A Firm Foundation

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” -Psalm 40:2

A broken dipstick was pulled out of a car engine. It took some drilling, but the auto shop was able to pull it out.

I was a broken dipstick, and God pulled me out of the pit, as he did King David.

Except for physical problems, where medicine is needed for a cure, drugs are not the answer to people’s problems. The pop 60s song In The Year 2525 is prophetic. Starting at the year 2525, the lyrics go through a crescendo of years, culminating in the year 9525.

What’s going to happen in the year 3535 has modern psychology down pat.

In the year 3535
Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie
Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today

A problem with thinking today is the idea that a problem, such as alcohol abuse, is not the fault of the abuser. It is treated as a disease and to remedy the problem you just need the right chemical brew to get into the pink.

The Bible commands Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…

Drunkenness is a sin, as is overeating, drug abuse, sexual perversion, etc. I’ve been brought up to believe that smoking is not a sin per se, but lately I started rethinking this – that smoking is a sin, period.

There are many things that we can help.

On gospelway.com, psychology’s view of guilt and moral responsibility is satirized in a folk song by Anna Russell:

I went to my psychiatrist to be psychoanalyzed

To find out why I killed the cat and blacked my husband’s eyes.

He laid me on a downy couch to see what he could find,

And here is what he dredged up from my subconscious mind:

When I was one, my mommie hid my dolly in a trunk,

And so it follows naturally that I am always drunk.

When I was two, I saw my father kiss the maid one day,

And that is why I suffer now from kleptomania.

At three, I had the feeling of ambivalence toward my brothers,

And so it follows naturally I poison all my lovers.

But I am happy; now I’ve learned the lesson this has taught;

That everything I do that’s wrong is someone else’s fault.

– Via Adams, p. 8

In an article about Alcoholics Anonymous, Wayne Jackson says the concept “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” is ludicrous. I agree.  https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/385-what-about-alcoholics-anonymous

What’s termed “alcoholism” is really habitual, besetting sin. Being constantly drunk, high, overeating, or continuing in other sins is wrong, a sin against God, which often negatively affect other people.

In my associations here in Bucks County, PA, I know many people stuck in the rut of getting drunk or high, stopping the sin for a time but falling right back into the rut.

When my grandmother learned about her neighbor’s husband’s problem with alcohol, she remarked “take him to the Lord”. That’s necessary and is just a first step. Salvation, once one accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, is immediate. But life here on earth is a journey, with traps that we, with our sinful nature, fall into, as illustrated in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pilgrim%27s_Progress

Like the drunks and druggies (and gluttons) I know, I started walking the right path, but then lost my way. The last time I stepped off the King’s Highway, I really got into a mess. I fell into deep depression and had such anxiety that my heart pounded when I was trying to sleep that I almost called 911. I felt isolated.

We all come back in our own time, God’s time. A problem with modern psychology is that it is treated as a science. Human behavior is not like a kid’s science project, where you make a mountain of paper mache with a hole in it, dump in baking soda, add red dye and vinegar and you create a volcano.

During one period when I strayed from the King’s Highway, a woman at college from Campus Crusade for Christ witnessed to me. After having talked with her a few times, she got flustered. “Why don’t you believe?! Haven’t we rapped enough?!”  Well, it’s not up to her. She assumed that, like the volcano science project, if she used the right formula, she would create a predicted result.

I wish I could wave a magic wand to cure the madness that has beset the best minds of my generation, but it doesn’t work that way. Neither would bringing The Reverend Ernest Angley, the faith healer, where he’d just say “I see your condition in my vision” work to instantly stop the insanity.

People beset with problems do come around. I finally did. Others in my circles in Bucks County have.

This doesn’t mean that you are never tempted. The trick is that when you are tempted, with God’s help, you overcome sin. The apostle Paul wrote that sin should not dominate in your life.

Salvation is immediate. Sanctification, where God molds you into conformity of what he wants you to be, is a lifelong process.

Romans 12:1, 2:  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Hope for Depression

People have depression for different reasons. Being homeless is depressing. I know; I’ve had a taste of it. But with God’s help, you can be delivered and lead a productive life.

The world doesn’t see it that way. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t put people back together again. Ultimately, the world writes people off. In Bucks County, PA, a hustler from the county mental health industry approached me and others with a proposal that we resign ourselves and allow us to be labeled as a lost cause and essentially become a ward of the state.

The Bucks County establishment sees the homeless as a lost cause.

This is the case with Odysseus’s men in The Odyssey when they were in The Land of The Lotus Eaters. Like kids who don’t want to leave a place they like and their parents have to make them leave, Odysseus had to get his men to leave this sleepy land.

“In Greek mythology the Lotus-eaters, also referred to as the lotophagi or lotophaguses were a race of people living on an island dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic, causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.” –Wikipedia  

By contrast, in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and others get through trials and temptations along their journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.

God sent people to help the pilgrims through tough times, such as Mr. Great-Heart and Mr. Valiant for The Truth. Two pilgrims had a problem with depression and anxiety – Mr. Despondency and his daughter “Much Afraid.”  In fact, Mr. Great-Heart and company rescue Mr. Despondency and Much Afraid from Doubting Castle, where they were held prisoner by the monster Giant Despair.

Pilgrims in Mr. Bunyan’s allegory of the soul also are nearly trapped on their journey when they find a soft spot to sleep. At this spot they were just supposed to rest up but not linger.

We need to encourage one another, including the weak and weak minded. One pilgrim in the 17th century story, Mr. Feeble-minded, lingers, hesitant to continue on the journey to the Celestial City. Mr. Great-heart takes him under his wing. “But brother … I have it in commission, to comfort the feeble-minded, and to support the weak. You must needs go along with us; we will wait for you, we will lend you our help, we will deny ourselves of some things, both opinionative and practical, for your sake; we will not enter into doubtful disputations before you, we will be made all things to you, rather than you shall be left behind.”

In a post on the Biblical Counseling Center’s site “Lessons Learned from the Dark Valley of Depression”, the poster relates the testimony of Bob Somerville, a Biblical counselor and professor at the Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California.  Dr. Somerville fell into a deep depression after he had major back surgery and after having been worn out by a tough work schedule.

“Everything was black and hopeless. I truly believed I would never preach or teach again,” he said.

Dr. Somerville explained how God brought him out of this dark valley.

He read the Bible daily, read Christian literature/publications, got Christian counseling and was supported by his wife, who stayed by his side during the ordeal. He counted on God’s grace.

One of the lessons Dr. Somerville learned after his bout with depression is deeper empathy for those who suffer from depression.

There is no quick fix for depression. In the 12 Step journey program I attend we learned that overcoming our problems, whether it be depression, anxiety, anger, alcohol or drug abuse, takes time. Wounds don’t heal overnight, but, if you stay on the right path as John Bunyan’s pilgrims did, you will find peace.

Years ago, I strayed from the King’s Highway, the road to the Celestial City in Pilgrim’s Progress, and like some of the wayward characters in the story, suffered as a result. But God sent circumstances and the right people my way and I got on the right road.  http://www.12stepjourney.com/

In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian gets stuck in the Slough of Despond, which is composed of the decadence, scum and filth of sin and cries out for help and is pulled out by the character “Help,” and goes his way on solid ground towards the Wicket Gate, where sinners saved by grace can enter the narrow way.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” –Psalm 40:2

Christian Socialism?

There is a school of thought that socialism could work if it were driven by Christian principles. I disagree.

Christian socialism started becoming a major movement in England in the 1960s. The movement ties capitalism with idolatry and greed. Many years ago, a pastor told me that Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto, believed that capitalism was the source of greed. He said that Marx was wrong; sinful human nature is what causes greed.

The terms “Christian” and “Socialism” are mutually exclusive. The legal term “Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius” (the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other) applies here.

God tells Christians to feed the poor (and clothe and shelter them). But this isn’t best done through socialism, even when society has a Christian consensus. Taxing citizens, the government controlling the means of production and redistributing wealth – the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, doesn’t create as many goods and services as does free market capitalism.

Bill Gates, not a government program, was able to lower the price of computers, improve them, and make them so user friendly that someone as technically retarded as I can use them.

A problem with central planning (socialism) is that this system is out of touch with consumer needs. A corollary problem is that, as the government controls the means of production under socialism, it can control what you believe – it’s inimical to religious freedom. It could also hold up, or even stop, material it doesn’t like, under the influence of special interests, such as Christian movies.

I’m reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of the soul, the Christian walk. Mr. Bunyan was thrown in jail because he was a non conformist – he didn’t fall in lock step with the official government church of England. Not allowing religious freedom is why, to use an Archie Bunker quip, we kicked England out of this country.

With more wealth to go around, there is more for the poor. There is a greater harvest, and as was the case in Leviticus, there was sufficient grain on the margins of the fields for the poor. “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”  — Leviticus 23:22

Today in Bucks County, PA, churches and individuals have been feeding and clothing the poor. Caring Christians not only feed and clothe the homeless, but they minister them, addressing their spiritual/emotional needs.

Shortly after BO was elected, Pastor Rick Warren said that private funds for the needy has dwindled because of all the taxes. After the government extorts citizens’ money, they don’t have as great a harvest to share. Sure, you might say, under a Christian consensus politicians won’t squander tax money like the Skinny Socialist did with Solyndra.

But, as John Calvin believed, because of the total depravity of man, government and churches shouldn’t put their power centrally.  That is,  you shouldn’t put all your eggheads in one basket. Our government’s separation of powers is based on the Presbyterian model of forming presbyteries, where if a church is straying from God’s Word, an independent presbytery can call the wayward church out.

Likewise, Martin Luther started a practice where anybody, from any walk of life, can challenge the clergy by pointing to scripture. The pastor at the church I attend encourages churchgoers to study the Bible and be accountable.   By the way, a Lutheran is just an unfinished Presbyterian.

Free market capitalism allows for free choice. School choice is so called because it lets parents, rather than school districts, choose what’s best for your children. It’s your money. Under school choice, the money that’s put into the pot lets you use your taxes as you best see fit.

The economic free market and the free market of ideas, for example, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”, gives us the freedom to engage in the unfettered exchange of ideas in the search for the truth.

To bad a John Bunyan didn’t have those rights. Instead, a judge, whom he fictionalized in Pilgrims Progress as Judge Hategood, and his kangaroo court abridged this godly man’s rights.

Giving socialism a Christian name and endorsement does not change the outcome of a system that has historically brought misery on society. Woodrow Wilson, for example, a progressive (progressing to complete socialism) whose father was a pastor, was a dictator who threw anybody In jail who protested against WWI. He was as bad for society as was progressive President LBJ.

In the 70’s, evangelist Francis Schaeffer said that freedom in this country has been abused. To keep order in society, Dr. Schaeffer said, one of two things will have to happen. Either we will have to have a police state to control people from the outside, or we will have to have a Reformed Christian consensus to govern people from the inside.

I prefer the latter. It’s not big government that makes a society great; it’s personal responsibility and achievement.

We Are All Homeless

It takes more than a house to make a home.  It takes love and concern for other family members to  this.

The nuclear family in this country has all but disappeared.  A songwriter asked:

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing…

I ask:

Where has the nuclear family gone?

Long time passing

Where has the nuclear family gone?

Long, long time ago

The mothers have all joined women’s lib

The kids are all preoccupied with electronic toys

The fathers are chasing their success and sports (and women)

And the most important thing is things

Parents shake their heads when kids run away

Or when they go on drugs or alcohol

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

There’s a painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art which I call The Fractured Family. The mother, the father, and the child are isolated in different planes (I’m about to leave on a jet one), as are other attachments, such as the school and the playground.  This is not the nuclear family.  Something went wrong along the way.

The nuclear family exploded into a mushroom cloud —  into a purple haze, made up of unrecognizable fragments of electrons buzzing around chaotically. Maybe someday we can defragment our dysfunctional society, but in the meantime…

“There’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mr. Jones?”, whines Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan sang about the youth who ran away from home looking for better pastures.  He asked:

“How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be on your own

No direction home

A complete unknown

Like a Rolling Stone”

Dylan was critical about the runaway youth who wandered in the urban wilderness.

Some homeless people in lower Bucks County, PA are not that much different in a sense than the hipsters who aimlessly wandered the streets in places such as Greenwich Village, NY in search of a better life.  And as one homeless person told me “we all have baggage.”

The difference between the hipsters who headed to their Greenwich Village Mecca and the homeless is that the hipsters choose to venture out, on a lark in some cases, to explore an alternative life style.  Although there are homeless who just walked away from life or are out in the street because of an alcohol or drug problem, many of them originally became homeless because of a job loss/home loss or other circumstance beyond their control.

And the homeless are that way, to quote Henry “Frogman” Thomas, because they ain’t got a home.  Otherwise, the homeless face the same vicissitudes of life as the rest of the population.

Back in the Eisenhower 50’s, there was no homeless problem.  The economy was sound.  Families stayed together.  Crime was low.  People were honest and worked hard.  At some point, there was moral decay in our society, which resulted in more poverty and crime.  Divorce rates skyrocketed, etc.

Just before the alleged Great Society of LBJ, the economy, as a result of the culture where the nuclear family thrived, was improving.  Poverty rates declined and the country prospered.  LBJ’s  war on poverty reversed these gains.  This Quixotic president launched an attack on windmills.  In fact, poverty as well as crime increased during this war.  Families were fragmented, as the system rewarded mothers to keep fathers out of the home.  As radio talk show host Tom Marr said “Where you have liberal rule, you have more poverty and crime.”

Today’s homeless problem is the aftermath of a nation in moral decay.  But, like the Phoenix who rises from the ashes, we can restore our nation, and resolve the homeless problem.  There are obstacles along the way, as is depicted in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, but God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bunyan/pilgrim.html

To help the homeless get a home, we at Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless have a plan to foster industry, responsibility and self sufficiency amongst the homeless.  http://www.gofundme.com/lq6sfc

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