Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Working on a Building

“You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.” -- Haggai 1:9

Appearances are a glimpse of what is hidden (Anaxagoras)

I do not like what is going on in the world around me. I enjoyed seeing good people stand up in the townhall meeting and shout down arrogant politicians. So, too, it was encouraging to see probably hundreds of thousands marching on Washington on September 12. These are positive signs. Still, it seems that our representatives think they can ignore their constituents and continue to enslave us and destroy the economy with bad decisions. Afghanistan is deteriorating. The situation in Iran calls for action. The world becomes daily more dangerous and chaotic. Debt is soaring. Unemployment is worsening. Inflation threatens. I could begin to think that we are doomed.

As the exiles returned to Jerusalem from captivity, they took on the great task of rebuilding their society. It seemed reasonable to cultivate their fields, build houses for their families, along with barns and sheds for their own use. Time passed, and they found that they were not doing well. The crops gathered seemed insufficient for their needs. Things went wrong. It didn’t rain when it should. They were plagued with minor difficulties that aggregated to a serious strain on their existence. From out of this period of struggle a prophet arose and began to speak.

Haggai says that the problem is not climate change, pollution, government policies, health care, or corporate profits. Spiritual ills manifest themselves in the material world. The storms of life may be fanned into existence by the wings of a dark and distant moth I would rather ignore. I need to change my priorities. Neglecting the temple means trouble. My focus must be on the “house of God” – my spirit. I have spent too much time and effort on taking care of self, the soulish part of me, while ignoring the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. I need to go up and clean away the debris, locate the foundations and repair them. I need to begin to raise the walls and restore the holy place and the holy of holies. When the Lord has a resting place in me, I will be at rest in Him.

There was the tabernacle – the tent of meeting, and there was the temple. I tend to think of myself as a tabernacle of the Spirit. Paul uses that image in Second Corinthians 5:1 speaking of the physical body. But there is also the ultimate temple that is being built, and First Peter 2:5 calls us individually “living stones ... being built up as a spiritual house.” In perfect fractal fashion, the inner man is a microcosm of the greater Body of Christ.

This means that, if the world needs changing, not only must I build up my own inner man, but I must help my brother as well. I suffer for my neighbor’s neglect of the temple just as he suffers for mine. I wonder sometimes if the temple isn’t pretty strange looking. Are there places where stones are missing? Is one corner completely finished and another yet to begin? Do the walls rise higher with each generation, or does the Lord have another way to finish it? I guess I’ll find out someday. Meanwhile I need to do what I can where I am. I recall that there was no sound of the hammer when Solomon’s temple was raised for each stone was perfect as it came in and fell precisely into place.

Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another … -- 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Monday, September 28, 2009

Out of Order

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry -- Psalm 34:15

I was praying about a situation this morning, and I noticed that I was what you might call conflicted about it. Our realities are not neat and clean, walled off from the rest of the cosmos. There are tendrils that run into other areas, often underground like the roots of a tree. A hidden network can tie together seemingly unrelated events or issues.

We may find that our intercession is not ringing true, even in our own ears. Sometimes this is because of an attack of the enemy or because of doubts on our part, but it may also be that the Holy Spirit is challenging us to lift our eyes and look around a little, peek over the hedge and see what we’re really up against.

What I may find is there need to be some changes I am not really that interested in seeing occur. That’s what I realized about the situation this morning. When I looked around I saw that there are some positive aspects to the status quo from my perspective. If my plea for my friend is heard, I may suffer something of a loss – in this case it is only psychological; nevertheless, it was hindering me. It left me, as James says, double-minded. I had to alter my praying for a little while and first deal with my own attitude before I could move on to intercede for the other.

Prayer is the hardest work imaginable. It is literally doing the impossible. Yet it is as simple and natural, as prosaic and pragmatic as breathing. There’s no paradox – as with breathing, it’s a matter of whether my head is above water or below.

The Lord sees and hears the righteous, and righteousness begins with humility. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Can You hear me now?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The God-Man Always Rings Twice

They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” -- John 6:28-29

In the post-apocalyptic movie The Postman, a wandering ne’er-do-well shows up in a remote, mountainous area wearing a US Postal Service uniform. His made-up story about elements of the United States government still being in existence gives hope to the survivors. The idea that there is a power – however limited and distant – willing to help heartens them in their own struggles. No help ever arrives from this alleged power, but the survivors realize that the principles that made America great can be brought to life by their own efforts.

In a way, that is something like what Jesus did for us. To the majority of people in who have lived throughout history, God has been a distant and inscrutable concept – if they can believe in Him at all. The questions arise not only about His existence and nature, but about how much He is involved in the affairs of men. Though the Psalmist says He is an ever-present help in times of trouble, we wonder if that is really true. What is the evidence for it? Why should we believe it?

We can read the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, and, if we are willing to believe, we can begin to understand the truth of God’s love and concern. We can see that He does appear to involve Himself in our trials as we trust Him to do so, to have compassion on us as we express our needs to Him. But then Jesus comes, not just as another teacher or prophet or even as a miracle-worker. Jesus comes as the ultimate expression of God’s love, the ultimate and perfect revelation of the Father’s nature – the Last Word, you might say.

It is true that the masses followed the Lord out of various motives, just as people do today. Many, if not most of us who call ourselves Christians, though, can understand the question those people asked that day: What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? We may put it differently – how do I please God? How do I get God on my side? How can I be free of this bondage? How can I be successful in life? Or perhaps even, when will I be loved?

To all those questions, Jesus says, “Hey, look at Me! I’m here. You want to know if God cares, if He is real, if He pays attention to you. I’ve been sent to you. I’m the Message in a meaty bottle. Believe it. Believe in Me.”

The Power that sends this message to us is not weak, neglectful or distant. The Lord is right here, right now, willing and available to step into our lives and work in us according to our faith. The one thing God does not do is treat us like automatons. He does not think for us, believe for us, or move our asses for us. Real belief on our part is necessary.

I believe a lot of things are probably true. Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds were probably all using steroids or something similar to beat Maris and Ruth. Oswald was probably the lone gunman. Bill Clinton had sex with anything female that didn’t get out of the way fast enough. Chelsea Clinton is Web Hubbell’s daughter. Barack Hussein Obama was probably born in Hawaii and is an American citizen. I think the preponderance of evidence supports those conclusions. Would I stake my life on the absolute truth of any of those statements? No. Well, maybe the one about BJC.

Those are all things that I agree, along with most sensible people, are more than likely true. And that’s how – way too much of the time – I treat what the Bible says about Jesus. I am willing to stake not only my life but my eternal destiny on the fact that Jesus is God, came to earth, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again. But, really, that’s not much of a choice. The alternative is just not acceptable.

The real issue of faith comes down to, not life-or-death questions, but the moment-by-moment questions of how I treat others, what I do with my free time, how I think about work and family, how I set my priorities, what I do with my money. I willing enough to live a pretty good life and trust the Lord to get me into heaven based on the Gospel. While I agree that God cares about my health, family, and finances, I’m less willing to stake my retirement income on His grace and mercy. You see what I mean? I tend to think it would be OK, but I’m not absolutely sure.

Jesus is challenging me to let that belief permeate every fiber of my being, to act on it and live by it in all things, small and great. I will work the works of God when I believe the Word.

This I know: God is for me. -- Psalm 56:9

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Albert J. Nock discusses Isaiah's job

I ran across this on the Free Republic profile of a Freeper called "geologist".


Albert J. Nock

One evening last autumn, I sat long hours with a European acquaintance while he expounded a politico-economic doctrine which seemed sound as a nut and in which I could find no defect. At the end, he said with great earnestness: "I have a mission to the masses. I feel that I am called to get the ear of the people. I shall devote the rest of my life to spreading my doctrine far and wide among the populace. What do you think?" An embarrassing question in any case, and doubly so under the circumstances, because my acquaintance is a very learned man, one of the three or four really first-class minds that Europe produced in his generation; and naturally I, as one of the unlearned, was inclined to regard his lightest word with reverence amounting to awe...

I referred him to the story of the prophet Isaiah....I shall paraphrase the story in our common speech since it has to be pieced out from various sources. . .

The prophet's career began at the end of King Uzziah's reign, say about 740 B.C. This reign was uncommonly long, almost half a century, and apparently prosperous. It was one of those prosperous reigns, however like the reign of Marcus Aurelius at Rome, or the administration of Eubulus at Athens, or of Mr. Coolidge at Washington where at the end the prosperity suddenly peters out and things go by the board with a resounding crash. In the year of Uzziah's death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. "Tell them what a worthless lot they are," He said. "Tell them what is wrong, and why, and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you," He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you, and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life."

Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job in fact, he had asked for it but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so if the enterprise was to be a failure from the start was there any sense in starting it? "Ah," the Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it"....

What do we mean by the masses, and what by the Remnant? As the word masses is commonly used, it suggests agglomerations of poor and underprivileged people, laboring people, proletarians. But it means nothing like that; it means simply the majority. The mass-man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great, the overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses. The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance.

The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either. The picture which Isaiah presents of the Judean masses is most unfavorable. In his view, the mass-man be he high or be he lowly, rich or poor, prince or pauper -- gets off very badly. He appears as not only weak-minded and weak-willed, but as by consequence knavish, arrogant, grasping, dissipated, unprincipled, unscrupulous... As things now stand, Isaiah's job seems rather to go begging. Everyone with a message nowadays is, like my venerable European friend, eager to take it to the masses. His first, last, and only thought is of mass-acceptance and mass-approval. His great care is to put his doctrine in such shape as will capture the masses' attention and interest.... The main trouble with this [mass-man approach] is its reaction upon the mission itself. It necessitates an opportunist sophistication of one's doctrine, which profoundly alters its character and reduces it to a mere placebo. If, say, you are a preacher, you wish to attract as large a congregation as you can, which means an appeal to the masses; and this, in turn, means adapting the terms of your message to the order of intellect and character that the masses exhibit. If you are an educator, say with a college on your hands, you wish to get as many students as possible, and you whittle down your requirements accordingly. If a writer, you aim at getting many readers; if a publisher, many purchasers; if a philosopher, many disciples; if a reformer, many converts; if a musician, many auditors; and so on. But as we see on all sides, in the realization of these several desires the prophetic message is so heavily adulterated with trivialities, in every instance, that its effect on the masses is merely to harden them in their sins. Meanwhile, the Remnant, aware of this adulteration and of the desires that prompt it, turn their backs on the prophet and will have nothing to do with him or his message. The Remnant want only the best you have, whatever that may be. Give them that, and they are satisfied; you have nothing more to worry about.... In a sense, nevertheless, as I have said, it is not a rewarding job.... A prophet of the Remnant will not grow purse-proud on the financial returns from his work, nor is it likely that he will get any great renown out of it. Isaiah's case was exceptional to this second rule, and there are others -- but not many. It may be thought, then, that while taking care of the Remnant is no doubt a good job, it is not an especially interesting job because it is as a rule so poorly paid. I have my doubts about this. There are other compensations to be got out of a job besides money and notoriety, and some of them seem substantial enough to be attractive. Many jobs which do not pay well are yet profoundly interesting, as, for instance, the job of the research student in the sciences is said to be; and the job of looking after the Remnant seems to me, as I have surveyed it for many years from my seat in the grandstand, to be as interesting as any that can be found in the world. What chiefly makes it so, I think, is that in any given society the Remnant are always so largely an unknown quantity. You do not know, and will never know, more than two things about them. You can be sure of those dead sure, as our phrase is -- but you will never be able to make even a respectable guess at anything else. You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are, nor where they are, nor how many of them there are, nor what they are doing or will do. Two things you know, and no more: first, that they exist; second, that they will find you. Except for these two certainties, working for the Remnant means working in impenetrable darkness; and this, I should say, is just the condition calculated most effectively to pique the interest of any prophet who is properly gifted with the imagination, insight, and intellectual curiosity necessary to a successful pursuit of his trade.

The fascination as well as the despair of the historian, as he looks back upon Isaiah's Jewry, upon Plato's Athens, or upon Rome of the Antonines, is the hope of discovering and laying bare the "substratum of right-thinking and well-doing" which he knows must have existed somewhere in those societies because no kind of collective life can possibly go on without it. He finds tantalizing intimations of it here and there in many places, as in the Greek Anthology, in the scrapbook of Aulus Gellius, in the poems of Ausonius, and in the brief and touching tribute, Bene merenti, bestowed upon the unknown occupants of Roman tombs. But these are vague and fragmentary; they lead him nowhere in his search for some kind of measure of this substratum, but merely testify to what he already knew a priori that the substratum did somewhere exist. Where it was, how substantial it was, what its power of self-assertion and resistance was of all this they tell him nothing.

Similarly, when the historian of two thousand years hence, or two hundred years, looks over the available testimony to the quality of our civilization and tries to get any kind of clear, competent evidence concerning the substratum of right-thinking and well-doing which he knows must have been here, he will have a devil of a time finding it. When he has assembled all he can get and has made even a minimum allowance for speciousness, vagueness, and confusion of motive, he will sadly acknowledge that his net result is simply nothing. A Remnant were here, building a substratum like coral insects; so much he knows, but he will find nothing to put him on the track of who and where and how many they were and what their work was like. Concerning all this, too, the prophet of the present knows precisely as much and as little as the historian of the future; and that, I repeat, is what makes his job seem to me so profoundly interesting. One of the most suggestive episodes recounted in the Bible is that of a prophet's attempt the only attempt of the kind on record, I believe to count up the Remnant.

Elijah had fled from persecution into the desert, where the Lord presently overhauled him and asked what he was doing so far away from his job. He said that he was running away, not because be was a coward, but because all the Remnant had been killed off except himself. He had got away only by the skin of his teeth, and, he being now all the Remnant there was, if he were killed the True Faith would go flat. The Lord replied that he need not worry about that, for even without him the True Faith could probably manage to squeeze along somehow if it had to; "and as for your figures on the Remnant," He said, "I don't mind telling you that there are seven thousand of them back there in Israel whom it seems you have not heard of, but you may take My word for it that there they are." At that time, probably the population of Israel could not have run to much more than a million or so; and a Remnant of seven thousand out a million is a highly encouraging percentage for any prophet. With seven thousand of the boys on his side, there was no great reason for Elijah to feel lonesome; and incidentally, that would be something for the modern prophet of the Remnant to think of when he has a touch of the blues. But the main point is that if Elijah the Prophet could not make a closer guess on the number of the Remnant than he made when he missed it by seven thousand, anyone else who tackled the problem would only waste his time. The other certainty which the prophet of the Remnant may always have is that the Remnant will find him. He may rely on that with absolute assurance. They will find him without his doing anything about it; in fact, if he tries to do anything about it, he is pretty sure to put them off. He does not need to advertise for them nor resort to any schemes of publicity to get their attention. If he is a preacher or a public speaker, for example, he may be quite indifferent to going on show at receptions, getting his picture printed in the newspapers, or furnishing autobiographical material for publication on the side of "human interest." If a writer, he need not make a point of attending any pink teas, autographing books at wholesale, nor entering into any specious freemasonry with reviewers. All this and much more of the same order lies in the regular and necessary routine laid down for the prophet of the masses. It is, and must be, part of the great general technique of getting the mass-man's ear-or as our vigorous and excellent publicist, Mr. H. L. Mencken, puts it, the technique of boob-bumping. The prophet of the Remnant is not bound to this technique. He may be quite sure that the Remnant will make their own way to him without any adventitious aids; and not only so, but if they find him employing such aids, as I said, it is ten to one that they will smell a rat in them and will sheer off. The certainty that the Remnant will find him, however, leaves the prophet as much in the dark as ever, as helpless as ever in the matter of putting any estimate of any kind upon the Remnant; for, as appears in the case of Elijah, he remains ignorant of who they are that have found him or where they are or how many. They do not write in and tell him about it, after the manner of those who admire the vedettes of Hollywood, nor yet do they seek him out and attach themselves to his person. They are not that kind. They take his message much as drivers take the directions on a roadside signboard-that is, with very little thought about the signboard, beyond being gratefully glad that it happened to be there, but with very serious thought about the directions.

This impersonal attitude of the Remnant wonderfully enhances the interest of the imaginative prophet's job. Once in a while, just about often enough to keep his intellectual curiosity in good working order, he will quite accidentally come upon some distinct reflection of his own message in an unsuspected quarter. This enables him to entertain himself in his leisure moments with agreeable speculations about the course his message may have taken in reaching that particular quarter, and about what came of it after it got there.

Most interesting of all are those instances, if one could only run them down (but one may always speculate about them) where the recipient himself no longer knows where nor when, nor from whom he got the message or even where, as sometimes happens, he has forgotten that he got it anywhere and imagines that it is all a self- starting idea of his own. Such instances as these are probably not infrequent, for, without presuming to enroll ourselves among the Remnant, we can all no doubt remember having found ourselves suddenly under the influence of an idea, the source of which we cannot possibly identify. "It came to us afterward," as we say; that is, we are aware of it only after it has shot up full- grown in our minds, leaving us quite ignorant of how and when and by what agency it was planted there and left to germinate. It seems highly probable that the prophet's message often takes some such course with the Remnant.

If, for example, you are a writer or a speaker or a preacher, you put forth an idea which lodges in the Unbewusstsein of a casual member of the Remnant and sticks fast there. For some time it is inert; then it begins to fret and fester until presently it invades the man's conscious mind and, as one might say, corrupts it. Meanwhile, he has quite forgotten how be came by the idea in the first instance, and even perhaps thinks he has invented it; and in those circumstances, the most interesting thing of all is that you never know what the pressure of that idea will make him do.

Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945) was Editor of the Freeman (1920-1924) and author of Jefferson, Our Enemy The State, and many other books and articles on the philosophy of government and human freedom. Isaiah's Job is extracted from Chapter 13 of his book, Free Speech and Plain Language, copyright 1937 by Albert Jay Nock.

Reprinted July, 1962, by the Foundation For Economic Education, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York and June, 1995, by AAPS Reprints available from: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, 1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson, AZ 85716 (800)635-1196

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Working for the Living

And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.” -- John 6:25-27

Jesus had fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish. He sent the crowds and His disciples away. He crossed the Sea of Galilee on foot in a storm during the night. The crowds that followed Him had seen miracles of healing and restoration. Jesus was at the height of His popularity. The people wanted to make Him king.

Most of us would have looked at this as success. Isn’t this what Jesus had come to earth to do? Wasn’t the Messiah’s job to restore the kingdom and the throne of David? Did Jesus not have every right to this adoration, to this position? Didn’t He have, we might say, even an obligation to accept their adulation? Yet instead of offering encouraging words, Jesus begins one of the most difficult discourses in the Bible. He all but mocks those who follow Him – or so it seems to them.

Jesus begins by throwing their motives in their faces. You are following Me not because of messianic signs, He says, but simply because I was able to fill your bellies with free food. They were beginning to think that following Christ was a picnic everyday. There’s no need to work or struggle, and no need to go hungry. There is an element of truth in this -- Come to Me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, but the spirit is wrong.

God is often extremely gracious to believers early on in their walk. Everything just seems to flow to them as they are following, studying, and hearing much truth for the first time. But there comes a point when we are challenged, when we transition from milk to meat. Having entered the Kingdom as children, we must grow into sons able and willing to do the Lord’s work.

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life. This is akin to the favorite verse of my late friend Eddie, Matthew 6:33, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Jesus emphasizes the object for which we are to work. Laboring to gratify our appetites may be more virtuous than stealing, but our true goal should be to acquire spiritual vittles that satisfy fully the hunger in our souls.

Dear God, I thought I had learned this lesson long ago, but it seems that I must necessarily relearn or refresh from time to time. Christianity, fortunately, has a built-in continuing education program. The Lord will provide for me, but the physical provision I get so concerned about is incidental. It is the spiritual provision that matters. If one gets full enough of Spirit and Truth, he will not worry, nor need to worry, about having enough cornbread and beans.

Bob has been talking about economics and the threats we face from a socialist system. In the days to ahead, a certain kind of temporal prosperity to which we have become accustomed may be lost. An interventionist government, pandering to unions, environmentalists, and other non-productive elements, could easily cause the engine of our economy to seize. It’s a good time, right now, to invest in canned goods, staple food items that can be stored long-term, basic tools, heirloom seeds, ammunition, and barter items. The prices of the things we need are going to go higher.

But the most essential of my possessions are my hard copies of the Bible (and related Good books). Even more vital to my ability to survive and prosper – and do the will of God in trying times are those portions of Scripture that are in my heart. I know, for example, Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them from their distresses. As much as I love my Springfield XDM, I don’t depend on it to do that.

I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy law is within my heart. -- Psalm 40:8

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Can Sleep When You’re Dead

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:40-41 (NASB)

Sometimes I struggle to wake up and stay awake; often I’d rather be asleep. Much of what we do serves to lull us into a state of unawareness. One reason that America has an obesity epidemic is that we eat while doing something else. We’re not paying attention to what we are consuming, any more than we pay attention when fueling our automobiles. Another reason is that some of us use food as a sedative, something to dull our senses as the blood is diverted from our brains to our stomachs.

Food isn’t the only spiritual pain-killer in our arsenal. Aside from the obvious like alcohol and tobacco, the various and sundry drugs available, there is work, not to mention sports, music, television, and computers. Most of these analgesics are not a problem in themselves; the sin is when we abuse them to avoid dealing with the realities of life. In my own case, I tend to use work to isolate and insulate myself from things that are happening around me. I often welcome the hotline calls and the around-the-clock demands because they free me from other responsibilities that are even less agreeable. I can lose myself in the pressure and stress – as crazy as that sounds – just like I used to lose myself in a six-pack of tall Buds, or a pint of Jack Black.

And Christ says that losing my self is the whole point, except that I should lose myself in Him. Every other “loss” is not just temporary but destructive. The life I lose to a sedative is simply gone. Losing my life in Christ is an exchange for abundant life. The Lord tells us not to go to sleep, not to anesthetize ourselves, but to watch and pray. When Jesus warns us to be alert and vigilant, it is not about the Rapture or the Second Advent as much as it is about our letting Him into our lives. You, too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Jesus wants to commune with us. The call to watch is a call to disciples, not to unbelievers. When Jesus says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me, He is not talking to those who do not know Him but to His own Church, His own Bride, His own Body. We are the ones who have shut the door in His face and gone to sleep. We are the ones who ignore His call, who sleep on in our eternally secure salvation.

I’m all right. I’ve trusted Jesus to save me from the penalty of my sins. I’m living a good mediocre life of socially acceptable righteousness. I’m just trusting Him to take care of everything.

And He will. He won’t hold it against us any more than He held their weakness, their lack of wakefulness against Peter, James, and John there in Gethsemane. Yet He desires that we should stay alert, that we should, right now, watch with Him.

The only time to wake up and pay attention is NOW.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fantasy Friday

Minden squatted on a small, steep-sided hill, jutting above the ford on Salt Creek, a ruined widow of questionable character. In the days of the righteous kings it had been a minor fortress of some strategic importance, protecting the western route to Melas and the crossing. Now it was a fossilized fragment of the empire, broken, half-buried in filth and overgrown with briars and buckbrush.

The remains of a stone gate post, barely belt-high, lay just beyond the long evening shadow of a limbless oak snag. A thick-bodied copperhead crawled awkwardly up the broken, slanted post to absorb the warmth of the day’s autumn sun retained by the rocks. The snake was observed with disgust by one of the two men sitting with their backs against opposite sides of the long-dead tree. Seated the man appeared to be tall. When he stood he was only of middle height, appearing even shorter because of the width of his shoulders and his muscular bulk. His powerful arms could not quite straighten at the elbows, and he could not really look back over his shoulder. He held a short, broad-bladed spear in his right hand, matching three other spears in a sort of quiver on his back. The fist that held the spear was so broad that it made his wrist look thin, but it was not. Beneath a head of light brown hair, his massive forehead overhung deep-set, perpetually squinted eyes.

Most people who met him tried to ignore him, knowing instinctively that he was not what he appeared to be, but whether better or worse, it was difficult to say.

He moved lightly to the old post and studied the snake for a moment. Slowly he raised his hand and paused. With a flicker of movement -- impossible to follow with the eye -- he snapped the butt of his spear down on the snake’s head, obliterating it.

The sound of the stroke startled the second man on the other side of the forlorn oak. In an instant he was on his feet, sword drawn. “Odan! What are you doing?”

Odan turned to face his companion, the lifeless body of the copperhead across the blade of his spear. He smiled, the usual grimness fleeing his face. “Rattlesnakes make a pretty good meal. Ever try a copperhead?”

“No! And I don’t care to try it now.” The second man was taller than Odan, markedly slender with a narrow face, high cheeks, and long, straight, jet-black hair. Like his companion, he was dressed in a rough cowhide tunic, leggings and low boots. In addition to his broadsword, he carried a huge dagger on his belt, a small knife in a hidden pocket of his tunic, and a leather-covered targe about eighteen inches across slung over his left shoulder. “Get rid of that vile thing, will you?”

Odan chuckled and flicked the remains of the snake into a thicket on the line of the old fortress wall. The grim squint returned. “Where do you suppose that old madman could be, Mark?”

“He’ll be here. Not much entertainment in place, though. It would be nice if he’d hurry up.”

“Prophets!” Odan snorted. “A less dependable tribe couldn’t be imagined.”

“On the positive side, it gets you away from your wife for a while.”

Odan smiled again. “Indeed. A drought means less work at harvest. Perhaps she’ll appreciate me when I return.”

“Perhaps she’ll figure out she doesn’t need you around, or find herself another, less pigheaded man.”

Odan snorted. “I might find an ale-spring, a cow that milked out red wine, and a hen that laid silver eggs, but I ain’t got the luck that will rid me of them shackles.”

Mark shook his head. “She’s not that bad.”

“Oh, she’s not? Did I ever tell you – ho, do you hear that?”

“No, what?”

“Steel on steel. Down on by the ford. Let’s go!”

Even Thurik was astounded at times, not by the treachery of Zhinor, but by its reach. Admittedly the Emperor of Zhinor had great wealth and traitors in Ekklas could be bought cheaply, but to have agents operating east of the Blackdog seemed incredible even for the Zhinorites. Perhaps that is why the old prophet had his guard down, why he did not immediately realize what Jebus was trying to tell him when the cat came streaking out of the underbrush as Thurik and Piers neared the ford. Then the cat tripped him. Thurik stumbled, sprawling in the dust, and he heard the hum of the crossbow bolt through the air where he had been.

“Down!” he shouted to Piers. More bolts sang above them. “Into the trees.” Thurik dashed into the woods along the stream. The hunter was right behind him. In an instant, Piers had strung his bow and fitted an arrow.

“Far left.” Thurik called softly. Piers caught the movement and sent the heavy arrow through the middle of one attacker.

“Brigands?” Piers asked.

“Zhinorites. I should have known. Word gets out.”

Another volley of crossbow bolts came zipping through the brush. The hunter sent another arrow and was rewarded with a shriek and a curse. “Two down, probably five or six more,” Thurik observed. The prophet drew a large knife from his belt. The long blade curved downward from the middle. “How are you at close-quarters?”

Piers shrugged. “I’ll manage.” He drew out his axe and stuck it lightly in the tree next to him.

“They are going to circle around and then try to charge. Leave a couple of their best shots to hold us in place.”

Bolts continued to sing through the trees, confirming the prophet’s judgment. Suddenly four men dashed across the clearing. Piers managed to get off one more quick shot wounding one assassin. Then he dropped his bow and took up his axe. Though an exceptional bowman, the hunter had never been in actual hand-to-hand combat. As the son of a Red, he had some training, but it had never been his strength. Two of the men went for Thurik and one came for Piers. The wounded man was up and had his sword out in his left hand, but he was hanging back. The arrow in his right shoulder made his strong arm useless.

Piers realized immediately that he was up against a skilled, experienced swordsman. His opponent nearly beheaded him with the first stroke. The hunter parried successfully with his heavier weapon but he could not attack without being cut. He knew it was just a matter of time before the other attackers joined in. He caught a glimpse of Thurik and saw one of the Zhinorites stagger and go down. The man with the arrow in his shoulder suddenly rushed in on Piers’ left. A flash of black and white struck the first swordsman’s head. The man bellowed and stepped back. Piers took a quick chop with his axe and the second attacker fell. The first man gathered himself and lunged at Piers but the swordsman’s right eye was ripped, bloody and blinded. Behind him Piers could see two more soldiers coming with swords drawn. Piers knew he had only a moment and went on the attack. The faster weapon and years of experience still worked to his opponent’s advantage, but the Zhinorite was one-eyed, his perspective off. Piers ducked under a blow and desperately slammed the head of the axe straight into the man’s middle, doubling him over. A quick slash and the enemy fell.

Piers whirled around expecting the other attackers to be upon him. Instead he saw Thurik wiping his blade on the shirt of a Zhinorite, Jebus sitting on a low branch passing the time licking himself in typical feline fashion, and two rough-looking strangers going through the pockets of the last two assassins, now obviously beyond caring.

“Are you all right, Piers?”

The hunter nodded. “But I was a dead man until Jebus helped me out.”

The cat looked up at the mention of his name and gave his odd little squeak.

“Like you, Jebus is a hunter rather than a warrior, but yours is not the first life he has saved.”

“Who are those two?”

“Friends -- well, acquaintances, anyway. Odan and Mark. They are brothers, though you would never guess it to look at them. They are sons of the tyrant of the free city of Nyon, where the Murdark flows into the Blackdog.”

The brothers approached Thurik.

“I was just telling my companion, Piers Grannor, about you. Thank you for your help. You arrived at a most convenient time.”

Odan gave his customary snort, smiling slightly. “I’m sure you would have finished them off without us.” He pushed his lips out and scowled critically at Piers. “You, uh, won’t mind if we lighten these carcasses a little before we cover ‘em up?”

Piers, slightly taken aback, shook his head quickly.

Jebus squeaked. Mark glanced over at the great feline then spoke to his brother. “Don’t worry. He likely just wants any eats we find. What would a cat do with silver?”

Four of the five fellow travelers spent the night at the village inn. Jebus found a stable with a straw-filled loft and an overpopulation of mice. He not only had the cleanest accommodations, he may have had the best meal.

Piers had been against eating what the unclean proprietors offered. He finally agreed to some stale black bread and a hard cheese. The beer was decent. Like Piers, Mark and Thurik sampled the food and drink lightly. Conversely, to the hunter’s thinking, the burly Odan had the appetite, taste and digestion of an opossum. The man wolfed down everything in sight, and the more he ate, the more pleasant he became. The grim surliness fell away and he became almost lighthearted, even witty.

Gulping down half a mug of beer, Odan addressed the prophet. “Thurik, sir, with your vast knowledge and experience, what do you know of the afterlife? If you had died on the field this afternoon, what would have become of Thurik?”

“We cannot understand life as we live it. I doubt there is much hope of understanding what happens when a physical body dies. If Thurik, known in this mortal body, had fallen, that which is truly Thurik would have gone on. He, or it, might not know or be known by that name, but the being will not change or cease. This I know. What is that existence like?” The prophet shrugged. “When one is in a given state, it seems impossible that one could exist in another state.”

Odan’s broad brow ceased in thought. “That seems sensible. A man – a, uh, being in the afterlife will think that life as natural, and, uh, what’s the word? – When you think a thing must happen or can’t be another way?”

“Inevitable?” Piers offered.

Odan grinned broadly. “That’s it. Thank you. As natural and as inevitable as this one seems now. And this life would seem as foreign and mystical as talk of heaven does to us. That makes sense.”

“I think when you are dead, you are dead,” Mark interjected. “I don’t think there is any difference between us and that bobtail cat.”

“You are wrong,” Thurik said. “Jebus is a higher order of creature than you are, son.”

Mark frowned. “Well, all right. That particular cat is not a good example.”

“Pay no attention to his babbling. My brother is afraid to believe in anything he can’t see. If he started, he might not know where to stop.

“But here’s something else. How much does God get involved in our lives? Again, look at today. You’re a prophet and some fool tries to skewer you. Did God intervene to save your life?”

Thurik sighed. “The will of God rules the world. But, there are two kinds of people, really, just two kinds in the end. There are those who seek to know and do the will of God, and those who seek their own will. The will of God was done today.”

“So, if a crossbow bolt had gone through your heart that would have been the will of God?”


Mark shook his head. “That can’t be right. If everything is God’s will, what would be the point of ‘seeking’, as you say, the will of God. It will happen anyway.”

“No, remember I said there are two kinds of people. The will of God is only done in those who are seeking His will. In my case, live or die, succeed or fail, God’s will is done because that is what I desire and believe.

“Though God’s will was done today, for me, it may not have been God’s will for those Zh – highwaymen to die. They were seeking their own will and when their desire to kill me encountered God’s intent for me to live a while longer, they lost.”

Mark frowned but nodded. Odan chewed another mouthful of the slop on his plate. “I’ll have to think about that,” he said slowly.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

There’s Things Goin’ On That You Don’t Know

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory; and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

But the word of God grew and multiplied. – Acts 12:21-24

No, this is not about the Barack. At least I don’t think it is.

The Apostles faced persecution in Jerusalem. It went so far that Herod imprisoned both James son of Zebedee, and Peter. He had James executed and would have killed Peter as well had not the Lord sent an angel to unlock Peter’s chains and open the gates of the prison. A body of believers was praying for Peter, as I am sure they had prayed for James. No one seemed to question the fact that James had been martyred while Peter was set free to continue his ministry for some additional years. I see nothing to indicate that anyone prayed for Herod’s death – though I would assume they prayed for his (unlikely) conversion.

The persecution that took place moved people around. Earlier attacks on those believers in Jerusalem had sent Philip to Samaria, to the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert, and finally down to Caesarea on the coast. The death of another deacon, Stephen, set in motion the events that led to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.

Sometimes God seems like Curly of the Three Stooges trying to bake a cake. There is stuff going everywhere except where it’s supposed to. Water is coming out of the electrical outlets. The overhead light bulb shatters when we hit the switch. The stove is on fire. Everybody is covered in flour, and nothing is actually getting done. The difference is that after the stove finally explodes and the dust settles, the Stooges go running off to the next disaster. But when God is done, there is a beautiful and delicious seven-layer cake, decorated to perfection, sitting serenely on the table.

In God’s case, the apparent chaos is neither random nor meaningless, regardless of how we perceive it in time. Even evil can be made to serve the ultimate Good, as can be seen throughout the Bible, and in our own lives. As Joseph said so well, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

It’s essential and sufficient to know that “all things work together for good to those who love God”. Still I ask: What about justice? When do the arrogant and abusive get what’s coming to them? What about all those people running loose who wallow in wickedness like a hog in mud? The worms are already gnawing at their brains. It’s just a matter of time.

So in the midst of all this weirdness that will finally end in perfection, what are we to do? We pray. We pray with faith and confidence, not worrying about the timing or the apparent lack of an answer. We know prayer is effective, and, moreover, we know the Lord calls on all of us to pray. What we don’t know and can’t know is how our prayers will be answered. Tell God what needs to be done but never how He should go about doing it. (That’s also good advice for wives speaking to their husbands.)

Daniel chapter ten tells of the aged prophet’s realization that the Babylonian exile was almost over for the Jews. The prophesied return and restoration was at hand. This understanding did not, however, make Daniel complacent. Instead it caused him to begin a three-week prayer vigil and near-fast. He began to intercede for the will of God to be done. Though it was prophesied, Daniel’s intercession was an element of the fulfillment. Things may be certain, but prayer is part of the certainty.

The Kingdom comes, but we must still pray … Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth … for it may be your prayer, or mine, that the Lord is waiting to hear.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fight or Flight

I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I believed, even when I said, “I am severely afflicted.”
– Psalm 116:9-10

And since we have the same spirit of faith in accordance with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak, knowing that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and present us with you.
-- 2 Corinthians 4:13-14

If you read the verses that precede the ones I’ve quoted from Second Corinthians, you will see that Paul is talking about going through a great trial. He speaks of being pressured, perplexed, persecuted, and pounded.

Every trial I have gone through in the last twenty-five or so years, I have come back to this chapter and read those earlier verses over and over again because, despite being troubled, we don’t have to be distressed. Though we are confused, we need not despair. Even in persecution, we are never abandoned, and being knocked down doesn’t mean we are wiped out. This is endurance. I think of myself as a person who can endure, endure almost anything. Endurance is a virtue – those who endure to the end shall be saved, the Lord tells us.

One who can persevere is like a deeply rooted oak facing the fierce gales of life, remaining strong and in place. Yet there is another way, for it is not only great trees that survive the winds, so do the birds that nest in their branches. Moreover, I have seen the great winged creatures, the hawks, vultures, and eagles face the storm winds and not simply endure but rise higher. A storm that is strong enough can often take down trees, but no wind can bring down the eagle that spreads his wings on its currents.

Endurance combined with an understanding faith enables us to not just survive life’s trials but to rise higher through them. As a kite needs a tail to conquer the winds, our perseverance needs to tie on faith in the face of challenges. That is what the Spirit of God adds to us here in this passage. The Apostle – unlike many who quote his words – knew the context of the statement, “I believed, therefore I spoke”. In the midst of great trouble and affliction, the Psalmist says, even then I believed.

I find that difficulty and stress leave me feeling drained, sometimes bitter, and often angry. This is especially true when the problems come piled one upon another upon another in a series that may repeat but never ends. Sure, I get through it. I endure because that’s what I do. But it is like punishment. I wonder what I’ve done wrong. I have no faith in the midst of my affliction. I know that because I have no joy. I am not rising. I’m not moving forward. I’m just locked down, holding my ground, hanging on and waiting for the tempest to pass but wondering if it ever will.

Is that enough? God says it is not. He says I can learn, if not to welcome, to still rejoice in the trial of my faith, to laugh when I used to growl. As much as I may doubt it at times, my Father wants my days to be filled with joy – not necessarily happiness. That’s only in the pursuit. Joy is the constant. I can live an abundant life – not the same as a life of abundance -- but not if I am just hanging on to a hair by a broken fingernail with my sanity in shreds, cursing my circumstances and misfortunes.

How do we get the tail on our kite? It begins by facing our afflictions and speaking the truth, in prayer, in song, out loud or in a whisper. Even though I am afflicted, I will say, “I still believe.” And the Lord lets out a little more string.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Good Day for Job

But ask the animals, and they will instruct you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you.

Or speak to the earth, and it will instruct you;
let the fish of the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?

The life of every living thing is in His hand,
as well as the breath of all mankind.

-- Job 12:7-10

September 11th should be, not a national day of service, but a national day of repentance and prayer. It should be our Yom Kippur. Of all days in the year, on this day, we should humble ourselves before God and realize the deceptive nature of what the world calls “wealth and power”.

As far as “serving my country” goes, I know what the Founding Fathers knew – that each of us individually serves the nation best by doing those things God calls us to, not what government officials think we ought to do. The state is not my god nor is it my father. American exceptionalism comes from the understanding that the existence of the state is based on a covenant of union – called the Constitution – agreed to by the people. Government is always an evil, albeit a necessary one. Ours is severely in need of extensive and immediate pruning – not unlike a tangled patch of blackberry briars that has grown out of control.

But Job’s lesson is that this, too, is in the hand of the Lord.

Let me look long today on the face of God. Let me meditate on the eternal flame of truth. I am here only that I might know Him, as Paul said, in the power of His resurrection and even in the fellowship of His suffering. Let me see His hand in all things, especially in those things that come to me – for obvious good or seeming ill. May it be the wisdom of Christ that instructs me when to war and when to submit, being, in all things, surrendered to Him.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Return to Sender

God’s love was revealed to us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we must also love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:9-12

Humanity is an ugly mess, and we do well to recognize it. As the old saying goes, you aren’t paranoid if they really are out to get you, so, too, you aren’t being cynical when you question the motives of your fellow man – especially if there is money involved, or he’s a politician. Yet in spite of all our craziness, God, who knows us best, loves us. Knowing we could not come to Him, He came down to us.

We could only hope and work, struggle and sacrifice. We could build temples and altars, give our best, do our best to play by the rules, and repent in sorrow when we failed. We could only hope but never know that we had done enough and been good enough for God as we understood Him to accept us. We only knew that He was sometimes angry with us and punished us for our sins. When the rains did not come or the locusts did, when the crops failed or our enemies succeeded, we knew we had failed to appease the god we served. Is it any wonder that some of us have done horrible, stupid things in the name of some god, from Moloch to Marx, made in our own image? Darkness was the standard state. Light came only in brief, prophetic flashes like bolts in the blackest of storms.

Then came Jesus, and, slowly, we began to understand God as Father, as One who cared for us, wanted the best for us. We saw the Light. At last we could know that we were truly loved and accepted. Now we know the God who loves us so much that He Himself was willing to submit to our death that He might give us His life. He identified with us – not just in a figurative sense. He took on the restrictions of human existence, and, in the end, in some way that is beyond our comprehension, He even took on our sins.

We did not love God first. We did not pursue Him and win Him over. No, like the good shepherd that He is, He came looking for the lost sheep, found us, and carried us back to fold, rejoicing all the way. Now in joy and gratitude we return that love to Him, or we would if we could. We can’t buy God flowers or a cool watch. We can offer Him praise and thanksgiving, and we need to do that – it is the foundation of a good attitude in a sometimes confusing world. But love needs more of an outlet than words.

Love is like electricity. It must have a circuit to be complete. It must have a place to go to be perfected. How is the love of God perfected in us? God says we close the circuit by loving one another. When I love you, the love I have received from the Father flows back to Him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Love Child

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God; and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8

When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he asked for God’s name. The Lord replied, “I Am That I Am.” It’s scary even without the uppercase most translations use to print it. God is not a being, He is the Being of Being, the Being That is Being – all verbs, I think, in the eternal present tense.

Yet as profound as that thought may be, I still seek to know who God is. It takes not only the entire Bible, but all of life and the whole of the cosmos to even begin. How can we understand all that?

God is love.

God can exist, and does exist in a state that transcends being. Love brings forth being in order to express itself. God’s being is a function of love, as is all of His creation. We are children of love. Because of Christ, we are now free to choose to walk in goodness, grace, mercy, and light, and to draw on love for our life. The everlasting life that is ours in Christ is literally one that lives on love.

Many years ago when we had a place in the country and no money at all, my wife wanted a clothesline so she wouldn’t have to use the electric dryer. I went back in the woods and cut a couple of trees to set for poles. After a few days in the damp ground, one of my clothesline poles sprouted leaves. It looked like it had life in it for a time, but soon the leaves dried up and fell away. The bark loosened and decay began. In fact, though we were there only a couple of years, I think I had to replace that pole before we left. It is the same for man apart from Christ.

Our basic biological life, set in a Christian culture and civilization, may well look like genuine life, and it may produce evidence of love and goodness. But the end is death and decay. The world’s love simply does not have any taproot into the Source to allow life to continue to flow or to produce anything significant. It often saps life rather than giving life. There are vampires: individuals whose alleged love sucks the life out of the people closest to them. There are whole groups and families where that seem to exist by feeding on one another, with no other purpose than to prolong their futile existence.

In Galatians Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love …” – the Spirit-life that arises from love naturally produces fruit after its kind. Love is not something the believer does, but, as with God, it is who we are. We get angry with people; we hate injustice, ingratitude, manipulation, abuse, and stupidity – just as God does. Yet we are love, and we just can’t help ourselves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ten Things Obama Will Say Wednesday Night – and a couple of things he won’t say

1. Debate is healthy but debate is only valid when both sides listen.
2. People are being frightened and manipulated by those who want to maintain the status quo.
3. Many are spreading fear and misinformation – he may mention the “death panels” specifically.
4. Though we must debate the issues, the time for debate is over. Action is needed now.
5. We must move quickly or risk losing this historic opportunity.
6. At some point, he will cite one or more health care horror stories – anecdotal images that impinge on the feelings of his hearers. He will end with the phrase “we can do better” – he may add “we must do better”.
7. He will speak of the great success of Medicare – a program that would be bankrupt if it hadn’t already gone broke. It is kept afloat only by the extraction of a significant portion of the paychecks of every working American. This is a Ponzi scheme that makes Bernie Madoff look like an amateur and is dwarfed only by the madness that is Social Security.
8. He will assure listeners that they can keep their doctor and their current coverage “if they choose to do so” -- which really means “until this monstrosity really kicks in during the second term to which I am entitled”.
9. He will say that changing the system is costly but the cost of doing nothing is greater, both in terms of dollars and lives.
10. He will say that adding a government option will increase competition and reduce costs. He will even claim that health care reform will save money and reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, there will be no one in the live audience to laugh him down except Mike Pence.

What Obama will not do is discuss details or actual legislation. This will not be a policy speech in any technical sense. He will just tell us that all we think is in the bill is not a problem, and we should simply shut up and let him do what’s best. He is trying to strengthen the hand of Congress against the American people. I strongly suspect that he will be able to do this since, once the legislation is passed, it does not go into effect immediately. The consequences are on down the road, and the Democrats are counting on the short memory of the citizenry to keep them in power.

Obama is intellectually incapable of discussing the real issues with health care and health insurance costs. He doesn’t understand regular business operations let alone the singular economics of health care. Health care cannot operate on a typical business model. Hospitals have traditionally been nonprofit units of religious and charitable institutions or operated by counties for good reason. There must always be some excess supply of available health care, and this overage must be paid for or carried by someone. One reason we end up paying five bucks for a hospital Tylenol is because we want the hospital to have plenty of Tylenol on hand. The reason American health care is not only more expensive but better than any other system is that we have been willing to foot the bill for facilities, personnel, machines, medications, and treatments to be available whenever they are needed. We are willing to pay for empty beds and extra nurses and doctors because we want treatment now. We are also willing to pay for research and innovation. (Remind me of the last time some ground-breaking medical advancement came out of France, Britain, or Canada.)

No government plan has been able to adequately address the health care model because the only way to control costs in a non-competitive environment is to reduce the overhead by eliminating unused capacity. If government gets involved in “controlling costs” this “excess” capacity will go away, and we will be forced to wait months for things we can have immediately under the current system.

Further, costs will not be reduced to the taxpayer because layers of bureaucracy will be added. Career bureaucrats are the same in all nations and all ages. They accumulate managerial levels as part of building their fiefdoms with their departments. Efficiency declines even as budgets increase.

Sadly, despite the townhalls and protests, we will likely lose the health care battle. Congress must pass something to give Obama a victory. A victory of any kind – no matter how detrimental to our freedom – will boost the President’s approval numbers which have declined, in part, because a portion of the radical left thinks things are not moving toward socialism fast enough. This lame, predictable speech will give Congress the rallying point and cover they need to ignore the voice of the people, the Constitution, and the best interests of the Republic.

(Since I have to re-primer the Jeep that night, someone will have to tell me how well I did at the prediction game.)