Life Was SO Much Simpler

Life was so much simpler – when we were less informed.

With the advent of social media and electronic delivery of news, we are instantly aware of things that would have taken hours, days or even months to filter down to us. Life (as we used to know it) moved at a slower and happier pace. Reaction times to news or events barely crawled along. We had to roll out the morning paper or listen to morning radio or TV to hear about national or world events. Things took time to soak in. Once things were known interactions between people happened face to face or voice to voice. Discussions were had around the water cooler or in the break room. We interacted with one another on a person to person level. We were a much more tolerable people because of that. Interactions with friends, co-workers or relatives included every other aspect of life, and not just about the most recent political scandal or salacious affair in Hollywood. We were rounded in our dialogue.

Today the war of words is hateful, spiteful and full of half-truth and innuendo. No longer do we spar or duke things out with multiple rounds to determine the clear winner. Both parties of any argument people now go for the jugular within seconds. We don’t talk things out with honest conversation or debate. We pass judgment immediately based on “clear” lines of distinction. Those differences are usually spelled out with two simple letters – D or R. If you are a D you are labeled immediately as a wacko left-wing commie radical with not an ounce of patriotism in your body. If you find yourself with an R next to your name you are branded as a right-wing extremist bible-thumping gun-toting intolerant hater who thinks refugees should be pushed off of the boat.

In the real world both sides have a handful of people that go to the extreme in their views (left or right). But for the most part our society has a mix of ideas and values that make us land somewhere  between those two dreaded letters. A distinct problem with social media (and instant messaging) is the fact that whoever is the quickest, sharpest and craftiest deliver a stinging message that’s portrayed as pure and honest fact.  The ones who get the most attention are those who yell a quick unverified half-truth, peppered with underlying deceit and deception.

Political correctness has gone amuck. If you dare say anything about race, religion, national origin, sexual preference, or anything that is a social hot point you risk your fortune in a matter of hours. It doesn’t matter if what you say is true or moral. It only matters that you have no right to inject your belief system, especially if it steps on toes of any special interest group. And those “special” groups garner less than 5% of our entire people group.

I consider myself a technical progressive. And that’s a feat for someone my age (early sixties). Many of my peers have only given up their flip phones after the carrier no longer supported their dated technology. I am all for the latest and greatest wireless remote applications that automate everything. I’m waiting for the day that an app can buy, season, cook, and hand feed my food to me (that day is coming!).

But how can we roll back the information age to a saner, kinder and gentler time?

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The Exclusivity of the Christian Faith

I wholeheartedly believe that the only way to gain entrance into the heavens is via experience with the Jesus of the bible. He was a real person who lived a sinless existence and died at the hands of an angry mob. Yet it was all a part of the grand plan of the creator of this universe. Believing who he was and embracing him as the only bridge from the state of human sin to arms of a holy God is what I am convinced of is what is needed to become a child of God. Every fiber of my being tells me this is true. I would hope that all who identify with the name and person of Jesus feel the same way. I guess you’d say I am ALL IN, and wonder who in their right mind would only be “partially in”?

The thought for this current writing is something that is a bit hard to write about. It shines light on a subject that “ought not be”. It examines from real life view about something that seems missing from people who are “sold out” believers in Jesus the Christ. It is in the subject of giving. But before you grab your wallet, I’m talking about giving in a different sense. I’m talking about giving of one’s self to others in a exercise of faith. I’ve noticed for quite some time that Christians, and churches, create events or “ministries” with the purpose of helping others or meeting some need that they see in the community. They plan, they recruit others for help, they spend large sums of money, they craft events for the community to participate in for little or no charge whatsoever. Yet, by design, they sometime leave you with the feeling that they are a stingy bunch. They want the outsider to come and participate, but boundaries are put in place that make it seem restrictive or even miserly.

What made this thought come to the surface is a recent event that we attended. We took our young granddaughters to a “fall festival” (Halloween substitute). The event started pretty early so we had to rush to get there in time to park, walk and then take the kids to booths set up for games. Each booth had large tubs of candy for kids to have after completing whatever challenge each game afforded. Yet each child was only allowed 2 pieces of candy. The place was full of booths and people. So busy in fact, that the kids had to wait in line for each game. This place was full and kids of all ages and all seemed to be having a great time.

But after one of the games ended my granddaughter was digging through the candy looking for something that was not chocolate (she doesn’t care for it?). The lady manning the booth told her “dear you must only get 2 pieces”. My wife was puzzled at that rebuke since the she was just looking for something other than chocolate? It wasn’t as if the kids were “loading up” at each stop. So we carried on to the next booth for the next 20 minutes or so and waited our turn in line. After about the 4th booth a man (obviously in leadership) from the church walked by and waived at the booth attendants as if to say the event was over. So when it was our child’s turn the booth people just said “sorry it’s over”. So we went quickly to three other booths hoping our girls could get a few more pieces of candy before calling it a night. But it happened several more times and the event was OVER. The tubs of candy were still half full, yet it was 7:30 and we were all done. Our oldest was not only upset by not getting very much candy but wanted to simply play the games.

I know this all sounds a little silly, but we felt like outsiders at our own church. We brought our granddaughters for a fun experience at OUR church. But it was over in a flash and we took them back home with buckets almost empty. This event underscored how I think we as Christians behave in this world at times. We have the one true answer in the person and work of Jesus Christ, yet we place so many rules and restrictions on the prize that we leave the unbelieving world still in unbelief. The true gospel is one of inclusiveness and fullness, not one that closes the gate and refuses the prize because the ending hour has come. We have a redeeming work to do as believers yet we are shirking that calling if we limit what we do to time and space, and candy.

When others see Christians like myself I believe they should see people who are givers and people who go way beyond the call of duty in serving others. We are called to serve God. I learned long ago that the only way I can honestly and effectively serve my God is by serving others. And when we serve we should do so lavishly, as if each person we serve is our own child or grandchild.  People should see and experience the grace and mercy of the cross by seeing me lay down my own wishes and desires by the way in which I love and serve. That’s how people are drawn to the love of Christ. Words can be optional, but the way in which we treat others gives us opportunity to share they hope that we have within us.

Narrow IS the gate to salvation, but everyone should be given opportunity to see the path by the way Christians love and serve.

 

How Can We Be So Foolish?

I’m often amazed at a missing depth of reason for when it comes to the word of God. Many times the lack of understanding is from well-meaning folks who’ve purportedly walked by faith for many years, even decades is hard to understand?

The scriptures were penned by human beings who were inspired by the third party of the trinity, that we know as the Holy Spirit. Woven into the words on the page is the unwritten and unseen “Word” who is the one and true God. We understand and know his heart if we honestly seek to know His purposes and plans for our lives.

The way I was taught to understand the scriptures by very learned and revered teachers is to first look at the context in which a passage is written to find true understanding of what was (is) being said. Pulling passages from within a context to make them fit something you want is called proof texting. That is extracting a portion of a complete passage out of a larger story to prove your point or wishes. That is just plain wrong. It’s very much like misquoting someone in a media interview so that the narrative fits an intended target or thought. But this is a much more serious issue because it is a twisting of the truth of the word of God. That is serious business in my book.   Erring in this can cause others to stumble and miss the true meaning and can even cause issues for generations to come as they follow a path of deception by mishandling the word of God.

When you study the bible please consider the context of the message, the intended target audience and please, please, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you study. And when in doubt in the interpretation or understanding of a particular passage it is wise use the scripture itself to help you with the understanding. Since the bible is inspired by one god there is a harmony throughout the scriptures. The concepts and precepts of God’s heart are penned in different ways and in different ages of historical Judeo/Christian history. So what better way to understand the word than letting the word itself be your guide.  And I should add that your ultimate guide must be the Holy Spirit. He can and will guide you into the truth.

Don’t be deceived into believing that somehow you’ve been given a “handle” or “corner on the truth” when it comes to God’s word. God is an equal provider of truth to all generations. As he is ageless, so are his immutable unchanging truths. He does not change and his word has remained through the ages.

 

The “New” Morality

 

It seems that almost every day now we are faced with some new moral dilemma.

Regardless of the issue, the foundations of traditional moral value can be heard creaking and cracking beneath our feet. Many of the truths we’ve always accepted as the basis for our society are being challenged like never before. More changes have taken place in the moral arena in the past decade, than in the two hundred years before. The values that have been the support strings in the fabric of our country are now being condemned and disposed of like smelly trash.

The methods of presenting these “new ideas” on us is done now with the straight and bold  “in your face” and “shove it down your throat” style. The new villains are those if us who cry foul . Whatever new change being railroaded on our society is done so with no remorse or regret. Changes are proposed and changed many times with no regard for finding the majority opinion about the subject. For the 99 percent of us who do cry out (publicly or privately), we are quickly labeled and dismissed as fear mongering hateful right wing extremists.

The NEW morality is in actuality NO morality at all. The definition is amoral – meaning having neither right or wrong values but landing somewhere in the misty haze of nothingness. It is comparable to noxious fumes that have little or no odor. But nonetheless any deadly gas will put you in an early grave.

With each new day we hear the flush handle jangled as our Judeo-Christian way of life swirls round and round the toilet bowl of the America we once knew as it washes down the drain. To say our country is sliding into an abyss is such a great and powerful understatement. Whether we like it, or admit it, our very way of life is being torn from side to side and top to bottom.

Complete censorship is on our doorstep. We face a future where our every word will be subject to the cry of the microscopic vocal minority. We soon will live in a world where we cannot have or express an opinion about any person, place or thing unless that point of view is dripping in acceptance and inclusiveness. As a free people we designed our society to have the ability and liberty to think the way we want yet without trampling on those same rights of everyone else. We can and should have the right to differing views and be able to express those views without fear of reprisal and condemnation. Rather than having majority rule, we are being plunged into a time where each and every special interest group self proclaims that they are in control and will take the reins of power if left unchecked. And the land that we will live in will be wide open, wild and grisly.

History has shown clearly that governments ruled by dictators, tyrants and self promoting fools does not work. A democratic world view is very different in every respect than a socialistic kingship ruling class. The governing ways of the latter repress free thought and seek to force on the masses a viewpoint held by such a small percentages of the populace.

The above mentioned plan has been perpetrated before. It does not work. And the saddest part of this story is that sane and civil people seem to be sitting idly by while our society crumbles before our eyes. The oldest group of our ranks know what is right and what is wrong. They can articulate those values and show the flaws. But that generation of people is already being shut down and silenced. Their views are not valued or respected.

The under 30 crowd really don’t know who to believe. They seem to be swayed by every new populist idea that comes along. They’ve been told lie after lie so many times that believe and embrace them. In reality, they don’t have experience enough or the wisdom to separate truth from fiction. One day they will wake up and realize that the things they expected from life will not even remotely resemble what they had in mind for the new world.

God help us!

Passion Week – What Does that Really Mean?

By many, the week leading up to Easter Sunday is referred to as Passion Week. For some the word passion might be a confusing term, especially in the world in which we live.

For me that word has a much deeper connotations than just a sensual human response. One definition of passion says “having a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something”. Another is “intense, driven, mastering a feeling or conviction”.

I admire musicians who have true passion in the way they display a total surrender in the the way they perform. They can convey a message with such force that you are left with little doubt about the importance of the message. They just lay it all on the line with unfettered emotion. If you cannot sing with passion, why bother?

People are passionate about many other things in life too. They can encompass the entire spectrum of humanity. Even in the realm of business there are those who are totally engulfed with a passion for their goods or services. The truth of the matter is, if you bring a passionate zeal to your work or avocation, you will excel and exceed in whatever you do. Regardless of your craft, people will follow and respect you because of your depth of commitment.The intent of my writing today is to examine a passion that far outweighs all other human pursuits or desires.

There was a lowly man who took up residence on earth and walked among us. He was from humble beginnings and led a simple life. This gentle man of whom I speak had a calling and a purpose. He may not have been a master builder or a great musician of ability or craft. But his goal and purpose pushed him to the ultimate level of passion. His resolve was born out of who he was. He was bred as a servant. His DNA fully tilted him to love people with a unique passion unknown before he came. His strong resolve led to his ultimate demise very early in his life. You’ve probably guess that I am speaking of Jesus, the Christ.

When he looked people in the eye, his gaze went directly to their core. He saw them where they were, yet loved them in spite of who they were. He was a magnet to those around him. He exuded a passion for life, but it not his own. The compassion he had for people was powerful enough to make rugged fishermen drop their nets and follow him without reservation. He just commanded a presence about him that was inexplicable. And he still does now.

For those of you who know and follow this man Jesus, he still has that magnetic draw and power. To become like him empowers you. To walk with him encourages you. To know him changes you.

As we ponder this week of “passion” we should be reminded how far his care and concern took him. It led him to to an early grave as “religious” leaders declared him their enemy because he obviously had a greater influence than they. Those same people took him down, or so they thought. There’s more to this story. Stay tuned.

Survivors

There are times in the human condition when life throws stuff at us that we’ve never dealt with before. Illness, financial woes, strained or broken relationships, co-workers that make your life less than perfect and a myriad of issues that test the very fiber of your soul. Even the most balanced and grounded person can lose equilibrium and find themselves flat on the ground. It is just a reality that life is never perfect.

I’ve witnessed family and friends go through what seemed insurmountable pain and suffering. There were times that the only thing they could successfully do was cry. Every season of life seems to bring its share of heartache, yet humans just keep on going. Kids and family and even friends depend on us. We have bills to pay and lawn to mow. We just keep on keeping on.

We were blessed with a desire and a will to succeed. And if we find a true passion for something we can  even excel in what we do. Although created from the smallest of cells and molecules we somehow ended up with everything needed to become persons of value and worth.

There is a hope that each of us might become productive citizens one day after adulthood comes crashing into our worlds. At conception we were lavished with so many amazing potentials by our creator. Among the many wonderful things He gave us the ability to think and learn. He also gave us an innate need to love. Even when selfishness clouds our way we seem to find something down deep inside that causes us to have empathy and compassion on the other sojourners around us.

Most of us have been blessed to be parents. Once that happens we practice for years to get that right, or at least close. We scrimp and save and finds ways to provide, when there seems to be no way. And it all just comes natural for us to love and care for our mates and the broods entrusted to our care.

So if you are reading this I must assume you are a survivor. You’ve faced things that made you want to quit. You’ve given up so many times, only to wake up with a new resolve to putting your shoes in a forward direction.

Was it the cry of your child after a bad dream that gave you wings to keep flying? Was it the hoped promotion at work that pushed you? Did the strings of your heart renew your desire when you finally found that someone special? Did your best friend kick you in the teeth or lovingly lead you to renewal? Or maybe you were such sick of your position in life?Regardless of the reason you dusted off your boots and you just kept going.

Whatever make makes us survivors, it is must be a powerful force?

God. Is He Someone I can Pray to?

God is our Father and our creator. That is my story and I’m sticking to it. That is something I was taught in my upbringing.  Since God is our Father, that makes him in essence and in character, our Dad.  Being a perfect Father, we know that he must enjoy the interaction, respect and reciprocal love from his kids.

Long ago in my life experience I gained a great respect for God. That was even before I could say that I had a personal “experience” or relationship with him. As a child, when others would pray, I was taught to bow my head and close my eyes (simple I know). But if I knew nothing else personally about God, at least I knew to respect Him and revere who he was.

When we speak God’s name, mention him in passing or even simply think of him, he is acutely aware of us and at full attention and ready to hear from us. The scriptures instruct us to pray without ceasing. I think we all know what that really means. It means that in every situation we should have God’s name on the tip of our tongue asking him for guidance, comfort, and every other thing we could possibly need. Prayer is reaching out to God. It is also acknowledging that He (and he alone) is our source and strength. I’m a guy who loves fun and find some sort of humor in anything. It’s just how I’m wired. But mixed in with my humor there is a serious side to me as I think of who God is.

God expects us to call on him in thick and thin. I think it has to be a wonderful thing to him, when we call on his name to a simple conversation with him and lovingly thank him for being who he is. This conversation can be equated to telling our earthly father – I love you daddy.

Our paw owns it all. He’s really a rich guy. He lavishes his wealth on us each day. At times I feel like a spoiled brat the way he blesses and cares for me, even when I’ve been a fool. But in his goodness he knows what’s best for us. He also knows full well when to withhold his wealth from us and correct us.

The next time to have the need to reach out to your father for advice or strength or even to just thank him, don’t hold back. Speak his name, call out to him boldly. He will hear your voice and respond to you in grace and love.

God inhabits the praises of his children, all day – everyday.

Toast… in the Eyes of the Law

 

Courtroom settings are familiar scenes. We’ve seen them in television dramas or experienced them first hand as a plaintiff, defendant or juror.

The nervousness of being there has different emotion levels. If there as a juror you are wide eyed and all ears, wanting to be the best listener you can be. Being there as a plaintiff brings a degree of seriousness and determination to present your side of the story and win your case. But being there as a defendant is in a class all its own. You are on trial. Your life is on the line. Everything hangs in the balance. All eyes are on you and you are being judged. Total strangers only know basics of your case. Just from a first glance or few words spoken you are being judged by every person in the room based on nothing more than primary facts.

All cases before a judge or jury have things entered as evidence that support the charge. Witnesses are called to either support the facts or cloud the facts from the view of the accused. But as the facts are presented against you, it seems the cards are stacked against you. You answer back with your view of the charge. But the more the prosecution presents, the more you know you are sunk and have no hope in redeeming yourself.

This backdrop of a courtroom scene is so you can see what I think it might be like when we one day stand before our creator God and answer the charge against us as sinners. There will be plenty of evidence for a conviction and very little, if any, facts supporting our innocence.

But in that grand courtroom that we all will face, in will come a couple of surprises. Mercy and grace show up to testify on your behalf. Miss Grace is a lady who shows up with complete favor and gives you more goodness than you’ll ever deserve, for no apparent reason. Mr. Mercy however, shows up and removes the charge against you, even though the evidence clearly shows you should be convicted and doomed.

It’s not only that we will have been released from the charges against us, but we’ve been given a gift instead of judgment. How can I leave the place of judgment with a clean slate and awards to boot? It is only because our gracious and merciful God loves the heck out of us for some reason.

When you think you are destined for destruction and ruin one day, remember that Mercy and Grace can show up on your behalf, if you’ve trusted in the judge of all creation.

Scabs and Scars

I’ve personally been met with obstacles and challenges in my life that left me battered, bruised and broken. I bear scars of failure and defeat. Some wounds have been deep and lasting. Some battles I’ve faced seemed to have lasted for a lifetime. Then there are are those really tough events that defined my life, at least for a time.

The human condition gives us all episodes of life where we get punched and slapped and knocked down. It’s just life. Some battles leave you with evidences of your survival. Some skirmishes can leave you with nasty little scabs. Then there are those events that leave indelible marks on your life. Those seem to stay with you. Scars left behind can be reminders of failure and brokenness.

A few years ago I was at crossroads in my life. Failure and despair seemed to haunt me. That thinking seemed to be a new norm for me. I decided one day that I was far better at failure than I was at winning. Let me tell you, that is not a place you want to be. That feeling takes you captive and makes you its slave. It seems there is no escape from that dungeon.

But then I found some really wise counsel, from some very honest and godly men. They didn’t ridicule me, they didn’t shun me. They didn’t try to figure it all out for me. They came along side me in my pain. They prayed with and for me. They hounded me with compassion and care, in an humble yet strong kind of way.

It was a rather odd and new time for me. Men were taught to suck it up, take it on the chin and just deal with it. Don’t show your weakness, don’t display your pain. And whatever you do, do  not tell any other man your weaknesses or failures. If you do, your man card is cancelled permanently. Does anyone know who wrote those rules?

I can honestly say, at this point in my life, that I wear my scars as badges of honor. I know I am a survivor of the rarest kind. I’ve been in the trenches of life and am still here to tell of them. I have a marriage that has stood the test of time. I have folks around me that I’d willingly give it all up for. I’ve seen ugliness and pain yet I smile in spite of it all.

There’s nothing special or gifted about me, yet I’ve found the secret to success in life. It is not about reaching some pinnacle of fame or fortune, or reaching some lofty goal or getting some large reward.

I’ve learned to simply rest in what my God has shown me, in my pain. He’s a trustworthy teacher that takes you to the highest of places of submission and tests you to see if you really do trust him. When I’m shaken and thrown down I know that He still loves and cares about me, especially in my pain. It must seem odd to those around me, but I’ve been blessed beyond measure in some of the darkest places in life. Yet God is good. All the time.

 

State Of The GOP – Part 2

Well time moves on and the race for power and control continues to take the normal twists and turns. Super PACS and media gurus work separately and sometimes in unison to promote the current new favorite darling candidate, regardless of who the base of the party really favors. They try and tell us who we favor, but truth be known we have much different ideas that the candidate of the month club.

Debates continue and they also continue to be a manipulative machine favoring and giving time and credence to candidates who are doing the best in the “so called” polls. Media and money favored candidates are given the most air time for questions. Some candidates are down-right ignored in favor of the ones who might cause the most stir. And the pitting of the candidates continues with the crafty questions and directed rebuttals. People like Ben Carson are basically ignored in favor of higher profile personalities. So the beat goes on.

It seems incredible to me that some would-be presidential candidates hang on for so long when in actual comparison (face to face exchanges) they just don’t do well or perform as hoped. Yet they keep spending money like there is no tomorrow. But I guess it is normally other people’s money from their particular special interest groups that are the promotors and pushing them.

Hopefully the issues of the day are bringing all of us to the place where we ponder the questions like, who do I really trust and respect to hold the highest office the land of all lands? We must start drawing our conclusions and distinctions. It’s time to draw the lines of importance. We must decide who we think is a true and faithful patriot that we can trust our destiny with. Who is it that can muster a nation behind him or herself and lead us to higher ground? Who will honestly and faithfully uphold the constitution of our land? Who best suits the fact that their life will never be the same again and who can  also make us proud to be Americans, again?

Pundits abound. Crazy statements are thrown around like cheap candy in a parade. Shocking truths (and half truths) abound. Truth is hard to find. When truth is spoken it is spun into anything but the truth.

We have some tough days ahead of us. With every passing day we see events that undermine our freedoms and give us concern about our common goals of freedom. The current leadership seems to think they are the supreme and ultimate decision makers for us all. Soon, and very soon, we will see a change as we gain control once again of our constitutional republic. We’ve witnessed historic flagrant abuses of power, but that will end. The winds of change will once again bring us back to the middle.

America has had enough and together we will heartily and loudly restore our republic soon. Sensibilities will prevail and we will again enjoy a sense of comradery, pride and peace as we move our values back to a place of goodwill and statesmanship.