Thursday, November 29, 2012

Before Your Shop.... Turn the T.A.P.

TITLE: BEFORE YOU SHOP . . . TURN THE T.A.P.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: 29 November 2012

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Typical Shopping Mall
(Photo Credit: blogto.com)
Shopping. For shopaholics, this is the time of the year to splurge. If one were to look into any shopping mall during this time, one will be hard-pressed to find evidence of a retail slump or an economic depression. There are sales galore and buying frenzy in many places. Why do we buy? What is the point of buying on impulse at a special sales? This week, I like to look at the way we shop, especially when we in the rich hemisphere already have our basic needs met.

A) Non-Stop Shopping

First there is Thanksgiving Thursday Shopping. Thanksgiving week has always been a crazy week. Down in the US, it is perhaps the busiest time of the year for families, for friends, and for retailers. With turkeys in high demand, prices rocket. Parking lots are full. Tempers flare easily amid the heavy human traffic. With the retail industry trying to maximize the holiday shopping, many staff work longer hours, and family time gets shortened as a result. In the rush to bring in the bucks, people are fast forgetting what Thanksgiving is all about.  I spoke to a cashier at the Fred Meyer till on Thanksgiving week, commenting about how hard it is to get a parking space that day. She said, that it will be like this from November to the end of the year.

Then, there is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Lines snake round the block outside big retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and others. This year, Black Friday shopping began early, 8pm on Thursday evening.

Yes. You got it. Some workers at Walmart even protested at the management's decision to let business eat into their own family hours. Whether we blame it on the economy, or the aggressive stance by the competition next door, Black Friday has creeped into Thanksgiving Thursday. Already, there has been several Youtube videos on fights, swearings, and pandemonium as shoppers trample over one another for stuff offered at steep discounts. A popular tweet by a Tweeter named "Sarcasm" on the day leading up to Black Friday says it all.
"Black friday: because only in America people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have."

Third comes Cyber Monday. Retailers are going all out to rake in the profits, offering Black Friday like sales online. This online sales is a very attractive alternative for people who want to take advantage of big discounts, but refuse to join in the crazy crowds and long line ups.

Finally, here comes the big one: Christmas. It makes me wonder when will it all stop. Toward the end of November, it will be all Christmas mood, food, and continuous shopping. It makes me wonder, why are people shopping so frantically during this time of the year? Are they in the spirit of giving and sharing? Are they genuinely in lack? Or are they simply chasing after the Joneses?

B) What's After the Shopping Spree?

Psychologists have said that the period after Christmas is also a time where many people enter into depression. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, people has one single goal. Shop till you drop. Shop for the best deals. Shop for all kinds of reasons. If an alien from outer space is to land on a typical North American shopping mall, it will probably ask: "Is people living to shop?"

Is our culture encouraging us to live for the sake of shopping? Honestly, the evidence are all there. Turn on the TV or radio, you can watch or hear frequent commercials that are parading their latest wares at the craziest prices. Go onto the Internet and web advertisements come in the form of pop-ups, clever mouse-over flash views, or inserted links on webpages. Even our emails can be inundated with ads.

I know. Some women swear by shopping. They even call it "retail therapy." It helps take the stress out of the long day working in the office. There is some satisfaction when one has managed to find the best deal.

C) Is There More To Life Than Shopping?

The answer is a no-brainer. Of course there is life. My point is, how are we showing it? Do we really need more stuff? What's with the crazy spiral of upgrading our electronics and toys? Does the price justify the purchase of a fourth flat screen TV? Do we have a way to be wise with our purchases, or with our refusal to consume non-stop?

Several groups have started various initiatives against the crazy consumerism in the West. There is a "Buy Nothing Day" that advocates for a 24-hour hiatus on buying stuff. There is also "Buy Nothing Christmas." Their agenda is simple. Rebel against the consumeristic tendencies of our age, and to enable us to reflect on why we need to buy so much stuff? Even if we are to give stuff to people we know, are we buying them staff they already have? Or are we simply becoming pawns to the clever marketing and aggressive sales by the retailers. Honestly, retailers are becoming extremely creative with their marketing and sales.

Just take the Apple iPad for example. Since the launch of the iconic tablet on April 3rd, 2010, there has been four generations of iPad in the span of 30 months! That means, my wife's iPad 1 is already obsolete nearly four times over.

D) Living Beyond the Temporal

Paul's letter to the Corinthians is an exhortation to look for things that are eternal. Reminding the people that time is not only short, people also need to start living more urgently and intentionally. If one has a wife, live as if he has none. The NLT translates 1 Corinthians 7:30 as follows:
"Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions."

We must not be absorbed by our worldly activities so much that we forget about our heavenly duties. This begins by not becoming too possessive of our earthly things. The NIV translates the Greek word "me katechontes" as "not theirs to keep," a clear reference to not becoming bogged down by things, but be lifted up to see the things above. Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 7:31 by saying that this world we know is passing away. Perhaps, the thinking behind the consumer is that they can buy happiness with things.

"Residing at the core of the ideology of consumerism is the belief that personal happiness is advanced through the acquisition, consumption, and enjoyment of material possessions." (Anthony Selveggio, Seven Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind, P&R Publishing, 2011, 102)

If we approach life the way we shop and bargain for the best price, invariably, we let the consumerist tendency creep into Church. Heard of shopping for Church? Things cannot buy happiness. Yet, many people continue to buy into this deceptive practice. They turn the wants into needs. They turn wants into must-haves. In the pursuit of happiness, people forget that they hearts can never be filled by things or all kinds of stuff. Pascal reminds us again that we all have a God-shaped heart. This means that only God can satisfy.

E) Turn the T.A.P

What about Christians who shop passionately?

This one thing I know. If Christians passionate about shopping, can translate that shopping energy into living for God, there will be a spiritual revolution.

What about the one who skip your Bible study class because of a special sale downtown? What if a certain sale grabs your attention, making you move from a want to a must-buy? Let me provide three brief tips. I call this "Turn the TAP."
  • Tap: Is there a better investment of time?
  • Alternative: Is there a better way to use that cash? If I can save 20% from buying, what am I saving that 20% for?
  • Pray: Ask God if I really need it.

Turn the TAP. Maybe, instead of counting our savings and get distracted about something to buy, why not consider how much we have already been blessed? Jesus comes to earth not to buy, shop, and queue up for the best bargains. He comes to earth to give, give, and give, that we all may live. As you count your blessings, you will make your life count, to be a blessing.

THOUGHT: "The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring." (Francis H. Bradley)

sabbathwalk


Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

True Helping

TITLE: TRUE HELPING
SCRIPTURE: 2 Thessalonians 3:10
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: 22 November 2012
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” - 2 Thessalonians 3:10

You see a poor man begging on the road. What do you do? Do you stop to give a dollar or two? Or do you simply walk pass the man, complaining about them being lazy and unwilling to work? Or do you do something more?

Cycle of Poverty Plan Canada
Whenever I drive past Chinatown, images of poverty and unemployment populate the entire neighbourhood called the Down Town East Side (DTES), infamously called the poorest district of the entire West Coast of Canada. There is heavy police presence. Well-dressed individuals are hardly seen. It is common to see people lazing on the ground, straddling across the roads, without a care in the world about their own safety. The faces tell the same story. Helpless. Hapless. Hopeless.

Can the Christians do something about it? The spirit is willing but the plans are often terrible. 

It is a familiar cycle. It begins with a restlessness that the Church can do more. This is enthusiastically followed by a gathering of a few like-minded individuals. Exciting plans are laid out. Resources are sought out. Approval is obtained. Before long, the Church is on the way to doing something good for the poor and the needy. A neighbourhood Community Church is one example. Each Christmas, they will organize a collection of gifts for children and hungry families. With volunteers, they wrap the toys. They gather their children to do the same. They deliver them to families that have been identified as "poor and needy." Sometimes, they will even sing carols and mingle with the folks. The feeling is good. The mood is loving. It is all good. Pastor J is ecstatic and says to himself, "This is what true ministry is about."

A) Christmas Giving

The next year, it happens again. Christmas comes. Gifts are collected and wrapped. Carols are sweetly rendered. After the novelty starts to wane, Pastor J notices a reduction in volunteers and helpers. Finally, he receives one feedback:
"Pastor, we are tired of trying to help these people out. We have been bringing them things for several years now, but their situation never improves. They just sit there in the same situation year in and year out. Have you ever noticed that there are no men in the apartments when we deliver the toys? The residents are all unwed mothers who just keep having babies in order to collect bigger and bigger welfare checks. They don't deserve our help." (Steve Corbett, & Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts, Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2012, p63)
What has happened to the initial fanfare and excitement? Why are good people feeling tired from all the "good work" they have been doing? Why the change of mood? Simply put, no improvement or no progress is the single most discouraging factor for any ministry.

Call it charitable fatigue or helper exhaustion. The truth is, when we try to give people fishes instead of equipping them how to fish, we will be like digging holes of codependence. Give someone the first time, and they will appreciate it. Give them a second time, and they will anticipate it. Give a third time, and expectations will be formed. Give a fourth time, they will develop a sense of entitlement. Give five times and we will have created a codependence relationship where we are the powerful giver and they are the helpless receiver. This vicious cycle of helping is not only unhelpful, it is harmful.

B) The Biblical Example

Paul's reprimand to certain people in the Thessalonian Church is against idleness. It is not enough to say that one has faith. One needs to let that move toward action. It is not enough to say that we want to want. We need to put into action the plans we have. It is also not enough to say that we want to help. We need to do our homework on how best we can help, not just on our own terms, but what is the most helpful terms for the sake of the other person. The instruction is pretty universal. If a man will not work, he will not eat. We are what we invest in. The problem with some people is that they have a wrong sense of what faith means. Will pure prayer and fasting help an unemployed person? Will simply repeating words of faith do anything?

The problem with an idle man is not whether they are able to work. It is in their unwillingness to work, choosing instead to wait for the last days to take form, while they idle themselves. The Greek word "thelo" in 2 Thess 3:10 is the same verb used for the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida where Jesus asks, "Do you wish to get well?"

When a man is unwilling, questions need to be asked to rouse the man up from his sleep. The biggest problem among those of us who are poor and perpetually needy is the loss of dignity. This is especially so in a materialistic world where money talks, and where reputation flies. Rich people get all the attention. Poor people get none, apart from a passing condescending mention whenever one drives past the poor neighbourhood. Rich people can order people about while poor people gets pushed around. Rich people have materially plenty. Poor people are needy both materially and non-materially.

C) Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Don't get me wrong. I am not against prayer or fasting. I am also not saying that faith is unimportant. We need to be people of faith that is demonstrated through faithfulness with what we already have. If you have legs, walk. If you have eyes, see. If you have ears, hear. If you have hands, work! Honestly, sometimes the best advice one can give to an idle man is to rebuke him for any inaction. That said, it is also important to appreciate the circumstances behind each poor person. This calls for wisdom and discernment in any desire to help.
  • Are there physical weakness we do not know of?
  • Are they trapped in a system that abuses or prevents them from growth?
  • Are they able to walk on their own two feet now, or do they need temporary hand-holding?
  • ...
We need to balance affirmative action with grace. Many churches in North America are considered quite well to do. They contain a sizeable number of affluent individuals who are able to provide lots of material help. Just think of short-term mission trips. We see far more North American churches sending teams to the poorer nations than the other way around. Have we ever taken the time to consider the two questions and which reflects the reality better?

#1 - We help others based on what they truly need.
#2 - We help others based on what *WE THINK* they need.


D) True Help

True help begins when we learn to recognize our own brokenness first, before we can help others. It is because the world is broken, we see life being strewn about in broken pieces. There are people with emotional hurts. There are those with physical handicaps. There are also people who really try to find employment, but have been rejected over and over again. There are people who are victims of the system. There are the despondent and the depressed, the tired and the lonely, the down and out. Only when we develop the eyes of Jesus, can we attain a heart of compassion. Then, and only then, we will learn to let our brokenness, motivate us to reach out to others.

Tom is a well to do Christian. He goes to Church, has a nice house, a well-made car, and a cushy job. He too wants to do good. He even gives to charity regularly. Yet, he is always complaining about how the poor are not helping themselves. He is right, but also wrong. Right in the sense that there is no improvement in the poverty cycle. Wrong in trying to straitjacket poverty into one single problem. The truth is, poverty is an extremely complex problem. There is a different story behind each individual poor. There is a unique tale behind each beggar. Poverty never really gets resolved because far too many well-intentioned individuals fail to understand the complexity of the poverty world. Poverty alleviation is a very complex issue. It is not about doling out cash or gifts. It is about connecting their sense of brokenness with our own brokenness, like a beggar telling another beggar where to find food.

The community Church, Pastor J, Tom, and many people have good intentions. However, good intention alone is not enough. I will even call it Step 0. Step 1 is about recognizing our own brokenness.

As long as we fail to recognize our own brokenness, we will cause more harm than good in the long run. Let me offer a start. We can all pray. We can all read Scripture. We can all talk about helping. If you really want to start, true helping begins by knowing the person you are trying to help. Take time to talk. Take time to pray for that person. Take time to understand the story. This ability to "take time" must come from an important source: To recognize that we too are broken people. When this happens, we are ready to really help.

THOUGHT: "True helping is not about giving things away. True helping is about walking along with the needy in a way that is helpful for them, according to what they really need, not what we perceive their needs to be."

sabbathwalk

Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Praying Circles - A Birthday Reflection

TITLE: PRAYING CIRCLES - A BIRTHDAY REFLECTION
SCRIPTURE: Mark 11:17
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: 14 November 2012

And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'" (Mark 11:17)

What do people do on their birthdays?

For parents, they buy gifts for their children on their special days. For others, their loved ones will either cook them a lavish meal, or go for a nice dinner. Still there will be others who will do something to make it a really memorable time for the birthday person. Once a year, families all over the world will celebrate each other's birthdays. Of course, we do not forget that the most common thing to do on the special day for anyone is this, "Happy Birthday!"

In a social media age, technology has helped bridge the world of distance, bringing people together through quick and efficient connections online. Friends that we know from long time ago can easily locate us either through an Internet search, or through our other friends. With websites like Facebook, you may not need to comb past yearbooks just to remember one specific "long lost friend." Instead, all you need is one friend from that class, and there is a good chance that this friend will know our "long lost friend." Receiving birthday greetings is one way to begin the day. Due to the time differences, birthday greetings can start coming in from Asia almost a full day before North American time. It is quick. It is easy. It is one effective way to help us keep in touch. Yet, for all the technology and the efficiency, there is one thing that I do not like. Birthday greetings from machines.

A) Dehumanization in Process: Mechanized Greetings

For all the power and beauty of technology, robotic greetings still get on my nerves. Marketing calls in particular irritate me a lot, especially those that are made by machines.

"Hi. You have been selected for a special promotion. Press 1 for English, 2 for French, or 0 to speak with an operator."

Huh? Goodness gracious. If you do not even bother to invest in a human person to call me personally, how can you expect me to reciprocate? If you let a machine call me automatically, I will hang up on the machine automatically. It is that simple. A mechanized solutions is no way to cultivate personal connections. In fact, I think such use of technology is a sad act of dehumanizing people. For the sake of cutting costs and increasing efficiency of reach, people's feelings have become less important than selling goods.

I receive birthday greetings too from University computers or professional societies I am registered with. For all the nice words on the email letterhead, or the e-card, I cannot but feel being just a piece of data on the organizations database. As a programmer myself, I can think of algorithms in which I can create a spreadsheet of last names, first names, year, month, and day of birth. The information is then passed through a sorting software that spits out birthday greetings for the alumni or the member on their special day. Just program once, and the machine takes care of the rest. All year round, this machine will be the one saying "Happy Birthday!" to the birthday persons on their special day. No human person in the management, or the staff, needs to remember the details. It is the machine that remembers and takes actions. The human persons do not bother to remember, leaving an impersonal machine to give out an impersonal greeting to a real person.

For me, such greetings are meaningless. They are either ignored or deleted. Neil Postman warns that technology is never neutral. It either adds or subtracts. If we do not take time to reflect on its impact, chances are, we will lose more than we gain. Mechanized solutions, for all its efficiency and effectiveness, when it comes to human connections, it is a net loss.

B) One Year Older

I don't know about you. The older I get, the more I begin to think about my friends and loved ones. I more I start to ponder about what kind of a race am I running. The more I get to ask myself, what have I accomplished all these years. This retrospective mood is particularly strong on birthdays. When I am younger, I want to grow old faster. When I get older, I want to stay young longer. As I watch my kids grow up, I too begin to wonder what my next half of my life will be like.

In his book "Finishing Well," Bob Buford relates his experience with Tom Luce. When asked about what gives him most satisfaction in life, Luce gives two answers. The first is about building an institution that will bless others and outlast himself. The second is something more personal.
"The other thing that I feel good about, is the wonderful friendships I’ve developed over the years. God gave me the ability to be a good counselor, to put myself in the clients’ shoes, and that has led to many rewarding relationships.” (Tom Luce)
The older one gets, the more one becomes aware of the importance of relationships. This is something most of us know in our heads, but it takes time before it sinks through to our hearts.

Is there something more to life than making a living?

C) Praying Circles

While thinking about birthdays this week, I think of what I like to do on my own birthday. After receiving tonnes of birthday greetings on social media, I decide to turn the happy greetings into praying for my friends and loved ones. I think of Jesus who spends a great amount of time simply praying for people. So much so that when he sees merchants messing up the worship mood in the temple, he angrily overturns tables and scolds the people for turning God's House of Prayer into a den of robbers. A prayerful man recognizes immediately the things that make God unhappy.

The idea of praying for my friends on my birthday comes about when I pick up Mark Batterson's bestselling book "The Circle Maker" yesterday. In it, Batterson shares the story of a Jewish hero, Honi. About 2000 years ago, before Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, Israel was experiencing a terrible drought. In that first century, the drought was poised to destroy an entire generation. When rain was plentiful, the people hardly thought about water needs. When rain became rare, people often thought and talked about it. As the people looked on in despair and hopelessness, Honi took on a new role. He prayed.

Taking a six foot staff, he drew a large circle around him. With heads bowed downward, and attention focused upward,  he cried out,

"Lord of the universe, I swear before Your great name that I will not move from this circle until You have shown mercy upon Your children." (quoted in Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, p10)

What made the prayer special is that it is filled with conviction and belief. It is a resolute act of defying the drought and expecting great things from heaven. Soon, there came a drizzle, which silenced the onlookers. Yet Honi was not satisfied. Standing within that circle, he called out for more.

The drizzle turned to droplets of rain. Yet, Honi remain resolute, determined not to budge from the circle. Droplets of rain became a torrential downpour. Still, the pious man remained in the circle. He wanted more.

"Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of Your favor, blessing, and graciousness." (10)

The prayer warrior has showed his hand. He seeks not for the gifts but for the Giver. He asks not for mere showers for the land, but showers of blessings for the people he loves.

That is my prayer for my friends, my loved ones, and my readers. I pray that the Lord will send showers of blessings to you and your family. I pray that when you feel lost, the Lord will make you found. I pray that when you are sad, God will send joy and hope in His time. I pray that you will find fulfilment in things eternal, and place less faith in temporal things. I pray that your relationships will grow strong and healthy. Even if you may feel down or discouraged, I pray and believe that the Lord holds you in His good hands.

Each week, as we enter the Lord's presence in the House of Prayer, may it lead to us doing something more.  Overturn the tables of materialism, individualism, consumerism, and all kinds of mannerism that dehumanizes people. Turn toward God. Turn toward caring for people. Turn toward making our own hearts hospitable for God and for people God loves.

Let us open our hearts for the Lord to dwell within us. There is no greater joy than to have the Lord do just that. For us, for friends, and for loved ones. This will be what I will do for my birthday. I will pray for all my friends. This is my prayer for you.

THOUGHT: "Dream Big. Pray Hard. Think Long." (Mark Batterson)

sabbathwalk

Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Elections Aftermath

TITLE: ELECTIONS AFTERMATH
SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 3:13-16
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: 8 November 2012

"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:3-6)

So Obama has won the US Elections. In a winner takes it all culture world, people draw battle lines. Winner gloat about their victories loudly. Losers resign to their defeat quietly. Anyone looking at the recent elections may be forgiven if they think that the US has only two colours: Red or Blue. One either votes for the Republican party (Red) or the Democratic party (Blue). Otherwise, one can simply choose not to vote at all. At the final count, even though Obama has taken 303 electoral votes over Romney's 206, one needs to remember that the number of votes are not an accurate reflection of popular vote. Take for example, the hotly contested state of Florida, where both candidates won nearly half the total votes cast, the margin of victory is only 0.56%. Yet, whoever wins, no matter how small the margin, the winner takes all 29 electoral votes of Florida. That is pure democracy at work, where majority wins.

Map of the US Elections 2012
Is Obama's win a win for America? The answers are mixed. The fact is, if there is any win for the people, Obama's administration has the next four years to demonstrate it.

A) Who Wins?

People in support of gay rights and marijuana legalization say that they win. The day following the hotly contested US elections, the front page headlines of newspapers in BC proudly flash out the victory of Obama as a win for marijuana and same-sex marriage activists. In Canada, Obama is extremely popular. Yet, on major news agencies, the capitalized words on the front pages are extremely optimistic of greater rights for gays, for marijuana use, and for human rights, as defined by these activists. It is quite easy to see how the news media portrays the choices of US Presidents as a reflection of their lifestyle choices. Simply put, people can do the correlation. Rightly or wrongly, the opinion points to:

  • A vote for Obama means a vote for pot, for same-sex marriage, and for more gay rights.
  • A vote for Romney means a vote against all the above.
Such a clear cut distinction only muddles the thinking of most people. Does this mean that Obama is a gay advocate or a pot champion? Does this necessarily say that Romney is attacking the rights of all gay groups? How then is a President going to deal with his calling to stand up for ALL groups? Every group has rights. Ever sector needs attention. Every individual needs to be respected as a citizen. A President is not just a president for any one activist group. He needs to serve ALL groups. So, what kind of a "victory" is this?

Canadians here in BC feel it is a win for them. Yet, for some Canadian businesses, a win for Obama represents greater competition from their neighbours. With British Columbia a neighbour to the US state of Washington, whatever happens down south has a direct implication for matters up North. With the legalization of marijuana in Washington, the Canadian customs are becoming more stringent to check for illegal importation of the drug into Canada from the US. BC drug pushers will feel threatened about the easy availability in Washington. With the legalization of same sex marriage, Vancouver's same-sex wedding industry is bracing for greater competition from Washington state.

A win for Obama is not necessarily a win for some businesses.

Yet, I am concerned. I am concerned not because I agree or disagree with whatever human rights in question. I am concerned about how the next generation is going to make wise and informed choices. I am concerned that the way adults fighting for rights for that generation, spill over to another generation that are not equipped to think as well as the present generation. In other words, simply on the basis of different eras, what is benefit to one generation is not necessarily be so to the next.

B) What About Responsibilities?

Is a win for more rights a win for the teaching of responsibilities? Not necessarily. We can all fight for rights, but with each right, there needs to be a corresponding rise in taking responsibility. Who is doing that?

A right to smoke marijuana requires responsible use, and a responsible teaching of the pros and cons, and how it impacts society at large. That is why cannibis, marijuana are drugs that are controlled. Any society that legalizes their use without a corresponding framework of teaching responsible use, is downright irresponsible. It is also harmful.

How can one curb addiction? Where are the helps and guidance with regards to responsible use? What can parents do when their kids bring home a bag of pot and start smoking them in their room, claiming that it is their "right" to smoke the drug? The logic they can say is, since the state allows it, why can't their parents allow it? The onus is on parents to teach responsibility. If society at large, and activist groups simply fight for rights for the pure sake of rights, ignoring all responsibility in the process, their actions will be deemed irresponsible.

C) Pray for Parents

For all the talk about greater human rights, I fear that society is becoming less family friendly. Society does a great job in highlighting the plight of the weak and marginalized, and for fighting for greater rights for all. For people who are passionate about rights, they often despise rules. They diss off laws that prevent them from doing what they want to do. They want to abandon the very structures that have stood the test of time, to provide them the very atmosphere of freedoms they have. My concern: are they are sawing off the very branch they are standing on?

I think of the Ten Commandments that have shaped the ethic of society in general.  With the hugely anti-religious sentiment nowadays in the West, just saying, "Thou shalt not steal," can trigger a straight rebuttal: "Don't you impose your religion on me?"

Huh?

Remember the talk about the silver spoon generation? Parents who struggle hard through the tough economic times to raise their kids, store up a form of character in themselves, an ethic of hard work and an appreciation for the right for human dignity. By removing the struggle and the challenges of hard work, their children grow up with a silver spoon, sometimes thinking that the world owes them a living, assuming rather than fighting for the sake of others. In the same way, people of one era who understands the issues, and fights for the rights based on their understanding of the pros and cons, are potentially offering pot and legalized drug to the next generation without guidance. That to me is not only dangerous but irresponsible. Education is key. In fact, I will argue that education needs to be all-rounded, not just from the gay-advocates, or from the pro-pot groups. Equal rights means equal rights for all, not just any one group. Just as education curriculums are tailored to promoting gay and lesbian rights, is there space for an alternative view? Is there a way in which parents of different opinions are able to teach their kids not to simply swallow lock, stock, and barrel, what their public school teachers tell them? Is there a place for people of religion to teach their kids in the public arena, just as the people of secularism are imposing their philosophies on our children? I am talking about equal rights, but the way the society is shaping up right now, shows that some groups have more rights than others.

Winners take it all?

If a win for Obama results in a general relaxation of a freedom of ethical rules in businesses, it is a defeat for a free and fair business environment. If a win for Obama means an unchallenged right to free and irresponsible use of marijuana, it is a defeat for social organizations who have suffered the brunt of the negative effects of drug addiction. If a win for Obama means the children in our culture have free and unrestricted access to all things drugs, sexual liberty, and a right to do whatever they please, it is a defeat for families struggling to cultivate greater responsibility and citizenship.

Character begins at home. Unfortunately, if there is a  rise in rights over responsibilities, and the elevation of individual rights over community matters, it is not a win. It is a loss for all, both the present as well as the next generation.

D) Our Hope in Christ

Pray for parents. Society is good at fighting for rights, but is utterly poor in promoting responsibility. Parents form the final frontier in the bringing up of good and responsible people in society. It cannot be based on simply fighting for rights for the sake of rights. Neither can it be fighting for the sake of fighting. It must be something else.

The Apostle Peter has this one goal. Hope in Christ. Anyone of us who wants to do good, needs to ask ourselves, "What is good?" Christians know that only God can define what is good. For those who refuse to acknowledge any god, they themselves are their own gods. Christians know what hope they have. Those who refuse any knowledge of God, base their hopes on other things, like narcissism, self-seeking motives, and all kinds of rights based on an undefined brand of secularism and pluralism. Our hope is in Christ. Their hope is in an eclectic mix of everybody wins, everybody has a right to their own opinions, and everyone has rights to everything they want.

Peter encourages us, that those who seek to do right, will be expected to suffer for doing right. It is to be expected. One more thing. Who wins? The jury is out there. Whatever happens in the next four years in America, or the world, we wait to see. Our present duty is to live well in the light of God's Word. We are to live responsibly and base our righteousness on the Word of God. We are not to be ashamed of the gospel. We cannot please the world. We cannot please all people. We can please God.

God wins. Eventually.

THOUGHT: "I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty." (John D. Rockefeller, Jr.)

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