Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Intolerant of ‘Tolerance’

A politically correct buzzword today is “tolerance.” If enlightened, we’re told, you’re “tolerant” of those whose beliefs and lifestyles differ from your own. Sorry, but use of the term in this way is both a perversion of language and an insult to those it addresses.

Years ago I had an abscessed tooth while attending an important conference. I tolerated the agony until I could stand it no longer and had to seek out a dentist. I didn’t want the pain and got rid of it as soon as possible.

At a coffee shop engaged in a conversation, I may tolerate background music that’s too loud, it, but certainly don’t like it. When I’m in a hurry and stuck in traffic, I’m forced to be tolerant – but every inch of my being hates having to sit still.

Looking at the word another way, in manufacturing, precision parts are made to a very specific, narrow tolerance to function properly. No place here for “broad-minded” engineering.

However, when applied to ideologies and behaviors these days, “tolerance” implies acceptance – even approval. I fully understand the dynamics of language and how words take on different meanings, but “tolerant” actually means reluctantly enduring something, or grudgingly holding your tongue even though you might want to scream to the contrary.

To me, “respect” is a far better, more appropriate term. I may differ with adherents of other faiths, for example, and have strong reasons for disagreeing with them. But I can still respect them, acknowledging their right to hold to an opposing worldview. However, “tolerance” in such an instance sounds more like, “I think you’re stupid. I just won’t say so.”

Not to mention the tolerance advocates that seem utterly intolerant of those that don’t concur with their way of thinking. So forgive my intolerance of “tolerance.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

For Our Enjoyment

All around us here, leaves on the trees are turning an amazing array of reds, oranges and yellows. The funny thing is, as I understand it, there is no practical purpose for the color change from green.

Green leaves are the result of chlorophyll, a green pigment that absorbs red and blue light from the sun. In the fall, however, shorter days and cooler nights interrupt the natural process of chlorophyll being manufactured and replaced as it decomposes. Hence the different colors as chlorophyll breaks down and is not reintroduced into the leaves.

Scientists apparently have not discovered any useful reasons for the specific colors. They are a delight to observe, certainly. In many parts of the country, our eyes can feast on a smorgasbord of color – until rain and wind detach the leaves from their limbs and they tumble to the ground.

The same can be said about breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. The vivid reds and other hues appear briefly, greeting us in the morning and bidding us a good evening, but aside from the visual sensation, we are none the better or worse for them.

Why then do we have this ever-changing palette of nature, revealing itself to us from day to day? I think it’s a gift from God, a manifestation of His love – much like a bouquet of flowers from a husband who is not making amends for a wrong, or a parent buying a toy or a treat for a child, for the simple reason of “just because.” They are the Lord’s subtle way of saying to His children, “I love you – and don’t forget.”

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give…to those who ask him?” (Luke11:13).

Monday, October 18, 2010

From ‘Who’s Who’ to Who’s He?

Justin Bieber’s a mop-haired, 16-year-old pop/soul singer who’s become the latest heartthrob for the teeny-bopper set. A YouTube video shows a little girl weeping because she “loves” Justin so much. He’s already written a book – and it’s actually longer than five pages! (How could someone so young have much to say?)

I hope he enjoys the fame while it lasts, because it probably won’t. When our girls were little, they adored New Kids on the Block. Who? Where are they now? A few years ago, the Jonas Brothers were the rage. They’re still around, but fading fast. Ten years from now, will young Justin be just another “who”?

Fame, correctly stated, is fleeting. At my exercise class they play a CD consisting of “one-hit wonders,” songs by groups that rocketed to the top and plummeted just as fast. Would you want your legacy to start with, “Whatever happened to…?”

A legacy is established not by long life, but how we live the years we have. I think of people who died relatively young: individuals like Oswald Chambers, 43, whose devotional books bless millions almost 100 years after his death; Dawson Trotman, 50, founder of The Navigators international ministry; and David Brainerd, 29, and Jim Elliot, 28, both missionaries.

Their earthly lives only shone briefly, like candles, yet their impact – through words, inspiration and vision – continues in the lives and hearts of people around the globe. In a world where we can move so quickly from “Who’s Who” to who’s he, it’s important to focus on things that will endure. That’s why I appreciate the last words of a poem by C.T. Studd, a missionary to China, India and Africa at the turn of the 20th century:

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A ‘Christian’ Nation?

With general elections approaching, there’s talk about returning the United States to its roots. For some, this means a “Christian nation.” To that I suggest two words: Stop it!

Yes, our Constitution embraces some Judeo-Christian principles, but Christian nation? No.

Consider the following mantras that have shaped the American mindset, particularly since World War II: “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” “God is my co-pilot.” And my favorite, “God helps those that help themselves.” (Not found anywhere in the Bible.) We praise the “self-made man” – who tends to worship his “maker.”

It’s not that hard work and initiative are wrong. Part of our nation’s malaise today is too few want to exert the effort necessary to succeed. They want everything handed to them as they ride the entitlement bandwagon.

But how can we be a “Christian nation” when self-reliance and self-sufficiency run diametrically opposed to biblical truth?

Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The apostle Paul affirmed total dependence on his Lord, stating, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). He also stated paradoxically, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Paul explained why in the preceding verse: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

At its heart, Christian faith consists not on taking spiritual precepts and implementing them to flex our muscles. It’s recognizing utter helplessness apart from Christ – even when His commands run counter to our culture.

Jesus declared we’re to submit to governing authorities, as Romans 13 affirms, but He never instructed us to be the authority – or to rely on it alone. The goal, the Scriptures teach, is “that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:5). That’s what a true “Christian nation” would look like.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Miracles, Anyone?

Last Sunday the pastor asked us to recall a miracle God has done in their lives. So I started thinking, “What miracles has He done in my life?”

When we hear the word “miracle,” there’s a tendency to think of something magical –parting the Red Sea, turning water into wine, or raising the dead. I have no doubt God can do that and many other similar feats, whenever He chooses to do so. But reviewing my life, what came to mind were things not as spectacular, but every bit of miraculous.

Like the fact my wife, Sally, and I have been married more than 36 years.

In today’s “for better, but not for worse” culture, that’s a miracle! Not only that, but you can still catch us holding hands, kissin’ and stuff.

How about the new aorta I received nearly four years ago – my dad probably died of the same malady, but thanks to medical advancements, I’m still here at the keyboard. My heart’s pumping strong, thanks to my part cadaver, part Dacron aortic root replacement. A miracle.

I consider my grandchildren a miracle. Sure, childbirth is natural; they say it’s even hereditary. But having wonderful little kids to spoil, then to send home – that’s a miracle.

With so many people complaining about jobs they hate, I’m blessed to have been able to devote my entire career to writing and editing, and for three decades use those skills to communicate the practical relevance of the Scriptures. To me, it’s a miracle God would even let me do that!

So to find miracles, we don’t have to look far. The fact we woke up this morning – that’s one. If you had the joy of seeing a flower or the blue sky, there’s another. If you heard a bird chirp, or even someone ranting on a talk show, that’s a blessed miracle. And if you haven’t experienced enough miracles lately, God’s sure to send another your way soon.

As the Scriptures tell us, God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).