Archive for the ‘freedom’ Tag

Don’t Let Freedom Lead You Astray   Leave a comment

Sometimes it seems as if the Christian movement is divided between two camps. On one side, you have the Frozen Chosen, who have 157 rules for how you should dress on Sunday and keep track of who is a “sinner”. On the other hand, you have the Freedom in Christ group, who smoke cannabis and have multiple sexual partners and will insist that Christ doesn’t care about any of that.

The truth, according to the apostle Paul is somewhere in the middle. The Frozen Chosen are the Pharisees of our day, but the Freedom in Christ crowd is far off the mark as well.

Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial“Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. 1 Corinthians 10:23

Image result for image of christian fellowship mealYou’ll notice that Paul is using some popular Christian quotes again. We discussed this in an earlier lesson. Bible scholars believe these were sayings that circulated in the churches, particularly the Corinthian church, in that 1st century and they were being used somewhat like aphorisms and to excuse immoral behavior.

Paul had just warned the Corinthians (and by extension, us) to flee idolatry. Eating food sacrificed to idols meant nothing to the Christian, because God is not knocked from His throne by the stump of a tree sculpted and painted to look like something else. As Christians, we have essential freedom in matters of morally neutral things, but … BUT … our behavior must be tempered with concern for others in the body of Christ. If our freedom is going to be expressed through Christian maturity, it must be concerned with the spiritual benefit to others.

That word “edify” means to build up or strengthen. It’s a word from the vocabulary of building construction. Paul used it in his letters to describe the strengthening of Christian character in ourselves and other people. When we’re faced with a decision about a particular practice, we must first ask ourselves if we have the right to do it. I would say if it’s not forbidden by Scripture, absolutely we have the right. We still need to take a pause and ask the next question. “Is it profitable and edifying. Will this activity build people up, both ourselves and others?” If the answer is “yes”, then we can participate with full abandon.

Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person. Eat anything that is sold in the marketplace without questions of conscience, for the earth and its abundance are the Lord’s. If an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you want to goeat whatever is served without asking questions of conscience.  1 Corinthians 10:24-27

Our freedom is going to express itself in serving other people. Our thoughts should always be directed to other brothers and sisters in Christ. We should desire to sacrifice for others. The issue of freedom balances two extremes. Some feel the attitude should be “I don’t care what anyone says about what I do. I’ll do as I please. I operate on the principle of grace and am free to do as I please.” This attitude approaches libertinism. On the other hand, there are others who live in a spiritual straight jacket, afraid to do anything without a sense of guilt. There must always be a balance, but if you’re going to screw up, err on the side of putting your spiritual family members first.

Liberty in Christ will always triumph over legalism. Paul majored on our freedom in Christ. He said it doesn’t matter what we eat, including food offered to idols, because neither the taking of it nor the abstaining from it will have any effect on our relationship with God. All food is a gift from God. Paul encouraged Christians to enjoy life, to not be overly scrupulous. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.

Paul dealt with how Christians should behave when invited to a unbeliever’s home. My parents would have approved of his advice. Eat what’s put before you. The Corinthians shouldn’t make an issue of the origin of the meat or food they were eating. They should eat all of it. Eating a piece of meat that was offered to an idol will not defile the Christian. What defiles the Christian is participating in heathen worship. If eating a piece of idol-meat does not defile the Christian, there is no need to make an issue of it. This simply exercises an overly-sensitive conscience and introduces an unnecessary affront to the hospitality of the host. Paul implied that living out this freedom means that we’re going to have evangelistic entrée into people’s lives. There are nonbelievers who will invite us into their homes, and we have complete freedom to eat with them, whatever they put before us. Paul’s solution to a potential violation of conscience is “Don’t ask!” To the extent that we’re willing to do that, we’re reflecting the life of Jesus, Who ate with tax-collectors and sinners (Matthews 9:10-11). If we are legalistic, uptight, self-righteous, self-protective Christians, “holier than thou” types, our non-Christian acquaintances won’t want anything to do with us anyway. We’re not even going to get invited to their homes. But if we live a life of freedom and openness, that will attract them to Jesus.

But if someone says to you“This is from a sacrifice,” do not eatbecause of the one who told you and because of conscience I do not mean yours but the other person’sFor why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscienceIf I partake with thankfulnesswhy am I blamed for the food that I give thanks for? 1 Corinthians 10:28-30

Paul raised a hypothetical situation in which you’ve been invited to a non-Christian friend’s home, and one of your Christian friends is there who has a weaker conscience. They are offended or confused by the freedom with which you’re indulging: “Didn’t you know this is idol food? Are you sure you ought to be eating this?” Paul suggested that we might decide to refrain from eating the meat so as not to risk leading that younger brother or sister in Christ into sin or confusing their conscience. Paul made it clear, however, that even though we may choose to modify our actions for the good of the weaker brother or sister, we are not to adjust our own conscience. Their weakness ought to make us very gracious, merciful, and sensitive toward them, but the legalism of the weaker one shouldn’t make us feel condemned or influence us toward legalism in our own lifestyle. Paul defended his freedom to partake of any kind of food, especially food that he knew is a good gift from God, and receive it with gratitude. He refused to be fearful about what other people thought of him. He was not going to be controlled by that.

So whether you eat or drinkor whatever you dodo everything for the glory of God. Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in all things.  1 Corinthians 10:31-33

Paul moved to summarize the entire (three-chapter) discussion. He indicated this with the use of the word “then” (oun). As a general principle, believers should do everything “for the glory of God”—and Paul particularly mentioned here eating and drinking. To do something for the glory of God means to reflect God’s glory in the way we live. We ought to use our liberty carefully and selflessly to glorify God. Our eating and drinking should bring glory to God, not to cause conflict, to honor a demon, or to undermine the faith of weaker brothers and sisters. Paul’s desire was to live out his freedom in Christ, partly because of its evangelistic potential for the sake of the Gentiles and the Jews who didn’t yet know Christ, and partly so he could have an influence on the church of Jesus Christ as an apostle. His concern was having an attractively inoffensive lifestyle of freedom. Paul had already acknowledged that some people were offended by the gospel alone, but he didn’t want his own life to bring offense to the gospel in the eyes of anybody, Christian or non-Christian. The real fear here was that legalism, being controlling, would somehow be the offense that would keep people from the Lord Jesus. His desire was to try to live without offending in any direction, always thinking of both honoring Christ and affecting other people in how he lived. And Paul always looked in both of those directions.

I do not seek my own benefitbut the benefit of manyso that they may be savedBe imitators of mejust as I also am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:33b-11:1

I’m sure there were people who thought Paul was a man-pleaser (Galatians 1:10). His concern was that his life would be attractive so that they would be drawn to Jesus in him. “Saved” in this context probably includes Christians and means saved in the wide sense of delivered from anything that keeps someone from advancing spiritually (see Romans 15:1-3). Paul is not content simply to live his life as an example for the Corinthians to emulate. He actually instructs them to become “imitators” of him. (4:16). For Paul, as an apostle of Christ, it wasn’t just a matter of preaching and teaching. It was a matter of living out the truth that he taught. In many of those cities Paul went to, he would be the first and only Christian they would see. So watching him live his life was very important for them to understand the reality of the gospel.

Paul asks every one of us to live a consistent Christian life. Do you want to properly balance freedom and restraint? Do you want to be in the world and not of the world? Do you want to have a positive spiritual influence in your community, but not allow that community to mold you so you compromise what’s true and what’s right? Do you want to live a balanced life, not being driven by the extremes of legalism or selfish license? If you do, then imitate Paul. He tried to imitate the selfless life that Christ lived. Glorify God in what you say and what you do and in the attitudes of your heart. As Paul later explained in Romans 7, results aren’t perfect, but we’re only human, so trying our best is good enough.

I Own Myself … sort of   8 comments

Image result for image individuals own themselvesThis is the rock solid foundation of liberty. Each individual owns themselves. This is why rape and murder are wrong because they violate the private property of the victim. I am my private property and you are yours.

That is how liberty works. I have the right to act in my own best interests. I may voluntarily help others from my surplus, but I cannot force my neighbor to contribute to the cause and they cannot force me to contribute to theirs.

This is the basis of liberty, which is so rarely practiced today. I don’t actually own myself anymore because my neighbor can obligate me to provide for her care by the confiscation of my income. In liberty, I own myself. In US democracy, I am a slave to my neighbor.

I’m looking for readers who would like to argue this point. Go!

 

Constraining the Executive   Leave a comment

The election of Donald Trump hits me on two levels. One … it’s kind of scary because he’s a loose canon and the executive branch has never been more powerful, “thanks” in large part to Barack Obama’s usurpations of emperor-like power. Two – he’s an actor and you can’t really believe anything actors present because they are playing a role, so who Donald Trump will be in office is a vast unknown … which still causes me anxiety, but is a whole lot less terrifying. Actors can be president. One of our better presidents had been an actor.

By the way, I voted against Ronald Reagan the first time. I was 20. I probably don’t need to say more than that. But here’s the stupid thing. Jimmy Carter had screwed Alaska economically with the D2 Lands executive order only a couple of years before and, like most Alaskans, I was angry with him for that. Still, when my college friends said Ronald Reagan couldn’t be president because he’d been an actor, I agreed and pulled the lever for Carter like a good little liberal sheep. Fortunately, there were plenty of more-informed voters out there who voted against Carter because of what a piss-poor job he’d down with the economy. I grew up and voted my own conscience — for Reagan — in 1984.

Regardless of who Donald Trump really is, his election presents an opportunity because the country is clearly experiencing a political uprising, a populist revolt that is demanding actual change in the way that the government operates. Such times provide opportunity that the pro-freedom movement can use to our advantage.

Now, while the smug conceited ruling class tries to right itself after discovering they aren’t the center of the universe, is the perfect time to take advantage of anti-elitist sentiment and work to actually limit government power.

Trump’s election provides an extremely rare opportunity for conservatives and classical liberals to reassert congressional authority. The problem is Congress doesn’t want to check executive power. There’s nothing for them to gain and everything to lose as they fear challengers to office will paint them as “soft on terror” or “weak on defense.”

So how do we force Congress to do their jobs?

By talking to one another. For the first time in eight years, liberals are scared of who is president, so constitutional conservatives who remain skeptical of an imperialist executive will be able to find common ground with them. These progressive liberals resisted the Bush administrations attempt to grab power beyond what was smart, then spent eight years cheering as Obama did it, so we can’t call them champions of liberty, but now they’re terrified of the President-elect, so hopefully they’re ready to return to their roots.

Now is the time to increase advocacy for classical liberalism, to recognize division while promoting civility and acknowledging bigotry on all sides without engaging in it. Classical liberalism means more than lower taxes. It means protecting the dignity and rights of every human being through publicly embracing true tolerance while allowing for diversity of opinion. Recognizing hate doesn’t require shutting down speech, forcing uncomfortable association or violating religious freedom.

It’s time to wrest power back from the executive to the more accountable Congress. If there were ever a time to pressure Congress to reassert its power, now is the time. A piece of legislation called the REINS Act (H.R. 427) addresses this. Originally proposed by Don Young, Alaska’s Representative to Congress, it hasn’t been able to move out of the House since its introduction in 2011, but Republicans re-introduced in 2015. I encourage people to contact their Senators and Representatives about the bill. It’s so much easier for a Congressperson to vote for a bill if their constituents are asking for it. Give them a clear instruction on how you would like them to reassert Congressional authority over the executive. Although the bill has passed the House with healthy majorities on a couple of occasions, a companion bill in the Senate has stalled. Now that all three branches of government will be in the hands of one party, that should not be a problem.

The REINS Act would require that all regulations put into effect since 1991 be repealed unless the programs supporting those regulations can provide convincing evidence to Congress that they should still be in force. The overall theory behind the legislation is an attempt to reverse the regulatory overreach by the executive branch, who promulgates thousands of rules that Congress never intended and has not approved. Compliance costs of these regulations costs Americans almost $2 trillion a year.

Just passing this regulation alone constrains the greater executive branch that flows from the Presidency. Yes, there are regulations that are absolutely vital for health and safety. There is no reason to believe those would go away … but if an agency cannot justify the benefit of a regulation, then it has no business being on the books.They exist merely to give some Washington elite a job and authority over the lives of American citizens. That needs to stop and this is a good start coming at a time when there is an opportunity caused by angers against the ruling class to make substantive changes in the elite’s power structure.

Nature abhors a vacuum and this voters revolt has created a vacuum while the elite and their media mourn their temporary dethronement. It will either be filled with a populist-flavored authoritarianism or, if libertarians are willing and act quickly, a constrained executive once more accountable to Congress.

And, along the way, we can use the confusion of those who are used to following the elite’s bandwagon, to discuss classic liberalism and why it is an antidote to corruption and authoritarianism and a recipe for liberty for all of us.

Freedom Is Just Another Word For Being A Jerk   Leave a comment

So, 4th of July fell on a Friday to better facilitate a long weekend of drunkenness.

How dumb is it to spend actual money on fireworks to light up the night sky when you live somewhere that doesn’t night in July? But by all means drive your neighbors’ dogs crazy by making them think someone is shooting at them! This is freedom, after all.

And when the dogs bark, by all means come to your neighbor’s deck and bitch them out for letting their dogs ruin your good time of non visible fireworks and beer.

And then, when the neighbor says “go home or go to hell” (this is the very armed state of Alaska, after all), drive by their home slowly and flip off their dogs.

Because a dog knows what that gesture means…

For the record, the dog you flipped off is a husky mix alpha, who if she ndid known what that gesture meant would find your home, get in somehow andnurinate in every shoe you own.

But, by all means, go on being a jerk!

Posted July 6, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in culture

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Forgiveness Is A Choice   Leave a comment

A speaker at church yesterday has me thinking about forgiveness.

Some things are impossible for humans to forgive. The speaker’s 17-year-old sister had been kidnapped and murdered. Sexual abuse of small children. The Nickel Mines Amish School shooting. Some people’s childhoods.

I don’t share a lot of personal information here because Fairbanks is a small town and I like a degree of anonymity. Suffice it to say that my family and my life have not been perfect. Struggle is part of the human existence and with struggle comes the need for forgiveness.

Even when forgiveness is impossible.

So, how do you do that?

You don’t. You let God do it. Forgiveness is a choice and for some things, it is a choice you must repeat every day or several times a day. Christians find it no easier to forgive as human beings than non-Christians do, it’s just that we have a capacity to transfer that forgiveness to God and let Him do what we cannot.

Why do it at all?

Forgiveness is not for the benefit of the one who hurt us. It’s for our benefit. By letting go of the anger that would continually arise, we free ourselves to enjoy other aspects of our lives, aspects that are robbed of joy when we hold onto anger in a vain attempt to exact justice.

In the book “Amish Grace” the writers tried to quantify the forgiveness the Amish community of Nickel Mines claimed. One interesting aspect of Amish forgiveness that I found useful was that they never bring up a forgiven sin after it’s been repented. Yes, I know, there are a whole lot of sinners out there who never really repent, but it’s also my experience that even people when do repent, we still want to bring it up, twist the knife a little deeper, make sure they still feel repentant and if they protest, if they become weary under our unforgiveness, we say they never repented.

What a vicious cycle and one that can never be won!

Forgiveness is a choice. It can be made in the absence of repentance or when repentance is not full. And it frees us from the shackles of hate and retribution, regardless of its effect on those who have hurt us. And when we reach deep down inside of ourselves and find that we are unable to forgive, we can still give it to God and keep giving it to God every time it comes to our minds so that, eventually, we can move on with our lives and leave the dead things of the past in the grave where they belong.

Posted February 3, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Faith

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