August 9, 2007
Israel is rapidly being painted into a very tight corner by a militant Iran. According to Dwight Pryor, freshly returned from Israel, the outlook for that tiny nation is bleak indeed. Reports Pryor: "The Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence reported its assessment this month that Iran's technological capabilities have accelerated to the point that they will be capable of producing nuclear weapons within the next six to twelve months -- far sooner than US and EU estimates -- and an operational warhead by mid-year 2009.
Continues Pryor, "After consultations with NATO and EU officials, Israel's leaders are now convinced that they must 'go it alone' against Iran. The same sober reality is emerging with respect to the US -- namely that President Bush and the US Congress will not intervene militarily against Iran" (Havarim Update, August 2007).
If Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons, it will almost certainly use them in an attempt to annihilate Israel, as it has often threatened to do. Additionally, a nuclear-armed Iran will then have the power to use nuclear blackmail on any nation in the region, with the exception of Pakistan, which is also a nuclear power.
Iran's leaders have already served notice as to what they intend to do. They seek hegemony through the Middle East: the destruction of Israel; control of the region's oil, and a Shiite Caliphate. Should they succeed in fulfilling any of these goals, they will then seek, as did Hitler, more lebensraum -- living room. Ruled by religious thugs, to whom human life -- including their own -- means nothing, no amount of barbarism would be considered excessive.
The United States, or Russia for that matter, could stop Iran from furthering its ambitions. But do they have the political will? I think not. If President Bush had more support at home and in Europe, he might be emboldened to act. Right now, though his approval figures have improved slightly, he's still in a lame duck mode.
As has long been the case, Russia is supportive of Israel's enemies, and of those who oppose the US. The UK is pulling out of Iraq ahead of schedule, thanks to its new PM. The former PM, Tony Blair, is practicing shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East in what might well turn out to be another exercise in futility.
Israel's survival as a nation is once again at stake. It may be forced to act alone to diffuse the Iranian threat -- and that at a time when Israel is cursed with weak or corrupt leadership. If Israel preemptively attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, we can be sure the entire Middle East will become a boiling cauldron. If the attack is successful, nations like Saudi Arabia may heave a sigh of relief for they are as much a target of Iran as is Israel.
Watch closely what happens in Iran and in Israel over the next few critical months. --Brian Knowles
July 13, 2007
The Greatest Wonder
The great Christian thinker and apologist of the last century, G. K. Chesterton, observed:
The world will never starve for want of wonders,
but only for want of wonder.
The world is jam packed with wonders of nature everywhere you look—including your own backyard. Every summer millions will visit our national parks—Great Smoky Mountain, North Cascades, Bryce Canyon, King’s Canyon, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc—and marvel at the natural beauty. The wonder of the creation will move some to praise God for his imagination, creative brilliance, and artistry. Others, will just see a pretty scene not appreciating it as a wonder of the God-created order. Such ambivalent people are starved of wonder and their attitude borders on blasphemy, at least in my opinion.
Then there are the wonders of man’s creation. The Seven Wonders of the ancient world have been long eclipsed by the works of modern man—his millions and millions of inventions and products, his roads, skyscrapers, machines, water, land and sea vehicles, electronics, science and software. The human brain is a marvel and to realize that it (we) take our design from the Image of God. Now that is a wonder!
The wonders recorded in Scripture, however, are of another kind from those observed in nature, or at the gifted hand of man. Wonders figure quite prominently in the Old and New Testaments and represent special displays of a supernatural sort: the plagues upon Egypt; the parting of the Red Sea; a non-consumed burning bush; fire from heaven; healings, raising of the dead; manna, feeding thousands from a few loaves of bread, etc. The NT does not use the normal Greek word for “miracles” (thauma), but other Greek words are used which in modern translations are usually rendered “signs,” or “wonders.” They are also called the “mighty works of God,” or in Latin, “Magnalia Dei” — the magnificent wonders of God.
There are some in the Christian community that are always seeking after “signs and wonders” which to them might be speaking in “unknown tongues” or some churchy, charismatic, often highly emotional, ecstasy. I find most of these weak imitations of what we find in Scripture. In fact, seeking after “signs,” according to Jesus, is the opposite of what the righteous should be doing.
But please note: There is a wonder of the first magnitude taking place daily in the lives of millions. Most on earth are either ignorant of it or choose to ignore it. I speak of the transformation of the human spirit into the Image of God, or as Paul put it, the Mind of Christ. Jesus was in the perfect image of Yahweh, the Heavenly Father. His mind was thoroughly converted from man’s normally selfish, fleshly mind into a spiritual mind like unto His Father’s. To have the Mind of Christ is to have God’s virtues of character—love, kindness, mercy, and justice. It is to share God’s purposes, to want what he wants for us and for the world. It is to have God’s world view instead of that offered by a darkened society whose ignorance masquerades as enlightenment and wisdom.
This process of transformation is a wonder beyond the power of words to describe. It is what God has been working at from eternity and for Him it is Job One. God transforming man, with man’s willing consent and wholehearted cooperation, into His mental and spiritual image is a wonder beyond wonders! How can it be? I know not. The power of God—God’s Holy Spirit—is required and active at every stage of this transformational wonder.
This great wonder of conversion is not something that can be put on a church reader-board to boost Sunday attendance. It is a wonder quietly taking place in the daily lives of millions. It is taking place in your life if you have yielded it to God. Only when this transformation becomes universal will we have a new world of happiness and peace. It happens individual by individual--changing selfish humans into people pure in spirit. Think about it. Be in wonder of it. It is more spectacular than Niagara Falls, the Aurora Borealis, the innumerable galaxies, or any of the marvelous creatures that fill our earth.
Of this mightiest of God’s mighty works, let us not be, as G. K. Chesterton wrote, “want of wonder.” -- Ken Westby
June 16, 2007
Understanding the Issues
Getting accurate, objective information on any issue in this country is becoming more and more challenging. So much of what we receive through the Press and Media is forced through ideological filters. This often results in revisionist history, propaganda, politically correct blather, and partisan manipulation. If we want to know the facts about anything, we have to sift through both right and left wing agenda-driven Press and Media outputs.
I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t trust most newspapers or television outlets to tell me the unvarnished truth about anything. Instead, we get fragmentary sound bites, slanted language, biased coverage and misaligned priorities. Editors have been replaced by spin doctors. What’s happening in Gaza may be found on page 32 of section B in the newspaper in a 1-inch column, while Paris Hilton’s antics grab front page headlines. Anna Nicole Smith has been dead for some time, but her story seems immortal.
Where are we going to turn to understand the issues? One place is talk radio. Granted, most of the popular talk radio hosts are conservative in orientation. Michael Savage is a right wing flame thrower who often makes valid points despite his inflammatory approach. Rush Limbaugh is as much an entertainer as a commentator, and he focuses mainly on political issues. Dennis Prager is my personal favorite talk show host, partially because he’s not afraid to address moral concerns. His “Ultimate Issues” segment on Tuesdays is most interesting.
Michael Medved has long been my favorite movie reviewer, but I also like some of his comments on “pop culture” too. He’s death on conspiracy theories, especially the one about a North American union, which you can read all about on www.Worldnetdaily.com. Medved often sounds arrogant to me, yet he helps clarify some issues. I like his values.
Bill O’Reilly sometimes seems like a right-wing, left-wing, middle-of-the-roader. I don’t think of him as a true conservative and he’s certainly not a “secular progressive.” He’s big on justice. He likes to fight for those who have experienced injustice at the hands of our sometimes corrupt or incompetent legal system.
These and other talk show hosts like Sean Hannity give us perspective. When he and Alan Combes go at it, you can see both sides of an issue. Talk radio performs a vital service in the context of freedom of political and religious speech – something some people would like to shut down in this country.
One opponent of talk radio, apparently, is Trent Lott, the Republican Senate Whip who recently said, “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem,” (New York Times, June 15, 2007).
Lott is well known for “foot-in-mouth disease.” Whether this was a simple gaff or not remains to be seen. The idea of “dealing with the problem” of talk radio could be ominous. Lott is already taking heat for it. He may wind up back peddling, saying his comments were taken out of context, or misunderstood. Point is: he considers talk radio to be a “problem” and that fact is worth noting.
Because of the blatant leftist bias of the Establishment Media, we need a full spectrum of reporting and commentary to understand the complex issues of our times. That includes newspapers, television stations, radio, magazines, web blogs (blogs like this one), newsletters, journals and public speeches at universities. Good investigative reporting that is balanced and non-partisan has fallen on hard times these days. Straight news on television, in newspapers, and on the radio is rare. Most of it is given a spin, a slant or a bias. President Bush is not perfect, but he has become the “Scapegoat of the Year.” He’s blamed for everything from Paris Hilton’s troubles to the melting polar ice caps on Mars.
Disinformation, misinformation, and outright lies, are rampant in today’s world of news and analysis. The Global Warming panic has been defined by some as the “Hoax of the Century.” Of course the century is only seven years old and we’ll undoubtedly see many more hoaxes before it’s over with. Behind many of these will be the drive for political power.
The urge to power is, in my opinion, what’s behind the current flap over an immigration bill. The Left will, if it is successful, create something like a one-party system in this country. Some 12 million Democrats will suddenly be added to the voting lists. Over time, their families will move into the country, further swelling the list on the left. Secular socialism, here we come.
Trent Lott notwithstanding, I think it is vital that people across the political spectrum fight to keep our Constitutional freedoms alive: freedom of political and religious speech and expression, the right to bear arms, property rights and other rights. All are in danger of being eroded or overturned by the Left. Though it’s not in the Constitution, we are also losing our right to privacy. Identity theft is a growing threat. Computer hacking is reaching new levels of sophistication. Search engines like Google keep people’s information for up to 18 months and develop detailed profiles of those who use their service. Ostensibly, this is all for marketing purposes, but if government agencies find ways to extract and capture this kind of information on citizens, it could help move us closer to a Big Brother society.
In our time, information is political currency. Information is power. To lack information on issues of vital personal concern is to be powerless. The idea of giving others, who do not have my best interests at heart, power over my life, is terrifying. I don’t want to become a micromanaged pawn of some authoritarian regime that monitors my every move. As much as possible, I want to remain in life’s driver’s seat. I don’t want Trent Lott or anyone else in Washington telling me that I can’t listen to radio talk shows of any political stripe. --Brian Knowles.
May 1, 2007
April 25, 2007
April 16, 2007
March 3l, 2007
The High Cost of Lawyers
If ever there was a nation of laws, we live in it. The United States tax code alone is tens of thousands of pages long (the last figure I heard was 67,000 pages) – and that’s only one category of laws. For all the kinds of law, there must be lawyers and for the most part, they don’t come cheap.
“Economists have long understood that America’s tort system acts as a serious drag on the economy,” write authors Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hoavannes Abramyan, who have just published a new book entitled Jackpot Justice: The True Cost of America’s Tort System. The authors “…believe America’s tort system imposes a total cost on the U.S. economy of $865 billion per year. This constitutes an annual ‘tort tax’ of $9,827 on a family of four,” (Wall Street Journal, “The Tort Tax,” March 27, 2007).
According to McQuillan and Abramyan, litigation transfers wealth, changes behavior and results in economic nonproductivity. One place where this is painfully true is in the area of health care. Fear of litigation, they say, causes doctors to engage in expensive defensive medicine. That means they run all kinds of tests they may feel are unnecessary, but if they don’t run them, a patient could sue them for what they didn’t find. Furthermore, malpractice insurance is horrendously expensive, and the cost of premiums is passed on to patients in one form or another. “PricewaterhouseCoopers calculates that medical liability concerns increase annual health care spending by $124 billion in 2006 dollars which must be added to any comprehensive estimate of litigation costs” (ibid.).
Recently, we visited our tax lady. I made a comment that our claim for medical costs – mostly dental – were the highest they’d ever been. She replied, “Your costs are nothing – I had someone in here the other day who claimed $90,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs for the year.” To us, that is a staggering amount of money. Staggering amounts of money to us are chump change to many trial lawyers. The authors write: “…if you’re wondering who the victims are of a tort system out of control, the answer today: almost everyone.”
Reform of the nation’s tort system is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Guess why? Many of our lawmakers are lawyers who aren’t likely to legislate against their own interests. Tort reform bills often wind up in committees that kill them before they ever get to the floor for a vote. And even if they did get to the floor, they’d be voted down because of the number of lawyers among the Gang of 535 and in state legislatures. If the electorate would stop electing so many lawyers to high office, tort reform bills might have a chance. If you want to learn more, check out Jackpot Justice. It was released March 27. --BK
March 1, 2007
Adultery and Mountain Climbing
Here in the great Pacific Northwest it seems that every winter (and sometimes in summer) we are treated to dramatic rescue stories of mountain climbers. Sometimes the climbers are rescued alive, as was the case of two women and a man brought down from Oregon's Mt. Hood two weeks ago; sadly, a few weeks earlier three climbers perished and their bodies remain buried in snow and may not be recovered for years. Rescuing climbers in distress always involves dozens of others who must risk their own lives in the effort. Most are volunteer climbers, brave and compassionate, who quickly mobilize to save their fellow climbers. Unfortunately, there are many examples of rescuers dying in the process when their helicopters crash or by also being overcome by the dangers of the mountain.
I've always thought it was selfish and stupid to cause others to risk their lives because you got yourself in trouble while seeking the thrills of a dangerous activity. Why do people do these high risk activities like winter mountain climbing? They will tell you it is the thrill of it. A thrill enhanced by the presence of danger. It is walking on the edge of life with the ever present possibility of losing it. The experience is intensified by the very real possibility of getting caught...getting dead. I'm not a mountain climber, but I've talked to many who are and read the stories of some of the great and famous climbers. Sure, I admire their conditioning, guts, tenacity and their quest for a challenge. But in the end it is all about the self, personal gratification and pride. Fine. But their personal pursuit of thrills isn't done in a vacuum. Others may be asked to risk their lives for the climber's thrill of walking on the edge. I see it as quite selfish, hedonistic, indulgent, and rash. Are there not safer ways to experience the thrills of living? I expect some readers will disagree with my assessment.
Adultery has a lot in common with dangerous mountain climbing. Adulterers will confess that a major attraction for their trysts is the ever present danger of being caught. It is walking on the edge. It is secret, forbidden, and could potentially destroy one's life and career if caught. Many an adulterer has been caught and as a result has lost his/her mate, family, job, home, friends, and respect. Given the dangers, why would anyone commit adultery? Why would anyone climb a dangerous mountain in winter? It is a quest for selfish passion, physical gratification, and the thrill of it--a thrill intensified by the risk and dangers involved.
Of course, adultery is a moral sin and dangerous mountain climbing is not. But both practitioners share a disregard for the serious consequences of their self-centered actions. The world is full of dangers and most of us pray to be delivered or protected from those dangers. Life may present us occasions to boldly face off dangers in order to save a life or to stand up for a righteous cause, or to defend our country in time of war. Those occasions usually come to us, we don't go out looking for them. An egotist goes looking for dangerous activities to extract his selfish thrills; he thinks first of himself and then thinks of himself second. --Ken Westby
February 9, 2007
True Believers -- a Curse or a Blessing?
True believers following evil ideologies such as communism, fascism, and Islamo-fascism brought about the deaths of over one hundred million people in the past century. In 1951 Eric Hoffer wrote The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. He wrote of the fanatical faith of true believers willing to sacrifice their lives for a perceived holy cause. Such men, he explained, were frustrated with the conditions of their own societies and desperately seeking change. They were quite willing to trade freedom for obedient submission to charismatic leaders. Often these leaders were cunningly evil men with a capacity for passionate hatred, a grasp of human nature, and a belief that they possessed the one and only truth. Names like Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot come to mind and are now joined by a modern crop of despots joining their number.
Hoffer identified several factors that bond the true believers and their leaders, including the gain in self-esteem for switching from a self-centered life to one of selflessness, and the loss of burdensome personal responsibility for their deeds in exchange for the more ambiguous group liability. Hoffer said the true believer's use of terror was aimed to hurt an enemy, intensify faith in the cause, and create martyrs whose acts would stir others to join. The self-taught American scholar-philosopher could see all this in 1951 when he wrote his book.
Such destructive mass movements like those mentioned above can only be stopped, Hoffer warned, by ruthless and persistent action waged from a spiritual base, or by substitution of one mass movement for another. The utopian or dystopian ideologies that murder millions must be defeated by faith of a different sort. Evil belief must be countered by passionate faith in good, or to put it plainly, faith in God. Where is the mass movement needed to stand up to the destructive, murderous fanatics bent on killing Westerners, thwarting democracy, and attacking Judeo-Christian faith and culture? Judeo-Christian faith is the only mass movement that has the potential to defeat the threat to civilization. Unfortunately, it is confused, passionless, full of self doubt. and unable to provide a strong substitute for the passionate radicals. The Judeo-Christian faith also lacks, and traditionally eschews, any charismatic leader calling for victory over the forces of chaos.
The twenty-two semi-feudal Arab states and worldwide Islam are spawning enemies like mosquitoes hatching from a scum pond on a hot day. These radicals are aided by traditional enemies China and Russia who want to see the West and especially the USA dethroned as the world's superpower. Many idiotic Americans seem to share this radical dream fueled to a large degree by their dislike of Christianity and capitalistic freedom.
President Harry Truman once said, "If you want a new idea, read an old book." Never has our world been in greater need of a new idea for peace and happiness than now. It seems the words of Isaiah were made for our time: “The way of peace they do not know.” Rebellion and sin against God don’t mix with peace. Righteousness produces true peace—personal and national. Sin, on the other hand, only produces injustice, suffering, unhappiness, and war.
What our world needs isn’t more UN resolutions, political correctness, trendy notions of “tolerance,” or peace conferences chaired by atheists and anti-Christians. These anti-God ideologues have no answer to the problem of evil, the selfish and downward pull of human nature, nor to the emptiness of the human heart yearning for an uplifting, eternal purpose in life. It is time for the world to “read an old book.”
The world’s most widely distributed and least headed “old book” is the Bible. It is the story of God, man, and eternity. It describes who God is, his love, character, power, and that he is our Maker and Savior. It tells of the origin and purpose of man who was lovingly made in God’s image and God’s expectations that man live righteously following His Son’s example. The Bible makes plain that man is destined to live eternally with his Maker. Man, of course, is responsible to make positive life decisions in moving Godward toward God’s gift of eternal life.
Eric Hoffer had it right. What is needed is a mass movement of righteousness to defeat evil. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God. He characterized it as "good news" or "the Gospel," which means the good news of the coming reign of God. True Christianity is the vanguard of that movement. When Christ returns he will bring peace, end war, ignorance, and destruction. May thy Kingdom soon come! Help us to be faithful to it...and true believers. --Ken Westby (Sources: Isaiah 59:8; The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 16, Number 3)
February 7, 2007
Sighting In Life
You hit what you aim at . . . if you’re really serious about it. Speaking spiritually, at what are you aiming? Will 2007 be a well-aimed year for you?
Last fall I went to the rifle range to sight in my old .30 ’06 Winchester Model 70 I purchased with my paper route money when I was in Junior High, some 55 years ago. I was joined at the range by my younger son Eyvind and his wife Christine. Eyvind was going Elk hunting with his father-in-law and borrowing my old high-powered rifle in hopes of bagging one.
A well-run firing range is all business and very safe. Targets are set up in increments from 30 yards to 500 yards from your shooting bench. Your rifle must rest on sand bags or be securely anchored in a sighting clamp to allow a consistent standard for measuring the accuracy of each shot.
To zero-in your weapon you need to carefully check your scope to see where each bullet hits the target in relation to the bull’s-eye. An even better and more efficient procedure is to have a friend with a spotting scope tell you immediately where you hit, “8 inches to the right,” for example. You can then make up or down, left or right adjustments in your rifle scope for the particular distance you’ve chosen to zero-in to (usually the distance you estimate you might be lucky enough to shoot an elk, 150 yards., for instance).
Scope adjustments are continually made until you can consistently hit the bull’s-eye. This process may take as many as 20 to 40 shots depending on skill, distance, and condition of the rifle and scope. That afternoon we sighted in two other rifles besides my Model 70.
How did the hunt go? Well, the hunting party had a great time, ate well, and enjoyed the out-of-doors. The savvy, elusive elk in Washington State were also pleased with this particular hunting party and they avoided providing a bull’s-eye for these well-sighted-in rifles. Maybe next year.
Reflecting on our fun at the range got me thinking about how we Christians go about spiritually sighting in our targets, our goals. Many of us have memorized Matthew 6:33 in which Jesus said, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness….” This can be considered the ultimate target of our lives: seeking the Kingdom of God, Eternal life, and personally developing the righteous character of God.
This life of moving Godward (the bull’s-eye) requires adjustments, persistence, an objective measuring of one’s actions and progress, and help and coaching from an experienced “shooter.” To be successful in hitting the target you must keep your eye on it, keep steady, squeeze, don’t jerk the trigger, check results, make corrections, try again keeping a steady eye on the bull’s-eye, and keep firing until you get it right.
I needn’t belabor our rifle range analogy by offering a list of specific spiritual applications that can be made—you can do that for yourself. Needless to say, we’re all different and present a variety of factors that must be dealt with in our walk Godward. The factors at the range—condition of rifle, type of bullet, load of shell, power of scope, eyesight, concentration and mental state, along with the determination to get it right, etc.—are simple by comparison, but all figure into the final result. In life we make decisions and choices about many of the factors affecting the success of our Christian Walk.
Life is like a firing range and the bull’s-eye is the Kingdom of God and eternal life. With God’s help, you can hit what you aim at . . . if you’re really serious about it. –Ken Westby
January 14, 2007
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
The maxim that has helped me keep perspective in a world awash in spin and lies: "Let God be true, and every man a liar" (Romans 3:4). Paul, author of the letter to the Romans, repeats the exasperation of the psalmist, "All men are liars!" (Ps 116:11). The psalmist was fed up with the false accusations and false hopes put forth by his enemies. Paul makes the point that God's promises can always be taken to the bank, but men lie, break covenants, and counterfeit the truth of fact to suit their corrupt aims. Cynical? No, just reality.
All men (and women) lie, but not all lie all the time. Some people rarely lie, some seldom lie, some lie regularly, some are inveterate liars, and some live by the lie. Many upright people (and there are many) embrace the maxim to "always tell the truth" and do their best to live up to it. There are politicians of character and conscience who can be regarded as truthful; and there those whose conscience is so weakened by pride, power, and party that they can justify any lie--some may even "believe" their own lies and those of their leaders.
Our job as a responsible and conscientious citizenry is to sort out the liars from the truthful. This is not an easy task and one that requires a personal compass that can point to True North, can understand the difference between good and evil, truth and lies. Those citizens with no moral compass or one that is weak and unsteady will have difficulty discerning between lie and truth. They become part of the easily swayed masses upon whom propaganda and media spin work so well. A quick opinion poll of a thousand people--including many flighty and ill informed--then becomes the new standard of "truth." "Fifty-six percent of those polled say that sending more troops into Iraq is a mistake." Does that make it a mistake? Does the poll define the truth? Can the poll be the result of persistent lies, spin and half truths widely disseminated and often repeated to the point that it becomes street wisdom? Is the President lying to us or are his enemies lying about what the President has done, is doing, and plans to do? When stories conflict somebody is usually lying.
If humans in general are liars, who then can we trust because trust someone we must. For truth-telling, look for men of character and virtue who hold to timeless values such as the Ten Commandments and who can rise above the press of the moment, personal ambition, and quest for popularity. Where does one get the true facts of a matter to allow discovery of who is telling the truth. Saying "I read it in the papers," or "I saw it on the news," or "its all over the internet," are not the gold standard for true facts.
One has to work with diligence and discernment to discover the truth. Is global warming an established fact? If so, is that a bad or a good thing or a normal thing in earth's age old cycle of cooling and warming? If the earth is warming can we assume human activities are causing it? If so, what caused previous times of earth warming when there were no factories and SUVs? Do those who want to make policy based on the assumption of man-caused global warming have an agenda? Are they dealing honestly with the facts at hand? Is their position proved by true science or junk science? This is one example of many where truth has become a political plaything where the loudest voices often win the game.
Jesus warned of the evil caused by "hypocrites" and "blind guides" that lead the people astray so they "fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:7-20). He also laid bare the baser elements that proceed forth from an unclean, unredeemed human heart. The Word of God stands true (John 17:17), but carefully examine the truthfulness of the words of men. Trust those who have a record of telling the truth, even to their hurt. These will be men of uncommon integrity and yielded to a higher standard and not to personal profit.
George Washington said in a letter written on August 17, 1779, "Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder." He also confessed his guilt to his father, "I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet." Truth-telling is a virtuous and beautiful thing. Trust those pure souls who believe in and practice it. --Ken Westby
January 4, 2007
Tongues Speaking and the Azusa Street
The 600 million Pentecostals and Charismatics have been called the Third Wave of Christianity. This 20th Century phenomenon can be traced back to a little alley street in Los Angeles--Azusa Street--where the "revival" began 100 years ago. It was led by a young black pastor, William Seymour, a one-eyed son of a former slave. Nothing is now left of the Azusa Street Mission which had moved into an abandoned church building with apartments upstairs and a dirty old stable for horses downstairs. At one point up to 1500 people jammed into the main room which formerly housed the horses.
What was the attraction? It was believed that what began there was a modern manifestation of the Holy Ghost coming on the Day of Pentecost accompanied by speaking in "tongues." People were falling down "slain in the spirit" and speaking in tongues. Word spread and the crowds came. The Los Angeles Times mocked the revival fervor, one headline read: "Weird Babel of Tongues; New Sect of Fanatics is Breaking Loose." But there was more too it than that. Imagine, 100 years ago the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement didn't exist.
The Azusa Street revival has evolved into a folklore legend with an ever greater reworking of the "miraculous signs" that began it all. There are legitimate questions as to whether the ecstatic tongues speaking trance witnessed in Pentecostalism has anything in common with the Acts 2 account of events at the annual Feast of Pentecost celebrated in Jerusalem's Temple of God. Luke records in his Acts of the Apostles that there were several mighty signs akin to those witnessed at Sinai when God give the 10 Commandments. There was a violent roaring sound that reverberated throughout the huge temple complex followed by visible tongues of fire above the heads of the 12 apostles. These events focused the attention of the tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims gathered from all over the Roman Empire to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. There, in Solomon's Porch, stood these 12 Galilean apostles with flashing fire above their heads. The crowds stood in awe as they heard each of them speak in "tongues"--known languages--representing the native languages of foreign born Jews of the Diaspora (scattering). They spoke the good news of the Gospel and of the recent resurrection and glorification of the Messiah, Jesus. Peter was the final speaker and Luke records his message in the second chapter of Acts.
The tongues of Acts 2 were real languages spoken by the diverse throngs from various nations listed in chapter 2. The gift of speaking these "foreign" languages was supernaturally given to the apostles. These Galileans didn't naturally know these languages and this is what amazed the crowds and provided a clear sign that God was behind their proclamation. Tongues was a tool of evangelism. At that point, Jesus had trained and appointed only 12 apostles to be his witnesses. Pentecost was the time chosen by God to proclaim the Gospel to the "Jew first" since this would be the best time to reach Jews from all over the world who had gathered for the Feast. This is the reason Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they would witness a "baptism" of the Holy Spirit. It was God's Spirit, His Power, His Gifts that brought the fantastic manifestations on Pentecost.
The "tongues" of the modern charismatic movement has nothing in common with the events recorded in Acts. Having attend hundreds of Pentecostal services as a youngster I can only describe the "tongues" phenomenon as confusing babble. The biblical gift of tongues is not a sign of conversion or of being "filled with the Spirit," rather it was a means of evangelism to launch the new Church Jesus began. The biblical gift of tongues, in the few times it is mentioned in the NT, also attested that God was behind the expansion of the Gospel beyond Jerusalem and the Jews. This was the case in Acts 10 when the Spirit of God was given to Gentiles and they received the gift to speak in languages that they did not natively know. As converts multiplied and native speakers could share the Gospel in the language of their nation, the need for a special gift to speak a foreign language soon disappeared.
God can and has given this gift to speak in a language not known to the speaker. As with all things God does, there is logic and reason to it. One may ask, of what purpose is the tongues/babble that is so cherished in Pentecostal circles? Who does it edify? Who understands it? The true Fruits of the Spirit are clearly listed in Galatians 5 and tongues is not among them. The gift of tongues/languages is one of the gifts God has given to his church for specific needs and works in times past and, if God deems it necessary, he could do so at any time he chooses.
The Azusa Street Revival launched an amazing modern movement and I'm sure there are many sincere Christians included in it, but to suggest it is a modern display of the events and gifts of the Pentecost following Christ's resurrection is folly and has no basis in Scripture. What then is this ecstatic "tongues speaking" of Charismatics? You might be surprised to learn that it is not confined to Christians but is a phenomenon experienced in many cultures and religions and predates Christianity itself. More on that at a future blog. --Ken Westby
December 4, 2006
look good out there!
The former head of the Israeli Defense Forces said WW III has already begun and we’d better wake up to the fact. Whether already started or soon to start you be the judge. Regardless, just tracking the news is like seeing blackening storm clouds rolling across the horizon sending their lightening daggers randomly to earth, moving in mass steadily closer, the peals of thunder beginning to be heard.
The present crisis is bigger than the chaos in Iraq. It’s bigger than the apocalyptic threats of a nuclear armed Iran. It’s bigger than problems with N. Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, and the two-bit anti-USA dictator-nations of Central and South America. It’s bigger than an increasing hostile nationalistic Russia bent on empire again. It’s bigger than a resurgent communist China building a super military far beyond its defense needs. It’s bigger than worldwide terror and militant Islam set on world domination. It’s bigger than the accelerating moral decay of the West, a spineless Europe, and inept politicians more blind than sighted, more corrupt than honest. It’s bigger that the growing hostility toward Christianity and Jews stimulating lethal persecution in many nations.
It’s all of them together.
The present crisis facing us and the civilized world is all of the above…and more. Taken individually perhaps they could be dealt with and some success realized. But that is not an option since all the problems are on the table right now each needing immediate attention.
And there is an even greater worry, one that could move the world beyond “critical mass” and bring a doomsday meltdown. That worry, as I see it, is that all these evil powers and trends intersect—that they join forces to bring down what remains of the civilized order that has allowed freedom and faith to thrive. I believe that is possible if the Powers of Darkness are let loose. God knows, and we’d better know, that the Evil One is at the ready and able. The fullness of time draws near.
In the short term, events seem to be heading us toward a precipice at an unknown distance ahead.
Bright Spots and Hope
As I said, things don’t look good out there. Of course there are bright spots in the world with many righteous people doing many righteous things. Life is still going on and for most people that means food, shelter, and happiness with family, and some measure of fulfillment. For millions, however, life offers none of these and is hopeless.
Yet there is hope. The future is partly open and partly set. The set part is what God plans to do. We know he will bring his kingdom, led by his Son, to earth and will ultimately be victorious over the forces of evil. The open part is what people and nations choose to do. God will deal with whatever the changing circumstances yield and through it all bring his rule to earth. The question is when and how. How will the climax of the age of man actually take shape and come about? The answers depend on us—the nations, mankind—and God.
Remember the story of Nineveh. God intended to bring judgment upon that great city-state and sent the prophet Jonah to sound the alarm. Miracle of miracles, the Ninevites listened to the preaching of Jonah, repented, and were spared God’s judgment—much to the chagrin of God’s prophet. People and nations can and do change so there is always that hopeful, through rare, possibility. Nothing is set in concrete until it happens. And the same holds true for your personal life; change your life for the better and God will bless your future in ways that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. -- Ken Westby
November 14, 2006
Finally, a face put to the Christianity
The pathetic face is that of Elton John who a few days ago declared "I would ban religion completely." Of course, the religion that has most opposed his campaign for gay marriage is the Christian religion. He said, "I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays." Made a "Sir" by Queen Elizabeth he preened, "People come to me and I'm a bit like the Queen Mother. I don't know what it is with me, people treat me very reverently." Speaking of his own homosexual marriage to David Furnish he admits, "Dave and I as a couple seem to be the acceptable face of gayness, and that's great." Well then, what is he complaining about?
Sir Elton wants his vice celebrated as a virtue and the Christian religion stands in the way. Admittedly, Christianity is weak in Britain where the churches are either empty or being converted into mosques. But the Christianity haters won't be satisfied until it is "banned." It is striking how homosexuality has been forced upon the public as being a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice. Under the flag of "multiculturalism" homosexuality joins with abortion, and euthanasia as the untouchable politically correct enthusiasms of the time. The term "homophobia" like the word "racist," is used against opponents like a Harry Potter spell causing them to collapse. Homosexual indoctrination is becoming so complete that to speak against the practice is considered "hate speech" worthy of government action.
The idea that all sexuality morality is relative has taken root in law. Right and wrong become simply what the government says they are which enables new politicians to take more "enlightened," and more comprehensive, control over the lives of citizens. We have truly entered a post-Christian age. The great Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton warned that the breaking of a specifically Christian morality makes tyranny possible. British journalist and broadcaster Lynette Burrows observed, "Once the link with Christian dogma is severed, then all our traditional liberties are in danger since there is no concrete basis for them. Once morality becomes simply what the top people of any period want, our traditional freedoms can no longer be safe."
Burrows believes this is why Chesterton felt "most governments tend to favor agnosticism, or even better, skepticism, in the populace. A skeptic cannot be tolerant, because only a person with a fixed moral stand point can exercise tolerance: The word itself implies there is something to be tolerated but not accepted. Without a fixed morality, with nothing either right or wrong, one cannot be tolerant, one can only be permissive." In the politically correct "double speak" tolerance has become permissiveness. And political correctness has evolved into the perfect tool to enforce permissiveness and practice censorship in the service of government policy. Pope Paul VI describe the corrupting ideas circulating in powerful circles as "the smoke of Satan." (See Lynette Burrows article, "The handwriting on the Wall" in the Summer/Fall edition of The Human Life Review) --Ken Westby
October 19, 2006
Membership up, giving
down, Graham grandson preaching
Billy Graham’s grandson, Will Graham, conducted his first crusade October 9, in Gastonia, NC. Some 5000 people attended nightly. Will Graham is the son of Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son. Franklin recently spoke in South Africa to an audience of some 150,000 people over two days.
Will Graham’s message is the same as his father’s, and his 87-year old grandfather’s: “We’ve all sinned, but sins can be forgiven.” There is nothing complex about the Graham family’s Gospel. Says Will, “That’s the great thing about the Bible: it never changes.” One of the great things about the Graham evangelistic dynasty is that, unlike many others, it’s free of scandal. The Graham’s live what they preach.
Meantime, in the larger world of Christian churches: “Church members continue to give less of their income to churches despite increases in membership, according to a survey released Oct. 12 by Empty Tomb, Inc.” (Washington Times, October 16, 2006).