What you want comes with a cost!

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We live in a highly individualist society where we want what we want.  We want our freedom.  We want our rights.  We want to do as we please.  We want to afford everything we feel we deserve.  We want to live in complete security.  We want to live forever young!  In our ‘Me first!’ culture we never learned the lesson that everything costs.  When ‘everyone’ wants and gets that means someone has to pay the price – usually in a far away place that’s out of sight and mind.  But the world is getting smaller and people are on the move – those who are paying the price are walking over to meet up with those who have been getting everything they want. Can we expect that the meeting will occur cordially and without upheaval?

Life isn’t demanding and getting your rights.  Life isn’t everyone living a wonderful life and avoiding pain.  Everything has a cost and does it make sense to expect to live in a world where we will never be confronted by those splattered in our moral sewage.  We can hide from the ugliness of it all as long as the sweatshops and refugee camps are far away, across the sea.  But now, not only are desperate people on the move but the aging and sick are among us in greater numbers.   The ‘problem’ is in our face and how do we make it go away!

Margaret Wente in her discussion of ‘right to die laws’  makes an interesting statement;

Personally, I think right-to-die laws are inevitable. Despite my reservations, I want them in place for me and the people I love. But I think we’re crazy to dismiss the moral hazards as just a fantasy of unenlightened people. They are real.

Should doctors be allowed to kill?,MARGARET WENTE, The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Sep. 19, 2015

Ms.Wente doesn’t seem to realize that in order to have her wish granted, morality must be dismissed.  What we claim and accept about these issues can be the ‘easiest’ way do dismiss them.  What is a ‘moral hazard’?  Is it just a pothole in the road to a desired destination that  should be marked clearly so drivers can slow down as they drive over it while continuing on their way?  In framing a moral objection as a moral ‘hazard’ which can be negotiated as people pursue their desires undeterred, Ms. Wente does the very thing she cautions against.  The word ‘objection‘ means; “a reason or argument offered in disagreement, opposition, refusal, or disapproval.” The word ‘hazard‘ is defined as; “an unavoidable danger or risk, even though often foreseeable,” For many years I drove to work when it was snowing outside but the hazardous road conditions presented no compelling objection or reason not to go to work.

So if we deconstruct the meaning behind Ms Wente’s statement we can answer the question posed in her article’s title; ‘Should doctors be allowed to kill? ‘  Yes, they should as long as they do it while acknowledging the moral ‘hazards’.  We can assert our ‘right to die’ as long as we caution others about the moral pitfalls of it.  After all a hazard, though  real, isn’t in itself a compelling reason not to do something.  What a smooth way of setting aside morality – by redefining morality as a mere pothole in the road that can be negotiated albeit with caution as we proceed undeterred to our wants. All too often, we get what we want ignoring that somebody will have to pay the price wishing that it won’t be  us or those we love!

Before long the ‘right to die’ morphs into the ‘right to kill’.  And it all can start with wanting something for yourself while cautioning others against the moral ‘hazards’ of it.

God help us all!

Consuming to the bitter end

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Some will argue that mankind is capable of changing the ‘fate’ of this planet by pulling back from the brink of catastrophic climate change.  Whether  this climate change  occurring today can be attributed to natural geological cycles or has been brought about by human consumption of fossil fuels is not question that figures largely in the debate any more.  Rising sea levels and extreme weather destroying living space and crops scare the ‘hell’ out of most people but not enough to make anybody give up their SUVs, two car lifestyles and vacations to far away places on demand.  We love plastic and everything that  comes wrapped in it!

Jedediah Purdy writing for the Huffington Post blames  the insatiable rise of  human expectations for our climate change troubles;

Future Chinese governments are leasing land in Africa and Ukraine, not just to avoid starvation, but because their legitimacy depends on a rising standard of living. There is no finish line for a regime that rests on that basis: failing economic growth would bring down a government from Washington to Berlin to Moscow to Beijing. We produce political legitimacy by placating greed, at great and growing cost to the future.

Climate Apocalypse and/or Democracy, Jedediah Purdy,  09/13/2015 Huffington Post

Purdy argues that democracy and the better inclinations of ‘everyman’ is the only thing that can save the planet (and us);

 Democracy is the only way we have to take responsibility for a common world while recognizing that every person is a partner in making and dwelling in the world we make together. Once you see that the planetary future is a political question, what alternative is there? German technocrats may be able to hold down Greece, but it will take democratic self-restraint to discipline energy use in the United States. No global monarchy, green or otherwise, is on the way.

The placation of our ever-increasing expectations has locked humanity into a ‘death culture’ of consumption.   Many years ago in the late 1980’s I attended a colloquium for educators concerned with the direction the world was heading and how teachers could help change things for the better.  Pollution, consumption and the developing world were major topics.   Those from North America self-righteously argued that we would have to convince the developing nations to cut down on pollution as they brought their economies up to speed to a first world level.  A scholar  from China pointed out that such a ‘lesson’ would be difficult to teach coming from some of the worst offenders regarding consumption and pollution in the world.  Also, he pointed out – it was those very profligate practices that enabled the developed countries to acquire their  great standard of living.  The Chinese representative concluded by insisting; ‘Now our time is coming and we want all the stuff you have enjoyed for many years – so don’t tell us to not pollute!’  So much for the ‘intelligentsia’.

Democracy turns on the lowest common denominator of society – the individual.  The solutions that democracy are capable of are those that involve the desires of the most number of people voting – which is to have their ever-increasing lifestyle expectations fulfilled.  What kind of magical thinking would lead someone to conclude that such a system would provide the leadership to do the hard thing and consume less!  Yet Purdy continues;

 So another way that a livable Anthropocene future would have to be democratic is this: a people would have to accept, willingly, limits on the demands they make on the natural world. They would have to accept that they have enough.

Greed is the other side of fear; sufficiency is much easier to find if you are unafraid. An economy that guarantees some measure of security and dignity to everyone will be that much more likely to cultivate the power to stop, take a breath, and stop insisting on more.

A world where people accept a common fate and try to shape it together as equals; economies that do not make people afraid.

Democracy isn’t the solution to the problem with humanity’s character flaw – we want more than we need.  Rather democracy often exacerbates the problem in the sense that democracy tends towards the will of the many which isn’t necessarily in the wisest or best direction.  Capitalism isn’t the culprit either in the sense that a smoking gun isn’t responsible for the body lying in the dirt – rather it is the person who pulled the trigger.  It wouldn’t be hard to make a strong argument that communism is capable of great waste and environmental carnage as well.  The capacity to consume far beyond need to satisfy wants that are always growing and expanding is part of human nature whatever our political and economic systems we operate with.

Karl Marx said that capitalism contains the ‘seeds of its own destruction.’   Every political and economic system contains the seeds of its own destruction that germinate and grow to bear fruit when it takes on a life of its own.  At this point the political and economic system consumes people rather than providing social structures whereby people can satisfy their needs.  Democracy and capitalism has been quite successful in colonizing the world’s ‘ideological’ ecosystem but what is it about human nature that makes us so susceptible to runaway capitalism that consumes and renders climate and habitat unstable?  This question can’t be adequately explored within the bounds of materialist philosophies and thinking.  The issue is spiritual rather than physical or even ideological.

The Bible tells us; “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:7-10)  What better, more succinct economic analysis of our present day problems can we find from our economists and social scientists today?

Jesus nailed the political and economic problem faced by humanity; “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)  Individually, well before we exercise our ‘democratic vote’ we have to decide who or what we will serve. Out of that fundamental decision flows all subsequent behaviour.  And .not deciding is deciding to serve money (ourselves – first).

Getting our priorities straight which is a spiritual matter gives us the perspective and freedom to attend to matters that go beyond our own flesh; “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)  Democracy isn’t capable of righteous leadership unless it starts with righteous priorities.  Capitalism as an economic system cannot yield equity and plenty for all unless those operating within its structures have the desire to serve God first.

All this from a carpenter who is the Son of God!  But who reads the Bible today when there is so much more entertaining magical thinking available?

Belief systems and government

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Everybody has some kind of ‘religious belief’.  Some believe there are many gods, others only one god and it’s their god. It is now very fashionable to believe there is no god or pantheon of gods – just evolved people who should be worshiped.  To claim there is no god or there are no gods is to harbor a religious belief.

Where ever you get people gathering together in organized collectives you will get differences in beliefs.  In order to curtail conflict over religious beliefs in the community  people have to collectively ‘agree to disagree’ on deeply held religious convictions.  Not everyone needs to make the effort to live peaceably by being tolerant of their neighbors’ crazy ideas; just enough to keep the peace in the community.  Inevitably some will not want to get along and act accordingly.  How they are dealt with determines whether or not the community survives, breaks apart or evolves into something monstrous.

Some argue that religious beliefs must take a back seat to the laws of the land in every individual in every community in order for governance and the rule of law to work.  David Herzig and Faisal Kutty claim;

In order to have a functioning government, whether religious or secular, it requires individuals to be subject to the institutional directives of the decision makers. The reason we cannot accommodate Ms. Davis’ beliefs is because no government could function if each citizen could decide whether to follow the rule of law based on their personalized belief structure.

The Kim Davis Debacle Exposes the Limits of Religious Liberty, Huffington Post, 09/11/2015

To argue that a society must have the unquestioning obedience of every individual member in order for good governance to exist is a very dangerous line of thought that verges on totalitarianism.  That kind of thinking can predispose a population to accept the most horrendous projects.  The state’s ”rule of law’ can become a terrible weapon against ‘humanity’ when the ‘State’ itself becomes an idol;

In 1936-1937, the police forces in the Third Reich began to round up large groups of “Asocials” (panhandlers, “habitual criminals,” vagrants, marginally disabled persons, prostitutes, pimps, persons unable to obtain or maintain steady employment, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others perceived not to be maintaining a healthy standard of social behavior). The standard “legal” tool employed by the Criminal Police was “preventive arrest” (Vorbeugende Verhaftung). “Preventive arrest” permitted criminal police detectives to take persons suspected of participating in criminal activities into custody without warrant or judicial review of any kind. Both “protective detention” and “preventive arrest” meant indefinite internment in a concentration camp.

 Law and the Holocaust

‘Rule of law’ doesn’t flow from the top down.  It is embedded in every individual’s heart – a part of their belief system.  It is passed from mother to child, father to son, shared among brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbors.  ‘Rule of law’ is a family matter and exists in communities – even communities with wide differences in religious beliefs. “Rule of law’ that is legislated by bureaucrats all to easily ‘morphs’ into totalitarianism.

Religious belief is at the foundation of the ‘rule of law’ concept.  Jesus taught us;  “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

If this were the majority view there would be great stability and tolerance in the world today!

How then shall we live?

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A message to Bible believing followers of Jesus Christ

In the days of Ezekiel, God spoke through His prophet; “Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10) God’s straight answer to the world’s crookedness was and is; “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (v. 11)   Yet even before the coming of Jesus and the Gospel – God spoke repentance and salvation to people.  Therefore, how much more must we lift Jesus high and speak His Gospel into an unfaithful world!

Our society and culture has moved so far away from God and His Word that we can scarcely call our country home anymore!  The first step to answer the question ‘How then shall we live? is to take stock of the spiritual reality of the world we find ourselves in.  Then we’ll look at God’s Word on how to live as individuals, families and in community.  We are in the midst of great evil; euthanasia, abortion as birth control, gambling and drugs legalized and made into big government business, aberrant sexual deviance taught in our schools and the list of depravity goes on and on.

We should not be surprised!  The Bible tells us these things will happen; “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Jesus Himself warned us; “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24:4-14)

We must also realize that  this world, this country, this town isn’t our home.  The apostle Peter said; “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:9-12)  We can’t change what God’s Word tells will happen but we mustn’t let the world change us or our mission!!!

Respect the worldly authorities (Romans 13) but live loyal to Jesus; “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”(1 Peter 2:15-17)  Honor the emperor even if he has no clothes on (as the Hans Christian Andersen tale goes).

What do these instructions look like in our everyday lives – as individuals, in the context of our families – as moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, as members of our community?  As an individual, I have to check myself every-time I walk in fear.  Fear gnaws at my guts.  Sometimes I sit alone at night and worry about all the craziness and how my kids will get along – How my wife and I will every make it through these days – to the point my head feels like it’s about to explode.  How do you stop that kind of fear -with the Word of God!  Jesus told us and His Holy Spirit reminds me that; “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33) and with respect to all the things coming against us and the antichrist spirit behind them; “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)  Get a grip! Grab a hold of Jesus and remember who you belong to!!!

As we live out the Gospel Good news in our families, I have found the most central issue is trust.  Who and what do you trust?  As a young man I trusted only myself and my earning power – my great sin as a father was that I didn’t trust God with my family and children.  I didn’t trust God for my daily bread – it was all me!  And it worked out terrible – Jesus rescued my family and me from the shambles I had made.  I trust God now with my kids and my household.  For many years I was a church man and going to church on a regular basis but kids see what you do no matter how you say or pretend otherwise.  If your actions betray a lack of trust in the Lord – this is what you teach your children.  If you or your spouse harbor unfaithfulness to God and His Word you open the door to instability in your home.  A shaky household is no place to raise children.  Jesus tells us; “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  (Matthew 7:24,25)

What do we teach our children?  God’s Word and a deep abiding reverent fear of the Lord and nothing less; “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6,7)  Jesus takes this very personally as He precedes His warning with; “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (v. 5)  Don’t leave the teaching of your child to the school system – public schools aren’t spiritually safe anymore.  Even if you have to send your children to public school pray protection over them, teach and model God’s love and a reverence for His Word in your home.

Teaching your kids about God’s Word and Jesus is a family matter first, foremost and always; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  (Deuteronomy 6:6,7) And them have faith that the Holy Spirit will mature them; “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)

And to conclude what about the community?  If you’re thinking about your town or village, Ontario or even this beautiful great country –  Canada – stop.  You don’t belong to this world.  If you believe God’s Word and you’re a follower of Jesus Christ – you don’t even belong to yourself; “. . . know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  And this is the prayer of the One who paid for your life with His Blood; “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:15-17)

What is your community?  It is the family of God.  Remember what Peter said; “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)  Forget about making this country better through social change or ‘click activism’.  I’m not saying, don’t take part in civic life, but don’t think that your actions will change the direction the world is going.  Only God’s Word – Jesus –  can change the world – one person at a time.  The only way out of wickedness is to follow Jesus – so preach the Gospel in action and speech – be a true light to the world.  And do it boldly (Acts 4:31)!  That is your whole duty as Christians to a world that desperately needs to hear the Gospel.  Remember what Jesus said; “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Trouble’s coming, all worldly things will end badly and Jesus will make all things new;  “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”  (Revelation 21:5)

Strengthen and be a regular part of your fellowship of believers; “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)  Remember, your community which is the family of God is the most important group you will ever belong to. Jesus tells us: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”  (Matthew 12:50)

And above all remember the apostle Paul’s great exhortation as the world presses in and threatens; “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak,  knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)

Praise the Lord!

Jesus was homeless!

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A hard heart is a progressive disease that I nearly died from.  This condition is becoming endemic in our western affluent societies. It is now beginning to express itself in our laws.  Sadly it has become a crime to sleep in a public space if you are homeless.  Jino Distasio writing for the Huffington Post reports:

 As humans, we need to sleep. It is a biologically unavoidable act. Yet, on both sides of the border, “sleeping” can be considered a criminal act, especially if you are homeless and have no place to rest your head other than in public spaces such as parks.  (Arrested for Sleeping? We Shouldn’t Criminalize Homelessness, HuffPost, Posted: 09/02/2015)

Nobody seems to care enough about the homeless; we just criminalize their condition.  How did people become homeless? Who are they and what did the do before becoming homeless and what is their value?  These are all questions that are not even considered in the face of their ‘crime’ – homelessness!

Wikipedia reports that the causes of homelessness in Canada are complex:

Why people become homeless is a complex question and the answers are as unique as each individual’s history. People become homeless by many different paths; however, the most common reasons are “inability to pay rent (63%), conflict or abuse (36%), alcohol or drug use problems(10%)”.   Other factors can include mental disorders, foster care exits, exiting from jail or hospitalization, immigration, rising housing costs and decreased rent controls, federal and provincial downloading of housing programs, and low social assistance rates.

Right now thousands upon thousands of people are trekking across Europe because they are homeless.  They would all be criminals in North America! Joanna Slater of the Globe and Mail writes:

It’s a warm summer night in Budapest as hundreds of people turn the concrete plaza around the main railway station into a refugee camp. The luckier ones have tents. Others stretch out on the steps leading to the subway, using water bottles as pillows. Others sleep on flattened boxes, so exhausted they are oblivious to the noise around them. One family perches on a ledge, their young daughter resting in her mother’s lap as her parents sway with fatigue. (Europe’s greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, BUDAPEST — The Globe and Mail ,Tuesday, Sep. 01, 2015)

The cure for my hard heart is also the  cure for society’s hard heart and for homelessness.  Ironically, the cure was also ‘homeless’ when He walked among us.  His name is Jesus; “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)   Homelessness does cost and so does the cure.  We have to give up our hypersensitive concern for our own welfare and think of others.  Selfishness never solves any social or individual problems.  Jesus taught us a simple rule for living; “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

If you were homeless – How would you like to be treated?

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