Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Moral Bank Accounts"

If you've ever heard of a Ponzi scheme you will surely assume that Charles Ponzi was a bad man. He cheated people out of their money. But a new biography of Charles Ponzi reveals that a few years before inventing his scheme, Ponzi had given a fair amount of his skin so it could be grafted onto a woman who was dying of severe burns. He suffered pain from this act of generosity, which saved a person's life. Yet who would ever associate Ponzi with anything except scamming people out of their money?

I mention this because of something I heard on the radio a few weeks ago (the Dennis Prager show). Human beings all have what Dennis Prager calls moral bank accounts. Just like a real bank account into which we make deposits and also withdrawals, we make moral deposits into and moral withdrawals from our moral bank accounts based on the actions we engage in during our lifetime. Now some people make so many withdrawals – Hitler for example - that no imaginable good they can do will change the balance. People should be judged this way, rather than on the basis of every little thing they do. I started thinking this way last year when Bill Bennett was railed against because he gambled away large sums of money. The gambling paled in comparison to how much good Bennett has done with his books on moral character. We need moral perspective. If your spouse has been a good and loyal person and a good and loving father or mother for 20 or 30 years and had an unfaithful night on a business trip, do all those years of deposits into their moral bank account count for nothing?

Without the perspective a “moral bank account” gives us, we exaggerate the good done by bad people, and the bad done by good people. God is the ultimate judge of us all. But in the meantime, moral judgments must be made by us humans here on earth. Charles Ponzi heroically saved a woman's life at a great personal price. His money scheme was awful; but he was not. Oscar Schindler saved many Jews during the Holocaust while being unfaithful to his wife. Yet we regard Schindler as a moral hero. I am for moral clarity and calling good “good” and evil “evil.” But we lose the war against evil and the war for good when we lose moral perspective. We all have moral bank accounts, and it's good to make deposits because we all make withdrawals.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My First Suit

On Sunday I was going through my closet and came across a suit I never wear anymore. Why? Because it's a 36 waist and I'm a disgraceful 38! It's a sharp-looking charcoal Nieman Marcus suit. It's worn out now (the lining has pulled apart in the shoulders), but I'll bet it cost $500 new. Now, here's the context. Holly and I just bought a nice new house - it's 2600 square feet. This past weekend we went out of town for our annual Valentine's getaway. We stayed at the Westin Stonebriar Resort and Country Club - had a nice dinner, slept in the "heavenly bed," and ordered breakfast up to the room - we spared no expense! Now back to the suit. Ten years ago I got my first preaching assignment in February when I knew nothing and had nothing. When I showed up in Dallas at age 19 I had a visitor's visa that expired in 6 months and $270 in my pocket. As a foreign student I was not allowed to work. I had nothing - nada. I would go out to Mexican restaurants with my classmates and order water. While they ate enchiladas I ate the free chips and salsa! Where was I going to get a suit? A member of the Preston Road Church of Christ (probably one of those evil rich conservatives) gave me his Nieman Marcus suit - gave, not loaned. I was so proud of that suit! I wish I could still fit in it. But I'll never give it away or throw it away. It will always be a reminder to me that I am either the luckiest man ever born, or God has smiled on me! I also keep a $1 bill given to me in 1986 by Marvin Philips (I was 12, dreaming of America, and this was the first real American money I ever saw). Ten years ago I was kid from South Africa with no money and no way to earn money. Today I'm an American, I live in a big house, I preach at a large church, and I take my wife to Westin Resorts. God has used so many kind, hospitable Christian people to bless me. I thank Him, and I thank all those people. And I thank Mr. Nieman Marcus for making the best suit in the world!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My New Blogging Adventure

For my regular readers, friends, and family: Check out my new blog (my complete sermon transcripts) at www.charlesnorthsermons.blogspot.com Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Majority of Muslims are Peaceful - So What?

Whenever the question of Islam and violence is raised, we are repeatedly told that “the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful,” and that Islam is a “religion of peace.” This is entirely accurate, and entirely irrelevant.

The vast majority of Germans living in the Nazi era were also peaceful; very few ever laid a hand on a Jew. The vast majority of Russians never killed anyone while 20-40 million of their fellow citizens were murdered by Stalin. The threat to civilization coming from within Islam is not negated by the fact that the great majority of Muslims are not violent. The “cartoon riots” provide evidence of this. Most of the people rioting and protesting have never seen the cartoons, and only took to the streets months after the cartoons were published because their Imams told them to do it. So it’s probably more accurate to say that Muslims are stupid dupes and puppets rather than violent or evil. Germany was a threat to civilization because Nazis and their ideology took over German society while the majority of Germans (the “peaceful Germans”) either supported Nazi ideals or did nothing. Russia was a threat to civilization because Communists took over the country, and the great majority of Russians either supported them out of fear or did nothing. Islamic society is becoming a threat to civilization because Islamic totalitarians and terrorists are taking over those societies while a majority of Muslims either support their ideals or do nothing. That is why it is meaningless and dishonest to deny the threat to civilization coming from various Muslim countries by noting that most Muslims are not violent. Only a handful of Saudis terrorized America on 9/11, but a large majority of Saudis support Osama bin Laden. Few Palestinians strap bombs onto their children's bodies, but the majority of them support such evil – they elected Hamas after all. At this moment, the dominant strain of Islamic thought is totalitarian, meaning that wherever possible, a government should be Islamic and govern according to a strict interpretation of the Sharia (Muslim religious law). Furthermore, the Islamists believe these religious laws should be imposed violently, as they were in the Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. In addition, the dominant ideological trend in much of Islamic society is hate-filled. Their peaceful lifestyle is not influencing the hateful trends in their religion.

So the fact that the majority of those living in Islamic countries are good people is of no consequence. Unless they do something to condemn and to isolate the totalitarians and terrorists in their midst, history will judge them as it has all the good Germans during the Holocaust – guilty!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

"The Big Game" - Yawn

Apparantly I can't say "Superbowl" since the NFL has the word "Superbowl" copyrighted. Anyway, it's the eve of the Superbowl, I just finished my sermon for tommorrow (a lesson on church discipline of all things), I'll be going to bed soon, and it just dawned on me, "Tommorrow is the Superbowl!" And I couln't care less! Who's playing again? The Steelers and the Seahawks? I love football. I used to watch the Superbowl. We had Superbowl parties. We became a "Pepsi family" for an entire year because of some Superbowl ad. What has happened? Please give me some direction for next year! Help me my friends!

P.S. I used the word "Superbowl" 8 times in violation of NFL copyright laws.