Christian Protestant Worship Services

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On general Protestant* worship services
I’ve been around the block a few times so I am aware of, have attended, and have even led several styles of Christian worship-ritualistic services. The services generally have been derived from two basic groups, free-thinking and authoritarian. The free-thinking are at liberty to put on whatever type they chose and are flexible. The authoritarian are usually pre-set at the behest of some given authority and generally will be the same from place to place although some minor alterations may be allowed. The latter class can be and traditionally have been referred to as liturgical because they follow a set program of liturgy containing a set pattern of leader-community response order of worship. The free-thinking class has been customarily referred to as non-liturgical because changes occur frequently in the order of service but are in fact liturgical in the normal sense of the word. A more exhaustive analysis can be made but you get the idea.

Here is a list of general types of worship services knowing that there are mixtures:
1. High Church, strict liturgy. It is the same basic format on any given Sunday in any area of the particular church where it is an institutionalized. It will normally contain a brief sermon pre-published by the church institution by which the priest or pastor uses as the standard for the week. The scripture has been pre-selected with some commentary and the priest or pastor may add some remarks, anecdotes, etc. Traditional hymns are sung using an organ accompaniment, with choir.
2. General liturgical. The same as #1, with the pre-set scriptures as per a particular denomination or sect or as used by a number of churches. The sermon may or may not follow the scripture text but will be more or less a topical sermon depending on a pre-set theme of the week of the season. Traditional hymns are sung using an organ and/or a piano as accompaniment, maybe an extra instrument and a choir.
3. Independent liturgical. A set order of worship, the same each Sunday but the pastor chooses his own selection of scripture and sermon topic. Traditional hymn with perhaps a more modern non-tradition song, an organ and/or piano and maybe a small orchestra.
4. Modern, non-traditional service with no printed order or worship. However it is usually the same every week as to the order beginning with praise songs and modern Christian songs with a traditional hymn or two with a piano and/or an orchestra or praise band. All music is non-traditional with a small contingent of voices without choir robes. You will not see many suits and ties if at all. It is very casual and members are free to move about, may check their cell phone messages, shoot pix or videos and even carry own individual conversations.
5. Strictly non-traditional. These are the Pentecostalists and free non-Pentecostalists but with an highly emotional tone, referred to by some as holy-rollers. No set responsorials but congregation members can respond as they see fit at any time with shouts of amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord and sometimes dancing about. The preacher will preach his sermon with fervor, There may be some traditional hymns but mostly choruses and modern praise type songs. The services will be the same each week however as the congregation will be in worship mode as usual. An extended invitational period and/or altar call will end the service, sometimes with the laying on of hands and praying with individuals by the elders. Some churches will have a period of anointing with oil for the healing of the sick and the repentance of the broken hearted. Sometimes the term, revival, is used as the members are revived each week with renewed spiritual energy.
6. Military, hospital, prison, and other institutional services may include one or more of the above depending on the chaplain(s) employed to lead the services. In most cases they are shorter and more subdued depending on the institution.
7. Services for INFPs. The service I fit in and prefer. I’ll let you known when I find one.


(*non-Roman Catholic, Greek & Eastern Orthodox, etc)

© 2018. Chaplain Bob Haines
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Go and Sin No More

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There is a meme, in several different forms going around social media that reads, “Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you.” Most of the time, it stands alone with simple borders around it, sometimes appears to be a photoshopped church sign, or another image seeking to pitch for a certain audience. I have seen the saying in quotes on two occasions, one attributed to a well-known Christian T.V. personality, the other to a Islamic imam.   I thought that was interesting, but know full well, the creator of those two memes had a particular audience in mind.  Needless to say, it is anonymous, original author unknown.
I’ve seen the meme posted from various web sites and Facebook pages. I do not know where it originated nor do I know the reason why any particular person, group, or organization would post it on their timelines. I do have my suspicion when it is posted by a friend I know, or think I know well, or see its sponsored page from which it was posted.

Now then, the posting of the meme naturally leads me to its subject, to wit, SIN. Next it leads me to the question, “what does my friend, or friend of a friend, believe sin to be?
What exactly do they mean by the word, sin?  That is, what is their definition of sin? Is sin subjective, i.e.. is sin what they, themselves think it is? Or, is there some standard for what sin is? Furthermore, do they think they are sinning in a particular way and are they looking for an excuse to continue to sin? Hey, others sin, so I have an excuse, so don’t judge me for my sin and I won’t judge your for yours. In other words, maybe they are looking for a way not to be judged for their sin at all.

For some people, namely those who grew up in a fundamentalist religious environment but have opted out for a more liberal, live and let live, religious persuasion, maybe they are saying, “it’s okay to sin because everyone does it and if I don’t harm anyone else then it’s okay.” Well, at least they, by using the word, sin, they are recognizing that what they are doing is wrong? All this leads to the opposite of a subjective idea of sin, namely, is there a standard for sin, i.e. a moral code or some statement that defines it. Furthermore, is there a list of sins and even more so, is there a degree of sin by which some are okay and some are unpardonable?  Perhaps sin is, as noted by some Christian theology,  not specific acts, but a way of life, a way of life that separates one from God and, once atoned for sin (not sins), one is forgiven, may do specific sins in the future, but the way of sin, itself, has been forgiven.

As a person who has an academic background in classic philosophy, world religions, and Christian theology, I am aware of many answers to the questions posed above and aware of the many published treatises and commentaries concerning the subject of sin. I am not aware of the current sociological stances concerning (so-called) enlightened Baby Boomers or Millennials in general although, again, I have my suspicions of where they are coming from.

As a proponent of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as portrayed in the traditional four gospels of the New Testament, one specific vignette comes to mind. The recording of the event is found in John 8:2-11 (NIV translation/paraphrase)

At dawn He (Jesus) appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
          But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
          At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. Go now and leave your life of sin (lit. go and sin no more).”

You can interpret this passage from scripture however you chose. As for me, the first thing I will note is that this is not an inclusive teaching on sin, the consequences of sin, nor to the fact that everyone sins, how to be forgiven or redeemed for sin, and whether or not one is able to be sinless. However it is important to point out that, although Jesus did not condemn this woman, ala the law of Moses, and the standard of punishment for adultery at the time, He did recognize her action, i.e. her way of life, at the time as wrong, and told her in no uncertain way not to do it again, or in other words, “get a life sister.”

Thus, the lesson of this story might be that if you are living a particular way of life that is considered wrong, in this case by Biblical standards, then it’s best to leave it. There’s no excuse that just because others do it, whether condemned by a religious community, or allowed by the civil community, just don’t do it no more because it is sin.*


 

*Sin, or a way of life considered to be sin, perhaps addictive, and depending on the severity of the sin, although forgiven by God when confessed on a religious basis, may be rooted in the psyche for which some degree of psycho-therapy is needed for the cure.


© Copyright May 2016
Robert A. Haines, Chaplain Haines
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

young, naive, and missed opportunity

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i am, slowly, over time, reading the enthralling book, Devil in the Grove, by Gilbert King.

 

while reading, i keep thinking back to the time in the mid-1980s when i was a young Navy chaplain serving at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  as i was making my rounds to various wards one day,  i discovered that Thurgood Marshall was an incognito patient on one of the sections that i covered. we often got famous patients connected with the Washington DC crowd in the hospital and i met several during my tenure.

 

excited, i went to visit Mr. Marshall and entered the room where he was in bed and his wife in a chair next to him. we struck up a conversation and both he and wife told me fascinating stories, mostly centered around chaplains or ministers, religion, and so on.  as in  most cases, the chaplains let the patient lead the conversation and they listen. needless to say, i was impressed.


before leaving the room, i offered to serve them communion of which he politely refused saying he only took communion (if i recall correctly) at certain times.


well, here’s the point: over the past several years as i’ve continued to learn, mature, and reflect on life, i am amazed at how naive i was back then. first of all i knew nothing of the man nor his history and real significance to American life and culture. had i known then what (i think) i know now, i would have engaged him and his wife with much more of meaningful conversation. it’s one of those cases when i really wish i could revisit the past and atone for my mistakes and stupidity.

On Teachers and Education

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Bob Haines . . .© 2014

 

here were a couple of teachers i really didn’t care for at all and still don’t appreciate. coach Lowe was a sadistic SOB. just sayin’.
some were good’ns — ooohhhh la la Ms. Taylor.
any teachers reading this — you’re are one of the good’ns — hang in there.

there are many good things about the educational “system”.
and there are a whole of of bad things IMO

today students are taught more to think verses rote. i recall doing a whole of lot memorizing such as math formulas, historical dates, places and such. but it seem to me back then that that was the purpose — memorizing for memorizing sake. what date was ole Abe shot in Ford’s theater. damned if i know and furthermore could care less. but i enjoy reading about him, his ideas, the issues and trends of his day.

i think students should learn about religion — ALL religious ideas. the early part of my life, there was only one religion and it was called Baptist — not Christianity — Baptist. then a little later there were two — Baptist and Methodist. not Southern baptist and united methodist — baptist and methodist. i never went inside the Methodist church house in my first home town until last year. then i moved and discovered there were Episcopalians — did i spell that right? — and Catholics — not Roman Catholics, just Catholics. i never went to that Episcopal church in my second home town either until i was about 30 years old. neither of my 2 hometowns had Catholic churches and i don’t think there were many catholics anyway. the baptist were against smoking, drinking, cussin, and dancing and the Episcopal’s did all 4 — many of the baptists did also and everyone knew it but they always denied it on Sunday.

i knew Jews were in the Bible but never heard of Muslims until i went to Pakistan at the age of 19 and worked alongside 2 Pakistani airmen — two of the nicest guys i ever met. one was very religious and trying to convert me and i was trying to convert him. neither of us caved in, but we both came away with a new appreciation for each others different beliefs.

i think philosophy or the history of philosophy should be taught in school — get an idea of how ideas evolved and how trends and science and all that developed. maybe throw in a little anthropology and other courses you don’t get until college — at least what they are about. maybe one course defining all the basic fields of study — psychology, sociology, bobology

~ Bob Haines . . .© 2014

Why Not The Best?

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© copyright Chaplain Bob Haines

2014.  All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Lt. Jimmy Carter, USN, was interview by Adm. Hyman Rickover concerning his intent to enter nuclear submarine service.  Lt. Carter stated his reason for wanting to enter this elite corps of Naval officers was in the form of a question: “why not the best?” Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia later gave that title to his book.

 

If I had only one message for the church on any given Easter Sunday, it would be to urge it to take a long, extensive look at the New Testament book of Acts. The aim would be to regain the spirit of the early New Testament church.

You want to be the best? Then emulate the best. You want to be the best Lawyer? Find the best and discover the qualities that make him/her the best attorney and seek to obtain those qualities. Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. It depends on your talents and training.
You want to be the best athlete? It’s the same thing. Of course, you have to practice.
You want to be the best church? Look for the best in the quality — the real essence of what a New Testament church should be.
The best church is not necessarily that it has audio-visual capabilities? It is not if the pastor is paid well nor the personalities of the staff.  It is not whether it worships in a modern, architecturally stunning  building. The best is not even the one with a mega-budget or a very large membership.  These things may be successful from the world’s standards or denominational standards. But if you want to be church of Jesus, by Jesus, and for Jesus, then look at the early church as founded during the New Testament era.

There are several places where one can go to look for examples of the early church but for a good church success story, the book of Acts is a place to begin. The book of Acts, itself, is the story of the first church, or churches moving out from a small group of Jesus’ followers to reach the world with the Good News of God’s Kingdom as they knew it, based on the teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth.

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Take a very quick look at an introduction to Acts and you might find a model that can make your church the best it can be — not by the standards of other churches but by standards inherent in the first church.  The story of Acts tells us that God promises to equip His people for the challenges they face in achieving Christ’s mission and that His people, i.e. His church, will be successful in its endeavors

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What is the story?

 

It is the story of the early Christian church moving out from the Jewish faith and traditions to a universal faith based on the radical teaching of Jesus of Nazareth — successfully. It is the story of a small group of Jesus’ disciples moving to reach a world with the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom not based on law but grace, not based on punishment, but repentance and forgiveness.

Acts is a follow up narrative to Luke’s first work, the Gospel of Luke. The distinctive features of Luke’s gospel are as follows.  It emphasizes Jesus’ sympathetic attitude toward the poor, lowly, outcast, , Samaritans, publicans, sinners, dying thief, and the like. That is, it emphasizes the pastoral ministry of Jesus.
Luke emphasizes prayer and contains three parables on prayer..
Luke greatly honors women and womanhood. We read about Mary, Elizabeth, Martha, the Daughters of Jerusalem and the widows. One of the distinctive marks of the Christian faith is that everyone is important regardless of gender, age, station in life, etc.

Acts takes up where the gospel of Luke ends. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church, led by its leaders, takes the gospel to the world successfully without hindrance. Acts puts the gospel of Christ into action, through the combined action of human agency, under the power of God’s Spirit.

It is important that we note the purpose of the book of Acts.  There are different ideas as to its purpose(s). 1. The traditional heading of Acts is “The Acts of the Apostles.” However, the words, “of the Apostles” in not in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. There is very little in the book about the Apostles. Matthaias appears only once. John appears early on. Peter is prominent in early chapters. James is in chapter 12. Paul is in the spotlight in 1/2 of the book. Others, not Apostles, are given significant roles in Acts — e.g., Philip, Stephen, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and Luke, himself. Clearly, it is not the primary purpose to give an “Acts ‘of the Apostles’.”

2. The second idea as to the purpose of Acts is that it is the story of how the gospel spread from Jerusalem to Rome. This is an old approach and is still listed as the purpose in the introductory remarks to Acts in the Oxford Annotated Bible. This is not the primary purpose of Acts. It is not a record of the geographical expansion of the gospel to Rome. It only tells how Paul got to Rome, not how the gospel did.

3. Thirdly, it is not the “gospel of the Holy Spirit” as some commentators have suggested.  The Holy Spirit is very active and it is a dominant theme of the book. However, the Holy Spirit is hardly mentioned in half of the book and is absent in 11 chapters.

Other reasons have been given as to why Luke wrote Acts.  I believe that he primary purpose of Acts is to record the triumph of Christianity. Acts is a success story.

The early Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who makes no distinction in persons, broke down all barriers such as religiosity, racial, national, etc., with a liberating gospel. The gospel broke through all limitations which men sought to impose on it.

The chief purpose of Acts was to show the victorious progress of the gospel of Jesus Christ to give a spiritual freedom to all who accept the gospel — excluding none. In short it was an unhindered gospel.

 

The first two verses of the book, Acts is related to the gospel proclaimed by Jesus in word and deed. Acts is a continuation of Jesus’ ministry, but through His followers. That which is related in Acts has its source in God’s will as made known in and by Jesus.
The acts of the church today must be a continuation of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We need to study afresh the gospels to recollect Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ ministry is our ministry: to proclaim and teach the Kingdom of God; to feed the poor and hungry (which we will have with us always); to care for the needy; to reach out to ALL people everywhere in love.

As per the third verse, Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation of the gospel. That is why Easter is the major Christian holiday and not Christmas. This is the Good News – Jesus is Alive! Paul said without the resurrection, our faith is in vain.  We no longer experience the resurrection first-hand, with our own eyes. But, by faith, we experience it as Luke’s first readers did. Christ is risen. That is the good news we proclaim.

Verse 4 of Acts reports that here now is the promise of the Father — the Spirit comes in fullness to each believer to do the spiritual work of the church.  (We should note that the Holy Spirit didn’t originate at Pentecost. The Spirit’s work goes back to Genesis 1:2 and has been manifested in certain individuals as reported throughout the Bible.)

Now, however, the activity of the Holy Spirit becomes presence in EVERY believer. Jesus’ Spirit is in ALL Christians not just a select few. God’s Holy Spirit gives you all the authority and power you need.

In verse 5 ,the baptism (water immersion) of John was completed at Pentecost with the baptism (immersion) by the Holy Spirit.  When one becomes a Christian, he/she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit because he/whe has been born spiritually, i.e. of the Spirit. Though one may not always be totally immersed in the Spirit because of the barrier one often places upon himself/herself when he/she acts on their own power and authority instead of the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

The church today must learn the primary lessons of Acts, the chief one being to allow the Holy Spirit of God to fill it, so as to break down all superficial barriers, so that the gospel can continue to be spread to the uttermost parts of our world.

In the final verse of Acts, 28:31, the final word is the word, unhindered, or without restriction ( Greek, ἀκωλύτως ).

This is the final word in the Greek manuscript of the book of Acts. This word, though overlooked by most commentators, is in my opinion very significant.  The lesson learned is that If the church allows the Holy Spirit of God to be in total control, it will be under the spiritual supervision and management of the God and as a consequence, no man-made barrier will hinder the work or the church.

 

In summary, then the applications of an introduction to the book of Acts leads to the following conclusions

1. The story of today’s church should be a story of the continuation of the Gospel of Christ.

2. The Holy Spirit will move in the lives of the people.

3. The resurrected Christ will be alive.

4. People will hear in their own language as the gospel is shared with those in any area in which it is preached, whether in Judea, Samaria, or to the uttermost parts of the earth. On earth, Christ spoke a universal language. Not everyone can understand a Plato or an Einstein. But all can understand Jesus — the lepers, the blind, the rich, poor, famous, learned, and ignorant. No one needs a commentary to know what Jesus meant when He forgave His enemies while dying on the cross.

 

5. The mission in the life of the church is the mission of Jesus:

* The proclamation of works. His power enables the church to do good works.

* The proclamation of teaching. The world needs to be enlightened with things that pertain to God and His Kingdom.

* Endurance. The church continues to possess a cross to bear, thorns in its side. It may be persecuted as the early church was. But the gospel will be presented no matter the barrier.

 

The firm persuasion of the reality of Christ’s resurrection is the church’s inspiration. He is present in it in the presence of His Spirit giving it power and authority to do the work of God.  It must allow the Spirit of God to break down any walls that would hinder it’s continual progress.

On Dialogue — Discussing and Debating in the Social Media

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I have had the great privilege of discussing and debating many issues with a wide variety of persons on Facebook — issues on such topics as  politics, religion, culture, and historical events, among others.  I belong to several Facebook groups and have friends who run the gamut from the far left to the ultra right wing, especially in regards to politics.  I have always tried to maintain an objective mode in these discussions without getting into personal attacks or feelings of animosity no matter how great the urge may be.  I learned a long time ago in my first college course, English 101, from a fine Scottish gentleman and long time mentor and friend, not to bring the subjective “I” into a debate, but stick to the issue at hand.  I also learned from him the art of being a devil’s advocate in order to bring out the best in my opponent’s argument and to serve as a learning tool.

Be that as it may, and for whatever reason, I often find myself in a dialogue where the other person wants to turn the discussion into a tug of war by using “you” messages, as if “you are wrong” and “I am right” (no matter what you say, you can’t convince me) when I’m not interested in being right or wrong, but in learning about the issue through give and take of opinions.  So with that in mind, I want to offer some comments, including suggestions, drawn from my experience in studying and discussing philosophical ideas over the years, and engaging in friendly and cordial discourse surrounding an issue by staying on topic in an objective manner.

The kind of dialogue that I want to enter into is one of an “assertive inquiry”.which blends the explicit expression of ones own thinking (advocacy) with a sincere exploration of the thinking of the other person (inquiry).  It means that one must clearly articulate ones own ideas and sharing facts and reasoning behind them with genuinely inquiring into the thoughts and reasoning of the other person.

Of course, to do this, the individuals involved in the discussion need to embrace a particular stance about their individual role in the discussion in a clear and objective manner without resorting to “you” messages, simply stating their opinions in an objective fashion.  It goes something like this: “I have a viewpoint that I feel is important in my value system and understanding of the issue, but I may be missing something.  What am I messing? What is your view and why do you hold this view?”  When you do this objectively, you remain open to the possibility that you may indeed be missing somethings and you open yourself up to the real possibility that you may change you mind on it, or at least modify your view.  In fact, in the end, you may wind up discovering that there is no right or wrong view, but perhaps merely different perspectives on the issue that are possible to live with.

Contrast this to someone who comes into a discussion with the only objective of convincing others that he or she is right.  This type of person will advocate his or her position in the strongest possible terms, seeking to convince others and to win the argument.  He or she will be less inclined to listen, or they will listen with the intent of finding flaws in the other’s arguments, resulting in discord and impasse.  (Sometimes the only result will be an impasse, but at least it was a result of objective discussion by listening to all sides).

There are at least three things necessary in this type of discussion:  1.  advocating your own position and then inviting responses; 2.  paraphrasing what you believe to be the other person’s view and inquiring as to the validity of your understanding. (“Is what you are saying . . . ?”  “It sounds to me that what you are saying is . . .  Is this accurate?” ; 3.  Explaining a gap in your understanding of the other person’s views and asking for more information. (“I’m not sure how you arrived at your position.  Could you tell me more?”)

One of the best ways to explain one’s position, or question the other person’s position is by using an analogy, a very old tool in philosophy.  Just be sure that the analogy is sound and fits adequately the question at hand without going way out on a tangent that is not germane to the issue.

Inquiry leads the other person to genuinely reflect on and hear your own advocacy rather than ignoring it and making their own advocacy without any attention to inquiring about yours, again in an objective fashion.  The goal is to create a culture of inquiry

Lastly here are a few pointers I have found useful to making any discussion or debate amenable and more meaningful:

–  Clearly define the issue and stay on topic;

–  Present your view clearly and concisely and be sure you understand exactly the view of the opponent, not your own bias view of what you think he or she is advocating.  Questions must be asked and answered clearly and concisely.

–  Be logical.  To simply state that the other person is wrong is to quickly arrive at an impasse.  You must state logically why the other person’s side doesn’t make sense (if it doesn’t).  Then you must use sound logic, referring to bona fide data to support your logical conclusions.  (If all A are B and all B are C, then it stands to reason that all A are C.  If in discussing the facts you discover that all A is, in fact, no all B, then you are on the way to winning the debate.).

–  Use primary sources.  Secondary sources are often hearsay.  (If, for example, your opponent says he heard something about something, ask who said it, when did he say it, and in what context.  Nothing is more prevalent in the social media than misquotes taken out of context).

–  Do NOT criticize the opponent.  Only criticize what he says, if in fact, it can be criticized.  (The same restriction holds true in criticizing the character of other people, such as public figures.  Criticize their actions or words, not their character).  Bringing personality or questioning the credentials of the person is the quickest way to end a discussion and invoke feelings of animosity.  (They may actually be idiots, but to call them so in a debate only inflames the emotions and is of no use in settling the issue(s) at hand).

–  Use examples — facts and pieces of evidence to support your view.  Ask for examples, data, evidence from the other person to support their’s.  (Videos and blogs on the internet serve no purpose unless verified as factual data with time, place, context, and a citation as to who created the video and/or blog).

–  Avoid unproven and non factual conspiracy theories.  (The President is a major stock holder in a big oil company and that is why we invaded Iraq.  The reason America hands out $B of dollar to foreign countries is to buy their support . . . )

–  Don’t start arguing about another point, even though it may be related.  It throws the discussion of the main issue off track.

–  Don’t misrepresent your opponents position by attacking the position of someone else, falsely accusing your opponent of holding the other position, again not germane to the main topic.  (If you are arguing whether some law is constitutional, don’t bring up the idea that the law is morally flawed based on a religious text.  You are only trying to decide if it’s constitutional, not moral according to a particular moral code).

–  Though human, the possibility exists of getting angry or frustrated, but do not lose control of logic.  When you let your emotions take over the discussion, you stop listening to your opponent.  Let the person talk.  The more he talks, the more he may make a mistake or misspeak, especially if he let’s his own emotions get in the way of logic.

Needless to say, most discussions in the social media wind up with simple opinions and assertions.  Most people who enter into long diatribes in the comments’ section of a post do not want to debate, they only want to state their opinion(s).  There is nothing wrong with that.  But carefully articulating one’s position in a logical matter while seeking to understand the points of view of others leads to a more admirable and peaceful means of communication.  It also leads to a more peaceful world to live in — IMO.

ON SOCIAL MEDIA SELF-PROCLAIMED PREACHERS, TEACHERS, AND MORALIZERS

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i have found in my Facebook travels that there are many self-proclaimed “preachers”, teachers, and those who want to educate and/or convince others of the rightness or truth of their positions, philosophies, and ideals.

the problem i have observed is that one cannot possibly hope of achieving their end without themselves empathizing with those whom they want to persuade.  in other words one must not only understand the other side one must actively get down on the other person’s level, actively and truly care for that person in such a way that one win the respect of the person one is trying to educate.  otherwise, there is no need to spout off because no one is going to listen.

and if one walks away from the opposition because one thinks of himself or herself as on a higher plane of authority because of background and education, or because one thinks of himself or herself as better than the other person, or if one thinks of himself or herself as having the only truth or have already arrived, to the point of being unwilling to listen to the very least of humankind, then what’s the point?

furthermore, it seems to me that anyone who proclaims someone else arrogant is himself or herself of greater arrogance simply by claiming the other person to be arrogant.  without the essence of unconditional love for the other person, teaching is impossible IMO.

(BTW i’m guilty so i speak out of experience, maybe most of the time, but i understand my frailty and make adjustments and i think i’m getting better).

Who Won This Christmas: Jesus or Santa?

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PRIORITIES FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASONSantaFootball
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Isaiah 40: 3 – 5.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low; The crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth;  The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Luke 3: 4 – 6.   As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: `Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; And the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth;  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ “

John 1: 12.   . . . but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of god, even to those who believe in His name.

On 9 November 1990, I returned from a deployment to Korea, having been gone about 3 weeks. The following morning I went to the MCAS Futenma exchange and could not believe my ears —  for I was hearing Christmas music over the store speaker system.
Here it was 12 days before Thanksgiving and I couldn’t even concentrate on Thanksgiving because they were playing Christmas music.  The priority of business economics had taken over even the holiest of holidays.

During the vice presidential debate of the Bush-Quayle presidential campaign, Dan Quayle had, at one point, invoked the name of John Kennedy. This was taken by his opponent, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, to mean that Quayle was comparing himself with Kennedy. At that point, Senator Bentsen said to him, “I knew Jack Kennedy, and Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy!”
I thought of that remark while preparing this message, and as I was thinking in terms of keeping the priorities of the Christmas season straight. If I could talk to Santa Claus
today I would remark to him, “Santa, I know Jesus Christ, and Santa, you’re no Jesus Christ!”
If we were to hold an election in America this season to chose who would control our minds and who we would owe allegiance to concerning the meaning of Christmas, I believe that Santa would win over Jesus. Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning, evolving from the spiritual to the secular.
Which one would you vote for? The Bible proclaims loudly, “chose you this day whom you will serve.

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3 priorities that ought to control our thinking and actions concerning a spiritual celebration of Christmas.

1. Preparation;
2. Hope;
3. Receiving

PREPARATION

In Luke 3:4 John the Baptist cited the words of Isaiah, the prophet: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”
By the time Thanksgiving arrived, Christmas preparations were already in high gear in the secular world. Christmas trees have already been cut in the northern woods of the U.S. and were traveling south in trucks.
Department stores were setting up window displays with miniature carolers and moving bunny rabbits. Hundreds of skinny Santas are suiting up with red flannel & pillows. Christmas cards & ornaments have been put on display. You were already stewing over what to get some distant relative that you hardly know, who is so hard to shop for.
What we are doing commercially, we ought to do religiously and even more so. Our real priority ought to be to get ready spiritually for Christmas. The Advent time ought to be a special time for spiritual renewal. Luke echoed the words of the prophet, Isaiah, appropriately when he wrote, “prepare the way of the Lord…” — not Santa.
There are at least 3 ways we can prepare our hearts for Christmas. First of all, we ought to cut down the mountains of commercialism. I don’t mean we ought to get rid of commercialism. But I DO mean it ought to take second place to the spiritual aspects of Christmas. It is a matter of priority.
If Christ were to arrive by foot during the season, He might very well get run over by traffic, be shoved around in the department store and stumble over the Christmas boxes piled high in the living room.
The commercialism of Christmas must not present a barrier to the presence of the Lord in your life or the lives of your family and friends. The real meaning of Christmas lies not in the bombardment of TV sets, new cars, mechanized toys, gimmicky appliances and sentimental knick-knacks?
Into this material-mad society Jesus comes, not to give us more things, but to deal positively with our personalities and our characters. He wants to give our lives meaning and genuine significance. He wants to deal with us as people, not as customers. So, let us get ready for Christmas by cutting down the mountains of commercialism which tends to block the way of Christ.
Let us also get ready for Christmas by clearing away the underbrush of sentimentality. There’s a lot of secular sentimentality at Christmas which makes it difficult for the Christ to make an impact — the swarms of Santas, the innocuous cards that say “Seasons Greetings,” but with no spiritual meaning at all, etc.
There is also an underbrush of ‘spiritual’ sentimentality as well which is as serious a hindrance as the secular kind. It is the superficial acceptance of the religious trappings of Christmas without really coming to grips with what Jesus really came to teach and to do. It is enamored with the baby Jesus without regards for the risen Christ. It sings about “peace on earth, good will to men”, yet does nothing about the real needs of our fellow human beings.
Let us not just pay our respects to a sweet tradition once a year, but instead serve the Lord as a living reality every day. The real priority of Christmas lasts all year long.
Then, thirdly, let us get ready for Christmas by building up a roadway of love. Let us not fall into the trap of a superficial cordiality which can be faked or forced for a day or two. Christmas is not a command performance, nor tradition for tradition’s sake. Let us look for the kind of love which Jesus said is the heart of the commandments, the love to God and to others — His Love.
It is the love which is self-giving, sacrificial, and continues even in the face of disagreement and rejection. This is the kind of love that God introduced to the world at Christmas.
His love is exemplified in the Golden Rule – to treat others like you want to be treated. It is a love that includes forgiveness – to forgive others as you have been forgiven, not holding grudges, not “you owe me one!”

The manger represents God reaching down to help us even while were are rebelling against him. One of the best possible ways to prepare for Christmas is to fill in the gullies of anger and the valleys of alienation, that allow the Christ of Love to come in and totally control our attitudes.  If need be, make a decision to stop nit-picking and criticizing, but, instead begin to practice forgiveness and sacrificial love.
Some of you may have seething anger in your hearts – anger against parents, or brothers, or sisters, neighbors, or fellow workers. These feelings can only be destructive to others and yourselves. Prepare for Christmas by shoving aside that antagonism and replacing it with love.
Yes, prepare for Christmas by (1) cutting down the mountains of commercialism; (2) clearing away the underbrush of sentimentality; and (3) by building up a roadway of love.

HOPE

Then, let us set the priority this Christmas season of Hope — HOPE in the wilderness.

Isaiah delivered God’s Word, “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord…” (40:3)

The gospel begins in the wilderness. John the Baptist was that “voice crying in the wilderness,” the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Life is full of wilderness experiences. The context for Isaiah’s message was one in which the Hebrew people found themselves in exile, in a wilderness so to speak.
The situation of the community in Babylonian exile was hardly a ground for hope. It was a tough time for God’s people. It was a time for struggle. It was a time of testing of their faith. Many turned away from God.
Isaiah revealed that the exiled community was tempted to interpret it’s covenant life with God as being swept up in the fatalistic natural cycle of life leading to death, i.e. the mortality of man. (verses 6b-7). Isaiah’s Word from God in the situation was one of urgency, “comfort, speak, cry…!” – there is hope.
So, the wilderness setting is a time of proclamation –
proclamation of HOPE.
God’s people have been in the wilderness many times: During the exodus experience; the period of the exile; under Roman bondage when John the Baptist delivered his message of promise; Paul in the Arabian desert seeking guidance from God after his conversion to Christianity; Paul while in prison where he wrote several letters found now in the New Testament; when the Apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos,where he wrote The Book of The Revelation.
The image of wilderness weds HARDSHIP WITH GOD’S AMAZING GRACE. Jesus ushered in His salvation by Grace during a time of wilderness. Yes, God’s people are often in the wilderness.
As I ministered to the patients at Naval Hospital, Bethesda, during my tour of duty there, they were in the wilderness of a physical and/or emotional crisis. You may be in your own wilderness today. For some, the wilderness is a very traumatic experience, maybe the death of a loved one. Maybe it is in the setting of a possible wartime situation or an overseas duty isolated from loved ones with no foreseeable rotation date home. Sometimes it is a financial crisis or maybe spiritual confusion.
All of us at some time in our lives,like the Hebrews like first century Israel, are forced into the wilderness. Each of us face a time where we can only depend solely upon God for comfort and hope.
The wilderness is wild, untamed, and so unpredictable. Oh, how we order our lives when things are going right that we fail to depend on God or even experience him.
Whether your wilderness experiences are past, or in the present, or surely will come in the future, listen to the voice of John the Baptist heralding the advent: “The Messiah WILL COME.”
Christ HAS COME. And, as He did come and as He surely will come again in history, He will surely come to you WHENEVER you are in a wilderness – today, tomorrow, next year – whenever. May Christ come to you this Christmas to bring lasting hope for your life. Is He truly a part of your Christmas?

RECEIVING

The third priority of the Christmas season ought to be – a time for RECEIVING

In John 1:12, it is written, “But to all who received Him who believed on his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

You have often heard the phrase, “It is more blessed to gift than to receive.” I believe there are times when it is just as important to receive as to give and Christmas is one of those times.

There are at least four reasons Christmas should be a time of receiving as well as a time for giving.

First, when we receive graciously, we honor the giver.
Imagine if your children or loved ones handed your gifts back to you and said, “You may keep these presents, we don’t want them.”
The delight of a little girl hugging a new doll is matched, if not exceeded, by that of her mother as she watches her daughter’s eyes. Watch closely while a present is being opened and notice that it is the giver of that present who is doing the most smiling.
Receiving forms a bond-relationship between the receiver & the giver. The acceptance of a gift is the acceptance of love. Love, by its very nature, must be received.
What is true about our relationship with people is especially true about our relationship with God. We begin pleasing Him, not by giving to Him, but by receiving from Him.
(John 1:12). Receiving Christ forms a bond-relationship between the one receiving and God.
Our highest worship is our willingness to receive His love.
It is not the giving of our sacrifice, but the reception of His love that is the foundation of genuine worship. Humility in receiving God’s love is our best form of worship. Our most important act of honoring God this Christmas is our willingness and graciousness in receiving His Christmas gift of His Son.
God’s greatest joy is in the sharing of His love, His life,
His very being. In fact, that is what Christmas is all about.
Indeed, Christmas is a time for receiving.

Christmas is also a time for receiving because only if we have first received are we in a position to give. John the Baptist could “bear witness to the light because he had received the light.” (John 1:8).
Paul said to the church at Corinth, “For I delivered to you…what I also received.”(I Corinthians 15:3).

We can’t give away anything we don’t have. We can’t give away a Christmas gift that we don’t own. Teachers must first receive knowledge before they can share it. Parents must themselves have a religious faith before they can give it to their children. We must have a solid pattern of family life before we can pass it on to the next generation. Church members cannot share with their neighbors a religious conviction they don’t have. In order to give love to others, we must have love within.

Christmas is also a time for receiving because it often takes more character to receive than to give. Gracious receiving takes humility. Some people are the temple to pray thought he was the perfect religious specimen who needed nothing from God. It was the publican who knew that he needed God’s free mercy and was willing to receive it that he “went down to his house justified, rather than the other.”

Receiving takes humility. Gracious receiving also takes trust. We’re always a bit suspicious of anything offered free.just too proud to accept anything free and, since some of the best things in life ARE free, they cut themselves off from some very great blessings.
In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18, the Pharisee who went up to
We’ve been told many times that there’s no such thing as a free lunch so we tend to be apprehensive about any kind of a free deal even when it’s offered by God. Only when we trust completely in God can we really receive His FREE gift of forgiveness salvation.

Now, the most important point – Christmas is a time for receiving because receiving is the ONLY way we can obtain God’s gift. You cannot work your way to God. God’s love is a free gift. This is the heart of the gospel.
Many of Jesus’ own countrymen had rejected Him. (John 1:11).
“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (1:12) The only way to become a child of God is to receive Jesus in one’s life.

There you have it. We don’t become children of God by doing philanthropic things; or by going to church or chapel, by buying stained glass windows, or by refraining from kicking the neighbor’s dog. We become children of God, not by doing, but by receiving the gift of His Son into our lives.
In Ephesians 2:8-10 we note that we are saved “unto good works”, yes, but – NOT saved by works. Notice that receiving has an object – Him – that is, Christ. We don’t just receive a theology, a creed or even the Bible. We receive a PERSON.
By an act of the will, we accept the offer of Christ to forgive our past. By a decision of the mind, we choose him as the Lord of our lives. By a commitment of the whole person, we choose His lifestyle as our standard and we adopt His love for others as our example.
From Him, we receive a new reason for living. From Him we receive the presence of the Holy spirit in our lives. From Him we receive a new vision and a new hope.

Reflections On The Poor In America

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Emma Lazarus writes in her sonnet, “The New Colossus”, which is engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your . . . poor, . . . ”

Jesus of Nazarus said, “The poor you will always have with you, . . . ” (Matthew 26:11)

Rachel Maddow is reported to have said (although I don’t have a cited source):  “People are poor because they don’t have other opportunities.”

First let me begin by stating that, in general, it seems that the definite article, “the”, is most often overused, or used without thinking about it.   For example, a friend and college professor once wrote a book entitled, “A History of Florida Baptists.”  He told me that he used the article, “A” because he didn’t want to insinuate the overall definitive history of Florida Baptists, but a history as investigated and reported by himself.

One often hears a politician, after a political race, state that “the American people have spoken”, to which I respond, “which American people?”  There are many groups of American people, not one.  The only thing that unites the American people is the U. S. Constitution.  Otherwise we are a divided nation into many peoples when it comes to race, color, creeds, political opinions, and so on.  More often than not, it is a slim majority of the electorate that elects a public official.

So, when you speak of “the” poor, and that they have no opportunities, are you talking about “each and every one, and, at any and all times?  It is my contention that, in general, in America, the poor do not of necessity have to remain poor.  There are ample opportunities, i.e. avenues, for which the poor have mechanisms to escape their poorness.  With that said, I will agree that there are some poor who will remain poor.  They will remain poor out of ignorance, because they choose to do so, or because their opportunities to escape did not come to fruition for whatever reason.  Nevertheless, what separates this country from many others is the opportunity to excel, become successful, and, yes, get rich, regardless of where one started out in life, including being born into poverty.

I will not take the time and effort to enumerate the opportunities and possibilities to escape poorness in America.  Suffice it to say that countless numbers have done so and the opportunities continue to exist, and will continue to exist as long as the  Constitution remains, and, as well, the free enterprise system,  and we don’t fall into a purely socialistic system of government and society.

Thank You Veterans

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[© 1994, 2010, 2012, 2014 Robert A. Haines, Jr. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]

Today is a time of reflection and remembrance.

I would like to make a few points that I hope are relevant to Americans, veterans and non-veterans alike.

President George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.”

When remembering the millions of people who have been liberated by American forces around the globe by history’s most evil oppressors, another cliché’ rings true, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Approximately 25 million of our fellow citizens once carried the title of Marine, soldier, airman, sailor, Coast Guardsman, National Guardsman, Merchant Mariner, and now carry the title of veteran. We know them as our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family members. They make us proud to be Americans.

Veterans understand profoundly the meaning of service and sacrifice – so they are not the kind of people who take life for granted.

Many of you once swore to uphold the security of our country and I thank you for that service.
. . . 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 . . .

The armistice to end the great war (WWI) to end all wars went into effect at that time.

It is indeed an honor to mark a date set in history, a day to give thanks for the sacrifices made for us in the past, to celebrate our progress from those efforts, and to rededicate ourselves for peace in our future.

On this day, in this month, at this hour, our nation remembers the moment when the guns of World War I went silent — and we recognize the service and the sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Kuwait to Kandahar, from Berlin to Baghdad, our veterans have borne the costs of America’s wars – and they have stood watch over America’s peace. The American people are grateful to the veterans and all who have fought for our freedom.

On this Veterans Day, we give thanks for the millions Americans who strengthened our nation with their example of service and sacrifice. Our veterans are drawn from many generations and from many backgrounds. Some charged across great battlefields. Some fought on the high seas. Some patrolled the open skies. All contributed to the character and to the greatness of America.

On this Veterans Day, we also honor a new generation of men and women who are defending our freedom. Since September the 11th, 2001, our Armed Forces have engaged the enemy, the terrorists, on many fronts. At this moment, more than a million Americans are on active duty, serving in the cause of freedom and peace around the world. They are our nation’s finest citizens. They confront grave danger to defend the safety of the American people. Through their sacrifice, they’re making this nation safer and more secure — and they are earning the proud title of veteran.
We are deeply grateful to the men and women who rise every day in defense of America and our friends. Today’s generation of American service members are performing their duties with skill, with effectiveness, and with honor. They are deployed on many fronts in the war on terror, tracking the enemies of freedom and holding them to account. And at this hour they continue their work — striking hard against the forces of murder and chaos. Members of the active duty armed forces, National Guard, and reserves have faced hard conditions – tough duty, long deployments, and the loss of comrades.

Veterans Day is an American holiday honoring military veterans – all veterans, men, women, combat and non-combat, overseas and stateside of all ranks and occupations. Today we honor, not only the infantry in the field, the special forces and recon troops behind the lines of combat, but the mail clerk, the cook, the humvee and jeep drivers, the engineers, the medics and corpsman, and, yes, even the chaplain, lawyers, doctors – we honor ALL veterans who have served, stateside, as well as overseas, on the seas, and in the air.

We are not celebrating to debate whether any war was right or wrong, or any thing such as that, but simply to honor our veterans. Thank you veterans.

Simply put, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our nation’s national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served have sacrificed in many ways to have done their duty.

As we celebrate another Veterans’ Day, I wonder just what its meaning is to the ones that did not serve in our military.

A day to relax and have fun. I wonder how much of the history behind this holiday is being taught in our schools today, and if the high school students, especially the ones that are nearing graduation, are aware of the sacrifices that the veterans made that ensures these students the rights to make decisions as to what they are going to do with their lives when they finish school. They can choose whether to get a job, or go to college, or join the military.

As a Vietnam Veteran, our choices were limited, it was college or military and most of us couldn’t afford to go to college so we were drafted or volunteered for the service. And a large majority of us went to Vietnam. World War II and Korean veterans didn’t have any choice, it was go to war. That is why I’m adding this little tidbit, so that if there are any young people here, that they might understand the sacrifices that was made in the past to give you the freedom to make the choices you have today. If you appreciate these choices, take the time out this Veterans Day to thank a veteran.
By the way, if you are a bit confused about why we have two days each years to pay homage to military people, Memorial Day in May honors service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans might also be remembered on Veterans Day but the day is set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. Again, thanks, vets for your service.

Today our nation pays tribute to those living veterans who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. Each of these men and women took an oath to defend America, and they upheld that oath with honor and decency. Through the generations, they have humbled dictators and liberated continents and set a standard of courage and idealism for the entire world.

America’s veterans have placed the nation’s security before their own lives, as well as the comfort of their families. Their sacrifice creates a debt that America can never fully repay.

Again, a new generation of Americans is defending our flag and our freedom in the first war of the 21st century. The war came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001. That morning we saw the destruction that terrorists intend for our nation. We know that they want to strike again, and our nation has made a clear choice. We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity.

We will not tire or rest until the war on terror is won.

In the few short years since September the 11th, the evil that reached our shores has reappeared on other days in other places.  In the past years, we have seen  terror offensives.  All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random, isolated acts of madness. Innocent men and women and children have died simply because they boarded the wrong train or worked in the wrong building or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil but not insane. Some call this evil “Islamic radicalism,” others “militant jihadism” and still others “Islamofacism.” This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision — the establishment by terrorism, subversion and insurgency of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews and against Muslims themselves who do not share their radical vision.

Many militants are part of a global, borderless terrorist organization like al Qaeda, which spreads propaganda and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists, and conducts dramatic and brutal operations, like the attacks of September the 11th. Other militants are found in regional groups often associated with al Qaeda — paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Algeria.

Still others spring up in local cells, inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed.

Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives fighting on scattered battlefields share a similar ideology and vision for our world. We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it in videos, in audiotapes, in letters, in declarations and on websites.

These extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions.

Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal for a time in Afghanistan, and now they’ve set their sights on Iraq.

With the greater economic and military and political power they seek, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda – to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation.

Some Americans might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. They are fanatical and extreme, but they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed to their goals, as Zarqawi has vowed: We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life. And a civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history — from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot – consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously, and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. Leaders of terrorist movements have noted that Americans are the most cowardly of God’s creatures.   But let us be clear, it is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs, and cuts the throat of a bound captive, and targets worshipers leaving a mosque. It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people from tyranny. It is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of rising democracies. And it is courage in the cause of freedom that will once again destroy the enemies of freedom!
The terrorists’ goal is to overthrow a rising democracy, claim a strategic country as a haven for terror, destabilize the Middle East and strike America and other free nations with increasing violence.

Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power, so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq.

The work ahead involves great risk for for our American forces. We’ve lost some of our nation’s finest men and women in this war on terror. And, it involves patience for the American public.

The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we’ve ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of our common humanity or by the rules of warfare. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight. Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified.
With every random bombing, with every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots or resistance fighters; they’re murderers at war with the Iraqi people themselves.

And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war.

We don’t know the course of our own struggle will take or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice.

We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history, and we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

I encourage you all to make an effort to educate our young people of the sacrifices that all veterans have made in service to their country and remind them that the freedom they enjoy in this great country, the United States of America, that freedom is not free!

I am reminded of a story I heard while serving as a Navy chaplain.  A man with bird in his hand said to a wise man; “Is this bird dead or alive?”
Well, the wise man knew that if answered that the bird was dead, that the man could let it go proving that the bird was alive. If he answered, “alive,” the man could crush it to death, proving that the bird was dead. Finally, the wise man said, “The answer is in your hand.” The bird is a symbol of your life and the spirit of humanity. You can kill it or keep it alive.

As we show our flag and our pride today, we remember that the men and women of America’s Armed Forces serve a great cause. They follow in a great tradition, handed down to them by America’s veterans. And in public ceremonies and in private prayer, we give thanks for the freedom we enjoy because of their willingness to serve.

Well over two centuries have passed since George Washington first took command of the Continental Army. Yet we can see in today’s military the same virtues that won this nation our independence, and which have safeguarded our country despite all the challenges of history. The men and women who wear the uniform in the year 2012 follow in a long, honorable, and unbroken tradition of service passed down to them by our veterans. To every veteran, this nation owes a debt we cannot possibly discharge but we will always acknowledge. And so on this day of reflection and appreciation, I offer our esteem and gratitude to all the veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

To all our veterans we have a simple yet heartfelt message – thank you – all of you, for your service. We want you to know that your example serves to inspire others who follow in your footsteps. Thank you for your selfless-service in peacetime and war, here in this nation and throughout the world. For all veterans, regardless of their service and the era in which they have served, have paid a price for the freedom we enjoy.

Let us thank them not only today — Veterans Day — but every day. Remember our veterans and the price they paid physically and emotionally to keep this nation safe. Remember our troops – America’s future veterans – America’s sons and daughters, who have selflessly made the decision to defend your right to make the decision to come here today – and for your decision to be here today to honor our veterans, I thank you and applaud you for your decision. You set the example for all Americans, and should be justly proud.

Additionally, remember that veterans’ families also have paid a price for freedom. We may never be able to adequately thank our veterans, our Soldiers, and their families, but we must always support them.

The freedom of the press, the freedom of religion and the right to vote. These are freedoms that are granted to us by the Constitution of the United States. And they are freedoms that are protected every day by the men and women who courageously serve in our armed forces.

I thank you for honoring those who serve today, and for honoring those who have set such a sterling example – our nation’s veterans. May God bless our veterans, may God bless all who wear the uniform, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Veterans, we salute you.

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