Archive for the ‘values’ Tag

What Is Truly Important   5 comments

Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and your pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

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The last few weeks’ topics have been hard, but this one is easy. There’s a lot of things I would regret losing in a fire, but I’d move on because those things don’t define my life, even though many of them are one-of-a-kind originals. I’d miss my daughter’s art and my mother’s furniture, the collectible jewelry and milk bottles. But I could live without them.

The one thing I would return for would be a table-top hope box that contains our archives. I’ve digitalized a lot of photos, even from my mother’s albums from the 1940s. Also in the box are my dad’s seaman’s papers (the only photo I have of him before he was 30, along with the only photos I have of my mother’s family (all six siblings and her parents) and Dad’s sister. My husband, who has a few family photos in there as well, included several of my old spiral-bound journals and there are discs of my writing. This winter, I finally got around to adding copies of our wills and important papers to the archives so that if something happens unexpectedly our son knows he can find the important stuff in the box. So, I would grab that because that’s our family history and my fictional worlds.

I’m thinking I might need a bigger box … or more digitalization.


Posted February 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Empire Editorial: The only way to lead is by example |   Leave a comment

Empire Editorial: The only way to lead is by example | Juneau Empire – Alaskas Capital City Online Newspaper.

While agreeing with the basic subject of the editorial, I have to comment on the firing of Pete Lewis, Fairbanks North Star Superintendent.

Mr. Fowlks, the accused tutor, is alleged to have committed these crimes. It is entirely possible that the student doing the accusing is a liar. It wouldn’t be the first time a student ruined a man’s life because they didn’t want to do their homework or they were mad about a low grade. Until there is a trial, Mr. Fowlks should be considered not guilty. Have we forgotten that?

Even if he is found non-guilty,  his reputation and his financial state will be destroyed. This kid is getting his way whether Mr. Fowlks did anything or not.

Pete Lewis may have had a gut instinct to not jump whole-hog onto a witch hunt until he had further facts. When, regardless of outcome, your actions will lead to the ruination of someone’s life, that’s a good instinct.

But of course, these days there is no presumption of innocence and we can’t use common sense when making decisions. We have to act like vigillantes in the old West, except this time with the wait of government behind us.

Posted June 3, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Skepticism

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Balancing Act   4 comments

Every day, Christians are called to be citizens of heaven rather than of earth. We may live in the United States or Russia or South Africa or China, but we are in this world and not of it. The apostle Paul understood that. The gospel didn’t come just for the Jews. Jesus died for everyone who will accept God’s grace by faith. And that brought Paul and his fellow 1st century Christians into conflict with the government authorities. By their very existence as a people, they were in violation of the civil authority of the government.

So why did Paul write what we designate now as Romans 13? Because he knew, better than most, that Christians were going to be murdered, muzzled or mugged by the world around us. Our every day lives will always be in conflict with the societal standards around us. We should probably think something is wrong with our Christian walk if we are NOT in conflict with the world around us because Jesus warned us in John 4 that we will have grief for no other reason than that we believe in Him.

So if we’re already in conflict with the world simply for believing in Jesus, why not also be in conflict with the government that opposes our beliefs? Why would Paul write Romans 13 if we were already in conflict by believing what we believe?

The first human born on this planet killed the second human born on this planet because he perceived his brother’s existence was somehow defrauding him of his “due”. Many centuries later, God used the writer of Hebrews to commend the murdered brother for his faith. This ought to tell us something about ourselves. We are bent, fallen, given to having our feelings hurt by imagined slights and to inflate minor slights into major conflicts.

Paul wrote Romans 13 because he knew this about human nature. He recognized that Christianity would always be in conflict with the world because the world is in conflict with God, but he also recognized that we could spend our energy railing at injustice rather than ministering on God’s behalf. We can become known as the people who resist the government rather than the people who walk in Christ’s way and that can and will diminish the gospel of Jesus Christ. By damaging our own witness through political activity rather than through godly works, we become salt that is good for nothing but to melt ice.

Which brings us to the question …

Should Christians ever be civilly disobedient?

Spiritual Discernment or Disobedience?   1 comment

When is it spiritual permissible for a Christian to disobey the law?

Let’s start with an understanding that the United States of America is different from ancient Israel. God established ancient Israel. He guided them through direct connection with their leaders — called judges. Ancient Israel was a theocracy. Even the king (given as a concession that God warned they would regret) was answerable to God.

We don’t live in the same situation. The United States was set up as a secular nation self-governed by the people, many of whom were Christians. They were expected to vote their consciences and thus there is ample evidence that the Christians were well-represented in the early years of the country. Individual Americans who are Christians are answerable to God. If we are working for the government or an elected official, we remain answerable to God and then to our employer. When our employer is at odds with God, we should obey God rather than man. Beyond that, however, there are many opportunities when Christians are faced with government regulations or laws that go against Christian principles and we cannot simply react to that. The Christian life is about being in the world, not of it.

So the questions arise — when can a Christian rightfully resist the authority of the government and in what ways?

Were the Christians of Nazi-era Europe obedient to God when they defied Hitler’s decrees and refused to turn their Jewish neighbors over the SS troops? It certainly appears they disobeyed Romans 13.

Andrew van der Bijl is a Christian minister who smuggled Bibles — thousands of Bibles — into Soviet-bloc countries through the mid-20th century. He violated the laws of those countries by doing so. Was he being disobedient to God when he did this?

Martin Luther King Jr. violated the laws of southern states by gathering with others to peacefully protest Jim Crow laws in those states. He spent time in jail for those crimes. Was he being disobedient to God? Were his actions a violation of Romans 13 or are we simply misunderstanding Romans 13?

How do we feel about these past examples of Christian civil disobedience? What do you think God has to say about them?

I do not believe God contradicts Himself. If we perceive a contradiction in His guidance, it is usually a sign that our fallen human nature is rearing its bent head. In light of Romans 13, were these Christians discerning or disobedient?

By the way, this an an interactive post.

What do YOU think? 

Lost in Translation   Leave a comment

Let’s be clear. The New Testament was written in Greek. Unless you are a Hebrew or Greek scholar, you have never read the Bible in its original language. Every version of Romans 13 you have ever read has been someone’s interpretation of what they thought it said. I’m not saying they got the translation of the words wrong. I’m saying their personal bias may have influenced the arrangement of the words or that your personal bias may have influenced your reading of those same words.

Many people read Romans 13 and get a very authoritarian connotation for Paul’s words. What they think they read goes something like this:

“Totally submit to the government and all its officials, for there is no official that is not preordained by God to rule you. Therefore, any sign of resistence to any official is defying God and you will be punished. But do whatever the officials decide—that is being good and God through His officials will reward you. But disobeying anything they say or decide, any rule they make, is bad and you should be afraid because the government’s agents have weapons with good cause. They are specially ordained by God to violently punish those who disobey them in any way, because to do so is evil. But don’t just obey them because they are threatening you. You should feel guilty if you disobey in any way. You should pay them whatever amount they ask without question because they are serving God by taking it from you and doing their very special work. So give without question everything they ask: taxes are theirs, all your money is theirs, you owe them respect as a right, your complete obedience is theirs by right.”

The problem with that interpretation is that it was written by a man who was sitting in prison for disobeying the civil authorities. Christians believe that God guided Paul to write these words – that these words are the word of God. I believe that myself. Yet, believers after this letter was written disobeyed the civil authorities when those authorities outlawed Christianity. Something is clearly out of sync somewhere.

I am not a Greek scholar, but I know a few who directed me to the Net Bible translation at the website because it is a high-quality translation that is readily accessible to folks without formal training in Greek. So I spent some quality time trying to tease out a paraphrase of Romans 13 using the Net Bible’s Greek interlinear feature. This is my paraphrase of what Greek scholars think the passage says. They know more than I do about Greek, but it is possible I know more about the Biblical subject we’re discussing than they do. Here is what I think it says:

“(1) Everyone should be subject to presiding authority — for it is not authority unless under God and only exists as ordered by God. (2) In which case, resisting such authority defies the order of God — and resisting that invites enforcement action. (3) For a person in charge is no threat to good conduct but bad. Just behave well and you will be appreciated, (4) for he is your servant from God. But do evil and be afraid, for he does not bear a weapon without reason — and in rage will exact a penalty on the wrongdoer. (5) It is therefore necessary to comply, and not only because of his anger, but for conscience sake. (6) For this particular reason (the punishing of wrongdoers) settle the annual levy for public officers when they are acting as God’s servants in this regard. (7) Yield to everyone that which is actually owed: a levy where a levy is due, a settlement where due, respect where due, at the correct price and amount that is due. Never withhold payment but rather love one another, for whoever loves his neighbor fulfils the law.”

Which is the most correct version? The translated words are the same, but the connotation of them is different. One version lines up better with the observed behavior of the New Testament Christians, but we also have to be careful here because the Christians of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries also willingly walked into the coliseums to be torn apart by wild animals for the crime of being Christians. The Waldensians and the subsequent alpine anabaptists were persecuted, jailed and killed for refusing to submit to the Roman church.

Is it possible that civil disobedience can be both godly and carnal?

When discussing God-issues that interface with political issues, we sometimes have to look deeper than the surface.

A Cloud of Devils   1 comment

Since the 4th century AD, when the Roman emperor Theodosius adopted Christianity as the “official” state religion of the empire, Christians have been told to interpret Romans 13 as a justification for statism. The problem with that interpretation is that it contradicts large portions of the Jewish and Christian Testaments and our known history as a people of faith.

Examples of Biblical believers resisting “the state” abound.

  • The midwives of Goshon resisted the authorities by not reporting the birth of children to Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Moses’ parents resisted the rules of Egypt by refusing to kill their baby. His mother resisted the rule of Pharoah when she put him in the basket in the Nile. Read in a secular light, you could say the Jewish religion would never have come into being if not for several acts of civil disobedience.
  • Later, Shadrach, Meshach and Obendigo were thrown into a fiery furnace because they judged it better to obey God than the king who said they couldn’t worship God. Daniel ended up in the lion’s den for the same reason. Again, would Judaism have survived if not for civil disobedience?
  • Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the Temple because the human rulers of the Temple had turned His Father’s house into a market place.
  • Peter and John were imprisoned for preaching in the Temple after being told to stop.
  • Paul was arrested several times for “fomenting discontent” when he preached around the Roman Empire. He was under house arrest for that crime when he wrote the letter to the Romans.
  • With the exception of John, all of Jesus’ original apostles died for their faith because they disobeyed the civil authorities when they were told to stop preaching about Jesus Christ. John was imprisoned for doing the same.
  • For the first three centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christianity was an “outlaw” religion and from time to time, Christians were persecuted, arrested, imprisoned and killed for practicing their beliefs against the laws of the civil authorities.
  • Following the Council of Nicea, Christianity was no longer “outside the law”, but with the ascendency of the church at Rome and the conjoined nature of state-church, non-Catholic Christians (mostly anabaptists) continued to act “outside the law” to practice Biblical Christianity.
  • The alpine anabaptists, the Protestant reformers, the Puritans, the Quakers, and the English Baptists are all examples of Christians who stood against the civil authorities in order to practice their faith.
  • My great-great grandfather was a Methodist preacher and abolitionist who ferried runaway slaves north into Canada. He wasn’t alone in what he was doing.
  • Corrie ten Boom and her family helped Dutch Jews escape the Nazis because they felt that God required them to disobey the civil authorities.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Southern Baptist minister who led widespread protests against the civil authorities of his generation to demand the equal liberty of black people in the United States. In doing so, he violated the law, disobeyed the civil authorities and spent time in jail.
  • Muslim countries today make it illegal for a Muslim to become a Christian, often punishable by long prison sentences or death, and yet conversions happen every day.

Yet, almost every American Christian I know will point at Romans 13 and say “you cannot disobey the United States government.”

What is wrong with this picture? Is there a long line of people claiming to be godly who are actual devils or is our understanding of Romans 13 influenced by statists for their own purposes?

Paul the Jail Bird Apostle   Leave a comment

The Bible is filled with passages I struggle with. Thus is the “plight” of the thinking Christians, that we cannot just walk lock-step with what others tell us the Bible says, that we must either ignore these passages, blindly obey them, or seek to understand them. Romans 13 is one of those passages. It’s God’s word, written down by the hand of Paul the apostle when he was in prison for ….

Hey, wait a minute! Paul was in prison for disobeying the governing authorities! What is going on here?

Take Bible passages out of context and you can get almost any meaning you want out of them, but when you seek to understand them, you have to look at  a wider view – the whole epistle, the whole Bible, the culture Paul was writing from and the city and church he was writing to.

Statists want to use Romans 13 to justify their tyranny and anti-statists either want to excise the words from the Bible because of the implied self-tyranny or twist the meaning into something Paul did not intend. Both sides in this discussion would be wrong. Truth lies in trying to understand what Paul meant in the larger context of the Bible and the culture in which he lived as well as in the culture in which we live.

Paul was in prison for disobeying the governing authorities when he wrote the letter to the Roman church. It wasn’t his first time in lock-up for the same crime and he wasn’t the first believer in God to face such punishment.

Did Paul act the hypocrite when he wrote Romans 13 or are we not understanding it as he meant it?

Christian Understanding of Romans 13   2 comments

I don’t particularly like the government of the United States these days. I’ve made that abundantly clear and you can find my reasons in this blog. Abusive, overreaching, tyrannical, completely out of control … what’s to like?  So what, if anything, can I do about it?

I can vote, but voting doesn’t seem to do any good these days. I can write, but that doesn’t do anything except inform others that there are ideas they might want to entertain. I can protest … or can I?

Many in the Christian church would tell me that I cannot use civil disobedience to try and change the government. Romans 13 contains a handful of sentences that say Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities because God put them there. As a Christian who really wants to obey God, I must obey this passage, so no civil disobedience for me.


Fight the Stream   1 comment

Red salmon jumping up a waterfall

The waterfall seems too high and too powerful and it might just be easier to go with the flow, but the salmon were born in the far reaches of the river system, above the waterfall. They went with the flow to the ocean, but now their destiny calls to a place above the waterfall and so they jump, and jump, and jump, and jump … until they surmount the obstacle to achieve their destiny.

Our nation was founded in liberty. It’s in our societal DNA. We’ve taken the easy way for so long that the forces driving us toward tyranny seem insurmountable, but our societal DNA gives us a longing for the liberty of our forefathers.

It is up to us to decide if we’re willing to fight the current and return to the liberty our nation was born in or if we simply will allow the current to drag us down into tyranny.

Pumped Up Kicks   Leave a comment

Brad and I were watching American Idol the other night and one of the contestants sang the song “Pumped Up Kicks”. We’d both heard the song on the radio before, but we’d never really listened to the lyrics. Earlier that day, our 15-year-old son had told Brad “This song is not what you think it is. It’s an evil song!”

Boy, is he right! I don’t know what Foster the People were thinking when they wrote the song, but does it really matter? For the uninitiated, the song features a protagonist (a cigarette-smoking cowboy kid, of course)  who is planning to shoot his classmates … maybe his dad too. The lyrics are dark. That doesn’t bother me. They remind me a bit of the POD song “Youth of the Nation” and I’m okay with that. However, Jennifer Lopez noted that there is a frightening disconnect between the lyrics and the cheery bubble-gum pop tune.

Once in a while, there is something that happens in pop culture that just points out everything that is WRONG with our society. This song is emblematic.

Posted March 21, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Violence

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