What a Drag it is Getting Old…

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I’ll say it.  I really don’t mind.  I was born a little over 48 years ago.  In my lifetime, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  Personal Computers became a routine thing (my first one had 4K of memory…).  Cancer became survivable.  The world map changed radically after the fall of the Soviet Union.  Our consumption of energy has changed.  

In two years, I will hit the big 5-0.

So, I went to the doctor for a wellness check.  Not everything is within spec.  Surprise, surprise!  For the last 30 years, I have abused my body with food, drink and other things that shall not be mentioned.  Somehow I’ve survived it all to this point.  But it sparked something within my pea-brain.  Not only do I want to see my grandkids, maybe I’d like to see my great-grandkids.

I’ve made a commitment to my wife to get myself back into shape.  Doc said that some exercise will get most of those numbers back in line.  Change the diet a little and that will resolve it.  I’m actually doing it!  For the first time in my life, I’m finding a reason to focus and change.

I haven’t eliminated anything but carbs and salt have been radically cut back.  Rather than a breakfast taco every morning, I’m having one or two a week (usually on the same day).  Instead of eating all the pizza I can handle at my weekend job, I’m going home for a quick salad wrap (if only I can get them to stop putting Ranch dressing on it…).

I’ve even begun to exercise.  Monday in the rain when I couldn’t get my tracker app to work.  Tuesday I walked with the kids to the polling place (a mile away from the house).  

The Bible says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  My body looks and feels more like a bar and grill than a temple.  I’m honoring beer and sausages rather than God.  So my change also involves getting back to His Word, which has sadly been neglected over the last five or six years – ever since He, in His grace, saw fit to find me employment.

There’s a change coming in my life.  I don’t want to be the beer-swilling fat pig I was at age 30.  I want to be fit at 90.  So, here goes…

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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.

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

 

Storgē

Like I said before, I can have a lot of fun with these Greek words.  “It’s over there by the storge container!”

Storgē is that special love that bonds a parent with a child.  When a parent says to their child, “I love you,” the Greeks say “I storgē you” or something to that effect.

The love for a child is an amazing thing.  Before I found out I was going to be a Daddy, I didn’t even want to ponder that possibility.  I’m a horrible person, I’m going to make horrible kids.  But I saw that little hand on the screen at the doctor’s office and that stony heart began to melt.

When she was born, I was an emotional wreck.  I had never held a child in my entire life.  Now, here was one of my very own!  By the time she was four, I was a very happy stay-at-home Dad.  About that time, her younger sister joined the family.

From a guy with absolutely no use for people under 21 to being totally enamored with my children – I discovered exactly what storgē is.  I love my kids.  Now that I am working, I try to arrange my schedule so I get more time to spend with my kids.

Storgē – the most amazing love of all.

Philia

Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love”.  Few realize that there was a city in Asia Minor with the same name at the time of the Romans.  Yup – the name is that old.

Philia is a Greek word that means love between friends.  It can be also rendered in English as phileo.  In modern English, where straight people are worried about sounding gay, they shy away from the word love and we use words like BFF.  BFF=philia.

This is precisely what Christ meant, though, when He told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  No matter how absolutely despicable we think they may be, He told us to love them.

But people will always find a reason to not love someone.  Maybe it’s the slowpoke on the road in front of us.  Could it be that the family down the street has bikes outside their front door?  Maybe there’s a handicap.

This is, sadly, where I need the most help.  I’ve heard it’s rude to stare at people or make a big deal of a handicap.  Therefore, I don’t want to appear rude and avoid people who are different from me.  It makes me uncomfortable.

But I feel perfectly comfortable walking into a prison as a chaplain or volunteer.  I feel perfectly comfortable reaching out to that “different” person at church.  I feel perfectly comfortable chatting it up with someone I’ve come to know.  Why?

In those situations I am empowered by title or familiarity.

Through Christ, we are all empowered to address those around us in His name.  We don’t have to verbally invoke His name, but act as if we had.  In turn we make others comfortable around us.  The guy covered with scars from a car wreck.  The woman whose body is deformed from palsy.  The next-door neighbor who won’t even look at you on the street.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Little children, love one another.

Eros

I can have a lot of fun with these Greek words.  Agape.  Eros.  🙂  No, I’m not even going there! You would only boo and hiss at my joke about bows and Eros…

Anyway, Eros was the Greek god of intimate love – between a husband and wife.  We know him better by his Roman name, Cupid.  It is from that description we get the second in this treatise on love.

When I met my wife, 20 years ago, I was struck by her beauty.  Some would say there was love at first sight, and I believe them.  She haunted me even as I pursued other relationships.  After all, why would someone as beautiful as her want to waste time with an overgrown beer-swillin’ sailor whose face could sink ships?  But she found something in me as well.  We’re very happily married, have two kids and a house with a cedar picket fence.

It was the initial attraction that brought us together.  Had I not seen something in her, I would likely have not remembered her from that history class in college in 1991.  Her smile, her hair – but most of all her laugh…  But, as I am wont to do, I digress.

I started to go somewhere with this that would have made a lot of people angry.  So, here goes again.

God created the attraction-based love that brings together a man and a woman.  He did so for one reason – kids.  He wants people to worship Him.  He wants lots of people to worship Him.  And, as the Sovereign Creator of the universe, He pretty much gets what He wants.  So he put a drive in each of us to get married and have kids.

How do we find the one with which to have kids and remain true to God?  Through prayer and attraction.

I’ll admit that I didn’t pray before I married my wife.  Yeah, I went through the motions, but none of it was real until we’d been married for 2 ½ years.  It’s taken me from then until now to figure out how this hot babe that I married was brought to me by a God that I refused to serve until after we were married.

It’s all part of His plan.

Now that I love to worship Him, my kids see that.  They want to be like Daddy, so they worship Him as well.  And, when they’re grown, hopefully their kids will worship Him too.  It’s a cycle that’s gone on for millenia – ever since Eve first whacked Adam upside the head for driving too fast.

Whether are married or not, keep that attraction in the marriage.  Don’t let it go outside.  There’s something special between two people who have saved themselves for each other – something special that I shall never know.  And that special something is exactly what God intended for all of us.

What is Agape?

As a kid, I’d heard this word in church and at home.  I never really knew what it meant.  I did know it was spelled agape but pronounced ah-gah-pay.  So when I saw it in print, as in “they stood there with their mouths agape,” I thought I knew what it meant.

But that’s not it at all.  Agape is love for humanity.  No strings, love simply because they are God’s creation.  We love others because God loves them.

Christianity has earned a reputation as a religion of hate.  Yet throughout God’s Holy Word, we are taught to love one another.  Nowhere in the book does it say to “Love your neighbor if they are good people.”  Nor are we commanded to “Have mercy only on those who believe just like you do.”

God tells us to love our neighbors as He loves us.  Have mercy as He does.  It’s like I tell the guys in prison – the only difference between them and me is that they’re in here and I’m not.  We’re all sinners in God’s eyes.  And sin separates us from Him.  A bridge to God has been built to us by Christ.  And if we are to cross that bridge, we need to follow His commands.

Love God.  Love each other.

Hosea admonished Israel to love others despite religious differences.  “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6, NIV.  Giving a meal to the homeless is more important than giving money to God.  Visiting the sick and imprisoned means more to God than showing up on Sunday morning.

And somehow we have missed out on all of this.  Somehow we have decided that we are to be the APF (Almighty Police Force), enforcing God’s laws on this earth.  If you sin, we will condemn you with all the power we think Jesus has given us.   This includes right worship, personal choices, sins of commission and omission…  We have appointed ourselves judge and jury.

But God desires mercy, not sacrifice.  He doesn’t care how we worship, as long as we worship.  How did Jesus convert sinners?  Other than the religious right of the day, He did not wave scrolls over their heads and tell them they were going to hell.  He smiled, healed their infirmities and said, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you!” (John 5:14, NIV)  Or, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11, KJV)

People don’t like Christians.  They don’t want to be associated with us because the world thinks we’re all psychotic.  And they have good reason for that.  It’s because we have forgotten how to love.

Love – What’s it All About

In the original Greek, the word translated love can be any of the following (Source: Wikipedia):

  • Agape love is Christian love – the love that encourages us to reach out to each other.
  • Eros is the desire, attraction between men and women.
  • Philia is friendship.  Pure and simple.
  • Storge is the love between a parent and a child.

All love fits into one of these categories.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about love lately.  Why are Christians branded as hatemongers?  Why does the world think Christians hate other people?  Why is it that we, as Christians, are viewed by the world as a bunch of bible-thumping, rule-pounding hypocrites?

1 John addresses Christian love.  He puts it very simply:  If we do not love, we are not of the Lord (1 John 3:10).  We are to love our brethren in the Lord.  We are to love the rest of the people in the world as well.  For some reason, many of us have lost sight of that fact.

We, as a body, have forgotten how to love.  Some want to abide by the rules under the auspices of the first Great Commandment, loving God.  Others want to open their arms to everybody under the second Great Commandment, loving each other.  In both cases, we lose sight of Christ altogether.

Love God with everything you are (my paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:5).  Love your neighbor just like you love yourself (again, my paraphrase of Leviticus 19:18).  Jesus said these are the greatest commandments.  “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Join me as I dive deeper in love.