Monday, August 8, 2016

A Rock, a Hard Place, and God

A friend sent this email and gave me permission to post it online. 


Though I spend so much time on it, politics is one of my least favorite subjects. For a few years now, I have been “this close” to absenting myself from all matters of government, having long since grown weary of its abundant emptiness. Alas, for the time being I am still a good citizen and show up to vote practically any time the poling places are open.
For the same reason, I do care somewhat how other people vote, though I don’t like dictating policy, and I certainly don’t like the attitude of “if you’re a real Christian, you’ll vote for....” While I try to pry very little into how my fellow Christians vote, this particular election facing us in a few months has me worried that Christians might be casting their votes based on a false premise, which is why I am sending this unsolicited email.
Christians have begun to make the argument that we must, absolutely, vote for Donald Trump for President, simply because this is the only way to prevent Hillary Clinton from using presidential power to further suppress the rights of Christians in this country. But I am convinced that this argument is erroneous. I would just like to make sure, no matter how you vote, that you aren’t thinking like a worldling when you cast that vote.
Americans are truly getting much bolder in their opposition to any proclamation of the gospel. If you are not aware of this, I recommend signing onto the news feed or newsletter of the First Liberty Institute (a group I have followed for some time) because they blow the whistle on many such attacks. School students are told that they cannot write the word “God” in essays. Soldiers are court-martialed for posting Bible verses on their desks. Preachers get fired from their day jobs, not for anything they said on the job, but for something they said in their own churches on Sunday. Not too long ago, somebody even tried to sue a church for building a cross on the church’s own property. Thankfully, many of these cases, when they reach courts of law, end in favor of religious liberty. Judges, as well as the general public, are still often quite lenient toward us...legally speaking. But still, it’s all very disquieting.
In that context, I can see why Christians are intimidated by the prospect of the Democrats controlling the presidency for another four years, perhaps even eight. Democrats are extremely dismissive of religious liberty, preferring instead to advocate a culture in which no one is ever “offended”...unless of course you are not a progressive, in which case you are to be offended on a regular basis. Republicans have similar double-standards, but the Democratic variety is usually more hostile toward Christians, and so it gets our attention more readily.

And now Clinton stands a great chance of winning. And since people often vote for congressional offices in the same way they vote for the presidency, Congress would also likely turn a deeper shade of blue. And then there’s the final blow: the vacancy on the Supreme Court would then likely be filled by a judge of similar mindset. It’s enough to make any Christian uneasy about the future of evangelism, or living according to our beliefs in any kind of visible way.

In light of this imminent liberal takeover, we naturally think of turning our support to the right side of the aisle. Since Republicans have proven more willing to defend the free exercise of religion, this would normally be a plausible plan. Unfortunately, the Republican nominee is Donald Trump. This is the very man that many Christians recently said was unfit to be President. But now that he is the Republican nominee, the same Christians have started to make the argument that we have no other choice but to vote for him, because the only alternative is to let Clinton win, starting a dangerous chain reaction. We are allegedly faced with only two options, and must again choose the lesser of two evils, even if Trump is only slightly less evil than Clinton.
I’m not so certain that Trump is actually less evil than Clinton, but I do know this: we are most certainly not limited to two options, because God is not limited to two options. Do Christians still have so little faith in the power of God to act on our behalf, after two thousand years of Christianity prevailing over impossible odds in various cultures across planet?
Let’s imagine a scenario in which the Democrats have indeed acquired all the power structures in our culture, and that they are ready to hit the Go button for eradicating any public Christian presence, demoting us all to second-class citizens. Now imagine that they hit that Go button...and nothing happens.
If biblical history and church history tell me anything, it’s that God loves to stack the deck against Himself so that He can win anyway, leaving unbelievers to scrape their jaws off the floor with a spatula. Without much effort, I’m sure you can compose a list of times God has done so, everything from the exodus out of Egypt to the spread of house churches in Iran. That same God is our God, and I doubt that He is looking to Donald Trump for salvation in the kind of anxious way many Christians are.
God could do any number of things in the event of a Clinton victory. God could send the Third Great Awakening, in which case it would be difficult for even the Democrats to keep the gospel from spreading, since many of them would become the newest converts. Or God could leave most Americans unconverted but give us such favor in their eyes that politicians wouldn’t dare touch us...since even they must cave to the majority. Or God could expose Clinton as such an inept, corrupt leader that no one is willing to follow her. Or God could provoke the Democratic Party to eat itself alive in its own factionalism...and in that regard, I think Bernie Sander’s former supporters look pretty hungry these days.
And if the worst case scenario unfolds, and the Go button works, God has always blessed the Church’s growth to the same degree that it has been afflicted. It would still be better to trust in God and see what He has planned. His imagination is as infinite as His love for us.

We have no reason to believe that we “must” vote for Trump, as so many Christians are saying. That is worldly thinking, bereft of any consideration given to prayer, the word, and the Holy Spirit. Has it occurred to anyone that God might be waiting for us to become totally powerless in America, in the worst of conditions, so that He could then show Himself powerful in overcoming all opposition by His own strength? That sounds like God to me.

If you can find a compelling reason to vote for Trump, be my guest. I am not claiming a monopoly on political insight, nor even spiritual insight. But if you really don’t want to vote for Trump, and find it morally objectionable, then don’t vote for him. Your conscience should be more valuable to you than that. In the name of Christ, let’s not believe the nonsense that the soul of America can be healed by a bombastic, adulterous blasphemer.

If you are desperate to see better things befall us in this country than what Clinton promises, turn to God instead of Trump. God is more than able to protect us and even empower us at our weakest moments...especially if we keep our consciences clean before Him. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in Man; it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Ps. 118:8-9).
I’m Stan Choate, and I approve this message.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Music: What Honors God?

Occasionally someone will post on a blog about music in church. There are those who like choruses and those who prefer hymns. There are those who claim Christian should only sing Psalms, and at that without any instruments, since the New Testament doesn't mention them.
I was around when groups and artists like The 2nd Chapter of Acts and Keith Green were causing a stir by performing Christian rock in churches. Imagine that! Loud, electric guitars and drums in the church! Old timers said that rock music was of the devil. Then they would go to a concert of Southern Gospel music, with its quartets and music along the lines of Country. I think their grandparents would have said the same thing. Even Isaac Watts got in trouble for writing hymns sung to the tunes of the taverns and pubs.
At any rate, every generation brings yet another style of music to worship. And every previous generation says that music should be sung or listened to by Christians, since it's "of the devil." 
So, what music honors God and what music doesn't? Let's see what the Bible says. The first mention of any kind of music is not in the Psalms, believe it or not. And it isn't David playing his harp for Saul. It's in Genesis 4:21. Here is the context:
"Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.  His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute" (Gen. 4:19-21, NKJV, emphasis mine).
Do you realized who this Jubal was? He was in the sixth generation of the descendant of Cain. That's right. The first musician mentioned in the Bible was descended from the first murderer. Not Seth, from whom came Noah and Abraham, but Cain.
So, does that mean that all music is of the devil? No. No more than anything else invented by man. Okay, now, I am going to say something radical here:
God is honored by all musical styles.
What? Am I off my rocker? No.
First, let me clarify: God is not honored by all the lyrics, that is a different discussion. But I believe He is honored by all instrumental music. Think about it. What is the source of all talents? Is it not our creator? God made us and all that we are. So when someone picks up a violin and plays a beautiful piece of classical music, that person is honoring God. When Mozart or Bach wrote those wonderful symphonies, they were honoring God.  Even when a long-haired young man picks up an electric guitar and lets it sing, he is honoring God. Even though most musicians don't realize it, God gave them the ability and gave some humans creative talents to write the music. God is not honored by all the lyrics, that is a different discussion.
So, listen to that jazz, or classical, or rock and roll, or that country music. If the lyrics aren't outright sinful, you should not have to worry about what God (or your grandma) thinks.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

50 years - A Memorial Poem

I originally wrote this poem in Spanish around the 30th anniversary of my mother’s death. I post it here along with a translation on the 50th anniversary. (The original title was Hace treinta años - Thirty Years Ago.)

Hace muchos años                                             Many Years Ago

Amaneció el nuevo día                                       The new day dawned
así como siempre hacía                                      as it always did
en noviembre; aquél día,                                    in November; that day
cuando de cáncer sufría.                                     when from cancer she suffered.
Hace muchos años.                                              Many years ago.

En el hospital estaba,                                          She was in the hospital,
lejos de sus hijos se iba.                                      she was going far away from her children.
Cerca, su esposo rogaba                                     Nearby, her husband was praying,
--Dios, ¡permite que ella viva!--                        “Oh God, let her live!”
Hace muchos años.                                              Many years ago.

Hace muchos años                                                Many years ago
la mujer murió.                                                    the woman died.
De cuatro hijos la madre                                   From her four children the mother
se despidió;                                                          took her leave;
Hace muchos años.                                               Many years ago.

Siete años solo tenía,                                          He was only seven years old,
el hijo menor aquél día.                                     the youngest son that day.
Casi no la conocía,                                              He hardly knew her,
quien de él se despedía;                                      who was leaving him.
Hace muchos años.                                             Many years ago.

Estaba él en la iglesia,                                       He was in church,
se le dijo la noticia.                                            when he heard the news.
Todo lo confundía.                                             It was all confusing to him.
Estaba mejor, creía.                                           She was better, he believed.
Iba a vivir, se decía.                                           She was going to live, he was told.
¿Cómo morirse podía?                                      How could she die?
Hace muchos años.                                            Many years ago.

Hace muchos años                                             Many years ago
mi madre murió.                                                my mother died.
De mis hermanos y yo                                       From my siblings and me,
mi madre se despidió;                                       she said good-bye.
Hace muchos años.                                            Many years ago.

PSL 1994                                                           Translation 2014

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Scattergories item

We played Scattergories tonight. We decided not to use the letter ‘i’ since there are not many possibilities. One of the clues was “Excuses for being late”.  So we all worked together and came up with this one:

Isaiah’s insane in-laws insisted on inserting insects in my i-pad in my Izusu on icy roads.

Excluding the word “in”, there are nine words beginning with an ‘i’. I hope no one named Isaiah takes offense. Of course, since we didn’t use the ‘i’, we ended up with ‘e’. Youngest player came up with “epic escape from elephants”- a three point play!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Econoboxes: Then and Now

I don’t know who coined the term econobox, but I remember when they first started appearing on the roads of America. For those who don’t recognize it, the word refers to a small, boxy car that gets good gas mileage, you know, the kind that can go from zero to sixty in just under half an hour.

Here is a modern example of one, the Honda Fit:

It all started when gasoline suddenly became hard to find in the 1970s, just as I was old enough to drive. The Arab oil cartel decided the US didn’t need so much oil, so there were shortages of gasoline, and fuel economy became a selling point for cars. Up to that time, gas mileage was measured in gallons per mile, rather than miles per gallon.

American car makers were way behind the Germans and Japanese, which spelled the berginning of the demise of Detroit as the car capitol of the world. Volkswagen, Toyota, Datsun (later Nissan) and Honda got a huge share of the American market by selling cars that got 30 or more mpg. GM, Ford and Chrysler couldn't get their small cars produced fast enough, being used to the large cars they made. So along came such long-term big sellers as the Ford Pinto, the Chevy Chevette, and the Chevy Vega. Oh, you’ve never heard of those? That’s because they were ugly, badly made and as safe as riding a bicycle on ice in heavy traffic. Here are what they looked like:
Ford Pinto
Chevy Vega

Chevy Chevette

As you can see, they didn’t really amount to much more than a 4 cylinder engine surrounded by some steal, with a cabin big enough for two adults or four children. And they had little sound proofing, so one heard a lot of wind as one tried to drive at highway speeds. One strong wind and these babies might get up to 50mph. No problem, though. Uncle Sam thought we could save fuel by lowering speed limits to 55mph. I guess it was so those drivers who wanted to save money on gasoline could keep up with those of us who wanted to get where we were going without feeling like we were in a noisy wind tunnel. And they felt like a big car, with terrible stearing. I remember an ad for one of the foreign cars that mocked these by saying “Look, America, we made a big car small and a small car big!” I think they were also referring to the Mustang II, the downsized version of the muscle car. The one that caused everyone to go away from the mustang and made the Chevy Camaro a more popular car.

Anyway, now that President Obama and the environmentalists want us togo back in time, more and more people are buying small cars with high gas mileage. So, a short comparison:

  • Modern versions are safer than the 1970s’ models;
  • They get even better mileage with hybrid technology;
  • They can actually drive at highway speeds! 
  • They are much more comfortable and quiet;
  • They offer many of the extras that bigger cars do, like entertainment options;
  • Four adults can actually fit in them.
But there are still a couple of things that haven’t changed:
  • They still get crushed in an accident by bigger vehicles (it seems the smaller the cars are getting the bigger the pickup trucks are getting);
  • And they still are ugly.  
But then, most cars are uglier now than in the 70s.

One last thing. Does anyone else remember the first tiny car Honda brought to America? I present you with the car my brother said would get blown off the road by a VW Beetle:

The Honda 600 Sedan

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Movie review The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey

I went today and saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey today. My reaction is mixed. Peter Jackson produced a great adventure movie, following Bilbo Baggins and the 12 Dwarves on their mission to reclaim the Lonely Mountain for the dwarves.  But once again the writers added to the story, I guess because they thought it wouldn’t be interesting to a 21st Century audience. One addition actually detracted from the story, and didn’t really seem to belong there. That was the rock monsters. That scene began a series of events that, though fast paced, were too unbelievable, even for an imaginary place like Middle Earth.

Overall, it was worth the time to see. I am glad that Tolkien doesn’t have to see it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

And Now there are Three

Welcome the latest addition to my growing family, a girl born at 1:30 this morning. She joins a sister and brother as my three grandchildren. (Now I seem to have the theme song to “My Three Sons” playing in my head.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four more years

It’s over. We get another four years of the least qualified President ever.  After the last election disaster, I posted some predictions, most of which came true. 

1- I said President Obama would not be reelected, and I was wrong, thanks to the lap-dog media and the lily-livered GOP (which seems not to understand that running moderates gives the Dems the office). If the media would return to be the unbiased truth tellers they are supposed to be, they would have told us everything they knew about Obama’s past the first time, and all we have found out too late about the Libya incident last month.

2- I predicted the stimulus and housing crisis would take us to a depression. I came close on that one. We continue to have miserable joblessness  though it seems Obama and the media have put us under a spell, making us think 8% is an acceptable number. Housing is slowly coming around, but many still have house worth thousands less than they paid for them.

3- I predicted another terror attack on US soil. There was the embassy attack and a couple of shootings that the administration refused to call terrorist attacks.  Several terrorists have been stopped before they could do any damage, which is a good thing. And yes, Osama Bin Laden is enjoying his time in Hell with his master. But Al Qaida is still very active in the Middle East, and perhpas emboldened by our wimpy attitude towards their host in Pakistan.

4&5- Along with that prediction, I said, “The rest of the enemies of the US will soon see that Obama is too inexperienced at international affairs.”   He seems to think he needs to apologize for our actions. And I have heard that a lot of people in the rest of the world are laughing at us. In another  prediction I mentioned that Russia would try and take advantage of Obama’s lack of experience. Mr Putin is again the leader and seems to be flexing his muscle. So I guess I got those two right.

6- Lastly, I said there would be a strong third party this year which would make the Big 2 make their differences more obvious. Well, this year there was a definite difference, but not a strong enough third party to have an effect. So I was half right.

Let’s see: Correct on #s 2, 4 and 5. Half right on 3 and 6. So I got 4 out of 6 total. 67% is not bad for an amateur. But in the school where I teach, that is a D-. 

So, I will make no more predictions, other than that in four years God will still be on the throne and having His way.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Politics asside

Here a few non political thoughts.

  • Why was Sandy called a “Super Storm” since it was only a category 1 hurricane. Is it because it was 1,000 miles across instead or 2 or 3 hundred?
  • And why do the big three networks have to spend entire newscasts on one storm for a whole week? Aren’t there other newsworthy stories in the world, more important than interviewing all the victims? Yes, the storm is of national significance, but the sorrowful  stories are more local, aren’t they?
  • Why it that people who don’t want to work drive like maniacs to get there on time? Why not leave a few minutes earlier and relax, rather than stressing out the other drivers (me) on the road by tailgating and cutting in between a inches to spare while going 10 mph over the limit?
  • Why do advertisements for furniture stores have to have the announcer yelling at us? Do they think were deaf? Don’t they know that some of us change the channel or turn down the volume so we can’t hear them anyway?
  • Since no one uses the old 5.25 and 3.5 inch floppy disks anymore, why not make computer flash drives the A or B drive, instead E, F or G?

Well, enough for now.  Let’s hope the Chinese let us keep our blogs when they take us over so we can continue with such important questions as these.

Friday, November 2, 2012

4 more days. Finally!

In four days we will finally come to the end of the 2012 campaign season. I am tired of political ads. I am tired of the “I’ll fight for you in the capitol.” I don’t like fighting. I like it when politicians actually work! Mr/Ms politician, hear this: Don’t fight, FIX! Take off the boxing gloves and put on the work gloves.

Oh, and one more thing, please don’t start the next presidential campaign until 2015!