Monday, February 23, 2009

Make Your Redemption Complete!

I have lately reflected on the enormity of God's grace and the fullness of time. Redemption will be complete when the redeemed with all of their weaknesses are swallowed up in His strength. The following reflects those thoughts.

Make Your Redemption Complete!

You hold all things together,
You make all things new.
Your redemption is perfect.
Purchased out of death
Unto life, abundant life,
Our destiny is purity and perfection,
Not a static state of flawless existence.
Rather, a dynamic embrace of all we have known
And all we will forever be discovering.

Yet I scarce believe you will transform
My brokenness into wholeness
My pain into pleasure
My sorrow into joy
Betrayal into fidelity
Evil into good.

Can these dry bones live?
Can they behold the beauty
Of Your consuming face?
Can they declare the glory
Of your life-giving Spirit?
Can they pulse with the beat
Of Your pure heart?
Embrace the flow
Of Your boundless love?
Can they be transfigured
Into Your glorious image?
Can they know
As they are known?

Will all things be made new?
Will my memories remain
And yet be transformed?
Can these thoughts enjoy transubstantiation?
Can all that I am, all I have known,
Be engulfed in Your beauty?
What grace must you apply
To the emptiness of my being
That I might fit into the fullness
Of Yours?

Let every thought be imprisoned
To Your Majesty
Every recollection made factual and true
Every pain a song of Your goodness
Every disappointment a hymn of Your faithfulness
Every hint of death a proclamation of Your life
Every betrayal a revelation of Your faithfulness.

Let every fiber of my being
From the time you wove me together
In my mother’s womb
Through every breadth I have drawn
Every joy and every sorrow
Past, Present, and Future
For as long as I am
Proclaim boldly Your greatness
Your faithfulness
Your beauty
Your grace.

At your appearance,
May I sing in harmony with the symphony of Your creation.
Breathed upon by your Holy Spirit,
May I dance that flawless dance
As the redeemed move in the splendor of Your presence.

In that day all that is shall give You glory
The pit will sing of the majesty of Your holy mountain,
Hell itself will proclaim the splendor of Heaven.
Judgment will your grace reveal.
The damned will bear witness to your mercy,
In Your presence, consumed by your absence
Touched by your love without end
Unable to respond.

And so we plea,
Come quickly Lord Jesus
Fill all things with Your presence
Make all things new
Make Your Redemption Complete!

Jackie David Johns
February 19, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Obama's Tax Problems

What’s happening? President Obama now has had three top appointees with tax problems, i.e. unpaid taxes. Combined with one person for which he had to wave his own ethics standards concerning lobbyists, this makes four highly questionable appointments. I am disappointed. I expected him to have a couple of bumps in the confirmation road, but I expected a smoother confirmation process.

What is most troubling for me is that Obama was apparently aware of these problems (at least for three of the four) before he named the appointees. He oversaw a thorough vetting process and opted to proceed because he believed the individuals were the best persons for the respective offices. This reveals a few things. First, his pragmatic essentialism (see an earlier post) combined with an element of over confidence can lead to unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement to suspend the rules. (“If I think these are the best persons for the job, what’s the problem?”)

Second, our new president has promised to inaugurate a higher standard for government but his actions suggest he does not understand there must be a connection between his words and his appointments. He promised us better than this and he has broken his promise. I truly thought he would be more careful, more principled, concerning these commitments. I realize I am holding him to a high standard, but it is the standard he set for himself.

Finally, I didn’t expect him to waist political currency on so much so early. He embarrassed himself and brought into doubt his decision-making processes. But only his opponents are paying attention at this point. He still has overwhelming good will. In the large scope of things these stumbles are minor and they should have little bearing on his presidency. They are indicators of his leadership style: decisive, determined, task oriented, but with an element of tunnel vision.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Obama’s First Ten Days In The White House

I recently received a call from my friend Phil Hoover who asked why I had not yet commented on the Obama presidency. I said I just had not had the time. He suggested I write shorter pieces. I’m not certain I can, but I’ll try.
In November I made several predictions about an Obama presidency. So far I was fairly on target. The following seem relevant to his efforts so far.

“Prediction #1: The transition will be nearly flawless. The fly in the ointment might be if Obama is perceived as acting as if he is already President especially in international economic affairs. Obama’s appointments will be diverse representatives of the sectors that elected him with more than one moderate Republicans in high positions. He will get off to a good start.”

I hit this nail on the head. His transition was nearly flawless. He took great care not to comment on international relations, frequently commenting on the fact that we only have one President at the time. On the other hand, on the economic crises he worked with Congress as if he was already President. The situation may have dictated his proactive involvement, but let us not ignore the fact he work with Congress on the formation of legislation as though he was already President. And in today’s economy that has everything to do with international relations.

“Prediction #2: Obama will keep many of his promises. With the support of a Democratically controlled congress, he will claim a mandate to push through his agenda. There will be a flurry of passed legislation. At the front will be commitments to energy and the environment. …”

He has hit the ground running with a focus on keeping his promises. He has apponinted several Republicans to high level positions. He has had extensive communicaton with the Republicans in Congress in an apparent effort to be bipartisan but he has reminded them that he won the election. I will not review all of his kept promises but a couple stand out. First, I applaud his quick actions on the environment especially raising the auto gas standards. I also approve of his push to allow states to set their own standards. As a conservative, I favor keeping government as responsive to the people as possible, i.e, a smaller federal government.

Second, while I didn’t include it on my list, elsewhere I predicted he would keep his promise and issue a Presidential order releasing American tax dollars to international groups to promote and pay for abortions in other countries, which he has done. I hold everyone who voted for Obama accountable for the resulting infanticide. Those who voted for him knew he had made this promise; their vote implicitly endorsed this action. I recognize this is a strong statement, but my statement pales in comparison to the impact of this action on the unborn and on their mothers. In many of the countries where these funds will be released it will not be the woman who makes the decision about aborting her unborn child. Time will tell if Obama’s other actions for good (there will be many) might mitigate against the impact of this evil. Perhaps he will be an instrument for life in other areas.

“Prediction #8: President Obama will excel in international relations except Islamic nations, Russia, and Latin America (which will be put off by his protectionism). In short, he will be phenomenal with our Western Allies and most of Africa; he will be less than stellar with our enemies, especially Islamic nations. This will seem strange to many given his unique connection with Islam. I truly hope I am wrong on this. He has the best personal gifts for diplomacy that I have seen in a political leader. (My problem is not his ability, but his direction.)”

It was a bold stroke to grant his first post-inauguration interview with an international, Islamic journalist. This was a significant preemptive diplomatic action. The appointment of Senator Mitchell as envoy to the Middle East was another wise action in his early days in office. On the other hand, his approval of continued military air strikes inside Pakistan (Prediction #10) suggests I might in the end be right on this one. He has not yet been tested with a crisis in the region to which he must respond.

Another promise he has kept is to initiate stricter ethics standards for his administration. It is to be applauded that he has forbidden the revolving door between lobbyist and administrative service. It is baffling that he would immediately nominate someone for high office for whom he must immediately issue a waiver to the standards he had just announced with fanfare. His pragmatic nature shines through.

On a parallel note I was apparently correct with “Prediction #12: The roll of minorities in American politics has been forever changed for the good. The days of the Caucasian, good-old-boys-club-in-power is over. Minorities will rise in leadership in both parties but especially conservatives in the Republican Party. – Perhaps some delusional wishful thinking here. The Parties will become more ideologically defined and stress ethnic coalitions with a greater social purpose.” This week the Republican National Committee elected its first African American as chairman of the committee. Perceived as a moderate, he has a huge job set before him. Let us hope him well.

Well, these are a few of my initial thoughts. Others will follow.