State’s Rights is not a term I’ve heard in politics in a while. Sure, its all over the History books (especially Civil War), but politics?  The very concept is almost anathema to the modern American mind.  “What, let an individual State decide how they (the residents of that State) feel about an issue?  Absurd!”  Yet our Constitution US Constitution Article 1

clearly says, “The powers not delegated to the United States [ie, the Federal government]  by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Amendment 10)  In other words, State’s rights is a concept MANDATED by our Constitution.  It prevents a new king.

This is even more evident when we look at the early seeds of liberty that were planted by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence.  declaration of independence

I have often asserted that there is an intentional theological tone to the Declaration of Independence.  I believe that this theological tone is there mainly to justify State’s Rights.  The justification is needed because Paul wrote that we should obey authority because it was established by God. The big question that the Founders faced was thus, “How do we justify revolution against tyranny, without committing the sin of disobedience to an authority established by God?” Enter the Declaration’s declaration that authority is given to the people to choose a ruler.

The theological declaration is quickly moved past and often overlooked.  But it is plainly obvious when we read.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  Paul’s observation that government should be obeyed is plain, “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. (Romans 13:5)” 

But, the Declarations theological twist is that God gave the power of governance to the people.  Thus, a government which is not just is more easily explained as people abrogating their consent: they have failed to do their duty by establishing a government that secures their rights, especially the unalienable ones.  The power of governance in God’s creation is of vital consequense.  If we, the people, have that power of governance, then sin is suffering tyrany.  If the power of governance is the ruler’s, then we sin if we overthrow tyrany.

The model of the right of governance came out of the Roman Empire’s paradigm for governance and passed through the Middle Ages as Feudalism.  That model was established as

 God –> Ruler –> People.

A problem with this model stems from that old adage, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  This was born out as a tendency to make rulers people to be served. The king/czar/ceaser/etc.  demanded loyalty, fealty, and tribute.  This practice was in direct contrast to the model Jesus gave to us.  In His model, servant leadership, the ruler is a servant of the people, not a lord over them.   (As a quick side note, what does this mean about our view of Jesus?  How does it affect our Christology?  This precept I believe could spark some healthy debate! ie, is Jesus your Lord or your Butler? Hmmm?  He told Peter that He MUST be allowed to serve or that Peter had no part with Him.  Again, hmmm?)

Jesus model IS drastically different from the reality that comes from Rome’s model.  When we think like Him, the ruler should work for the people.  We call it “servant leadership”.  This new paradigm, or at least new to us even 2000 years later,  is a new power flow

God –> People –> Ruler.

When we look at servant leadership this way, we get some interesting ripple effects.  One of these ripples is that it is no longer a sin but a divine duty to overthrow anyone who is a ruler and not a servant.  Suffering under a despot becomes a sin of ommision, a sin of failure to act when God demands action.  Revolution becomes a Biblical mandate when the power shifts away from the people to the king/president/dictator.

The Founders clearly did not want this shift in power.  Look at our early history as a nation.  George Washington fought the temptation to be King George I of America so that the people would maintain power.  In 1834, the Supreme Court took the first step toward shifting power away from the States with their decision in Gibbons v. Ogden.  The Civil War further restricted State’s rights as, despite the common misconception, it was the driving issue for the Confederate States in their secession.  Finally, the Great Depression gave the Federal government great power to save the states from a financial nightmare.  In other words, we’ve spent the last 200+ years working to take power away from the people and give it to the central, Federal government.

This raises a major question for us as Americans.  Does this mean we are violating our own national theological base?  Does this mean we are violating God’s will? 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” 

Advertisements

It strikes me as odd, or at least as a logical fallacy, some of the thinking that we hear in America.  We have people who are double-minded on many issues and will tap dance around and angrily deny their inconsistent thinking.  The main concept for many (and in most cases the ONLY concept) is disagreeing with the “other side”.

For some examples, I can see the logical of the “No abortion/Yes Capital punishment” stand; the infant has done nothing wrong and the criminal has.  I can see the logic in the “No abortion/No Capital punishment” stand: life is sacred, we should always fight for it.  I can even see the “Yes abortion/ Yes Capital punishment” stand: life is cheap.  But how can someone justify “Yes abortion/ No Capital punishment”: infants must die but psycopaths must be given a chance.  Does that make sense to anyone?  If so, please explain, because it is the only one of the four positions that I can see no logical support for.  Either life is cheap, its sacred, or innocense deserves a chance and guilt deserves punishment.  But newborn life being cheap and criminal conduct being something we should preserve and protect… that doesn’t hold water.

Or, as another example, celebrities like Barbara Streisand, Susan Sarandon, and others, who stand and boldly cry that the rebuilding of Iraq, the elevation of its women from property to citizens, the new freedom of worship to the Christians, Jews and (most importantly in Iraq) Shi’ite and Kurd believers, and the feeding of the starving as BAD because, well, they say its because of Bush lying, but it seems more like its because they didn’t think of it first.  I base this of the fact that these same people are up in arms that we haven’t taken action in Darfur.  I agree, the atrocities must end.  But its hard to convince me that people can believe this and not be glad that the atrocities (WELL documented and with no Republican/Bush slant) of Sadam Husein have ended.

If you believe that its wrong for those who immigrate illegally to be punished for breaking the immigration laws because they are hungry/in need of medical care/persecuted at home, why are you living in a huge, mostly empty mansion?  Bring them in, pay for their medical bills.  And explain to me, in the mean time, why those who are hungry/in need of medical care/persecuted at home but choosing to obey the immigration laws SHOULD be punished?  After all, by following procedure, they cannot come here and get a job or the care they require for some time (because the process is lengthy).  Why should they be punished?  Or more to the point, why should they follow the law?

We have so many people who are double-minded.  And I think it comes down to a perversion of love.  Love God’s way is outward focused (toward God and toward neighbors).  Love our way is inward focused (whatever doesn’t inconvenience me or make me feel bad).  Our double-minded folk want to sleep at night, so they cry for justice and equality to placate their souls.  But they want to be comfortable, so they don’t go, they don’t help, they just smile and ask others to help.  Double-minded folk don’t want to feel like killers, so they are against capital punishment; but… they don’t want to have any “complications” in their life, so they are pro-abortion.

Double-minded folk seem to be good people, often.  But clearly, they are not God’s people.  Their love is selfish and therefore inconsistent.

God’s people follow the Way.  They live the Two.  They love God and others before they love themselves (and you MUST love yourself, too!  Just not foremost).  They are good people, but they are often seen as trouble-makers because their lives point out the inconsistent and selfish views of others.  They love selfLESSly, and consistently.  They are single-minded, loving freely and purely.

So I guess the question is, where do you and I fall?  I strive to live the Two. Sometimes I fail.  What about you?  Are you single-minded, or are you inconsistent?

He was still a young man living in Ur when God called him.  “Leave your home and go to the place that I will show you.”  That’s what God said.  “Leave, go, I’ll show.”  Leaving is harder than it sounds.  Going is the easy part.  Where He’ll show…that’s a horse of a different color!

Leaving meant saying, “See ya’!” to all that Abram and his family knew.  No more will we visit.  No more hanging out at the local inn for mead.  No more games of paleo-soccer at in the fields.  No more long talks with Dad.  No more eating Aunt Ruth’s fig pies.  No more Ur.  Back then, there wasn’t e-mail, there wasn’t even MAIL.  Alexander was not yet great (or even born) and Rome was a two-horse town in Italy that you didn’t even notice when you passed through!

Leave it all!  Your comfort, your security!  Your friends and family!  Your familiar streets!  Your home!  Leave it all.  Just go!  Go west, young Abram!  Go, and I’ll show!

I’m sure going wasn’t too bad.  After all, travel provided a distraction from the emotional pain of leaving home.  As Kris Kringle taught the evil Snow Wizard, “You just put one foot in front of the other.”  Make sure that the sheep and cattle are coming.  Ensure that the servants haven’t quit or gotten lost.  Where is that darn nephew!  No, honey, I’m sure this is the way, that wasn’t our exit.  Well you should have thought of that before we left Ur.  Normal travel isn’t too arduous these days.  In Abram’s day, it was a chore.  But, it was still probably the easiest of the three steps!

“I’ll show,” God said.  I wonder if Abram was like Bart Simpson, “Are we there yet!?!  Are we there yet!?!  Are we there yet!?!  Are we there yet!?!   Are we there yet!?!   Are we there yet!?!  Are we there yet!?!  Are we there yet!?! Ad nauseum!”  Or was he more like the Sprint guy, “Is it here, now?  Good!  Is it here, now?  Good!” with sarcastic relish!  Every step forward is a mystery!  Every step forward is an adventure.  WHERE AM I GOING!  HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN I ARRIVE!?!

I’m moving to Oklahoma City.  I know more than Abram knew.  Leaving is easier than it was for him, as for me it is not family that I will never see again nor ever speak to, but rather it is friends with whom I’ll have e-mail and phone contact (and occasional visits!). 

Going is easier for me, too.  I’ve got a truck, no servants or livestock, and I know the way already.

The where is a little easier, too.  I know it’ll be around OKC.  Not sure where, but somewhere around the city.

But, easier does not necessarily equate to easy.  I’m scared.  I’m confused.  I’m borderline depressed! (OK, I’m south of the border, take that as you wish!)  So, I rely on God as Abram did.  I trust in Him as Abram did.  And I ask Him, “Here?!?” as Abram did.  I’ve taught how overwhelming that must have been before, but to get a taste of it myself… well, its more overwhelming than I realized!

God, I know you’re directing this.  I know things will come together for me.  I trust you.  Please, don’t keep me in suspense any longer!  Is it here?!?

A pastor with a large and growing ministry came to town to share the Gospel. During the visit, this pastor was invited by a prominent local pastor to have dinner.

This is not an uncommon scenario, and we don’t often stop to wonder about it, but I would like to know one thing: “Why?” Why did the local pastor want to eat with the traveling pastor? Was he truly interested in the message the traveler brought? Was he trying to schmooze the traveler for future favors? Was he trying to improve his position in the local area by being associated with this great pastor?

When the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, he showed little interest in being a good host. There is no indication that Jesus was the “guest of honor” other than our tendency as Christians to think that Jesus must be honored. Jesus Himself says the man provided none of the usual courtesies that one expects of a gracious host.

The true question is this: when Jesus stood at the door to your heart and knocked, and you let Him in, what kind of host were you? What kind of host are you?

Sometimes your life may feel like you are alone on a desert island.  Like Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”, you may find that survival has become a question instead of a given.  You may crave companionship.  You might just want some basic creature comforts.  In those times when you are feeling alone, you might even want to cry out like David and Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!?!”

But when you are feeling alone, take some time to reflect on your conversations with God.  Are you still regularly communicating?  If not, how long has it been since you “called Daddy?”  How long has it been since you spoke to your Heavenly Father, sharing your joys, your woes, your struggles?  Often, you’ll find that starting up talks with God will draw you closer to Him.

But what about those times when you are still crying out?  What about those times when you pray without ceasing, and yet you cannot find God anywhere in your life?  At those times, you must follow some simple advice that I once received in the Army: “Shut up and listen!”  When you keep telling God what your doing for Him, you cannot hear what He wants you to do.  When you are so busy talking, you’ve stopped listening; and when you’re not listening to God, it’s easy to go adrift in life.

So, throw that old volleyball away (Wilson never was good conversation anyway), and start talking to the One Who wants to hear about your pain and joy.  Listen to what God has to say, and you’ll find yourself no longer “Cast Away”, but caught up in His love.

How do you view the “Holy Bible”? Do you see it as a book of fables and myths that give us direction through pithy anecdotes? Or, do you see it as a book of rules and regulations, definitions of character and morality?

Our society tries to force us into one view or the other. Liberal theologians will tell you that real miracles are the changes of heart and character, and that stories that appear to defy the laws of nature are fanciful tales. While they appreciate the beauty of the words, they disregard large portions of the Bible because it’s a group of “either unbelievable miracles or a land of make-believe. (Bishop John Shelby Spong in “The Sins of Scripture”).

Conservatives have a different habit. They look for eternal principles to apply to life. They see the Bible as a lawyer sees the state book of statutes. Conservatives dig through the Bible highlighting “thou shall”s and “thou shalt not”s. Ten CommandmentsThey are so focused on the words of scripture that they often miss the Word of scripture.

Perhaps we should find a different way to read Scripture. Perhaps, we should approach the Bible as God’s Word. Perhaps we should try to form a relationship with it; to be known by it as we come to know it. Like a young couple that is starting a relationship, perhaps we should seek to find not just the literal “truth” of the Bible, but also the exquisite beauty.

Today, don’t merely read your Bible, but start a relationship with it. Get to know the God Who’s Word it is. Your life will be enriched in more ways than you can know.

Each morning, after I take my daughter to school, I go to one of two restaurants in town and have breakfast. Breakfast of champions. Its a good time to fellowship with people, its a good time to prepare for the day, and its a good time to end my daily fast — you know, that time when sleep overtakes eating as the priority.  Breakfast even gets its name from the idea that you are “breaking your fast.”

Well, back in January, I started a blog fast.  I had no intention of letting it go for 3 months, but it has.  FINALLY, I’m ending my fast, and preparing to once again pontificate and philosophize about thinks Godly, theological, and just generally about living for Jesus.  To both my readers (if I have that many), I apologize for the absence, but now,

I’m BACK!!!