Dissonance

President Obama recently said “we leave nobody behind, we make sure we respond as a nation and remind ourselves that whenever an American is in need, all of us stand together to make sure we’re providing the help that’s necessary.”

While I completely agree with him that we come together in times of crisis to help out each other, the cognitive dissonance coming out of the government now is becoming palpable.  If we “leave nobody behind,” why was no air cover dispatched, or reinforcements called in to help the Benghazi consulate staff and the slain Ambassador?

The most powerful country on Earth sat on it’s hands as a few dozen attackers shelled, shot, and rocketed our consulate and then a nearby annex.

As the men on the ground begged and plead for help, we failed to provide the help that was necessary to Americans under fire in a foreign country on sovereign American soil.

Dissonance indeed.

 

 

How do you see the Son?

A short time back, I wrote briefly about how we perceive God the Father.  God exists in three uniquely bound instances as Father, Son, and Spirit.  This attribute of His nature is hard to comprehend because our emphasis on the differences of each individual means that our own perspective on His attributes fall short.

I have always thought that the perceptions of Jesus Christ never lived up to my own.  Most people picture a gentle-looking man, a bit skinny, and in some cases somewhat effeminate.

I think this “gentle Christ” persona is based in Scripture, but again, as I said before, it fails to live up to what I picture in my mind.  Christ is gentle, compassionate, and loves us.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

This is good and please God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:3-4

But what is always left aside is the other aspect to Christ.  Christ is The conquering King.  He is The Warrior.  He is The Commander in Chief.  He is the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the universe.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

Revelations 19:11-21

This passage in Revelation fulfilled one of the first statements about Christ’s role from Genesis.

I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

So we have a dual image of Christ. One is compassionate and gentle, overflowing with love.  The other is of a Conqueror and Champion.  Is this a paradox?  Not at all, He is both.

 “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

Isaiah 35:4-7

My lovely wife and I were talking the other day about the dichotomy and how C.S. Lewis managed to really nail it with Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia series.  Aslan was both caring and conquering.

When the Lights Go Out

I am always amazed at the fervor with which hurricanes make major news.  The storms are fairly predictable as evidenced by the storm tracks.  As long as you move outside of coastal areas, the majority of the effects are just strong wind and heavy rain.

A hurricane is powerful, don’t get me wrong.  It has the capability to destroy anything in it’s path.

But it is nothing.  Nothing compared to the infinite power of God Almighty.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

Manhattan Island, New York City, New York – October 29th, 2012.

I think this picture is beautiful.  The city that never sleeps brought to it’s knees.  I don’t think this is beautiful for any reason other than that it forces the people there to stop and listen to something other than the din of the city, the endless progression of cars, trains, buses, pedestrians, and the temporary distractions of the world.  For just a moment, God created a window to interject Himself in their lives.

Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.

Isaiah 50:10

Intel

The current parrot line issued from the administration about the fiasco in Benghazi (previously written about here and here) is that there wasn’t enough intel to risk deploying forces in support of U.S. Ambassador Stevens and the other personnel under attack at the time.

I did indicate in that second article that U.S. air force bases with aircraft able to respond in short order would have been able to put American air power over the scene in short order.  There is a lot of chatter coming about stand down orders being issued.  There is even chatter that Generals and Admirals were relieved of duty for deciding to disobey the stand down order as they viewed it as either illegal or immoral.  That will all be sorted out as more information is brought to light.

***Update (January 24, 2013)***  This is hearsay only at this point, but this morning on the Quinn and Rose show on the radio, a caller from Canton, Ohio identified himself as a marine, and his son as a marine who happened to be on a ship off the coast of Libya on September 11, 2012.  The marine commander of that ship debriefed his troops after being told directly by the President of the United States personally to stand down and not launch a rescue effort.  This jives with a lot of the conjecture previously of the removal of General Carter Ham of AFRICOM for refusing to obey that order).

There is something that is being lost in the weeds that are popping up around this fiasco.  Since when has the lack of intelligence hamstrung our fighting men and women from responding when other Americans are in danger?

I refer you to this list. You see, Americans have never shied away from battle to save their fellow Americans. The operators and pilots called upon to render assistance, if told there wasn’t enough intel, would simply ask for more ammo. They would volunteer to deploy as reinforcements in less than a heartbeat…. they would land in an untenable situation knowing that they would likely die, because they believe in an ideal… that ideal is best explained in the words of Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis, who wrote during the Siege of the Alamo.

I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch… If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country—Victory or Death.

I wish to have no Connection with any Ship that does not Sail fast for I intend to go in harm’s way.

Captain John Paul Jones

Milton

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.

John Milton, Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

Are you free or do you ask for permission to exercise your God-given rights as a free man?

Question That Must Be Asked

According to a Fox News Report today, was the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and consulate personnel left to die on September 11, 2012?

Make up your own mind.

The attack lasted more than 7 hours spread between the Consulate and the CIA annex a mile away.

In Sigonella, Italy (which is on the island of Sicily), we have an naval air station where forward assets, including special operations teams, were ready to roll.  Sigonella is 467 miles from Benghazi.

In Aviano, Italy, we have an air base with advanced interceptors and strike fighters. Aviano is 1,039 miles from Benghazi.

In Trier, Germany, we have an air base with advanced interceptors and strike fighters. Trier is 1,403 miles from Benghazi.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon is capable of Mach 2+ flight (in excess of 1,350 MPH) and has a combat radius of 340 miles, which can be expanded indefinitely with in-flight refueling.  Aviano Air Force Base has squadrons of F-16s. Spangdahlem Air Force Base has squadrons of F-16s.

In the age of near-instant communication around the world, the information flowing back to DC from Libya would be received and hot-lined immediately.   On September 11, 2001, alert fighters were able to launch 21 minutes after the hijack notification was broadcast.  From Spangdahlem, the flight time at 1,000 MPH, which is far below the F-16’s top speed, would be about 85 minutes.  Allowing for mid-air refueling, let’s say 115 minutes.

The battle lasted 7 hours.  115 minutes plus the time to relay orders is still far less than 7 hours.

Why were orders to assist the men on the ground not issued?

 

Football

My oldest son, being nearly four, loves playing football (ok, more like picking up a football and running into me as hard as he can and then playing “tackle”) and has recently learned to cheer for the teams that I like to watch.  “Go Browns” and “Go Bucks” are commonly heard emanating from him as he plays with any number of toys while a game is on in the background.

A few weeks back, my high school held it’s Homecoming football game.  In the past I haven’t bothered taking him with me when I’ve had the chance to go watch the game because the weather has been notorious every year for this game.  This year proved no different, but I still decided that we would brave the cold and rain and go.  We had a great time in spite of the weather.

There is something magical about high school football to me.  The team camaraderie, the support of the community, the sportsmanship showed by both teams to each other.  The lack of cursing.  The beautiful sung a Capella National Anthem by an Alumnus who happens to be a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army currently.  The hope and promise of a night out with the family.  The public prayer that opened the game.

Yes, a public prayer.  No one was forced to pray.  No one protested.  No one’s rights were trampled.  The prayer was a quick, humble appeal for protection for the opposing team and their fans.  How dare we impose our religion on those poor boys and their families.  I’m sure that they were horribly offended at being exposed to a prayer for THEIR protection.

By now you probably have caught on that I graduated from a private high school where public prayer is not just permitted, it is encouraged.  I myself am not one for public prayer as I would rather spend my time in prayer quietly, humbly, and without pretense before my God, but there is a place for it.  To lead off a football game between boys that are becoming men is one such place.  To remind them of their proper place in the universe before their God means that the game will be played with more sportsmanship and respect between the teams, the parents, and the fans than games where such a prayer is not initially given.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.

1 Timothy 2:1

What example would you rather see your kids be exposed?

Swimming

Water is a terrifying thing.  The might of the oceans manifests itself in the tides, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the corroding power of salt.  Everything that man can conceive of is destroyed given enough time and water. Within water, such an essential life-giving element, is the power to destroy in any number of ways.

But water is something else too… it is essential to life.  It composes over two-thirds of our bodies and every organism on this planet requires it to survive.  More so, it teems with life itself – from fish, to algae, to millions of species of everything from lobsters and sea slugs to the largest mammals on Earth.

Last night, I went swimming.  I love swimming above most workouts because I can’t listen to music while I do it.  It is rhythmic, repetitive, and is an incredibly taxing workout regardless of intensity.  It is also a great time to think and try to listen to God.

We are awash in grace.  We are not just soaked in it, we are immersed completely in it.  It’s like we are in the middle of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and there is just a torrent of grace pouring down on us while we are swimming in it.  There is so much of it, that it is astonishing.  Christ didn’t just pour out enough for each of us on the cross, He poured out increasing grace for each of us and continues to do so every day.  We just have to recognize it.

Have you ever looked at a baptism and really thought about what it symbolizes?  Baptism has always been taught in my life as an expression of faith – that we are putting to death our old life of trying to live under The Law and rising “born again” in Christ.  I’ve always thought this metaphor was lacking.  If we look at water as a symbolic manifestation of grace, could baptism be an acknowledgment and acceptance of that grace…. even a surrender to it?

If you acknowledge Christ, you’re swimming in grace… if you don’t, then you’re drowning in sin.

You get to choose: sink or swim.

Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

Acts 22:16

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 6:14

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

John 1:16

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.

Ephesians 2:8

 

 

Bubble

What kind of Christ follower are you?  Do you welcome with open arms at your church people that dress like they just rolled out of bed or spent all night out at the club?  Do you tolerate the smell of alcohol seeping from their pores?  Do you look down on the people that aren’t as good as you?  Do you have contempt in your heart for those that are not living the life that Christ would have them live?  Do you love them?

One of the big problems that the church faces is the image of being “above it all.”  Christ did not come for the righteous… they’re already taken care of because they’re doing it all right.  Christ came for the unsaved.  What have you done today for the unsaved?

Did you help them rake their leaves?

Did you babysit their kids?

Did you help them track down their lost cat?

Did you come check on them when they were sick?

Did you buy them a beer at the local watering hole?

Did you invite them over for dinner?

Did you exhibit Christ through your actions?

Did you exhibit pride by refusing to come down to their level?

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1-16

It doesn’t matter in the end whether you were saved on your deathbed or as a child.  In Christ’s eyes, you are equally brothers and children of God.  So the next time you sit in church and see someone dressed shabby, wearing something too revealing, with dozens of piercings, or smelling of stale alcohol consider that maybe, just maybe, that is EXACTLY who needs to hear the Word of God the most.

The Law

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

What is the law?

The Apostle Paul was a highly educated man, so it is understood that he was talking about the Old Law here, the Judaic norms, practices, etc.  This is an interesting passage though because of the phrase “the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels…”

It is fairly well understood as well as in my observation that the law was instituted so man would understand that he could never live up to the righteousness necessary to be in God’s presence.  The law’s purpose was to convict the people in their hearts of their need for grace.

 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:4-6

So Paul, again, was writing that striving for obedience to the law only bore “fruit for death.”  Why is that?  If the law is God-given, isn’t it holy and just?  How could attempting to adhere to it cause “sinful passions” to be aroused?

Paul goes on and states:

I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.

Romans 7:7-8

Is Paul saying that he would not have known how to sin or what was a sin if it were not for the law?

So is the law there to bind our behavior?

Imagine a metaphor.  As a father, I have to lay down rules of behavior for my children.  My children, before these rules are laid down would just go on not knowing that anything they were doing was “wrong” in my eyes.  The rules I laid out were designed to constrain certain behavior, but they did not put an end to it.  Rather, they provide a guideline for them – if you do X, you will be punished.  This doesn’t mean that such behavior is instantly curtailed, but rather they test the limits of this new rule in any number of ways.  They also do their best to get away with the behavior and hope that they don’t get caught.  How are we any different as children of God?

If the law is meant for the ungodly, then it is meant for people that are spiritual infants at best.  They need direction on how to be and how to act.  They need that direction that touching something hot will mean you get burned so don’t touch it.

Does this excuse the rest of us that have come by faith to Christ and mean that sin is no longer an issue for us because the law no longer binds us?  Not at all.  If you take Christ’s commands to love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, then you will act in accordance with the law of God without needing the law to convict you daily.  Instead of striving to obey the law, you will strive to love fully, and by doing so you will fulfill the law as Christ did with his death and resurrection.

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