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Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

An Iraqi Thanksgiving

Check out the link below . . .

I’ll reserve any opinions on America’s operations in Iraq . . . but the link to Joe’s article below is provided in the interest of fairness as he is sharing a viewpoint on what is going on in Iraq that is virtually nonexistent in the mainstream media.

 

 

http://www.nationalcenter.org/2008/11/from-operation-iraqi-freedom-have-done.html

I’m sure this will provoke some thought!

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I am setting in my office; looking out on a beautiful seven acres that is lightly dusted with snow.  As much as I like Spring and Summer, the scene is too beautiful not to enjoy.  The space heater under my desk is making this blast of frigid air more tolerable.

I am in Kentucky.  May will bring the return of warmer temperatures.  The grass will be green, the trees will blossom and the sun will shine.  May will also bring the Presidential Election Primary to Kentucky.

Of course, by the time I am allowed to cast my vote for a candidate, the candidates will already be chosen.  We will know who they are at least by February 5 and perhaps as early as mid-January.

Today in Iowa, there are three front-runners on each ticket.  Barak, Hillary and John E. for the Dems.  Mitt, Mike and John M. for the Pubs.  Unless there are some earth-shattering kinds of changes or a total buck of American political tradition within the next few months, it is safe to say that one of these six people will become the next President of the United States.

I am not going to publicly endorse a candidate – at least not at this point.  I will, however, offer up a few of the issues that are impacting how I view these candidates.

First is the issue of immigration.  I am not prepared to vote for a candidate that is ready to blanketly sanction illegal immigration.  But I cannot vote for a candidate who wants to round up and deport millions of people from the country.  It would be nice if there were a candidate with a solution that was a bit more creative than building walls along borders.  I am willing to give consideration to a candidate who proposes a means for current “illegal” immigrants to become “legal”.  Most importantly, I am not willing to vote for any candidate who would deny education and basic health care to the children of illegal immigrants.  These children should not be made to suffer for “crimes” committed by their parents.

Secondly are issues related to the right to life.  These issues, for me, encompass both abortion and the death penalty.  There are no circumstances under which any human being has the right to take the life of another human being because of their age, size, race, shape, character, crimes or behaviors.  As you might imagine, it is difficult to find a candidate from either major party who takes a wholistic approach to the right to life.

Third, are issues related to economics.  I believe in free markets and free market solutions, but I also believe that the government has a pivotal role to play in regulating the free markets so that the “least” amongst us are afforded their full rights and privileges as citizens.  I do not – in any way- include the middle class in this “least” category.  Providing government healthcare for children in families that are making $80,000 a year is not a good definition of caring for the “least” amongst us.  I do not want to vote for a candidate that will raise taxes and make the tax system more inequitable than it already is.  I do want to vote for a candidate who can creatively encourage free market solutions to economic problems.

Fourth are issues related to national security and global politics.  I am looking for a candidate who understands that there are forces at work in the world that are more than willing to murder my children simply because they were born in the United States and are a part of “western culture”.  At the same time, I am looking for a candidate who will dialogue with world leaders, actively pursue diplomacy and be a force for peace in the world.  I am not willing to vote for a candidate who is ready to remove all American influence from the situation in Iraq, which I am certain, would result in chaos unlike anything we have yet seen in that region.  I would like to see a candidate who would be willing to explore the possibility of a 3-state solution in Iraq.

Fifth, are issues related to education.  The principles that undergird NCLB (No Child Left Behind) are quite valid.  That’s why is was initially approved with bi-partisan support in the US Congress.  Having worked in education for a while, however, I am convinced that the execution of the principles of NCLB have been fatally flawed.  I am looking for a candidate who will uphold the principles of NCLB, but work more diligently with education professionals to implement those principles.

Sixth, are issues related to personal integrity and character.  The candidates and the media are so busy muddying the waters on this issue that it is very difficult to determine which ones of them really are men (or women) of integrity and character.  Are they honest?  Do they tell the truth?  Do they have some opinions (and do they stand up for those convictions) that run against the grain of their party’s status-quo or are they simply trumpeting the same base-pandering load of stuff that seems to work best in winning primary elections?

Seventh is the issue of the environment.  I am not, and I repeat, I am not afraid of global warming.  Contrary to the media’s continual insistence, the science is not all in on the effects of the impact of global warming.  Yes, the earth is getting warmer.  Yes, emissions and cow flatulence and so many other things probably have something to do with it.  Yes, we should change our ways (light bulbs, kind of cars we build, recycling, etc.).  Yes, caring for creation is an important part of living a wholistic, Christian life.  How about a candidate deciding that green technology is not an enemy to our economic engine, but could, instead, be used as a creative free-market solution to some of our economic woes.  Now is the time for our government to prompt some big, free-market investment in green technology that would make the environment healthier, but would probably also position America at the forefront of the next cycle of economic growth and technological renovation.  I am indebted to my father-in-law for this line of thinking.  We discussed it over Christmas and I found it to be very persuasive.  I think he pulled the idea from Thomas Friedman’s “The Earth is Flat” which is an excellent treatise on the global economy and on global politics.

Those are seven of the big issues for me.  I’ll probably have trouble finding a candidate that meets all of those criteria, but I’ll try to get as close as possible.

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I keep track of several sources of news.  I begin the day with NPR.  I check GoogleNews a few times.  I check out what’s up on talk radio.  I watch the first few minutes of the evening news casts.  I saw something last night on the CBS Evening News that I had never seen or heard before.

Harry Smith – subsituting for Katie Couric – aired a report talking about our growing military success in Iraq.  When the report was over, Smith did not add a total number of US military casualties during 2007.  Instead, he gave the following numbers (reported by the Iraqi Government):  About 16,500 Iraqis were killed during 2007.  Nearly 3000 members of the Iraqi police force and the Iraqi army were killed.

Two comments . . .

One:  I never allow myself the luxury of believing that the media (whether it be the “new” media or the “old, established” media) is without an agenda.  After 3 years of almost nightly reporting on the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq, the news media comes out with one of the first statistics regarding the loss of Iraqi life.  With American deaths decreasing in Iraq, the news media now turns to reporting on Iraqi deaths.  My guess is that this fits their particular political agenda.

Two:  There is something far more disturbing in this subtle shift than a possible political agenda.  The deaths of American soldiers were religiously counted up every night on the evening news.  The “American” deaths were worth reporting.  The Iraqi deaths are now mentioned as a last ditch effort to further the agenda of making Iraq look like a failure; and at worst these deaths are mentioned as an afterthought.

It all raises the question:  Do dead people matter?  Only if they further our own particular agenda.  Otherwise, they can be ignored and forgotten.

No matter what you think of the war in Iraq, the media’s failure to report the number of Iraqi deaths alongside the deaths of Americans is a reminder of just how self-centered we humans really are.

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I have no certain comments, thoughts or opinions to follow this quote.  Take it or leave it for what’s its worth to you.  But it is probably worth wrestling with.

When we wish to speak about the conditions for peace, therefore, we would do well always to keep before our eyes the fact that relationships between two nations bear close analogy to relationships between two individuals.  The conditions that are opposed to peace are in the one as is in the other relationship:  lust for power, pride, inordinate desire for glory and honor, arrogance, feelings of inferiority, and strife over more living space and over one’s “bread” or life.  What is sin for an individual is never virtue for an entire people or nation.  What is proclaimed as the gospel to the church, the congregation and, thereby, the individual Christian, is spoken to the world as a judgment.  When a people refuses to hear this command, then Christians are called forth from that people to give witness to peace.  Let us take care, however, that we miserable sinners proclaim peace from a spirit of love and not from any zeal for security or from any mere political aim.

This quote is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in A Testament to Freedom.

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           Great Commission Fellowship (GCF) (gcfi.com), the church where I serve as the Lead Pastor, is located in
Wilmore, Kentucky.  Wilmore is the home of two institutions of Christian higher education:  
Asbury
College and Asbury Theological Seminary.  Both institutions arose out of the Holiness movement of the early 1900’s.  The Holiness movement was primarily concerned with spreading the message of justification before God by faith in Jesus as well as the doctrine of sanctification before God by faith in Jesus.

            Over the years, the doctrine of sanctification became quite skewed and misunderstood.  In fact, many came to believe that sanctification meant that it was possible to live in some sort of “sinless perfection” (two words, by the way, that John Wesley, the motivator in so many ways of the first Holiness movement; also called the Methodist Movement of the 18th century; never put together in the same sentence anywhere in any of his extant writings)!  Sanctification came to mean and now means for many people that someone has had a second experience with the Holy Spirit and has been given the strength and power to no longer sin in this life.

            I believe in sanctification.  I believe that I have had a second experience with the Holy Spirit that changed my life.  You can call this sanctification, you can call it a second touch of the Holy Spirit, you can call it an infilling of the Holy Spirit.  The label does not matter much to me.  What happened during that experience and what has transpired in my life since that experience are what really matter to me, so . . . it can be called whatever you want to call it.

            Before I go any further, I want to state something very clearly:  the doctrine of sanctification, like so many other Christian doctrines, has suffered the insult and injustice of having been treated so systematically and, at times, with so much dogmatic fervor that it has robbed many Christians and the Church of much of the mystery and embrace of God that are so important to the corporate and personal experience of leading a sanctified, spirit-filled life.  Read this previous sentence a couple of times.  I believe that this point can scarcely be overstated, nor can we afford to misunderstand it.

If we are to understand what it means to be a sanctified, spirit-filled believer then it is probably wise that we do our best to think outside of the systematic, fervor-filled, dogmatic terminology of the previous discussions on sanctification and being in-filled by the Holy Spirit.  As has happened to so many of the great doctrines of our Christian faith, our attempts to systematize them and lay them out in nice, neat little charts has indeed robbed the Holy Spirit of many priceless opportunities to make the doctrines real experiences in our day to day living.

            The last two paragraphs, I think, should help explain the frustration with which a member of GCF recently wrote me a letter.  The gist of the letter was this:  I grew up in a Holiness background and went to a Holiness college.  I understand the doctrine of sanctification as theology, but I am not sure that I, along with many others, understand it as a practical reality in our day to day living.  The question she asked, in so many words, was this:  can you explain sanctification in such a way that it can seem like a real possibility in the life of a believer?

            What will come in these next few posts will be my feeble attempt to answer that very big question.

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Wilber

A couple of Sundays ago I got my tongue tied and referred to the great British social reformer William Wilberforce as Wilber Wilberforce.  When I saw the movie Amazing Grace this past Sunday, I was pleased to find out that many of Wilberforce’s close friends called him “Wilber” for short.

 The movie is worth seeing and, it is my guess, that Wilberforce will become a bit of a poster child for the postmodern church (as well he should be).  For those who aren’t familiar, Wilberforce, a British MP (Member of Parliament not military policeman) in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s was intrumental in bringing the British slave trade to an end.  Wilberforce’s motivation came from two sources.  The first was the influence of the Wesleyan Revival of the 1700’s in Britain which focused much attention on the social ills of British culture in that era.  The second was the influence of John Newton, a former slave trader, whose life was transformed by Jesus Christ.  Newton has been immortalized along with his hymn Amazing Grace.

Had not John Wesley and John Newton’s lives been so radically and personally transformed by Jesus Christ then the time table on ending the slave trade would have been, well, who know’s how long? 

 Wilberforce ties together two themes that are often in too much tension with one another.  Those two themes would be (1) the personal encounter with Jesus that results in the transformation of the inner being and (2) the outworking of that encounter for the benefit of society.

A few days ago I suggested that Jesus, in response to the situation in Iraq, would probably carry a cross through the streets of Baghdad and die a criminal’s death.  I also wrote about the importance of other Jesus-followers going into Baghdad to personally bear the image of Jesus Christ as missionaries.  The military, despite the many fanatical claims that have been made by many Americans, has at least, made it possible for the same kind of scenario to take place in Iraq.  A missionary, personally bearing the image of Jesus Christ, as did John Newton to William Wilberforce, could prompt the only kind of transformation that will stabilize Iraqi society.  The task is for the church of Jesus Christ to pray for, support and send out those who will bear that image in Iraq.

American forces cannot win peace and freedom in Iraq, but Jesus can!

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A Cross in Baghdad

I have been wondering exactly how Jesus would respond to the war in Iraq.  Would he be protesting outside of the White House?  Would he be on the inside of the Pentagon working policy?  Would he be a diplomat jetting in and out of Baghdad on secret missions?

I am guessing that Jesus’ response to the war in Iraq would be quite similar to his initial response to the brokenness of humankind way back in the first century.  Jesus’ response to the war in Iraq would be a cross in Baghdad.  It would probably seem to be an inconsequential event to many; just another religious fanatic laying down his life.

Perhaps – rather than debating the legitimacy of the war or extolling the virtues of “just war” or “nonviolence” the church should focus on praying for and raising up tenacious missionaries who are courageous enough to live as images of the Cross Bearer through the streets of Baghdad?

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