Friday, April 2, 2010

Wilderness Outcry, June 14-18, 2010

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
-- 2 Chronicles 7:14

"I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads," declares the Lord GOD.
-- Ezekiel 22:30-31

No greater power is available to humankind than the power of prayer and worship. When these are corporate - when many people come together in unity to seek God's face - that power is magnified exponentially.

Never has our country needed such power more than it does today. Even many nonbelievers sense that something is terribly wrong. The United States of America was founded as a Christian nation, yet it has turned away from God to the extent that it can no longer be considered truly Christian. Many of its people, including some who call themselves Christian, don't know what true Christianity is. Now we're seeing the results in the news every day.

We can't fix these problems ourselves. Political, social, and economic solutions might help a little, but they're really just Band-Aids. All they do is treat the symptoms.

What we need is to get at the root of the problem. We need to change what caused this situation in the first place. America must turn back to God. If we don't, things are going to get worse. The Bible clearly shows that there are serious consequences for sin and for ignoring God. But He's also merciful when He sees true repentance.

A group led by Dutch Sheets and Lou Engle are calling for a time of corporate repentance, prayer, and worship this summer. On June 14-18 the Wilderness Outcry will be held on Moriah Ranch in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. People of all ages are being called from around the nation to cry out to God for a revival, for a Third Great Awakening to be poured out on America. It will be a time of radical commitment and consecration.

Even if you can't attend - even if you don't totally agree with their approach - please consider joining your prayers with theirs, particularly during this time. Our country needs all the help it can get!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reminded Once Again

There's this person at work who's been driving me nuts for the last month or so. There's no need to get into all the gory details here, of course. Let's just say it seemed he was constantly interfering and trying to control. I've always had trouble getting along with controlling, interfering types — I'm far too independent for that — and I was getting really frustrated with him.

I had a meeting with him today. I was ready to be all over him. I even had stuff I'd printed out to document all the things he'd been doing wrong. Fortunately, I let him go first.

You know what?

Turns out he had no idea he was being such a jerk. He was completely unaware of how mad I was at him. He thought much better of me than I realized and was taken aback when he found out I thought he had a bad attitude toward me.

There were a few things that needed to be cleared up. I did have one or two legitimate complaints. But he's not a big green monster. A lot of the problem was my own misunderstanding. I just didn't have all the facts. I'd gotten emotional and let my imagination run loose. It ran in the wrong direction.

"Jerks usually don't know they're being jerks," Dad told me once. I didn't take him seriously at the time. The jerk in question should have known better, as far as I was concerned. That "jerk" and I are now getting along again as coworkers.

This isn't the first time I've had this happen. I realized a long time ago that my perceptions can be deceptive, and when my emotions start heating up this way, I need to be careful. No question, I've encountered a few truly nasty people. But most folks are just ordinary folks, and if I give them a chance, usually we can work things out.

Once again I'm reminded:

Don't jump to conclusions. And don't ever write people off until they prove they really deserve it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Fine Book Out Of Rome

I'm Protestant, but I decided long ago that I don't believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ. I think Catholics can be every bit as much true Christians as any Protestant, and I'd rather listen to a good priest than a bad minister. I don't agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches, but I have to say the same for every Protestant church I've ever attended. And I admire how the Catholic Church handles certain issues, such as abortion. Really, as far as I'm concerned, Catholicism is just another denomination.

This past weekend I finished a book that provides a wonderful example of what I mean: Can God Be Trusted?: Finding Faith in Troubled Times by Father Thomas D. Williams. Fr. Williams is a Vatican analyst for CBS News and a professor of theology at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome. Not exactly your everyday priest!

And yet I found this book through Crossings Book Club, a Protestant book club that I've belonged to for many years. I can't remember ever seeing them offer a book by a Catholic before.

This book's great! It's gentle, wise, balanced, and highly readable. It has a lot to say about God's love and grace, but also about our personal responsibility and our need to have a right understanding of what God does and doesn't promise. It emphasizes a key point that I've become keenly aware of in recent years: The Lord's blessings are largely contingent upon our obedience. There are numerous Bible references. There was one reference to a verse in the Apocrypha, but all the rest can be found in the same Bible that Protestants use. Fr. Williams quotes quite a few writings by Pope Benedict XVI and other Church fathers and saints, but that's to be expected and I didn't see anything to take issue with. I think this book is as sound as anything a Protestant might have written.

Considering where I found it, obviously I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Fr. Williams has a number of other books out there, which seem to be as highly regarded as this one. And some of his quotes from the Pope have piqued my interest too. Who knows, I may be reading more Catholic books in the future.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bush and the Iraq War: My Take

President George W. Bush and the Iraq War... Why did we go in? Was the invasion justified?

I really hadn't thought much about these things for quite awhile, until a recent discussion brought them to mind again. Then I became keenly aware of the condemnation being heaped on Bush. No WMDs were found, the war was a huge mistake, and we had no business going over there and disrupting the lives of the Iraqi people.

That's not what I remember!

Mulling it over later, I decided I needed a refresher. So I went on the Internet to see what I could find. Not surprisingly, there's enough out there to keep any historian happy for a lifetime. I'm not a historian though, and I just wanted a quick overview of some basic facts. So I headed to a couple of (to me) obvious sites. Below is some of what I found.

Wikipedia, the Internet's online encyclopedia, has a lot of information about the Iraq War. A couple of representative articles include "Rationale for the Iraq War" and "Iraq War". A scan of these shows that the reasons and issues surrounding the invasion were very complex. A couple of items from the second article that I want to point out include:
  • Hans Blix, the lead weapons inspector, said that "Iraq's declarations with regards to WMD still could not be verified."

  • And this: "After investigation following the invasion, the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its nuclear, chemical, and biological programs in 1991 and had no active programs at the time of the invasion, but that they intended to resume production if the Iraq sanctions were lifted."
(That's what I find there as of this writing, anyway. Someone could come along and edit these articles later.)

And here's a list of articles I found at, a favorite news and opinion site. Notice their dates. I purposely looked for material from that time because I wanted to see what the thinking was back then, not what it is today.
  • WMD's by Emmett Terrell, June 19, 2003. Apparent evidence for their existence.

  • WMD's and the Iraq War by Mona Charen, June 24, 2003. Reasons for the invasion. Reasons why other countries can have WMDs but Iraq couldn't.

  • Discovering WMD by Robert Novak, August 9, 2003. Pending revelation of post-invasion successes in finding evidence of WMDs.

  • 'Just in time' WMD by Charles Krauthammer, October 10, 2003. More evidence and theorizing about what happened to Saddam's WMDs.

  • Who thought Iraq had WMD? Most everybody by Larry Elder, May 25, 2006. The title speaks for itself. It's interesting to note some of the names on the list, including foreigners and some notable Democrats.

  • The real story on WMDs needs to be told -- but carefully by Hugh Hewitt, June 22, 2006. More post-invasion evidence of WMDs. And terrorists were looking for them too.
OK, enough. I'm not trying to write a book!

Now, before I say anything else, let me say this: For purposes of this discussion, forget hindsight! What we now know, or think we know, is totally irrelevant here. Bush didn't have that information available to him then. He had to make his decision based on what was known and believed at that time.

It happens to all of us sooner or later, doesn't it? We have big decisions to make. We find out all we can, get advice, think long and hard... Then we make what seem to us to be the best choices, often with a lot of uncertainty. Later we realize that, despite our best efforts, we were wrong. Subsequent events provide new evidence; we find new information; or maybe we just grow up a bit and become a little wiser. Whatever the case, there's no point beating ourselves up over it. All we can do is learn what we can from our mistakes and then move on.

Why can't we extend the same charity to others? Including President Bush and all the other leaders who decided to invade Iraq?

So what are the facts?
  • The President of the United States is the Commander-In-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. Our national security is his number one responsibility. I'm sorry if this sounds cold, but the fact of the matter is that Bush's concern was us, not the Iraqis. The one who was supposed to be looking out for them was their own president, Saddam Hussein. That said, I'm sure most Americans realize that, with some exceptions, our military did go out of their way to avoid unnecessary harm to the Iraqi people.

  • The invasion was authorized by Congress. Congress voted its approval. That includes people who are now opposed to the war. (They have awfully short memories, don't they?)

  • The widespread belief at that time was that Saddam Hussein was a very real threat. That wasn't just Bush's personal opinion. Republicans, Democrats, and international leaders thought so too, and had suspected it for years. There were also intelligence and weapons inspection reports that seemed to confirm it.

  • Saddam Hussein's own behavior gave credence to those suspicions. I don't doubt he would have continued to be a problem for as long as he remained in power.

  • Have we really proven there were no WMDs? I don't think so. And even if there weren't any at that time, there's reason to believe Saddam would have tried to get them again when he thought he could get away with it.
So, should we have invaded Iraq or not? I don't know. I've never had a strong opinion about that one way or the other, and I still don't. What do I really know? I wasn't there. I didn't hear the discussions or read the intelligence reports. I don't know what went through President Bush's mind. I do know there were undoubtedly many factors which most people aren't aware of.

But one thing I don't question. George W. Bush is basically a decent man. Right or wrong, I believe he made this decision in good faith, based on the best judgment he could make, using the information he had available to him at that time.

I think the contempt he's getting now is unjust.

This past Saturday The Kansas City Star published a quote from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was Bush's ally and is now getting the same kind of flak from his own people. He said: "This isn't about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It's a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam's history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over 1 million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking U.N. resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons program or is that a risk it is responsible to take?"

Bush could have said that.

What if we hadn't invaded Iraq? Only God knows. Maybe Saddam Hussein would never have been more than an irritating gnat. But I wouldn't bet on it.

There's a fact of history that I find particularly haunting: Adolf Hitler could have been stopped much sooner than he was. But Europe was still recovering from the Great War — World War I — and wanted to avoid another conflict at any cost. European leaders tried to appease Hitler instead. Appeasement didn't work. It seldom does, not with that kind of evil. All it accomplished was to allow Hitler to keep going. You know the rest.

Bush didn't risk that mistake.

The photo is by Eric Draper and is in the public domain.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Word From Dutch Sheets

I'm on the mailing list of Dutch Sheets Ministries. For those of you who might not know of him, Dutch sheets is an author and visionary evangelist. Perhaps his best-known book is Intercessory Prayer, although he has several others that are well regarded. He's also a prayer warrior with a compelling desire to see revival and reform in America and around the globe. He's traveled extensively, leading prayer gatherings to usher in revival.

I had an email from DSM recently, and he's at it again. He's now on an Awakening and Reformation Tour. Here's what the Tour's website says, in part:

"We are convinced that awakening/revival is imminent for America. We believe this awakening will begin with the youth and young adults and then spread to all. God is waiting on us to hear His strategies and begin to light the fires for this awakening around the nation."

You may or may not agree with Dutch Sheets' theology. But there are three things I think most Christians can agree on:
  • This country is in trouble and needs help!

  • God is our hope.

  • Prayer and repentance is the way to bring His help.
Let's join our prayers with Dutch Sheets' team!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Financial Crisis: Consider This

I came across this editorial in the current weekly digital edition of U.S. News and World Report:

Who to Blame for the Financial Crisis by Mortimer B. Zuckerman

You might not agree with every detail in this editorial. But I think his overall point -- that there are no innocent players in this mess -- is well worth considering.

I read this magazine instead of Time and Newsweek because it seems to me a little more balanced and fair-minded.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Drama At the Bus Stop

I really wish I'd had my camera with me this afternoon. I'd love to share a picture of what I saw at the bus stop in front of my workplace. Well, I can describe it, anyway.

First, some background. The bus stop is on the north side of the building where I work. It's a cutout curb alongside a busy 4-lane city throughfare, with just enough room for two city busses. It's very clearly marked, with seats, a "Bus Stop" sign, and a "No Parking" sign. I don't know how anyone could mistake it for anything other than what it is.

Problem is, many employees use it as a drop-off and pickup point. A lot of the time there are private vehicles parked there, often several of them. Many times the busses can't use the bus stop the way they're supposed to. They can't pull up to the curb, so they have to stop in the traffic lane next to it. Result: blocked traffic, people walking in front of cars, riders struggling to get up and down from high steps that were designed to fit curbs.

And wheelchair users who need help boarding because they can't get down from the curb themselves. That's what I watched this afternoon. There's this one guy, an employee who uses a wheelchair because he's missing part of a leg. This afternoon two cars were in the way and his bus was forced to stop a whole lane away from the curb. I watched as another passenger helped him get his wheelchair down into the street and the driver put the bus's wheelchair ramp down right in front of a parked car. Then after he boarded, the driver had to get out — into the traffic lane on the other side of the bus — to manually start the ramp before he could get it to fold back into the bus.

Can you see the safety hazards here? Traffic, a blocked lane, parked cars that could move at the wrong moment, possible damage to the wheelchair when it went off the curb, possible injuries from several potential sources. I'm sure that isn't an exhaustive list.

At least this guy was in a basic wheelchair, relatively lightweight, and could help move himself. We have a couple of other employees who are even more disabled. They use heavy electric wheelchairs.

This is all because of people abusing a bus stop with a clearly posted "No parking" sign. They're supposed to go use the public garage across the street. Most of them know that — management has reminded them repeatedly. Sure, it requires a little bit of a walk, but they can go through a perfectly safe tunnel under the street, out of the weather and away from traffic. There are a few disabled employees who would have a real problem making that trip, and I don't begrudge them using the bus stop instead. But the rest? Hm?

Puh-leeze, folks! "No parking" signs are up there for a reason. Honor them! Park somewhere else. That little bit of extra exercise will be good for you. And you don't know what kind of trouble you won't be causing for someone else.