Archive for July, 2007

Jul 21 2007

Play Golf Every Day: The Relativity of Frivolity

Published by under Uncategorized

For as long as I can remember, people have ripped on me. It used to be because I wore sweat pants all the time. Recently, I’ve been ripped on because I’m “too serious.” Most of the time, I just laugh about it with the person while politely declining their invitation to do this or that activity.

I try to take everyone’s criticism to heart. I consider it. In the end, I may not agree with all of it, but I can usually see some truth to what they’re saying when I stop and think. One of the questions I’ve asked recently when someone criticizes me is, “Why are they saying this?”

Imagine if President Bush played golf every single day. How do you think Americans would react? They’d probably go ballistic. “Here he has all this work to do,” they’d say, “and Bush is out whacking a golf club.” But retired people do that all the time. So what’s the difference? A definition will be helpful.

Frivolous: “characterized by lack of seriousness or sense; self-indulgently carefree; unconcerned about or lacking any serious purpose; given to trifling or undue levity; of little or no weight, worth, or importance; not worthy of serious notice.”

Interesting, huh? So let’s answer our question. Why is it an offense for President Bush to play golf every day but the right of a retired person? The difference lies in the expectation. President Bush has things he is supposed to do. Retired people don’t. And that’s why being frivolous is relative. It’s all dependent on the goals and expectations a person has.

Bringing it full circle. Would anyone ever accuse President Bush of being too serious? Almost certainly not. Why? Because the scope and importance of his job demand that he be sober, serious, sharp, and attentive to the work at hand. So when someone tells me I’m too serious now, I’m not offended. It’s almost a compliment. The truth is that I’m busy at home trying to figure out my life. I read books and write. I’m trying to figure out how I fit into this world and how I can be on mission with God while I do live. That’s super important to me. As with the President, that goal demands that I’m sober, serious, sharp, and attentive to the work at hand.

Retired people, by and large (yes, there are exceptions), have nowhere to go. Most have no real remaining dreams. They wanted to play golf until they died.¬† They’re on a downhill train to the end of life. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. That was their goal, but it’s not mine. I have other things in mind.

Have you imagined the crazy possibilities of what your life can count for? The craziest life is possible. But it takes work. A lot of it. And the payoff is incredible if the goals are reached. Anyone who has defined future goals begins to see other things as frivolous. By definition they are – they’re just not as important. Of course, there is, in all things, a damage in being too extreme. We need to have fun and be re-created.

The risk is that if we die before we reach our goals, we feel we’d have wasted all that time we could have had fun “in the moment.” But we can put those “fun savings” on deposit with God. He is the trustworthy Banker and sees our effort. Laboring in Jesus’ name, we’ll be rewarded in this life and/or the next.

Have you thought lately about what treasure you’re storing up in heaven? You might have to be more serious than usual for a while to discover how you can make deposits there. You might have to turn down tonight’s party invitation. It’s hard to say no at first. But it’s worth it! For yourself, for Jesus, and for other people. And that’s my answer to why I can’t go out sometimes. That’s the reason why President Bush doesn’t play golf every day. There’s a lot of work to be done!

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Jul 20 2007

Three Reasons We React So Poorly To Suffering

Published by under Theology Reloaded

My friend, Chris, wrote about a family who has a 3-year old son named Eli. Eli has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer that is pretty much threatening his life. When we hear of such things, many of us get angry, question God, and ask the perpetual, “Why?” Though it may seem heartless (I promise, it’s not), my question is, “Why not?” What follows is my comment I left Chris and why I think we react so poorly to suffering.

To begin, an observation: Oftentimes, I don’t really understand the truths I claim to understand. Apparently, e=mc2. But I have no idea what that means. Something about energy, mass, and the speed of light squared, but I don’t REALLY understand it. The truth is beyond me. I COULD labor to come to understanding of that truth, but e=mc2 isn’t something I’m personally willing to spend my time on. With that said, here are a few thoughts that have come at a great price to me, personally, and, I think, ARE worth spending time on…

1) Quick dismissal of God’s sovereignty. We claim He is in control but get frustrated with Him when He allows things that fall outside the scope of what WE define as acceptable. The question shouldn’t be “God, why have You allowed this?” (a masked way of questioning His goodness and imagining we know better than Him) but “God, why do I view this as so grievous and an offense against me?” (a way of questioning my own ignorance of His ways). John Piper has said something very helpful. He said that we are finite creatures. Imagine us viewing a massive mosaic. Our limits only allow us to see a small piece of the mosaic. At times, the area we view will be beautiful; at other times, black and ugly. God sees the whole mosaic – the white, the black, red, green, everything. To Him, it is a coherent whole. Yes, it is broken but it is whole and He sees His purpose for everything.

2) Quick dismissal of heaven’s beauty. Why do we celebrate life on earth so much? Why is there such a desire to keep people alive for so long? I’m not saying I want Eli to die! But this place, relative to heaven, is an absolute dump. If Eli dies, he, presumably, gets to spend eternity with Jesus in eternal joy! If heaven were more of a reality for us, would we really get so upset when people who are going to heaven die?

3) Quick dismissal of God’s means for sanctification. For whatever reason, He chose trials and hardship to bring us closer to Him. James told us to count them pure joy. Why? They FORCE us to seek Him. You and I both know that times of feeling abandoned in the desert compel people to hate God or pursue Him with their entire soul. When our lives are turned upsidedown, our faith is tested and often strengthened!

Like many Christians, I want God’s will in all things! My prayers are for Eli’s family and friends to be drawn closer to Jesus throughout this time! Whether now or later, Eli will die – as will we all! But God is still God and He still mercifully calls us closer to Him every day because of what Jesus did! And THAT has been His aim all along – for us to know Him! As there are degrees of depth in human relationships, so too, with Him. Someday, we will know Him [when we go to heaven], even as we are fully known by Him now. If that is His aim, then why let it tarry? It’s BETTER! Whether Jesus comes back first or we go to Him in death, the RICHES of His presence and heaven are afforded to us by believing in His sacrifice!

In my estimation, our theologies often betray us and cause us far greater pain than need be. Maybe a lesson to learn from tragedy is to re-examine our theology and ask if it makes biblical sense. Don’t get me wrong, I imagine that having a child in such pain is tremendously difficult! But maybe less so if we believe the right things about why God made us, Jesus, salvation, heaven, and this world. In that way, I ask God to comfort the hurting by showing them more of their hearts and right theology and more of Himself! May it be so every day for all of us – with or without tragedy!

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Jul 10 2007

Why We Should Stay In Iraq

Published by under Military

I really need someone to help me understand some things.

Everyone is up in arms about Iraq. Most people want the soldiers back home. President Bush’s approval rating is at 29%, presumably because people are mad about the war. Certainly, most people have enough money right now to buy every gadget and possession they can imagine so the economy can’t be the issue.

Personally, I believe we will live to regret the day we prematurely leave Iraq and I’ll tell you why.

Something not often reported in newspapers are the REASONS why al-Qaeda blows things and people up. Why is it that they like murder so much? Of course, most Westerners, the lazy people that we are, will simply say, “Oh, they’re crazy.” And that’s the end of the discussion. But below the surface is a reason for violence that would change many people’s views of what’s happening in Iraq.

Al-Qaeda and other radical Isalmic organizations are fighting for nothing less than worldwide sharia law. They want the rule of Islam to be instituted as the state government in every country in the world. Because THEY are currently in the middle east, they’re starting there. They view anyone who does NOT want to implement sharia an infidel. That is why they have no qualms killing other Muslims. They do not view them as true muslims but as kufr, apostates from the Islamic faith. Thus, as any infidel, death is their deserved fate for rebelling against the teachings of the Qu’ran.

While this is an incredibly short explanation and does not get into much detail, it is enough for me to ask my question. What happens when the US leaves Iraq and Iraq is not able to stand on its own (which it certainly isn’t now!)? Who will take power? Is it only the US that the men of al-Qaeda want to see ousted? It is not. Like the Taliban has done in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda will continue to ruin the country of Iraq. What is worse is that Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, has natural resources in the form of oil. If al-Qaeda takes over Iraq upon our departure and builds the infrastructure to the point that they are able to export oil, they will have an endless stream of revenue to finance their terror plots worldwide.

And make no mistake that their ambition is not only the subjugation of Iraq or Afghanistan. Like any organization with goals, this is just the beginning of a grander plan.

So I ask again…why are we fleeing Iraq? Yes, soldiers die every day and that is tragic. And Iraqi civilians are being killed by the dozen and that makes me super sad. But to look BACKWARD and talk about “Bush lied” or any other such rhetoric is NOT where the debate should be focused. Those decisions are sunk costs. The current decision should ONLY be framed by what’s best for all parties going forward. Because I believe my analysis to be correct (gleaned from other sources, obviously, as I’m not that smart), I think our only course of action is to stay.

To give al-Qaeda time to mobilize its forces (people), resources (weapons/cash), and overthrow the Iraqi government would eventually spell far more death and destruction than we can imagine. Because Iraq is not their end game. They have sworn over and over that they want every country to be under sharia law. So whether we like it or not, this battle against radical Islam (which should really be termed a different religion altogether) is just beginning.

If someone can convince me I’m wrong, I will certainly listen. But it bristles me that so much of the rhetoric and debate on Capitol Hill focuses on so much emotionalism and so little reason. I wish the war wasn’t happening either, but it is. And if we don’t finish it right, we will pay a far higher price in the future.

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Jul 04 2007

Freedom

Published by under Military

What can I say that doesn’t sound like a cliche? Today I realized that I often write things which SOUND good but which I don’t actually believe. I don’t like that because it is self-deceiving. It makes me think that I believe something I don’t. So while I could use all types of cliche words and phrases about freedom, I’m not going to. But that doesn’t mean my writing has to stink.

I fly the colors out in front of our house every day. Putting the flag up consistently is a reminder of the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been spent so that we live how we do today. That is an overly-stated, simultaneously¬† unappreciated fact. Familiarity often breeds complacence or indifference (not only contempt). Some days I’m so moved by hanging the flag that I cry. I imagine my grandpa in World War II, a fighter pilot who flew Hellcats. I think about the fear he managed daily in sorties that sometimes resulted in the loss of friends. He escaped, though narrowly at times, unscathed. He inflicted destruction and took more than a dozen Japanese lives in the name of freedom. It was truly freedom he was defending.

And oh the scars of war that so many, past and present, have borne. From bullets, bombs, grenades, mortars, missiles, and memories of all these and more. Unforeseen to the inexperienced soldier and civilian are the rigors of war that threaten body and mind and the impossibility of continuing “normal” life upon returning home. How can we, having never experienced war, know the battles that continue in our friends and relatives who have fought and survived war? I don’t imagine we can. But how much I wish I could – that I could offer them the freedom they have given me.

But maybe I will serve to continue the freedom they fought for. Because if the freedom of our country comes to a place where we are backed into a corner (like at the outset of World War II), I will go Marines and try to be an officer. But, in the mean time, I have a worry about our country. The peace and affluence we know is softening us to being principled. The only principle many people in our country have is comfort – comfort for everyone. War is not comfortable so it’s thought we should ever and always avoid it.

Let it be known that comfort is only secured when those trying to make us UNconcomfortable are silenced. The battle against radical Isalmism (not to be confused with peace-loving Muslims) is a battle. And it will continue for many years to come. So this is an issue I hope my close friends will consider in more detail and become principled about if they are not already.

Over the next few days, I will have a multi-part series on why we will be locked in a war against radical Isalmism for the year to come. Tonight, I will leave with a quote from John Stuart Mill. And a prayer that we grow more resolved as a people in this country – resolved to maintain our freedom through the exercise of our minds in securing the principled, visionary minds our nation has always had.

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself” (John Stuart Mill).

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