Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Reflections

Memorial Day was established to create a time for the people of this great land to step back and reflect on the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in the defense of this country we all love. As I think about this special day, I always think of my father and five uncles who fought in WWII. I also think of my classmates who went to Viet Nam during my youth. I mention these two without any intention to ignore those who have fought in other conflicts, Korea, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflicts in which our nation has been involved. I think not only of those who made the ultimate sacrifice but also of those who came home changed forever by what they had witnessed. As I reflect on these men and women, I sometimes fill a taste of guilt in my own heart, because I didn’t have to serve. Knowing they went in my place makes me even more appreciative of their sacrifice.

As we give thanks for the men and women who have served or who are serving in our military, it is important for us to reflect upon another battle that has been raging for years. It will not be won on foreign battlefields but it will be won or lost in the hearts of individuals. While many try to remain neutral, all will be deeply affected by the outcome. It is a war for the moral soul of America. It is not a new war. It has been continuing for many decades. It is a war between those who support a worldview of society that is free from moral absolutes and those who support a view of society that is based on moral absolutes given to us by our heavenly Creator.

There is much more involved here than people realize. In my opinion, it is a war about survival. If we choose to discard all moral absolutes and continue down the trail of situation morality, we will go the way of the powerful nations in the past who indulged themselves in self gratification. We will fall.

The time for being neutral in this conflict is over. The outcome is too important to sit on the sidelines and watch. It is time for each one of us to decide what kind of America we want our children and grand children to inherit and how much are we willing to sacrifice for them to have it. It is time that we heed the choice give to Israel by Joshua: “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…. but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15 NASB).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Two Frogs in a Tub

I wrote this article twelve years ago. Little has changed since I wrote it. If anything, the frog in the boiler is weaker than ever. The sad thing is that he doesn’t know what is making him weak.

I once read an illustration about two frogs. One was placed in a hot tub of water and he immediately jumped out to safety. The other was placed in a cold tub of water. Then, the water was slowly heated until it became hot. By the time the second frog recognized that the water was too hot for him, it had drained him of his strength and he could not jump out of the tub. I use this illustration to show how the lines between right and wrong have been blurred in our country. In fact, they have been blurred to the point that many people can no longer tell the difference. For these folks, it is not right or wrong that matters, but it is does it feel good? Or will it benefit me? In many ways we have become like the nation Israel at the end of the Book of Judges. The last verse of the book reads: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

This change has not come over night. It has developed one step at a time. As a boy, growing up in South Carolina in the “Fifties”, I was provided with a well-defined set of parameters for behavior that was considered decent and acceptable. My parents, who were not religious zealots, did not impose these parameters upon me but they were imposed by society. This isn’t to say that everyone walked within the parameters set by society. It is to say that people were more aware when they crossed the line. They had a clear understanding of right and wrong. Obviously, this society was not perfect. It had its blind spots. It sometimes justified behavior that was unjustifiable. Prejudice is a case and point. However, overall, it did provide a clearer set of standards of right and wrong.

While people will debate whether the change has been for the better or for the worse, no one can honestly say the standards have not been changed. Nowhere is this change more evident than in the entertainment industry. We have come a long way from the shock many felt when Rhett Butler told Scarlet, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a d---!”(For those not old enough to remember, this was the closing line of “Gone with the Wind”.) We have come along way from Ozzie and Harriet sleeping in single beds. We have come a long way from Merv Griffin to Jerry Springer. Close behind the entertainment industry is the change in attitude toward our public officials. If the polls are correct fewer and fewer Americans expect their elected officials to be examples of fidelity and integrity.. These are a few examples from an endless list of things that show the bar for common decency has been changed over the years.

Some argue this a good thing. They say it has made our society less judgmental and more open and tolerant. Others are concerned that the water has gradually become so hot that there may not be enough strength left in the frog to jump out of the tub. You be the judge, because in the end, it is people like us that will determine the outcome. It is people like us that turn on the TV, buy the DVD’s, pay big bucks to go to the theater, listen to the music, and elect the public officials. In the end, it is people like us who will determine whether we will have a clear understanding of right and wrong or if we will continue on the road the early Israelites followed and everyone will do what is right in his/her own eyes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Life Is a Matter of Perspective

A businessman was driving through the countryside, when he passed an elderly man sitting on a fence watching all the cars pass. Finding this character to be interesting, he stopped and spoke to him. He said, “I could never be happy doing what you are doing. Just sitting and watching the traffic pass must get boring.” The old man replied, “I do not see much difference between you and me. I sit on the fence and watch the cars pass. You sit in your car and watch the fences pass.”

To please his father a freshman went out for track. He had not athletic ability, though the father had been a good miler in his day. His first race was a two-man race in which he ran against the school miler. He was beaten badly. Not wanting to disappoint his father, he wrote, “You will be happy to know that I ran against Bill Williams, the best miler in school. He came in next to last while I came in second.” (Bits & Pieces, September 17,1992, p.12)

A young couple rented a vacation cottage for a week. One afternoon the husband looked out a window at the swimming pool and exclaimed, “Let’s change our clothes and go get some exercise!” His wife, who was washing the dishes in the kitchen and looking out the window watching some people playing tennis, quickly agreed. While she dressed for a tennis match, he put on his swimming trunks. The window a person chooses to look out at the world often determines that individual’s perception of reality. (Lyle Schaller, Activating the Passive Church)

Our perspective determines in large measure how we view the world around us. Our perspective helps determine our reality. This is why two people can look at exactly the same event and have two conflicting realities. This is the reason that it is important that our perspective on life be based on a solid foundation. If it is not, we can draw some dangerous conclusions that make perfect sense.

The writer of Proverbs understood this, when he wrote, “There is a way, which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 16:25 NASV) The writer also wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NASV) With these verses in mind, wisdom could be defined as “seeing things from God’s perspective”.

Each day we have the choice of viewing our world through the perspective of man or through the perspective of God. When we observe the mess that our world finds itself, it is clear which track mankind has chosen to take. You and I may not be able to change the world but we can have an impact in our little corner. We can refuse to be drawn into the deception of the world and choose, instead, to look at life through the perspective of God. We can choose love over hate, integrity over compromise, servanthood over selfishness and forgiveness over bitterness. The perspective we choose will not only affect us; it will affect those around us. Whose perspective do you choose today?