Who is qualified to rule?

It has been almost 7 years since my first post on politics.  My views have not changed much.  It is still generally the same shape, maybe a slightly different shade.  Time does that.

I have heard my father on more than one occasion lament that he had never voted for anyone, only against someone else.  There is always disappointment in his voice when he says it.

I have not written it in a post here before, but I believe that a requirement for someone to hold high office is that they do not want to do it.  If they want the office, it is an indication they are unqualified to rule.  Two of the United States’ greatest presidents were that way.  Both Washington and Lincoln did not want the office but rather accepted it as something they must do, knowing that it would be better for them personally to seek other activities.

Why is that important?  For any man to rule over another, rights must be surrendered from one to the other.  This is an exchange that should be entered into reluctantly.  A good man will not seek to rule another.  And the other ought not to seek to be under the yoke of a man.  It is a requirement for the functioning of society, but it should be seen as a necessary evil, a civic duty not to be celebrated.  A true leader should humbly and reluctantly accept his duty, just as those who are led should reluctantly follow.

It is not human nature to consider what is best for society, but only what is best for oneself.  There are many exceptions to that rule, but I still hold that it is a rule.  That means from time to time someone will arise that truly is a good leader.  However, there will never be a mob of self disinterested people pushing forward that good leader.  In fact, more and more often, the good leaders are marginalized because of those same factors.  There is not enough selfish interest to amass behind a good leader, there is nothing to please the masses.  Whenever we see people overly excited about a politician, we should be worried.  There are many historical analogies to draw from to illustrate this point, choose your favorite.

I think my father has it just right.  We should never vote for anyone, we should always except to vote for the lesser of evils and vote against the greater.  But where does that leave us?  If I follow this logic to its conclusion, I will always be on the losing side.  Who is going to be excited about someone who does not want the job?  It is the losing side, but it is merely temporary.

Ancient Athens had something close to a direct democracy.  They called it δημοκρατία – demokratia – democracy.  The franchised people, those who could vote, directly voted on issues relating to their government.

The Romans further developed the idea of a republic.  They used the ideas from Greek philosophers like Plato and his πολιτεία – politeia – republic (loosely).  People were elected to represent others in the government.

Neither of those words appear in the bible.  We do find another ancient Greek word when it comes to government, it is βασιλεία – Basileia – Kingdom, or βασιλεύς – Basileus – King.

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom (βασιλεία) of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 NKJV


Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING (βασιλεύς) OF KINGS (βασιλεύς) AND
LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16 NKJV

There will be no question about Christ’s fitness to rule, nor will there be a vote taken.  Heaven is not a democracy, nor will we be forced to submit ourselves to the will of men.  But we must wait for the right time.

Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king(βασιλεύς), He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. John 6:15 NKJV

It was not the right time then, it is not the right time now.  For now we suffer, something I have written a lot about. (See the Heart Know series, and Romans 8:18-25)

The Devourer

On Friday I was nearing my exit on the 15 North when a car 2 lanes to my left and about 4 car lengths ahead ran over a shovel.  This flung the metal shovel (sans wooden handle) up in the air and headed straight for my car.  I swerved as far to the right as I could into the shoulder and it bounced just next to my left rear fender and behind my car, passing between me and the car behind me.  I thought to myself, “I had three years of driver training in Nairobi for this one moment, and it paid off!”

This reminded me of something I told someone a while back, “God sometimes gives us blessings, sometimes He gives us an anti-curse.”  If grace is unmerited favor and mercy is not getting what you deserve, we often focus on grace and forget about mercy.  We are usually focused on getting things from God and we miss when we get nothing, and that nothing is more than we deserve.

“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts; Malachi 3:11 NKJV

That shovel could have destroyed the left half of my Fiesta, it weighs almost as much. That would not have made for a festive day, or week.

God has a plan and you are at the center of it.  He is able, and He loves you.  Sometimes His blessings are clearly evident, other times they pass under the radar.  It would be better for us if we noticed.


imageThis is a picture of Petr and Andrej playing with Uncle Charlie in the waves at Cammy’s cousin’s beach house in Carlsbad.

I do not know if my memory is bad, or the data is lost, but I searched and search and looked for a post about this from 4 years ago.  I could not find it.

Just before we left for Africa, we took the boys up to Carlsbad to see some family for the last time.  We even got to see Cammy’s cousin  Kevin and his wife Jann.  They are now in Cameroon with Wycliffe.

I learned an important lesson that day.  The boys were, of course, a lot younger then, and I think the waves were bigger.  Knowing that we were going to be living in Nairobi, over a day’s journey to the ocean, I wanted to boys to experience playing in the waves.  I took Petr out on a body board to catch a wave.  He was completely afraid.  He has always been a good boy, so he was very polite about it, but he kept saying, “Daddy I do not want to go,” through his tears.  It was a difficult moment for a father.  What to do?  I decided that the benefits of having done it would outweigh the pain of going through the experience.  It was a lot like his Disneyland experience later on.  He cried and repeated, “I do not want to,” as we waited for the right wave to come.  I pushed him on the board and he rode the wave all the way in.  As soon as he stood up, he turned around and exclaimed, “Let’s do it again!”

It was such a great object lesson, I used it over and over from the pulpit in Africa.  So often we are faced with something our Father tells us we must do.  We cry, kick, scream, and do anything we can to get out of it, all to often succeeding.  But on those rare occasions we do see it through, the first words out of our mouth are often, “Let’s do it again.”

It was a great joy to see the boys doing what was once too scary and enjoying it all on their own.  Maturity, it is within my reach as well.

Significant Moments

Wednesday night was “curriculum night” at Petr and Andrej’s school.  They boys went to my parent’s house and Cammy, Zach and I went to their school to meet and hear from their teachers what they would be learning this year.  As part of the evening, both teachers had papers ready for us to write a note to our child to leave in their desk.  I was holding Zach in Andrej’s class and he got a little noisy so I ended up doing painful laps around the school building and Cammy wrote the note to Andrej.  In Petr’s class, Zach had to be fed so Cammy went out and I wrote the note to Petr.  It was not a super deep message, but I did attempt to reveal my heart to him.  It felt to me like a significant moment in father-son relations.

The next day after work I got to see the boys at home.  I saw Andrej first, so I put my arms around him and asked how his day was.  I got a very unemotional “good,” to which I have become accustomed.  I asked if he had a note at his desk and he replied he did, but he had not read it yet. “Had not read it?!” I said to myself.  Cammy and I have been married for 12 years, but even today, if she were to write me a note, I would read it right away and ignore anything else I had to do.  But Andrej is not a big reader so I should not have been shocked.

A little later I saw Petr.  I sat close and put my arm around him.  I asked him the same two questions. The first one produced the same response as his brother. To the second, he said, “I was confused about who wrote the note. At first I thought it was mom, but then it said, ‘Love Dad.'”  I asked a few more probing questions and realized that my message had completely missed the mark.  What I thought was a significant moment was nothing more than a small bump in an otherwise mundane day for him.

Before I got too low, I realized this was another teachable moment… for me.  My boys were once again a mirror for me to see my own shortcomings in my relationship with my Father.  How many times has He set up significant Father-son moments with me, and I just miss it?  More than a note, he has given me the bible, the greatest “love letter” ever written.  How often do I take it for granted, forgetting the significance of Who wrote it, or why?

I love my boys, and I will continue pouring my heart into them.  But thanks be to God that He does not weary or lose patients with us, no matter how many times we blow Him off.

Say Uncle

This is my nephew Paul James Zastoupil.  Often we call him PJ, which helps me from being confused when I am around.  In the long family tradition of his older cousins, he got into it with me the other night when the family was over to celebrate Petr’s 9th birthday.

PJ is ticklish.  He thought he could get the best of me so he was taunting me.   Well, I may be getting close to over the hill, but I can still take an 11 year old. It did not turn out well for him.  But that did not stop him from taunting.  He showed great toughness, both mentally and physically.  What it showed is a lack of understanding of the situation.  Size and strength matter in the physical world much more than just mentally being prepared for a fight.  Both are important, but when the scales are tipped so far to one side physically, you cannot make up for it with mental toughness.  He is a little young for the what his dad calls the, “I’m invincible,” stage that seems to hit teenage boys around 17 and sometimes lasts well into the 20s, but that is kind of the sense I got that night.  The attitude of, “I can do anything, that bad stuff can not happen to me.”

This reminded me a lot of how I often deal with God.  In spite of the fact that He created the universe, I think I can go toe to toe with Him in a variety of ways in my life.  I feel justified in telling Him what is right.  I think I can get away with not following His plan for me. I think I can live with a little sin in my life.

God has answers to all of these.  In Job 38-39, God sets the record straight on who tells whom in one the oldest and greatest recorded smack down of all times. Jonah learns that God’s plan is, well, GOD‘s plan. And in Jesus’ letter to the church of Pergamos we see that you cannot live with compromise in your life.

I especially like how in this picture Andrej is calmly watching the mayhem just eating his ice cream. If you are going to mess with God, prepare to lose. Sometimes it is that obviously futile to those around you that they will not even bother helping.

Thanks be to God that we do not get all that we deserve in return, and instead the free gift of His grace.

The check cleared

I know I am late on this post.  I put some thought into just over a week ago, but Charles was here, and we were busy.  I will post more on that later.

One of the things we did was go to church services on Resurrection Sunday Why do we accept calling it Easter in English?  It is named after a fertility goddess.I posted before about Good Friday but I thought of another analogy.

Charles was relating to me how things have changed with banking in Kenya.  Because of check (or cheque) fraud the banks will not allow any stray marks on a check, even if they are countersigned.  But he also was happy to say that if you deposit a check, the money shows up 3 days later, it used to take weeks.

That is what I was thinking about on Good Friday.  Jesus, by living His perfect life, wrote the check to pay all your debt.  On Friday, on the cross, He deposited the check into your account, and on Sunday morning, the check cleared.

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 15:55-58 NKJV

It is review time

In my job as a manager I have the responsibility to review my employees.  It is a hard thing to try to put ratings and words down to represent someone’s effort over the previous year.

The end goal should be to get the best out of people.  How does one best go about that?

(Before I go on, I want to address what giving 100% means.  If 100% is the sustainable output, then often someone really could give 110% for a short while.  But that is an expression some math folks hate.)

No one gives 100%. From a corporate standpoint, one can always give more.  I have a responsibility to the organization for which I work to get the most out of the people working for me.  I also have a responsibility to them to help them be a good person.  Not often, but sometimes those two responsibilities are at odds.

As I have put some time into the review process, I realized there is no way to get it exactly right.  So you have to attack it from one direction or the other.  You can aim higher than the area where you think someone falls.  Give them the “good job” review, and hope they will pull themselves up to at least where you aimed.  You can also aim low and hope that sting motivates them to do better.

However, what it really got me thinking about is my review for my Real Employer. What kind of review would He give me for the last year?  Would it be above or below where I think it is?  There are things I can point to where by I can tell how I have been doing throughout the year.  But even if I could consolidate all those little things into some kind of report, it would be hard to know exactly how I have been doing.

He does give us a standard by which we are measured, and of course I have once again failed to measure up (even for just today).  I guess I am getting the “did not meet expectations” review… again.  I should be motivated to do better. At least I have great hope.

Tis the season

If you are a regular reader here, you know that I do not often post about politics.  I find it makes me feel like I need to wash my hands.  That does not mean that I am deaf to politics, part of me kind of enjoys watching the games that are played.  However, when the Giants beat the Patriots, very few people’s lives were ruined (except maybe the betting kind, and they brought that on themselves).  Politics can, and usually does, destroy lives.

That is why it was so offensive for me to see Christ used as a political ploy.  At the National Prayer Breakfast, the President said the following:

But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs — from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

I do not want to blame government for how messed up it is.  Josef Heller said, “In democracy you get the government you deserve. Alternately you deserve the government you got.”  Government that is, “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is an expression of the society in which it exists.

Society is broken. The Church is broken.  The separation of church and state was a great idea of the founding fathers.  However, the Church in the United States never took up its obligation for its responsibilities.  The countries in Europe where most of the American settlers came from had a state church.  That meant that the state, through the role of the church, had the responsibility to care for its body.  With the separation in the United States, no one took up this role.  Then, seeing the vacuum that had been created, certain men, maybe even with good intentions, lead the government into that void.

The President was quoting from the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  I would like you to read another quote about that Parable.

Dean Brown of Yale University has said that three classes of men that represent three philosophies of life are brought before us in this parable. First is the Thief: His philosophy of life says, “What you have is mine.” This is socialism or communism. The second is the Priest and Levite: His philosophy of life says, “What I have is mine.” This is rugged individualism that has gone to seed. His cry is, “Let the world be damned, I will get mine.” This is godless capitalism. Third is the Good Samaritan: His philosophy says, “What I have belongs to you.” This is a Christian philosophy of life. “What I have is yours if I can help you.”

It is a matter of the heart.  You can force people to do something, but that does nothing to change someone’s heart.  God is concerned about your heart, not what you do, but why you do it.

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Not go and make your neighbor do likewise.

The Church has failed in caring for its own body.  That failure begins and ends with me.  What am I doing?  Why am I doing it?

How wide are your scales?

We like to measure things in our life.  We like fairness, we like justice. (Of course often that just means “good for me.”)  The method by which we measure can be the topic of a different post, but now I just want to ask, over what time period do we balance?

Part of the process of growing up is the widening of our scales.  When we are young, and I can see it in the boys, if something is not immediate, it is not right.  I want instant satisfaction.  As we grow older we (should) mature and be able to see farther down the road.

I work for two weeks, then I get paid.  For two weeks, I am working without any reward.  I do not mind that.  I know that at the end of the two weeks, I will be well rewarded for my work.  That is a two week width in my scales.

How much wider can we make them?  Here is a simple image that came to my mind to help communicate this idea.  Of course, it does not come close to really showing it, but it should give you and idea.

Your life is a blip on the radar of time,  nothing in relationship to eternity.  I am not a physicist, but I think a lever with an infinite length could provide quite a bit of force.  However, that is not how we usually see it.  We only look at one side of the scales.  We are only concerned with now.  Maturity is the ability to widen our perspective.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)

How valuable is being conformed to the image of Christ?  What amount of sacrifice is that worth?

Another week of Slurpees

Petr has really picked up his game in the last few weeks.  I think he is learning he can actually do it.  This means more things for me to learn as a parent. He has become a bit more aggressive and seems to have an interest in making things happen.

Petr played in the regional AYSO playoffs this weekend.  His team played against Alpine.  The run of play was mostly one way for Petr’s team with close to 70% of the possession.  The other team had one player who was a constant threat to counter attack, but they did not produce any real scoring chances in the first half.

The first half also had Petr’s great shot, probably his best of the season.  It came at the end of a great play, which at this level is quite rare.  Most goals come from the outstanding play of a single player.  One of his teammates gathered the ball around midfield and moved down the field, eventually laying it off to his right, where Petr, in his regular form, was excellently positioned.  He tapped it forward and finished with a strong strike. Unfortunately it was straight at the keeper who made the save.

The second half saw more of the same, Petr’s team enjoying the majority of the possession, but no goals were coming.  Off of a goal kick, the ball bounced to Petr.  He was near the right sideline about even with the center circle, just inside the offensive half.  He wound up his leg and struck the ball on a half volley.  It soared over everyone, including the keeper, finding  the upper left corner of the net, 1-0.

He was really excited.  He continued to play with a renewed sense of passion. They went on to win 2-1.  They got another good goal from their best player and gave one up on a counter by the other teams best player.

After the game he said to me, “I thought that kind of goal could only be scored by someone on Real Madrid or something!”  Sometimes it just takes a taste of success for us to grasp God’s design in our lives.  The hard work never seems like it is going to pay off, so graciously He lets us score from time to time.  Sometimes He also rewards us when we do well.  Petr will be getting slurpees every day this week.