Monday, August 28, 2017

Tear Down this Wall

One of the most iconic lines of the 20th Century was delivered on June 12th, 1987, by President Ronald Reagan. Standing in font of the Berlin Wall, Reagan called on the Soviet Union to demolish the barrier between East and West Germany, saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Adding to the historical impact of this line is the fact that it was staunchly opposed by those close to the President, including Howard Baker and Colin Powell, who felt the imperative was, “unpresidential.” A determined Reagan kept the line, and the rest is history.

Long before Reagan called for the tearing down of walls the Apostle Paul delivered a similar line. In Ephesians 2:14 Paul says this of Jesus: “For He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

Paul’s theological point is that Jesus came to tear down the dividing wall between mankind and God; our sin problem separates us from our holy God, but the accepted sacrifice of Jesus tore down the wall, making it possible for our sins to be passed over, restoring us to God. If you are not a Christian there is a dividing wall keeping you from God. Don’t let it separate you any longer.

But I believe there is a fair secondary application here. Many of us are living with animosity towards someone else. Instead of forgiving them, we hold on to grudges and build up dividing walls between us. God didn’t create us to live behind walls, and the good news is He can make the two groups become one. Christian, if you are bitter or have hatred towards someone, then my advice is the same as Reagan’s to Gorbachev: tear down this wall.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The First Office Chair

Here’s a fun fact for you: Do you know who invented the office chair?

The first office chair was crudely fashioned by Charles Darwin in the 1840s so that he could get around his workspace more easily. Darwin accomplished this feat by affixing small wheels to the bottom of the chair that was in his study. Within a few years his chair caught on, and soon German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was putting these wheeled-chairs throughout the parliament.

Our office chairs today only loosely resemble Darwin’s. While some sofas and accent chairs haven’t changed much in 150 years, the office chair has come a long way. We could say that it has evolved.

Slowly, over time, Darwin’s office chair shed its upholstery and covered itself with faux leather because it knew that leather would one day be a classier look in offices. The chair continued to slowly evolve over time, adding a reclining feature, a height adjustment lever, and a high-back option; in what can only be described as a miracle, Darwin’s chair traded in its four wooden legs for a central leg with protruding wheels, which would allow it to better fit under desks.

Sound impossible? That’s because it is. Even Darwin himself would realize how far fetched it is to believe that his primitive chair would adapt itself on its own, regardless of the amount of time involved. The truth is, each of the improvements made to the office chair were made on purpose by intelligent people who saw ways to make it better. We call that intelligent design.   

There is not a rational person on the planet that would believe a chair adapted itself on its own, so why do we believe that living beings far more complex than furniture have done the same? The more we look at the created universe, the more we see intelligent design, not random chance. God is that Intelligent Designer who made all things exactly as they should be.

All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.

John 1:3

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Battle is Over

I’ve spent the last two weeks writing about the feud between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson; today I want to write about the battle that propelled General Jackson into the national political spotlight: The Battle of New Orleans.

During the War of 1812 the British invaded America and used the Native Americans to fight against their former colonists. While constantly being outnumbered and underfunded, Jackson’s heroics at war rallied his ragtag troops, allowing him to win several key victories. The final, and most popular, of these victories came in New Orleans, where Jackson’s men won a shocking campaign. In the end, 13 Americans were killed and another 39 were wounded; the British casualties were more severe, with 291 killed, 1,262 wounded, and 484 missing or captured. Every one of those lives was lost in vain, for unbeknownst to anyone on the battlefield, the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed, and the war was technically over.

It’s a shame when people fight after the battle has already been won. There is no more victory left to fight for. It is like beating the proverbial dead horse.

That story reminds me of the chorus of a song by MercyMe:

What if I were the one to tell you that the fights already been won?
I think your day is about to get better.
What if I were the one to tell you that the works already been done?
That’s not good news, it’s the best news ever.

Jesus won the ultimate victory at Calvary; He defeated the power of sin and death, and signed Satan’s death warrant. Yet many people today feel like they need to keep fighting to earn their place in heaven, even though the battle is over. Jackson’s troops didn’t hear the “good news” that the battle was over, so they kept fighting. We have the good news, and if we will accept it and trust in the finished work of Jesus, we will be saved.

That really isn’t good news. It’s the best news ever.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Old Grudges

Last week I wrote about President John Quincy Adams and the dismal perception he had of himself. That poor image was nothing compared to the disdain he held for his political rival, the man who cost him a second term in the White House, Andrew Jackson.

Upon hearing that his alma mater was going to confer an honorary degree upon Jackson in 1833, Adams wrote a scathing letter to the president of Harvard. In it he explained why he would not attend the ceremony: “As myself an affectionate child of our Alma Mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest literary honor upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell his own name.”

Indeed, Jackson was an uneducated, orphaned Southern farmer; in his letters he would not only misspell a large number of his words, but he would frequently misspell the same word different ways in the same piece of correspondence. Be that as it may, Jackson proved to be a successful man, passing the bar exam and making good money as a lawyer in North Carolina, serving as Tennessee’s first member in the House of Representatives and later a senator, and was the first governor of Florida (prior to statehood); he was also a war hero, revered throughout the country for his successes as a general.

Adam’s criticism of Jackson shows that he was still holding a grudge three years after the election. Jackson may have been a “barbarian,” but he was a successful barbarian, and one that had defeated the educated Adams. Holding on to old grudges is not healthy, and it brings out the worst in us. It distorts our view and gives us a wrong perception of reality.

Beyond that, holding on to grudges is wrong because the Bible says it is. Paul told the Ephesian Christians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).”

Being tenderhearted might not seem like a desired trait between two alpha males who just squared off in their second heated campaign in four years, but it is what God wants from us, and Jesus is our example. If you are holding on to a grudge, don’t be like President Adams; instead, take the advice from Queen Elsa and just let it go. It’s the best way to live.