Friday, December 12, 2008

The Good & the Bad of Proposed U.S. Infrastructure Ideas

"Some of the infrastructure ideas put forward are obvious and fine: rebuild roads and bridges. One is unexpected and smart: strengthen the electrical grid. One is so lame as to seem a non sequitur: make sure every classroom has the Internet. In America, you don't have to worry that kids won't go online, you have to worry the minute they do. The Internet is not a gifted teacher, but only another limited resource. There is no sign, none, that the Internet has made our nation more literate, or deep, and many signs it has made us less so, u no?" Excerpted from "Rectitude Chic: The First Christmas in the Age of Restraint," Peggy Noonan's weekly online "Declarations" article in today's Wall Street Journal.

The rest of Noonan's article is worth your time to read--with a good cup of coffee, of course!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wonderful Counselor of Finance

I recently began a four-part Christmas sermon series based on the four names of the Child born, the Son given, unto us in Isaiah 9:6: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. In my preparations for the sermon concerning Jesus being our Wonderful Counselor, literally Wonder of a Counselor, I pulled off my library shelf a volume from the The Kregel Classic Sermons Series edited by Warren Wiersbe, Classic Sermons on the Birth of Christ. In it I discovered the manuscript of the sermon "The Christ of Christmas" preached on "The Lutheran Hour," best I can tell, on Christmas night, 1930, the year after the 1929 Crash by Walter A. Maier and heard over a thousand radio stations. Maier's exposition and application of Christ as Counselor in those days of economic and social hardship seem all too applicable to Christmas 2008 and maybe more so by Christmas 2009.

Near the conclusion of the sermon I delivered last Sunday, November 30, to the First Christian Church of Owensville congregation, I included the following quote from Professor Maier:

I believe that for many thousands who are listening in tonight the needs of a capable, competent counselor has perhaps never been as great as it is on this Christmas Day, when we remind ourselves that the past year has brought to millions a long series of disappointments of various kinds and degrees. You have gone on year after year with a smug sense of self-satisfaction and with a good deal of confidence in your money power, your brain power, your social power, but who have found that this house of cards in which you have enshrined your happiness has been puffed over by bank failures, financial reverses, war, and unemployment, and who now look about for some one and something that can effectively lift you out of the labyrinth of hopelessness and helplessness—you can find a divine Counselor in Bethlehem. Here is a counselor who is concerned first and foremost about the sole that lives on after the trinkets and baubles that men clutch so frantically crumble into disappointing dust. Here is the faithful and efficient Counselor, who tells us, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God,’ that is, get right with God. Remove the barrier that separates you from God and that keeps you away from the inner happiness which alone makes life worth living.

And when you come and ask, ‘How can I get right with God? How can I remove the impurity of sin from my life?’—great and wonderful Counselor that He is tells us, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.’…Never has His counsel failed; never is there any problem too intricate for His constructive solution; never is there any sorrow too deep to be healed by the balm if His consoling love. So tonight, when the joy of Christmas stands out in crying contrast to the sorrow that reigns in the hearts of some of my audience, when you think of your own misfortunes, of the gladness that has been turned to sadness through the coming of cold death or through the blasting of long-cherished hopes or through the tragedy that has followed in the wake of grievous sins; look above these difficulties to the Counselor, reposed in Bethlehem’s manger, and believe Him, when He calls out to you, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (p. 52).

During this Christmas season, there are two passages of Scripture that keep coming to my mind that certainly seem timely. One is taken from one of the apostle Paul's letters to his comrade Timothy:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:6-10, NIV).

The other passage, one that Maier briefly referred to, comes the lips of our Lord Jesus:

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need (Matthew 6:31-33, NLT).

As the old hymn says, "Oh, what peace we often forfeit!" Well, let's not forfeit it this Christmas. Let us focus and follow the Prince of Peace who is also Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father.