Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My thoughts on Mark Sanford

There is at least one person who is benefiting from the sudden death of Michael Jackson. The passing of the pop icon effectively knocked the peccadilloes of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford off the front page which helps him in his attempt to stave off calls for his resignation and keep his job.

I hope it doesn’t…

This week the Governor went missing. His wife didn’t know where he was, nor did the Lt. Governor of the state. Staffers finally revealed that Sanford had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail to “clear his head”. Turns out that was the least of um…ah... what he had cleared.

Governor Sanford had actually traveled, on taxpayer expense, to a rendezvous with his mistress in Argentina. What has really got the blog-o-sphere humming about this story though is the fact that the governor was quoted as saying that people who hold public office should be held to a higher standard and called for then President Clinton’s resignation during his adultery scandal. Thus said, Sanford’s resignation should be a forgone conclusion…but its not.
And that is the essence of his hypocrisy.

Governor Sanford, as a practicing Christian, has now publicly admitted to his failings and has asked his family as well as the people of the State of South Carolina for his forgiveness but he has already attempting to sweep his misdeeds under the rug. He has begun quoting the Bible and talking about the great things David did after his confessed sins with Bathsheba. But if the Governor was really seeking to get right with those who he has disappointed, starting with God, he should not be talking about any great things in his future. Such talk serves only to render any remorse he is attempting to show now as suspect.

The United Kingdom has a much better track record of its politicians doing the right thing when faced with poor decisions. Recently the Speaker of the House of Commons resigned amidst allegations of financial impropriety. In the U.K, asking forgiveness does not translate into keeping your job. Whether former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Idaho Senator Larry Craig, or New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey the list of scandal plagued politicians on this side of the pond that cling desperately to their positions seems to grow geometrically.

Some people have taken delight in pointing out the hypocrisy in Governor Sanford’s actions. However much of the ridicule seems to almost exonerate Clinton rather than universally condemn the repugnant behavior of both men. The fact that Sanford did essentially the same actions he accused Clinton of doing should not make the actions of either more palatable. If I rail against alcoholism and then get drunk one night, my actions do not make my condemnation of alcoholism less true.

My disappointment with Sanford does not center on his adultery. As a Christian minister and sometimes even as a friend, I have had to deal with adultery with those around me. Its what ones actions are when faced with it that dictates my response. When someone is broken, contrite and desperately wants to seal the breach with God and spouse, my heart leaps for the joy of a family saved . Other times I have dealt with people that go through a form of sorrow because they know it’s the quickest way of getting back to their place of respectability again. Its pitiful to watch and I feel I’m watching now in South Carolina.

I make no judgments on Governor Sanford but my advice would be to take the high road. Resign your position now and be a man. Spend the next weeks and months working on your family and then, because we serve a God who redeems, renter the public arena a forgiven man with your wife at your side.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iranian Protests

The verdict has been reached in Iran with the supreme leader of the country Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaiming a decisive electoral victory for incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and declaring any further demonstrations by supporters of the losing candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi illegal. Should such demonstrations continue, swift retaliation by the government would be justified.

In hindsight, there was not really another outcome that could have occurred. Had the spiritual leader wavered at all in support of the present regime, revolution very well may have been a result. Such an outcome though is still a possibility. Moussavi has declared that he is ready to “face martyrdom” and vowed to continue leading the people in protest in what has been seen in their view as a rigged election.

This is going to end bloody!

The government will begin to exercise every increasing force in ending the protest. Although Ahmadinejad and his entourage have made the typical accusations against American and Zionist intervention, the present administration is well aware of the real groundswell of support in Iran for reform and a change of direction for the country.

Reform and change that will not be tolerated!

For his part, President Obama has done a commendable job of walking the tightrope between supporting the democratic voice that is being displayed in Iran and the pragmatic view that knows he will undoubtedly be dealing with Ahmadinejad, and not Moussavi, in the coming months.

Even as I write this, the death count is estimated to have reached 150. My prayer is for peace in the region as I feel in the next few days, barring some divine intervention, many, many more people will be killed or injured.

PS: As a side note, demonstrations are occurring on behalf of the protestors in various cities around the world. Tens of thousands are currently protesting in Paris and it always strikes me odd that no matter what conflict is happening in the world, people protest in Paris. Israel and Lebanon fight…Paris protests. The Dali Lama mixes words with China…Protestors in Paris take to the streets. Iran has suspected election fraud…Parisians join the protest. Does anyone have a job in that city????

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

American Economics

In the days following Sept.11, 2001 the American people stood united in a way that seems to only come when our national security is threatened. Collectively the country seemed to ask of its president, “What can WE do?” The president’s answer? “Keep buying, keep shopping. If you don’t, the terrorists win”

I was dumbfounded.!

It became very apparent then that our society’s economy was a house of cards that could collapse at any moment. The fabric of our culture had become entwined with the need for ever increasing business profits. Any blip…any curb to a growing GDP would be crippling.

In 1992 I was on a flight from Seoul to New York. I was seated next to a young woman who had just spent the last year in Japan. We had a lively conversation about our experiences in Asia. She mentioned though how disappointed she was that Japanese culture was so intertwined with business. She went on to explain that the current generation had only known ever increasing economic growth but at some point there had to be a bump and when that happens, “they’ll be jumping out of windows because there is nothing in their lives that defines them other than business.” Well, the 1990’s did take their toll on Japan, and yes, there were many people there that jumped out of windows.

America now finds itself in a similar situation. I think our shear narcissism will save us from large numbers of suicides. Americans manage depression in a manner different than their Asian counterparts and prefer numbing their senses with entertainment, alcohol, pornography, and drugs to jumping out of windows. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that each succeeding generation has to have a “better” and more luxurious lifestyle than the one before us. I just saw a statement by the director of the FCC that noted with the switch to digital from analog broadcasting, 3 million “at risk” Americans would find themselves without television.

Only in America can the term “at risk” be used to describe someone who might have their T.V. shut off.

David Brooks, in a wonderfully written op-ed piece for the New York Times notes that in order to bring some semblance back to our national economy, Americans will have to increase their household savings from a present 4 percent to 10percent through 2018. He notes that this will produce a large drag on our economy that we as a country must be willing to accept.

He goes on to say:
“But it’s the political challenges that will be most hellacious. Basically, everything that a politician might do to make voters happier in the near term will have horrible long-term consequences. Stimulate the economy too much now and you wind up with ruinous inflation down the road. Preserve failing companies and you wind up with Japanese stagnation. Cushion the decline in living standards with easy money now and you just move from a housing bubble to a commodities bubble.
The members of the political class face a set of monumental tasks. First, they have to persuade a country to postpone gratification for the sake of rebuilding the country. This country hasn’t accepted sacrifice in 50 years.”

The American people will have to get back to the basics that made our culture and society one that has been the envy of the world for more than 100 years. That will mean that a person comes home from work to their spouse and children with the satisfaction of a hard day’s work and gratification being nothing more than togetherness under a roof with a full belly.

And then maybe…just maybe…flip the TV on to enjoy a good movie with a slice of cheese and a glass of wine.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Global Day of Prayer & Repentance

Years ago a dear pastor / mentor of mine gave me some advice which I have never forgot. He told me:

1) Never stray far from the "red letters" of Jesus


2) Never go long without coming back to repentance because people always need to repent!

I've never found anything in my years since then to counter that adage. Although, God can certainly act unilaterally (and does) the pattern we often see in the Bible is God’s people repenting and then He acts. Jesus Christ himself received a baptism of repentance (although he did nothing to repent of, he went through the form as an example for us to follow) before he began to move in Spirit led power and ministry.

Because of this, I was excited to see the focus on repentance during last Saturday’s Global Day of Prayer. The GDoP had originally started as a local prayer event in South Africa back in 2000. Since then it has expanded to over 220 nations that participated in this year’s event.

Many countries were divided up into smaller regions and according to a news article:

"Participants in each venue worldwide are being asked to recite a written prayer of praise, repentance and salvation during their GDOP services. "Come and finish Your work in our cities, our peoples and our nations," the prayer reads. "We lift our voices in unison with believers from Africa and Asia, from the Middle East and Europe, from North and South America, and from Australia and the Pacific Islands-together we cry."

In addition to global focus and repentance, the various regions also directed prayer into local matters and issues of social justice.

Unfortunately living in Qingdao I was not aware of any activities here that I could have got involved in but I was happy to read about the various testimonies and stories coming out of different cities around the world.

I have always promoted Christians gathering together on global events such as this. When we work side by side with Christians from different churches and even different streams of Christianity, it helps us to see that we are all only a “part” of the body of Christ.

I’m also quick to jump on any corporate initiative that has repentance as its focus. Not only on a personal level but on a church and nation level, there are more than a few things we need to stand before God and say, “We’re sorry” for.

Repentance is a powerful way of connecting to God. It humbles us. It shows a submission to the Father and His ways over our own. This goes against the current trend in the world today where we like to dictate to God what He will like and dislike. He creates us in His image and we attempt to return the favour.

I’ll leave you with a verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14 which is one of the theme verses for the global day of prayer:

"If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."