then, when our desires aren't met, we go in search of someone who can - we go in search of someone to try again with - and another marriage crumbles. That's all backwards. We aren't supposed to marry someone expecting to get for a lifetime, we marry someone we can give to for a lifetime.

What is happening with the disintegration of families is the disintegration of society. Paul Popenoe writes, "It can be demonstrated from history that no society has ever survived after its family life deteriorated." But the fact that we, through our self-centeredness have made such a shambles of marriage does not remove God's original intent. The fact is many couples are making marriage work - they are thriving in families. We can restore our homes, and this in turn will restore our society. Marriage is intended to be a good thing; and if we do it God's way, it can indeed be a good thing. I've found that out for 38 years and counting.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What did She Say Wrong?

My hat is off to Sarah Crank. A few weeks ago, on her fourteenth birthday, This home-schooled girl had the courage to appear before a committee of the Maryland State Senate and testify in opposition to the bill to legalize same-sex marriage (That bill has since passed). Because of her courage, she has been viciously attacked by the homosexual community and has even received death threats for her "hate speech."

But what did she say wrong? I listened to her testimony (It is available on You Tube) to see. This is a transcript of what she said:
"I really feel bad for kids who have two parents of the same gender. Even though some kids think it's fine, they have no idea what kind of wonderful experience they miss out on. I don't want any more kids to get confused about what's right and OK. I really don't want to grow up in a world where marriage isn't such a special thing anymore. It's rather scary to think that when I grow up, the legislature or the courts can change any definition they want. If they can change the definition of marriage, they can change the definition of any word. People say they were born that way, but I've met many adults who have changed."
Then she urged the legislature to defeat the bill, and she was congratulated by them for her "very good testimony."

But, as a result of her testimony, the Internet lit up with hate comments against her - most of them so malicious and vile we could not print them - but they included death threats against both her and her parents. Some demanded that parents not be allowed to "brainwash" their children with religious and bigoted teaching against homosexuals. Did they hear the same testimony I did? Don't they know it is the parent's job to train their children in moral virtue?

Sarah, I couldn't be more proud of you if you were my own daughter. We need more people of conviction and courage like you who can speak the truth in love. And Sarah, let me offer these words to you from Jesus. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus said, "Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake." May God truly bless you, Sarah. You have done nothing wrong to warrant this kind of hatred against you. What you did was right.

But that brings up a question: In this day and age of so-called tolerance, where is the homosexual's tolerance for competing views? Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council writes,
"The goal is to bully and marginalize Christians. And the left, teamed up with the media, knows that as soon as Conservatives stop talking, liberals can take over."
Yes, the goal is to silence us, and especially to silence the Scriptures we believe.

As Byron Babione wrote,
"Ever notice how leftists like to argue for everyone to have an opinion and the freedom to express it until a person has and expresses an opinion that runs counter to theirs? Once that point is reached, the individual is accused of espousing hatred."
That is what happened to Sarah Crank.

Kirk Cameron, the child star of Growing Pains, and now a born-again Christian who starred in Fireproof and the Left Behind movies, was also attacked recently. He appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan show to talk about his new movie, Monumental, which deals with the founding principles of our nation. The host, however, wanted to press him for his views on same-sex marriage. In response, he referred to Scripture. "Marriage is almost as old as dirt," he said. "and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve." Then he added that the definition of marriage should be "one man, one woman for life till death do you part." He also added that same-sex marriage was "unnatural" and "detrimental" to society; which it is.

But what did Kirk Cameron say wrong? Among another barrage of hate against him, Herndon Graddick, director of programs for GLAAD, accused Cameron of being "out of step with the growing majority of Americans." Cameron is not out of step with either the Old or New Testaments of the Bible, so I will stick with Him no matter what a majority may say. Als, eOnline claimed Cameron was, "spewing anti-gay rhetoric," but listen to the transcript. He did no such thing. He merely expressed the viewpoint of the majority of Bible-believing Christians.

Joseph Farah writes,
"A simple public comment expressing objection to the idea based on the Bible is considered heretical to the secular priests of the Big Media. It's now dangerous to do what Kirk Cameron did on CNN - dangerous to careers, dangerous to reputations, even potentially dangerous to one's well being."
No, the hatred isn't coming from Kirk Cameron or Sarah Crank. But plenty of hatred is coming from the other side. Michele Bachmann is right when she said,
"The rhetoric is far worse against those who stand for traditional marriage. If anyone gets attacked in this country, it's people who stand for traditional marriage."

This is troubling because we in Maine face another campaign to legalize same-sex marriage. The proponents will try to silence us. If we dare speak out against legalizing same-sex marriage, we can expect the same tactics of slander and threats to be used against us and our children as was used against Sarah Crank and Kirk Cameron. But speak we must.

Everywhere people have a chance to vote, the majority vote against same-sex marriage, yet few will make a public stand. We need to. We are not alone, and others need to know they are not alone. Don't be intimidated. Speak out.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Culture War is Lost? Not Without a Fight!

Last week, Christian commentator Rebecca Hagelin wrote an article entitled, "The Left Declares Victory." In it she quoted a number of commentators like John Alter who concluded, "The culture wars are over, and the Republicans lost." I'm not sure why he put the Republicans on the side of traditional Biblical morality in the culture wars, except that's where at least some of them still stand. But I can see why he declares victory for the side that wants to tear down everything good and wholesome in this culture.

Hagelin, of course, laments the loss. She goes on to list the things the left has won - fractured families and soaring out-of-wedlock birth rates (according to Child Trends, 53% of children born to women under thirty are out of wedlock), as well as meaningless sex and soaring STD rates, and children saturated with sexual images through the media. No one denies the left has had great success in destroying our culture. Why they are so proud of it is the question.

A couple of items in the news last week only added to that conclusion. One was the congressional testimony by Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, in regards to the controversial HHS Mandate requiring health insurance coverage for contraceptives, morning after pills, and other abortion inducing drugs. Before congress she testified that she and a lot of other students were going broke because the Catholic university they attended didn't offer free contraceptives.

Rush Limbaugh jumped into the middle of it with some off color comments, and he was rebuked by nearly everyone. But one thing Rush said in his defense is true - this young woman's virtue is not in question - she has none. She testified that as a single woman on campus, she is having so much sex that after paying $45 thousand a year for law school, she can't afford the birth control she claims will cost $3,000 per year.

Once, that kind of promiscuous behavior would have been labeled by all exactly what Rush labeled it. Once, the pulpits of this nation would have denounced it as fornication and sin. Once, that would have happened, but nor any more in our politically correct society. Now we are supposed to feel outrage that she wasn't provided the contraceptives free by a Catholic university.

Philanthropist Foster Fries, a major backer of Rick Santorum, made a joke in an interview, saying, "You know, back in my days, they'd use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly." The left was horrified, but he is right. It's amazing - abstinence works every time. But no one dared to tell Ms. Fluke that an unmarried woman should keep her knees together. As a friend of ours said, "Instead of birth control, she needed self-control."

No one denies that sexual desire is strongest in young adults. But Paul gave the remedy in First Corinthians 7:2, "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." Nowadays, young adults like Sandra Fluke have chosen a different way - sin - and they want their promiscuous ways subsidized by those who find it morally reprehensible.

More and more the age of marriage is growing older and older into the late twenties and even into the thirties. The reason so many young adults can stay single so long is because they don't wait for marriage. They have failed to heed Paul's admonition in Second Timothy 2:22 to "flee youthful lusts."

The second item in the news was a report that a number of professors at Oxford University in England had concluded it was no more wrong to kill a baby after birth than it was before birth. We agree, but in the reverse of their argument. We believe it is always wrong to kill a baby. But, they were advocating giving mothers the right to kill their already born babies; in other words, infanticide.

This was printed in the February 23rd edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics (Or should that have been Lack of Ethics?). That it was printed at all by their peers is troubling, but it was printed uncritically. Commenting on the article, Constitutional Attorney Michael Farris wrote, "The content of their argument is nothing short of horrendous - evoking images of Dr. Josef Mengele and his band of Nazi executioners in lab coats." Are we returning to the days of the Greeks and Romans of old who, if the father didn't want the baby, would leave it out on the street to die? We truly are returning to our barbaric roots.

So, yes, it does appear that the culture is being lost. But throughout history there has always been an ebb and flow - like a pendulum that swings one way and than the other - between good and evil. Now evil has nosed ahead while we've been napping, or too busy making a living. But it's time the pendulum swings back. We must not surrender the culture war without a fight. Hagelin concluded her article with a battle cry: "How to save your family? Fight hard - and vote to win." Then she added, "We can take our country back. We can restore America for our children. We can help restore the family unit and save much pain and suffering. But it won't happen unless we are willing to 'speak the truth in love,' and start working for cultural change." Yes, we must speak out and defend all that is good.

Scripture agrees. Paul wrote in Romans 12:21, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Evil is to be overcome, not surrendered to. In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo needed to endure the quest and throw the ring into the burning mountain to destroy the evil of the ring. This is now our battle. We are losing, the forces are arrayed against us, and we face a daunting fight; but fight we must.

When William Carey, the father of modern missions, first went to India in the 1700s, what he saw appalled him - female infanticide, widows being burned alive with their dead husbands, the sick and weak being discarded like garbage - and the British government was doing nothing about it. Carey began writing against these atrocities. He took in orphans and the elderly. He petitioned the government to intervene. Eventually, the British government responded to end the atrocities.

The list of believers who actively opposed evil is lengthy. John Wesley vocally opposed slavery. Charles Finney was part of the Underground Railroad. D.L. Moody opened homes for underprivileged girls. Charles Spurgeon rescued orphans from the streets of London. William Wilberforce spent a lifetime opposing the slave trade. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood against the Nazi killing machines and sacrificed his own life. None of them were silent in the face of evil.

Christians have a long tradition of denouncing evil and working for good. Won't you help stem the tide of evil overwhelming this country? Won't you let your voice be heard? Ronald Reagan said that the voices on the other side were often louder, but not yet are they in the majority. We can win this war if we only choose to fight.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Needed - A Resurgence of the Constitution

My two high school kids are enrolled in a ten week course on the Constitution offered on-line by Hillsdale College. I've watched the lectures with them, and I'm impressed. It's amazing the love, respect, and understanding Hillsdale's President, Dr. Larry Arnn, and the faculty show toward the United State's Constitution. These are the kind of men I want my kids to learn the Constitution from - godly men who believe that our rights are inalienable gifts from God, that the role of government is to protect those rights, and that all law must agree with natural law and nature's God.

That's why it is appalling to compare their view of the Constitution with our President's. We have never had a President who has so undermined life, marriage, and religious liberty as Barak Obama. He was trained at Harvard Law School and taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago from 1992 through 2004. Yet, he personifies all that is wrong with the Progressive view of the Constitution. Progressives view the founding fathers as almost ridiculously out of date, that rights are granted by the government, and that our Constitution is inadequate to deal with social and political issues, and therefore, must be overridden.

As an Illinois Senator in 2001, Obama declared his disdain for the Constitution in a Chicago Public Radio interview. He complained the Constitution is only a "charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can't do, it says what the federal government can't do, but it doesn't say what the federal government and the state government must do on your behalf." He expressed that the Earl Warren Supreme Court wasn't "that radical" because it "didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution." Isn't that why the restraints are in place? Isn't it to limit the power of government? Is it any wonder than that Obama looks at things like Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech as inconveniences and impediments to his agenda?

Last week, I wrote an article on Obama's attack on Religious Freedom and the Catholic Church. But that was not an isolated act. It is a pattern originating from his view of the constitution. Whether you look at "Fast and Furious" where there was a deliberate effort to erode Second Amendment rights, or the appointment of vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board without Senate confirmation in violation of the Appointments Clause, or running roughshod over contracts and even bankruptcy law in the auto maker bailouts, or Obama Care (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)that forces citizens to buy insurance, the pattern is there. He believes he can do whatever he can get away with without regard to Constitutional restraints.

His appointment of like-minded judges to the Federal Bench reveals the same mindset. This is true of his two Supreme Court appointments - Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Another example is his nominee to the U.S. District Court of Southern New York, Jesse Furnam. Furnam argued in the Good News Club v. Milford Central School that Christian organizations be banned from Public Schools. He went on to suggest that student's of faith be completely banished from school property and that a "categorical exclusion of that [Christian] speech" is "both a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral limitation, consistent with the free speech clause of the First Amendment, and as a limitation mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First amendment." Excuse me? Banning Christian speech is consistent with, and even required by, the First Amendment? Give me a break. But this is typical of re-constructionist attitudes.

But how else can you explain the crazy decisions coming from the courts? How else could they find a right to abortion hidden within the words of the Constitution? How else will they ever find a right to same-sex marriage? Do you see? Who we elect as President and their philosophy of the Constitution makes a huge difference. It sets the course of the courts for decades to come. Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift from God?" I fear many in the highest levels of government and the courts no longer have that conviction.

Even congress got in the progressive act last year with the Defense Re-Authorization Act. It allows American citizens on American soil to be arrested and detained indefinitely without charge or trial if they are accused of terrorism. That's scary. We are to be treated as enemy combatants. Except that violates the First Amendment (Nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law) and the Sixth Amendment (the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation). So much for sticking to the constitution. We ought to be afraid.

According to Laura Hollis, Obama "has no respect for the structure of the United States Constitution, nor any intention of acknowledging the limits to government deliberately drafted into it; limits that are a function of the rights the constitution expressly identifies as inherent to human beings generally and vested (at least by virtue of this document) in American citizens in Particular." Patrick Henry said, "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." We are seeing that happen.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg made headlines recently in an interview with an Egyptian television station advising them how to draft a Constitution. She said she was "operating under a rather old Constitution," and advised, "I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look to the constitution of South Africa."

But, why is the oldest written constitution in the world not good enough? As Paul Kengor says, "It is based on timeless values and universal rights that work, that are true. It has been amended less than 30 times in 220 some years. It is the most stable, successful, remarkable constitution in history, bringing together a vast array of peoples, and assimilating them into history's most prosperous, awe-inspiring nation." Our Constitution is a primary reason we are such a great nation. Shouldn't we demand it be upheld?

Chris Cox of the National Rifle Association writes, "This year's election is a choice between the America our founding fathers established and a radically different America that Barak Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsberg envision." He is right. What this country needs is a resurgence in our respect and adherence to the United States Constitution. Where do you stand?