Sony and the North Koreans

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2014 by jcwill5

I was in a theater several weeks back when a preview of The Interview came on the screen.

The comedy is about two American television journalists who are lightweights and total goofballs.

They are invited by North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, to be interviewed.  He’s a fan of theirs.

The CIA intercepts the pair and talks them into helping them assassinate Kim Jong Un.

Apparently they succeed.

My first reactions were, “Is this supposed to be funny?”

Followed by, “What a totally stupid idea for a comedy!  Where’s quality control these days?”

Then, cringing in my seat, “What an unnecessarily provocative, insulting story line!  Ugly Americanism at its absolute worst!”

Which is why it failed to surprise me that the North Korean government had a kitten about the movie.

And made threats.

And, apparently confirmed by the U.S. government, they sponsored a particularly vicious hacking attack against Sony Pictures, Inc.

They first leaked a series of embarrassing e-mails that exposed insults against the President Obama by Sony Pictures executives, insults and back-stabbing against director Angelina Jolie by other directors, and sexist pay discrepancies between male and female stars in their movies.

Then the North Koreans sent ominous e-mails to all of Sony’s 45,000 employees.

Then they made threats of violence against any theaters that showed the movie.

Sony gave theaters the option of not showing it.  And most theater chains jumped at the chance.

With no theaters, Sony pulled the plug on releasing The Interview in any format at all.

My response:  all of the above was completely avoidable, easily foreseen, and totally unnecessary.

The North Koreans are notorious for being thin-skinned, childish about perceived insults, and indulging in outbursts of violence and harshest rhetoric against imagined threats.

Of course their government is one of the worst dictatorships on earth and is guilty of horrific human rights abuses, mass starvation of its citizens, and terrible death camps.

So let’s make a comedy out of it?!

I do not at all justify the North Korean government for resorting to such despicable means to retaliate against Sony Pictures.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

But neither do I (nor should we) reward such appallingly bad judgment, poor taste, and lousy subject matter choices on the part of the studio.

The phrase, a complete lack of moral responsibility, comes to mind.

Films and all other creative endeavors can ennoble us, or corrupt us.

They can be used to inflame the fires of war, or advance the cause of peace.

They can provoke and stoke conflict (as in this case), or they can lift the human spirit.

As an American, I am embarrassed at what this picture represents and how it portrays us to the rest of the world.

You can tell an awful lot about a person by what they laugh at and find funny.

We just just told the world there is nothing sacred anymore, nothing held in reverence, no subject beyond the pale–no matter how gross, counterproductive, positively damaging, or inappropriate.

In fact, there is nothing inappropriate anymore and no yardsticks of good judgment that can be used anymore.

No limits, no boundaries, no bright lines or red lines never to be crossed.

It’s not funny.   Not at all.

The Interview’s warped humor is as revealing about us as North Korean’s over-the-top hostility is about them.

What won’t we laugh at?  What can shock and revolt us anymore?  Is there anything we’d blush to be associated with?

Instead of playing the victim and berating Sony Pictures for withdrawing the movie, perhaps we ought to say, “It’s about time!  This movie should never have been made in the first place and the people at Sony responsible for this fiasco ought to be replaced!”

We don’t need any more moral bankruptcy and resulting folly–there’s more than enough of it already.

What we need is repentance and a restored moral compass.  Then we’ll laugh at the good stuff.

The Fatal Flaw of Protesting

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2014 by jcwill5

You can’t make people care who don’t care.

At least, not it the way you want them to care.

As thousands of people in Berkeley, CA block interstate freeways, smash windows, disrupt rush hour commuters, etc., the sad fact remains you can’t force people who don’t care to care.

Most white Americans are more interested in their Christmas shopping, decorating, baking, and special events right now.

The truth is most people don’t want to be bothered.

And they certainly don’t want to have their evening commute blocked by several hundred angry demonstrators.

So, instead of generating sympathy for their cause, the protesters are generating antipathy, hostility, and irritation.

Thanks to the media attention they seek and try to exploit, images of looting and window breaking and brick throwing predominate.

Then the detached many, the screen spectators who watch from afar, dislike this lawless behavior and want the whole thing to stop and go away.

So you have this divide between an enraged community that vows it will change “the system”, and the passive majority that has already shut them out and moved onto the next event in the news cycle.

And attempts by protesters to disrupt their insulated lives in any way is met with fierce resistance, with calls upon the authorities to quash the protests.

The passive majority doesn’t care about race relations, they care about their own personal space and private recreating.

It’s all they care about and it’s all they’re likely to care about.

Demonstrating Against Our Weak Selves

The dirty little secret of protesting is this:   whenever we protest, what we’re really protesting against is our own powerlessness.

We feel helpless and out-of-control and hurt.

Our group is threatened, attacked, mistreated and/or demeaned.

So we take to the streets to show how powerful and important we are.

But we are mostly ignored, fail to make any substantive changes that really last, and are left with our wounded, angry pride.

Until the next provocation.

Instead of succeeding in being powerful, protests only prove how utterly powerless and vulnerable we really are.

And, even if laws are changed, the hearts of our opponents and the passive majority aren’t changed.

Protests cannot change human nature, entrenched self-interests, and deeply embedded world-views.

So here we are, fifty years after the Civil Rights Bill and with a person of color as President and Attorney General, and it’s painfully obvious that, beyond lip-service and political correctness, little has really changed.

The truth is we cannot change another human being.

We cannot even change ourselves, if we’re going to be honest about it.

We can only come to our Creator in our helplessness and own in His presence our wounded pride and, yes, our sin and our rebellion against Him.

And then we can repent and admit we are the problem and we cannot heal our selves.

We can have broken hearts over our sin and stop pointing the finger of blame.

We can admit we are part of the system and are sell-outs and fakes.

We can admit our lives are unmanageable and face the terrible fact that we are out of control and enslaved to our pet addictions.

We have a monster within and are our own worst enemies.

We need a miracle.

Only God can really change us, and give us a tender heart in place of a callused one.

Only God can effect the death the old person inside we cannot change, and birth a new person made in His image.

Only He can dethrone our inner sin-monster, and turn us into His dear child and heal us of our wounds and love us so much we have excess love for others.

The only way for American society to really change is going to be a mass movement of radical humility, brokenness before God, repentance and confession of sin, and surrendering to the loving authority of His Son that we might be converted, saved, and set free.

And I don’t mean religious rigor or sanctimonious posturing or lawless enabling.

I mean the removal and replacement of all our old identities–even our racial and national ones–with a new identity in Him.

That’s God’s plan, at least.

And it has a far greater chance of succeeding than blocking the Interstate.

The Tortured Logic of Torture

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2014 by jcwill5

The Democratic party majority on the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate recently released a summary of a report on the use of torture by the CIA during 2001-2008.

Here is the link to the actual report:

Euphemistically called, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (EIT), these methods of obtaining information from detained terrorism perpetrators were used to uncover information about future terror attacks.

Enemy combatants with high value information were flown to off-shore detention centers in countries with weak or non-existent torture laws, and subjected to lengthy sleep deprivation, water boarding, rectal feeding, near fatal exposure to cold, etc.

Some people, such as former Vice-President Dick Cheney, the CIA itself, and the psychologist who oversaw the detainees, have rebutted the report as being misleading, inaccurate, and full of partisan bias.

Here are their responses:

The best rejoinder, however, was that of former democratic Senator for Nebraska, Bob Kerry, who has this to say:

His basic point is some of the very same voices that were loudest in demanding that the CIA “do something” after 9/11, and who were kept informed, are now the loudest in denouncing what was done.

Something has shifted

With all that being said, one fact stands out:   the moral basis of our decision-makers has drastically changed.

In WW2, there were lines we didn’t cross in the treatment of enemy prisoners, behaviors and practices that distinguished us from the Nazis and later the Communists.

Even the worst Nazi leaders were given trials, were treated humanely, and were executed only after being found guilty based on overwhelming evidence.

This highest level of humanity and respect for human rights gave the United States a certain moral authority, a bright line of distinction between us and Nazi or Communist dictatorships.

There are still voices in high places that reflect this point of view, that torture is never justified and is not torturing anyone is a moral absolute.

Here is what former POW and torture victim John McCain says:

Utilitarianism and Pragmatism

Now, our political, military, and governing decisions are based on the old maxims, “the ends justify the means” and “whatever works”.

These moral philosophies are known as utilitarianism and pragmatism.

If the cause is noble enough, if the enemy is bad enough, if the technique is effective enough, and if the danger is great enough, we can and we should torture–especially to prevent future attacks and save lives

And the same goes for lying, cheating, stealing, or murder, etc.

Long before we ever tortured people, we tortured and twisted both our logic and our morals to justify the unjustifiable.

It’s not what was actually done to our prisoners, but making it public and risking a backlash, that’s on their minds of critics of the report.

In other words, the end doesn’t justify the means and it won’t work.

Sadly, neither the Republican leaders nor Democrat leaders operate from moral absolutes these days.

In matters of sexual morality or advancing the welfare state, progressives discard and disregard moral absolutes at will and relish breaking them.

If lying to the public about a bill will get it passed, we lie to them.  Do whatever is necessary; do what works.

In matters of national security, conservatives do the same.

So where does that leave us?

For one thing, if the Bible and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions can be disregarded at will whenever the cause is deemed worthy enough or if personal advantage is at stake, they become functionally worthless pieces of paper.

We, the citizens, are left utterly defenseless in the end at the hands of the super-state.

We then slowly become a dictatorship in all but name–perhaps a benevolent and unobtrusive one–as these absoluates are eroded by relativism, situation ethics, pragmatism, and utilitarianism.

The central question, the one nobody is asking of our selves or of our leaders is this:

What WON’T you do? 

What line WON’T you cross–however noble the cause or dire the emergency?

What practice will you NEVER approve–however popular or trendy or personally inconvenient?

What moral absolutes will you NEVER violate–however advantageous to yourself, your political career, or your party’s fortunes?

And the fact that nobody is asking this question is bad enough.

But the fact that it has never even occurred to anyone in the press, academia, or the church to ask such a question, is indicative of how dominant utilitarianism and pragmatism have become in our culture.

Next time I want to discuss how all the above can be counter-acted by a courageous few.

There is hope for us!

Having a Blue Christmas?

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2014 by jcwill5

There’s a dirty little secret about the holidays:   The very time of year we Americans are supposed to be the happiest is when we’re most depressed.

Can this outcome be avoided?   And what can each of us do to help those afflicted with the holiday blues?

Some will answer, “Don’t eat so much sugar and start exercising!”.

And there’s some truth in that advice.   Bulging waistlines and a pattern of lethargy don’t help anyone feel great about themselves.

But I think the problem, and the antidote, is deeper.

We have a problem with inflated expectations during Christmas and practice a lot of magical thinking.

Higher expectations lead to a greater letdown when they don’t happen.

We expect folks to treat each other better at this time of year.   We expect feuding family members to suddenly stop arguing and be kind instead.

We expect shopping for presents and singing Christmas songs will somehow transcend the unhappy realities of our lives.

And when the magic doesn’t work, we end up feeling worse than we otherwise would have felt had we expected life to be ordinary and people to be the same.

Magic, in many ways, is the cruelest master of all.  It only makes us more miserable.

And magic is the opposite of true faith.

So the first step to avoiding the build-up and crash is to surface unspoken expectations about Christmas, and honestly ask ourselves, “Am I being realistic?”

We have to give up the magic, in other words.

It’s letting go of our self-comforting delusions and coming to terms with the realities we don’t like.

There are things in our lives which hurt us over and over again.

Things we can’t stop.  Things we can’t change.

What if, instead of practicing magic, we brought all these sorrowful realities to the Person whose birthday we are celebrating?

We bleed in His kind presence, and He points to His cross and takes our sufferings upon Himself.

He ministers His compassion to us as only a fellow suffer can.

The Messiah born on Christmas seldom removes pain, but He specializes in transforming it and redeeming it if we’ll allow Him to do so.

And we only allow Him when we come to the end of ourselves, admit we’ll never fix our lives, and find in Him the love that broken humans all around us can never give us.

In other words, it’s time to hand over control and give up on the magical thinking that says, “This time it will be different”.

Magic doesn’t work.   It lets us down.   And it’s not worthy of our trust.   Only Christ is.

And speaking of that Person, He shows us a way out of self-absorption and self-pity and self-sickness.

And that path involves taking us out of ourselves and immersing us into who He is and what He’s doing.

The phrase, “beside myself with joy” captures the essence of the matter.

It’s when we step outside of ourselves, forget ourselves, and are absorbed in giving happiness to God and others that our joy is the greatest.

On Christmas day, try something different:   look at the face of the giver instead of the face of the recipient whenever a gift is opened.

Can you guess who is feeling more joy in that moment?

And does the giver’s joy not explain a side of God so many people don’t get:   the kick He gets out being generous to the least deserving and the least capable!

Generosity is God’s fun.

He’s got too much goodness for just Himself so He liberally shares it and literally wants everyone to join the party.  Then He invites us to have fun with Him!

There are lonely children who need a hug–why not give them one?

There are discouraged people who need to be told they’re still loved–why not tell them?

There are unemployed families that have no money for gifts–why not give them some?

There are soup kitchens and homeless shelters full of people who need a meal–why not serve them a meal?

There are lonely elderly people who have no families to spend Christmas with–why not include them at your table?

So strike a blow against Christmas depression in others and inoculate yourself against it at the same time.

Do something radical:  Try giving others joy instead of trying to suck happiness out of everything and everyone else during the holidays!

Awesome, No-Money-Needed Christmas Gifts

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2014 by jcwill5

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now over.

But we’re still feeling the pressure and have people that are difficult to please.  Which raises the question:

Why do we feel such pressure to spend money we don’t have in order to give gifts to other people who already own too much?

In my pastoring days, I’d receive questions like,  “I feel bad because I’ve got little money to spend on gifts, but everyone else in my family spends $50+ dollars on each other.   What does the Bible say about that?”

A good place to start is 1 Tim. 6:6-10, which talks of giving what lasts forever to others.

In other words, some of the greatest gifts we can ever give are free or cost very little money.

Here are a few ideas:

The gift of time 

Many lonely people are out there.  We normally rush by them.  They’re inconvenient.

But spending an afternoon, or a whole day, listening to and being with someone in a nursing home, or a widowed parent, or a divorced friend, or a forgotten neighbor, is quite a gift!

Lonely people can be suffocating, talk too much about themselves, and are crying out to be heard.

Yet this gift costs no money.

We can give it during prosperous times, and impoverished times as well.

Unhurried time would mean more to many such people than piles of money.

And, quite frankly, a day away from busyness won’t hurt us, either.

The gift of forgiveness

Are you in a feud with someone in the family?

Any “former friends” in your life that you “haven’t spoken to” in months or years?

Is there an “ex”, or an absent parent, you despise?

Have you been hurt by another’s injustice, and you won’t let it go?

This is an emotionally expensive but free gift.

It does cost one’s pride, it costs sanctimony and bitterness and the addiction to being right all the time.

Forgiveness does involve some personal risk, but the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation can do wonders for their soul… and your soul, too.

Notice it costs no money.

But our poor, resentful world desperately needs more of this gift.

BTW, if you’re a Christian, Christ says, “Do it for My sake–it will help people believe I’m real.”

He also says, “Look how much I’ve had to forgive you!  Now, out of gratitude to Me, pass along the same gift!”

The gift of something precious you already own 

An old book given by a deceased parent, a memento from some special trip, an item with sentimental value… these are precious things to give, and to receive.

And because we already own them, they cost no money.

Yet, they cost a part of us, a part that we give along with our treasure to a person we treasure even more.

“My dad gave me this, but I wanted you to have it” is a kind of gift even someone who “already has everything” would receive with grateful wonder.

The gift of an encouraging letter

Corresponding is a dying but powerful art.

What if you wrote a two page letter to someone, listing all the reasons you’re thankful for them, all the ways they’ve blessed you, and all the things they’ve done right in their relationship with you?

Few people take the time to commit their words to paper these days.

But words have enormous power, and written words may long outlast us and can be re-read over and over again.

There are very few people who have too much encouragement in their life.

Most of us have received far too much blame and criticism.

Redress the balance.

Spend an hour writing someone a blessing letter for the nominal price of a postage stamp.

The gift of something personally made 

It’s funny, but of all the gifts given to me by my grandma Mabel, it’s her little ceramic angels with broken off arms that mean the most to me decades later.

Part of the reason is because she made them herself.

Her hands fashioned it and glazed it and so they reflected her artistry.

She put herself into it, and, though she’s been gone for 25 years, I think of her every time I get out the Christmas decor boxes and hold her little angels in my hand.

Funny enough, hand-made stuff is usually pretty cheap to make.

That’s why it’s devalued by affluence-sickened people today.

But because we put a little bit of ourselves in it, it takes on a life of its own– a life of recalled memory and love.

There’s many other good ideas out there for free or low monetary cost Christmas gifts.

But one rule of thumb stands out:   if we have merely given a thing, but not ourselves, then we’ve really given nothing.

But if we give ourselves along with a item, however meager its cost, we have given the greatest gift a human being can give to God or others.

The old saying is true, “The gift without the giver is bare.”

Merry Christmas!

How God Resolves the Racial Divide

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2014 by jcwill5

The Bible says of God, “My ways are higher than your ways.”

And so, as we begin this outside-the-box discussion of race, it is good to remember that we are dealing with an Infinite Being outside of all time and space.

We are dealing with a supremely good and holy Someone who created us in love and who offers us in Christ a remedy for our innermost corruption and rebellion.

We fallen humans are all biased towards our selves and our group, towards those who look like, think like, and feel like we do.

Therefore it is not shocking that many churches insert themselves on the law-and-order side, or on the civil rights side, of the Ferguson issue.

Churches in the USA adopt the white way of seeing the world, or the black way of seeing the world, without even realizing it.

Our portrayals of Christ picture such absurdities as a Nordic Jesus or an Afro-Jesus!

In such places, our racial identity is assumed, unspoken, and unchallenged–whatever our race happens to be.

But, lest we be too harsh on ourselves, it is wise to remember that all over the tribal world, many converts to Christianity carry inside of themselves a tribal identity that most deeply defines them.

So let’s ask ourselves, “Did the New Testament have anything to say to cultural, racial, tribal, or class divides in the Roman Empire?”

Hint:  Jews vs. Greeks, Roman citizen vs. non-citizen, slave vs. free, etc.

What was God’s response to all these divides?

The answer back then, and the answer today, is shocking, even revolutionary.

The answer is “These kinds of categories and classifications no longer apply to any Christian!”

In other words, our new identity in Christ has superseded, overruled, and replaced our old identifications “in the flesh”!”

Any pre-Christ identities are obsolete, and we have been marked by something far deeper and greater.

To quote Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)

Again, we read, “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” (Co. 3:10-11)

These early believers no longer considered themselves racial Jews or Gentiles.

Instead, they were taught to see themselves as belonging to an entirely new human race with an entirely new nature that would one day inhabit an entirely new universe in an entirely new, immortal body.

This new nature was aptly called, “the new creation”.

“Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

“For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”  (Gal. 6:15)

For them, Christ broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, making Jews and Gentiles into one new man. (Eph. 2:15)

Which is why the early Christians, interestingly, called themselves “the third race”.

They no longer took sides or fought in racial, class, or tribal wars.

They cared for and shared the good news with any and all, and took all born-again comers into God’s family.

And they insisted that members of all tribes, classes, nations, and ethnic groups to leave it all behind and be joined together as one body in Christ.

Christ-followers left their former groups, often received a new God-centered name, and were baptized into the third race.

Notice the third race wasn’t something one was born into, but born-again into.

Which is why the Apostles and early Christians would have been appalled by modern churches segregated by classes, cultures, races, etc.

It would have rightly been seen as a heretical denial of the new creation!

It would have been called out as an idolatry that had replaced Christ as the sole and highest basis of identity.

Sadly, nobody is calling it out today.

Nobody is even flagging this identity idolatry or calling the church to repentance.

Instead, we deepen it, reinforce it, celebrate it, and justify it–as we band together against outsiders and others who look, think, and feel differently than we do “according to the flesh”.

God doesn’t heal the racial divide by having everyone be nicey-nicey to each other, or by seeing racial identities as sacrosanct and untouchable in political correctness.

Rather, He calls us all to the deepest “the problem is me” kind of repentance.

He calls us all to examine our core identities and see if we have added anything else to Christ, even unconsciously.

He calls us to make His new creation inside of us the sole divider of the redeemed and unredeemed human race, and the sole basis of Christian fellowship.

He calls us to repent if we have failed to see ourselves as the third race, if we have segregated ourselves “according to the flesh” and/or adopted antagonistic, adversarial attitudes towards brothers and sisters of another race, language, or culture.

He calls us to understand that racism isn’t merely looking down upon or mistreating those of another race, but building our identity upon our race.

He calls us to repent of racial superiority and racial inferiority, of harboring accumulated group rage and group grievances instead of placing them all on the cross.

He calls to return to having Christ alone as the sole basis of our new identity, leaving behind all other identities based on some bodily characteristic or genetics.

He calls us to join the third race.

Will we?

The Power of Giving Thanks

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2014 by jcwill5

Sometime today, in the midst of all the busyness and preparations, take some unhurried time to pause and give thanks.

Here’s Why We Bother to Give Thanks

Human nature has a dissatisfied, forgetful, ungrateful propensity that engages in comparing, complaining, and self-pity–which makes us and everyone around us more miserable.

Thanksgiving counteracts this downward nasty drift into ingratitude and soured souls.

Giving thanks is a positive source of good.

It’s contagious.  It leads to more giving thanks, and leads others who hear it into giving thanks.

It reminds us of all the good we’ve forgotten that still surrounds us if we chose to see it.  And it reminds us we didn’t deserve any of it.

If we’re sick of all the complaining, don’t just tell people to stop.   Start positively giving thanks in response to complaining.

Try this Little Exercise:

Give thanks for ten things you appreciate about your spouse, and for ten things you value about your children.  Then say it out loud to them.

Give thanks for ten things your parents did right or for ten life lessons you learned from them.   Write them a note letting them know.

Count up all the friends you’ve ever had in your life, and all the good you’ve known through them.  Call one of them up and make their day.

Think about all the jobs you’ve ever had, and give thanks for all the paychecks you received and the skills you gained and the people you met.   If you tell your boss, you might change him or her in ways you can’t imagine.

Think about your travels and vacations, and give thanks for the natural and cultural wonders you’ve seen.

Think about your education–your teachers, schools, courses of study–and give thanks you are no longer in ignorance and illiteracy.   Nothing would cheer educators up so much than to hear from a blessed, former student.

Now Look Around The Home

Do you live in a home? Is it heated? Separate rooms for everyone? Running hot and cold water? Electricity?

Is there Food in the frig and in the pantry? Clothes in your closets? Cars in the driveway? Gadgets and devices unheard of in earlier times? Fully furnished and decorated?

That’s right, you’re part of the richest 1% who’ve ever lived on the planet!

Lots of Third-World folks would love to trade places with you, and can only fantasize about the kind of everyday material life you lead.

They can’t imagine not wondering where their next meal comes from, or not having to walk miles to the nearest clean, running water or needing to haul it back on foot.

You can’t imagine worrying about these basic survival needs.

Now Look At Society

Do you live under a strong government, providing law and order and keeping chaos mostly at bay?

Are you suffering the ravages of war, or do you live in a land unscathed and free from bombings, shots ringing out, and armed terror gangs?

A huge slice of humanity doesn’t enjoy these blessings.   We Americans do.

Regular elections contested by long-standing political parties in a representative democracy?

A division of powers that keeps power from being concentrated in the hands of a dictator?

A bill of rights that guarantees the freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, of lawful assembly?

Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure?

The right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers?  The right to face your accuser?   Presumed innocent until proven guilty?

We Americans are very blessed.

We have so many freedoms we take for granted.

But few people complain more or give thanks less than we do.   It’s downright obscene!

Then there’s our spiritual blessings.

God didn’t owe any sinner anything good.  but everlasting judgment in Hell.

Yet, with the greatest compassion possible, He saw our plight, took pity on us, and personally intervened in human affairs,

He exhausted His wrath upon Himself instead of us at the Cross–freeing us from the sin-death regime we were all under and liberating our souls from the tyranny of sin.

All received as a free gift in simple trust–entrusting our selves to Him and trusting Him to apply all He did on our behalf to us.

Instead of hell, we are given heaven!

Instead of judgment, forgiveness!

Instead of shame, cleansing and honor!

Instead of rejection, adoption as His children!

Instead of death, eternally alive!

Instead of a cesspool of complaining, a fountain of everlasting joy!

If you’re a Christian, overflowing thanksgiving is our normal state of heart and mind.

Thanksgiving is what God wants most for us and from us.

It’s the devil that wants people to be miserable, complaining, ungrateful, bitter, etc.

Shall I go on?

Or have I said more than enough to convince you it’s well worth our time to take all the time we need to “count your blessings, name them one by one”?


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