Monday, March 31, 2014

Sanctions a Beneficial Policy Tool?

Are sanctions a beneficial policy tool?

Before we start answering that question, let us remind ourselves that according to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, sanctions are defined as,
"An action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc."

So now to answer the question. Should sanctions be used to push the United States agenda? Are you ready for this? Ok here you go.

Sanctions don't work.

Simply put, sanctions are not an effective tool in foreign policy. Today, I would like to highlight five reasons why United States sanctions are doomed to fail.

1. It's a global market.
United States sanctions are supposed to punish the economy of the target nation by revoking them access to the United States economy. Our politicians apparently believe that the United States economy is so important that losing access to our economy alone will substantially hurt the economy of the sanctioned nation. 

While it is true that the United States economy is strong, countries can still survive just fine without goods from the United States. Indeed, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 8.5% of the world's exports came from the United States in 2010.

I think it's safe to say that the targeted country will manage to find a way to get by with the 91.5% of world exports they can receive from other countries. (US imports in case you were wondering are only slightly higher at 12.3%.)

2. Sanctions hurt the economy of the United States.
Oh, and did I mention that sanctions prevent the United States companies from freely trading with the target nations? Yes, indeed, the target nations find other suppliers from countries, like Canada, China, England, or Russia, but the United States businesses are still deprived of a trading partner.

We should heed the words of Dr. C. Fred Bergsten, founder of The Peterson Institute for International Economics, in 1998, when,
"We lose exports...on the order of at least $15 billion to $20 billion per year as a result of our own sanctions against other countries. Those results are probably greatly understated because, over the long term, we acquire the reputation of being an unreliable supplier...Those are big losses to the American economy, probably on the order of a quarter of a million high-paying jobs a year... Those are losses that are highly discriminatory... because they hit companies and workers who just happen to sell to countries that we don’t like that year. In short, a cost-benefit analysis suggests that sanctions are one of the worst foreign policy tools we have."

3. They tend to punish the people of the country, rather than those responsible.
But let's just take a step back for a second and assume incorrectly that sanctions actually achieve their objective -  they actually hurt the target nation. That's great, right? Not exactly.

Sanctions try to coerce nations to our will by limiting trade between the two countries. But think just for a minute about your country's commerce. Who trades with other nations? It's not a government to government deal. No, trade generally happens between one private citizen to another, or from one private business to another.

But the people within these countries are not responsible for the actions of their government! Nor is there any guarantee that the government of this nation will care about the suffering of the people. All we've managed to do thus far is harm the people of the target nation (and our own) all for naught, as the government keeps going on its merry way. As Professor Charles A. Rarick says in 2007,
"Economic sanctions deprive the people of the sanctioned country their basic right to a better standard of living."

4. Rally around the flag.
But it gets worse. Not only do sanctions have only a negligible negative impact on the government, sanctions generally strengthen the position of the government. To see why, simply picture some siblings.

Siblings are not necessarily always friendly with one another. They fight. In extreme circumstances, they can even go through entire months where they don't speak to one another. But as soon as you attack one sibling, you better expect the wrath of the rest. All prior anger, all grudges, and all tension between the siblings disappears when one is confronted.

This same principle applies to countries as well. Citizens may not like the actions of their political leaders, but as soon as you attack them, patriotism takes over, and the citizens suddenly are avid supporters of their government. This phenomena is called the "Rally around the flag."

In addition, sanctions provide a convenient scapegoat to dictators for the poverty of the people. Kim Jong-Un can shrug off his oppression of the North Koreans, as he can just blame the United States sanctions. I seriously think that anti-US propaganda is already strong enough in countries like Cuba and North Korea that we really shouldn't be giving them any legitimate grievances.

But sanctions do just that. Ivan Eland, Ph.D. explains in 2006,
"Also undermining the achievement of sanctions’ political goals is the 'rally around the flag' effect. When attacked, either militarily or economically, by a foreign power, the populace of a country usually rallies around the existing leader—no matter how odious he or she may be. Fidel Castro, despite the disastrous consequences of his centralization of the Cuban economy, has been able to blame poverty and economic stagnation on the coercive economic measures imposed by his powerful northern neighbor. In other words, the Cuban people likely would have thrown out Castro long ago if the United States hadn’t declared him 'enemy number one.'"

5. Sanctions make us feel like we're doing something to help.
But it is understandable why we would like sanctions. Sometimes, we see problems in the world that we feel need to be addressed, but we know that it would be unwise to intervene militarily in those areas. We view sanctions as an opportunity to do something. To make a difference in the world.

But our intentions and hopes just don't match with reality. We feel good that we've helped these people in their crisis, but we haven't. As the aforementioned article from Charles A. Rarick notes, sanctions at best succeed only 20% of the time. They simply are not effective tools in foreign policy.

But we keep using them. But it's all for naught. Or maybe it's all for us. Either way, we need to admit that sanctions just don't work.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Proper Response to Rage and Sadness

It is a troubling time for David, anointed to be king. Instead of ascending to the throne, he is running for his life from the jealous King Saul.

David is now back in Saul's kingdom, ready to serve him, but he fears for his life all the same. After all, Saul had often accepted him for a time before madness overcame Saul and an attempt on David's life was made. 

David was sure that staying in Israel would be to invite his own murder at the hands of the King. He leaves Israel then and heads to the land of the Philistines. That's right the mortal enemies of David and the Israelites. Indeed David heads straight toward the city of Gath, where Goliath the giant hailed. 

One can speculate all day whether this action was justified, but the fact is, the Bible makes no case either to condemn it or to justify it. Thus, we are left with no basis by which to judge David's actions here. 

David fights for the Philistines, but by the grace of God is prevented from fighting against the Israelites. Indeed near the end of his stay with the Philistines, the Philistines and Israelites did set battle in array against each other, the battle that would prove to be the last battle for King Saul. 

David was willing to fight this battle. He was willing to fight for the sake of the Philistines, but the Lord put upon the hearts of the Philistines a mistrust of David due to his lineage. When the King of the Philistines dismisses David, he feels insulted. He asks the king what he had done to deserve this mistrust. 

David ultimately leaves the Philistines and heads back to the city Ziklag, which the Philistines had given him - the city where he had left his family. What he did not know was that as he was determined to stay to fight Israel, the Amalekites attacked Ziklag. 

When David returns, he found that the Amalekites had succeeded in laying siege to the city, they took captive the sons and the women (including David's family), and have left it on fire. 

Can you imagine that? You leave your city for a week or two and return to find your home in shambles! Your family, captured at best, dead at worst. That emotion is almost unexplainable. 

Thus, it comes as no surprise when I Samuel 30:4-6,
"Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God."

Yes, I know, I have skirted around the fact that David had two wives at this point (he had a third in Israel, but she was remarried to another man); it's just not important to the point of this post.

On top of all the emotion at losing his house and family, his own people have turned against him! He is emotionally distressed. But then how does he next respond?

If it was us, we would be ready to hunt down those responsible and make sure that they are punished, while protecting our family.  This is where David is, yet he understands one stage, we may easily forget. You see, in the heat of emotion, our judgment may get clouded, in that we forget that our experience is not the end-all of wisdom. You've heard it from me a lot before. We all forget to consult the Lord.

But David didn't. In I Samuel 30:8, we read,
"And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all."

In the heat of emotion, David didn't lose himself. He didn't forget that he was a humble servant. He remembered to consult the Lord. Are we able to do the same?

What else are we supposed to do in times of crisis? What more should be our place? Take heed to the examples of David today and throughout the rest of your life. Consult the Lord even when your emotions want you to act quickly. In fact, especially when you are emotionally distressed, remember the words of Proverbs 3:5,
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Extra-Morality 3: Elevating Ourselves to Status of God

This Sunday an article was posted by two of my friends on Facebook. These two friends are largely fundamental, but the article they posted was directing blame at fundamentalism for offenses that are quite frankly not the fault of any movement.

The articles starts out with legitimate problems of sexual abuse and harassment occurring at fundamental colleges. It goes without saying of course that these problems could happen (and do) at any institution, fundamentalist or otherwise.

Yet this article opines that at its core, this problem is somehow the fault of the fundamentalist viewpoint. Specifically, we read,
"Many fundamentalist communities control their members by isolating them and strictly regulating behavior—especially controlling the flow of information from the outside world and between people. Bob Jones University, for example, forbids students from listening to certain music, filters their internet use, and prohibits certain magazine subscriptions. At Pensacola Christian College, students are banned from watching any television or unapproved movies."

These ideas (which embody a large portion of the extra-moral standards we have been discussing in this series) are allegedly creating a spirit of silent submission, where students are afraid to speak out when are hurt. The link is doubtful at best, since it has commonly been known that anyone, regardless of where they attend college, is ashamed to report such incidents. Quite frankly, this article is a textbook example of the correlation vs. causation fallacy. But that is not the point I want to make with this story today.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's real. I am not playing on fear when I tell you that Christians are becoming divided as sections of Christianity condemn the others simply because they have differing extra-moral standards.

Make no mistake, these allegations are major and need to be addressed, but there is no conceivable way in which we can blame them on the extra-moral standards of certain institutions. Fundamentalists do NOT need to be rescued by Christians on the outside, nor do Christians on the outside need to be taught how to love the Lord by fundamentalists.

But maybe you're not convinced. Maybe you can't yet wrap your head around the idea that extra-moral concerns exist that don't impact service to the Lord. It's okay if you struggle with my interpretation of Romans 14:14,
"I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean."

It's okay because regardless of where you stand on this issue, what I say today cannot be denied. Today, we set aside the controversy that I have been discussing to show the flaws in this condemnation with precepts that as far as I know, all Christians accept.

This rebuke was hinted at within my last post as well. There we saw that when we condemn others because of their standards (or for any reason at all) that we are showing the following to be true:
"Somewhere along the way we have become convinced that we are the end all of what standards are acceptable."

To be more frank, when we treat other Christians as reprobates for whatever the reason, we are elevating ourselves to the position of the Lord.

Let us not forget that we are all sinners, that we are all unworthy of the Lord accepting us or our worship. With that in mind, how can we be so quick to condemn others as unworthy because their standards are unfamiliar?

Even if you still believe there is something wrong with the standards some people hold about television, dancing, or similar things, the authority to judge such things rests solely in the hands of the Lord. As Romans 14:10-13 says, 
"But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more."

Indeed, it is not our concern or authority to condemn those around us. The Lord will judge the intentions of his servants in regards to their standards and we can't possibly begin to do so. Yet we try.

In total, we may highlight why we think other Christians have flawed standards, but we must not blame them for all of Christianity's problems, or to treat them as if they don't love the Lord or people enough.

Let's not be so quick to elevate ourselves to the status of God; we must remember that the Lord is He who plans to judge all motives of Christians.

At its core, this problem of division and condemnation in our churches today comes down to a problem of pride, with no side being innocent. We have forgotten our place in the Lord's plan. We have forgotten that we are all simply sinners saved by grace. We have forgotten that we must focus on being acceptable to the Lord ourselves and not on whether others will be accepted. We have decided we can judge our brethren based on their actions, while still remaining humble and acceptable to the Lord.

But we can't. As James 4:10-12 states,
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?"

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hold The Applause: FDR and the New Deal

Oh, we all know the story. The Great Depression was a tremendous catastrophe caused by the failures of the free market. Ultimately capitalism was saved from its failings by President Franklin Roosevelt, more commonly known as FDR. FDR's excellent proposal posed a radical shift in governmental policy in response to economic depressions. Eventually, the depression resided due to these marvelous policies.

But it's just that - a story. But even at first glance, it becomes pretty clear that this is not really what happened. After all, why would it take so long for these policies (labeled the New Deal) to make a positive difference. In all recessions prior to this point, there had been a much stronger and quicker response (the government doing nothing in these instances just in case you were wondering). In fact, Robert Murphy, Ph.D. details in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal that this recovery was the slowest in American history even until today.

Now before you all go accusing me of the post hoc fallacy, I will supply you with some causal links between Roosevelt's New Deal policies and the slower response to the American economy. At its core, Roosevelt's policies attacked the little man for the benefit of, well, no one at all.

When one wished to express the success of the New Deal, they point to Roosevelt as a hero of the little guy, how he presented opportunities for the working man to earn money to live in the harsh economy, instead of supporting big business. But Roosevelt's iron knife struck not only the big business, but also every business, especially the smaller ones.

When you regulate every aspect of how someone could run a business, big businesses will have the necessary funds to adapt to these procedures. Although they will not likely be as well off as they initially would have been, they will still be able to make a profit.

But most times, circumstances aren't quite so pleasant for a small business owner. The little guy has difficulty making a profit when the government takes away some of his creative controls. To illustrate, listen to this true story from the days of the Great Depression, told by Burton Folsom in the book, New Deal or Raw Deal? How FDR's Economic Legacy has Damaged America, 
"[Jerry] Maged had been pressing pants for twenty-two years and his low prices and quality work had kept him competitive with large tailor shops in the better parts of town. The NRA [National Recovery Administration, created in a New Deal policy] Cleaners and Dryers Code demanded that 40 cents be charged to press a suit. Maged, despite repeated warnings, insisted on charging his customers only 35 cents.... Not only was Maged thrown in jail, he was also slapped with a hundred-dollar fine."

The impact to small business is obvious. Business owners (not greedy rich business owners mind you, but rather those who are simply trying to support their families) are being threatened with jail for doing something as innocent as selling their services for a discounted rate.

Cutting out the main advantage that a small business can have over a large business is not a winning strategy for economics, nor is it looking out for the little guy. Jailing a man for disobeying regulations is akin to tyranny.

But there is another consequence to this particular event as well. The government was literally ensuring that prices remained high. FDR and his compatriots were ensuring that services were not affordable to the common man. These actions are simply unforgivable and definitely strengthened and prolonged the suffering of the American people.

But that's not even the worst thing that FDR did with the New Deal. Indeed, these actions indirectly hurt many Americans and decreased the sizes of their wallets, but from an economic standpoint, nothing could be worse than the outright theft that the Roosevelt Administration committed by taking America off the gold standard.

Now you may question how the gold standard equates with theft of the American people. To be sure, the link is not readily apparent. Nevertheless, it is there. Allow me some time to explain it.

From 1873 onward, the federal government promised the American people that in exchange for their certificates, they would be given gold. Indeed that gold the United States government possessed was given by the American people in exchange for these certificates because of this promise. In this way, the dollar we owned really could be exchanged for 1.505 grams of gold. Rather, one dollar was 1.505 grams of gold. For the sake of convenience, we had stored our gold with the federal government to exchange paper which represented the gold we owned of the government's store - gold we could withdraw at any time.

Then Roosevelt swooped in and enforced a different exchange. You give me these paper certificates which indicate the gold you own, and I will give you worthless paper that is only valuable because the government says so. In this way, Roosevelt stole gold from the American people.

Robert P. Murphy, Ph.D. expressed it quite well in his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal
"Short of herding tens of thousands of children into concentration camps - something Roosevelt also did: remember the Japanese internment camps - it would be difficult for the president to behave in a more tyrannical fashion. The gold certificates held by the public had not been gifts from the U.S. Treasury. On the contrary, they were redemption tickets for which individuals and companies had traded away actual gold, or other goods and services, because the United States government had pledged, since 1873, to surrender physical gold to anyone bearing the certificates, at the rate of $20.67 per ounce. Ordering the public to turn in the gold certificates, in exchange for Federal Reserve Notes (noticeably lacking the phrase, "PAYABLE TO THE BEARER"), was naked theft, just as surely as if President Obama ordered the public to turn in all Iphones in exchange for Blackberries. The theft would be made quite explicit when the government officially tied the dollar back to gold the following year at the rate of $35 per troy ounce, a depreciation of more than 40 percent. (Note that American citizens still could not redeem their paper currency for gold at any exchange rate.) Ordering the public to turn over its gold - under penalty of a $10,000 fine and up to ten years in prison - was clear-cut robbery." 

All of the American people were forcibly robbed of their resources, but it's all ok because we got useless paper money in return, right? I don't think so, yet many around the world, praise this and other moves by FDR as the boost the American economy needed to find its way out of the Great Depression.

But that is not the case at all. Roosevelt was not the saviour of the free market, nor the defender of the little man. On the contrary, his policies prevented the little man from competing against the larger corporations, while stealing the gold of every American citizen in the country, all under threat of incarceration. Not only was the New Deal counter-productive, it was tyrannical, stealing by threat of force. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was surely no hero.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Is Lying Always A Sin?

Imagine this: it is World War II in Germany, the Nazis are searching persistently for Jews. You know all they find will be surely tortured and then killed, as a part of "ethnic cleansing."

Your friend, David, a Jew, is looking for a place to hide. You let him come in; surely, no German would look for a Jew here. Yet this does nothing to calm anyone's nerves. You don't truly believe that this house will really save your friend and know the risk you are taking in harboring a Jew. 

Then comes the knock on the door. You know what this means. You are all doomed. You tell David to hide under a bed. Maybe we'll be lucky and they won't look there. As you open the door, your heart shivers all the more. 

On the other side is a German officer. "Are there any Jews here?" He steps aside pushing you out of the way. As he does this, you exclaim, "Yes, indeed, there is one just upstairs under the bed in the second bedroom on the right!" 

But wait, why would you do such a thing and betray your friend? Surely, you don't believe in the ethnic cleansing of the Germans. Surely, you are not so concerned with your own safety that you would see nothing wrong with subjecting David to torture! 

No, you are concerned with a little question of morality. You see, you had always been taught that lying was a sin, and could not bring yourself to break the commandment of the Lord, even to save one of his people. 

Remember morals are absolute. If God says, "Thou shalt not lie," then "Thou shalt not lie." Period. Regardless of the circumstances that come in our lives, lying would not be permissible. 

But is this really what the commandment of the Lord is? Does the Lord forbid all types of lying, regardless of the benefits thereof in a specific circumstance? 

No, the Lord see lying as permissible in certain situations. Indeed, he has even commanded people to lie to support his will. Thus, clearly, there is no commandment, of "Thou shalt not lie." 

The closest we come to such a commandment is in Exodus 20:16,
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

At first glance, this verse does seem to indicate that lying is forbidden on all accounts, yet a closer examination reveals an essential three-word phrase, "Against thy neighbour."

The Ninth Commandment exhorts us to not lie about everyone around us, to not falsely accuse others of wrongdoing. But it would be a stretch to say that this forbids lying regardless of the circumstance.

Now, I will not be going into when these circumstances exist which make lying permissible. Suffice it to say that they are extremely rare. What I would like to prove is simply that these rare situations occur.

Also note that this idea that the morality of lying is nothing new and does not indicate relative morals. Everyone of us would admit that murder is immoral; however, killing someone in self-defense is justified. The action is the same, but the morality of that action has changed by the situation. Yet no one would argue that this makes morals relative.

Surely, you think my interpretation is a bit too convenient. Lying is not inherently evil, just evil in most situations. Seems like an attempt to justify a position. But it's not.

Not that long ago, I would have fought tooth and nail that lying for any purpose was forbidden. I would have been the friend of the Jew during the Holocaust who told the Germans where they could find my friend.

But I have found that position in stark contrast to what the Lord commands. In I Samuel 16, God tells Samuel to anoint a new king over Israel, but Samuel feared Saul would kill him for these actions. The Lord commands in verses 2-3,
"And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee."

The Lord here commands Samuel to lie to cover the actions of what he is doing. If you believe that the Lord forbids lying in every circumstance, then how can you justify this action in light of that position? If lying is always a sin, then the Lord is a sinner. And that just won't do.

One may nit-pick and say that it was only a deception, as Samuel really did call a sacrifice. But this excuse holds no water. Regardless, you cannot make any such claims in regards to our next example.

It is Egypt. The Lord's people are sitting in slavery, but the Lord plans to use a man named Moses to rescue them from it and bring them to the Promised Land, never to return to Egypt again.

But that is not what the Lord wants Moses to tell Pharaoh. No, in Exodus 3:18, the Lord instructs Moses to lie,
"Thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God."

 Oh, so that means the Israelites are to come back, right? That seems to be what I was reading. Maybe I'm daft, but this seems to be a promise of a return that the Lord has no intention keeping.

The idea that any and all lying is a sin makes the Lord a sinner. Indeed, this philosophy tears apart all basis of Christianity. Lying in almost every situation is wrong. Spreading false accusations is wrong. Making lies a rule, rather than the exception is wrong.

But lying to save a Jew during the Holocaust, or delivering God's people from tyrannical rule, is not a sin.

On further thought:
Since publishing this post, the Lord has reminded me of Colossians 3:9,
"Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds."

The argument could still be made that this verse is telling Christians not to lie to other Christians. It could be sad that lying to non-Christians in order to protect God's people, which describes all my examples in my original post, is permissible, but I'm not quite sure about that. Thus, I am unsure of what implications this should have on situations like the Holocaust, which is why I still ask you to pray for me as I prayerfully find answers to these questions. And maybe you would feel compelled to discuss what you have learned in your similar mulling in this topics. I'm not against changing my mind based on sound logic, even when the logic is not mine.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Extra-Morality 2: Same Ends, Different Means

Last week, we learned that extra-moral concerns have brought about some divisions within the body of Christ. Questions such as what music is edifying to the Lord, what attire one should wear and so on, are causing confrontation.

This should come as no surprise. Indeed, in Romans 14, God confronts this very issue, albeit with different examples. Here Paul talks to the Church and discusses those issues of eating meat. His discussion of these examples culminates in our theme verse,  Romans 14:14,
"I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean."

As I mentioned last week, this revelation is incredibly scary out of context. Thus, I would like to clarify how it deals with extra-moral concerns this week by examining the context in full.

This conclusion is reached after Paul exhorts us to not condemn those who live by different standards than we do. Now I want to make it clear right now that this verse should not be used to justify sin. It must not be used as a guise to explain away things which the Bible clearly says are immoral. Remember that this applies only to that which the Bible doesn't condemn.

What it is saying is that just because someone dresses differently than you, or listens to all sorts of music, doesn't mean their relationship with the Lord is any weaker than yours. The Bible has nothing concrete to say about these issues.

But there is nothing wrong with holding yourself to a higher standard than what the Bible explicitly provides, nor is there anything wrong with finding such a high standard unnecessary. But there is something wrong when you decide to condemn others because their standards differ from you.

After all, it is up to the Lord to decide whose standards are acceptable and whose are not. Indeed, for all you know, both your standard and the opposing standard could be acceptable to God.

In fact, in Romans 14:1-4, we hear this argument,
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth he can eat all things: another who is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, and let not him that which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” 

What business do we have judging a servant of the Lord simply because they hold themselves to a different standard than we do? It is God's place, as it says, "God hath received Him."

Furthermore, the Lord goes on to say in verses 5-8,
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.”

I think we all need to remember that just because we disagree with someone on how to serve God, doesn’t mean both parties are not still serving God.

To take this into more understandable terms, say you and I are running a business. We are struggling and we both want to increase revenues. You want to put an advertisement for our service, while I think we need to concentrate on creating a better product. We disagree about how to get there, but we both want to increase the number of our clients.

Similarly, just because we disagree on how we can best glorify the Lord, we must realize that it is entirely possible for both parties to be pursuing the same end. Too often, one will look down on these different standards as being wrong, and looking at stories where people "escape from legalism," or areas where the "world has corrupted Christianity" without thinking that both could still be glorifying the Lord.

Somewhere along the way we have become convinced that we are the end all of what standards are acceptable. But this is not the case. The Lord is the judge of such things, and He finds that there are many areas where as long as we act by faith, the specific standards we apply are miniscule in our ability to glorify Him. We must be willing to accept the Lord's position on this issue; failure in this area makes us so quick to sin by condemning those around us for just about anything.

Monday, March 17, 2014

NATO, an Entangling Alliance

In his First Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson advocated,
"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

Mr. Jefferson fears that if the interests of the nation become so enshrined with out own, they may well divert resources away from our own interests, or even compromise our own national interests for the sake of another country.

He argues instead that we should offer equal friendship to all nations. Of course, nations like North Korea and Cuba will refuse said friendship, but that doesn't mean we should form an alliance with their enemies to curb a threat.

Yet with the former threat of the Soviet Union, we did just that. Indeed, the United States entered into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to keep the Soviet Union at bay. If NATO isn't an entangling alliance, then I don't think anything would ever qualify.

Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty stipulates that if there is an attack on one country in the alliance, all other countries must act as if they were the country which had been attacked. The typical argument from journalists and legal scholars alike is that this provision could bring the United States to armed conflict although NATO leaves it within the power of each individual country to decide what type of assistance it deems necessary. Nevertheless the United States would be compelled to assist in some way.

Thus, even if our national security is not at stake, or if our national security would be better served by supporting the attacking party, we must work and spend our resources to protect the interests of our ally in NATO. Jefferson would have been appalled. This is the definition of an entangling alliance, pulling us into conflicts we don't belong and letting the security of other countries, whether democratic or tyrannical, subvert our own.

This alliance has the capacity to cause us great harm. Unless of course, we have no intention of fulfilling our obligations. In which case, why do we bother to be in it in the first place? 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Joshua and the Conquest of Canaan

Joshua, the son of Nun is on a mission from the Lord. He has just crossed over Jordan to take back the land that Lord has promised to Abraham and his descendants ages ago. But of course, there are a few bumps in the road.

Now it starts out very smoothly. After crossing Jordan, Joshua receives instructions to simply walk around the city of Jericho according to certain specifications. He and the Israelites obey these strange commands, and Jericho is conquered.

But as aforetime discussed on this blog, a man by the name of Achan has disobeyed the Lord. This disobedience has kindled His anger, and He has temporarily turned His back.

As the Israelites approach the city of Ai, Joshua sends out some spies and consults with them as to the abilities of the Israelites to battle this city. The spies tell him simply in Joshua 7:3,
"And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few."

But in all this discussion, there is one person Joshua forgets to consult. It is the being he should have consulted first, but instead he is left out of the situation entirely. Joshua never asks the Lord for guidance.

This mistake costs the Israelites the battle and 36 men. Without the assistance of the Lord, the Israelites are powerless to confront the people of Ai.

Now that it has become clear that the Israelites don't have the power in and of themselves to fight their battles and that the Lord didn't fight this one, Joshua goes to the Lord in prayer. The Lord tells Joshua how to remove the accursed thing from Israel.

Joshua obeys his commands. Achan is burned to death. The Lord is set to fight for his people once again. As Joshua 8:1-2 state,
"And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land: And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it."

With the Lord's power by their side, the Israelites annihilate the children of Ai. And the power of the Lord their God is heard abroad all of Canaan.

The Gibeonites determined they didn't stand a chance against the people of Israel in battle. It was decided that their best chances of survival came from disguising themselves as travelers from a far country wishing to serve the people of the Living God. To their ears, servitude sounded better than certain death.

The plan was simple: wear old clothes, pack supplies of mouldy bread and old bottles of wine, and insist that when you left, all your provisions were new. It was a plan that could easily fool any man, but could never fool the Lord.

Yet when faced with this situation, Joshua and the other leaders of Israel again made the mistake of failing to consult the Lord. As Joshua 9:14-15 states,
"And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them."

Whoops! Here again another stumblingblock in the way of the Israelites!

Both of these situations could have well been avoided, but in both, Joshua and the leaders of Israel do not go to the Lord until AFTER they have made the mistake. This would be akin to buying a security system after a disaster strikes. Sure, it will help you with future disasters, but it fails to aid you in the disaster that passed.

Only difference is, we cannot predict natural disasters, but we are guaranteed that we will only make a problem worse if we try to handle a situation without consulting the Lord. But yet we still only seem to want to ask God to help us AFTER we have failed on our own.

How ridiculous and illogical! When faced with any situation, we must look to the Lord first. We must not wait and call out for him to handle not only the initial situation, but also the additional problem we created when we tried to handle it on our own. The lives of Joshua and the Israelites would have been much better if they had followed this simple lesson. Similarly, if we simply trusted the Lord from the get-go, asking him as soon as conflict strikes, we would avoid much difficulty.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Extra-Morality 1: Church Divisions

A battle rages in churches across America, or rather between churches across America. Denomination is up against denomination as the church divides. Why? Not any doctrinal issue, per se, but because of insignificant differences in how one should live their lives.

Neither side is without fault in this battle between legalism and radical confucianism. Of course, these terms do little to actually describe the issue properly as they are extreme labels used by either side of the issue to paint their opponents in a negative light.

To properly understand these terms then, I would like to simply say that there are decisions each Christian must make about the standards by which he lives his life. Now of course, there are some items that are not open to discussion.

The Bible forbids stealing. This means that you cannot steal and be considered right with the Lord. Morality is very black and white. What the Lord says to do, we must do, and what the Lord says not to do, we must not do.

However, there is an entire area of life that is not strictly speaking, moral or immoral. I would like to consider this gray area extra-moral, or matters of conviction.

Looking at the Bible, we find no specific commands on things like what books/movies we should watch, what clothing we should wear, or whether dancing is an appropriate activity. We will be sure to find verses, such as Philippians 4:8 which can and should guide us in these areas, but they are open to interpretation. One cannot claim that these areas have a single right and wrong answer.

In fact, I would argue (and the Bible agrees) that these issues are decisions left to individual Christians that should be made after much prayer and reflection. In fact, Romans 14:14, which will be the theme verse for this series, expresses,
“I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean to him it is unclean.”

Now don't fret about the implications that might arise about relative morals from this verse. In context, this verse is not nearly as scary as it sounds. Indeed as we study this out, you will find that this verse is discussing the extra-moral standards I mentioned above.

The example Paul uses is whether one can eat meat. This example is not as relevant today as the examples of modesty, cultural enlightenment, and dancing that I discuss above. The point of this series cannot be to decide what is extra-moral and what is not. I must focus on how we deal with people who make different decisions about these standards than we would.

After all, if these are simply decisions each individual Christian is making, there are bound to be disagreements. And there certainly have been.

The problem is these differences in decisions has led to a division in the body of Christ. People are condemned for their actions whether they choose to be very strict or very liberal in their extra-moral choices.

Both sides of the spectrum condemn the other. One man has accused his opposition of "being more concerned about being right than people."

Now, I'm all for sharing your opinion on these issues. You have a right to share why you have come to your decision about extra moral concerns, but you have no right to condemn or separate yourself from others simply because they disagree with you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ukraine: Speculation Reigns in American Media

Today, I wanted to write a post about the situation currently ongoing in Ukraine and how the United States efforts to put Russia into a box would ultimately play out. However, I have found little solid backing to make any speculation about this.

Yet I still find all sorts of speculation about the consequences of the actions. We already have articles discussing how inevitable World War III is....if Russia responds one particular way to the United States response to the Russian response to the events that are just now transpiring, of course! 

The harsh reality is that geopolitics is too complicated on this matter to be able to accurately predict. Those who try should not be a blogger or a simple journalist, but a highly-qualified (and I imagine equally high in salary) expert after doing much research on the topic. 

You see there seems to be this problem in the media. Somewhere along the way, it has become more important to simply say something than to share truth. It's probably because just reporting the same information that has already been shared is not exactly a highly marketable product. 

But does this excuse this activity? Of course not! It simply explains why this is the case. 

This is not what journalism should be. Journalism should be letting the evidence lead you, and if the evidence leads nowhere, then find a different topic to write about. For instance, when I found inadequate information for proper analysis on Ukraine, I found a different topic (for the most part). 

Since the media holds so much power, they have a responsibility to inform the people with integrity and not just provide blatant speculation for the sake of marketing to the people. 

Yet we all know better. The media will not in the near future change their protocol to honest reporting. Until the miraculous happens, we as citizens must examine all the analysis presented and evaluate the evidence therein. 

If we don't, we will fall prey to believing that Russia will cause World War III by attacking the United States after the United States enters the battle in Ukraine because of Russia's invasion, etc., etc, etc. If the dominoes start to fall, the press must examine the implications, but right now there are too many possibilities to consider. The press should focus any speculation on what Russia's response to will be, not the chain reactions it could cause. 

Let's not stress ourselves over all 9,673 possibilities (a rough estimate) that could come from this situation. As great Star Wars philosopher Qui-Gon Jinn said, 
"Until the possible become actual, it is only a distraction."

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thou Shalt Not Tempt the Lord thy God

In Matthew 4, Satan confronts Jesus while He is at one of his weakest points. He was at the end of a 40-day fast and was "an hungered." As the devil begins to tempt the Jesus here, He continues to quote the Old Testament Scripture to show Satan how wrong those actions would be.

In Matthew 4:5-7, we hear one such of these exchanges,
"Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

I have heard several people call this verse here a rebuke for Satan and telling him to stop tempting him, but I don't see it that way for two reasons. First, it doesn't fit in the context of the chapter. Every other time in this chapter that Jesus quotes scripture he is showing that what the devil wants him to do is wrong, so why do we not expect so this time?

Second, when Jesus tells demons (or even the devil) to do something they do it. He has that power and authority over them. Jesus is able to cast out demons in the maniac at Gadara because they listen to his voice. Yet here in this section of Scriptures, after the Lord says these words, Satan continues to tempt the Lord with power (that you know, Jesus already has). Indeed, in Matthew 4:10-11, Jesus tells Satan to leave, and Satan does.
"Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."

Thus, the interpretation that this is a rebuke of Satan's temptation doesn't hold much water. But that leaves the question, what is the Lord actually saying in this verse. It would be wise to remind ourselves once again of the context of this verse.

The devil has asked Jesus to cast himself down unnecessarily for seemingly no reason at all, except he can because the angels will protect him from injury or harm. Jesus' reply, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord the God" is indicative of a reason why this is flawed, but what is that reason? Why would casting Himself down tempt the Lord?

The easiest way to answer that is to look at the context of the Old Testament verse the Lord is quoting here. After all, Jesus is not going to abuse the verse for a use other than He originally intended it to be used.

The verse is found in Deuteronomy 6:16,
"Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah."

If we are then to know what this verse is telling us, we must look at what the Israelites did in Massah. (I do have a point, I swear!) Massah is what Moses called the place where the Israelites first received water from a rock. From Exodus 17:2-7,
"Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?"

It's still unclear to me what the Israelites did here to tempt the Lord; thus, I have enlisted the help of Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible,
"The meaning of this is not, Therefore thou must not tempt me; but, Therefore I must not tempt my Father...If Christ should cast himself down, it would be the tempting of God. As it would be requiring a further confirmation of that which was so well confirmed. Christ was abundantly satisfied that God was already his Father, and took care of him... and therefore to put it upon a new experiment, would be to tempt him... If we expect that because God has promised not to forsake us, therefore he should follow us out of the way of our duty; that because he has promised to supply our wants, therefore he should humour us, and please our fancies; that because he has promised to keep us, we may wilfully thrust ourselves into danger, and may expect the desired end, without using the appointed means; this is presumption, this is tempting God."

The Israelites fell into this trip at Massah. They found themselves tempting the Lord by "requiring a further confirmation." They had seen enough miracles to know that Jesus would supply their need, but their faith still did not hold. They faltered. They tempted the Lord by asking for further confirmation that the Lord was among them.

Similarly, Satan is asking Jesus to prove to Himself and the rest of the world that God is his Father. He questions, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down." The devil asks Jesus to look for a greater sign of his Lordship.

We must be careful not to fall into this trap ourselves. We cannot fail to trust the Lord and ask for further signs and confirmation of his providence. Yet that is how we fill our lives. Everytime we fail to step out on faith, we are tempting the Lord.

Additionally, Satan asks Jesus to purposefully and unnecessarily put himself in danger because the Lord will protect him. Matthew Henry argues what I always thought, that this is a reckless act of presumption - of temptation of the Lord. Matthew Henry also said,
"The promise is, They shall keep thee; but how? In all thy ways; not otherwise; if we go out of our way, out of the way of our duty, we forfeit the promise, and put ourselves out of God’s protection....If Christ had cast himself down, he had been out of his way, for he had no call so to expose himself. It is good for us upon all occasions to consult the scriptures themselves, and not to take things upon trust,...This promise is firm, and stands good; but the devil made an ill use of it, when he used it as an encouragement to presume upon the divine care. Note, It is no new thing for the grace of God to be turned into wantonness; and for men to take encouragement in sin from the discoveries of God’s good will to sinners. But shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? throw ourselves down, that the angels may bear us up? God forbid."

Thus, we must not rely upon the Lord to protect us in ways that are not needful for the spread of the Gospel.

Here we have two extremes shown in one temptation of Satan, and we must work to avoid both of them. We must not rest too little in the Lord's protection, or too much. That balance is difficult to find, and when I figure out what it is, I will tell you. :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Doctrines of the Christian Faith Addendum

I expressed within this series how one can receive eternal life. I made it a point to stress that this is by faith and not by works. We must simply accept by faith what Jesus has done, but nothing we can do will ever grant us salvation.

However, I did not discuss some alternative viewpoints or the negligent impacts that this can provide if used in the incorrect context. It would be wise for me to at least briefly discuss some of those here.

The Proper Place of Baptism

Baptism is not a part of Salvation. Sure, there are metaphors about baptism and eternal life, but this is talking about a baptism of the spirit and not a baptism of water. Observe John 1:32-33,
"And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."

So what is the purpose of the baptism by water that John did (and we emulate today)? It is a step of obedience, a symbol of the change that God has worked within you, and a commitment to obey the Lord in what He wished you to do.

As an extension, without a relationship with the Lord (salvation), you have no reason to commit to obey Him in everything, or show what change He has wrought within you (because He hasn't yet); thus, baptism comes after Salvation.

Those who believe in infant's baptism either are caught up in Catholic tradition, believe that baptism is a part of salvation, or view it as a commitment to raise their children in a godly manner. The latter I can understand, but I don't see much scripture to support it. 

Faith Without Works is Dead

I have made the point often in this series, that salvation is a gift and not of works. This may may lead some to question, so why try to live a good life after one becomes saved?

It is true that nothing we can do can establish a relationship with the Lord. Thus, we need faith and calling upon the Lord to establish a relationship to salvation.

However, just as you wouldn't expect a relationship with a person you meet on the street to last very long if efforts were not made to strengthen the relationship; if you desire to strengthen your relationship with the Lord, you would need to put in more effort.

Thus, faith without works leads to a "dead" relationship, in that although it will always be there, it will not develop into anything meaningful. Good for securing your eternity; not good for peace and comfort in your temporal life.

Additionally, in Romans 6, Paul explains simply,
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

Monday, March 3, 2014

In Case You Missed It...

Cue the confetti!! So, this is the fiftieth post on this little blog! I thought I would celebrate by giving a post of some of my best posts. (I swear this has nothing to do with how great this could be at promoting said blog to those who have not read it as a more approachable way of catching up...ok, fine, it has much to do with that.) But don't worry, I hope to make this post interesting for the committed reader as well.

I will examine five posts today. I wanted to include more, but that would make it less approachable to the new reader. Thus, I will not mention "The Story of Achan: Patience in the Lord," "Why Reading the Bible Makes Me More Libertarian," "Bastiat's Conundrum: Communication is Key to Engaging Society," or "Apologetics Series 7: Day of Rest/Reflection." These were some of the others in the running for today's best posts.

But before I do the countdown, I thought it would be beneficial to share a little bit about why this very blog exists in the first place.

The Beginning

As hopefully a lot of you know, this is not the first website I have run. I started out running a website called Human Scavengers, which highlighted the fact that certain companies were using aborted fetal cells in the manufacturing of their products. Due to no part of my efforts, this problem has largely become mute. But it doesn't matter that I was unsuccessful as long as the Lord found someone to be, right? 

My first post, "When Government is the Answer" was originally written for the Human Scavengers website. Several members of my family informed me that I should start writing more blog posts for the site. 

I thought about it and I saw the logic behind such a move. Without going to a college campus this year, I would not be getting much opportunity to write essays. I did not want to lose this skill set because of a lack of practice. Thus, I thought about writing more regularly on my Human Scavengers blog. However, there wasn't enough to say about this topic to keep a blog going. Thus, I started this blog with a broader purpose of teaching Biblical teachings about life, politics, and philosophy. 

And that, my friends, is why we are here: to allow me to collect my thoughts and keep my writing in practice. I'm glad you've come along for the ride, and I hope you have enjoyed it. 

5. It Pleased The Lord

As I say in the post, this post is not for the faint of heart. It was definitely the most  distressing and emotional post I have written for this post. My intention with the post was simple enough. I had found from the teachings of one of my Sunday School teachers (10th grade) that when you heard all that transpired on the cross, it was convicting. I knew this had convicted me, and I expected it would do the same to others. Thus, all I wanted to do was show the torture that occurred, and let God take care of the rest. Writing about the torture was still no easy task as you know, it's torture. Even when I read it now, tears threaten to release themselves. I need to remind myself of the contents of this post often as I go through my life.

4. Love Is Deeper than Chocolate

A much more mild depiction of the sacrifice Jesus made and what that means to us. This is a very simple and straightforward piece. In fact, it took two people commenting on how they liked it for me to understand that it actually held more power in it than I first thought. This truly has nothing to do with me.

You see, when I wrote this post, I was a little sad that I had decided to follow the mold of actually talking about a holiday in posts as the holiday came by. Thus, I started with a lot of odd jokes. I had no intention of using those jokes as a specific avenue of discussion of something deeper, but the Lord allowed me to write a transition that made everything seem so purposeful. It really is quite dramatic and makes for one interesting post with a nice hook and follow through.

3. Ignorance isn't Bliss, It's Carlisle

This is the pride and joy of my political posts. Some may have better analysis; others better communication, but this one expresses a topic that we all need to hear. It is a call to all Christians to stay informed on politics and educate themselves on what proper political philosophy is. If there is one post that illustrates what the purpose of my politics posts is in general, it is this one.

Did I mention it discusses Doctor Who? You know that makes it absolutely fantastic in and of itself. This truly was the hook that I would hope would bring more people into reading this post and then be trapped into feeling guilty for their apathy! Mwahahahaha!

More seriously, we as Christians need to be more interested in what goes on in the world because at any moment, we could lose our religious freedom. That would make witnessing opportunities more scarce. While it is certainly true that God could work through such a situation as well as any other, we cannot look to God to bail us out when we don't fulfill our obligations to be educated citizens of the populace and fight for the Lord in politics as much as we do in other areas of life.

2. Micah and His Levite: Progression of Idolatry

The most recent post on this here list is also one of the best organized. Although I typically just write out what I wish to say as if I was in a middle of a conversation (my outlining skills therefore might be the ones I still lose despite this blog), this one had a more specific structure (some posts in the Apologetics series also required such structure).

This post explores a problem many people in the Christian walk have, including me myself. They decide they will serve the Lord with their own devices. The story of Micah from Judges 17-18 provides an intriguing study into how in order to serve God, we have to die to ourselves completely. Yes, it sounds generic, but trust me, it is worth your time.

1. Joseph, Levites, and Vows: God's Will for My Life

The top two blog posts do indeed both have the name, "Levite" in them. Thanks for noticing. 

This is a complete coincidence, I can assure you. 

The weakness of the title in general doesn't change the fact this was a difficult post to decide to write. Once the decision was made, it flowed relatively smoothly (except I kept getting ahead of myself). 

This is the most important post I have ever written with information about my personal walk with the Lord taken from my Sermon Notes Journal, my Sermon Preparation Journal, and my Devotional Journal (I keep a lot of journals). Unlike most devotional posts, it doesn't leave you with some convicting message because it is about me answering to a conviction more than anything else. It really was a wonderful blessing to share what the Lord was doing in my life with my readers.