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Who doesn’t think the Japanese are an amazing people and culture? You have to hand it to them. Here’s a people whose history includes Hiroshima and Nagasaki and now Sendai and Fukushimaearthquake, tsunami. And with it has come missing persons, nuclear radiation, food and housing shortages, economic upheaval, not to mention destruction, devastation, disease, and death. Still, the Japanese soldier on.

“Ganbarimasu”—in Japanese it means “We must give it our best,” or something close to that. This word has become their quiet and dignified mantra. They work, they reach out, they don’t complain, and they don’t loot. They don’t loot? Amazing. Nuclear power plant workers have rightly become international heroes, a new set of first responders who are continuing to respond with long hours in what are likely suicidal conditions. These men do their duty, but they will not reach old age. Ganbarimasu.

The Japanese have always been known for the strength of their kinship culture. They are about community much more than the highly individualized and individualistic West. Sure, their culture isn’t perfect. There are some genuine concerns: issues like women’s place in family and society, underground sexuality, religious fatalism.

But the West has its problems too. Negatives shouldn’t cause us not to appreciate or admire positives. The Japanese are an industrious, frugal, incredibly hard working, educated, and honorable people. They’re proving it time and again in the face of crisis.

Ganbarimasu is something the West could stand to rediscover. Ours is a culture often captured by materialism, relativism, and narcissism. These aren’t good "Isms.” They weaken us individually and collectively. Certainly “The Greatest Generation,” ironically a generation that met the Japanese in World War, understood how to give it their best. But I don’t think subsequent generations, including the Baby Boomers to which I belong, can claim we’ve always given our best.

I wish the Japanese well. I pray for their culture, country, and individual characters. I hope they can cap the Fukushima nuclear radiation threat soon, and I hope they can rebuild with strength and optimism.

I wish and pray the same for the West in general and America specifically. I hope we learn by watching the Japanese. I hope we experience a resurrection of Ganbarimasu.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Some people are born encouragers.  But the rest of us have to learn how to be encouraging to others. In the Bible, the word "encouragement" comes from a military term meaning "to strengthen, harden, or uplift." Encouragement means to meet people where they are and help them along to where they want to be or ought to be.

Usually we think of encouraging people who are "down." Friends who are experiencing some difficulty like financial pressures, interpersonal relationship problems, a mid-life crisis, or maybe family troubles. These kinds of problems are what the Apostle James called "divers temptations."

People need encouragement when they're going through tough times, but people also need encouragement when things are seemingly going very well. If you think not many people call or write when things are going poorly, just think how few call or write when everything appears to be on a roll.

The Book of Acts tells us about Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, who the apostles called "Barnabas," which means "Son of Encouragement." Later we read that Barnabas encouraged the Christians at Antioch, and he's described as "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (Acts 11:24). Later still, when Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement, it's Barnabas who stands by the young Mark, who Paul thought spiritually weak but in whom Barnabas saw some good. Barnabas lived up to his name.

I’d like to develop my Barnabas-skills, and I’d encourage each of you to be a Barnabas. Give someone today what I call the "Barnabas Salute." That can be a call, a note, a pat on the back. You can salute people you know or even people you don't know who are standing for biblical ideals.

Giving people a Barnabas Salute is an encouragement to them. But guess what, it's an encouragement to you too.

 

"The Barnabas Salute," #109 from the Making a Difference program. Originally recorded April 25, 1994.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

 

September 11, 2001 is immortalized by infamy. Nine years later Americans still struggle with understanding and responding.

Toward continued healing, here are 9 things we should remember and 11 recommendations for moving ahead.

9 Remembrances

Every life matters. Each person who died (2,977 innocents, 19 suicidal perpetrators) is, like us, eternally important. God creates, individually bestows, and affirms life, not death.

Victims hailed from 90 countries. Loss of life is significant no matter who dies, but 9/11 was not just an American tragedy. It was a world tragedy.

First Responders died in the line of duty. In addition to civilian and military dead 343 fire-fighters, 60 police personnel, 15 EMTs, and a K-9 Dog named Sirius died as heroes. In ensuing years, as many as 900 are dead due to complications connected with their rescue work on 9/11. About 2,000 more were injured.

9/11 was a planned enemy attack. Despite conspiracy theories and 9/11 truth organizations claiming otherwise, to date there’s no credible evidence 9/11 was other than a terrorist suicide attack. 19 hijackers commandeering four jets for key targets was not a random act.

Evil exists. No amount of hope or general faith in the “goodness of human kind” can dispel the fact that evil is. It’s part of the human condition, and the challenge of dealing with it individually and socially will always be with us.

Nobility exists. Though evil had its day, human beings rose to the challenge in remarkable and admirable ways—the First Responders, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s leadership, citizen sacrifice and community, citizen service-qua-heroism.

People cared. Americans gave more than $1.4 billion and tens of thousands of units of blood toward 9/11relief.

God is in charge. He did not forget, go to sleep, or get surprised. He is sovereign, omniscient, and omnipotent.

Never forget. This phrase has become synonymous with 9/11 and rightly so.

11 Recommendations

Construct 9/11 Memorials as expressions of respect and remembrance. Memorials are recorded in Scripture and every nation and culture has developed means of honoring their dead. Most Civil War memorials were not erected until the 1880s-1920s, decades after the war. Passing time yields understanding, depth, perspective.

Clarify how we describe those responsible for 9/11. After 9 years American leaders in both parties still haven’t learned to define and identify who it is that threatens American security. We need to set aside political correctness, ignorance, and/or a foolish embrace of hoped-for visions of the enemy in favor of realistic ones.

Learn more about the Middle East. The Middle East is a region, not a nation-state. It includes North Africa and the Gulf States, involves 22 countries, 7 time zones, and 500+ million people. Spiritually and politically it is the most strategic region of the world.

Learn more about Islam. This is a complex religion practiced by more than 1.57 billion people worldwide and growing in influence. It’s not a simple creed but one nuanced by cultural and country-specific variations, ideological movements, and political agendas.

Honestly assess America’s actions and responsibility, but get over the fantasy of blaming all our problems on America. This is an approach oddly popular among a segment of the American citizenry, odd in the sense that the hand they bite is the one that feeds them.

If the American military is deployed, identify clearly stated objectives including an exit strategy, use levels of force required to execute the objectives, win, and get out. I’m convinced Americans are perennially more disturbed by the confusing way we’ve gone about fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan than they are the actual perceived need to fight.

Prepare for possible future attacks. This is responsible political, social, and as necessary military stewardship. Another attack is more probable than we want to admit, and we're not prepared. It seems so logical but not to those who don't really believe in human depravity and, consequently, believe talk and good intentions can solve all tensions.

In the face of fear, anxiety, and anger affecting our society be prepared to speak your faith. In 1 Peter 3:15 the Apostle reminded us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Recognize that life goes on. God gives us life and he wants us to live it. Building a future is not a disrespect of 9/11, and other travails have occurred that also require our ministrations.

Look for opportunity in the face of tragedy and its aftermath. This is a life-affirming thought rooted in a Christian worldview. If indeed God was in charge even on 9/11, and he was, than he’s in charge of how he can then-and-now enable us to turn tragedy to triumph. Sin has its moments but never ultimate victory if we look to the Lord to work through us.

Don’t claim insider knowledge about what God is doing. God is providentially engaged with human history, but we work with finite understanding and should take care to avoid comments detailing God’s every step (Romans 11:33-34).

On this day we did not forget.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

On Facebook yesterday, I posted what I thought was a fairly tame, straightforward expression of biblical theology and a Christian spirit. Interestingly, the post elicited more comments than anything I’ve previously posted. Here’s the post:

“There is no Christian/biblical justification for burning the Quran, or any other religion's holy book. How do you share Jesus' love w/people you insult? The Sovereign God is not afraid of religion, rulers, or regimes, nor should his people.”

Most commentators agreed. But some expressed a desire to fight fire with fire, so to speak, defending not only Americans’ right to burn such books, but in this case, the rightness in doing so.

I cannot go there. In the same conversation stream I later posted:

“If we start burning, where does it stop? We can all name offensive, hateful, or erroneous materials. Should these all be burned? Historically, such tactics have never worked, even and especially-thankfully-against Christians and the Bible.”

Book-burning is an act of fear, ignorance, at times hysteria, and power. It accomplishes nothing but tangibly destroying the limited number of books available at the time.

On the flip side, it insults, incites anger, elicits reprisal, and may even drive people toward the religion represented in the burned holy books.

Acts 19:19 records an incident when converts from paganism burned their books on magic. This is not an example of the Apostles burning or ordering books burned. It’s an illustration of what the Spirit of God led new believers to do as an expression of their newfound faith in God. They no longer needed magic when they came to know the Lord of miracles. The point is, they freely chose to burn their own books.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what others have done or may have done. God will call them—and us—to account. In the meantime, God calls his own to a different Way.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,” (I John 4:18).

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

For some reason, Christian leaders have rushed to hand kudos to Craigslist for closing its “Erotic Services” listings. I don’t understand their excited affirmation, particularly one Christian-leader-tweet I saw saluting Craigslist leaders for doing their best to fight sex trafficking.

I, too, am glad Craigslist has closed its listing. Good actions should be reinforced, so perhaps the company deserves a small pat on the back.

But before we get too warm and fuzzy please note that to get to this point took months of pressure, legal wrangling that continues, and some 17 state Attorneys General recently making this a national issue.

Please also note that Craigslist is not pleased, that it’s not clear the listing will remain unavailable, that the company posted “Censored” in bold letters rather than just remove the section, and that this kind of listing has apparently not been removed internationally.

Craigslist is opening another listing soon called “Adult Services.” This listing will assist legitimate adult businesses, but what this means remains to be seen.

So I’m not ready to anoint Craigslist with a halo. The company has made multiple millions on the sex trade, is loudly unrepentant, and no one really knows what’s going to happen next.

If Craigslist wants to be a responsible corporate citizen it has a ways to go. And Christian leaders would do well not to rush to judgment.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com, or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

In the late eighties when I was an academic dean at The King’s College in New York, my office regularly received stacks of postcards from credit card companies requesting that I place these postcards in each student’s mailbox. The postcards were enrollment forms offering credit to college students “for use during emergencies,” “to help build your credit history,” or, more incongruously, “independence.” Instead of student mailboxes I placed these credit card invitations in the academic dean’s waste basket.

In the late eighties credit card companies began targeting college students as a new, growing, and potentially profitable market demographic. Credit card companies offered credit with spending “limits” like $8,000 or even higher, zero or reduced interest for the first year, and acceptability at all kinds of businesses. Of course these companies make money when people carry debt incurred on their cards, a fact that makes college students and easy credit an appealing mix.

Unlike some financial advice gurus, I’m not against credit cards. My wife and I have a few of our own. But if older adults are sometimes tempted to spend-via-credit beyond their means, how much more so younger adults whose financial skills and experience are at best limited?

I know a couple, for example, who spent the first five years of their marriage paying off fairly substantial credit card debt that one of them had incurred during college. They sought help through Christian oriented financial advisors like Dave Ramsey, identified their goals, worked hard and acted with self-sacrifice and discipline, paid off their debt, and celebrated with their friends when they emerged free from the wrong kind of debt. Now they are purchasing their first home. That’s a financially stressful story turned success story. I salute them. Unfortunately, many young adults do not possess the self-discipline to do the same.

Most college students, even if they are working, are not earning sufficient funds to make them attractive consumers. But they still possess two important characteristics that credit card companies require: an economically bright future, and parents who pay off their debts. So the downside for the credit card companies offering easy credit to college students is lowered to an acceptable risk with a potentially big payoff. Credit card companies know that only 20% of college age users pay down their balances each month, while 67% carry a balance from month to month incurring interest charges, and about 11% eventually cannot make their payments. In all these scenarios, the credit card companies win (make money) and the college students lose (pay more for their purchases with added interest than the purchases would cost with cash, or take on more debt and thus more interest).

While I do not necessarily like the idea that credit card issuers target college students, I cannot condemn them for working legally within a free economy, allowing adults—even if young—to make their own decisions. Responsibility for personal financial well-being rests with the person in this case not the corporation or the public.

At Cornerstone University we throw away bulk mailed credit card enrollment pleas that have been sent to any of our offices. Of course we cannot throw away those enrollment cards that are individually addressed to given students, for in this instance the card is a legally protected piece of the United States postal system. But when we can, we toss the stack, for we believe the choice to acquire a credit card is something rightly in the hands of our students, along with possibly their parents.

Now credit cards can be acquired online. Free applications, no annual fee, no transfer fees, “increased buying power,” “a cushion for emergencies,” “ability to shop online,” or “protection for your purchases,” it’s all online, just a click or two away. But the danger of financial difficulty, possible bankruptcy, and financial ruin via too-easy credit is still real.

The moral of this story is, like so often in a capitalistic system, caveat emptor…let the buyer beware. If a college student is going to buy credit, he or she needs to understand the extent of the financial risk involved, needs to demonstrate the maturity to handle credit, needs to be responsible for paying for his or her own debt, and should as a matter of practice avoid using credit cards.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.