Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Your Eyes Will Be Opened, and You Will Be Like God

"Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

Adam's job assignment contained only TWO aspects: tend and guard the Garden. Isn't it interesting that Adam was not burdened down with volumes of rules and regulations on how to do his job?

Actually, only ONE rule existed: do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It carried a stiff penalty of sure death. This forbidden tree was in the middle of the garden--not protected by an imposing fence or even a "No Trespassing" sign.

Adam and Eve could choose from countless varieties of fare from the abundant vegetation. Although God knew ahead of time what Adam had done each day, He delighted in stepping into time and walking with His children in the cool of the day, rejoicing at their progress and patiently listening to their discoveries. It was the joy of loving and being loved.

As the couple grew in knowledge and wisdom, they were to learn directly from the Creator about the intricate, spiritual dynamics outside their ever-expanding material world. (Adam had been told to protect the Garden; therefore, he knew an enemy was on the ground somewhere.)

The economy of the Garden ran on relational stewarding. Adam and Eve were co-trustees of creation--accountable to each other and to God. The moment the outsider spoke, Eve should have turned to Adam and told him. Adam, in turn, should have refused further engagements until God could be consulted. After all, the Creator of all things would know the true nature of this strange creature and exactly what it wanted.

Eve, however, fell under the charm of being singled out. Flattered by the attention and isolated by her pride, she unwittingly fell under seduction. Satan systematically wore Eve down by:

1. emphasizing the prohibition, not the provision
2. reducing God's command to a question
3. casting doubt upon God's sincerity
4. defaming His motives
5. denying the truth of the consequences

Most likely, the enemy has never has spoken to you directly, but he does use other charming things and people to get you hooked into engaging him. Look again at his methods above. In hindsight, does this M.O. look familiar?

In essence, satan asked Eve:
Do you want God to teach you what He knows, or do you want to learn it yourself?
Why do you think God wants you to have to keep coming to Him?
Could it be He desires to keep you under His thumb?
If He really loves you, why is He holding something this important and pleasurable from you?
Have you ever wondered if eating from the tree will make you just like Him, and then you won't need God anymore?
Did He say you'd die? Why, I think you'd become divine!

It worked. Genesis 3:6 records the downfall:
1. Eve "saw that the tree was good for good" (Lust of the Flesh)
2. That it was "pleasant to the eyes" (Lust of the Eyes)
3. And a tree desirable to “make one wise” (Pride of Life)

The book of James tells us the difference between godly and earthly wisdom:

From above--pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, without hypocrisy
From below--inspired by the devil; full of bitterness and envy that leads to self-seeking that produces confusion

Envy occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession; and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.  Regardless of how well the devil spins it for you philosophically, when you want to be the captain of your soul and the master of your fate, the bottom line is--you envy God.

If we look back at Genesis 2:15, when God said, "You shall surely die", the literal Hebrews is "in dying, you shall die."

It would take hundreds of years for what Adam and Eve set into motion to steal their physical breath, but their spiritual death was immediate. How did we know? To be spiritually alive in this realm, a man or woman must be connected to God, who Himself is a Spirit, and the giver of all life (John 4:24). To be dead spiritually indicates a person is relationally, intimately cut off from God. Look at the symptoms:

After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve notice they were naked for the first time. A new emotion entered the garden--shame. They desperately make fig leaves (from the forbidden tree) to cover the most intimate part of themselves from each other. Next, they hid from God for the first time, shrinking from the One they normally welcomed into the Garden for intimate fellowship. Why? Shame was followed by a second emotion: fear.

"I was afraid,"
said Adam.

Finally, blame shifting manifested:

The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (Genesis 3:12-13)

Eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave Adam and Eve the shortcut they were looking for--the power to decide what was good and bad for themselves, but at a tremendous cost.

Physical life would go on, but under harsh conditions. Creation would no longer obey Adam because he disobeyed the Creator.

The earth no longer would acknowledge Adam as a representative of the Godhead. As a result, it was not obligated to respond to his efforts to subdue and take dominion over it. Cut off from the divine (the spiritual), man had to rely solely on his five senses to help him discern, divide, and decide.

The first humans' sons and daughters have come into this world ever since with the same amputation. We arrive as spiritual cripples, despite our intellectual capacities and talents. Our void shows. We don't appreciate the liberties we DO have as agents of free will; we focus on what our Creator prohibits and begin to question His motives. We listen to "new" voices that feed our doubts and fuel our pride.

Like Eve, we legalistically add to God's restrictions to convince ourselves of how enslaving they are. (She added, "We may not touch it, lest we die")

Like Eve, we diminish the consequences in our mind by removing "surely" from before the word "die". (Genesis 3:2)

We may still be breathing after seizing the tree, but we're not well. Society reels with one problem after another that can be traced back to the day we became fig weavers.

As a whole, we are people bent on self-preservation and hiding our true selves. When caught red-handed, we quickly pass the blame. We are steeped in fear. We don't know what it's like to live shame-free, nor without the secret delight in shaming others.

When Adam and Eve finally faced God, He would not, could not wink at their sin. He didn't grant them a "do over", much as we might to a child who lands outside the lines in a game of hopscotch.

God is holy (perfect). He is just. He is love and mercy...far beyond anything mankind has been able to fathom or experience. His attributes cannot be separated, nor can one quality be emphasized to the exclusion of the others without distorting the real character of God.

While allowing the curse to stand, God nevertheless slaughtered animals in the Garden--another first--using their innocent blood to temporarily atone (cleanse) for man's rebellion. He then made each of them clothes from the skins of those animals, which Adam and Eve wore out of the garden. The animal skins were evidence that a sacrifice had been made on their behalf.

God also promised Eve that her future Seed (another representative from God) would face the accuser again (Genesis 3:15). Adam II would be wounded by satan, but would undo the curse and crush demonic authority once and for all.

It happened--just as God promised and just as He planned.

God, the Son assumed human flesh and became Adam II to make final atonement for what happened in the Garden. Being born of a human woman, he was fully human yet fully divine. His power was never diminished-- only restrained for redemption's purpose, which was to suffer and die in our place.

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God someting to be used to His own advantage;
Rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Philippains 2: 5-7)
He deliberately limited His humanity in order to know man's hunger, thirst, need for sleep, tiredness, and emotions. God, the Son chose to cloak His divinity in order to learn language and social skills as a child--even carpentry--thereby authentically experiencing and sanctifying every stage of life.

"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does..."
John 5:19-20

Given the earthly name Jesus, Christ lived a life totally dependent upon God, the Father...bypassing the temptation to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in His humanity.

Satan wanted this Messiah to believe that the Cross was not necessary. Plotting what he thought was another easy ruse, the veteran tempter told Jesus that all he had to do was bow down in allegiance to him; then, all the wealth and power of earthly kingdoms that had been previously forfeited by the first Adam would be returned--no pain, no suffering, no loss of reputation or life.

Jesus wasn't interested. To Him, the stakes were higher: human souls.

Adam and Eve would have eventually possessed the knowledge of the universe; but they chose to seek it divorced from intimacy with God and each other. God only works relationally. This is a foundational truth we learn by looking into the profound intimacy, love, and outworkings within the Trinity.

What Adam and Eve didn't understand (and neither do most of their descendants today) is that no one really becomes his or her own god; It's just a tragic change of allegiance under the pretense of autonomy. That's another reason God couldn't say, "All right, kids; since this is your first sin, it doesn't count."

Adam and Eve had switched allegiance from God to the fallen prince of rebellion. Thinking they were free unto themselves, they were slaves of the devil and bound to his ways. They were eternally cut off from God's goodness and grace. Forgiveness was not enough. They needed a formidable deliverance!

Actually, there was a "do over", but not by sinful Adam and Eve:  It was accomplished by Christ--the final Adam. If you receive what He has done for you by faith, God will credit this finished work to your account. You will be legally transferred out of the imprisoning inadequacy of Adam and into the liberating sufficiency of Christ.

So during this season of Lent, God is calling to the fearful in hiding. He is walking once again into the Garden you soiled by sin and draped in shame. He’s not out to destroy you!

He wants to know if you're interested in making an exchange: your fig leaves for His Son.

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh..."
(Romans 13:14)

Next in the series: The Temptation of Christ  Part One: Self-Gratification (Turning Stones into Bread)

Monday, February 18, 2013

American Presidents: Mad Men or Messiahs?

Imagine an America where you rarely see the President on TV because the duties of the office don't require him or her to frequently be in the national spotlight.

Well, That is exactly what our founders intended for the nondescript office.

In the 1800s, Alexis De Tocqueville observed: "The citizens had little or no contact with the federal government. It didn't tax them, regulate their businesses, tell them whether and how they could be armed, or how they must conduct their private lives."

The president's power is "temporary, limited, and subordinate," Tocqueville wrote. He has "little wealth, and little glory to share among his friends; and his influence in the state is too small for the success or the ruin of a faction to depend up his elevation to power.... The influence which the President exercises on public business is no doubt feeble and indirect."

(De Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian. The first volume of Democracy in America, published in 1835, received great acclaim. The second volume followed in 1840.)

Most Americans don't realize that before our current Constitution, the united States were governed under the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation was in place during and after the American Revolution. The new confederation was formed on July 4, 1776, but its governance (called "the United States in Congress assembled") operated until 1781 without a written constitution.

The Articles were written in 1776 and 1777. After a year of debate, they were adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. In practice, the unratified Articles were used by the members of Congress as the unofficial system of governance until it became law by final ratification on March 1, 1781.

Here's how the Founders laid out the office of the President in the Articles:

Article 9 directed Congress to choose one from its numbers to be presiding officer (to be chosen for one year and with a service limit of one year out of three). This person, often referred to as "President," had a role much akin to the Speaker of the House or the House of Representatives under the current Constitution. (Think if it: No vain, expensive presidential campaigns and annoying ads if we were governed today by the Article of Confederation!)

The articles were hotly debated. The critical issue, however, was whether “sovereignty” (ultimate human, political authority) would be located in the central government (meaning Congress, because the Articles had neither an executive nor a judicial branch) or in each state government.

The debates in Congress decided that “sovereignty” would remain in the state governments—NOT the central or national government.

In the beginning, the smaller, weaker central government (Congress) had only those powers expressly delegated to it by the states. Now, that order is tyrannically reversed!

Article II said, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”  Source: Articles at American Vision

Under the Articles of Confederation:
The central government had NO POWER to demand taxes and punish citizens for non-compliance.

It had NO POWER to create a Federal Reserve, nor willy-nilly coin or print its own money. (The Articles allowed the central government to regulate weights and measures among the States.) Its daily operations and programs were dependent upon income from the States; thereby, growth and spending were checked.

NO POWER over foreign and interstate commerce was granted to the central government, which meant it could not impose sanctions on international trade and slowly choke the American dream of ownership and entrepreneurship.

Under the Articles, there was NO STANDING billions upon billions to fund the American war machine and nation building around the world. Each state maintained a trained militia that could be called upon in a national emergency, but only by consent. (The subsequent Constitution called for a standing navy that operated only defensively. An army could be raised for war, but only for two years.)

The Presidency was primarily a CEREMONIAL OFFICE.. There was no global idol declaring illegal wars, stealing from taxpayers for pet projects, cutting back-door deals, and removing individual liberties in the name of the benevolent State.

The Articles did call for a Congress of ROTATING REPRESENTATIVES, sent and strictly stipended by the States for a limited time (no career politicians) "in your face", costly campaigns for office.

Under our original Confederacy, NO FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM  of slick, appointed-for-life judges existed. This prevented deep pockets and eager egos from making new laws rather than interpreting existing ones. Congress could
appoint  courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, but no member of congress could serve on such courts.

Under Article 9, Congress also had the power to settle border and interstate disputes, but again, they had to select a panel of judges to hear the case.

Here’s how it worked:

The states in dispute presented their petition to Congress and asked for a hearing. A day was assigned for lawful agents of the parties to appear.
Congress would then direct the parties to appoint commissioners or judges by joint consent to constitute a court.

If they could not agree on court appointees, then Congress would step in and name three persons out of each of the united States. Each party would strike out names until the number was reduced to thirteen. From that number, no more than nine and no less than seven names would be drawn by lot by Congress. Those whose names were drawn or at least five of them ,as determined by Congress, would settle the controversy.

If either party neglected to attend on the day appointed, without showing reasons, which Congress would judge sufficient, then Congress would again nominate three person out of each state; but  the secretary of Congress would strike names on behalf of the party absent or refusing.

The judgment of the court was final and conclusive. If any of the parties refused to submit to the authority of the court, the court would nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, which would then be transmitted to Congress and recorded for the securities of the parties concerned.

Each judge was required ahead of time to take an oath to be administered by the superior court of the state were the case was tried to ““well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgment, without favor, affection or hope of reward.”

Now what’s wrong with that? Imagine judges selected to decide a case who afterward would go home to their farms, family business, or chosen career…judges without “favor, affection, or hope of reward.”

They were chosen for their honesty, sense of justice, and understanding that the united States were not a nation nor a government, but a confederation of states made up of like-minded, sovereign individuals; and therein lay remarkable power. Besides, it put Congress to work on real solutions for the people!

Critics of the Articles of Confederation eventually worked to replace them with a new Constitution that radically empowered the central government (and the men who were fortunate enough to be at its helm).

(To learn more about the Articles of Confederation, and how they were hi-jacked from the American people, please read my series, beginning with: "Back to the Constitution? Why Stop There?" )

A handful of nationalistic, power-driven men with personal agendas convinced a majority of the States that our new, central government structure would have built-in separation of powers--what they deemed as sufficient "checks and balances" between the three branches of national government.
According to this myth, also known as the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, distributing the powers of a government among several branches prevents the undue concentration of power in any single branch.

Beven Chu brilliantly kicks over this sacred cow:
“In theory, a democratically elected president is merely the highest-ranking official in one of three or more coequal branches of government, the executive branch.

“In reality, in any monopolistic state with a presidential system, the president is an elective dictator, the legislature is a debating society, and the judiciary is a rubber stamp. Real world experience has demonstrated that over time, the executive invariably co-opts the judiciary and marginalizes the legislature.

“In theory, the coequal branches of government provide "checks and balances" upon each other, preventing them from ganging up upon the individual citizens they have sworn to protect and serve.

“In reality, because the executive is the branch that has been delegated the power to "execute" policy (pun intended), it invariably usurps any and all powers delegated to the other branches of a monopolistic state.

“Real world experience has shown that "limited government" inevitably morphs into unlimited government, and that the executive is always the branch that winds up monopolizing that limitless power. It makes no difference whether the executive was popularly elected, self-appointed, or hereditary.

“Baron de Montesquieu was dead right when he noted that there can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates or if the power of judging is not separated from the legislative and executive powers.

“James Madison was dead right when he noted that the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

“Montesquieu and Madison unfortunately, were dead wrong about how far mankind would have to go to prevent the uniting and accumulation of all powers in the same hands. Montesquieu and Madison earnestly believed that establishing constitutional republics with tripartite divisions of powers would be sufficient.

“The harsh reality is that the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, within the context of a monopolistic state, is a contradiction in terms.

“The harsh reality is that as long as a nation is ruled by a conventional monopolistic state rather than Private Defense Agencies, any allegedly "separate and independent branches" of government will always perceive themselves as integral parts of the same government, the one government, the only government within any given jurisdiction.

“No matter how one attempts to divide a monopolistic state into "branches" the reality is that all such "branches" live off the same "tax revenues," better known as protection money, extracted by force from "taxpayers," better known as victims of extortion.

“The Separation of Powers was supposed to be the primary firewall between constitutional republicanism and democracy. Tragically, it has proven to be inadequate. Given enough time, it burns right through.

“Constitutional republicanism is unquestionably superior to democracy. Unfortunately, that's just not good enough. Constitutional republicanism, given enough time, degenerates into democracy, aka elective dictatorship (My question: Aren't we already there?)

“Democracy meanwhile, takes no time at all to degenerate into dictatorship. That's because democracy isn't separated from dictatorship by any firewalls whatsoever. That's because democracy is a form of dictatorship. It always was, and it always will be.

“As long as a government, any government, wields a legal monopoly in the use of brute force within a given territorial jurisdiction, that government's powers can never really be separate. The Myths of Checks and Balances by Bevin Chu
Even the Constitution's architects never conceived of the president as the man in charge of national destiny.  Gene Healy, author of The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, notes:
“The constitutional office they designed gave the president an important role, but he'd have "no particle of spiritual jurisdiction," the 69th essay of The Federalist Papers tells us. In Federalist No. 48, James Madison assured Americans that under the proposed Constitution the "executive magistracy is carefully limited, both in the extent and the duration of its powers."
Regardless of the lofty rhetoric, our new Constitution expanded the office's influence and power. It lays out thirteen specific powers that are granted to the President:
Commander in Chief of Armed Forces (remember, this does not give him the ability to declare war, only Congress can do that; it does allow him to commit troops to military actions).

Make treaties with other nations, subject to confirmation by a 2/3’s vote of the U.S. Senate

Nominate foreign ambassadors, subject to confirmation by a simple majority of the Senate

Nominate federal judges, subject to confirmation by a simple majority of the Senate

Receive ambassadors of other nations

May grant pardons for federal crimes (excepts impeachments)

Present to Congress “from time to time” information on the State of the Union

Convene both Houses of Congress on extraordinary occasions

Adjourn Congress if both the House and the Senate cannot agree on adjournment

Nominate officials as provided for by Congress (when new posts are created because Congress creates a new department or agency, the president is allowed to name the head of that post) subject to confirmation by a simple majority of the Senate

Fill administrative vacancies during Congressional recesses

Recommend legislation to Congress

Veto legislation, which could be overridden by a 2/3’s vote of both Houses of Congress
“Remember, the Framers of the Articles of Confederation, our original constitution, only wanted a figurehead (Continental delegates insisted that he have no other title but Mr. President) and a Congress that was financially dependent upon each sovereign State's cooperation; therefore, heeding their peers—it was paramount to appoint citizen legislators (not career politicians)--who sacrificed to serve for a limited time.

“Today, we still refer to the executive in Washington as "Mr. President", but he's also hailed as the most important man in the world! 

“How did we go from a reticent constitutional officer to the modern commander in chief--a figure who continually shifts back and forth between gushing empathy and military bluster, often within the same speech? As Tony Soprano might have put it, whatever happened to Calvin Coolidge, the strong, silent type?

“There is no single explanation for the presidency's growth. New communication technologies such as radio and television played a role, as did growing material progress, which made Americans less willing to suffer inconveniences and more receptive to the belief that public problems could be solved with collective action.

“Yet in each key period of the presidency's growth, we see a familiar pattern: expansionist ideology meeting practical opportunity in the form of successive national crises.

“The most astute among the Progressives recognized that, given the American public's congenital resistance to centralized rule, a sustained atmosphere of crisis would be necessary to sell the expansion of White House power. Two world wars and one Great Depression did the trick nicely.

“Teddy Roosevelt's
activist, celebrity presidency heralded the coming of a new sort of chief executive, one who would evermore be the center of national attention, the motive force behind American government. With his expanded power, Roosevelt busted trusts, carried a big stick throughout the Americas with a newly imperial U.S. Navy, and issued nearly as many executive orders as all of his predecessors combined.

“Woodrow Wilson
then proved what Progressives had long hypothesized: that soaring rhetoric combined with the panicked atmosphere of war could concentrate massive social power in the hands of one person. Over the course of his presidency he helped create the Federal Reserve, nationalized railroads, and used the Espionage and Sedition Acts (along with more than 150,000 vigilantes) to carry out the most brutal campaign against dissent in U.S. history.

“But it took FDR to eliminate the last remaining vestiges of the modest presidency. Roosevelt used Wilson's Trading With the Enemy Act to shut down all U.S. banks in 1933, grabbed the power to approve or prescribe wages and prices for all trades and industries, and authorized the FBI to spy on suspected subversives.

“He changed the Supreme Court from a bulwark against presidential overreach to an enabler. By the end of his 12-year reign, FDR had firmly established the president as national protector and nurturer, one whose performance would be judged in terms of what political scientist Theodore Lowi has identified as the modern test of executive legitimacy: "service delivery."

“In his 11th State of the Union address, FDR conjured up a second Bill of Rights, one whose guarantees would include "a useful and renumerative job" and the "right of every farmer to…a decent living." Depression-era economic controls and war-driven centralization had turned the American system of government, in Lowi's words, into "an inverted pyramid, with everything coming to rest on a presidential pinpoint.

“Although Americans finally recovered their native skepticism toward power after Vietnam, Watergate, and the revelations of the Church committee, we never reduced our demands on the executive branch.

“The lesson we seemed to have learned from the legacy of abuses was to trust less, ask more. In 1998, the Pew Research Center noted that "public desire for government services and activism has remained nearly steady over the past 30 years.”

“Two years later, a report on a survey by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government put it pithily: "Americans distrust government, but want it to do more".

“The Bush administration's extra-constitutional innovations in response to the 9/11 attacks are by now all too familiar.

“On October 17, 2006, the same day he signed the Military Commissions Act denying centuries-old habeas corpus rights to "enemy combatants," the president also signed a defense authorization bill that contained gaping new exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the federal law that restricts the president's power to use the standing army to enforce order at home.

“The new exceptions to the act gave the president power to use U.S. armed forces to "restore public order and enforce the laws" when confronted with "natural disasters," "public health emergencies," and "other…incidents" — a catchall phrase that radically expands the president's ability to use troops against his own citizens.

“Under it, the president can, if he chooses, fight a federal War on Hurricanes, declaring himself supreme military commander in any state where he thinks conditions warrant it. That's the kind of executive power grab that happens when the public demands that the president protect Americans from the hazards of cyclical bad weather." The Cult of the American Presidency
 Healy concludes as we swagger under the spell of a President (Obama) whose campaign carried ominous, god-like overtones--even from children lauding his praises:
"This messianic campaign rhetoric merely reflects what the office has evolved into after decades of public clamoring. The vision of the president as national guardian and spiritual redeemer is so ubiquitous it goes virtually unnoticed.

Americans, left, right, and other, think of the "commander in chief" as a superhero, responsible for swooping to the rescue when danger strikes. And with great responsibility comes great power.

It's difficult for 21st-century Americans to imagine things any other way. The United States appears stuck with an imperial presidency, an office that concentrates enormous power in the hands of whichever professional politician manages to claw his way to the top. Americans appear deeply ambivalent about the results, alternately cursing the king and pining for Camelot.”
So I ask, "Have our Presidents become mad men or messiahs"? The answer is both.

Unfortunately, revised historical records unravel too late for distant generations to be suffuciently alarmed at the depth of  some President’s madness and depravity.

that's because these men (and women) are immediately lauded as messiahs by those who are dependent upon the state for everything from phones to cheese. The sold-out media idolizes them, and negationists will work hard to ensure future, sanitized school textbooks will reflect a patriotic, larger-than-life leader. Make no mistake about it: Both political parties teeter on the brink. Republicans have taken away just as many personal liberties as Democrats.

Who’s at fault?

 WE, THE PEOPLE, in not maintaining vigilance over our liberties, allowed a group of men to construct a new constitution for this country behind closed doors that gave more power to the office of the presidency and recklessly presumed a piece of paper would prevent expansion and abuse of power at a national level.

WE, THE PEOPLE, in the face of growing control and abuse, did nothing to wrest that power from the hands of the ruling class. WE allowed the creation of the madmen and messiahs, fed them as they grew, and worshiped at their feet!

However, if we courageously lead our country back to the preeminent maxims of protecting inalienable rights…if we return civil authority to the States to govern only what is needful according to the distinct consciences of their communities, then the office of the Presidency of the united States will once again be noble--a civil post not occupied by mad men and messiahs, but sane, fettered mediocrites.

*During the American Revolution, delegates to the Continental Congress were limited to three one-year terms over a period of six years under the Articles of Confederation. But, when Rhode Island delegates reached the three-year limit, they refused to leave office. After much heated debate, Congress finally dropped the issue and the Rhode Islanders remained."

"The founding fathers were divided over the principle of "rotation in office," as congressional term limits were then called. Jefferson and Washington favored it; Madison and Hamilton opposed it. Largely because of the unpleasant experience with the Rhode Islanders in the Continental Congress, "rotation in office" never made it into the Constitution.

"For the first 80 years of our country, however, few members of Congress served more than two terms. But after the Civil War, this changed. Congress organized permanent committees, which were chaired by the members with the most seniority. From then on, the longer a senator or representative served in Congress, the more powerful he or she became. Many members of Congress started serving long careers.

"Ironically, the first successful federal term limits were not aimed at career politicians in Congress. They were directed at the president. Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt had managed to get elected to four terms. After World War II, a Republican Congress passed, and three-fourths of the states ratified, the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This placed a two-term limit on the president. Attempts to impose term limits on Congress failed at this time."
Constitutional Rights Foundation

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Simeon and Anna:
Discovering God in the Seemingly Insignificant

Today, folks watched Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his burrow in Pennsylvania. Since he saw his shadow this year, six more weeks of winter weather will supposedly linger across the United States. (Southerners prefer to let General Beauregard Lee prognosticate their weather from Stone Mountain, Georgia.)

However, February 2 is also a significant day for Christians—so important that earlier believers in some countries did not consider the Christmas Season concluded until this date.

Candlemas was listed on commercial calendars in my childhood, but I rarely see it noted these days. Candles are carried in procession before the service, blessed, and distributed as a symbol of the Church to go forth as the light of the world. It is the Christian's "Festival of Lights".  The observance is also known as Christ’s Presentation in the Temple and The Purification of Mary.
Jesus' ransom in the Temple beautifully foretold the imminent reality of humanity's long-awaited redemption, rise, and restoration in Christ to divine heirship. Today, it also challenges us to follow the examples of Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna, who were able to find God in the small and unassuming.

Rembrandt's Simeon and Anna
All first-born males were brought to the Temple for presentation according to the Law. So nothing appeared out of the ordinary that day to the priests, attendants, and scores of people flowing in and out of the Temple courts.

A few visitors probably nodded at Joseph and Mary as they passed--perhaps noting that the couple could only bring an offering permitted for the poor (two turtledoves or two young pigeons).

"And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

"And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

"""So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

'Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 

For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.'

"And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
(Luke 2:25-35)

Based on a personal word from God, Simeon was assured that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah; consequently, he lived expectantly surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the Temple on this particular day where, with spiritual eyes, he was able to recognize that God was present in an unusual way. Through all the noise, converse, and rituals, he discerned the uncommon from the common, the divine swaddled in plain humanity. As a result, Simeon became a pivotal mouthpiece for God, whose prophecy concerning the ministry of Jesus continues to be proclaimed thousands of years later.

Anna had been a widow for eighty-four years. Instead of remarrying, she lived at the Temple and spent her days in prayers and fastings. Anna was also easily moved by the Spirit of God, and she walked by at the very moment Simeon was prophesying over the Savior.

"And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem."(Luke 2:38)

Notice she did not have to stop and ask, "What's going on?" She instantly received a Word of Knowledge and began to prophesy with Simeon.

Simeon's and Anna's prophetic words about Christ are significant; they are the last ones we hear from an old era of salvation by works until Jesus steps out of the Jordan to begin His ministry. What an honor to hold and bless God, the Son, and proclaim the arrival of His Kingdom.

Simeon and Anna are two of my favorite people in the Bible. Their lives give me hope that I, too, can find the divine in the everyday places and people of life.

As a whole, the Jewish nation missed their day of visitation because they had preconceived notions as to how the God-king and rescuer would arrive on earth…how he would look and live. The people were taken off guard and even offended at the lowliness, humility, and gentleness of Jesus.

I'm sure I've missed many days of visitation. That's why I pray for a heart like Simeon's--so surrendered to the Holy Spirit that I can spot God wrapped in the smallest and most unpretentious packaging.

I know I've passed up opportunities to be blessed because I didn't recognize him in that homeless guy that I use to pass on the way to work. I should have taken time to look a little closer into the eyes of the rude clerk at Wal-Mart. I would have seen Jesus through the fatigue of a single mom standing on her feet hour after hour, only to pick up a screaming child from the baby sitter's after work and silently wonder if she could put off her car payment one more time.

We cry, "God, where are you?" and then go blindly through the day. We look, as did Elijah, for the dramatic wind, earthquake, and fire for evidence. We miss Him because we forget that when God came to earth, He chose to do so incarnate in human flesh.

Nothing has changed. God continues to work in the world incarnationally--human to human. You see, the Church is the visible Body of Christ--His heart and His hands--the continuing ministry of Jesus on earth. And God is at work in the lives of the most unlikely, unfortunate, and unlovely of humanity. He challenges us to push past the "outer court" and look deeper.

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You,
or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ "
Matthew 25:34-40

Did you know that the final covering used for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was porpoise skin? To the undiscerning, it was just a large, dull-looking tent. However, the outer shell served an important purpose because it was resilient and waterproof--ideal to protect the treasure within.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Father, help us recognize you in the people we come across in our daily lives. They bear your image and likeness, though marred and muddied. Help us see past the unlovely skin to the treasure within.

Unlike Anna, I do not physically reside at church twenty-four hours a day, but my heart is a home (temple) for the Holy Spirit; there I can continually commune with Him. I've been praying for some things for what seems like a lifetime, haven't you? However, we must draw encouragement from Simeon and Anna's "suddenlies". It's never too late and you're not too old.

What did Anna and Simeon have in common?

1) They were humble people with extraordinary commitments and sensitivities toward God.

2) They allowed the Holy Spirit to interrupt their day (even those noble, religious duties).

3) They had pushed aside fleshly expectations and used their keenly exercised spiritual senses.

No wonder Christians included Simeon and Anna in the Christmas Story!