31 August 2010

Liberty vs. License.

In the history of American politics there have been two main theories of the concept of freedom: liberal freedom and republican freedom. Liberal freedom, as stated by Michael Sandel in his book Public Philosophy, is "our capacity to choose our ends for ourselves." It is found in choice and the abundance thereof. Republican freedom, which gets its name from the Greeks and not from the Elephants, is "a politics that cultivates in citizens the qualities of character that self-government requires."

Sandel argues for the latter,
For despite its appeal, the liberal vision of freedom lacks the civic resources to sustain self-government. The public philosophy by which we live cannot secure the liberty it promises, because it cannot inspire the sense of community and civic engagement that liberty requires.
He continues by defining liberal freedom's voluntarist concept: the attempt to secure freedom without attending to the character of citizens by detaching moral considerations from political ones. In essence, the idea that we will rely on people freely choosing to develop character, rather than giving them incentive to do so. However, Sandel argues,
Even as we think and act as freely choosing, independent selves, we confront a world governed by impersonal structures of power that defy our understanding and control. The voluntarist conception of freedom leaves us ill equipped to contend with this condition. Liberated though we may be from the burden of identities we have not chosen, entitled though we may be to the range of rights assured by the welfare state, we find ourselves overwhelmed as we turn to face the world on our resources.
Now, why is this relevant? Because as Christians we have a parallel distinction between the concepts of free will and freedom. Free will is our ability to make the decisions we want, but freedom is our capacity to thrive. Jesus alludes to this when he says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Here freedom is contingent upon two forces: knowledge and belief. You must know in your mind what is true and believe in your heart that it really is. You must not only understand the truth but also act upon it.

The biblical concept of freedom is not that we do what we please, but that we follow His will for us. The former binds us to our desires, the latter sets us free in Christ. Abiding in His word and being his disciples means a limiting of choices and possibilities. We lose freedoms, but we gain freedom.

This is because of God's design for us. We would never put water in the gasoline tanks of our car because the car was not made to take water. It would be a triumph of choice if we did, but it would defeat purpose. The bird flies not because he defies the laws of physics, but because of his uniquely perfect obedience to them. The first airplane lifted off not because we rewrote the book on aerodynamics, but because we finally understood what it meant to fly.

Let my people go.

I'm reading this book by A. W. Tozer about the missionary pioneer Robert A. Jaffray. In it Tozer recounts how Jaffray once went on a trip to the islands in the south of China, mainly to parts of Indonesia,
On this trip he was quite literally spying out the land. His object was not to preach the gospel so much as to discover where the gospel should be preached. "According to my maps," he reported later, "there are scores of ports on the east coast of Borneo, but as far as we are able to learn there is no Christian witness in any of these places." But there should be soon, he vowed, and he made a few marks on his maps and moved on.
On returning, Jaffray had a sense of accomplishment,
"I was feeling glad," he said, "after two months' absence to be home. I felt I had done my bit. I had obeyed His command to go. I had made my report to the board, and could now settle down to ordinary work in Wuchow and leave others the responsibility of the perishing souls I had found in the uttermost parts."
However, this was soon to be replaced with dread. He had a dream. In it he was a fugitive running from Jesus with blood stains on his hand. Below him was white snow, and although he rubbed his hands in it, he would not be clean. He woke asking Jesus, what does this mean? He knew he was washed clean in His precious blood. Immediately he thought of the scripture from Ezekiel,
"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.
What does this mean?
Jaffray needed no Daniel to interpret this for him. It was all too frightfully plain. He thought at once of the lost of the islands. "If I warn them not, if I preach not the gospel to them, I will be accountable for their blood. No wonder I have heard in my ears all these days the cry of the people of Borneo. No wonder I have had ringing in my ears by day and night, 'Balik-Papan! Balik-papan! Samarinda! Samarinda!"
Ah. Pioneer missionary? To preach the gospel where it has never been preached before? This is how Paul felt,
And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation...
Paul and Jaffray shared the same hope.

23

The scientist asks, why does this happen? The dreamer, what does this mean?

30 August 2010

On Leaving Iraq.

From a Time article:
As a Baghdad trash collector, Ali Nasar, 26, has a unique perspective on a view held by many Iraqis. "When the occupation forces came to Iraq, it was good they got rid of Saddam [Hussein], but in fact everything got worse; security, electricity, water and garbage — which is good for me. But when they leave, nothing will be improved or return to the way it was," says Nasar. "No matter if the Americans are here or not, Iraq is a ruined country."
Different news sources paint different pictures. I wonder how most people there feel about America coming, and America going.

24 August 2010

My ringtone.

For the longest time, I think like two or three years, I had Ruth Cho's "Eternal Romance" as my ringtone. But sometime while I was in San Diego I changed it to a song called "With arms outstretched" by Rilo Kiley. It begins with the lyrics, "It's sixteen miles to the Promised Land, and I promise you I'm doing the best I can."

Does anyone else see the beauty in that? It's almost meaningless to know how far you are from the Promised Land. It should never have taken the Israelites wandering in the desert forty years to get there. But it did. And for all we know it could take us forty years to travel our last sixteen miles. What is meaningful is knowing Who has promised it.

I'll never get over the idea of promise. It brings hope and purpose and meaning to even the most mundane tasks of daily life. It means that what we are doing isn't for nothing. It means that waiting time isn't wasted time.

20 August 2010

Comeback in Love.

From G.K. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy,
The chivalrous lesson of 'Jack the Giant Killer' [is] that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride and such... The great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast' [is] that a thing must be loved before it is loveable.
That's from the Gospel, isn't it?
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In being loved there are two attitudes you can take. You can become arrogant, or you can become humble. Either you think you're great and you deserve it or you understand that you're a sinner and you deserve worse. Either you'll ask, what's taken so long? Or you'll ask, why me? Whatever you do, you'll never be the same.

Love will change a person. You wonder why someone isn't kind to you? Be kind to them first. Even if they don't deserve it. You wonder why people don't appreciate you? Appreciate them first. Even if there's little to appreciate. You wonder why you're all alone? Out reach first. Even if you get rejected. Because this is what God has done for us, despite our unfaithfulness and idolatry.

Love is what changes hearts. Show someone the love of God and you'll be amazed how far it will go. Punishment, spite, anger does no good. Hate leads to hardened hearts and to hurt. But kindness leads to repentance. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
We have received all things. Even our own lives. I have always resonated with the Beast. At first it was a mere outward resemblance, but now I understand there's more. I am not loveable, but God loves me nonetheless. And He loves you too.

15 August 2010

Prayer requests are like dirty dishes.

Do them when you get them, or they'll pile up and your roommates will get mad at you.

12 August 2010

Taste and See.

Two men sat across from each other talking. The first man said, "I know all there is to know about honey." He spoke at length about its origins, how the bee makes it and saves it for later, how the man farms it and uses it for his cereal and tea and medicine. He told him how it was sticky to the touch, golden to the eye, and sweet to the tongue. Yet something seemed off in the way he talked. Normal people don't talk about honey like this. Perceptive, the other man asked, "You appear to know many things, but have you ever tasted honey?"

"No." The first man replied, "I've never had the time."

11 August 2010

14th Amendment Debate of Late?

So many people are ignorant about the facts, I don't even want to argue about this. The question comes down to: What makes a person American? And that's had an ever-changing answer since the very beginning. If you're going to say that the parents' citizenship status determines the child's citizenship status, then you've strayed so far from the American Dream I don't even know why they call it America anymore.

What happened to the fresh start? The land of opportunity? The principles upon which this nation was founded?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
People don't seem to believe these words anymore. We are no longer created equal. Some men will be born in America, but not born American. We have returned to nobility, nepotism, aristocracy.

Nowhere in the United States Declaration of Independence does it say these Rights are limited to Americans, or Citizens, or children of Citizens. These Rights belong to all people, everywhere. And it is our duty as free people to fight for these Rights wherever they are being tied up, subdued, or shackled.

If being born in America doesn't make you American, nothing makes you American. The Dream doesn't exist--hasn't since the beginning. But the Promise lives on: Real citizenship is in Heaven.

09 August 2010

The goal of every teacher is that his student surpasses him.

I beat my dad today at chess for the first time. I realized, he is really good at the fundamentals. He pushes his pawns like no opponent I've faced. He uses his pieces in unexpected ways. He sees my blind spots, and exploits them. At the same time, he hasn't played in years, and I've been peeking at this book on and off in the past few weeks.

So I won. In fact, at one point, after he made a move he saw that I could've checkmated him and pointed out my missed opportunity. I was too busy trying to set up the checkmate that I couldn't even see that I could do it. Then he gave me more and more opportunities, letting me promote my pawn to a queen. And even though I lost it in the next move, he let me do it again later, and that's how I won the game.

D: "I had a friend while I was stationed over in the Mediterranean who I would play every day. And every time, I would lose. But I kept playing him, and I kept learning. And sure enough, by the end of the month I could beat everyone else there, but him."

22

If you're not losing, you're not learning. If you're not failing, you're not growing.

06 August 2010

Community.

Two of my favorite characters to see interact:
Annie: "When you found out I was Jewish, you invited me to a pool party that turned out to be a baptism."
Shirley: "Well, it's not my fault I'm trying to sneak you into heaven!"
Two isfjs. For sure. Hahahaha. :).

04 August 2010

May I know Jesus more and more.

I'm in the desert right now. Stuck between a dry place and a hard place. I found this quote from a friend's blog:
a Kenyan woman speaking to Kay Warren: I feel sorry for you... When you need something, you just go buy it. When I need something, I pray.
It is my arrogance that keeps me from Him. I think I can do everything on my own, and only when it gets out of hand do I seek You. Lord, humble me. Again, and again.