Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Could you be a Daniel?

Daniel to me is such an inspiring character in the Bible. He was clearly a man of character and not afraid to do what was right - no matter what. I am inspired at his convictions to continue to pray knowing the edict that was pronounced against it. He belonged to the Lord and was not afraid of what proclaiming that relationship might bring. He really laid his life on the line for his convictions. He inspires me to do the same in my walk with the Lord.

I was considering this week how from the very start of his assignment in the king's palace he defined boundaries for himself and God honored his stand by giving him favor with the eunichs of the palace. Daniel and the group of Israelites selected for the king's indoctrination program to train to be the king's ambassadors to the nation of Israel stood firm. Daniel and his three friends were so discerning to realize the dangers that accepting the bounty from the kings coffers. Daniel saw that while there was no law against eating meat, that there was grave danger of becoming defiled and entrenched in the world's value system.

If Daniel had taken from the bounty offered, he may have succomed to temptation if at a later date the king used his bounty to manipulate the Israelite young men into doing his bidding. Daniel's sense of guarding God's reputation even in the midst of captivity was so great that he saw the potential danger. He and his friends requested that they be exempt from the kings table and that they would be given a vegan diet with water to drink. What a bold move on the part of Daniel and what wisdom to see that gifts from this king would bring with it expectations that may compromise their witness!

I think that today we have countless situations facing Christians where we too are faced with the challenges of remaining holy in a fallen world. In particular, I think about some of the stimulus packages and government regulation being passed by government under the guise of "helping" Americans. Certainly, getting you to spend all your money helps the government. It keeps the economy moving and allows jobs to remain in place. In the last recession when we had a huge housing bubble, the recession was mitigated by American's propensity to consume. We are a consumer nation and because so many were willing to refinance their debt into low cost mortgages and take on even more debt by either taking out equity for spending, home projects or just rolling credit card debt on to the house.

Now, several years later, are we really better off having taken the risk and playing the part that the government expected? Do we honestly believe that the stimulus money which is a combination of increased debt and just plain printed money (hence degrading the purchasing power of the wealth you have) is going to lift us out of recession and restore us to the consumer nation that we used to be?

As Christians, I think we need to be very careful about what our goals are. Do we live to build wealth, enjoy family and friends, build a career and then retire to leisure in our golden years or is our goal to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with our lives and bring glory to Him here on earth? Daniel got it; he treasured holiness above personal gain. Daniel didn't take the king's bait.

In the years to come, if the Lord tarries, I believe we will see even greater challenges and likewise opportunities to shine as lights in a dark world. We will be offered opportunity after opportunity to compromise and to take the easy way. It may come in the form of stimulus and incentives or it may be pressure to remain silent in the face of evil. The question each of us must answer is will we take the bait?

Shine brightly my friends that the Lord may receive honor and glory for you know your riches are in Heaven - like Daniel's.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Healthcare for all?

Throughout the nation we have had town hall after town hall with citizens gravely concerned about the prospect of increasing government involvement in our health care system. I am not suggesting that there are no issues with our health care. It is truly expensive for several reasons as I see:

1. Technology advancements have increased the quality of health care that can be provided to citizens. Twenty years ago we wouldn't have had the option of MRI's or 3-D ultra sounds. The options available to really zero in on the cause of a health issue are tremendous. With the advancements come costs.

2. Government credentialing of our pharmaceutical industry has made the cost of testing and proving the viability of drugs more costly than virtually any other nation on the planet. But we also have to admit that this vigilance has also provided us one of the safest drug cafeterias available as well.

3. Because of the great care we have received through the years, people live longer and hence require medical care for a lifetime that has longer years than ever.

4. The legal community has encouraged frivolous law suits. Is it any wonder that doctors need to charge more for their services just to be able to afford the insurance they need to protect themselves from litigation. That is assuming that the doctors remain in the specialties they originally chose. It is getting more risky to practice medicine on live people better to move into working on cadavers.

5. In general, we like to blame other people for our problems and are not particularly willing to take responsibility for our own health issues and invest the cost and effort to adopt a healthily lifestyle to keep ourselves healthy and avoid the need for medical involvement.

I think that the more we look to government to solve our personal problems whether it be our financial affairs, home ownership or our health issues, the more likely we are to take our eyes off our Father in Heaven to care for us and to avoid our responsibility to be good stewards.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to care for the poor and the widows, but that is a matter of obedience but I don't think that it is a matter for government control. This week I participated in a National Project Homeless Connect held in Norfolk where hundreds and hundreds of volunteers came together to minister to the needs of the homeless. Many took vacation time to come and serve people in need. I was encouraged because of the large number of people who came voluntarily out of compassion for those in need. Medical, Optometry and Dental services were provided as well as Social Service agencies and non profits offered everything from food stamps, Social Security, Employment, housing legal aid to haircuts. Corporate gifts were given to provide for shoes, clothing, and personal hygiene products for take aways. The homeless were fed and virtually any need articulated was compassionately addressed.

The legislators would have you believe that people are dying because of their inability to provide for healthcare needs, but this outreach convinces me that in the United States we not only have the best healthcare available but also the most compassionate. Throughout human history there have always been people in need and there will always be until the Lord returns to assume his millenial reign.

Until then there will be lots of opportunity for Christians to witness to the less fortunate by being compassionate and generous. Take the challenge of reaching out to someone less fortunate than you today!

God bless you as you seek God's eternal mission for your life.