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His Master's Voice
|Copyright © 2008 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
Monday, March 03, 2008
Maybe Itís the Fever TalkingÖ
For more than a week I have been fighting one of the worst bouts with influenza that I have ever had to wage. Even as I lay awake on the couch all night long, wrapped in multiple blankets, simultaneously shivering and sweating, I watched the television news. The more I watched the more shocked I became at my opinions as I actually listened to the rhetoric of the Democratic presidential candidates.
To be sure, I am a conservative. Ordinarily I vote for financially and morally conservative political candidates (Republican or Democrat). Mike Huckabee was my hands-down favorite candidate, but I am not adverse to McCain. No surprise there. What caused my self-aware astonishment was when I realized that Hillary Clinton could articulate more genuinely astute and practical answers to real world problems than Barack Obama. Hillary actually answered "what would you do about" questions with answers that demonstrated she understood the political and financial forces that drove the problems and had actually thought through what government could and could not do. Barack most often parroted one cliché after another, never answering a real-world issue with a real-world action plan.
One example was the question of Ohioís loss of paper manufacturers, as the paper industry rapidly is becoming dominated by out-of-country competitors. When a reporter asked Hillary what she would do, her answers identified the root problem (cheaper labor abroad), the impact to global markets, and her observation that the US government cannot fix every trade disparity with tariffs without rampant negative effects in many other areas of trade. When Barack was asked the same questions his responses sounded like he had never heard about the paper industry, cheaper labor offshore, tariffs, or had contemplated governmental obligations. All his responses were of the slogan variety, "we must persevere" and "with ingenuity we can get through this." Eh?
While I detest much of Clintonís morality and social agendas, I have decided that she is a more adept and credible politician than is Obama. And though I have apprehended a higher appreciation for Hillary, I am more thankful there are even better candidates for president from which to choose.
And now a word that will make me sound like Andy Rooney: more than a half year left in the presidential campaign! ugh, this is going to be a long oneÖsighÖIím going to get another blanketÖ
Thursday, March 06, 2008
I wrote this essay in the Spring of 2005 while on a business trip to France. This is the first time I have published it.
Here I sit, on aged stone steps in the protective shade of an abandoned French watchtower, as it stands conducting ceremonial sentinel duty. The tower overlooks the main canal that served as both access and barrier to Petite France, Strasbourg. Cooled from the spring heat by a gentle breeze I am privileged to watch the water glide under the stone span that simultaneously supported the tower and acted as a bridge to the main land. The tower was once a military fortress, replete with defensive slots through which the resident soldiers could safely fire upon those who would attack via the canal.
In truth, I count four watchtowers from my vantage point. All the towers look upon various canal entry ways that offer to take one further back into the city.
So it is with medieval watchtowers. They have become neglected and are considered to be relics of bygone days. That was not always true for them. When they were first built they were actively manned by those who were sincerely invested in the safety of the surrounding community, though the average resident may have been inclined to ignore their very presence. Until one day, when a danger which would not be ignored or placated threatened the populace. Then, all the city turned to, and relied, upon the watchtower for assistance. Hopefully, it was not too late.
But what happens when a watchtower is overrun by the enemy? That defensive position becomes a terrible fortress for the enemy to safely reign war down upon the citizens who built the tower.
When I think about my Christian faith, I think about the watchtower. Every pastor, every teacher, every evangelist is a watchtower for the faith. Self-appointed? No, appointed by God. These men were given the gift of teaching and consequently, they are spiritual advisors. As bondservants of Christ, the Holy Spirit gave them their gifts, they did not seek them or acquire them through self-driven ambition. Appointed as teachers, they have no choice but to serve out their commission as watchtowers of the faith.
Rarely are those teachers and pastors respected in the role of watchtower. So very many times I have read, "Anyone who critiques the teaching of a fellow Christian is acting as a self-appointed judge over the faith. For shame." Yet this is unfair. These watchtowers were appointed and gifted for their task of guardians of doctrine. It would be a sad fact if they did not fulfill their obligations, whether largely ignored by the community or not.
Even worse, consider the fate of the church or spiritual community should the watchtower himself fall into disrepair and be overrun by the enemy--the doctrines of demons. Such a man would be used to reign false doctrine down upon the members of that church, and many of the citizens would be no more the wiser, until they too fell to the onslaught.
As I sit in the protective shade of this obsolete watchtower, I have renewed appreciation for those who have acted selflessly through the generations on behalf of the faith, dutifully in Godís service, and obediently to the Spiritís gifting. May God continue to build watchtowers among His flock.
Note: This essay was originally written on my laptop while sitting under the tower depicted in the center of the last photograph on this page:
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Far Better to Strive for Christ than Against Him
In a recent Sunday School class we briefly looked at Jacob wrestling with the angel of the Lord (Genesis 32). What a terrifying lesson for my own life.
It is never a good thing to "strive with [against] God." He is the sovereign master and we are the servants. At least, we are supposed to be the servants who humbly submit to His will. But Jacob had lived his entire life a prideful man, trying to get the blessings of God by his own efforts on his own timing. This led him to effectively defraud his brother, lie to his father, attempt to defraud Laban, take more than one wife, and to do one huge amount of worrying.
And so, he was worried sick about whether he was going to die (instead of resting in all the promises that God had just given him and being comfortable that his present action and circumstances were the direct result of having received prophetic revelation). He wanted to control the outcome of these pivotal events. So God comes to him in the night, and instead of submitting immediately to the will of the Lord, he fights back in pride, never surrendering to God. He fought against God until God finally uttered, "OK Jacob, you have not surrendered to My headship out of faith and you have prevailed in clinging to your sinful pride, so I am going to make you pay attention to Me by breaking your health." God touched his leg so as to damage the sinew of his hip, resulting in a noticeable limp.
When we insist on doing things our way (in Jacobís case that often meant using sinful methods) and in our own timing, and we refuse to repent (that is, we strive with God and we prevail), then God has more radical options at His disposal. He blinded Paul temporarily to force him to pay attention. He gave Moses leprosy of his hand to show him that he had no choice but to be a prophet and must go to Egyptís Pharaoh. Taking away Jacobís health was an effective means to demonstrate to that self-dependent man that even his personal well-being is a gift from God and subject to His sovereignty. [Note: I will immediately add that it is impossible to tell if another personís ill health is related to a sin problem, for often, perhaps most often, ill health is merely a result of the Genesis 3 curse and is no more earned, deserved, or the fault of one man than any of other (Luke 13:1-5, John 9:1-5).]
And so Jacob (whose name meant "supplanter"), still in full possession of his own pride, working under his own power, and focused on his own timing, demanded that God bless him then and there. So God did, but first He changed Jacobís name to Israel. That name means "he who strives with God," or possibly, "God will rule over him." A lifetime reminder to Jacob of his own proud stand against God that night, and a memorial to all the generations of Godís people of the same. Indeed, whether we fight against God or not, He will successfully reign over us, so the earlier we submit the more useful we might be to His Kingdom. Far better to strive for Christ than with Him.
Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. (Genesis 32:31)
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