Obama Hubris

Jumping the Gun?

Jumping the Gun?

I haven’t said a lot about the upcoming administration since the election. While I did have some commentary right after that fateful night, I have deliberately turned from devotion to politics and instead have emphasized Biblical principles and the type of spirit God wants to instill within us.

I will, however, return to commentary on the new administration as it takes shape. Later this week, I hope to offer some thoughts on people Obama plans to appoint to his cabinet.

Today, though, I am struck by one thought: the continuing pride/arrogance of the man we have elected. During the campaign, he was criticized for the seal that began to appear on his podium. It looked just like the official presidential seal, yet he was not yet elected to that office. It became a source of ridicule, so it disappeared from the campaign trail (and rightly so).

Now he is at it again. Has anyone else noticed the new sign that graces his podium? I’m surprised that few commentators have said anything about this.

This Must Be in the Constitution Somewhere, Right?

This Must Be in the Constitution Somewhere, Right?

Never in the history of modern American politics, as least not in my memory or base of knowledge, has the president-elect chosen to create what appears to be an official “office” celebrating his status. Some may say I’m being too picky here, but frankly, I have been stunned by what might be the highest level of hubris since the worst moments of the Clinton presidency. Yes, Obama declares that there is only one president at a time, going on record that George Bush still maintains that role, but to me, he is sending a signal with a sign like this. He is attempting to push himself up alongside the current president in the eyes of the American people. It’s as if he is saying, “I’m already here. I’m the one you should be focusing on now.”

I’m open to seeing real humility, but it has been glaringly absent thus far. Of course, real humility–not the type that is pumped up for the cameras–can only come from a genuine acknowledgement of sin and true repentance. If that should occur in Obama’s life, then, and only then, will we witness the real thing.

Sarcasm on the Economy

One of my readers sent me a link to a little talk by former Sen. Fred Thompson. The reader’s comment was “Where was this Fred Thompson during the primaries”? After viewing it, I have to agree. Really, if you want to hear truth about the current state of the economy and the “solutions” being offered, this a a must-see. And if you enjoy a message being sent with just the right amount of sarcasm (humorous, not hateful), you will appreciate this. Check it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IrR3o7x1ps

Principle: Property–Christian Communism? (Part II)

Some Biblical interpreters note a particular incident in the early church that, they say, indicates God is in favor of communism. They refer to the Ananias and Sapphira story.

As believers were voluntarily selling property and giving the proceeds to the apostles to help the needy (see the previous post for a fuller explanation of this), one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, came up with a little scheme. They sold some property and brought part of the profit to the Apostle Peter, declaring that this was the entire profit, even though they had kept back a portion for themselves. The Biblical account tells us that God struck them dead for this deed.

Ananias Struck Down by the Lord for His Hypocrisy

Ananias Struck Down by the Lord for His Hypocrisy

“See,” we are told, “God judged them for continuing to hold private property. They were struck down because they kept some for themselves.” Not exactly.

If we look at the text, we are told precisely why they were judged, and it has nothing to do with owning property.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.

It is obvious from this passage that Peter is not condemning Ananias for owning land. He makes it clear that it belonged to Ananias, and that he could have done whatever he wished with the profit–it was his to dispose of as he chose. Peter also points to the real sin here: lying/hypocrisy. Ananias and Sapphira were attempting to appear they were giving all the proceeds of the sale to the church, while secretly holding back. They wanted people to think they were doing a wonderful thing, when in fact they were not.

So, bottom line: they were judged for being liars and hypocrites. They could have used that money for anything they wished; instead, they deliberately decided to deceive. There is nothing in this passage that mandates communism for Christians.

Christian communism? An oxymoron.

Principle: Property–Christian Communism? (Part I)

Is God’s design that the church model communism? Some point to the example of the early church in Jerusalem in the book of Acts where we are told,

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32, 34-35)

Well, that settles it then, right? Owning private property is wrong; you should turn it all over to the authorities who will distribute to those who have a need. Sounds like the Marxist maxim, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

There is only one big problem with that interpretation: the Acts example was one of voluntary giving, while communism is one of coerced giving. In fact, that can’t really be called giving at all. Coercion and giving are inherently contradictory. The believers in the passage above saw a need and, from their hearts, chose to sell what was rightfully theirs to help their brothers and sisters. There is no indication of coercion; neither is there any further indication in the entire New Testament that the practice of the early church was to force everyone to forfeit private property.

And what precisely were they selling? If they actually sold the houses they lived in, that would make them homeless. Now someone else would have to take care of them; they would have made themselves a burden to the entire church. I believe that what they sold was property they had in abundance that they decided could be put to better use for the benefit of all–extra land, a second home, etc.

Confused About Communism?

Confused About Communism?

There is a clear difference between giving from one’s heart and being told by an authority that you are now going to “give.” When Obama was accused during the campaign of promoting redistribution of people’s money, he tried to make a joke about it, saying that his critics would probably accuse him of being a communist if, as a kindergartener, he shared his toys with other children.

Either he was being disingenuous or he really doesn’t grasp the distinction. If it was the former, he is counting on the political and economic illiteracy of the American people to shield him from close scrutiny. If it was the latter, it reveals that he is a profound economic illiterate. Neither option bodes well.

Christian communism? Another refutation in the next post.

Principle: Property–The Intangibles

Mention property, and nearly everyone will focus on material possessions. We naturally think in terms of money, land, homes, etc., as being the essence of property. Yet those are merely the external forms of property–the things we can see or touch. There are other properties that are more significant, and which form the basis for the external properties.

God has given us internal properties: a mind with which to think; emotions with which we can interact with the world and others; a will that determines our actions; a conscience that informs us of right and wrong; a spirit, which is the eternal part of us (although it will be joined to a resurrection body as well).

How we handle these properties–mind, emotions, will, conscience–will make all the difference as to where that eternal spirit will reside. Our thoughts need to be taken captive to the love of God; our emotions must be directed by our thoughts; our will must be submitted to God’s will; our conscience will let us know which path to follow, and when we have failed to follow the right one.

The conscience is delicate. The apostle Paul talks about a “seared conscience.” What does that mean?

Look at it this way. If you violate your conscience once (this can apply to any particular sin), you feel remorse for doing so. But if you resist that feeling, and never repent of the sin, the next time you do it, you won’t feel quite as bad as the first time. The more often you repeat the sin, the less your conscience is going to bother you. Finally, you can commit that sin without feeling any remorse or regret. It doesn’t make the sin any less sinful, but you no longer respond to the conscience God gave you.

Each of those internal properties are gifts from God. They need to be appreciated as gifts, and we must be good stewards of them. When we misuse them, we suffer what Paul calls a shipwrecked faith. When those who claim the name of Christ violate their consciences, we contribute to the spiritual devastation in the world.

This does not have to be the norm. We can obey God. We can be the examples He wants us to be. We can bring His principles to bear on the world. We can make a difference!

Principle: Property/Stewardship

Throughout this blog, I’ve pointed to a number of principles upon which Christians should base their thinking. If we would analyze everything through these principles, we would come to more Biblically based conclusions.

The principle of property is very important. If you look at property from a worldly perspective, you see it potentially in a number of ways. For instance, one can be quite selfish and focus entirely on accumulating “things.” This is one end of the spectrum. The other end is believing that elimination of property is the key to universal peace and harmony. Both are wrong.

The Christian, in thinking about property, should remember this one salient fact: all things really belong to God. We are merely the temporary receptors of what He has given us. So, more properly understood, the principle of property is a principle of stewardship. That word isn’t used much in the world anymore, but it needs to be. A steward is someone who has been given the responsibility to manage the affairs of another. This world, and all it contains, comes from the hand of God. We are allowed to use what He has made. But we will be held accountable for how we use His gifts.

All that we have is a gift. We didn’t “earn” anything, in the proper sense. If we realize that, we become grateful rather than complaining. I also used the plural–gifts–on purpose. We are not stewards of material possessions only. There are gifts that are intangible, that cannot be held in one’s hand.

What are they? More on that in the next post.

Still Thankful?

After this last election, is it possible to still be thankful? Do we really have blessings? Actually, we have more than we realize. Personally, I have:

  • A God who continues to work in my life and through it, who loves unconditionally even while He demands that I learn a deeper concept of obedience.
  • A wife who has stood by me for 36 years, and for whom I have a greater love now than at any time in our marriage–it has matured, even as I have.
  • A daughter and a son who are married and moving on in the life God has given them. This week, my daughter’s family is with us. What a joy to have three grandsons with whom I can spend time, get to know better, and hopefully have some impact on their lives as well.
  • A job that is not simply a job, but rather a ministry, where I have the liberty to teach history relying on Biblical principles for analysis.
  • Material blessings in a way that we have not had for most of our lives. Yes, such things can change, but I am learning, over time, that the Lord is our real security anyway.

As a nation, in spite of the problems and the philosophy of the incoming administration, we are not a spent force. The promise remains: if My people, who are called by My name, will seek My face, repent, etc. . . . Restoration can occur, and if not, He will never leave us or forsake us.

When the Pilgrims held their Thanksgiving celebration (not to give thanks to the Indians, by the way), they had suffered terribly along the way. Back in England they had been persecuted, in Holland they really didn’t fit into the culture and their children were being lured away from the faith, and in the New World half of them had died the first winter. Yet they had persevered and their faith remained strong. They continued to believe that God would honor their faithfulness.

That is still true. If we are faithful, God’s blessings will follow. We never have to wonder about His faithfulness; the real issue is ours. He wants to bless. Will we allow Him to do so?