My Grandson got a Medal

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It’s funny how a minor thing can trigger a memory so stay with me on this.

My four-year-old grandson played T-ball this summer and I went to a couple of games to see how he was doing.

Frankly, watching four-year-olds running around bases trying to keep their pants on is a bit of a hoot, but I digress.

I went to his last “game” and at the end of the game which was the end of the season each kid gets a medal-a rather nice one I might add.

It’s good size and has a sizable ribbon to hang it around the child’s neck. In my grandson’s case it came down to his belly button. He is a little guy.

So our bite size ball player and I, his grandma and his dad are leaving the park. I’m a little surprised about the medal and say to my son, ” I guess they all get a medal for not pooping their pants and showing up every week.”

My son laughed and then told me he asked my grandson who was the best player on the team. My grandson replied that he was!

Now I appreciate his enthusiasm and willingness to learn but he was a far cry from the best player on the team. My son had a reality talk with him and pointed out his skill set was being developed and he had to practice, something a four-year-old gets for about 10 minutes and it’s heh look, let’s chase a butterfly.

Fortunately our little guy was more interested in the bag of gummy bears and the bag of potato chips than he was in a medal but the whole experience drew me back to one of the first books I read when I was studying biblical counseling.

The book was The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love and Self-Image by Jay E. Adams.

The book was written in the mid-eighties but is now no less valid today perhaps even more so given that the movement has had another 30 years to thoroughly permeate psychology and the church.

There is not a whole lot that can be done about secular psychology but when there is this huge emphasis on positive self-esteem in the church it means that many have migrated from a God-centered theology to a man-at-the-center of all things theology and that has consequences, especially in parenting.

It’s one thing to have your little one know that they are created in the image of God and it’s quite another to use that to promote an unhealthy self-esteem that undermines the fact that the image of God within them Is deeply flawed.

The man-centered theology of self-esteem, self-love and self-image produces pride the mother of all idols (and a child-centered home I might add).

A God-centered theology ought to produce humility and an understanding that we are deeply flawed sinners in great need of a Savior to esteem highly, while we have a realistic appraisal of ourselves.

I think my grandson’s response to the gummy bears and chips was appropriate for a four-year-old and let’s save the medal for when his team wins the Little League World Series when he’s thirteen or so.

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The Suicides of Celebrities in Scripture

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I found this handy list of suicides in the Bible on Bible.org.

1. [Abimelech] called hastily unto the young man his armour-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died (Judges 9:54).

2. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed with all his might; and the house fell…upon all the people that were therein (Judges 16:30).

3. Saul took a sword and fell on it (1 Sam. 31:4).

4. When [Saul’s] armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died (1 Sam 31:5).

5. When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he…got him home to his house, to his city, and put his house in order, and hanged himself, and died (2 Sam. 17:23).

6. It came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king’s house, and burnt the king’s house over him with fire, and died (1 Kings 16:18).

7. [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matt. 27:5).

J. L. Meredith, Meredith’s Big Book of Bible Lists, (Inspirational Press, NY; 1980), pp. 143-144

Judas' suicide from this German language website: http://www.hansgruener.de/index.htm

Judas’ suicide from this German language website: http://www.hansgruener.de/index.htm

My point here will be to say something about the back story circumstances that led to the suicides of the person in question.

1. This particular Abimelech sought to be king. To do so he murdered 69 of 70 half-brothers. He became warlord (king) of the City of Shechem\Israel and he ruled for about three years before a revolt broke out in Shechem. Abimelech and his army sought to put the revolt down and in the process a woman dropped a large brick on his head. Abimelech thought it fatal and so asked his armor bearer to run him through so that people would not say he died at the hands of a woman. Judges 9:55-56 indicate that God repaid Abimelech for his reckless ambition when he killed his brothers and God repaid Shechem for their evil deeds as well.

2. The story of Samson is one of the best known in all of Scripture. Samson was born to be a Nazarite (and a Judge). As long as he didn’t cut his hair he would have victory over the Philistines. Samson had a problem and that problem was the idol of pleasure in his own heart. Today Samson would be a poster child for pornography. Eventually his choices will lead him to become a blind slave of the Philistines. Samson repents and asks God for permission to die with the Philistines and God grants him the request

3. Saul was the first legitimate King of Israel. Saul was vain and today we’d say mentally unbalanced because he was given to serious fits of rage. Saul’s jealousy of David consumed him. In an epic battle with the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa Saul is mortally wounded. Rather than linger or be captured alive by his enemies Saul orders his armor-bearer to kill him with the sword.

4. Saul’s armor-bearer, perhaps desperate himself and consumed with grief then kills himself.

5. The key to understanding Ahithophel’s suicide is found here: 17:14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite sounds better than the advice of Ahithophel.” Now the Lord had decided 11  to frustrate the sound advice of Ahithophel, so that the Lord could bring disaster on Absalom. (Net Bible)

Absalom, David’s son, is in revolt against David. Husai and Ahithopel give counsel to Absalom. Absalom chooses the advice of Husai over the better counsel of Ahithophel. Ahithophel cannot handle the rejection and hangs himself probably concluding he was out of favor with Absalom. The verse clearly credits God with Absalom’s choice as well as the reason-disaster on Absalom.

6. Zimri is noted as having the shortest reign of any of Israel’s kings (northern kingdom). He ruled for just seven days. Zimri had become king after killing Elah who was king and anyone related to Elah. The General of the Army-Omri, out ranked Zimri and wanting to be king himself marched on Tirzah where Zimri was. Zimri had miscalculated and when he saw the situation hopeless he took his own life.

7. Judas Iscariot is the only suicide recorded in the New Testament. Judas regrets his betrayal of Jesus and in despair throws the blood money into the temple and hangs himself. Judas’ repentance was superficial for he never believed that Jesus was God and rather saw him as someone who could lead the zealots against Rome. His despair stemmed from the fact that Jesus was innocent of the accusations leveled against Jesus and perhaps Judas sought to atone for his sin by taking his own life. Matt. 27:3-5

Observations

All of these men mentioned in Scripture who committed suicide were celebrities of sorts. Most were kings or wanna be kings, one was a Judge, one a counselor of some repute and one was a disciple of Jesus and for a time enjoyed the popularity of that association as did the armor bearer of Saul (a high honor).

Samson appears to be the only one who was repentant and his suicide has a different tone to it as God allows him to die in one final act against the worshipers of the false god, Dagon. It is here that perhaps we get a clue as to the suicides of all the others.

With perhaps the exception of Saul’s armor-bearers all were highly ambitious and quite willing to sin to get what they wanted-power! It’s difficult to know what the armor-bearer wanted but we do know what he didn’t want-to live without his king. His sense of loyalty was to Saul and in being the armor-bearer of the king he found his sole source of identity.

Again, with the possible exception of Samson all experienced despair in their final moments. All  had lost hope, all were by modern standards clinically depressed when they took their own lives. All perceived obstacles in their paths that told them their goals were now beyond their reach. They would not get whatever it was they wanted most. All had problems within the inner man, the part of every human being the Bible calls the heart.

Samson at the end turned to God and repented finally realizing that his hope did not rest in the pleasures of Philistine women but in the true God. In Samson’s final days he threw off the slavery to his personal idols and God mercifully allowed him to die and take the followers of Dagon with him.

Some application

I too was saddened by the death of Robin Williams. I thought him to be a comic genius and thought the movie Good Morning Vietnam to be his best piece of work. The media has gone between calling him heroic or calling him a coward for taking his own life. All seem to agree that the depression that drove the suicide is a disease more than a personal choice.

As someone who has struggled with lower-grade depression I can tell you that it can feel like a disease because it consumes your thoughts and you feel like you cannot control them. On the other hand, I  believe that suicide is indeed a choice but one a person feels they must make because they believe they have no other choice.

Depression has more to do what a person feels than what he or she believes and that in my opinion is key to understanding depression from a spiritual point-of-view.

Whatever Robin William’s motives were for killing himself one thing is sure-Williams had lost hope. There were too many obstacles in his mind that he believed crushed his hope.

I have no idea what Mr. Williams believed about God, about Jesus or about the Bible.

I do know that the Bible gives hope to the depressed or what the Bible calls “sorrow without hope.”

The Bible asks in many ways, what do we live for? Do we live for celebrity status and what that means-affirmation, power, control, pleasure or what have you?

The Bible asks what do we ultimately love because  the answer to that question determines what we ultimately worship.

The Bible asks what are our goals? What if those goals are frustrated or unobtainable? Does our happiness depend on us realizing our goals?

The Bible asks what do we fear? Understanding what we fear losing tells us something about what we treasure the most.

The Bible asks what do we crave, what do feel we have to have in order to be happy? Will we sin to get what we want?

The Bible asks who are our heroes and who are our role models? It asks where do we find refuge and comfort, pleasure or security? It asks what is success to us  and how do we define it?

The answers to these questions probe the heart. To the Christian the questions speak to a divided loyalty; like Samson, who loved his pleasures more than he loved his God. To the non-believer these questions make little sense but to the believer they ought to help us determine our loyalty. Are we loyal to the idols that betray us or are we loyal to the God who saves through Jesus Christ?

Depression is suffering. There is no doubt about that and depression that leads to suicide is tragic. How can it be otherwise when a creature created in God’s image decides that life is hopeless.

I write this to my Christian brother’s and sisters. Who do you ultimately live for? Examine your heart and turn to the only one that cam give true hope-Jesus!

For a thorough treatment of depression I recommend the following resources:

Edward T Welch: Depression Looking Up From Stubborn Darkness

Charles D. Hodges, M.D.: Good Mood, Bad Mood-Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder

 David Martyn-Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression-It’s Causes and It’s Cure

John Piper: Desiring God-Reflections of a Christian Hedonist (This book can help answer the question of who we live for.)

Why Americans Should Thank King George I

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There is an interesting article at Townhall.com by Michael Barone titled, Three Hundred Years Later Americans Owe a Debt to King George I.

To most Americans George I would be even more obscure than George III who was King of England during the War for Independence. Yet without a George I there would not have been a George III to turn the world upside down-the song the British Army played as they surrendered at Yorktown.

The Georges were Hanoverian Germans and they secured the British throne through the back door so-to-speak.

As Barone points out the previous monarch was a gal by the name of Queen Anne.

Back in those days government and religion were mixed together in an unsavory soup whereby loyalty to the state was often determined by one’s religion. The union of England, Scotland and Ireland had a rather tumultuous history where religion was a bigger deal than it is now.

Queen Anne was a Protestant, meaning Church of England-Anglican, but her dad King James II was Roman Catholic. James II was driven from the throne in 1688-89 in what was called the Glorious Revolution.

James got into trouble because he appointed fellow Catholics to high positions including the military. James decreed he could suspend Parliament and in particular the law that decreed that military officers had to be members of the Church of England. He also had not called for a Parliament for three years and abolished the colonial legislatures in the American colonies.

Looking back hundreds of years we see the issue through the lens of freedom of religion but at the time there was no such thing and such ideas were in the future.

What really bothered Parliament was the fact that the king believed he could ignore the law and do what he pleased. In other words it was a power struggle between those who made law (Parliament) and the head of state (king) who thought he could ignore it when he chose to do so. In those days the balance of power issues we are familiar with (Congress, President, Supreme Court) were still being worked out and Parliament which had gained the majority vote in the English Civil War was not keen on giving up their new-found power.

Cigarette Card featuring one of Oliver Cromwell's "Ironsides" Heave Cavalry that were instrumental in winning the the war for Parliament over Charles I and the Royalists.

Cigarette Card featuring one of Oliver Cromwell’s “Ironsides” Heavy Cavalry that were instrumental in winning the the war for Parliament over Charles I and the Royalists.

Parliament feared, rightly so, an absolutist type monarchy like that which was in power in France, a country that would eventually have an incredibly bloody revolution that ultimately would result in the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. James II was succeeded by Anne’s sister Mary who was married to William of Orange (both Protestants). William and Mary agreed with Parliament  that monarchs could not simply suspend the law and that’s where the Founding Fathers got the idea the President would have limited power (Remember that the Founding Fathers were all English and they knew their history.) As a footnote William and Mary College in Virginia is named for the famous pair and Thomas Jefferson attended there.

It get s little complicated but stay with me here; it’s important.

Parliament had passed a law in 1701 that barred Catholics and anyone married to a Catholic from being king. Remember, we’re looking back hundreds of years and there is no such thing a state without a state church (a practice that continues today in much of Europe but with far less importance).

The law perpetrated a crisis when Anne died because all her relatives in line for succession were Catholics. Just before Anne died she smelled revolution and fired her pro-Catholic advisers and picked a loyal Protestant who would ensure that succession would go to a Protestant. The Duke of Marlborough (an ancestor of Winston Churchill) would use the military to make sure there was little trouble. There was, but that’s another story.

Eventually the powers that were found a suitable Protestant, a distant cousin of Anne. His name was George Ludwig and a Hanoverian German. He could not speak a word of English.

According to Barone the Hanoverian kings (George I, II and III) were not all that popular and heavily criticized as we begin to see a more obvious freedom of the press and freedom of expression by British citizens. Barone also notes that overall the Hanoverian kings were good for the UK as it enjoyed an economic posterity that rivaled their greatest rival of France.

As for the colonies the George’s practiced a neglect that the colonies rather enjoyed. The colonies tended to rule themselves which they liked and things didn’t come to a head until George III became guilty of over reach but more importantly by refusing to negotiate with those he considered rebels-hence the War of Independence.

Barone does not make the following point but I will.

The US emerged from the War of Independence with strong ideas regarding the balance of power between the various branches of government. The Founders knew what they were doing fearing that an absolutist would once again suspend laws that he or she didn’t like. The Constitution was designed to keep all concerned in their proper place and although it could be messy and time-consuming it has worked pretty well until now.

Now we have a President who uses executive action and statutory neglect to full advantage. He does not enforce laws he does not like and goes around the lawmakers (Congress) every chance he gets. The Senate, one-half of the Congress is complicit in his designs and the other half of Congress (the House of Representatives) is blamed for the executive action run a muck because according to the President “Congress won’t act” yet it cannot because the President’s allies control the Senate.

This may all change in the November elections if both Houses of Congress go conservative and undo much of the damage. If not, we can expect more abuses of power from the Administration and it’s allies in the Senate and in the mainstream press who seem to think an abuse of power will never come back to bite them in the butt.

The US is still rather unique in the way it is set-up. Technically, we are ruled by a document called the Constitution, a document our leaders are supposed to uphold. When our leaders no longer take that seriously what is the Christian to do? The Bible says we are to be loyal to the emperor (1 Pe. 2:13) and every human institution (like our Constitution and civil authority in general). But what if they are in opposition to one another? What if the governors of 26 States uphold the Constitution and the other 24 side with a lawless President. What if Congress remains hopelessly divided and a President, like James II simply decides to do what he pleases? What if?

I do not have all the answers-just the principle that was established so long ago by William and Mary and the English Parliament. We are a nation of laws and the king or President just does not get to do whatever pleases. Limiting the power of the executive branch of government should be a concern to both Democrats and Republicans and the fact that it does appear to concern the Democrats one bit should concern us all.

 

 

 

 

The Great Martian War

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The other day I was flipping channels and stumbled on BBC-America. The title of the program on next immediately grabbed my attention-The Great Martian War.

I still remember as a kid watching the 1953 movie, War of the Worlds with my dad and my dad explaining to me that the concept was based on a 1930’s radio program which in turn was based on H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds. Later I obtained the Classics Illustrated comic book titled War of the Worlds and read it until it almost fell apart (I still have it.)

I even watched the 2005 version of War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise (it was okay).

Classics Illustrated-War of the Worlds

Classics Illustrated-War of the Worlds

So when The Great Martian War popped up I immediately knew the BBC was tinkering with a classic story. I spent the next two hours watching the special.

The Great Martian War is an alternate history. The war starts one year before the Great War started (1913) and ends one year before the Great War historically ended (1917).

The twist on the Great War is immediate because the Martians land in Germany destroying a significant part of the Kaiser’s Army. The Germans call for help as the Martians begin to spread out. The result is a type of League of Nations alliance uniting (rather than fighting each other as they historically did) to destroy the Martians.

The Great Martian War is cleverly put together. The producers took period film from the Great War and spliced Martian war machines into it creating a newsreel effect that was convincing.

Still from The Great Martian War featuring the Martian war machines.

Still from The Great Martian War featuring the Martian war machines.

The other device they used to give the alternate history an air of authenticity was the use of interviews. The producers had regular people who had survived the war tell their stories at various times during the special. Two modern-day historians are added to the mix to give their interpretations of  the war. They do not agree.

Most of the regular people are soldiers from Britain, Germany, Canada and the US. At least one is a civilian-an elderly woman who was a ten-year-old girl at the time of the invasion. All the actors did a fine job but her remembrances were particularly striking especially as she describes her emotions as she witnessed the destruction of a Martian war machine and the crowd’s vengeful attitude toward the wounded Martian pilot.

The Martian War machines are virtually indestructible and come in two sizes. One is the massive tripod called a Heron. Herons are piloted by a Martian and might be compared to a modern tank except for their great towering height. Herons are protected by a force field and are armed with blasters (the heat guns of War of the Worlds). Herons are supported by “Spiders” smaller bipeds with blasters and nasty tentacles the impale people. Spiders are the infantry of the Martians.

Against these war machines the allies marshal the typical equipment of the First World War-heavy artillery, early tanks, massed infantry and bi-planes.

The tactic of "going over-the-top" was used in The Great Martian War just as it was in the Great War with the same results-huge casualty rates with little to nothing to gain.

The tactic of “going over-the-top” was used in The Great Martian War just as it was in the Great War with the same results-huge casualty rates with little to nothing to gain.

The war breaks down into a type of trench warfare with the allies using the tactics of massed infantry attacks to destroy the Martians. The casualties are horrendous thus reflecting the Great War’s butcher bill very well.

The Martians win every time but seem contented with small advances. The US in neutral under President Wilson but is heavily criticized by former President Teddy Roosevelt who recognizes the danger of sitting on the sidelines.

The US is finally pushed into war when the Martians (and some say the British) sink three American ships that were supplying the war effort.

America entered WW1 in April, 1917. In The Great Martian War America also enters the war late but this time under the leadership of President Teddy Roosevelt who takes over after Wilson resigns.

America entered WW1 in April, 1917. In The Great Martian War America also enters the war late but this time under the leadership of President Teddy Roosevelt who takes over after Wilson resigns.

Wilson resigns and Teddy takes over and declares war on the Martians this giving the allies a new source of man power.

It was an interesting segment in the special. The allies are desperate for America’s involvement but Wilson keeps the US out. The three ships are lost with all hands and everyone assumes the Martians did it except for a few that guess maybe the British did it to force the US to declare war.

Another interesting story involves the great-granddaughter of a Canadian-Iroquois soldier who eventually decipher the Martian language.

The allies get a break when they accidentally bring down a Heron with a massive under ground explosion. Seven Spiders surrender in the aftermath and the allies discover the Spiders do not have pilots but are controlled by the Heron pilots. The allies start to understand some of the technology used against them and begin to turn it against the Martians.

The big break occurs when a Heron breaks through the lines and makes it way to London crossing the Channel in the process. Three fighter planes bring the Heron down using the captured technology and the Martian pilot is wounded. The crowd wants to tear the Martian to pieces but the Martian is “saved” by British police mounted on horses.

Spoiler alert here.

The police take the Martian to a nearby hospital in an effort to learn about the enemy but the Martian quickly dies. The autopsy reveals the Martian did not die from its wounds but from a virus carried by the policemen’s horses!

The allies quickly realize that the Martians are vulnerable and mass produce the virus and infect every horse they can find with it. They launch one last ground offensive designed to get the Martians close to the massed horses and the horses do the rest. The Martians are killed by bio warfare in a similar fashion to H.G. Well’s classic except in that it was the common cold that brings the Martians down.

The downside of the horse born virus is that it morphs and kills millions of people just as the post World War One Spanish Flu did (50 million world-wide).

The Canadian Iroquois soldier decipher the Martian language and when it’s uncovered many years later it is discovered that the war is not over yet. And it that lies the message, although a bit ambiguous, it was ominous.

I enjoyed the special. I thought it faithful to The War of the Worlds conceptually and the use of a documentary format made it an interesting alternative history.

The obvious themes were the great nations uniting in the face of a common threat, the blessings and cursings of technology and the not-so-subtle suggestion that humans and Martians are all infected with a parasitical virus at the root of all wars.

The War of the Worlds and it’s spin-offs have always intrigued me. I know that H.G. Wells was a visionary of sorts and his fiction was meant to be thought-provoking as well as entertaining and by and large it is. I also know that Wells was a Darwinian Socialist and that he rejected orthodox Christianity. To what extent his shifting religious views influenced his fiction I am not sure. To what extent the world views of the producers of The Great Martian War and the War of the Worlds movies influenced them I am also not sure.

I guess my biggest take-away from The Great Martian War besides the entertainment value is the notion that mankind is capable of some kind of unity if the threat is substantial enough. We’ve seen this historically on more than one occasion. We’ve also seen that the unity achieved during the threat abates rather quickly when the threat is dissipated and the allies, once friends, now become bitter enemies.

A Darwinian like Wells might think long and hard as to why that is and ponder what the perfect World-State would look like but he would never arrive at the central problem.

As the great scholar Pogo once remarked, “we have met the enemy and it is us”  and the truth is we are the problem. We are the problem because we carry the stain of sin, a virus we cannot get rid of because it is embedded in our spiritual DNA. What we can do is look to the Creator and his solution to the sin problem-a Savior, Jesus Christ who came to earth to redeem and restore a paradise lost. Whatever else might be said about The War of the Worlds it can certainly be connected to the war within us all if take the time to look.

20140806-081212-29532998.jpg

A Heron attacks London and destroys Big Ben before being brought down in The Great Martian War.