Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Obedience to Law is Worship of God

Obedience is Worship

Love of God’s Law is evidence of relationship with God. When we despise the law, it is likewise evidence of our relationship.  We do not have the right, nor should we have the desire, to change the law to conform to our behavior, but rather, should desire to make our behavior conform to the law. Obedience to God is true worship. Our Holy God desires, and requires, holy worship.

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart." ( ps 40:8)

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (1 John 2:3)

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Ps 119:11)

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:16 )

I teach college classes at both the Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree levels of learning, in three different Christian institutions. Usually, but not always, students who sit in my classes are either Christians, or at least are not hostile to the Christian Message and Doctrines. It is not uncommon to find students who, having been educated in secular and state-run high schools and colleges, subscribe to a belief that the U.S. Constitution should be altered or amended (or altogether replaced) in order to accommodate a changing culture and changing standards of conduct.  I absolutely agree with those students who argue that there is a great chasm between the principles of the Founding of the Republic and the practices of society today.   But I argue that the solution is NOT to change the rules to conform to our changing morals. Rather the rules (laws) are the proper standard by which we must judge our conduct.  WE must conform our behavior to the law, which we understand to flow from the authority of God through the institution of government (Ro 13:1-7)

If it is true that the principles of self-governance require self-discipline, and that that self-discipline is best achieved through a right relationship with Jesus Christ, then it is reasonable to conclude that the greatest success of our legal/political/economic system will be achieved through adherence to the laws of God.    Our Founders gave us a doctrine called the “Rule of Law” which presumes that legitimate authority comes from God, and is delegated by the people to a governing body, which is divided into three branches to achieve a balance of power.  Since the laws promulgated by that government are presumptively valid, originating as they do from the people, who are themselves acting in the constraints of their faith, then the law is presumptively good. (This is of course a rebuttable presumption since the government does not always operate within its legitimate constraints)  Starting with a presumption that the Law is good, then conforming our behavior to the law is therefore also good.  When our behavior departs from the standard of the law, our behavior is presumptively bad.  It will be therefore destructive of the government, and the law, and the authority from whence those derive, if we grant our behavior supreme authority over the law.  This NEVER works out well.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)

Following the death of Joshua, there merged a new political model in Jewish history for over 200 years. For the first time in history, the Jewish people were independent in their own homeland. Perhaps more importantly they did not have a single, strong leader to unify and direct social interaction. Besides lacking central temporal authority (i.e. central government) at the time of the judges, there was also little reverence for religious law as well. Differences between people were resolved at the tribal level by leaders chosen from among the people of the tribe.  Sometimes this worked well, but often it did not because politics has not changed. History reveals to us that leaders who neglect the Law of God, and become a law unto themselves, will ultimately destroy their own system of governance.  In every case where man “does what is right in his own eyes” he will ultimately be destroyed.

The king is the actual and symbolic figure of authority which is presumptively established by the people and anointed by God and therefore “legitimate”. (Ro 13: 1-7) When there is no “king” (no law-no authority) then people are left to do whatever THEY think is best and the end result is NEVER happy.  Because when everyone follows their own path, and seeks only their own self-interests, there is no “community” (common + unity = community). The law “regularlizes” our relationships and gives predictability and stability to society. When it is absent, so is social stability.

“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:3-6
If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore. (PS 132:12)

The way that you show someone you love them is that conduct express that you are putting the other person ahead of yourself.   We worship God when we demonstrate that we are placing EVERYTHING in subjection to Him.  The First Commandment is that we shall have no other gods before the Lord God. All of the other Commandments illustrate the principle that God is supreme. His rules require obedience.  We demonstrate worship by honoring God and obeying His Commandments. Conversely, we dishonor God when we take matters into our own hands, and we pursue OUR interests above His.  The very idea that we should re-interpret the law (whether Scripture, or the U.S. Constitution which is presumably based upon His Holy Principles) is tantamount to “placing other gods” before Him. Trashing the Constitution and replacing it with something that reflects our godless, permissive, self-indulgent lifestyles would be the exact opposite of worship.  It would be the polar opposite of giving God Honor. It would be showing God our heel, turning our back on Him, rejecting Him. If we desire HIS blessings, we are to honor HIS Word.

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." (John 14:21)

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (Ps 119:92

There is much hand-wringing these days about the state of our nation.  America is in decline and most people seem unable to propose a “fix”.   It seems clear to almost everyone that society is in a mess, yet the popular “solution seems to be to go even further away from God.   Suggesting that we abandon the fundamental principles articulated in the Declaration and the U.S. Constitution would be just another move in the WRONG direction. If we truly desire to correct the problems of our society, our ONLY answer is to return to the God of our fathers.

For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' (Acts 28:27 )

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50)

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

Because of our selfish and inward-looking nature, we have accepted the lie of the Devil that obedience to God is to hard, too cumbersome, too painful.  But those who walk in obedience soon discover that Jesus told the truth when He said, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt 11:30).  We also read in 1 John 5:3 that “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”  We will discover that giving God our due worship in the form of obedience to His Word, will reap enormous rewards in terms of Peace, Security, and confidence. That is the life to which we have been called.

John Sterling, MA JD    2/4/15/2015

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Therefore, Stand

John Sterling (December, 1014)
I have lived long upon the earth and I have observed certain things about my fellow man.  I have observed that people usually just want to be left alone.  They wish to live peace and for the most part, are content to let their neighbors live in peace as well.  In fact, an important part of our understanding of the function of government is that it is instituted for the purpose of protecting us from unwanted and unwarranted intrusion into our lives.

I have observed that the nature of government is to govern, which means to control.  In a sense, they can't help is the nature of the beast.  The founders knew this and knew also that if government was not kept in chains it would destroy the power that created it (the people).  The people (desiring to just be left alone) have failed to monitor the beast and to keep its chains secure. We note throughout the history of man, that once loosed, the beast cannot easily be returned to captivity. This results in an inevitable war between the people and the government it created (or allowed) and to which certain authority and power have been ceded.  I say inevitable because it seems that history repeats itself over and again, even though we study history and should have learned from it.
If you have not seen Mel Gibson's movie, "The Patriot" I highly recommend it.  (NOT the Steven Segal movie by the same name).  No sane person ever wants war, or to see their children become warriors unless forced into that role.  In that case, you would want your children to become the best warriors they could be.  The problem is when we ignore the possibility that war might be inevitable, and that our children might have no choice but to become warriors.  Then when the need arises (as history teaches will be just a matter of time) we are forced to react and often react too slowly.
Being proactive, then, is the order of the day. If we are proactive spiritually, we transform our enemies into our friends and remove the threat. If we are proactive politically, we neutralize our enemies' abilities to attack us and we restrain the threat. If we fail in those two, then we it is likely that our path will be chosen for us and we must react to the threat in the best way possible.
Sir Edmund Burke (1729-1797 ) said that "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing".   In Ephesians 5: 15-16 we read, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. "  In Eph 6: 13 says, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. "
We are exhorted then to study (gain knowledge), and be wise (apply that knowledge correctly). Then, walking in wisdom, and relying on our spiritual preparation as well, we are expected to “hold the line”…to STAND, firm and unyielding.
One of the very popular verses in the Bible concerning God’s provision is found in Matthew, 6: 32-33.  In context the verse is speaking of God’s provision for His children of the basic necessities of life: food and clothing.   I think it is not a stretch to say that another basic need of man is protection from our enemies, and that God likewise offers His divine provision for that as well. "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?  Verse 32 reads, "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “  The “Gentiles, here referring to people who outside of God’s covenant,  try very hard to obtain theses things, just as every human being does, but the inference is that they are doing so without any acknowledgement that those things come from God.  In verse 33 then, we read, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.…” and we (covenant people) are to find the necessities of life directly from the hand of God.
In America (as in many other places in the world) people look to Government to be their provider, and protector, and sustainer.   But these are specifically the province of God.  When we look to anything or anybody, for the things that are supposed to come from God, then we have placed “gods” before Him.   We have made idols of government and of the things that government promises if we will be “good citizens”. 
Eventually, the god that we have created will demand that we serve him, and inevitably will demand more and more until we are reduced to slavery.  Of course, if we refuse, we will be arrested, or even killed. The cycle of violence continues: governments rise and fall and man is subjected to periods of subjugation, despair, violence, war, and perhaps, sometimes for brief periods, relative peace  before the cycle begins again.
In the verses just preceding  Mt 6: 33 (above ) Jesus said that man cannot serve masters (Mt 6:24). Both will demand absolute loyalty. We can choose one, or the other, but we cannot serve both.  In this world, and at this time, we in America are being divided by many issues.  But we see a line being drawn in the proverbial sand, and all of America will have to choose on which side of the line we will stand.  One side represents God, and His righteousness, while the other represents Mammon- the kings (governments) of this world.  We may choose, but we may choose only one.  No matter which we choose, because we have allowed our nation to depart from the righteous path, we will have to fight the monster that we have created or be consumed by it. Ultimately, the battle is the Lord’s and every American will have to seek God’s wisdom and discernment as to how to negotiate the path that is before us.  But know this: if we are grounded firmly in the Word of God, we WILL stand (Eph 6:13) but if our loyalties are with Mammon, there will be Hell to pay.
John Sterling
December 11, 2014

Was Michael Brown Shot over a Box of Cigars

Was Michael Brown Shot Over a Box of Cigars
John Sterling Dec 09 2014
Recent conversations on the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO seem to focus on the amount of force (deadly- shot 6 or 7 times) by police officer Darren Wilson, over what was nothing more than a petty shoplifting charge.
It is too easy to see a single event and the consequences of that event as being the only elements of the discussion, (i.e. Brown stole cigars, and Brown got shot, ergo life is cheap and we think Black lives don't matter). That is far too simplistic and so completely misses the elephant in the room that if anybody truly is limited to that perspective, it will be impossible to have an intellectual discussion with that person. If people REALLY want to discuss issues of race, and race relations, we cannot ignore the obvious. We must say what needs to be said, and feelings must be put aside in the interest of honest dialogue.
Using the Brown scenario as the symbolic reference point in my analysis, I note that young Mr. Brown had history of violence. This was not released immediately because he only recently became "legally" an adult so his juvenile record was hidden from the public view. But now that it is exposed to the light of day, we can see a pattern of disrespect for the law, and disrespect for his fellow man that was the proximate cause of his final, and terminal, conflict with the law. His demise was "triggered" by the incredibly small infraction of walking in the middle of the street, and disobeying an officer, but it was CAUSED by Mr. Brown's belief that his conduct was beyond any meaningful disciplinary consequences. What could have CAUSED that mistaken belief?
We can look to his dysfunctional family, his dysfunctional community, and the previous failures of the justice system to properly discipline him in the past. It is irrelevant for purposes of this discussion what caused the dysfunction, but there is ample sociological evidence that if one is brought into this world, and raised in the manner in which Brown was raise, his statistical probabilities of fully assimilating into mainstream culture are terribly low.
Be that as it may, at some point, a man becomes personally responsible for his own choices. Legally, the presumption is that when one attains the age of eighteen, as if by magic, and without regard to previous inputs, one is now suddenly responsible for his actions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this is not going to end well.
So, consistent with the predictable pattern of his previous conduct, Brown not only steals cigars but does so by throwing his not insignificant weight around. He bullies, and he pushes to get what he wants, on HIS terms, without regard to his fellow man nor his duties to his community and to society at large. Whether he knew it or not, Big Mike Brown’s continuing pattern of thought produced the conduct that got him killed.
The "elephant in the room" is that if we acknowledge all of that, it forces us to have to deal with whole range of other issues. It challenges us to accept responsibility for a range of past behaviors that we have sought to justify, whether we are black or white. It forces us to stretch our understanding beyond merely what we can feel. If we are not conditioned to be introspective, or self-critical, we can never transcend our present state. Denying culpability condemns us to more of the same.
There is no question but that throughout the history of man, some of have subjugated others.  Whites enslaved other whites, and blacks enslaved other blacks and whites and blacks enslaved each other. But that cannot explain why some people, both black and white, have been able to “move on” while others seem unable to shed the shackles of the past… to escape the consequences of being born into disadvantage.
Political and social science experiments have tried to “level the playing field through programs like Affirmative Action (and its stepchildren) but the results seem to prove that the “cure” is worse than “the disease”. Programs that provide “extra” assistance on the basis of race, while definitely benefitting some African-Americans, have NOT significantly improved race relations. Arguably, race relations is worse in 2014 than at any time since Affirmative Action programs were first introduced.
Logic and observation of human behavior suggests that there is no reasonable expectation that the black community will ever be self-reliant, or fully "integrated" (in the social sciences sense) until there is an end to the special treatment produced by Affirmative Action. Accepting special help is often seen (by both Blacks and Whites) as an admission that the Black man cannot be competitive without “help”. Affirmative Action is guaranteed to keep African Americans from becoming equal (or being viewed as equal) in mainstream society. It has been observed repeatedly that life is not fair and it is LESS fair for some than for others. Some people will have to work harder and some people, no matter how hard they try, will never be "equal" in terms of outcome. This is true regardless of skin color.  It never happens in nature, and it cannot happen even if "managed" by government. In fact, artificial attempts at legislated "equality" will definitely backfire (as the current evidence proves) by making its recipients MORE dependent, not less, upon government assistance.
This is not "new" revelation. Frederick Douglass said as much in 1865: ‘What shall we do with the negro’” after emancipation? Douglass’s response was disarmingly blunt. “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us…. [If] the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall…. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!” (Citation available)
As he explained to an audience of Boston abolitionists in early 1862, fair play meant that the ruling majority should “do nothing with us, by us, or for us as a particular class…. The broadest and bitterest of the black man’s misfortunes is the fact that he is everywhere regarded and treated as an exception to the principles and maxims which apply to other men.” (Citation available)
Dr. Martin Luther King echoed those sentiments in 1958. "We've broken loose from...slavery and we have moved through the wilderness of legal segregation. Now we stand on the border of the promised land of integration.” He went on to say, "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love...Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding."  In Montgomery Alabama, in 1956, Dr. King said, "We believe in law and order. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. If I am stopped, our work will not stop, for what we are doing is right."  In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963,  Dr. King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Michael Brown was not killed because he stole cigars. His death was the logical, predictable result of a past pattern of years of being led to believe that there would be no consequences for his actions. Like so many young men, both Black and White,  his failure was that he chose not to become part of something bigger-something good- something worth more than immediate gratification. He chose the wrong kind of character to imitate. He and his friends, and those others who want to elevate Michael Brown to sainthood after his death, are STILL camped on the mountains of violence and hatred.  Dr. King said, “We’ve been in the mountain of war. We’ve been in the mountain of violence. We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God.” (Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood in June 1965)
Given the highly flammable passions following the incident in Ferguson, MO, and the unapologetic calls for even more violence by pretenders like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other self-proclaimed leader of African Americans, we will not see progress in race relations until there emerges another Frederick Douglass or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Federal Court Blocks Drug Testing for TANF Recipients

A federal appeals court Tuesday agreed to block enforcement of a Florida law that requires people who apply for welfare to submit to drug testing, calling it an unreasonable search. 

“The simple act of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy,” the judges said.

“I am thrilled for Luis and his family, and for the thousands of class members he represents, that yet another court has affirmed that all of us are protected from unreasonable, invasive, suspicion-less searches,” Maria Kayanan, associate legal director for the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. “The state of Florida can’t treat an entire segment of our community like suspected criminals simply because they are poor and are trying to get temporary assistance from the government to support their families.”

I disagree with the ACLU and the court on this one.  

First, the Fourth Amendment is a cornerstone of our criminal law and procedure.  It is a critical safeguard against the power of the state to arrest, and to confiscate private property.  Outside of the context of criminal law, one doesn’t see or hear much of the 4th Amendment but the principles are enduring and essential to safeguard our private property.  

Second, the “simple act of seeking public assistance” has all of the earmarks of a contract. AN offer, followed by an acceptance, with specified terms and performance obligations, for a legal transfer between competent parties.  The only element arguably missing is the want of  “consideration” which is the quid pro quo (something for something, or “this for that”) requirement . Consideration may be found when a party to the contract performs an act, or refrains from performing an act that he is otherwise entitled to perform.   Making application  for someone else’s money should, as a matter of conscience and morality, demand something in return. Especially when the recipient is not required to pay back the money (s)he receives. 
Third, the application of the word  “unreasonable”, taken from its criminal context and plunked down into a civil context, seems to me intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible.  What is “unreasonable” about requiring the recipient of a “gift’ to meet a minor condition?   

Judge Rosemary Barkett said in the ruling that the state failed to prove that there was any reason to treat poor families in Florida as more likely to be drug users.  Right.  What attorney out there, especially a state attorney, is going to make the case that (1) Blacks make up a disproportionate number of TANF recipients, and (2) Blacks also make up a disproportionate number of persons incarcerated for drug offenses. No elected official, nor anyone who works for an elected official, nor anyone in government is EVER going to make that assertion, regardless of the facts.  But more importantly, why is that even the focus?  It should be a simple, non biased, non-racial,  accounting procedure.  The government, using tax money coerced from its working citizens, determines to re-allocate this money to its non-working citizens, ostensibly for furtherance of some valid (this being a highly subjective term) public policy goal.  To insure that the government maintains itself as the steward of the “common wealth” it owes a duty to the “donors” to maximize effect use by the “donee”s.  

Why should re-distribution of the “common wealth” NOT consider drug use as a “deal-breaker” ?  Since being poor is not a crime, then why are we using criminal procedure concepts to regulate (or fail to regulate)  what is essentially a civil transaction by and between  consenting adults.
The article concluded with this: 
“In 2011, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring state employees to undergo mandatory drug tests as well. A federal judge also blocked that move.” I ask the same question, using the same logic.   I used to be a Florida employee. I have also been an employee in several other states.  Nobody, no person, no government, no entity OWES me a job.  I agree to work under the conditions, and to the performance stands my employer requires. ESPECIALLY when I am being paid public dollars, the public has a right expect that their (our) money is getting the best employee that they can get for that money. Asking me to take drug test is NOT an infringement on My rights as an employee. Rather, not requiring a drug test for public employees is an infringement on my right as a taxpayer.