Repeat the 60s. 50 years later

and the 60s were a repeat of the early 1900s. And the early 1900s were a repeat of the mid 19th century. 

Seems like nobody is happy unless they are pissed off. And America is getting really angry right about now. Race relations are back in the toilet. Big corporations are eating up the little ones and *** dumping on their customers. Customers are not happy with the service they are provided but feel powerless to do anything about it. The President acts on his own, with Executive Orders rather than legislation (both parties, by the way). The polarization keeps increasing and the only thing left is the pop. And it won’t be pretty. 

All of the world’s major religions teach peace between brothers and outsiders. Judaism, and by extension Christianity, teaches that we are to (and I’m paraphrasing here) love God with every fiber of our being. Also love those around us and around the world. 

Black, white, Christian, Muslim, Republican. Democrat, American, not American, North, South… There is only division out there. Everyone has a message to share. And since the message is basically the same, “I have value and so do you!”, nobody wants to listen to the next guy’s message. 

So the message escalates. Now they drop the last piece of the message. “I have value!” And that’s all that matters. It’s why drivers in Houston block all traffic because they missed a turn, rather than going two blocks further and turning around. It’s why a teenager with absent parents turns to a street gang. It’s why politicians crucify each other in the media. We have lost track of the second half of the message. 

I pledge to go one step further – to turn the message around. “You have value, and so do I!”

You have value and so do I!

By putting you first, I remember the second half of the message. I’m not going to forget about me, but if the mantra puts you first, I won’t forget about you, either. 

Corporate America, politicians, managers, freeway drivers, assembly line workers, little children… Take the pledge. Turn the message around. “You have value!”  And so do I. 

Your God is Too Small

Subtitle: The Hardest Person to Forgive is Yourself

Long ago, I sinned against my wife. I broke her trust through what was supposed to be a little white lie. I learned that there is no such thing. A lie is a lie.

She has forgiven me, as her demeanor implies. She has moved on and, as the song says,

But she never complains of the bad times
Or the bad things he’s done, lord
She just talks about the good times they’ve had
And all the good times to come

I have tried to move on, but it’s so damn difficult. Every time we have a discussion, even a polite one, I’m worried that she will return to what I’ve never been able to leave. That day when all hell broke loose in our marriage.

Truth be told, I still (7 years later) cannot forgive myself. I need a confessor to listen to my story. Someone with whom I trust to divulge the whole truth without fear of judgment. Someone who knows me enough to listen and plainly state, “Jesus died for all of your sins – including that one.” Someone who will still hold me in the same regard after hearing about the real me.

Though I have spoken with mentors, both older and younger but wiser over the years, I have not felt comfortable enough with any to come completely clean. Those are mere men. I need someone higher than men.
“What about God,” you may ask. Yes, I’ve confessed to Him. I still don’t feel it.

So, the preaching minister at my church dove into that topic this morning. He kept saying, “Your God is too small.”

And he’s right.

But how do I, a mere mortal, accept a His Divine forgiveness?

Perhaps I am committing the greatest blasphemy of them all – I am not acknowledging His ultimate sacrifice on the cross – as justification for my miserable time here on this planet. Perhaps I assume a God can handle anything other than my particular sin. Perhaps I truly believe that my God is too small.

I accepted His written word as truth even when there were apparent conflicts with what I’ve learned in school. I’ve accepted that my time here is short, particularly when compared with eternity. I’ve accepted that Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only light.

Why can’t I accept that He has forgiven me, as His a Word so clearly states?

Dark Master

The Archangel Michael, who went to the mat with the Devil as they fought over the body of Moses, wouldn’t have dared level him with a blasphemous curse, but said simply, “No you don’t. God will take care of you!” (Jude 1:9 MSG)

Even the archangel – one of the highest ranking angels – wouldn’t mess with Satan. Why do we think we can?

“In the Presence of Enemies” is a 25 minute song in two parts by Dream Theater on their Systematic Chaos album. In the first part, Heretic, we are introduced to the daily conflict we all face. “Do you still wait for your God? And a symbol of your faith?”

We all must learn to wait on God. He has blessings we can not recognize on the surface. The symbol of our faith is faith itself. We trust in the Lord and we wait through various trials to find Him. James said “count it pure joy when you face various trials for these trials build patience.”

“I can free you from this hell and misery… All I ask is that you worship me.”. The tempter offers empty promises of freedom from our problems. And, on the surface, they do appear to be our salvation. Piece by piece, we fall into his trap.

“Dark Master within, I belong to you. Dark Master of sin, now my soul is yours.” How I long to serve my Lord, Jesus Christ. But every time I turn a deaf ear to his commands – that I love him and live others- I bow to His enemy. Hardening my heart I offer allegiance to the Dark Master.

But there is hope. “My soul grows weaker, he knows and he waits. He watches over me, standing at the infernal gates. In my hour of darkness, the moment I feared has past, the moment I lost my faith- promising salvation. My soul is my own, now. I do not fight for you. Dark master.”

We can choose at any time to come home. It gets harder every minute we are away, but the invitation is always open. We can declare our independence from sin – with Christ’s help – and walk away from the Dark master.

He waits to make us a new creation, ready to serve Him today and reign with Him in eternity. And I’m SO ready.

…while I’m waiting…

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Letting God drive is like riding a roller-coaster. One day you’re up. The next day you’re down. Some days you loop-the-loop. But you never know what’s coming next.

I’ve been offered, and accepted, permanent employment. But I’m still a contractor. I want insurance. So I’m not happy. What does our Provider have up His proverbial sleeve now?

The funny thing is, I know he has something up His sleeve. I just don’t know what it is. Somehow the bills will get paid. Not the extras, like the dinner out last week, but the necessities. There is always, miraculously, a little left over – just so long as we don’t over-do it.

But I’m greedy. I want a little more. I want to show my kids the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I want to show them every place I’ve ever lived. I want to eat an occasional steak. I want… I want… I want…

Then I think about the poor soul I passed under the bridge this morning. At 4:00 am. It was already over 80F and he didn’t have a cool place to sleep. Sweaty and dirty, he hoped to get just a little shut-eye on a concrete mattress before the day warmed up to another record high.

And I got mad because my air conditioning couldn’t keep it below 85F at 4:00 pm.

God can put things in perspective. I can do little to help the guy under the bridge. But I can put a little jingle in his cup. I can feel good about that, right?

I am content with what God has given me. I really am. But there are days when it just seems like more would be better.

Thanks for listening.

Idiot Ideologies

I don’t like political parties.  When asked, I say I’m a member of the beer party.  But my political leanings cross boundaries too much for me to be labeled a big fat elephant or a stubborn jackass.  Of course, many who know me well would say I fit into both of those categories, but not that they relate to politics…

Anyway, I find that I am what can only be defined as a

Compassionate Christian Conservative.

I am compassionate – I believe in helping those who need help.  This help may be a hug, food, cash (if I have it), a kind word or just a listening ear.  The compassion I feel toward others drives me to reach out in the name of Christ.

I am a Christian – I celebrate Christ risen from the dead.  I strive to follow His teachings and commands.  Love the Lord your God with all you are.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  By doing this, I can reflect a tiny bit of His glory here on earth.  I hesitate to write this, because I do not celebrate it for my sake.  I celebrate it for His sake.  He has guided me to be the man I am.  I have done nothing.

I am a conservative – I have been through hard times.  I believe that only by being a good steward of the gifts that God has given me can I do His work.  Being a good steward means I do not give away everything just because somebody asks for it.  Rather, being a good steward means I plant seeds that may grow.  This includes teaching skills to those around me so they can earn their own money.  It also includes investing what God has given me so it will grow.  One day, I will be able to bless twice as much as I do today through wise investing.

When I discuss my passion for Christ, there are those who question me because I don’t believe in giving food to everybody who asks.  Rather, I believe I need to help people help themselves.   Through assisting in this manner, others will be able to give rather than just receive.

I am not 100% right.  Neither am I 100% wrong.  The Body of Christ has room for – and a great need for – those who believe as I do and those who are outrageously “fiscally liberal”.  Like all of the different members, we need to learn to just get along.

Certifiable

I’ve been working on computers for thirty years.  I don’t know everything there is to know about the digital world, but I do know quite a bit (toot-toot!).

In my job search, though, my experience is meaningless without a piece of paper.  No, it’s not a college degree, it’s a certificate from some faceless authority that says I am certifiable.  The names sound like alphabet soup – CNA, CCNA, MCSE, SSCP, A+, Network+… the list goes on and on.

Yeah, I can pass the tests, but they are so darned expensive!  I have not had the luxury of working at a place that will reimburse me for the cost of these tests.  So, when times are tough and finances are tight, I have tried to do with just my experience.  It’s not getting me very far.

Recently, I interviewed with a company that said they would hire me if I got the certifications.  And, if I got the certs before I reported for duty, they would pay me back.  So, I’m gonna drop a few Benjamins on a certificate – a piece of paper that says I know what I know.

I guess our spiritual life is kinda like that.  People want to know under what authority we speak.  But we have a certificate.  In the Great Commission (Matthew 28), Jesus commanded us to carry His Name into the world.  That command is the authority we need – the certificate that says we are capable of doing His work.

I have to prove to the world that I know about computers through a piece of paper.  Jesus knows I am always learning His word, and is happy to hire me on His Word alone.

In Christ Alone

I don’t know why the song is stuck in my head.  I haven’t heard it on the radio for a while and we haven’t sung it in church.  But I’m glad it is stuck.

I can’t think of a better place to be than in Christ, alone.  Being in Christ is better than being in a church building.  Being in Christ is better than being in a fast car.  Being in Christ is, yes fellow Texans, I’m sayin’ it – being in Christ is even better than being in Texas – although not by much.

Seriously, though, when I’m pondering the meaning of life as I was today, I begin to ask what it’s all about.  I mean, in my head I know the meaning of life is to “Love the Lord your God with everything you are.”  But try something in me just don’t want to listen.

I can be easily distracted by the events of life.  While I bow my head and pray, I try to stay focused on the majesty of God.  But then my ear begins to itch.  Way down inside where only a key will get to it.  Or a dog will start panting by my feet, wanting attention.  Or I’ll suddenly start thinking about the person who was rude on the phone three weeks ago.  Suddenly, I’m distracted from my prayer.

Sing a song out loud, though.  Hum it, whistle it – whatever.  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  It will focus your entire body.  Your mind, your ears, your mouth, your voice, your lungs and your heart will all fall in line.

In Christ alone,
My hope is found,
He is my life, my strength, my song…

Peace begins to fill my head and the thoughts of the day are chased away.  Worries are now gone.  Life seems to be, once again, where it needs to be.

It is In Christ Alone.

Saying “Good-bye” To My Dreams

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was an obscure blogger.  We’ll call him “Clay”.  He had dreams – some sane, some outrageous.  They included a car of his own, a home in the country and a yacht in which he could experience the sea again for he was a veteran of the US Navy.  The car need not be fancy (but fast would be a plus).  The home need not be fancy but 20 acres or so would fulfill the dream.  And the yacht – well it does need to be seaworthy and what’s the point of having a yacht if it’s not fancy?

So Clay woke up many mornings depressed to be without wheels of his own and in a very modest house in the city.  His friends had more ‘stuff’ than he did, but they seemed to be no less depressed than Clay.  There was, after all, new stuff always available.  Gotta get the next new smartphone.  Gotta get 3D TV.  Gotta get HD radio.  And the list goes on.

Clay woke up one morning, and was more depressed than usual.  His dreams seemed to be so far out of reach that they were, in a word, unattainable.  In a rare moment of lucid dreaming (does that even make sense?), Clay decided that his dreams weren’t worth the depression.

“If I gave up on my dreams,” he thought, “I could be happier.  I would no longer be striving for something unattainable.  I would simply be glad that I can still see my kids in my modest house in the city because I can’t go anywhere.”

Now, don’t misunderstand the situation.  Clay still desires a car of his own, a house in the country and, maybe, a yacht.  But his driving force is now facing each day for the glory and blessing it brings.  He no longer wakes each day to dreams that are unattainable.  He can now see the trees because he’s closer to the forest.

One day, maybe he will get a car of his own and a house in the country with 20 acres or so for the milk cows and chickens and garden.  But until that day comes, he eagerly looks forward to the fleeting moments with his children and his wife.

Life is not yesterday, nor is it tomorrow.  Life is today.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:24, NIV

(not the) Last Word on Love

I am likely going to write about love until the day I die.  Which, hopefully, will be a long time from now.

I refer you, gentle reader, back to the two great commandments:  Love the Lord your God with everything you are.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Christ said that everything else in the Bible is based on these two commandments.

How, then, do we love others?  WWJD?  How did Jesus love others?  Scripture clearly shows us that he loved sinners.  He ate with them.  He showed them the pure, unadulterated love of God.

“But Jesus got really mad!”

Yes He did.  Why?  Because people had turned his Father’s House (the Temple) into a “den of thieves”.  He also got more than a little riled when the leaders of the religious establishment failed to follow the first two commandments.

So, Jesus forgave the people who committed adultery, the murderers, the thieves and the liars.  And He rebuked those who followed the letter of the law.

WHY?

Because they failed to love.  They took the power and the money then left the orphans and widows hungry.  Jesus pronounced seven woes on them because when they converted others, they “made him twice the child of Satan that they are!”

Can the same be said today?  Preachers everywhere are worried that their sermons against sin will be viewed as hate speech and result in arrest and other horrible actions.  But, aside from the downward spiral America finds itself in, why would people view Christian sermons as hate speech?

I have no problem with calling sin “sin”.  But, as Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”  He never seethed with rage screaming at a person because of their sin, except for the Pharisees who claimed to be from God.

In order to love the world, one must love every part of the world.  The drag queen, the serial rapist, the child molester, the murderer, the thief, the liar and even ourselves.  We must love the unloveable.

All Scripture is God-Breathed

And useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16

Dedicated to Westboro Baptist Church

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. – Romans 8:9-11

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 9:23-24

Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth—
then my judgments go forth like the sun. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:4-6

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. – Matthew 12:7

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
– Matthew 12:30-37

Bless those who persecute you.  Bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. – Romans 12:14-15

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:1-2

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him,“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”  The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. – John 5:14-15

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely.  The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.  Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. – 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. – 1 John 2:3-5

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

“If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” – John 14:15-17

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1 John 4:7-12