Category Archives: Culture Wars

The Pitfalls of Being a “Self- Made” Man

James HJames Mom%20%26%20Jamesallmark is a good friend of mine…and I am proud to call him”friend.”  He is a pioneer in television in these parts beginning his work with KRBC when it was tiny studio up in the hills of the Callahan Divide overlooking Abilene.  We found we had a lot in common having both begun work when TV was just a kid.  I was on the “floor crew” at KMID, in 1960 moving cables and cameras around.  James was beginning his career as an announcer and doing voice over for commercials.  He has been responsible for telethons every year…hard, detailed work.  But best of all he is a strong, faithful, committed Christian.  He writes a great article nearly every week as you will find out when you read the post below

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” Someone once used these words to describe a man that he knew. Cutting but true! The world has convinced mankind that a self-motivated, self-serving lifestyle is his right and obligation. The self-worshipper is “full of himself” and thinks nothing of ignoring others and even God, if they stand in the way of his agenda and human nature’s desires. He deliberately keeps God and others at arm’s  length. The Apostle Paul described the self-driven lifestyle in these words: “And that means killing off everything connected  with this way of death: sexual promiscuity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like It, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. “That’s a life shaped by feelings and things instead of by God” (Colossians 3:7 MSG).

Let’s dig down deep and see if we can discover our spiritual enemy and how he has always worked his will in our lives. Let’s set aside the image of Satan as having horns, wearing a red suit (fire resistant I presume), and carrying a pitchfork. He is the general on the battlefield of our spiritual life, who dispatches his army of demons to torment us and take us as prisoners of war. Satan ensnares us by manipulating the man of flesh that resides deep within each of us. This man of sin is easy pickings for Satan and his hordes.

Self-control is the only weapon we have fight off the enemy. The problem that we have is that most of us don’t have sufficient ammunition to fight off the invaders. Their concept of self-control is that they, themselves, control our lives and actions. And, of course we as human beings excuse our bad behavior with the lame blaming that “after all we are only human”.   That leaves us holding the bag!

Self-control means that somehow we must exercise control of our choices. Let’s look in the mirror and see our ego-centric self is what we must overcome, and we have to be able to admit that it is out of control and uncontrollable without divine help. The truth of the matter is that until we can overcome the influence of our human nature that rules in our lives. our lives can only get worse…never better!

Several years ago I discovered that hyphenated words that start with “self” run up a red flag. I’m talking about words like self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, self-absorbed, self-motivated, self-love, self-driven, self-pity, self-centered, to mention just a few. I’m sure that others may come to mind. Our problem is that many of these appear to be good characteristics that we have been taught to nurture. Now, substitute “God” for “self” in each of these words and you may be surprised at the cleverness of our enemy. Replacing “self” with “God” brings into sharp focus the kind of live we are prone to live, left to our own devices, and the real life that God offers. It has been suggested to me that sin is a perversion of God-given. When our instincts for security cross an invisible line it can morph onto pride, greed, and envy and anger. Our human need for companionship can turn into lust and lust into sexual impurity. Our need for self-preservation can find expression in angry outbursts and gossip. It has occurred to me that all of my unacceptable behavior can be traced back to my self-centered distortion of legitimate human needs that are carried too far. My responsibility is to learn the difference between my “wants and “needs.” He leaves the choice with us. Do you want to be a self-made man or the Creator’s creation?

A few years ago, a commercial ran on national television that really caught my eye. It was a commercial for the Edward Jones financial people. It opened at a nurses’ station at a hospital. A doctor is on the phone with a patient, who is at home. Try to visualize this scene. The doctor is instructing his patient on how to do surgery on himself. The doctor said: “Now, make an incision about six inches long between your third and fourth rib.” The camera cuts to a very distraught man standing in his kitchen with shirt unbuttoned. In his hand is a butcher knife from the kitchen. He had broken out in a cold sweat, and muttered nervously: “Doc, shouldn’t you be doing this?” The spiritual surgery that must be performed to set a person free from himself is drastic and painful, but absolutely necessary. You must decide whether you want a scalpel, or do you want the Great Physician to take over?

Archbishop Fenelon was a spiritual advisor in the court of King Louis the XIV in France some three hundred years ago. He ministered to a small group of faithful Catholics and often wrote letters to them to encourage and instruct them. Here is an excerpt from one of the letters. “The death that God brings pierces deep within. Soul and spirit will be divided. He sees all in you that you cannot see. He knows exactly where the fatal blows should fall. He heads straight for that which you are most reluctant to give up. Pain is only felt where there is life. And in this situation is precisely the place where death is needed.”(The Seeking Heart-Fenelon, pg 5).

The Christian life was never meant to be a self-improvement program because it requires that we nail our old self to the cross of Christ. When we have carried out this self-crucifixion, God immediately goes to work recreating man in the image of his Son. As Peter wrote, “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust” (II Peter 3-4 MSG). Read Peter’s words again and absorb the significance of what they mean about the daily, intimate relationship that our supernatural God wants to have with each of us.

It boils down to choosing whom we will believe. We have to decide whether we will believe the lies of the father of lies, or take the word of the One who created the universe and mankind. Many years ago I put my trust in God, and have never regretted my decision. I have even begun to experience God working in my life, and that brings me peace, and hope that the world cannot comprehend. I am not willing to be a self-made man any longer, I much prefer becoming A God-fashioned man.

I am content to be the clay and put myself in the hands of the Master Potter to turn a pile of mud like me into something beautiful.

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What a Dilemma!

eyeseeyou

I don’t want Clinton or Trump to win.  Whether democrat or republican we have the choice between a “conlady” or a self-important windbag.  I usually vote republican but this election cycle puts me in a position to deprive both parties of my vote for POTUS.  Knowing what I know, my conscience won’t let me do otherwise.

 

I will probably vote Libertarian this time.  I know that is a somewhat meaningless vote but it enables me to not only vote but, at the same time, make a statement.  OK, I know it is a statement that is worth less than a hill of beans.

 

For reasons made known in previous posts (you do read all my posts don’t you?) I cannot, in good faith, vote for either candidate.

 

I used to think, “All right, vote them in and everyone will see how inept they really are.”  But when Barack Obama was reelected I had to ditch that idea. I will continue to do my duty as a citizen as best I can but I will not violate my conscience.

 

Several comments regarding my last post were from people disgusted with Trump but will vote for him because he is “better than Clinton.” It is “the lesser of two evils” argument. But if I vote for Trump am I not still choosing evil even though a lesser one? What a dilemma!

 

Ultimately, American voters will decide who wins. Based on past elections, I am not optimistic.  I will, however, continue living with the results of elections even though I may disagree with them. I just hope for a more informed and moral electorate in the future. But, I ain’t holdin’ my breath.

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So What Can I Do?

eyeseeyouI have finally come to grips that I will not be a “mover and a shaker.”  The world, alas, is not clamoring for my opinions, my advice, my counsel, my pontifications.  The President and members of congress no longer call (man, could I give them an earful if they did!).  It has been some time since some anchor person contacted me to get my take on foreign or domestic events and developments.  Celebrities fail to call me for my thoughts on the directions their careers should take.  No one sends me scripts for potential movies or plays anymore.  Congress persists in passing bills without my input.

So what can I do to make the world a better place?  Jesus said we can do this by serving; by letting our light shine through our good works (Matthew 5:13,14).  Consider:

Think of your fellow man
lend him a helping hand
put a little love in your heart.
You see it’s getting late
oh please don’t hesitate
put a little love in your heart.
And the world will be a better place
and the world will be a better place
for you and me
you just wait and see.

–Jackie Deshannon

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Peace with Ishmael

eyeseeyouAbraham is considered the father of the Arabs through Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.   Suicide bombings, honor killings, murder of innocent men, women and children…these people don’t think like we do!  We are all products of our belief system or worldview and those raised as radical Muslims are no exception.  Christian denominations debate and draw lines of fellowship but they are not shooting and bombing one another.  Sunnis hate the Shias and both of them hate us.  Why? I don’t know all the answers, but Genesis 16 predicted the nature of the progeny of Hagar (the Arabs, in whose culture Islam came to be):

“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers”
(Genesis 16:11,12)

That is why our nation-building adventures in the Middle East are so misguided and ill-advised.  The Arabs and those influenced by Arab culture will never be subjugated or altered by those from Western cultures, notably Christian cultures.[i]

We have no business putting our soldiers on the ground in any Islamic country.  Read your history!  It has never worked and never will.  Iraq is a prime example and Afghanistan will soon be.  When we leave one of these hell-holes they revert back to some sort of lawless wastelands of violence they were previously.

Now we are being tempted to intervene in yet another Middle Eastern conflict in Syria.  The carnage there horrifies the West.  As the self-appointed policemen of the world, we think, “We must do something to stop this!” But now, word has it that Syrian rebels slaughtered groups of Christians until stopped by the Syrian loyalists.  If that is true, do we want to help the rebels come to power?  Will the new boss be the same (or worse than) the old boss?

I recently asked a career military man what we should do in the Middle East and he immediately began discussing weapons systems and military strategy.  It was psychologist Abraham Maslow who wisely observed, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”  People cannot be changed without a change in worldview.  The only way I know to change a person’s worldview is to cease hammering and introduce them to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  And, the only way I know to introduce people to Jesus Christ is to imitate Him.  And, the only way I know to imitate Him is to love our enemies.  And, the only way I know to love our enemies is to pray for them and do them good, not evil (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27; I Thessalonians 5:15).

If we spent as much time, resources and energy seeking to win the hearts and minds of our enemies as we have on violent “shock and awe;”…if we sent our young men and women on missions of peace instead of war, we would rob terrorists of their leverage.  I have to believe that we can overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Would that cost lives?  Without a doubt.  But they would be lives given in the only strategy that will ever be effective in bringing peace and stability to this dark, violent and troubled region.


[i] I am using “Christian” in the broadest sense of the term and as a social construct as much or more than a religious one.  “Us” are Christians and “them” are those under the influence of radical (violent) Islam.

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Reproductive Rights

eyeseeyouOkay, I am getting weary of hearing about “reproductive rights” and “a woman’s right to choose.”  Get real.  These are just code words.  Everyone knows we are talking about abortion.

We who are “of age” all understand where babies come from, right?  (Clue: storks and cabbage plants are not involved in any way.)  Let me speak plainly: whether or not to “have sex” is every healthy person’s choice, right or wrong.  Men, you have a right to choose whether to father a baby or not.  You choose whether to keep your pecker in your pants or not.  Women, you have a right to choose whether or not to grant male access to your reproductive accessories (not talking about rape here but consensual sexual intercourse).  Whether or not to use birth control is also a right.  But this is where your “right to choose” ends.

What none of us has a right to do is kill babies resulting from a failure to overcome craving with caution.  That’s just murder.  If, in the heat of passion, you choose to forego birth control…well…you may have made a baby you are responsible to care for in utero or out.  You did your choosing before the winning sperm penetrated the waiting egg.

If you don’t want the baby, then choose to give it to one of the thousands of couples who do.

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Bill Maher on Evangelical Hypocrisy

O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.

Robert Burns, Poem “To a Louse” – verse 8

Bill Maher is a self-proclaimed non-Christian so the language in this clip should surprise no one.  If you are offended by the language used by those outside of Christ use…good!  So am I.  This is from one of his shows back in May…but I am posting it now for two reasons.  First, because my good friend Noel Malan posted it on Facebook and I just now became aware of it and, second,  because we need to understand how the world perceives us as a religion.  Even a pagan like Maher knows enough Scripture to see the disconnect between what Jesus said and how so many who claim to follow Him actually act.  I hope you will view it and I hope you cringe in the appropriate places.
Notice that he is attacking our hypocrisy, not what Jesus taught.    

The truth is, if everyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ would imitate Christ not only would the kingdom explode in size but I seriously doubt that our government would be messing around killing folks in the Middle East.  Why is that?   Because they would see the good works of the Christians in our nation and glorify God.

When one thinks of the lives lost and the resources expended on our fruitless wars and political meddling in the Middle East it should bring us to tears.  What if those same lives and resources were given to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world?  What if we were known for acts of mercy instead of violence?  I’m not talking about the government here, I am talking about the kingdom of God.  Peter wrote, Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:15,16).  Too often, as Christians we have supported our government as they meddled and murdered!

What if Christians were known for being first on the scene of earthquakes, tsunamis, famine and pestilence?  What if we were known for helping instead of meddling?  What if we spent money on lives and souls instead of buildings and flashy “worship services.”

We have several fine ministries that seek to do just this.  Here in Abilene, we have Global Samaritan Resources that has helped many thousands.  But it is a separate ministry from the church and has to struggle to raise funds like so many similar efforts.  Shame on us!   We had rather build buildings and divert needed funds to projects Jesus never even hinted at.  Our “ministries of mercy” ought never need to go begging…they should be overwhelmed with resources to couple the gospel with the mercy of the Prince of Peace!

What excuse did we give to Bill Maher to say what he said?  By not carefully following Christ in attitude, word or deed.  Time for self-examination!

Peter echoes the words of Christ in Matthew 5:14  Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

Do this, and Bill Maher (and many others) will have little material for their writers.

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Should Christians Support Israel?

Due to all the “saber-rattling” going on recently, plus calls to “Support Israel,” I thought it might be time to run this article again.  Israel bullies and blockades the Gaza Strip and Gaza responds by firing rockets into Israel.  I can see this going on forever with great loss of life.  But what really bothers me is that evangelical Christianity seems to be blind to both the realities of the sins of both sides and yet sides with Israel because of a major misinterpretation of prophecy and fulfillment.  Let me challenge you to take another look at the facts.  If, after reading this short treatise, you still disagree, please feel free to put it into words in the comment section of this blog.  But, be nice, or I will delete your comment.

Do Israelis have a divine right to what is now called Israel?  Who does the land occupied by the modern state of Israel belong to?  Should Christians support Israel’s right to exist as a divine right?  Are the Jews still God’s separate chosen people?  Consider the following points:

  1. The promise of the land of Palestine (Canaan) to the Jews has been fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7,8).  The Jews received what they were promised in full.  The occupation of the land by modern Israel has nothing to do with God’s promises.  It has to do with modern Israel’s alliances and the fact that the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world can’t get along with each other and get their act together.
  2. The Jews were originally deported from the land for their disobedience just as God promised (Leviticus 26:33; Nehemiah 1:8,9 and many others).
  3. Any restoration to the land was predicated upon their returning to belief and obedience (Deuteronomy 30; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Nehemiah 1:8,9).  Most of those who now occupy Palestine are not believers and are certainly not obedient.  Many, in fact, are atheists.  How can modern Israel be the fulfillment of any promise of restoration?
  4. God has not rejected His people but only those who become believers in Messiah Christ are the “Israel of God” (Galatians 3:29; 6:15-17).
  5. Only those Jews who accept Jesus as Messiah can continue in covenant relationship with Yahweh (Romans 9-12) and receive any promise.
  6. Because Christ has fulfilled the Law of Moses, there is no longer a division between Jew and Gentile…we are one in Christ and Abraham’s spiritual offspring (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:28,29).  So, who will be restored to the land?
  7. The Old Covenant given to the Jews alone has been superseded by a new covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13) made by God with all who believe.  Since there is no separation between ethnic Jews and believing Gentiles, who will receive the alleged promises of restoration to the land?

The truth is that modern unbelieving, disobedient Israel has no more right to the land that belonged to the Palestinians than European Americans have to the land that belonged to the Native Americans.  Throughout history, one group has driven out another and occupied their land.  If we are going to restore all of earth’s lands to those who originally possessed it, absolute turmoil will result.  Let me make a few alternative suggestions:

  1. Leave the Israelis alone.  They fought for the land they have and they won.  It is not the fulfillment of prophecy; it is the work of the United Nations and the spoils of war.
  2. Palestinians and Arabs, get your act together and be nice to your neighbors.  The world will be a much better place and nobody will have to blow up themselves and others.  You think God likes what you’re doing?  Neither do I.  And, while you’re at it, do something about this madman dictator of Iran.  He’s not helping your cause at all.
  3. Israelis, quit bullying the Palestinians and give them a homeland.  One of the reasons they hate you is your mistreatment of them.  They will probably never love you, but they might learn to abide you.  One thing for sure, killing children and leveling houses will not win you any points.
  4. Christians, you’re not helping anything with your misinterpretation of prophecy.  Instead of this ridiculous “Christians United for Israel,” and “Christian Zionism” put your efforts into preaching and modeling Christ to both Jews and Arabs.  Are you doing what Jesus would do?  I don’t think so either.  Start preaching the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.  Instead of lobbying with the Jews, preach Christ to them.  And don’t you want the Arabs to be saved?  Well, you don’t act like it.
  5. How do we win them over?  By being salt and light and letting our good works toward these very needy people bring glory to god.  Guns, bombs and missiles will never accomplish anything but death and continued hatred and division and the loss of souls to the author of all that is ungodly.

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