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Archive for February, 2020

A colleague of mine came to me with a legitimate concern and question. He prefaced his question by saying that he had no desire to argue but had a great desire to understand the meaning of a sign he had seen several times lately. He referred to a discussion we had earlier in the week, remarking that I seemed to have strong feelings about the subject. Before I reveal the question or my answer, I would like to say that I expressed gratitude for the demeanor of my colleague and friend to want to have substantive, civil discussion. That is rare these days. We seem to not be able to agree to disagree and give calm, reasoned answers to fellow citizens and human beings on controversial subjects.

The sign said, “Stop Socialism”. I think* that this may be the slogan of someone seeking political office. He said, “Give me your three best reasons for why you don’t like Socialism. I am going to go away for an hour and come back so that you have time to think about it.”

Shortly after he left the room I quickly prayed that God would give me clarity of mind, remembrance of apropos Scriptures, and an opportunity for witness. After a few minutes thought three reasons came to mind and Scriptures by way of an online concordance. Then I thought to call my older brother, who was a preacher for many years, in order to see if he had any better Scriptures. It was kinda a “call a friend” on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” moment, but in God’s providence we could not make connection after several tries in both directions.

Though more well thought out and concise here, my answer went some like the following:

I began by saying that I suspected that many of the people who hate Socialism would agree with the points I was about to make, even if few know why or where the ideas come from. For my part, I come from a biblical worldview that judges all of life based on what the Scriptures say. (2)

Here are my three reasons for hating Socialism:

1) Role of Government

In Romans 13:1-5, Paul clearly lays out the God ordained role of government to punish evil doers. We can extend that to include internal and external enemies. The government should punish those who murder, steal, rape, and otherwise harm fellow citizens. They should raise a defense against invading enemies (3). Redistributing wealth is a gross overreach of a government’s God ordained role. As a self-governed, free people we should do all we can to stifle this overreach.

2) Ownership

This concept flows from the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) God has given people the privilege of owning and stewarding possessions. The government is stealing possessions to give to others when taxes go beyond maintenance of the God ordained role of government. The government is playing Robin Hood with the taxpayer’s money, but much less efficiently or altruistically. A corollary to this principle arises in a parable that Jesus tells as an analogy for the kingdom of God. The reference to ownership is not the point of the parable, but Jesus teaches us truth about ownership in the midst of teaching about His kingdom. He does not use falsehood to support a truth He teaches. I read part of the parable from Matthew 20:1-16 to my colleague and explained the rest. The owner of the vineyard hires men to work in his vineyard at various times during the day as he finds them in the marketplace. At the end of the day he pays them all the same amount even though some worked all day in the heat and some worked for one hour (4). When questioned about the unfairness of this pay scheme, the owner says, “‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:13-15). The corollary to ownership is freedom to dispose of what belongs to you as you see fit. It is not the government’s place to decide how you spend or give your possessions.

3) Diligence

This last point is the most telling as to the disaster of Socialism. I told my colleague that the Thessalonians (5) must have had a tendency toward Socialism, because Paul felt a need to mention their work ethic in both books he wrote, being quite direct in the second instance. In I Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul admonished his readers “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” for the purpose of witness to outsiders. In II Thessalonians 3:6-13, Paul is very direct about those who are idle and slack in discipline: “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (v.10) The most extreme form of Socialism, Communism, has failed numerous times to produce hard work and altruism among those laboring on collective farms and in collective factories. On the one hand, why work hard if the government will supply what you need? On the other hand, why work hard if you don’t own the property (crop, stock, interest, benefit) of the enterprise to be able to profit from it succeeding? Socialism fails to provide because of the dual selfishness of the greedy ruler and the slack worker.

I ended the discussion by saying that it seems there is a continuum from the far right of unbridled capitalism and far left of authoritarian communism. It may look something like the following:

authoritarian – socialism –  socialist –  regulated  –  unbridled

communism                         democracy  capitalism   capitalism

I understand the draw of Socialism to curb the excesses of unbridled capitalism. I think that socialist democracy is an oxymoronic attempt either to deceive others or a self-deception on the way toward socialism. I would support a minimally regulated capitalism because it puts the government in a position to punish evil doers who are stealing from the neighbors while respecting the individual’s right to own and dispose of his wealth as he sees fit. I think that I stand in good company with our founding fathers who instituted the Patent Act of 1790, for example. (6) And I believe I am in better company with the principles God’s Word lays down for our interactions with our fellow citizens.

*I don’t follow the tit for tat details of politics because I find it disheartening. A quick Google search brought up several signs past and present of politicians and political groups touting this slogan.

(2) No, I didn’t say that sentence quite so concisely or clearly, but I wish I had. Much that calls itself Christian these days is not, because it does not obey the admonition to be “destroying every speculation” by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). The direction for obedience to Christ is the Scripture.

(3) Augustine’s Just War Theory would not include expansionist offensives though it could be well argued that it could include pre-emptive offensives.

(4) His actual point is that whether you come late or early, God gives the grace of salvation (“one denarius”, a day’s wage) to each so the “last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16).

(5) Thessalonica was an ancient city in Macedonia in the north of Greece from whence came Alexander the Great and where Paul planted a church.

(6) As far back as 500 B.C. right of ownership of an idea or new product is noted.

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May God’s bountiful grace and goodness be poured out upon our newest granddaughter. If my source can be trusted, there are not five girls named Idellete in the whole of America. In light of the source of this name, Idellete Calvin, wife of the Reformer, John Calvin, it is a fine name. (Click here for more information on this godly woman.) We are thankful that our grandchildren will be raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord and do pray God’s abundant blessing upon their development, faith, and life work.

Idellete be patient and kind
Industrious and diligent
Faithful and studious of mind
For the Faith be vigilant

As your namesake be strong in faith
Bearing up under trials and loss
Trust always in what the Word saith
Shunning worldly pursuits as dross

Be a Joy to all who know you
For the Savior live all your life
Point the many to life anew
May you bring unity, not strife

May God give you joy in struggle
Peace in sorrow, patience each day
Responsibilities juggle
With power unceasingly pray

With all these things may God bless you
Lightness of heart to meet each day
Toughness that will carry you through
Desire always to God obey

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‘For me this place is therapeutic, but I don’t know why exactly’, my partner mused.

Black Fork 1

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Table Mountain Pine

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Clouds cruising over the ridge (Colors were more vivid in person.)

It is the most isolated place in our county, thoroughly quiet and secluded, but opens up on a view of the valley a distance across several miles of woods. It feels like you are alone with God in this small wilderness with time to reflect.

The clouds and low sun made a significant distinction and contrast between the wooded draw and the valley and mountains beyond. We felt set apart. The clouds with evening colors rushed over the ridge like great ships entering harbor and yet there was no wind at the surface. The barren trees lay quietly in their winter snooze. A lone train whistle on the far side of the ridge quietly reported its presence at a far distance in the next valley. It was a time to praise God in prayer and quietly reflect on the peace it brings to the beleaguered mind and heart.

The Table Mountain Pine is not common unless you are on a south facing, shallow soil of a flat cliff top. It’s spiky cones suggest the struggle it has to tolerate the harsh heating and drying conditions where it outcompetes other conifers. My rough fingers, tape, and chalk suggest the cherished struggle I had with rock faces moments before.

It was a good day to climb, a good day to reflect, and a good day to imbibe the tranquil therapeutics. I am so blessed to have this outlet in seasons of stress. The focus and intensity of climbing and the reflection and relaxation of time in the woods and views from the clifftops are a gift.

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Life is good because God is good.

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Posterity 7

We are pleased to announce our seventh granchild, Idellete Joy Francis, born 2:53 PM, 7 lbs 7 oz, 21 inches long. Both mother and child are well. She is a rare breed, being the first second girl of a Francis since her great-grandfather’s generation.

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Idellete’s namesake: Idellete de Bure and John Calvin

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 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ” Philippians 4:8

Thankfulness is pleasing to God and good medicine for the soul and for those around you. The source of thankfulness is a decision and practice of dwelling on what is good. For instance, life is good, because God is good. In my last poem, “Our Dreams, His Plans”, I dwelt on difficulties. Even there I emphasized their benefit. But now I change tack.

Now upon a better theme
I would dwell and pick up steam
To revive my spirit so I thrive
At deepest levels survive

Much I should be thankful for
Life and family and much more
Forgiven of sin and wickedness
Comfort in trials and duress

Joyous life eternally
Purposeful activity
God’s dear presence to guide and to cheer
Overcome temptation, fear

There are many smaller joys
Some quite grand and some mere toys
Experiences of sight and of sound
Pleasant thoughts and some profound

So the sum of all we do
Give God glory and be true
In telling others of life in Him
Enjoy His gifts, foremost Him

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Paul and Jeremiah were compelled to preach the Word that God gave to them. Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” Jeremiah said, “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” From whence came these obligations? Is some obligation common with all believers? If so, how do we fulfill these compulsions?

Preaching from Romans 1:12-15, my pastor communicated obligations that Paul had before God. My pastor made such conclusive statements as* ‘When duty is delight we please God and find joy,’ and ‘When love empowers our duty, it becomes delight’ glorifying God. From his explanation I took the clear point that our obligations before God must turn into love which will then result in eagerness.

obligation —> love —> eagerness

I wish it was easier to draw that here, because I would keep the arrow** between obligation and love dashed while making the one between love and eagerness solid. Eagerness will follow what you love, but love is not a necessary or normal result of obligation. And I said to my pastor after the sermon that I was challenged to muse on how to get from obligation to love. This is that musing.

How might I make the transition from obligation to love? I began to peer further back behind obligation, and further ahead of eagerness to find motivation for loving my obligations. Obligations before God come from His command. His command may come in the form of inner compulsions or providentially guided circumstances, but all must proceed out of and agree with God’s Word. God’s commands come from His purpose, which in turn come from His character. At the other end, delight will result in diligence in the form of prayer, pursuit, and practice. Diligence will bring about God’s purpose through the power He supplies, revealing the glory of His character and works. It would look something like the following:

God’s attributes —> God’s purpose —> God’s command —> my obligation —> my love —> my eagerness —> my diligence —> God’s purpose in me accomplished —> praise to the glory of God’s attributes and works***

If instead of focussing on my obligation before God or even His command, I focus on the beauty of His attributes and the praise of His glory, my love for Him will be increased along with a love of the obligations that bring that praise to Him. I must know my obligations before God. I must obey His commands. But I must focus on Him, His attributes and grace toward me, so that I love Him more along with all of my responsibilities before Him.

After I communicated these ideas to a friend, she said so concisely, “I don’t have to. I get to.” She went on to say, “I get to be a teacher. I get to be a mother. I get to wash the clothes.” Her attitude and simplicity are refreshing and true. I still needed to consider the why behind them so that when “I’m not feelin’ it”, I can focus on the One who is beautiful and merciful and worthy. Everything else will follow, if not immediately, then progressively and surely.

 

*When I use a ‘ instead a “, I mean it to communicate approximate quote rather than court evidence quote.

**As I tell my students, arrows mean for me cause and effect (cause—>effect). Sometimes that is just sequence or correlation, but with a desire to find and communicate cause and effect.

*** Notice that this cause and effect chain goes full circle: “so that God will be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:28)

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