Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Economy and Our Country

Let's face it, no matter what you've heard on the news, read on the Internet, or picked up at your local watering hole, the American economy is in tough straits. It has been rather lousy for some time now and looks as if it will stay bad for awhile. But what are the long-term effects on our country and its populace?

According to a report from the Barna Group issued July 26, 2010, the weakened economy seriously impacts what Americans consider to be their priorities in life. In the face of a continued lackluster marketplace, many Americans have focused on surviving and thriving. When asked to identify their priorities in life, Americans increasingly mention issues of health, leisure, personal comfort, and lifestyle balance. These priorities have grown from 13 percent in 2006 to 20 percent in 2010. Today
Americans are more concerned wealth, finances, and paying the bills, too. These categories have climbed among respondents from 9 percent in 2006 to 17 percent today.

With Americans progressively leaning toward finances and health concerns as top issues, fewer of them are prioritizing issues along family and faith lines. While 51 percent of Americans mentioned family as a top priority in 2006, today 45 percent give family the same position. Likewise, fewer adults said their top priority was faith as that category decreased from 16 percent in 2006 to 12 percent today.

So what does all this mean for the future of America? With ever more people de-prioritizing the import of faith and family, it would seem that America will increase as a country with a "me-first" mentality. We are in danger of creating a society, in which voters will vote not for the most qualified candidate, but rather the one that will put more emphasis on the pressing needs of the present. It is my observation that this premise is supported by a front page article in USA Today from July 22, 2010. This article reports that hundreds of thousands of Americans who are on welfare are now registering to vote at their local welfare office. The article goes on to claim that this will increase support for the current administration, since people with an income of under $20,000 see the current legislation designed to give them more while taking away from the wealthy.

Men, is it time to stand up for faith and family?

Is there something we can do that puts our faith in God and our love for our families back among our top priorities?

Is it time to put God first?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Man Up" for Christ

I consider my marriage a good one. She makes all the little decisions; I make all the big ones. She decides things like what's for supper, where we go on vacation, how to discipline the kids, when we clean the house -- you know -- the small stuff. I, on the other hand, get to make the big decisions: how can we fix the economy, are we or are we not in favor of the euro, is terrace farming the best choice for agriculture in Southeast Asia. You see the kinds of issues I have to grapple with? Okay, so I exaggerate, but the point is this: together my wife and I make all kinds of decisions every day. Some she makes; some I make; some we make.

When it comes to our faith life -- how we show the world Christ -- I try to make the decisions. The rule is if we are together at home, I will start the prayers -- both at meal time and in the evening. If we are apart, we pray individually for meals. She, however, starts prayers when we're on the phone. After I pray, she adds her special heart concerns. After she prays, I add mine. By listening to each other's heartfelt prayers, we learn more about each other and grow in our understanding and love for one another.

We attend worship services together whenever possible. We sit and listen as God's Word is conveyed to us through the liturgy, hymns, and sermon. We sometimes hear God's Word shared through praise songs -- some of which cause conversation as we discuss the meaning of the words. All of this brings us closer to each other as we discuss, debate, and decide how best to live out God's Word by being His children on earth.

I also decide on how our offerings are given -- to whom, for what, and for how much. She has veto power, but she has never used it. I try to get us involved with service projects, impact events, or mission trips as much as possible, but alas, not often enough. I insisted we have a mission statement for our marriage. It is this: to see us is to see Christ.

Men, I have taken the lead on this. I can say it is an awesome responsibility. It is not to be taken lightly, nor should it be taken too gravely either. The emphasis is always on Christ, not me, not her. In respect to all of this, let me state the obvious: Men, it is a good thing to step up and take the leadership in your household, especially if you have children. Men, be the person you can and should be and give your children a clear and unmistakable example of how Christians embrace their faith, stand up for their beliefs, and witness to the truth of the Gospel.

Think for a moment on a person (child or adult) close to you. How can you go beyond your routine of service and care and leave a lasting impression with him or her of Christ working in your life?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Cleveland, I feel your pain. The whole country heard the news that your city -- and your team -- just don't measure up to Miami. Granted, LeBron James' exodus to the Sunshine State doesn't rate as high on the disaster scale as the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis, but it's still embarrassing to have your city slammed to a national audience.

So I ask the question, what would motivate a leading sports figure to move from one city to another? Putting the best (if not somewhat far-fetched) construction on everything, one might assume a marquis player would move to a different team so his abilities could be maximized to strengthen and complement players' abilities on the new squad.

Then again, it could be as simple as the new team offered more money and a way better deal?

I believe in this instance it's the latter reason.

Okay, that was an easy shot. Hey, he's a big boy, he can take it.

Let's move on, shall we? Let's consider those extraordinary men and women who do what they do not for fame or fortune but for ideals and their fellow man. I'm humbled when I remember our troops who volunteer every day to lay their lives on the line fighting for others and putting themselves second. Our military volunteer corps left their homes, their families, and their safety -- not for a monster salary and out-of-this-world perks -- but for more noble reasons: duty, honor, and country.

For sacrificing so others won't have to, I honor our troops and thank them.

Making millions doing whatever is one of the great opportunities individuals have in this country. Laying down our lives in selfless service is another.

Men, when we make our decisions, what is our motive?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Future?

World leaders bent on total domination have been in the business of shaping the future from the time of the first Pharaoh. Nebuchadnezzar, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse-tung, and virtually every other political leader -- elected or self-appointed -- have fought for their version of a future world. Some leaders want a unified world with themselves at the helm; some just want to get re-elected; some want to free their people; others want to subjugate and terrorize their populations.

Politicians constantly manipulate opinions in order to gain power and prestige. Some politicians go so far as to predict dire consequences for our future using scientific jargon and inflammatory language designed to browbeat others, win recognition, and thus secure their personal financial future.

It seems as if we have always been fascinated by the concept of the future. From Doris Day singing "Que Sera Sera" to Zager and Evans predictions in "2525," song artists have shared their vision of the future. Futurologists like Carl Sagan and John Naisbitt shared their take on the future -- even proclaiming to have the definite answers. Writers such as George Orwell (1984 and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World offered opposing views of the future in their books. Orwell feared those who would withhold information; Huxley predicted we would get so much information we wouldn't care. Orwell wrote that truth would be hidden from us; Huxley felt that truth would become irrelevant, succumbing to platitudes and slogans. Orwell envisioned people controlled by their pain; Huxley feared people would be controlled by giving them their desires -- with no consequences. Orwell gave us "Big Brother"; Huxley gave us mind-altering drugs.

I look around and see the Internet which puts forth so much information I can't process it. I see truth reduced to slogans and sound bites. I see actions without consequences. I see Big Brother issuing speeding tickets using a remote camera. I see a multinational, billion-dollar industry thriving on the sale and distribution of illegal, mind-altering drugs. I see world leaders posturing for global domination. I have even lived long enough to see public schools handing out birth-control measures designed to remove the guilt and consequences of casual sex. Around the world, governments of all types generate enormous wealth -- often with the stated intention of helping those in need and less fortunate -- yet always, or so it seems, end up taking more for themselves and their cronies.

This may all seem obvious, but there is a reason why I mention it. Is our society at a place where we need strong men to stand up for Christ? Is it time for men of God to oppose any religion that would destroy Christ? Is it time for men to work to reclaim Christian values in our society, among our elected officials, and in our laws? Is it time we become true stewards of the land -- as well as the possessions and the intellect we have been entrusted with? Is it time to match action with words?

Just wondering . . .

So what is our future?