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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Word For The Week

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12


I find it incredibly amazing just how much American society is distinctly opposed to the Biblical norms. We live in the land of the Lone Ranger, a land where each individual is expected to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, a land where individual achievement is exalted above the well-being of the team. Politicians seek to shine in the spotlight even though their grandstanding hurts the efforts of their political party. Athletes seek to increase their personal glory even though their team needs to involve more players in the game. Managers seek to avoid all blame even though their supervisors need guidance and direction. We live in a land where everyone is out for self - self-service, self-gratification, self-help - but the Bible tells us that two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.

Together Each Achieves More.

It's a tired cliché but it is and has been true since times of old. If one falls down his friend can help him up, but it sucks to be the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Remember the old commercial where the elderly lady cries, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" How many times have we heard about an aunt or grandmother or sister who has broken her hip and nobody knew that she incapacitated, laying on the floor in agony for days? It happens more often then most of us would care to know. There are many people who have broken spirits and broken hearts, people who have been mentally broken down and are meandering through this life all alone with no one to help them up because in this land where we live a person keeps to themselves. In this land where we live a person simply doesn't put themselves out there. In this land where we live people's problems are pure fodder for television programming, and lest we find ourselves on Montel, Maury, or Oprah's couch confessing all to voyeuristic public we keep our personal baggage, issues, and drama to ourselves.

It's a matter of trust.

In many instances we would love to have people that we could confide in, people with whom we could share our burdens, people who we could lean on and who also could lean on us, but in too many instances we know with absolute certainty that people can not be trusted with our business. You tell one person your business today and you hear about it from someone else tomorrow. All too often people are not looking out for your best interest or mine, they are looking out for themselves, seeking their own self-gratification.

Many times it isn't that people mean you harm, it's just that they're not thinking about you, they don't understand your well-being to be their responsibility, but we who are called by the name of Jesus Christ are to take a different approach. I am my brother's keeper, and your well-being is my responsibility - and my well-being is your responsibility. You have to be able to trust me to not only keep your confidence but to build you up when you are weak, encourage you when you are feeling down, help you when you stumble and defend you when you are attacked. I have to be able to trust you to do the same for me, because when we live a life of love our loved-ones should know with absolute certainty that we will be there for them, no matter what. If I call you my brother or sister in Christ then why would I treat you like a stranger? Yet too often that is exactly the way that we treat each other within the church. Sure, we'll greet one another with a smile and a hug, but then we never speak to one another until the next Sunday. You could be going through hell on earth and all I know is that you looked nice on Sunday. I could be about to put a bullet in my brain and all that you know is that I was in church on Sunday. We have to stop playing church and start being the Church. The Church is the fellowship of believers, not merely a collection of self-professed Christians. The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a hospice for the dying. The Church is the place where believers can come together to strengthen and encourage one another, empathize and love on one another, fellowship and bond with one another. We don't just come to church, we are the Church - at church, at home, at work, at the grocery store - such that anywhere we go the peace of God follows us, and whenever or wherever we encounter another Christian Church is in session.

Because we're on the same team.

The world has tried to understand this team thing, realigning paradigms according to ISO 9000 or Six Sigma or whatever the newest management fad happens to be, but at the end of the day it boils down to this one central thing that Scripture has taught from the beginning - when you love your teammates your team will excel. People will run through a brick wall for someone they love. People will walk through fire for someone they love. People will jump in front of bullets, dive on grenades, and make the ultimate sacrifice for people that they truly love. Jesus said it best, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." But where there is no love there is nothing but self-satisfaction, self-interest, and self-serving actions.

Again, this is sin.

The center of sin is self, and every sin begins with the words, "I want..." Just ask Adam and Eve. God said that they must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom - she wanted it - so she took some and ate it and then gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Every sin that we have ever committed began with, "I want" and every sin that we will ever commit will begin with, "I want" - this is why we must die to self - and the best way to keep those selfish intentions in check is to maintain fellowship with other believers, members of the team, because together each of us achieves more for the advancement of God's kingdom. Lucy Van Pelt of the Peanuts cartoon gave a pointed example of this teamwork. One finger, by itself, can do very little; however, when five fingers come together and form a fist their collective power is many times greater than their individual power when standing alone. We who are called by the name of Christ need to come together, work together, and achieve together, because divided we are conquered and defeated. We who are called by the name of Christ are more than conquerors through Him who loves us, but we have to walk in that victory with our fellow believers. We who are called by the name of Christ have overcome the world by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony, but we have to openly testify if we are to actualize our overcoming, if we are to make it real, if we are to be more than just another hypocrite in the church. We have to be the Church, and that means that we have to live a life of love such that our fellow believers can trust us with their hearts. That means that we have to be trustworthy enough that our fellow believers can lay with us to keep warm without worrying about their personal security. That means that we have to be strong enough in our walk with Christ that when our brother or sister is attacked we can defend them, because while one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, and cord of three strands is not quickly broken. We have to be the Church, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit - the ultimate example of teamwork.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants us to be good teammates,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday Comics

Git 'R Dungy...
...vs. Monsters Of The Midway
Personal Responsibility
Subjective Right To Life...
...Market Forces...
...And The Scientific Method
Lab Rats
Big Mama
From Bad...
...To Worse
Job One
Army Of One
Smack Down
Mosh Pit
Integrity Matters
Katrina's Wake
Bye-Bye Bayou
New Year's Resolution
Nuclear Grenade
Pale Face
China Syndrome
Mixed Metaphor
Little Baghdad
The Butcher's Bill
America Online

And my favorite for today: American Idolatry

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 6:30 AM :: (0) minds freed

Monday, January 22, 2007

Making History

Yesterday we saw not one but two Black NFL coaches win their way to the Superbowl, which is the first time this has ever happened. The way things are going, we may run out of nationally prominent "firsts" by the time my future children become adults (God willing).

Which brings me to Barack Obama. Could he be the first Black president? Why not? Why not Barack Obama? Granted, we've all joked about how there may never be a Black president and the dangers he or she might face between election day and inauguration. Granted Obama has received a lot of hype without the close substantive scrutiny that, say, Hillary Clinton has been under.

But Barack's message is about hope. And why not hope for achieving the impossible? Were it not for hope and faith we would never have seen the end of chattel slavery. Were it not for hope and faith we would never have seen the end of de jure Jim Crow. Were it not for hope and faith we would never have the opportunity to see a Black NFL coach hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy above his head.

So let us keep the faith, and keep hoping. Regardless of whom you may support, do as Jesse said and keep hope alive.

Emancipated by Talib @ 8:19 AM :: (4) minds freed

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Word For The Week

You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

It is amazing just how much drama could be avoided if people treated each other with a modicum of respect. Countless wars have been fought because one leader or country felt disrespected by another. World War II came about in large part because the Germans felt disrespected by the Treaty of Versailles - they essentially fought World War I to a draw but they were treated like a defeated nation. How many millions of lives could have been saved through treating Germany with some respect in 1919? How much pain and suffering could have been avoided by treating people with respect? How many issues in our own lives could have been avoided if the situations had been dealt with respectfully?

Loving your enemies is nothing more than treating them with respect, treating them like human beings, treating them like we would want to be treated, not how we would expect to be treated. If I were running for elective office then I would expect my opponent to dig through my background (oppo research) and find unflattering things to make me appear to be unqualified for office, but I would want him to engage me on the issues that are actually relevant to the constituents of the district. In this case Jesus commands us to eschew mud-slinging and negative campaigning since that is not consistent with loving our enemies, treating them with respect. In fact, negative campaigning is quintessentially disrespectful - it promotes contempt for your opponent, driving up their negative ratings. We who are called by the name of Christ are not to promote contempt for anyone, we are to be Jesus Christ's ambassadors, spreading His message of reconciliation to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who would persecute us, even in political campaigns.

That extends to our phone conversations, too.

The nastiest mud-slinging that you will ever find is when people get to talking about someone over the phone, running their name through the mud, talking about them like they have a tail. In many ways it resembles a feeding frenzy when chum is tossed into shark-infested waters. It looks a lot like the LAPD beating on Rodney King. It is eerily reminiscent of those klansmen beating on Emmet Till. When people get to talking bad about someone it can get ugly in a hurry, and the end result is that the person is treated with a lack of respect from there on out, they are treated in ways that have nothing to do with love.

That is sin.

We love to talk about those people and their sinful lifestyles - and they are indeed sinful - but we have a lot of sin that we have to address as well, first and foremost being the lack of love that we show for those who we perceive to be our enemies, the lack of respect that we show for people who believe differently, think differently, or look differently from us. Even though people who reject Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior are destined for hellfire we are still to love them, to treat them with respect, to deal with them the same way with which we would want to be dealt. People who think differently from us may indeed be facilitating the destruction of this country as we have known it, but we still must treat them with respect, loving them as we would want to be loved - from a distance in most instances - and giving them the respect that is due to God's creation. How did Aretha put it?

Find out what it means to me.

We have to treat everyone with the utmost respect, from our best friends to those folks who we would rather never see again. Loving someone and treating them with respect does not mean that you feel anything for them, it doesn't mean that you have any positive emotion regarding them, it means that you deal with them in positive ways when you have to deal with them. In many instances the most loving thing that you can do for someone is removing yourself from their presence, telling them that you can not deal with them in a loving manner and since you don't want to bring them harm you have to separate yourself from them until such time as you can deal with them in a loving manner. Loving a crackhead doesn't mean giving them money - it means cutting them off and getting them into rehab. Loving an abusive spouse doesn't mean submitting to fists of fury, it means getting out of his (or her!) presence until s/he has learned how to channel their emotions. Loving our enemies doesn't mean letting them have their way with us, it means treating them respectfully, telling them "No" instead of telling them where to go and how to get there. It's an issue of attitude, and our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus our Lord. Our basic disposition should be one of love, not in the passive doormat sense but in the sense that we treat everyone with respect, that we want that which is best for everyone, that we are concerned about the well-being of everyone. After all, worldly folks love their friends; worldly folks look after their own; worldly folks deal with people according to the manner in which they are treated, but we are called to be bigger than that. We are called to better than that. We are called to be the bearers of Jesus Christ's image, but with too many Christians when the world looks at us they see nothing more than a reflection of themselves - game recognize game and carnal recognize carnal.

Be perfect, therefore, as our heavenly Father is perfect.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to Him,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Saturday Comics

The Birds
Lifestyle Preference
Counter-Cultural Rebels
Bull Market
Tee Time
Prospects For Success
Miserable Failure
Saving Face
No New Texans
Alternative Plans
Mobeus Ribbon
Republican Role
Viva La Revolución
The Swift Boats Are Coming
All Things Considered...
...Less Is More
Game Recognize Game
Triangulated Redeployment
Calculated Response
Variations Of Vanilla
Hillary Rodham Kerry...
...Exorcising Her Demons
Neither Nor
Both And
Beep Beep
Domestic Terror

And my favorites for today: The Gentleman From Illinois...Restoring The Union

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:30 AM :: (0) minds freed

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Audacity Of Hope

It is incredibly likely that the next President of the United States will be a Black man. Senator Barack Obama has announced that he will open an exploratory committee and that he will announce his intentions in February, around Lincoln's birthday, in Lincoln's home-state, during Black History Month.

Now we just have to convince Colin Powell's wife to let him run for president - no Republican could beat him in the primary - and we will have the first all-Black election for president, because no Democrat has anything for Obama either. Powell's not running, but Obama has rekindled a degree of political hopefulness in me - audacious hope, one might say - and it doesn't hurt to hope for the best possible scenario.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 9:15 PM :: (0) minds freed

Monday, January 15, 2007


Every January 15th (or the Monday nearest that day) we get a million people quoting Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech, but as of 2007 I believe that we can safely say that said dream is at best deferred and in reality nothing more than a child's fantasy, lest you forget that some things never change. For a more realistic look at 2007 it would be better to examine Martin Luther King's words in The Drum Major Instinct, excerpted below:
The other day I was saying, I always try to do a little converting when I'm in jail. And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. So I would get to preaching, and we would get to talking—calmly, because they wanted to talk about it. And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, "Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. You're just as poor as Negroes." And I said, "You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you're so poor you can't send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march."

Now that's a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white — and can't hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out.

And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy. And if something doesn't happen to stop this trend, I'm sorely afraid that we won't be here to talk about Jesus Christ and about God and about brotherhood too many more years. If somebody doesn't bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody's going to make the mistake through our senseless blunderings of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere. And then another one is going to drop. And don't let anybody fool you, this can happen within a matter of seconds. They have twenty-megaton bombs in Russia right now that can destroy a city as big as New York in three seconds, with everybody wiped away, and every building. And we can do the same thing to Russia and China.

But this is why we are drifting. And we are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. "I must be first." "I must be supreme." "Our nation must rule the world." And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I'm going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. The God that I worship has a way of saying, "Don't play with me." He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, "Don’t play with me, Israel. Don't play with me, Babylon. Be still and know that I'm God. And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power." And that can happen to America. Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening. And we have perverted the drum major instinct.
Some things never change...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 5:59 PM :: (0) minds freed

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Word For The Week

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No"; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-37

One thing that I have learned in my limited existence on Earth is the absolute necessity of personal integrity. You can disagree with a person of integrity and still respect and work with them. You can fight tooth and nail against a person of integrity and remain civil or even friendly after the battle. You can oppose with every fiber of your being that which a person of integrity proposes and still honor their character in fighting for that which they earnestly believe. One of the things that drew me to Howard Dean's campaign was his clear-cut character - he said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had the personal integrity to stand against the war in Iraq when certain senators were voting for it before they voted against it. He had the personal integrity to call out the Democratic Party for being too insular and excluding people with confederate flags on the back of their pickup trucks. He had the personal integrity to call for the breakup of major multi-media conglomerates even though big media can make or break a presidential campaign. Each of these stands cost Howard Dean in his campaign for president, and the biggest problem that I had with Howard Dean was when he folded under pressure regarding the confederate flag comment, compromising his integrity by apologizing for a comment that needed no apology but instead needed to be expanded upon and defended.

Just like so many Bible-believing Christians fold up every day.

How many Christians blend into society and hide their faith? How many Christians speak of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ only in circles where such talk is "safe"? How many Christians apologize for their exclusive belief in Jesus Christ, that the only way to the Father is through the Son, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but through Him? How many times do Christians straight up punk out? We don't need any more punk Christians, we need men and women of integrity - men and women with the character to stand firm for the Kingdom of God, men and women with the character to stand firm on the Word of God, men and women with the character to stand firm under pressure because this world will surely resist the message of reconciliation, the message that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and that in order for the world to appropriate that which Jesus has done on our behalf they have to accept His atoning work and lordship.

But how will they believe our message if we have no personal credibility?

With too many Christians our "No" mean "maybe" and our "Yes" mean "probably not." With too many Christians our personal credibility is no better than the average political promise. With too many Christians our word means next to nothing, so when we try to speak on matters of eternal importance the world has but one thing to say - whatever. That is not the fault of the world. That is not the fault of the lost and the dying. That is not the fault of those who we are trying to reach - that is purely our fault, and it perpetually poisons our personal credibility when we fail to admit as much; it shows our true character.

When we say "Yes" we must be consistent with it. "Yes" means "yes", no matter what. When we say, "I do" it can't mean "I might, unless we drift apart." When we tell people that we will do something then the job must get done, no matter the personal sacrifice that must be made. When we tell people that we will not do something then no matter how enticing the temptation we must be steadfast in our refusal to participate in it. Our problem is that we try to tell people that sex is between one man and one woman within the context of marriage while preachers are "laying hands" on church secretaries, priests are having "relations" with altar boys, and high profile men of the cloth are ousted for having adulterous affairs, even with gay prostitutes. And we want to talk about sex? You know what the world has to say - whatever.

Let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No."

We all (well, most of us) mean well, and when we make these vows and promises we usually mean it at the time, but too often our $10 mouths write checks that our 5¢ behinds can't cash. We like to look big with our big talk but when our worldly walk can't keep up we come across as hypocritical fools, and that perception is dead accurate. We have to learn how to live a life of integrity, how to live a life of righteousness, and sometimes that means telling people that you just don't know. I am a world-class know-it-all - I am conversant on most things and I can pretty much piece together the things that I don't know much about - but even I have to say, "You know what, I really don't know" from time to time. Why did over 60 million Americans vote for George W. Bush in 2004? I don't know. Why did the Democratic Party think that John F. Kerry was the best choice for its presidential candidate in 2004? I don't know. Why did Tony Romo choke away a potential Cowboys victory? I don't know. "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer, and so is, "That's none of your business" - living a life of integrity doesn't mean giving everyone Carte Blanche with your personal life; it does mean that if they happen to reveal everything about your personal life then nothing would be revealed about which you should be ashamed. We have to be consistent with our talk and our walk, not by reducing our talk to the level of our walk but by raising our walk to the level of Jesus' walk - then we'll consistently have the credible character to talk as Jesus talked. When we live a life of integrity we don't need an outside source to validate the truthfulness of our words. When we live a life of integrity we don't need to put our hand on a Bible for people to know that we are telling the truth. When we live a life of integrity the fact that we are speaking means that we are speaking truthfully, that our "Yes" means "Yes" and our "No" means "No," and we who are called by the name of Jesus Christ are commanded to live a life of integrity.

Integrity - credible character lived consistently; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to live a life of personal integrity,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saturday Comics

Latter-Day Saint?
The L Word
Flag Desecration
You (Ese) Tube
Cheerleader In Chief
Days Of Our Lives
Hell --> Naw
Goose --> Gander
False Profit
Texas Hold 'Em
5-Card Draw
Rabid Ignorance
...By His Own Petard
Hail Mary...
...Full Of Grace
Too Late
Mission Accomplished...
...Or Fait Accompli
All In
Lame Duck
Barak! Boma Ye!
Step It Down
Mirror Mirror
Uncle Gus
Bass Ackwards
...For The Treadmill
Boots In The Ground
Feeding Postmodern Cannons
Bring Them Home
Hit Him Again
Mobius Policy
Freudian Policy
Yo Ho Ho...
...And A Bottle Of Rum
Long Way To Go
Theory Of Evolution
Executive Order
Slaughter House
Either Bush Either
China Syndrome
Only In Utah

And my favorite for today: Durty Jurz

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 10:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Friday, January 12, 2007


The die has been cast and I am going to make some moves that will require me to maintain a less-obvious presence online. I'm still me and I'll still be here from time to time, but I need to create a bit of separation between virtual and objective reality.

He that has an ear to hear, let him hear...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 8:53 PM :: (0) minds freed

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Word For The Week

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:21-26
I find it fascinating to watch the news with an eye toward human nature playing itself out in world events, both in matters great and small. The story that I have found to be most interesting is the recent spat between Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell, where the two of them are essentially playing the dozens on each other. It reminds me of many an argument that is had by children where one would say, “You’re a pig-face!” and the other would reply, “Says who?” Says who? It’s a simple question with a significant answer, because it ultimately addresses the epistemological inquiry into authority – who can speak authoritatively?

Most people’s proclamations are nothing more than the mere opinions of men, one man says this while another says that and none of them have any claim to truth. It is much like the story of three blind men who were led to an elephant and asked to describe their experience. One man, who grasped the elephant’s tail, said that it is a thin creature, much akin to a rope, while the second man grasped the elephant’s trunk and described the animal as being like a water hose. The third man grabbed the elephant’s leg and described the animal as being like a tree trunk. While each of the men was correct in describing their experience with the elephant, none of the men fully grasped the character and nature of the elephant. They could not see the elephant in all of its splendor and glory, only those aspects of the elephant that were within their reach and that the elephant allowed them to experience.

Our personal experience cannot tell us about the nature and character of God beyond that which God reveals to us. Our interpretation of our experiences, much like that of the three blind men around the elephant, can be incomplete or wildly off the mark. If we look down a railroad track our eyes will tell us that those two tracks eventually come together, but that is not truth. Our every-day experience tells us that the world upon which we live is flat, but that is not truth. Conventional wisdom said that the Pittsburgh Steelers could not win three playoff games on the road and then win the Super Bowl, but that was not truth. People lack the authority to pronounce truth – often times they are merely guessing – but Jesus creates truth by merely speaking. After all, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God said, “Let there be…” and there was, simply by speaking. Jesus called Lazarus from the grave and the decomposed corpse became a living soul, Jesus has the authority to speak. He who healed the sick and gave sight to the blind has the authority to speak. He who gave his life as an atoning sacrifice for my sins and yours has the authority to speak. We can trust the words of Jesus Christ because He alone has the authority to speak.

But the question is this: who are you listening to? That which controls your thinking is your god, so whose words control your thinking? Whose words guide your actions? Do you keep your own council? Are you your own god? Or do you submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, responding to His words as brought to your remembrance by the Holy Spirit? Who are you listening to? Listening leads to thoughts which lead to actions which lead to habits which lead to character traits – who you listen to will shape who you are, so is your soul being shaped by the Savior or do you live by the world’s conventional wisdom? Hip Hop says that women are nothing more than disposable pleasures but Jesus says that in the beginning He created them male and female, equal in dignity though complementary in function. Society says that divorce is a perfectly fine option but Jesus says that what God has put together let no man tear asunder. The world says that every religion is of eternal value but Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life – no man comes to the father but by me.” Who are you listening to? Who has your ear? Who do you trust? In whom do you place your faith? When it’s decision time whose counsel do you keep? When someone makes you angry do the words of Jesus guide your tongue? When someone disappoints you do the words of Jesus guide your thoughts? When you get that call at 1:00 in the morning – you know, that call – do the words of Jesus guide your feet, or do you hear Marvin Gaye whispering sweet nothings in your ear? “Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up!” Just because it’s good to you doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Whose words guide your thoughts and actions?

In our text today Jesus teaches that Christians should live a life of love. It is not enough to refrain from negative actions toward our brothers and sisters, we must truly love them. I know that there have been times in my life where I’ve said, “I didn’t kill him, but I sure wanted to.” Has anyone else had that testimony? Jesus says that we are just as guilty as if we had pulled the trigger, because it is the things that come from the heart that defile us, and our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? Some people try to push the cop-out, “Well, Jesus knows my heart.” That’s true, Jesus does indeed know our hearts, and that’s why He had to die on that old rugged cross – He knows our hearts – and that is why He commands us to live a life of love.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, r`aka, shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.” Have you ever met someone who was just mad for no reason? Just all the time mad? At everyone? For no reason? Have you ever found yourself to be consumed with unfocused anger, just mad at the world? Jesus says that wounding our brothers and sisters with our unnecessary anger is just as sinful as if we’d pulled out the Gloc and put two to the dome. As the cliché says, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. We are not to live this life angry at the world, mad for no reason, we are to be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.

Living a life of love doesn’t mean being a punk – Jesus isn’t saying that we are to let people run over us and punk us out. Jesus is saying that our response to such people should be love, and if you love someone you won’t let them hurt themselves by trying to get over on you.

Say what?

God is our Father, and our Father is quite protective of His children. I have seen too many instances of people trying to pimp the people of God just to find themselves on the business end of God’s wrath. I have been through too many instances where I have turned a problem over to God and God wrecks shop exceeding abundantly above anything that I would or could have done to my enemies. This is why Paul reminds us to leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. If you love someone then you will not allow them to put themselves in a position where they will face God’s vengeance, so we don’t have to go on that show, “Pimp my Christian” – we need to live a life of love as God prepares a table for us in the face of our enemies.

Pastor Jeff Johnson from Indianapolis told the testimony of one of his members who worked in the corporate world. The member was faithful to God, to his family, and to his church and was very good at his job. He was so good at his job that his boss blocked every move that he tried to make for his career advancement because the boss wanted the man to keep making her look good. Eventually the man went to his boss and asked her point-blank if she would help him get a promotion and she flatly told him that he would get it over her dead body, so the man went back to doing his job faithfully. A few days later the woman had an aneurysm and died, and the whole office was going to her memorial service. The man didn’t want to go but he didn’t want to be spiteful so he went anyway. As he approached the casket he was met by the regional director who greeted him and told him that people knew about the work that he’d been doing, that he was a top-notched employee and an asset to company. Then the director asked the man if he would be interested in managing the department that he currently worked in, and of course he accepted. And you know where he got that promotion? Right over her dead body!

You’ve got to be careful how you treat a child of God! The Bible says that no weapon formed against us shall prosper, and Jesus says that no man can snatch us out of His hands. I KNOW that my God is good but we have to live a life of love, not talking about those who do us wrong, not plotting revenge against those who hurt us, not returning evil for evil or even harboring resentment against those who have wronged us. Someone once said that resentment is like setting yourself on fire hoping that someone else will be bothered by the smoke. We have to live a life of love! God will handle the rest if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

The second thing that Jesus teaches is that love is more important than rituals. Too often we get so caught up in the things that we do that we lose sight of the people to whom we should be ministering. Paying your tithes is important, coming to church is important, but if there’s a family emergency then you need to take care of your family first. THEN bring your tithe to the church. Notice in the text that Jesus didn’t say to forget about the offering – he said take care of the inter-personal matter first, get things right with your brother first, THEN bring your offering. Notice that the offering wasn’t used for anything else – it was set aside for worship – but the first priority was the personal matter, getting things right with the brother. If we can’t truly fellowship with each other then we can’t truly worship God, and God doesn’t want your praise or your prayers to be hindered by your petty problems with people, so before you come to worship squash any drama between you and your brothers and sisters in Christ – and don’t forget your offering.

Within the context of Jesus’ teaching the people brought offerings to the Temple – livestock, lambs, goats, bulls and so forth. The purpose of the offering was twofold: first, as an offering to God as an act of worship, but second it was for the purpose of supporting the Levitical priesthood. The Levites were given no land as an inheritance in the Promised Land since their mission and calling was the Temple priesthood, but the children of Israel were commanded to support the Levites through their tithes – since the Levites could not support themselves in ministering to the children of Israel the children of Israel were to support the Levites and their ministry.

We have the same arrangement today, since the pastor spends his time ministering to the people of God he cannot support himself through the sweat of his brow, thus the people of God are to support the man of God and the advancement of God’s kingdom through our tithes and offering. Our tradition is 10% of what we get – that was the Old Testament model, a tenth – but in the New Testament the believers had all things in common, selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. We can go with the Old Testament model of a tenth or we can go with the New Testament model of giving it all since Jesus paid it all; but all that we are asked to give is a tenth.

It’s just like that little boy with the five loaves and two fish. He gave out of a spirit of love, not out of compulsion or out of duty and he did not give begrudgingly. Love compelled him to give all that he had – his whole lunch – and due to his act of love over 5,000 people were fed. How many people can be fed based upon our love? How many people can depend on our love? How many people would be dead and gone if their sustenance depended upon our love? We have to live a life of love because love is more important than rituals. Love is more important than showing up for a couple hours on Sunday. Love is more important than going through the motions. Jesus commands us to live a life of love – it’s more important than just routine rituals.

The third thing that Jesus teaches in this text is that love can take precedence over justice. People are much more forgiving of those that they love. Many of us who are Democrats are quite forgiving of Bill Clinton for his indiscretions, but we were quite indignant about Rep. Mark Foley’s fetishes. Many of us who are Republicans got all high and mighty when it came to Bill Clinton lying to the public about a personal matter, but when George W. Bush blatantly lies to the public about Rumsfeld staying on as Secretary of Defense throughout 2008 nary a Republican blinked an eye. We are much more forgiving of our friends than our enemies, and in our text Jesus teaches that we are to turn our adversaries into friends, thereby avoiding the judgment that we rightfully deserve.

Jesus said, “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” I have often said that rules fill the vacuum that is created by an absence of love. Rules don’t guide the interactions of loved-ones, rather principles and general understandings are the norm within loving relationships. If I love you then I am going to do right by you, and if you love me then you can trust me to do right by you. Rules aren’t needed when you operate under love, but where there is no love you are held accountable to the letter of the law. Where the is no love nobody cares about you, they only care about justice. Where there is no love nobody knows your name, they only know your docket number and your prisoner ID. Jesus commands us to live a life of love, understanding that love is more important than rituals and that love can trump justice.

We see this principle at work almost every month when some young man gets arrested for doing something utterly stupid and the camera crews find his mama. The young man could have been caught standing over a dead body with a smoking gun in his hand, finger still on the trigger, and his mama will unfailingly defend her baby. The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins and that is seen every week on TV as some mother’s tears cover the sins of her wayward son. It was seen in Simi Valley when a sympathetic jury let four guilty cops go free in the Rodney King beating case. It was seen in LA when a sympathetic jury let OJ Simpson go free in the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. It is seen every day in our prayer closets when we pray for forgiveness and God hears our prayers, forgives our sins, and cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

We who have been saved by the name of Jesus Christ know that love trumps justice, because each of us has been saved by grace through faith. Each of us were loved when we were lost and lonely, saved when we were stuck in our sin-sickness, redeemed when we were wretched and worthless. Even though the wages of our sin merited death we were given the free gift of salvation by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God demonstrated His own love in this; while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, the Righteous One sacrificed His life for us, the unrighteous, in order to bring us to God. Love can cover a multitude of sins, and Jesus calls us to live a life of love. Will you listen to what He has to say? Will you enthrone Him as Lord of your life? Who is your God? Who has the authority to speak into your life? Will you choose Jesus today?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to live a life of love,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 8:36 AM :: (4) minds freed

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Saturday Comics

Tis The Season
Romance Without Finance
Burr v. Hamilton
Rank Hypocrisy
The Wages Of Sin...
...Is Death
K Street Project
Peeping Tom In Chief
New Age Dawning
Boom Baby
Apocolypto Surge
Starved Beast
Whatever It Takes
Accessory To Murder
Intervention Needed
White House Spokesman
Credibility Gap
Seymour Screwed Up
Piece Of Skubalon
Fire and Brimstone
Utter Contempt
Bush Supporters
Minimum Wage
Goose --> Gander
Need One More Change

And my favorite for today: Not Soon Enough

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:30 AM :: (0) minds freed

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