Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Word Games

I write a blog where I wax ridiculous about a variety of topics that spew forth from my twisted mind. Recently, I posted a submission that examines the strange expressions we often use in popular language. As I considered material for that blog, I thought of expressions that are more serious in nature.

I attended a funeral service for a former co-worker where in his eulogy the minister exhorted the people that, if they wanted to see_____ again, they needed to “accept Jesus as your personal Savior.” While the majority of the attendees felt this was an “awesome” message, I, the curmudgeon, squirmed in my seat.

This kind of talk reinforces the “me-centered” mania that has invaded much of popular evangelicalism. The popular appeal to become a Christian is now based on certain benefits that I may accrue from such a transaction. If I become a Christian, I can go to heaven when I die. How many people have been asked to raise their hands if they want to do this? One would have to be insane to not want to go to heaven if he believed that such a place exists. The appeal is often made to guarantee that if I become a Christian, I can see my loved ones for a grand reunion in the sky. Now, these are true statements, but why do they become the primary motivation for becoming a Christian? Notice that, in much evangelical preaching today, there is precious little talk about what Jesus did to pay the penalty for sin and to satisfy the righteous wrath of a holy God who is offended by our transgressions. We do not frequently hear that “repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ” is the natural response of sinful man to the gospel.

It’s true that Jesus did this for us. But he did this for us that God would be glorified in His grace and mercy, not primarily to provide us with benefits.

This leads me to my second rant. Where do we get the idea of “accepting Jesus as our personal Savior?” Our personal Savior? I see problems with this on two levels. First, is Jesus my personal Savior like a personal shopper or personal masseuse or personal butler? Am I to think that I am so important that all of this is for me alone? Second, understand that there are some things that we all accept but do not necessarily appreciate. Are we to accept Christ as we would accept a root canal – very unpleasant, but I’ll do it if it is necessary?

I realize that questioning such long held shibboleths might label me as a heretic. That’s OK. I realize that we use non-biblical words to describe Biblical truths (“trinity,” for example). However, let’s be careful and think about the words and phrases we use.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mrs. Lincoln

Mrs. Lincoln, A Life by Catherine Clinton is a study of the life of this enigmatic First Lady. Many contemporary references portray Mary Todd Lincoln as a spoiled egomaniac who dabbled in spiritism and flirted with insanity (in fact, at one point, her oldest and only surviving son, Robert, had her institutionalized). Clinton takes a more understanding approach to Mrs. Lincoln than do some writers. At the same time, she does not ignore the intricacies of this woman’s psyche.

Clinton draws back the curtain on Mary Todd Lincoln’s life and times. Mary Lincoln had ambitious dreams for husband. His election to the presidency was a personal victory for her. However, before he was inaugurated, states began to secede from the Union in protest to his election. This was quite a blow to this woman who had been raised and educated as a true southern lady. Add to this the death of a son and the assassination of her husband and her mental condition becomes more explicable.

Mary Lincoln was a persevering woman who stood by her husband during extraordinarily difficult times. She was also manipulative and ruthless in dealing with those she considered to be political rivals or enemies.

This is an informative glimpse into the complicated life of a complex person.



Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Gettysburg Address

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Gettysburg address, given in 1863, just months after the bloody battle that saw 43,000 causalities. Abraham Lincoln’s brief address followed a 2 hour oration by Harvard President Edward Everett. Only 5 drafts of the original speech are extant.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth

Friday, November 12, 2010

Productivity and the Gospel

The online version of Christianity Today features an interview with Matt Perman of Desiring God Ministries. Matt authors a blog that deals with time management and productivity called What's Best Next. In this interview, Matt speaks about how productivity and time management relate to the gospel.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

For Veteran's Day

From this month's Imprimus by Rep. Mike Pence:
Closely related to this, and perhaps the least ambiguous of the president’s complex responsibilities, is his duty as commander-in-chief of the military. In this regard there is a very simple rule, unknown to some presidents regardless of party: If, after careful determination, intense stress of soul, and the deepest prayer, you go to war, then, having gone to war, you go to war to win. You do not cast away American lives, or those of the innocent noncombatant enemy, upon a theory, a gambit, or a notion. And if the politics of your own election or of your party intrude upon your decisions for even an instant—there are no words for this.

More commonplace, but hardly less important, are other expectations of the president in this regard. He must not stint on the equipment and provisioning of the armed forces, and if he errs it must be not on the side of scarcity but of surplus. And he must be the guardian of his troops, taking every step to avoid the loss of even a single life.

The American soldier is as precious as the closest of your kin—because he is your kin, and for his sake the president must, in effect, say to the Congress and to the people: I am the Commander-in-Chief. It is my sacred duty to defend the United States, and to give our soldiers what they need to complete the mission and come home safe, whatever the cost.
If, in fulfilling this duty, the president wavers, he will have betrayed his office, for this is not a policy, it is probity. It is written on the blood-soaked ground of Saratoga, Yorktown, Antietam, Cold Harbor, the Marne, Guadalcanal, the Pointe du Hoc, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a thousand other places in our history, in lessons repeated over and over again.
Read the entire article on The Presidency and the Constitution.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bloody Crimes

Bloody Crimes, the Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Funeral Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse is the latest offering by Lincoln scholar James L Swanson. Earlier this year I read Swanson’s book on the search for Lincoln’s assassin, Manhunt: the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. Swanson’s style of writing made these books very difficult to put down. I love it when a book engages me and draws me into its story. I love it even more when that book is a work of non-fiction. Swanson is becoming one of my favorite authors.

It is difficult for us to imagine the emotions that swept the nation after Lincoln’s assassination. Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy had just fallen and the Confederate government had fled, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Union General Grant, a bloody and violent war was coming to an end, and the northern states were overcome with exuberance while the southern states were filled with fear and apprehension. It was in this context that Lincoln was killed and the nation was plunged into a crisis of leadership. Though many of us remember the trauma of the assassination of President Kennedy, it is impossible to understand completely the emotions that Lincoln’s death evoked around the nation.

Lincoln was not the 1st President to die in office, but he was the 1st to be assassinated. Swanson describes how Lincoln’s murder and the grand spectacle of the “funeral pageant” lifted the fallen president to near sainthood.

While this was happening, there were 2 manhunts underway. The first was an earnest search for the assassin of Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth. He was killed 12 days after the murder of Lincoln. The 2nd began the day before Richmond fell as Jefferson Davis fled the fallen Confederate capital. The search for him grew in intensity after Booth had been dispatched. Swanson tells us about Davis’ capture, imprisonment, and his subsequent years.

Both of these books would be a valuable addition to your Civil War library (what, you don’t have a Civil War library)?