(James Smith, “MARY” 1859)

“Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to what He taught” Luke 10:39

Let us notice Mary’s POSITION. She was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Most probably He was reclining on the couch, and she went and took her place behind Him, where she could hear what He said, and occasionally get a glimpse of His face.

It is the posture of HUMILITY–she took the lowest place. She had no wish to be seen, nor did she regard her own ease–she was intent on getting good from Jesus.

It was the posture of ATTENTION–she wished to catch every word, and to understand all that the Lord was saying. If Jesus is teaching–then Mary will attend and listen.

It was the posture of a LEARNER–she was a disciple of Jesus, therefore she sat down at His feet, that she may receive of His words. He need not now say unto her, “Learn of Me,” for she was most anxious to do so.

It was the posture of SATISFACTION–if she could but be within the sound of His voice, within the sight of His eye–it was enough for Mary. Anywhere with Jesus–would satisfy her!

It was also the posture of REPOSE–here at the feet of Jesus, she found rest unto her soul. Her desires were satisfied, her love was gratified, her hungry soul was fed. It was enough.

Being at the feet of Jesus was to her–a kind of earthly heaven.

Mary sat at the feet of Jesus in a humble cottage.
She now sits by His side in the heavenly mansion!

Reader, how is it with you?

Are you humble enough to take a seat at the feet of Jesus?

Is it your delight to listen to His words?

Are you like a little child desiring to learn of Him, and be taught by Him?

Are you satisfied–if you can but get near to Jesus?

Do you find sweet and refreshing repose in His presence?

International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) General Stanley McChrystal Address 1 October 2009
Special Address
General Stanley McChrystal
Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, US Forces Afghanistan
I.
Preamble
It is an honour for me to be here and I would like to thank you for giving me the time. I would also like to thank not only my hosts but also all of you who took time to be here today. This is an extraordinarily important subject: we have young people – not only from the coalition but also young Afghans – in the field today, who depend on the decisions we make and the analysis we do. Taking the time to talk and think about it is always time well-spent, so I thank you for that.
I am privileged to speak here today as the Commander of NATO’s ISAF forces, representing people from 42 troop-contributing nations. I represent them today and I hope to do that well. As you know, I have a British deputy, Lieutenant General Jim Dutton, who is coming to the end of his term and will soon be replaced by another great British officer, Lieutenant General Nick Parker.
Before I continue, I would like to recognise the enormous sacrifice that families here in the UK have made. As you know, the losses that we have suffered are significant in terms of those who have fallen, suffered life-changing injuries, or given up parts of their life just by being away from family. I am in awe of the performance of the British brothers whom I have been honoured to work with for a number of years now.
I am humbled to be here because I do not claim to be in the same category as people who have been talking here, such as Prime Minister Brown and President Zardari, who expressed their views on this complex subject. I do, however, believe that I can offer some perspectives and will try to do that today. I will start by posing seven questions before attempting to answer them. If this works according to my plan, it will totally exhaust your appetite for this issue and I will leave the room to wild cheers and lucrative job offers. If my plan fails, as most of mine do, I will be happy to field any questions that we have time for.
II.
What is the Right Approach to Use in Afghanistan?
1.
People’s Own Suggestions
People ask me this question all the time; many people offer their own suggestions. There is a multitude of approaches to what to do. Some people say that we should focus primarily on development; others say that we should conduct a counterterrorist-focused battle, given that this really started after 9/11 and Al-Qaeda’s strikes. Other people say that we should conduct counterinsurgency (COIN). A paper has been written that recommends that we use a plan called ‘Chaosistan’, and that we let Afghanistan become a Somalia-like haven of chaos that we simply manage from outside.
2.
The Complexities of Afghanistan
a.
The delicate balance of power
I arrived in Afghanistan in May 2002 and I have spent a part of every year since then involved in the effort. I have learned a tremendous amount about it and, every day, I realise how little about Afghanistan I actually understand. I discount immediately anyone who simplifies the problem or offers a solution, because they have absolutely no idea of the complexity of what we are dealing with.
In Afghanistan, things are rarely as they seem, and the outcomes of actions we take, however well-intended, are often different from what we expect. If you pull the lever, the outcome is not what you have been programmed to think. For example, digging a well sounds quite simple. How could you do anything wrong by digging a well to give people clean water? Where you build that well, who controls that water, and what water it taps into all have tremendous implications and create great passion.
If you build a well in the wrong place in a village, you may have shifted the basis of power in that village. If you tap into underground water, you give power to the owner of that well that they did not have before, because the traditional irrigation system was community-owned. If you dig a well and contract it to one person or group over another, you make a decision that, perhaps in your ignorance, tips the balance of power, or perception thereof, in that village.
Therefore, with a completely altruistic aim of building a well, you can create divisiveness or give the impression that you, from the outside, do not understand what is going on or that you have sided with one element or another, yet all you tried to do is provide water.
b.
COIN mathematics
There is another complexity that people do not understand and which the military have to learn: I call it ‘COIN mathematics’. Intelligence will normally tell us how many insurgents are operating in an area. Let us say that there are 10 in a certain area. Following a military operation, two are killed. How many insurgents are left? Traditional mathematics would say that eight would be left, but there may only be two, because six of the living eight may have said, ‘This business of insurgency is becoming dangerous so I am going to do something else.’
There are more likely to be as many as 20, because each one you killed has a brother, father, son and friends, who do not necessarily think that they were killed because they were doing something wrong. It does not matter – you killed them. Suddenly, then, there may be 20, making the calculus of military operations very different. Yet we are asking young corporals, sergeants and lieutenants to make those kinds of calculations and requiring them to understand the situation. They have to – there is no simple workaround.
It is that complex: where you build the well, what military operations to run, who you talk to. Everything that you do is part of a complex system with expected and unexpected, desired and undesired outcomes, and outcomes that you never find out about. In my experience, I have found that the best answers and approaches may be counterintuitive; i.e. the opposite of what it seems like you ought to do is what ought to be done. When I am asked what approach we should take in Afghanistan, I say ‘humility’.
III.
What Environment Are We Operating In?
1.
Generally Accepted Truths
The answer to this question starts with some generally accepted truths about Afghanistan, which we all know to be true:

                    It is a graveyard of empires.

                    Afghanistan has never been ruled by a strong central government.

                    Afghans do not consider themselves Afghans.

 

All three are untrue. If you ask an Afghan what he is, he will say, ‘I am an Afghan’. There have been strong central governments, although different from what you think of as central government. In the sense of governance, there have been periods when Afghanistan absolutely had a central government. Therefore, we have to start by not accepting any of the generally accepted ‘bumper sticker’ truths.

                    Real Truths

                    Complex, difficult geography and demography

 

In terms of real truths, it is complex, difficult terrain, both in terms of land and people. It is also a tribal society with a culture that is vastly different from what most of us are familiar with. There are variations around the country; you cannot assume that what is true in one province is true in another. That goes for ethnic, geographic and economic issues. You cannot even assume that what is true in one valley is true in the next any more than you can assume that one neighbourhood in London is exactly the same as another. We would not generalise here, yet sometimes, as outsiders, we want to do that.

b. A long period of conflict

 

I would also remind people that we have been waging a war for eight years, yet the Afghans have been at it for 30. Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44 years, so not many people remember pre-conflict life in Afghanistan. Of those 30 years, about 10 were spent fighting the Soviets, followed by six years of ‘warlordism’ and a further six years of Taliban rule and civil rule, and the last eight years have been eight more years of fighting.

One elder said something that really struck me one night as we were talking: ‘What you see in Afghanistan now is a reflection of pieces of each of those eras’. It is now a mosaic of the experiences of all those eras. If you think about the impact of 30 years on people and on a society, calculations change. The certainty that you have when you walk through your neighbourhood in London is not the certainty that they have. The expectation of the future is not the expectation that they may have. The opportunities to be educated and to associate with different ethnic groups, which have become more of a challenge in recent years, are very different.

 

c. A damaged society

 

The society is what I would call ‘damaged’. Individuals may not be damaged, but the society is not as it was. It is not so uniformly; nor can you say ‘it is all different here’. Tribal structures, relationships and expectations are uncertain now. When you go into a village in a Pashtun area, traditionally you could have predicted what the role and interrelationships of the mullah or the elders would be. That is no longer true. It varies based upon the experience of that area. In some areas, some have disproportionate influence and others have none. Some have been killed. In other cases, elements like the Taliban have come in and completely turned upside down the traditional structures. You can also not assume that traditional structures have disappeared, so you have to go in and learn what the structure is and how people deal with it.

  1. A Uniquely Complex Environment

 

What we face, then, is a uniquely complex environment, where there are at least three regional and resilient insurgencies, with further sub-insurgencies. They have intersected on top of a dynamic blend of local power struggles in a country damaged by 30 years of war. You then run into someone who raises their finger and says ‘here is the solution’ – they can have my job.

  1. A Crisis of Confidence

 

We also face a crisis of confidence. Afghans are frustrated after the most recent eight years of war, because in 2001 their expectations skyrocketed. Along with the arrival of coalition forces, they expected a positive change. They saw that initially and then waited for other changes – economic development and improvements in governance – that, in many cases, may have been unrealistic but, in many cases, were unmet. Therefore, there was a mismatch between what they had hoped for and what they have experienced. Again, as we learn in all societies, expectations and perceptions often matter as much as the reality.

.                  What Is the Situation Now?

.                   Serious and Deteriorating

 

The situation is serious, and I choose that word very carefully. I would add that neither success nor failure for our endeavour in support of the Afghan people and government can be taken for granted. My assessment and my best military judgment is that the situation is, in some ways, deteriorating, but not in all ways.

  1. Tremendous Progress

 

I can also point out areas in which tremendous progress is evident: the construction of roads, provision of clean water, access to healthcare, the presence of children in school, and access to education for females. All of these are up dramatically and hugely positive, and portend well for the future.

  1. A Need to Reverse Current Trends

 

However, a tremendous number of villagers live in fear, and there are officials who either cannot or do not serve their people effectively. Violence is on the increase, not only because there are more coalition forces, but also because the insurgency has grown. We need to reverse the current trends, and time does matter. Waiting does not prolong a favourable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support. However, the cruel irony is that, in order to succeed, we need patience, discipline, resolve and time.

.                  Who is Winning?

.                   A Battle of Minds and Perceptions

.                   Not a game with points on a scoreboard

 

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. This is not like a football game with points on a scoreboard; it is more like a political debate, after which both sides announce that they won. That matters because we are not the scorekeepers: not NATO ISAF, not our governments, and not even our press. The perception of all of these entities will matter and they will affect the situation, but ultimately this is going to be decided in the minds and perceptions of the Afghan people of the Afghan government and of the insurgents, whether they can win or are winning, and, most importantly, the perception of the villager who casts his lot with the winner.

b. Villagers make rational and practical decisions

 

Villagers are supremely rational and practical people: they make the decision on who they will support, based upon who can protect them and provide for them what they need. If a villager lives in a remote area where the government or security forces cannot protect them from coercion or harm from insurgents, he will not support the government – it would be illogical. Similarly, if the government cannot provide him with rule of law, the basic ability to adjudicate requirements legally, or just enough services to allow him to pursue a likelihood, it is difficult for him to make a rational decision to support the government. The Taliban is not popular. It does not have a compelling context. What it has is proximity to the people and the ability to provide coercion and, in some cases, things like basic rule of law, based upon the fact that they are there and can put themselves in that position. The perception of the villager matters in terms of which side he should support, so winning the battle of perception is key.

c. Allowing the facts to speak for themselves

 

I also think that winning the battle of perception, as it applies everywhere but particularly to us, is about credibility. As I told you, the situation is absolutely not deteriorating by every indicator, but I will not stand up and say that we are winning until I am told by indicators that we are winning. For me to stand up and claim good things that are not supported by data in order to motivate us and make us feel good very rapidly undermines our credibility. Our own forces are smart enough to do that, so I intend to tell people the best assessment that we can, as accurately as possible, and allow the facts to speak for themselves.

VI. It Has Been Eight Years – Why Is It Not Better?

This is a fair question for the Afghan people and for societies that have supported this effort. It is true that, after eight years of tremendous effort and expenditure and the loss of good people, many things are worse. Why have eight years of effort not made things better? There are a number of complex reasons:

.                   The insurgency grew.

.                   Expectations – both expected and unexpected – were not met, which has created frustration.

.                   It took us longer than I wish it had to recognise this as a serious insurgency. As the Taliban started to regain its effectiveness, we lagged in terms of accepting that as a clear reality.

 

Through our actions, we – i.e. the coalition and its Afghan partners – sometimes exacerbate the problems.

.                   We have under-resourced our operations.

.                   In some areas, we have underperformed; in others, we have under-coordinated.

.                   We have struggled with unity of effort, national agreements and chains of command that are complex to say the least.

.                   In some ways, we have not overcome some of our intrinsic disadvantages. We are operating in a very different culture, with language differences, relationships that do not exist and a complex situation that takes time to understand, yet we have not effectively developed enough expertise, continuity of people or sufficient numbers of language-trained people to deal with the situation as effectively as we could have.

.                   Most importantly, our own operational culture – and by ‘our’ I mean coalition forces – and manner of operating distances us physically and psychologically from the people who we seek to protect. We need to connect with people, yet physical or linguistic barriers make it increasingly difficult. Ultimately, our security comes from the people. We cannot build enough walls to protect ourselves if the people do not.

 

We must, then, operate and think in a fundamentally new way.

.                  Can We Succeed?

.                   Protecting the Afghan People from the Enemy

 

We can succeed. We must redefine the fight. The objective is the will of the Afghan people. We must protect the Afghan people from all threats: from the enemy and from our own actions. Let me describe it: a few days ago, just before we left to travel here, a bus south of Kandahar struck an improvised explosive device (IED) killing 30 Afghan civilians. That is tragic.

On the one hand, you might say that the Afghan people would recoil against the Taliban who left that IED. To a degree, they do, but we must also understand that they recoil against us because they might think that, if we were not there, neither would be the IED. Therefore, we indirectly caused the IED to be there. Second, we said that we would protect them, but we did not. Sometimes, then, the most horrific events caused by the insurgents continue to reinforce in the minds of the Afghan people a mindset that coalition forces are either ineffective, or at least that their presence in Afghanistan is not in their interest. That does not happen all of the time. There are times when they feel differently, but you have to put things in that context to understand what we must do. General Stanley McChrystal Address International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) 1 October 2009 7

 

.                   Protection from Our Own Actions

.                   Respecting the people

 

We also need to protect them from our own actions. When we fight, if we become focused on destroying the enemy but end up killing Afghan civilians, destroying Afghan property or acting in a way that is perceived as arrogant, we convince the Afghan people that we do not care about them. If we say, ‘We are here for you – we respect and want to protect you’, while destroying their home, killing their relatives or destroying their crops, it is difficult for them to connect those two concepts. It would be difficult for us to do the same. The understanding, then, must be that we respect the people.

b. Changing our mindset

 

We must assign responsibility because, ultimately, the Afghans must defeat the insurgency. As a force, however, we must change our mindset. Whether or not we like it, we have a conventional warfare culture – not just our militaries but our societies. Our societies want to see lines on a map moving forward towards objectives, but you will not see that in a counterinsurgency because you do not see as clearly what is happening in people’s minds. We will have to do things dramatically and even uncomfortably differently in order to change how we think and operate.

In short, we cannot succeed by simply trying harder. We cannot drop three more bombs and have a greater effect; it is much more subtle than that.

  1. Crucial Next Steps

 

In my mind, therefore, what we must do over the next period of time is:

.                   Gain the initiative by reversing the perceived momentum possessed by the insurgents.

.                   Seek rapid growth of Afghan national security forces – the army and the police.

.                   Improve their effectiveness and ours through closer partnering, which involves planning, living and operating together and taking advantage of each other’s strengths as we go forward. Within ISAF, we will put more emphasis on every part of that, by integrating our headquarters, physically co-locating our units, and sharing ownership of the problem.

.                   Address shortfalls in the capacity of governance and the ability of the Afghan government to provide rule of law.

.                   Tackle the issue of predatory corruption by some officials or by warlords who are not in an official position but who seem to have the ability, sometimes sanctioned by existing conditions, to do that.

.                   Focus our resources and prioritise in those areas where the population is most threatened. We do not have enough forces to do everything everywhere at once, so this has to be prioritised and phased over time.

.                    

A Need for Resolve

 

As you know, the concepts that I have outlined here are not new, but if we implement them aggressively and effectively, we can create a revolution in terms of our effectiveness. We must show resolve. Uncertainty disheartens our allies, emboldens our foe. A villager recently asked me whether we intended to remain in his village and provide security, to which I confidently promised him that, of course, we would. He looked at me and said, ‘Okay, but you did not stay last time.’

 

 

 

 

.                  Why Bother?

.                   The Risk Posed by Al-Qaeda

 

Afghanistan is difficult, so why bother? It is a long way away. It is not our business. As we know, however, 9/11 brought us here to the latest interaction, and transnational terrorist threats absolutely remain. I believe that the loss of stability in Afghanistan brings a huge risk that transnational terrorists such as Al-Qaeda will operate from within Afghanistan again.

  1. High Stakes for Afghanistan and the Region

 

I also believe that the stakes are high for Afghanistan and for the region. An unstable Afghanistan not only negatively affects what happens within its borders but also affects its neighbours. Afghanistan is, in many ways, one of the keys to stability in south Asia. A state that can provide its own security is important to all international security, and certainly to that of the UK, the US and our international partnership. The Afghan people are worth bothering about and they deserve that.

IX. Conclusion

 

In conclusion, I am exceptionally proud to serve at ISAF. Within my office, I have a picture of a British battle group, led by Lieutenant Colonel Gus Fair, with whom I worked for a long time in Iraq. He is with his soldiers, who I had the opportunity to speak with when I visited them during operations in Spin Majid this summer in the Helmand River valley. I keep that picture because, when I looked into their eyes, which were bloodshot with fatigue, I remember the extraordinary professionalism, competence and sheer courage of those young men. Whenever I come to London, I like to run through the city, and I particularly like the statues that you have erected to heroes. I hope that you erect one to that generation – they have earned it. Thank you.

I Only hope we find GOD again before it is too late ! !

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… Terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves..

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it… No one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN
“He will defy the Most High God, and try to change all laws, morals, and customs. God’s people will be helpless in his hands for three and a half years.” (Daniel 7:25, TLB)

For several weeks, months actually, we have been studying the Book of Daniel in Sunday School. I have to admit that prophesy has never held a really strong interest to me. My mind is far more mechanical than philosophical, given to math and engineering more than philosophy or dreaming.. But this verse literally jumped out at both Gail (my wife) and me. Immediately we both saw this as VERY current. It is now July, 2009… the current presidential term and some senate terms, and all house terms will end in 3 1/2 years!

Virtually all Bible experts date this as having been written around 535 B.C. The experts also say this was a prophesy of the Roman Empire to come about 400 years in the future of this prophesy (around 146 B.C). Why then, does this seem so current and real for today? Perhaps the Bible explains it best in its own words. Hebrews 4:12 states that the Word of God is “quick and powerful” meaning alive and active. Jesus Himself told Satan that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that “proceedeth” (meaning currently being spoken) out of the mouth of God. Now we believe that the Bible is complete and is not subject to new words being added. However, it is alive and active. Therefore, I believe strongly that the precepts and principles written for specific times and events are applicable to ALL times and events.

From those who don’t believe in the infallibility of the Bible, the argument comes that cultures, times, morals, etc. were different then and that today’s truths are different. I do not agree. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:8-11 (TLB) that ” …History merely repeats itself. Nothing is truly new; it has all been done or said before”… “How do you know it didn’t exist long ages ago? We don’t remember what happened in those former times, and in the future generations no one will remember what we have done back here.” Thank God, we have God’s Word, the Bible, where these things have been written down so we do know what was said and done back there.

Right is right and wrong is wrong. God is good and sin is evil. These absolutes are not relevant to time and circumstance. Do God’s people always do right and not sin? Unfortunately, no they don’t. We try, but we are sinners by nature and often do not succeed. Thank God who sent Jesus, who, through the shedding of his own blood, we who accept it are redeemed from sin. That forgiveness is once and for all, but is also renewable every day, every minute until that day when we are with Him and no longer have the influence of sin on us.

So then, is Daniel 7:25 a prophesy relating to today’s American political administration? I don’t know. I do know that Acts 17:24-28 the apostle Paul stated that God is not subject to man’s changes and that God Himself set the exact time and place for nations and each individual to be. I have no problem believing that God spoke from His “living and active” word to Gail and me at the exact same time in that exact place. What if nothing new comes from this prophesy in 3 ½ years? Still no problem, and that makes it no less real for us. After all, as Solomon said, “Nothing is truly new, it has all been done or said before”
As Steve Brown,  a mentor of mine, would say “Now you think about that”!

As Christians we often tend to condemn rather than include. Why is the neighborhood bar so popular? What is its draw?

In their book, “The Edge of Adventure“, Keith Miller and Bruce Larson wrote:
“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable, it is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfiet at the price of a few beers.”

They go on to say:”With all my heart I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, democratic, permissive–a fellowship where people can come in and say, “I’m beat!” “I’ve had it!” Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality. Our churches too often miss it.”

I know this to be true, because I have been there and still feel a yearning for the open acceptance so often found in the bar.
There is little left to say except to pray. “Holy God, forgive us,… me… , your Church, for becoming shockable and judgmental. I am no better than the worst of sinners, for I am he. Except by your grace and mercy, I too would be seeking a counterfeit instead of You. Compel us, the church, to be the open welcoming Christians you would have us be.”

Christians , What a Weird Bunch

A. W. Towzer, (A favorite teacher of mine) wrote… “A Real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows t hat which passeth knowledge.”

Now THAT sounds pretty weird, foolish even…

However, Paul the apostle (another favorite teacher) wrote in 1 Corinthians 1…. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom,…” (v25) and “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…” (v27) And in chapter 2… “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him….” (v14)

Yeah, in the minds of non-Christians, I guess we seem pretty foolish and weird. But Jim Elliot, the Christian martyr, summed it up best for me when he said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

The truly amazing thing is that immediately upon receiving Christ as savior and truly believing in God, the Christian begins his journey to understand and gain “God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory…” (1 Cor. 2:7)

So, don’t fret if the world of unbelievers think you to be wierd or foolish… It has always been so and is not likely to change before His returning. Take comfort in your “wierdness”. Celebrate it!!!

Why? Because, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

Dave H

Why Did I Do That????

I don’t know about you, but after many years of belonging to Christ, I still do things I know to be sin. I don’t want to…. I don’t plan to…. I hate the fact that I do these sinful things, but somehow they still occur. Am I really saved?  Can God love me?  We know that He hates sin, so how can he love me, an obvious sinner? I wish I could write or even know the clear answer to this question. I can’t, I don’t. I only know that which I have read in God’s Word, the Bible, and what His spirit speaks to me as His child.

I do know that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I am confident in His word that I have not turned my back on Him, and neither has He cast me out. So, yes, I really am saved. And yes, although he hates the sins I still do from time to time, He loves me…. I don’t understand it, but I know it to be true.

Anger… quick temper… words spoken in anger….. God, I hate those sins which still come from me. Every time I do this, I despise myself immediately. I have asked forgiveness and You have immediately given it every time. For this I am eternally thankful. But although You can forget these sins, those to whom I have lashed out and spoken words or actions of anger sometimes can not. I am deserving of the consequences of my anger and sin, but those I love and have verbally abused are not. God I pray for peace for them…. Relief from my anger and harsh words.

"…I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."(a).  The apostle Paul, the most prolific scripture writer, said that almost 2000 years ago, so I guess I’m not unique. But I take little comfort in that, for my heart, my spirit tells me clearly this is not what Jesus wants for me. What then? Do I just go on doing these things in comfort with impunity? No! Not at all. The apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle, said " Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…..seek peace and pursue it…"(b). And "Therefore be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray."(c). Paul also said "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, mind your own business…"(d).  And then there are Jesus’ own words "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God"(e)

Yes, God is God and I am not. Yes, He is perfect and I am not. Yes, Jesus’ blood has done its work in me, but I still sin…. often against my own will. Still, there is little comfort in all that after I have spoken harshly without regard to God’s love and purpose for me and the one to whom I have been harsh.

What to do, then? First, I know that God expects me to humble myself and apologize to the person I have offended. Whether my statement was right or wrong, my attitude and delivery were not. It is up to that person to forgive or not…. I cannot require forgiveness from them as a response to my apology. God will forgive every time, if the repentance is sincere and humble.  Second, I can only take comfort in Paul’s words: "Not that I have already obtained all this (righteousness), but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…… one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."(f).

Since Your word is clear that you ordained and wrote down all my days before I was born (g), I guess I just keep on keeping on.

DaveH

(a) Romans 7:14; (b)1 Peter 3:9; (c) 1 Peter 3:11; (d) 1 Thessalonians 4:11; (e) Matthew 5:9;
(f) Philippians 3:12-14; (g) Psalm 139:13-16

GOD, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!!!!

Me: “I’ve tried and tried…. I work till I fall from exhaustion… I pray over and over… I try so hard to live right… I spend so much time at church….. I… I… I….  God, Why don’t you answer my prayers?”

God: “Just stop….  Give up… Give in… I don’t want your work and worry.. I WANT YOU!”

I don’t know about you, but I struggle way too much trying to do things… good things.. that God never told me to do. I’ll get a little insight or inspiration from God’s word (printed or spoken) and go off setting the mechanics in motion to “get-R-done”. The thing might get done, but unless God “got-R-done”, it was of little significance. What then, does God want of me… us?

For me, the best, most direct answer is Philippians 4:6,7 where Paul writes: "Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and request to God. Then because you belong to Christ Jesus, God  will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand.  And this peace will control the way you think and feel. (Contemporary English Version)

Kinda sounds like the popular song a few years ago…. “Don’t worry, Be happy!” Could that be?  Could God want us to just depend on him for everything?  But, God helps those who help themselves, Right?… WRONG!  God takes care of those who depend on Him!

What God wants from us is dedication, closeness, dependence, love, life… He wants friendship and kinship with us. He loves us as his own children. He wants to laugh with us and be around us. He wants our prayers, not to jog His memory of our needs and wants, but to talk, walk, laugh, and joke with us. He wants our closeness with Him. Remember, we serve a LIVING God. He is not a collection of stories and legends… He is alive now!  Jesus is alive now!  There are no bones or other remains of Jesus because He has risen!

Yes, God wants our prayers, and He wants us to ask things of Him. But note the promised answer to our prayers quoted a few paragraphs before:  “… peace that no one can completely understand.”  Getting the things we asked for as we expect them is not His promise… The promised answer is the peace of God.

A few years ago, my church passed out prayer cards where we logged the amount of time each of us spent in prayer for specific things, mostly our city and its leaders. After a month or so, our pastor was very proud to announce that collectively we had logged several thousand hours of prayer. That was wonderful, but I felt then and now that we missed the point. The Bible tells us to “…Pray without ceasing.” That means always. That really means belonging to Him to the point that my spirit is in contact and sync with His Holy Spirit 24/7. I cannot do that, but if I submit, He can!

Jesus said in John 15:4, ” Stay joined to Me, and  I will stay joined to you..”  and in verse 7, “…If you remain  in Me and My words remain (abide) in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.” The operative phrase here is “remain (or abide) in Me.." not “ask whatever you wish..” If we are abiding in Him, our wishes will be in sync with His wishes for us.

So then, what does God want from me?  …nothing!  everything! All He wants is me… my rights to myself. What does he give in return?  ….everything, life, eternity. Also, he gives the most valuable thing imaginable while we are here on Earth.  The peace of God that passes all understanding.

So, go on… Don’t worry… Be happy. He approves!
DaveH

ALOHA OBAMA

Oh well, my candidate for President did not win. Bummer! Now what?

In a previous writing (Vote for Obama???) , I spelled out a dozen or so reasons why Mr. Obama should not be our President. Unbelievably, not everyone followed my lead! In fact, less than ½ the U.S.A. did! In fact it seems that some in my own family did not follow my wise counsel….. Can you believe that?

One in the family, whom we love very much, replied in part, "Adios Bush, Aloha Obama. The whole country needs aloha spirit." (No, it wasn’t my wife…. she pretends to agree with me most of the time.) You know what, she’s right! President Bush will soon be leaving the office and Mr. Obama will soon be President Obama. Now, that may be hard to say, but we might as well get used to it.

The "Aloha" spirit… Hello and welcome President  Obama…. is just the spirit we need. Aloha also means good bye and god speed… hopefully we will feel that way when he leaves office down the road. But hey,  I  didn’t vote for him, so he’s not my president, right? WRONG! He is (or soon will be) the president of my country, therefore he’s my president (elect). Whether I agree with him or not, he will be my, the American, President, duly elected by a free people in a fair, democratic election.

"Yeah, Right" you say, "You drank the Obama Kool-Aid and now you agree with him." No, not at all. I still believe the same as before, and included in that belief system is the Judeao-Christian Bible. As mentioned before, the Bible is clear that NOTHING happens without God knowing it. Barack Obama was not elected while God was yawning or something. In fact that Bible tells me that I must respect and honor those He puts in authority over me. I’ll willingly do that. That same Bible clearly demonstrates that God created us with free will and a good mind. I believe God expects us to use both within the parameters He has made clear.

For many years I have said that the President can do very little on his own except inspire and lead. Congress and the courts have equal power and probably effect our daily lives far more than the Executive. In my lifetime I can remember ten U.S. presidents. Of those ten, Obama is only the third one who has the obvious gifts of high intelligence, public speaking, charisma, good looks, and believability coupled with such a great following in the American people. Those 3 are John Kennedy, Ronald Regan, and Barack Obama. Clinton had the chance to be included, but his overt dishonesty in little matters made him not believable in important things.

Great forward strides were made for America under Kennedy and Regan (space program, Cuban crisis, fall of Berlin Wall and Soviet Communism, etc.). Now Obama is staged for similar greatness. That greatness will depend directly on his ability and willingness to lead us as Americans… Not as conservatives or liberals; Not as Republicans or Democrats; Not as Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, or any other religious belief system, but as Americans.

While we all need to embrace him as our President, he must be the President for ALL of us. His greatest challenge early on will be in himself. He must abandon partisanship for leadership. We all want a president who can inspire and lead; who can stand up against his opponents or his own party for what is right; and who can  show the world that America is still the greatest nation on Earth. I believe Barack Obama is capable of that and truly hope and pray that he will. We all desperately want him to succeed as president for the sake of America. Success or not us up to him and those he puts in power around him.

So, as Christians, now what ? It is up to Christians to use our most powerful tool, prayer. In our selves, we are nothing, but God is all powerful. This God we serve has told us that we have not because we ask not, so ask! pray! Pray first for safety, protection and good health for Mr. Obama and his family. Second, pray for Divine wisdom for our President. (God doesn’t need instruction on what is wise, so let Him decide).  Pray that God keeps us, as Christians, humble in spirit and steadfast in faith. Remember, God resists the proud and empowers the meek. (It’s  hard, but I’m working on it.)

Now, having said all that will I set back and let come what may without complaining? Not a chance… I still believe in and will practice my right of free speech as well as the right to make a fool of myself and regularly embarrass my family and loved ones. My wife and I fully intend to live long enough and be loud enough to become a problem to our children. It’s only right… After all, we survived all of their teen age years without abandoning or killing even one of them!

DaveH.

Should I vote for Mr. Obama…. Let’s see…

He wants to take away ALL limits and restrictions on abortion, even withhold life saving measures for live babies born by accident during abortions

He wants to expire the Bush tax cuts thus automatically raising taxes without being blamed for it, then raise taxes on the “rich” whoever they are.

He considers all who do not agree with him to be … bitter Americans who cling to their religion and guns. (Hey, I’m not bitter!)

He claims to be Christian but believes: there are many ways to Heaven… the Bible can’t be taken literally… Muslims, animists, Buddhists, and all others are as right as Christians or Jews… he follows a pastor/mentor who takes God’s name in vain by demanding from the pulpit for God to damn America from the pulpit. (see John 14:6 and Exodus 20:3 and 7)  If you doubt, just follow this link:  <a href=”https://www.christianadc.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=45179″>https://www.christianadc.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=45179</a>

He claims to be qualified to run the country but,  except for local activism and politics, his total experience is 100 days in the US Senate.

He is more liberal than a self avowed socialist senator from Vermont…. His answer to being called socialist was not denial, but stated only that selfishness is not a virtue (Is government redistribution of the wealth by force a virtue?).

For at least two years he has  been trying to get us to abandon Iraq and let them fend for themselves, allowing Al-Qaeda and Taliban to return there. (Whether we should have attacked Iraq may be a ligitimate arument. But to abandon them after we conquered them would be just wrong. We broke their government and caused destruction that we must fix. Anything else would be irrsponsible and wrong.)

He wants make us energy independent with tire inflation, solar, and wind, and thinks we should be happy with $5.00/gal. Gas… He wants no nuclear, no new oil drilling or refining, no new coal (clean or otherwise).

He considers Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela small and unthreatening countries and  believes he can negotiate peace with terrorists and murderers who hate us.

Yup, That’s the guy I want to vote for…NOT!

All the above and much more have come directly from Mr. Obama’s mouth and/or his history. It takes very little research to find out.

The list really goes on and on. But we have all heard the rhetoric from both sides so much we are sick of it. One great thing about election day is that we get a short somewhat of a break from the incessant politicking and polling. However it comes out, we as Christians and Americans will go to and survive until we can thrive. Remember, the Bible is clear that we, as Christians, are to respect those in authority over us and honor our leaders. If our candidates do not get elected, we still will respect the new leaders, while adamantly exercising our right of free speech to disagree with them.
Dave