Category Archives: Suffering

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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Sabbath Lessons

During Jesus’ ministry he was repeatedly criticized for allegedly breaking the Law of Moses.  Those who had taken upon themselves the responsibility of making sure the Jews were obedient to the Law used their usurped authority to follow Jesus around scrutinizing his actions for any imagined violation.  Their motive was more to discredit Jesus than to please Yahweh.  They witnessed his signs and miracles but refused to accept the implications of them.  When we become more concerned with rule-keeping than godliness, we jeopardize our salvation and that of those we discourage and hinder.

It is instructive to study the words and actions of Jesus as he countered the “spiritual enforcers” in regard to the Sabbath.  It helps us know whether we are more concerned with mercy and compassion or legalistic rule-keeping. Are we focused on “getting it exactly right” while neglecting justice and the love of God? (Luke 11:42).  Is our goal the letter or the Spirit? (2 Corinthians 3:6).

What Jesus said about the traditions and teachings of men are applicable to today’s nit-picking counterparts of the Pharisee enforcers (Mark 7:5-13).  Here are nine points regarding the Sabbath for our consideration:

1. Many rules for keeping the Sabbath were men’s additions, inventions and traditions and therefore extra-biblical and non-binding.

2. Jesus is the law-giver (even the Law of Moses) and Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8)

3. The purpose of the Sabbath was rest and rejuvenation and was created for the benefit of humans

Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

4.  The Sabbath, as originally given, did not restrict necessary physical labor (such as eating when one is hungry and the labor necessary to feed one’s self (Matthew 12:1-8)

5. The Sabbath did not forbid spiritual labor

Matthew 12:5Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?”

6. Compassion (relieving suffering) trumps sacrifice (laws and traditions)

Matthew 12:7-8 But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.     8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

7. Doing good on the Sabbath is lawful

Matthew 12:9-12 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

8. If God, who gave the Sabbath, is working, then it is permissible for us to do His work

John 5:17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working.”

9. Rules which violate common sense and logic are invalid.

John 7:22-23 “For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?”

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Filed under Christlikeness, Edification, Freedom, Holy Spirit, Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Jesus Christ, Judgmental, Religion, Salvation, Scripture, Signs, Suffering

Heroes and Heroism

When Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry received the Medal of Honor recently, it set me to thinking about heroes.  You may be aware of the actions that caused him to lose his right hand but save his fellow-soldiers. As Fox News reporter Justin Fishel wrote, “Shot once in each leg and laying wounded behind a chicken coup (sic) in an insurgent compound, Petry saved the lives of two fellow Rangers when he sacrificed his own hand to throw away an enemy grenade that could have killed them all.”

So, I asked myself, what is heroism?  Though probably not exhaustive, I came up with this list of characteristics of heroism.

Selflessness: This is one of the basic characteristics of a hero and drives most of the other characteristics.  The hero is selfless to the point of personal sacrifice, cost, inconvenience and suffering.  Heroes don’t stop to consider the personal cost of their actions, they just act.  A hero thinks first of others in a crisis.

Awareness: The hero is not off in his or her own little world.  They are aware of the world around them and its challenges and needs.  They automatically take note of opportunities to serve and assist and do so without hesitation.

Perseverance and persistence: the hero does not give up until forced to do so.  Only then does the hero quit.  Heroes have to eventually ask, “Can I accomplish anything more in this situation?”  They know that the time eventually comes when one must pray Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Initiative: The hero does not wait for others or to be asked or forced to act.  The hero sees the challenge/problem and responds with his own gumption.  This describes Petry’s response perfectly.  According to Karen Parrish, an American Forces Press Service reporter, he described his action this way, “I immediately knew it wasn’t one of ours, because we haven’t used ‘pineapple’ grenades in quite some time,” he said. “[My] immediate reaction was, get it out of here.”

Courage: This almost goes without saying.  This is the impulse that drives initiative.  Heroes do not hesitate to act in the face of danger, hazard or peril.  Their response is reflexive.  It is a “knee-jerk” reaction where guts overrule logic.  They charge machinegun nests, they storm beaches, they run into burning buildings, they go back under fire to carry out wounded buddies and, of course, they deal with enemy grenades.  Without hesitation they get involved in the troubles of others.  They pick up wee hour phone calls to comfort and encourage.  They stop to help.  They shell out cash to questionable strangers.  On and on we could go.

Integrity: True heroes will always choose the high road, the moral course, even in the face of temptation and opportunity to do otherwise.  We are all sinners, and heroes are no different.  But, faced with a crisis their inward righteousness prevails.

As you will notice, physical characteristics have nothing to do with heroism.  One of my favorite authors is the late writer of western novels, Elmer Kelton.  When asked why his characters were not the movie-star-leading-man type (John Wayne comes to mind), Kelton replied, “Those are seven feet tall and invincible.  My characters are five-eight and nervous.”  Well, I’m not quite that short, but “nervous” sure fits.  I believe a realistic hero is an ordinary person behaving in an extraordinary way.

As I was composing this article, I came to realize that I am married to a hero.  Every characteristic of heroism fits my beloved Brenda like a glove.  She is all these things in spite of a compromised immune system and subsequent frequent illnesses.  As I watch her frequent suffering, I have to wonder how I would conduct myself in similar circumstances.  Her life, like all heroes, is a beacon and example in this often difficult and troubled landscape of life.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Altruism, Awareness, Courage, Current Events, Hero, honor, Initiative, Integrity, morality, Selflessness, Suffering

LIFE CHOICES

Funny thing about the choices we make in life. Age, experience and hindsight make it so easy to see that some of them were the wrong choices. I have often wished I could have another go at life and, with the accumulated wisdom and experience I now have, plus a solid dependence upon the indwelling Holy Spirit, make different and better choices. Alas, such a thing is never to be. You and I will have to live with the choices we made and where they have brought us, regrets and all.

If, however, you are young enough to have a good deal of your life ahead of you, you might benefit from some fatherly advice about the choices you will be presented with.

  1. Choose your life’s work based on your talent and passion. God has given you certain abilities. Put them to work in your life. If you choose a career outside of your God-given aptitudes, you risk mediocrity. Passion will drive you to take your lumps, pay your dues and earn your stripes.
  2. Listen to your gut. Believe it or not, your gut knows more than your head. You can rationalize nearly anything but if your gut tells you it is wrong, believe it! Your choice may not be logical but gut feelings are not based on logic and reason. Your gut is much more fundamental. It is based on your whole being. This is not to say that you won’t make some decisions you regret but, for the most part, you will make better ones.
  3. Take the advice of others with a very large grain of salt. They are not you.  They have their own interests, beliefs, passions and agenda which they will happily transfer to (place upon) you. Don’t let others force you into their mold. Listen to them, talk to the Lord about it, but make your decision based on ability, aptitude and, once again, gut.
  4. Marry well. Marriage is a huge and, hopefully, permanent decision. Choose wisely the person you will live with for the rest of your life. Look below the surface (beauty, wealth, etc.) and find the “real person” (integrity, honesty, spirituality, etc.). Later on down the line if you make the wrong choice, you will be miserable. Think you will just divorce? Ask around, divorce is one of the most painful experiences you can go through, especially if children are involved. Become respectful, trusted friends before you marry.
  5. Seek fulfillment, not money. There are plenty of rich people who will confirm all the old sayings about money, love and happiness. To use your God-given abilities to the very best you can is the only true and lasting fulfillment.
  6. Get a clear and accurate understanding of success. When we say someone is “successful” we are usually referring to the money and material they have accumulated. That’s not success! Success is when you fulfill what God created you to be and do. Again, what is your talent? What are your abilities? Have you used them? If so, then you are successful no matter how much money you make.
  7. Be ready to be treated harshly and unfairly. Sorry, that’s the way life is. In the course of your life, you will encounter plenty of difficult and harsh situations. Even some people you have trusted will betray that trust. You will probably have your share of unfair bosses. You may be used, abused, walked on, gossiped and lied about. Don’t be surprised and remember, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
  8. Take joy! In between the difficult episodes, joys will fill the gap – if you let them.  Don’t miss out! Enjoy your spouse, enjoy your kids, enjoy your friends. Count your blessings and be grateful. Dance. Sing. Love.
  9. Cultivate mature friendships. True friends are a rare and valuable.  George Eliot said it so well: “Friendship reaches maturity when there is reciprocity, shared inner life, positive affection and equality.” The benefits of friendships are too numerous to mention. Men need men friends and women need woman friends. Speaking for us blokes, we need other guys who understand prostate difficulties and the many unique challenges of manhood.
  10. Be honestly, relentlessly introspective. If you are in a problem relationship (marriage, business partnership, friendship, team), recognize that in any relationship, the only person you can ultimately change is yourself.
  11. Be nice.  That means be polite, civil, respectful.  Love your neighbor and your enemies because it is the right thing to do and love covers a multitude of offenses.
  12. Don’t be a wimp.  Take chances. Try new things, new experiences (food, music, clothes, books, associations, techniques, strategies – you name it). Dare to fail because failure is the greatest teacher. Better to have tried and failed then not to have tried at all.
  13. On the other hand, don’t be stupid. Watch your money. Choose your friends wisely. Enter partnerships with your eyes wide open. Be loyal and faithful to your spouse. Practice personal purity. Look before you leap. Wear your safety gear.  Practice moderation. Remember what your mama said.
  14. Be part of a fellowship.  We were not meant to go through this life alone. We need God and each other. We need to be aware of each other’s problems, difficulties, trials and tribulations so we can comfort and encourage one another and pray for each other. When life batters you about, who you gonna call? Become part of a fellowship that worships, prays and sings together. If you don’t need others at the moment (I assure you that, in time, you will) they could certainly benefit from your strength.

Now is the time for you, dear reader to add to this list. Whether you are young or old, give us the benefit of your thinking. Between us, we can probably help our fellow-humans, young or old, to choose wisely and well.

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Filed under Adventure, Aging, Blessings, Discernment, Holy Spirit, Infidelity, Life, Love, Love and Marriage, Meaning of Life, Men's Issues, Religion, Suffering, Trust

WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Compassion has no place in the natural order of the world which operates on the basis of necessity. Compassion opposes this order and is therefore best thought of as being in some way supernatural.
~John Berger

By compassion we make others’ misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.
~Thomas Browne, Sr.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion… – Paul to the Colossians (3:12).

There is still goodness in our nation and world. With the exception of a major disaster, this good news often doesn’t make it to page one and it isn’t particularly titillating. With evil so recently rampant, this is heartening information! So many calamities: earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes and hurricanes! In each case, multitudes of people have thrown themselves into the devastation to salve the suffering of their fellow human victims.

It really doesn’t matter how culpable one has been by building on a floodplain, too near a volcano, in the midst of fire-prone forest or bush, over a fault line, or on a hurricane-prone coast…we help anyway.  After all, few of us get to choose where we work and live.  Who of us, furthermore, is innocent of making a poor choice? In my own case, there is no way I can, at this stage and in my present situation, flee from tornado danger. Someday, God forbid, one may twist and tear through my neighborhood.

But here’s what I know: if it ever happens, the good people of my city, state and nation will rush to our aid as we would theirs. They will be driven by the compassion and empathy characteristic of human beings created in the image of God.

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Japan and Other Disasters

I don’t think I have ever witnessed (through the medium of television) anything worse than the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northern Japan.  This is not to say that other, equally horrible, disasters have not taken place.  Speaking for myself, television and intrepid journalists have increased our awareness of such events almost to the saturation point of my emotional capacity.  I have been grieving along with the rest of the world over these events and the tragedy unfolding in the Arab nations.  It is almost too much to take in and process.

If the tragedies in themselves were not enough, now the religious pundits are taking advantage of them by telling us how they are God’s work of judgment and/or opportunity to further the cause of Christianity and I’m sick of it!  While it is true that we live in a broken world and that every instance of human suffering offers us an opportunity to respond with the compassion of Christ, I find such pontification nauseating and a work of ignorant speculation and arrogance.

Who dares to speak for God?! Who dares to step in and pronounce His judgment? The causes of earthquakes, eruptions, floods, fires, tsunamis, tornadoes and every other violent release of energy are well known. We live in a dangerous world and sometimes we make the mistake of compounding the danger by building homes and nuclear power plants in unsafe places.  Then, in the aftermath, when we have cleaned away the rubble and buried our loved ones, we do it again. God is not to blame for our foolishness!

Let us love those caught up in these events and do what we can to alleviate their agony…not add to it by ill-timed and insensitive conjecture based on ignorance at best and stupidity at worst.

My blogs:
Whitticisms: dwhitsett.wordpress.com
In the Charamon Garden: charamongarden.wordpress.com
Whitsett Carving: whitcarv.wordpress.com
Mission South Pacific: missionsouthpacific.wordpress.com

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Filed under Attributes of God, Current Events, Good & Evil, Ignorance, Jesus Christ, Judgment, Natural Disaster, Religion, Suffering