Books: Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

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I am writing very brief summaries with some additional comments for some books I’ve read or listened to over the past year.  I would love to hear from others about these books or similar books.  Please comment.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

This is a great book.  Apparently this is the book behind the current Broadway play called Hamilton.   I don’t care if I never see the play, it is unlikely that I ever will, but I am really glad to have experienced this book.  I’m quite sure the book is at least one hundred times better than the play.  The play is probably, I’m guessing, enjoyable in an utterly different way.   Chernow excels in telling the story.  He informs us of Hamilton’s life, experiences, beliefs, accomplishments, failures and sins all in a way that causes us to feel that we know him.

Having previously read biographies of many of the founders, as well as Revolutionary War and Early American history books, I felt fairly well-informed about Americas founding.  However, Hamilton helped me understand some things in a new or different way.   For one thing, I have always been  a small government, keep power with the states, kind of guy.   I still am, but Hamilton helped me see that America would be a radically different thing had it not been for the Federalism initiated by Hamilton.  No one can possibly know what America would be, but it wouldn’t be what it is today; and that might be both good and bad.

There are some great leadership lessons as well as basic life lessons to be learned through Hamilton.   Alexander Hamilton may have been one of the most gifted of the founding fathers, but he never had anything handed to him.   He was born into poverty, was on his own as a teenager, worked hard, took calculated risks, believed in God, worked to end slavery, and fought for what he believed.  He was a sinner who had affairs and died in a duel.   Chernow deals with all this and more.

If you want to understand American history, you should read Alexander Hamilton

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Books:Abraham Lincoln, by Carl Sandburg.

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Abraham Lincoln, by Carl Sandburg.

This is an old classic on the life of Lincoln.  It is a tome. I had heard about this book (originally a multi-volume set) but never read it.  Now I am listening to it on Audible and have 15 hours left of the 42 hours of narration.   Sandburg includes massive amounts of detail from the lives of secondary characters.  He often detours to discuss topics like the life history of a sea-captain or the history of a newspaper in Chicago.   Listening or reading can be tedious, but it does have the effect of immersing one’s mind into the world of Lincoln and therefore into the world of an extremely important part of America’s history.

There is no direct spiritual content for the Christian in this book.    I think well-rounded Christians should be aware of history and consciously observe God’s moving among nations.  However, this is probably not the best book on the Civil War, or Lincoln, for someone who is not an avid reader of history.  I would suggest “Team of Rivals”, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

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Books: 1776, by David McCullough

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1776, by David McCullough.

I really like McCullough’s books.  1776 is one of his shorter books and I found it very enjoyable.  The book covers many events of the American revolution during the year 1776.  Much of the story is told with George Washington as the central character but other major characters are emphasized as well.

McCullough’s purpose is not to show the providential hand of God in America’s founding, but if you already believe that God was active in the orchestration of events, this book will definitely reinforce your belief.  All Americans and Christians in particular will do well to immerse themselves in American history.

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Why Christians should not vote for Hillary Clinton

vote pic .jpgI am being bombarded via email, Twitter, Facebook, and personal contacts with passionately held, opinionated arguments for how Christians ought to vote in the coming election.    Some are saying that Christians must vote for Donald Trump in order to defeat Hillary Clinton while others are arguing that any vote for Trump is a compromise of true Christian values.

I plan to deal with Donald Trump in my next article but here I want to explain why I believe that Christians should not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton or anyone holding similar moral and political principles.  My reasons, unlike the opinions of so many who are screaming about both candidates, are not based on personal behavior, sins, crimes or idiosyncrasies.   My reasons are based on the candidate’s world view or philosophy of life — the personally held beliefs which govern all the other decisions a person makes. It is critical for us to understand the world view of anyone who aspires to lead a nation.

The foremost reason is my confidence that life begins at conception. This belief is scientific, social and spiritual and leads necessarily to the conclusion that purposely ending an innocent life, for any reason, any time after conception is morally wrong and murder.   While no candidate winning the presidential election has the ability or authority to immediately end all abortion, it is clear that the next president will have tremendous influence legally, financially, and socially over millions of lives yet to be born.    The fact that Americans kill over one million (1,000,000) babies each year constitutes a blight on our nation which can bring nothing but the judgment of God. God cares about innocent life.   No Christian should endorse or vote for a candidate who believes abortion is morally acceptable.

The second reason is related to the candidates understanding of truth.  Is truth absolute or does it change over time?  I believe that God has determined absolute truth and it is clearly seen by the morality revealed in the Bible as well as in the hearts of humanity.   Many things are clearly true and accepted by people who don’t believe the Bible. Examples of such truth would be that it is wrong to kill innocent life, wrong to abuse children, wrong to steal.   These things are obvious to most people, but we are living in a day when truth is being blurred and bent to the degree that many Americans deny any standard of absolute truth.  This is how we end up with abortion, gay marriage and transgender bathroom issues.

One place where this truth has been most blurred is in the court system.  Judges have been using their authority to create law based on their own and public opinion rather than allowing the American Constitutional system to create law.   When the Supreme Court has the power to essentially erase the First Amendment by denying people the freedom to apply their religious convictions in moral areas, it is clear that absolute truth has been made to bow to the subjective, ever changing philosophies of men.

Hillary Clinton and most liberals believe the Constitution to be a “living and breathing” document.  What they argue by this is that the words don’t have to mean the same thing today as they clearly meant when they were written.  They believe that the Constitution as well as formerly passed laws and amendments can be re-interpreted to mean whatever the judges desire.    The Supreme Court has been fairly balanced between liberal and conservative judges.   However, with the passing of Scalia, a very conservative judge, the power of the court could be tipped decisively toward the liberal side.  The result will be a new government, an oligarchy, with the power make or change any law they desire.  The First and Second amendment are in very serious jeopardy.    Hillary will appoint a liberal judge and further remove truth and meaning from our laws.

I could write much more about the philosophical reasons that Christians should not vote for Hillary Clinton but I think these two examples are enough.    Notice that I have not brought up Hillary Clinton’s legal issues or personal character.  It is not that these things don’t matter to me, they do, but they are not the first criteria in determining the suitability of a candidate.    We must make our decisions based on overarching philosophy of life issues.  For the God fearing, God loving, Bible believer, Hillary Clinton must be excluded.

 

 

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Christianity and Islam

I’d like to make a few statements about my thinking concerning Islam.

1) Just as there are many who call themselves “Christian” but don’t actually follow the teachings of Christ and the Bible, there are many people who identify as Muslims but do not fully embrace all Islamic The-Symbol-of-Christanity-and-Islamteachings.

2) Christians must show love and compassion to all people including Muslims. When a Christian encounters a Muslim person on the street, at work or school, or in the neighborhood, he should seek to develop a relationship with him or her and show the love of Christ and the Gospel with that person.

A Christian should not feel hindered in declaring Biblical truth.   I have had a number of occasions to speak with Muslims about spiritual things and all these conversations have been kind and friendly. On several occasions the conversation became something of a debate because we fundamentally disagreed about things that matter. My intention every time has been twofold: first to communicate the truth of the Bible and second to show the love of Christ through my kind treatment of the person.

3) There are a fairly large number of Muslims who believe in Jihad and Sharia Law and desire to spread Islam through the entire world by force, immigration, and deception.   The number of Muslims holding these beliefs appear to be in the tens of millions and may be in the hundreds of millions. These are the people often termed “radical Muslim”.

4) While the majority of Muslim people are not currently “radical” they have the potential to be radicalized through the teachings and influences they receive.

5) Islam, as all religions, must be open to criticism.  Islam is not a race but a religion and it is not just a religion but an entire world view and culture for many people.  There are certainly variations within Islamic culture but many factors also unite Muslims.

When a person’s religion becomes his culture his whole identity becomes tied to that religion. Traditions, family values, morality, loyalties, bias and prejudices are all connected through the religious cultural training.   This complicates the matter of sorting out dangerous people because in a world dominated by political correctness and multiculturalism – both dangerous ideals designed to destroy individualism and freedom – to appropriately criticize any element of Islam is considered an attack on the entire culture of all Islamic people and is therefore a sin on the same level as racism.

This is a problem because race, religion, and culture are three distinctly different things.  Racism must be vehemently opposed but culture and religion must be carefully analyzed and sometimes passionately criticized. Both humans and nations must make determinate decisions about things that are right or wrong. Government does this every day of its existence.   When a government says that it is illegal to kill a person, they have made a moral decision. Not everything government does is moral, some of it is just practical, like the speed limit, or even political.   Neither the government nor individuals are always right in determining right and wrong, but both are endowed by God with the responsibility of judging right and wrong.

6) While I don’t know the answer to the problem of radicalization or the terror it leads too, I do believe that all nations have a responsibility to protect their own people. If any group of people seeks to hurt the members of a country, the government of that country has a God given responsibility to protect its own people.

7) Finally Christians must step back and see the big picture. On the one hand we know that Satan desires to create chaos and hatred, to destroy and kill, and to do anything which leads people away from true faith in Christ. One of his great tools is religion. He has perverted Christianity so that the vast majority of people in the world who claim the name “Christian” are not by any Biblical measure truly Christian. Satan also uses many other religions to kill and destroy and lead people away from Christ.

But on the other hand we know that God is Almighty and in control.   We can depend on him and we must not allow our faith to be shaken. The world is a wicked place and the Bible tells us that at some future point tribulation is coming. Regardless of God’s grand timeline, our time is one of change and much evil. Things will not continue as we have become accustomed here in America.   Persecution of true believers may come. Loss of freedom or Constitutional government may come and to a large degree has already come.   Do not be overwhelmed or troubled. The opportunity to represent Christ and the Gospel will be on the rise.   To God be the Glory.

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The wrath of God is permissiveness

Studying Romans 1 I am amazed to see how foolish man is but at the same time see that it all makes sense.  When man rejects God, God gives him over to a reprobate mind.    Those are some loaded words, but for now it think this passage from Paul Achtemeier is insightful.

“Paul describes God’s punishment for the sin of idolatry. It is frightening simply because, had Paul not told us they were signs of wrath, we could easily have mistaken them for signs of grace! When God visits his wrath in the way described in this passage there is no divine cataclysm, no fire from on high sent to consume sinful society. Rather, the wrath which God visits on sinful humanity consists in simply letting humanity have its own way. The punishment of sin is therefore simply — sin!…The way God in his wrath delivers humanity over to the just punishment of sin is to become permissive. He withdraws the gracious power of his absolute lordship and allows other lordships to prevail.” (p.40, Roman, Paul Achtemeier)

This is not to say that permissiveness is all of God’s wrath, but it does explain much about the word around us.   What are your thoughts?

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Treat your spouse with biblical love no matter what they say or do

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Part 2 of “Want to have a better marriage?”

Defining love is a tricky task.   One popular notion of love suggests to a person, “If you love something, let it go; if it returns back to you it is yours, if it doesn’t, it never was.”  I have no idea who first declared that hackneyed phrase but it contains only a grain of truth.    That grain probably works well when applied to  stray cats or box turtles found by children. There might even be a grain of that truth in the puppy love of tweeners and young teens twittering about who loves who this week, but the whole idea of “love lets go” falls apart when applied to the serious love demanded between a husband and wife in marriage.

Our modern idea of love is mostly based on feelings and the problem with feelings is that they change like the weather. Hollywood and publishing media have glorified romantic love to such a degree that many people know of no other kind of love.  When warm feelings inevitably fade the heart speaks to the mind saying  that love is gone and the person must be let go.  You can find another and start over.

A related problem is that we are intensely selfish.  People are deeply invested in self.  They grow up making most of their decisions on the basis of self advancement or gratification.   Humility, service, honor, loyalty,  and stoicism are neglected virtues rarely taught and less often modeled.   All of this focus on self is incompatible with biblical love.

When the Bible speaks of love it emphasizes selflessness  and humility.    A biblical definition of love could be,

selfless care of another which seeks the best spiritual, physical, and emotional outcome for the other regardless of how one is treated in return.

Several passages will be briefly considered in this series and the first one is 1 Corinthians 13.   While often read at weddings, this passage is infrequently applied adequately in life.  Consider verses 4-7,

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NASB)

If you read these verses and carefully consider how each of these descriptions of love might apply to your marriage, and then actually do these things, you will find a miraculous change.  However, one thing is necessary.  You must apply these things regardless of how the other responds.  Biblical love does its work in spite of, or even because of, persecution, un- thakfulness,  accusation and many other selfish responses.

Loving your spouse or any other person with biblical love is not easy.  It is actually very difficult.  It is hard because it requires radical change in ourselves from self-centered to God and others centered.  By God’s grace and in His power you can be the person God desires you to be.


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