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Monday, June 18, 2018

In the long term Hedonism cannot survive

   My wife and I love to watch "Wheel of Fortune" (we almost don't miss an episode).   At the beginning Pat Sajak goes around and interviews each contestant to find out where they are from, what they do, who they are married to, etc..   I personally use this information to choose who to root for.  We don't bet on it but it makes it more interesting.   I have a few deciding factors that help me decide.  If they are from the Chicago area, a government employee or a lawyer I automatically put them in the "don't root for" category.   One thing that used to put them in the don't-root-for list was if they said they were "proud parents of 2 (or more) fur-babies" (cat's, dog's, rabbits etc).   This phase is being used more and more by the Millennial generation.  In fact, research is showing married couples under 35 are more likely to have pets than children.

    This used to bother me but now I see it as a blessing.   I see our country divided differently today.   It's heathen verses non-heathen.   In a hedonistic society everything is about YOU.  It's all about YOUR pleasure.  It's all about YOUR life.  It's all about YOUR career.  It's all about YOUR experiences.  For non-believers the world is a very scary and short-lived place.   It's all about sucking all the marrow out of life that you can before you are turned back into dirt.   This fear guides all your decisions.   You feel you have to get all your ducks in a row before you can even BEGIN to think about kids.  You need your career in place.  You need to get your 401k fully-funded.  You need to get your McMansion set up and see all the major sites in the world because kids take that away from you.  First they date for 5 years, then they live together for 5 years, then they get married and live another 5 years before they start to the process of making babies.   But then you find your 38 years old and your eggs aren't worth crap or his sperm count is diminished to almost nothing because of all the "stress" you endured working for the McMansion and the career.   For many young couples today pets replace children.  They dote on them, train them, feed them, take pictures of them and show them off to others.  They are cheaper too.   No clothes to buy (unless you feel you need to), no college to save for, no piano lessons or dance recitals to go to.   No nasty notes from the teacher that require you to have meetings with them.   If you need to run off to Bora Bora then it's off to the kennel for them.   Easy Peasy!

    I looked around me and made an interesting observation.   The only young couples around me that I saw having kids were Christian couples.    You see, they are not living in fear of the future.  God has their back and their children.   He is with them all the way.   The Bible says, "Perfect love drives out fear!".  That is what God does in our lives.  He drives out fear much like Jesus drove the money changers from the temple who were making God's house a den of thieves.   They are not living in fear of death for they know there is much more that awaits them after death.  God has promised and has made it known to us by the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.

   But that observation showed me that there in lies the answer to hedonism.  Ultimately hedonism is it's own worst enemy.  The heathens encourage their side to not have children.  They tell them that they can have it all without children and the world will be better off too.   But this means that the heathen eventually will die off and it will be the non-heathen (the Christians) who will repopulate society.    It may take 2 generations but eventually things will change.   Currently our country is still dealing with the most Hedonistic generation to have ever lived: the baby-boomer generation.  This generation is now moving into their end-years and are now in it's final convulsions of trying to accomplish all they can before they take their last breath.  Baby Boomer 1.0 gave birth to Baby-Boomer 2.0 which felt families should only have 1 or 2 children.   Now Baby-Boomer 3.0 is being taught to have 0 or 1 child or not get married at all (most 20 year old are living together instead of getting married).   Eventually the baby-boomer generation and their ill-thought-views will be wiped from the face of the earth like a nightmare that is soon forgotten. 

    Hedonism is really the source of it's own destruction.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

He stinks!

    One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Mary speaking to Jesus about her brother Lazarus lying in the grave.   She tells Jesus, "Lord!  He's been in the tomb for 4 days now and he stinks!"  ( the KJV says , 'He stinketh!' )

    The story of Lazarus is a deeply emotional one.  There is so much there to unpack for one blog.  First we have Jesus waiting to go back to Bethany after he here's that Lazarus is sick.  By the time he does show up, Lazarus has been dead and buried 4 days.   Mary's first words to Jesus are, "Lord if you had been here Lazarus would not have died!".   Was that a proclamation of faith or was that an indictment of Jesus?   It's very hard to say.   I think it's a little bit of both.  Mary is being nice and venting at the same time it seems.    She had seen Jesus heal many people.  Maybe she even saw him raise Jairus' daughter who had just died.  Why didn't he hurry back in time to help a person who he was close to?   Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach Mary about his mission and who he his.  He says to her,
 "I am the resurrection and the life!  He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live!"
   He then asks to see where they have laid him.   Jesus already knows where they have put him, but he wants Mary to show him.  When they arrive, Jesus first prays to the Father and then asks that the tombstone be rolled back.

   It is here, that Mary says those infamous words, "Lord, it's been 4 days and surely now he stinks!"
Mary thought that Lazarus was beyond the help of God.   His flesh was rotting and being eaten by maggots.   Death can be like watching a slowly dying fire.  When a person has just died,  nothing changes.  Like the fire, we may still feel the warmth of the flame.  There is still hope the fire could be re-ignited.   But like a fire that has not only been out for a long time but has had water put on it as well we eventually give up all hope in them coming back to life.  Mary was in that place too.  She had lost all hope in Lazarus coming back any time soon.   Jesus then calls out in a loud voice, "Lazarus!  Come out!"  and Mark records that immediately the dead man came out. 

   Who do we think stinks?   Who do we think is beyond the help of God?   Maybe it's a family member?  Or a co-worker?  Or a neighbor?  Maybe it's a politician we don''t like or a famous person who mocks Christianity?   We might case them off as un-save-able and too far gone.   But Jesus stands at the doorway of their tombs and calls them out of their dark dungeons of despair.    He calls US out of OUR tombs.   Places were our flesh is rotting and we have no life in us and all seems to be lost.   He beckons us to come out and be with him.

    Jesus prayer to the Father is also important to look at as well.  First, it shows that Jesus does nothing on his own accord, but only with the Father's blessing.   Second, it shows that both the Father and the Son are in the life giving business.  Too often Christians make the mistake of thinking the Father is against us, and that because his son Jesus is for us, then God the Father kind of goes along with him on saving the world (A sort of cosmic puppy Jesus brings to the Father to bring home with him... "Can we keep him Father?").   But that is so far from the truth.  The Father and the Son work together to bring Lazarus back from the dead.   They are both in the life giving business.  They both love us.  (Jesus said, 'I and the Father are ONE!')

     Later in the book of Acts, Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the missionary.  Shortly after Jesus confronts him on the road to Damascus, Saul is sent to Damascus and Jesus sends Ananias to go and give him sight back (Saul had been blinded).   Ananias says to Jesus, 'Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm has has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call upon your name!'.    Does Jesus need Ananias report on Saul to remind him who he is dealing with??   No.  Of course not!   Jesus knows fully who he's dealing with.   He knows Saul even better than Ananias thinks he does.   Ananias is basically saying, "God, this man Saul is too far gone! You can't be serious!"

    How many people do we say are too far gone?   How about Obama?  How about Hillary?  How about Bill Clinton?  How about Trump?    Who is too much for God to change?   Do we pray for them?

   Maybe it's you?   Do you think you are too far gone.  Do you feel un-save-able?  The Bible is chuck-full of stories like yours.   From Abraham, (a liar, an adulterer and a idol-worshiper) to Jacob (who tricks his father, extorts his brother to give him the inheritance) to Moses (a murderer) to Jonah (who runs from responsibility and from God) to David (an adulterer and a murderer) to Peter (a blasphemer who abandons Jesus) to Saul who later becomes Paul (a blasphemer, murderer, violent man).   All are forgiven and shown abundant mercy.   Do you think you stink more than them? 

Listen to Jesus call out your name!  He calls you out of the tomb of your despair and hopelessness!! You will stink no more!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When lost: Up is better than down

   When I became a hunter in California I had to take a Hunter Safety Class.   The class didn't just deal with "gun safety" but also safety in the woods.   Most hunting in California is up in the Sierra Mountains which is mile upon mile of untouched forest far away from human inhabitants.  It's very easy when you start going after a deer in the woods to get lost and disorientated.  Being lost can be a very scary feeling.  Your heart begins to pump fast. You begin to move a bit faster than normal.   Noises become more acute all around.  Panic sets in.   You feel you must get to safety as fast as possible. Adrenaline pumps through your veins which clouds your mental processes.  In some cases people who are lost even begin to leave behind critical equipment they might need because they feel weighed down by those items and they are not thinking straight.



    What most people do when they get lost in the woods is they go DOWN HILL.  They think downhill will lead to homes, roads, cities.   But out in the woods, mostly it leads to canyons and dangerous rivers.  I always say, "Gravity can be a bitch!".   Gravity pulls you down hill.   It's easier and less effort on your part.   One time a friend of my son that was hunting with us (his first time ever) he got separated and he kept walking down hill.   He even walked right past a very well marked hiking trail because he was panicking.  We eventually found him by firing our guns to let him know where we were and were able to rescue him.

   We were told by our instructors you must fight this desire to go down and instead walk UP HILL!   By going up hill we do three things for ourselves.  First going uphill burns off that energy our bodies generate from all the fear and panic we have.   It slows us down.   We have to stop periodically to catch our breath.  This keeps us from making rash decisions.   Second, it gets us to higher ground where we can get perspective of where we are at and where we can go to get help.   Maybe we see a house, or a road in the distance.   Maybe we see a familiar landmark.   This gives us HOPE which is a powerful feeling when one gets lost.  Hope that you have a direction and you are in control of your situation.   Finally, it provides a way for others to FIND you.  A search helicopter can easily spot you on the top of a treeless hill rather than down in a brush filled canyon.

   This doesn't only apply to hunting and hiking but also to our world.   We live in a world where we can easily get lost as a society.    The world is a big scary place and we panic in our searching for solutions.  It's always easier to go DOWN in society than it is to go UP.

   Take for example: abortion.   I agree that our world is not fair when it comes to women and childbirth.  Men can walk away from a baby and women cannot.   We must realize that when a woman gets pregnant their hormones are generated to bond the mother to the unborn child.  Hormones are very emotionally powerful chemicals in our bodies (I learned this when I became extremely low Testosterone at a very early age of 40 and I felt like crap).   So we have 2 bars set a different levels for men and women when it comes to babies.   Men are not only less emotionally attached to children, they physically don't have to carry the baby for 9 months and can move on.  Women, on the other hand, cannot simply leave the child.    So hear we have the classic "lost in the woods" situation.  How do we level the bars between the sexes?   What do we do?   We have 2 choices here.



    First we could go down hill and lower the bar for women and allow them an easy way to leave the child and emotionally divorce themselves from the situation.   Simple...right?   But going down you lose something.   You lose a part of you that you were given.   To become more like MEN you must LOSE that which makes you a WOMAN.  Your emotional strength and emotional connection to the world and to children.   An abortion robs you of something God gave you to make you unique.  Our world and society loses when we require women to act more like men.  Our world needs both woman and men.  It has also been found that women who have abortions are much more likely to suffer from chronic depression.   The downhill path leads to more downhill paths.

   The second choice is to RAISE the bar on men and hold them accountable for their actions.  Especially in today's world of DNA testing we can 100% prove who is the father and make them financially supportive.   But that is a harder path.  It's UP HILL.   It requires the courts to step in and to enforce the laws we already have in place.   It requires society to stop giving men a pass on these pressing issues (here's an idea! Let's fine men $10,000 per child to pay for the mothers maternity doctor visits and delivery).  Why should they get a free ride and force the women in our world to pay the price?

    This uphill path also gives women opportunity to slow down and reassess their choices in life and make better choices.  It can give them HOPE as well.  Hope that they have done the right thing and given someone a chance at life (even if they put the child up for adoption) and they took a lemon and made lemonade.   Pregnancy can also be away for others to know you need help.   Like the lost hunter standing up on a hill waiting for a helicopter to fly over, pregnancy is often hard to hide and society often instinctively wants to step in an help where it can and give aid.   But like the hunter that goes down into the steep canyon and cannot be "found", so also the woman who chooses abortion hides her pain in secret, never able to let others know she's lost and in need of help.

   We must be like the lost person in the woods and fight the urge to take the easier route in our choices because those choices can leave us more lost than we started as a society.


















Sunday, May 6, 2018

Universal Constants

    From the very creation of Physics, certain things were thought to be unchangeable.  When Newton first developed the laws of physics he said that mass, time and space never change.  It seemed reasonable that these aspects of the universe were unalterable.  The mass of an object should not change and everyone who measures the mass should measure the same amount (note: he never defined what "mass" was).  Time also, should be unchangeable and it too should always be measured the same by everyone everywhere.   It makes sense!  Why would your watch run different from mine?  Space as well should not change.  If my ruler is the same length as yours, why shouldn't we both measure the same distance?  It all makes sense!

   250 years later Einstein showed that mass,space and time are not constants at all, but the speed of light ("c") is a constant and is measured the same by all observers despite what speed or direction they are going.   For 250 years the scientists were wrong, they just didn't know it yet.   At first Einstein was lambasted for his ideas.   Did he think he was greater than Newton??    Yet, eventually he was proven right anyway.

   Sometimes we are like that to God.  What makes sense to us is not what makes sense to God.   What we think matters to God, really doesn't matter to God at all.  In mathematics we refer to a variable that has no effect on another variable as being an "independent variable".   The function "y" is not altered by this variable.   Take for example,

    y = 5x + w

    The function below has two variables: x and w.  If I asked you what effect does "s" have on the function you would have to say that y is independent of s as it doesn't even factor into the equation.

    In the Psalms, David often writes about the "steadfastness" of God's love.  It is steady and strong no matter what we do.  It is "independent" of our actions or lack of love.  It doesn't change.  It's constant like the speed of light.   What we think changes God's love of us, doesn't really change it at all.   We think God should be like us.  Makes sense right?   But like Newton, what makes sense isn't always reality.

   I remember when I had to fly down to Southern California because my son had crashed his car into a tree.  It was the 3 am phone call you don't want to get as a father.  Our son was always a handful and a challenge at times to raise (he would even agree to that).  I remember vividly walking into that hospital room and seeing him laying there with his head all stitched up and his arm in a sling.  I remember feeling nothing but love for him at that moment.  Not disappointment.  Not despair.  Not anger.    Just love.   His actions had no bearing on my feelings for him.  I would always love him no matter what.

   God loves you too.... no matter what! 



Monday, April 16, 2018

The History books don't matter

    A phrase President Obama liked to use a lot in his speeches was "They will be on the wrong side of history".   It was meant as a way of saying, "We can't do anything about their actions now, but history will not be kind to them and will right the wrong later".   When Russia invaded the Ukraine, Obama said this of them as a way trying to scold Vladimir Putin into rethinking his decision. 

   One has to wonder about this issue of being on the "right side of history".  If I am an atheist and don't believe in a life after death, why should I care what the history books right about me?  I don't exist anymore and I won't be able to care what they write about me anyway.    Does Hitler care?  Stalin?   Mao?  Do you think Putin will care when he is gone?

    But if there is a heaven and hell, it's NOT the history books that I will be mostly concerned with when I am gone.  It will be a different set of books God has that will be of much larger concern to me.   In the previous case, the history books are essentially moot and powerless.  In the later case, God's books have a lot to say about us.

 In Revelation 20:12, the Apostle John writes in,
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books....
15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
    God keeps 2 sets of books, much like businesses keep ledgers with credits and debits being tracked.  On God's books it's much the same.  One one side is the list of all our sins we have committed, and on the other is the sins paid for by God's own Son JESUS CHRIST!  For those, who are baptized in Christ Jesus they are made alive in him and pass from death to life.  Not in some future time, but RIGHT NOW!   We have nothing to fear as we die.  Our names are written not only in the Book of Life,  but in God's own hands.  800 years before Christ, the Prophet Isaiah wrote,
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!



   Our names are not written in "pencil" in the Book of Life, but are written in the blood Christ shed on the cross for us!






Wednesday, April 4, 2018

All sins are NOT the same

   I have heard this said by many Christians over the years
"All sins are the same in the Lords eyes.  Murder is no worse than lying!"

   When I confront people like that with a question of "Where do you find that in the Bible?" they often look completely astonished.  Like I had just said a heretical statement or something.   To this question the most often (and only) reply I ever get is:
"It says in Romans, 'That all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!'"
    But is that what Paul is talking about?   In essence... NO he is not talking about the weight of each sin in God's eyes but instead is making a general statement of the current state of all mankind in God's eyes.   If I may be as so bold as to add some words to Paul that might help bear this out I might say this,
"For all have sinned so much that we all fall light-years from God's glory!"
  Before I go on, I do want to point out that it is interesting that so often the misuse of this scripture is so often used to DECREASE the weight of sins in God's eyes and not INCREASE them.   As shown in my first sentence, "Murder is no worse than lying", here we decrease the weight of murder by putting it on the same level as lying.   But no one ever reverses the comparison (that I have seen so far) by saying, "Lying is just as bad as murder!".   This would elevate the weight of lying in God's eyes and increase our guilt. 

   One only has to look at the 10 Commandments a little bit and see  that they seem to listed in importance to God.   First of all, God starts with himself and our relationship to him (You shall not have any other God's before me).   How many of our sins start with our disregard of him and his authority in our lives.   We essentially rob him of his position in our world and his ultimate authority over us. 

   The second commandment is how we rob God of his name and put words in his mouth (You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vane).  People often do not realize that the second commandment is using God's name to put forth their own ideas and views to influence those around us.   It has little to do with yelling an expletive when you stub your little toe at night and more with misusing God for your own desires.   God's name is powerful and it can be used for wrong as well as for right.   Take for example a business using God's name in their business name.   A church I once belonged to did business with a construction company called, "Building God's Way".   When we were voting on whether to use them to build our addition I brought up that I could not trust a company that breaks the second commandment by using God's name as a marketing ploy.   It turned out that this company failed on several points in our work with them and had underbid the effort only to put in cost increases AFTER they got our business and starting building.   Another way God's name is misused is by those who would use God's name to say he said things he never did.   Take for example, Joseph Smith who wrote the book of mormon.  He said that he translated God's word written on gold tablets he found in a cave and translated the "hebrew-egyptian" text to english using a magic crystal.   He "translated" this from behind a curtain to his wife.   When he was challenged by a person to create a second copy from the plates he told them that God told him to only make one copy.   REALLY!???   Smith's misuse of God's name has caused millions of people to fall into the false faith of Mormonism.

The third commandment shows us how we rob God of our time with him (You shall keep the Sabbath Day).  Our special one-on-one time to get to know him and to serve him.  We often see on TV and Movies how careers and fame rob a persons family/children of their time with their father.   Our time here on earth is so short and our time with our children is even shorter.   God is our heavenly Father and he wants us to set aside just 1 day out of 7 for us to meet with him. 

The fourth commandment shows us how we rob God of the authority he has put over us through people to guild us and help us (Honor your father and your mother that it may be well with you and you will live long on the earth).   It starts with our parents but extends also to our government and those they put around us to maintain order.   God has "ordained" these people to be over us and when we break that authority we rob God of his authority.  From there it is all anarchy.   Take for example our Governor Brown who has declared our whole state of California a "Sanctuary State" and has ordered our state officials to NOT cooperate with Federal immigration officials.  He has, in affect, created his own immigration policy which runs counter to the federal law.   His lack of respect for the federal system has now trickled down to lower levels of our state who show no respect for our Constitution.   Some counties now are going against Brown and are wanting to work with the Federal agencies and Brown is suing them because they are disregarding state law.   One can see how this will only create more and more unrest and more and more disorder.

   The fifth commandment is how we rob God of his greatest achievement... LIFE! (You shall not murder). With the taking of life there is no recourse.  There is no way for man to restore a life once it has been taken.   This is why it's so high up on the ladder of God's law. 

   The sixth commandment is robbing a person of their spouse or their innocence (You shall not commit adultery).   How many marriages have been destroyed by infidelity.   Marriages can bounce back from lots of things such as: alcoholism, drug abuse, spouse abuse, lying, money problems etc, but very few ever come back from sexual infidelity.   That one special connection between a man and a wife is forever broken.  Like Humpty-Dumpty, all the kings men cannot put this back together again.   In some rare cases it can with love and forgiveness. But it is very hard to do. 

    The seventh command is robbing a person of their personal property (You shall not steal).   With this sin, we can restore what was taken either by giving it directly back to them or by giving them one similar to what we took.   In the Bible, it was required that a person who steals should give back 4 TIMES the amount of what they stole.   This is not meant by God as an extreme punishment, but is his way of restoring the broken relationship between the two people.   That is what God is mostly concerned with and not so much the item that was taken. 

   The eighth commandment is robbing a person of their good name (You shall not lie or take your neighbors name).  When it comes down to it, we like God in the 2nd commandment, only have our name.   We come into this life and the first thing we are given is a name and the only thing we leave this world with IS OUR NAME.  When we steal a persons reputation by slander and gossip we can restore that by taking back what we have said and confessing that we were wrong.   It may seem easier to restore this than property in the previous commandment because there is nothing "material" to give back, but in some ways it's not.   Not everyone is going to accept your retraction.   Some people would rather believe your original slanderous lie because that "fits" their already formed opinion of the person you slandered. 

   The final two commandments (9 and 10) deal with coveting.   What is so interesting about these commandments is that they don't physically affect anyone but YOU.   No one is killed, raped, robbed, lied about, etc..   You only hurt yourself in this commandment.  You become obsessed with what everyone else has and you want that for yourself.   Yet God is concerned with YOU and how it affects YOU as person.  It is also the source of breaking all the other commandments.   Coveting a persons good name causes us to defame them.  Coveting a persons property causes us to find ways to take those items.   Coveting a persons spouse causes us to find ways to commit adultery with them.  Coveting our life so much we seek out to kill those who we see as people who will be a burden to us. One final thought on this commandment is that it is the one sin that often goes completely unseen by anyone but you.  You can covet all day long and no one would be the wiser.   Jesus often talked about the sins of the "heart".   He showed that they mean as much to God as the other laws do.  He said, "I tell you anyone who has looked upon a woman with lust in his heart (coveting) has already committed adultery with her in his heart".  Does that mean I should go ahead and have sex with her?  Absolutely NOT!   Jesus is showing us that the fault of adultery is not what is OUTSIDE the man (i.e. - it's not the woman's fault) but it's what is going on INSIDE the person.  He cares about YOU.  He cares about what is going on inside YOU!
 
   The FIRST and TENTH commandments act as book-ends in God's laws.   On one end we have God and how our disregard for him leads us to break the other nine.  On the other end we have US and our self-centered world which leads us to rob God of everything he has made and created. 

    So you see, they are not all the same level.   Some are impossible to fix when broken (murder), some are broken without anyone even noticing it (coveting).   Some sins only affect us and others affect many people.   Strangely enough the commandments seem to sorted by severity and affect on other people/God and how they hurt those relationships. 

   They are not all the same















 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Being Remembered

   I have seen a trend that is occurring more and more often.   That trend is putting "memorials" on the backside of your vehicle to commemorate the death of a loved one.   The most common one is the decorating of the back windshield with white-lettering and pictures of doves, hearts, angels etc and including the birth and death dates of the person.   This, in affect, turns the vehicle into a mobile-grave-marker.   I can understand why someone would do that.   I know that people don't visit cemeteries and therefore grave-markers go unnoticed by most of us.  It's hard to accept that many people die without being "remembered" by most of us.   We want their lives to have meaning and consequence.   We yearn for their lives to have an impact on this earth.


   Jesus was asked by one of the thieves on the cross next to him,
"Lord! Remember me when you enter your kingdom!"
   That's all.... just "remember me".   And to his astonishment Jesus goes far beyond his request to be remembered.   He promises the man complete forgiveness of his sins and that he will enter God's kingdom that very day when he replies,
“Truly I tell youtoday you will be with me in paradise.”   --Luke 23:43
   The man who had no hope at all when he was lifted on his cross next to Jesus now had the best hope anyone could ever have.  I think the Pharisees down below must have been scratching their heads as they heard Jesus during his agony on the cross minister to this lost soul.  Maybe they would recall Jesus own words earlier when he said to those who made exception to Jesus eating and drinking with "sinners",
"I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to   repentance.”  --Luke 5:32
   How much does this thief know of Jesus?   Answer: hardly anything at all.  Most of what he has learned came from the mockers down below.  They yelled "insults" at him.   Taunted him with his "claims" and probably quoted some of Jesus own teachings back at him.   That's all it takes for the Holy Spirit to work.   Even when the world mocks Jesus it inadvertently professes about him and performs an unintended spreading of the gospel.  Yet despite the small amount of what he has learned in the few hours he has been placed next to Jesus he has come to accept him as "Lord".  Simply amazing!

    When Jesus sent out his disciples and they came back bragging about what they saw happen.  They bragged to each other about how they saw the sick being healed and demons being pushed out of people.   Jesus admonishes them and says,
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.  -- Luke 10:20
    We, also, get caught up in our own earthly "demon kicking" and need Jesus to remind us what really matters in the end.  He reminds us that being "remembered in heaven" is so much more valuable than being remembered here on earth.  I had a conversation with a co-worker on how it's so silly some of the verbal fights we see going on at our company over which vendor we should use for our work.   I said to him, "There's not going to be a bronze statue of me standing outside our building in Folsom with me standing next to an emulator and pointing out into the distance!  When I leave I will be forgotten along with all I have worked on too!". 

     As we make our way through this world we daily need Jesus gentle reminder of what is really important: "He will not forget us when we die but will take us to heaven to be with him forever"

 



Friday, March 30, 2018

Inception

   The movie "Inception" is about a world where people figure out how to get into other people's dreams and dive down deep into their sub-conscience and plant an "idea" into them that will propel them to do what they want them to do.





   The concept that an "idea" is very powerful tool is absolutely correct.   Ideas have changed societies, built H-bombs and created things like the Holocaust.  But at the the individual level they also have effects as well.  Our minds are open fields for good and for bad ideas.   Ideas that sometimes seem to come out of nowhere.  

   Let me illustrate.   When I was trying to decide whether to be an engineer or a pastor I consulted lots of different people to help me see which way I should go.  All gave me their opinions but nothing seemed to point the way.   Then I saw the movies "Chariots of Fire" where the main character, Eric Little. is talking to his sister about his conflict between running in the Olympics and being a missionary.   He said, "I know God has made me for a purpose!  But he also made me FAST!  When I run I feel his PLEASURE!".   It was at that moment I decided to be an engineer.  Because I too felt God's pleasure as I studied my math and science.   Those were abilities he gave me to use.  A thought set my course in life.

   Another illustration I like to use is how I met my wife.  I had just moved out to New England area for my first job and I sat in Mt Calvary Lutheran church for the first time (just 2 weeks after moving out to the area) and I saw this beautiful girl with the most gorgeous head of strawberry blonde hair and I heard a voice say (in my brain) , "You are going to marry that girl someday!".  It was such a strong thought I looked around to see if someone was playing a joke on me.  3 years later we were married.  A thought brought me my wife.

   Thoughts can be Powerful!

    But thoughts can also be destructive.   Look in Genesis and see Eve talking with Satan about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.   He plants thought in her that says "Did God really say that?"  You see Eve was not around when God told Adam to not eat of the tree.  She was not created yet.   She had to trust that Adam was telling the truth.   Satan's question to her, "Did God really say 'You will die'?"  is not a question directed about God, but instead what Adam told Eve that God had told him.  Doubt can be a seed that grows and spreads like a weed in a persons life. 

- Does he/she love me?
- Did they do that on purpose?
- Can I trust him/her?

These doubts about other people in our lives ruin relationships and drive us away from others.  Marriages are destroyed.  Friendships are lost.  Churches are torn apart.   

    Maybe the most destructive thought to a believer is simply, "Am I saved?".   Doubt about ones salvation begins as one doubts their own internal goodness.  We may at some level, even though we know we are sinners, still harbor some idea that we have some internal quality that God likes and wants to preserve, but when that quality is removed (or we don't see it as enough in God's eyes to be worth much) we begin to doubt our value in God's eyes.   Even though we know God's love is for all.... somehow we feel we fall through 'the cracks' of God's love into hell itself.   It's for THEM....but not for ME.   We may feel that God can forgive the sins of our youth...but not our adulthood.  We may feel he can forgive the sins of ignorance....but not the sins of willfulness.  King David says to the prophet Nathan after he is confronted with his adultery and murder, "I AM UNDONE!".   He was basically saying: "I am naked as Adam before God!"   Nathan proclaims to David the good and bad news that he is forgiven but that his sin (that everyone knew about) will have ramifications and will cause a division in his own household.  This will later hold true as his son Absollem will take advice from other people that HE should be the King of Israel since his father has committed 2 horrible sins against God).  

   Satan knows about our doubts of ourselves and our feelings of being unworthy and he plays on them all the time.   

- IF God loved you he would have kept you from doing that!
- IF YOU loved God you would not have done that!
- NOW you have gone TOO FAR!  
- This is who you REALLY are!  Give up!

Satan knows that our limited minds have problems with "infinity".    We are finite and therefore God must be finite as well.   If we have limited love ... God must have limited love as well.   Paul tries to express how wrong this thinking is when he says in Ephesians, 
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 
    We cannot fathom how infinite God's love is for us.  Our doubts about ourselves are really doubts about what God has told us about himself and his relationship to us. He calls us "His children" yet we doubt our "belonging".   He dies for us and yet we doubt his love for us.   He raises from the dead and declares "Peace to you!" and we feel he is out to get us for our sins.  He forgives the disciples for their abandonment and their disowning him and we doubt his forgiveness for our willful sins of abandonment and disowning. 

   So the real question to each of us know is simply this:   Which thoughts are you going to entertain and listen to?   God's spirit that tells us we are loved and accepted for who are are right now?  Or the satanic thought that you are not "good enough" or that God has forgotten you.  

Exception


ex·cep·tion
ikˈsepSH(ə)n/
noun

  1. a person or thing that is excluded from a general statement or does not follow a rule.
    "the drives between towns are a delight, and the journey to Graz is no exception"

    synonyms:anomalyirregularitydeviationspecial case, isolated example, peculiarityabnormalityoddity

     Depending on the situation we either LOVE or HATE this word with very little in between.   We LOVE this word when it benefits US and we HATE this word when either it benefits someone we dislike or leaves us out in the cold.   Just take time to look at our tax laws and you will find it filled with EXCEPTIONS.   Recently I was doing my taxes and noticed that people living in the Washington DC area get a "First Time Homebuyers Credit".   It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how that got inserted into our 1040 forms.  If you live in DC, you love this law.   If you don't live in DC, you hate this law.

In our Christian Faith we fall victim to exceptionalism as well.   There are 2 forms of "exception-ism" we see in play in our lives.   The first has to do with our relationship to God's law.   Some flaunt that the law doesn't apply to them anymore... they are an exception.  This isn't just within the church but can be found in the world as well.   Take for example, two people living together.   We insert an exception to the 6th commandment that isn't there.   That exception is :  We love each other.  Love is often used today as an exception clause for just about anything under the sun today. 

We love each other.... so we are having sex
We love each other.... so we are living together.
We love the children...so we are getting a divorce.

     But in reality these are not exceptions, instead they are excuses for why we want to disobey God.   There are no exceptions written into God's laws.   There are no "if  X then the law does not apply".   We are all guilty of breaking it.

     Another form of exception-ism we can fall victim too is even more deadlier than the former version.   This form says that I am exception to God's love and grace.  Even though the Bible is chuck  full of stories of horrible people having their sins forgiven, we tend to view ourselves as somehow worse than them and an exception to God's grace.   Here a just a few of the Bibles "sinner-saints"

Noah       - alcoholic
Abraham - idolater,  liar , adulterer (has sex with his wife's servant and later abandons Ishmael)
Sarah       - doubts God's promise, gives her servant to Abraham and then has her sent away
Jacob       - liar, extortionist, cheater
Moses      - murderer (kills Egyptian slave owner with his own hands)
Rahab      - a prostitute who helps them take down Jericho and becomes a ancestor of David/Jesus
David       - adultery, murder, lying (and he was supposed to be a man after God's own heart)
Solomon  - over 1000 concubines who lead him astray to worship other gods
Woman caught in adultery - Jesus forgives fully
Samaritan woman - Jesus forgives though she is married 5 times and is living with a man
Peter        - abandons Jesus and yells down curses on himself when question by a servant girl
Disciples  - all abandon Jesus and run away and hide
Thief       - the thief on the cross next to Jesus who Jesus gives certainty of eternal life with him
Paul         - formerly called Saul who went after Christians and murdered them in God's name

     Many of these men even "knew better" when they committed their sins against God and God forgave them all their sins out of his grace and mercy.   Yet somehow we think we are worse than them.   We have somehow found the one sin God cannot forgive.   Out of the BILLIONS of BILLIONS of BILLIONS of sins committed since time began which God can forgive, we have found the one EXCEPTION that he cannot forgive.  We believe we are an exception to God's love.

ISN'T THAT RIDICULOUS??

   This is why God chose these people in the first place.   To show US his boundless mercy.  Paul writes in Romans,
"Where sin abounds ... GOD'S GRACE ABOUNDS MORE!!"  
    So you think you have sinned too much?   God has a message for you; You haven't!  A problem with us humans is that we have a problem with grasping the idea of infinity.  Scientists talk about the ever expanding universe.  But "Expanding into what??" we ask.  It boggles the mind.   Maybe God made it that way to show us just how immense his grace is!   His grace is ever expanding like the universe...swallowing up whatever sins we might have committed in order to show how great he is!

   Yes, of course, this does not give us a "license to commit sin" (like 007 has a license to kill), but it frees us from the fear of God's retribution and being frozen in our tracks from living for him.   We can live in complete confidence that we are his children and nothing can take us from his hands.

NO EXCEPTIONS!!





Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Grace Mercy Peace!

     In studying Romans I noticed how often Paul uses these 3 words: Grace, Mercy, Peace.   These are not words we hear used much today.   They seem foreign to us.  You almost expect to see them removed from the dictionary from their lack of use. 

   Grace is hard to define.  I once heard a pastor say, "Grace stands for, God's Riches At Christ's Expense".   That is nice and simple,  but is that all?   Is it just how God treats ME??    How do I live a life of Grace?   We are able to offer grace to others, but usually on a temporary and need-to-have basis.   Some one is being a jerk because they lost their job or a death in the family... we extend grace to them.   Someone is having a bad day at work.... we extend grace to them.   A person in line at a grocery store with 1 item in hand and we have a cart full of food.... we extend grace and let them go ahead.  That kind of grace is passive in nature.   I don't really have to do anything but let you by and have your way.   God's grace is not just passive.... it extends to action.   Mercy is the active form of Grace.  It doesn't just step aside, but it steps forward to help and to save.


   I was watching a TV show about "Horders".   These are people who are living a life of misery in the filth they have accumulated over many years.    One woman was helping her sister clean her house and as she walked upstairs she was astonished to find the upstairs carpet littered with dog feces.   It was literally everywhere you stepped.  She asked, "How do live like this?"  and her sister replied, "I don't go up there anymore!" .   She has a 2 story house but only lives on the first floor.  She didn't even smell the stench anymore.

   Jesus comes to our doors knocking.  Asking to come in.   Not to have tea, but here to clean up our sin-hording-lives.   We, like that woman, have horded our sins and collected them for so long we are either too ashamed to let people in or we don't even notice them anymore.   At first those sins were small and controllable we felt.  But somewhere along the line they took over.   Like those dogs who took over the woman's upstairs and had crapped all over her floor, our sins made a mess of our lives.   They are our "pet sins" we don't want to get rid of.   Jesus comes and kicks those dogs out and picks up the sin-feces that is all around us and halls it away to the cross for us.   That is MERCY.

   Finally, through that MERCY we can have PEACE, not only him but also with each other.  Our cleaned up homes/lives are not a sign of how great we are but how great he is.   But Jesus doesn't just come to clean your home.  He wants to come and have life with you in you and He wants to clean everyone's home.  He wants us to be on mission with him to help others using the same GRACE, MERCY and PEACE he has extended to us.   How do we do that?

    At the end of the TV program they would show the BEFORE and AFTER pictures of the home.   The people whose lives have been changed often say how they could not have done this on their own and how they owe a debt of gratitude to the people who stepped in and helped.  Other people who watch this show are compelled to call in and ask for their help.   They want what those people have.  We must be willing to show others, like in the TV show, our before and after pictures.   We must be open to allow others to see what Christ has done for us and continues to do for us because, you see, our hording natures have not been deleted.   We get lazy. We get side-tracked.  We get lured back into allowing "the dogs"  back into our homes only to have Christ kick them out again when we call out to God, "Lord have MERCY on me a sinner!"

GRACE, MERCY and PEACE now have new meanings to us. 


Monday, March 12, 2018

Suffering can be Merciful.

  How many of us pray for a quick and speedy death?  I know I sometimes do.  I don't even like going to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned (I do anyway).   When a person dies from a car accident or being hit by a car while walking often hear people say, "Well at least they died quickly and did not suffer much".   As humans we hate long painful deaths.   We want it over quickly and painlessly.  Even for horrible criminals in prison who are on death-row we give them quick and painless ways of dying. No one likes pain.   We avoid it all cost. 

   But pain and suffering are sometimes God's only tools to pry open our hearts to him.  Take for example the thief on the cross next to Jesus.   In one Gospel account it says that BOTH criminals mocked Jesus and hurled insults at him.   But somewhere in that 6 hour ordeal one of them had a change of heart.  One of the criminals in his own agony saw that the one in the middle was different.  He did not treat his mockers with hatred and animosity but instead called out to God to forgive them.  The Holy Spirit used the suffering he was undergoing to lead him to faith and ask Jesus ,in affect, for forgiveness by asking him to "remember me when you enter your kingdom".     That is all.. just "remember me". 

    Had God given the thief a quick and painless death he would have missed out on the opportunity to meet Jesus.   Suffering was the most merciful thing God could do for him. 

    Some refer to these as "death-bed-conversions".   We often question the "sincerity" of the conversion, but not God.  We may inwardly roll our eyes at stories of people who come to faith this late in life but God doesn't.  Did Jesus question his sincerity?   Did he mock him by saying, "Really??? Now you want to follow me?  It's a little too late for that!".    No.   Instead he gives the man assurance of his salvation.   In fact, he is the only person in the Gospels Jesus ever gives this promise to directly.  Was it a coincidence that this man could do NOTHING to earn or prove his love of Jesus?   I don't think so.   Jesus is showing to all that it is literally FAITH ALONE that saves.   Faith in a loving God that remembers us and pulls us from hell itself .

   Of course there are always many who are like the other thief on the other side of Jesus who continue to curse God up til the very end.   The "good thief" chastises the other thief on the cross when he says, "DO YOU NOT FEAR GOD??"    He goes on to testify for Jesus to his fellow partner in crime when he says, "We are getting what our crimes deserve, but THIS man has done nothing wrong!".    How did he come to that realization?   We don't know.   Maybe it was what he heard the Pharisees say about him when they said "He saved others but he cannot save himself!"   Note they did not say "He pretends to save others" , but that "He saves others".   Later these same men tell Jesus "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross and we will believe you!".   Inadvertently they profess the Gospel without knowing it to the thief on the cross.   Maybe also it was the large group of women who came to the cross and weep for Jesus that struck a nerve with him?   What women would weep for a criminal or scoundrel who deserves death?   Maybe it was how Jesus cared for others even in his own pain as he reached out with words to his mother.  Whatever it was, the thief's heart was changed.   Like "The Scrooges" heart that was "2-sizes too small"  so also this mans heart was opened for Christ the King to enter in and make his throne. 

   I like to think that this thief died with a smile on his face to the dismay of the Pharisees and soldiers below.





      

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Boogie man

   Brother's can be as evil as they can get to little brothers when it comes to living in the same house together.   Every little brother has had to endure the torture of their older brother inventing dark savage creatures of the imagination that were to be found in basements, closets, old sheds and the woods they walked by on their way to school.  These creatures all went by the same name:  The Boogie man!

   Brothers created they creatures for one reason: to have power over their little brother and make them do what they wanted.

   Boogie-men exist today even as adults.  When bad things happen we want to find the villain and put them away so we can go and sleep soundly in our beds at night once again.  Recently a boy went into his high school and shot 17 students and killed them.   We ask ourselves "why?" and "how do we stop this from happening again?".   We search like little 5 year-old's for simple and easy answers.

   Still others would point the finger at an organization demonize them.  I am speaking of course of the NRA.  I watched as I saw a young man stand on stage and challenge a politician to not take anymore money from the NRA.   He asked his question with such conviction that one can only think he believed 100% that doing so would have literally stopped the bullets from leaving the perpetrators gun.   Frankly I wish the politician had answered "YES I will no longer take money from the NRA!" because, frankly, it's a false-flag.

    Last year the NRA gave 3 million dollars to Washington DC politicians.  On a list of the Top 50 Lobbying groups, the NRA would not even be on the list at all.   The biggest donor to Washington was the Healthcare industry which gave over 120 million dollars.  The NRA donations don't even come close and would be barely missed by politicians.

   So why does the NRA have so much sway in DC?   The NRA members have 3 basic qualities politicians look for in support groups.  First, they are CONSISTENT voters.   Studies have shown that NRA members vote in virtually every election, big or small.  Unlike some vocal groups that make noise on the streets with signs and banners, the NRA shows up at the polls.   Second, they are PASSIONATE about their issue.  They care about their rights being infringed, they care about the protection of their country from those who would destroy it from outside and inside.   They care about the weakest in society being able to protect themselves from the strongest.  For example, an 80 year-old grandmother is no match for a 300 pound man.   But with a gun she can be stronger than one.  Her rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to be protected as much as anyone else. That passion is important to politicians because its those voters who will talk you UP or DOWN as a person running for office.  They will put signs on their lawns and bumper stickers on their cars.  They will not only go to the polls, they will also bring 3 or 4 family members with them.  Finally, they are WELL INFORMED.   The NRA keeps its members informed on where politicians stand on the issues.  They know that politicians are a sneaky breed that can turn on you in a moments notice and that person you voted for in the last election no longer exists. 

   That is why the NRA is important to DC politicians and that is why I am a member too.

    The problem with pointing at the NRA is that it prevents us as a society from looking at the real problems in our country.    Yes we need more mental health help in schools, but that is too little and too late to do anything.  The REAL question is WHY are we seeing more and more mentally unstable men in our country?   What are we as parents not doing that is causing this to grow?   We will never be able to growing weeds in the garden, but you can stop putting fertilizer on them!   So what could be the agents that are fertilizing these problems today? 

Here are just a few possibilities:

Breakdown of the family
   Today more and more kids are raised in single-family homes.  I know this goes counter to all the TV shows and movies that glorify single-family homes.  But we must come to grips on whether this is a contributing factor.  Often in divorce, children are placed in the mothers care which may be fine for the girls, but what of the boys who need to have a strong male figure in their lives that will correct them? 

Two-income families
   Even in cases of families that do manage to stay together we must look at are we being present for our kids.  Today, so many families feel they need two incomes to supply all their wants and desires.  These adults come home tired and an want to be left alone.   But children need their attention.   They need their input and guidance.  I know many have lots of energy to go around, but many... many people do not. 

Increase in violence in media
    Violent video games and movies DO play a role in all of this.  Go back and look at the Columbine video of the boys entering the school dressed in all back and wearing long black overcoats and dark sunglasses.  They were mimicking the movie The Matrix.  They had convinced themselves that they were in a video game shooting people with no feelings or emotions.  It was just a game.  They were not real anymore.

Pornagraphy
    Porn plays in this unhealthy development of boys brains even more.  They become desensitized to woman and humanity in general.  People are just objects for my pleasure and destruction.  It is a plague on our culture today and nothing is being done about it.   It is the ten 800 pound gorillas in the room we are ignoring.   Just GOOGLE search any topic on SEX and you will have more porn to view in an hour than people my age would see in a life-time.

Social Media
    Many of us were able to grow up without knowing what people around us were thinking of us.  Today's youth are bombarded on a regular basis with horrendous comments about their looks, their abilities, their lack of smarts and their lack of friends.  Social media has also hurt our kids because it has stolen from them the most important factor they need to become well-rounded adults.   That factor is us as their parents.   I am disgusted with how many parents I see in restaurants sitting inches away from their kids but are million miles away from them in spirit.  They sit with their head bowed to their devices scrolling with their thumb while their child tries to get their attention.  These children have been raised to think that from those devices is where all wisdom and answers to life's problems comes from.   They have not learned to communicate verbally and connect emotionally to adults and so they seek out answers from other emotionally disconnected and feeble brained kids like them.

And the list goes on and on....

But go ahead and keep blaming the Boogie-man for all your woes and things that are wrong in the world.   All that matters is YOU can go to sleep at night feeling content that tomorrow will hopefully be better day.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Gilligan was right

   I, like many people from my generation, loved to watch the re-runs of Gilligan's Island.  A show that was only on TV for 3 years seemed to live on forever in re-run-world.  Everyday when I came home from school (about 3:30) Gilligan would teach us a new lesson about living in harmony with others.  The island was a microcosm of our real world.  Represented by Scipper (authority), Gilligan (working class), Mary Ann (midwest values), Ginger (Hollywood), the Howls (upper class) and the Professor (educated class).  These people struggled through countless (and sometimes weird escapades) to show us how we can all get along and survive.  They taught us, friendship, money doesn't matter, fame isn't what it's cracked up to be, trust, support in bad times, being okay with who you are, not to be jealous and much more.

   One lesson I remember well was their lesson on why we don't need to no what the other person is thinking.  In this episode, Gilligan happens across some seeds that give people the power to read other people's thoughts.  By the end of the show everyone is angry with each other as they hear everything they never heard before.  (see below) Gilligan sees the problem and knows the only solution is to burn the plant that makes the seeds.




    Keeping ones thoughts to themselves is a gift we often don't appreciate either.  We sometime's think that being able to read another person's thoughts would be a wonderful power to have (mostly save us the energy of moving our lips), but in reality it's more dangerous than you can imagine.  Gilligan shows us that while we can have these thoughts, as long as they don't turn into actions we can live with each other in harmony.  In short, 

THOUGHTS DO NOT EQUATE WITH ACTIONS

   We can have ill thoughts about another person, but unless those thoughts translate into some perceivable action,  they don't really exist (except of course to God who sees all).  

   Today, we willing let others read our minds on a daily basis.  We do this not with magic seeds, but with social media as we spill out our thoughts constantly.   We post videos, comments and pictures  on every subject imaginable (politics, sports, work, fitness, relaxation, social issues, religion etc), and let everyone around us know what we THINK.  If people LIKE our comment or reply with positive comments we feel accepted and empowered.  But if people leave negative comments  (or people you think should at least LIKE don't respond) we feel anger and vilified. If repeated, we might change the persons relationship to us on social-media to "acquaintance" or "blocked".   It might even cause us to physically remove them from our lives by ignoring them or avoiding them in person.  

   Personally, I think the social media experiment has been an utter failure.  It has caused us to migrate into smaller and smaller circles rather than become closer to each other.  We say things to each other on Facebook we would never say to them in person.  We also have replaced a physical contact with a person (verbal over the phone or in person) with a "LIKE" or a "Have a nice day!" comment.  We think that pressing a LIKE/SEND button equates to being there for the person physically.  Our friends and family sitting right next to us are yearning for help and support all the while we are online sending "our thoughts and prayers" to people we barely know. 

   The answer to the problem comes from Gilligan.  First, we need to burn our mind-reading-seed-bush by deleting our Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts and other social media.  But after we have done that we need to ask for forgiveness and go back to being REAL FRIENDS.  

















   

Monday, November 20, 2017

My Wonderful Detour

   We hardly ever look at a DETOUR sign with joy.  A detour means our plans are going to have to be put on hold for a little longer as it will inevitably take more time to get to our destination than previously planned.  It often means getting off the 75 mph Interstate highway and getting on the 45 mph side road full of stop signs and slow traffic.  Unless you are on your way to an event you would rather not go to (such as a meeting with your in-laws) a detour is not your friend.


    I remember being in college at the University of Illinois in 1986 and interviewing for prospective companies.  Because my college had such a great engineering department (only ranked 2nd to MIT) most companies gladly came to our campus to do their initial interviews.  We had a lottery system at U of I where you put your name in for the companies you want to interview.  You were given 6 "cards" (2 A,  2 B and 2 C) and you used these cards to increase your odds of getting in.  So if it was a company you really cared about you would use an A card.  I reserved an A card for Intel that was scheduled to come to our campus in March.  I put my card in and the next week found out I was on the list.  I studied Intel all week to get ready.  They were the one company I really wanted to work for.  Then I was told Intel was not coming at all. They were not hiring in 1986 at all but instead were laying off as they got out of the DRAM business and refocused on the microprocessor business instead.

   I was depressed.

   I did end up getting two job offers that spring.  The first offer was from Digital Corporation and the other was Data General.  Both jobs were in Massachusetts and were only minutes away from each other.  I took that job with Data General (DG) as they gave me a chance to work on computer design.   I remember being on the phone telling my mom of my decision.   I told her that I was still bummed that I never got my chance to interview with Intel (on the west coast).  My mom's words were so profound and so prophetic I remember them to this very day.
"Well I guess God must have something in store for you out in Massachusetts as that is your only choice!"
    Like a bright orange and black "DETOUR" sign looming ahead, God was pointing me to the east coast. There was no choice in the matter.  He was telling me: "You are going this way no matter what John!".   God knew what he was doing.   For one thing, I had a good friend who also took a job with DG as well and so I had a person to room with.  But God had more than that in mind when he sent me out there.

   About 2 weeks later after I moved to Framingham, I decided I needed to find a church.  My first attempt at find a Lutheran Church was unprofitable as I got lost trying to find a church listed in Hudson.  On my third week I decided to try a church listed in Acton.  It was only about 15 minutes away and I felt I should be able to find it as it was right off a major route.   I went to Mt. Calvary Lutheran church and instantly felt right at home.  But God had more in mind for me than just a roommate and a home church to support me.

   As I sat in the service I noticed a young lady with the most beautiful head of strawberry blonde hair a few rows ahead of me.  I could not see her face at all, but as I sat there at the end of the service I heard these words in my head.
"You're going to marry that girl someday"
   I still remember looking around a bit trying to see who said that or where that came from.  I met this lady at the end of the service and was instantly struck by her charm and beauty.  I thought for sure she had to have a boy-friend or fiance waiting in the wings.  Over the next year we became good friends and eventually started to date.  We had a whirl-wind romance that swept us both off our feet and we were married in April of 1989.

    Our first year of marriage was filled with ups and downs.  In June, I lost my mother at the age of 57 to bone cancer.  In October, Data General laid off 2000 people (out of 14,000) and I was without a job.   That layoff was another good thing that happened to me for if I had not been laid off I would have missed an event that forever changed our lives.  I was looking at the job ads in the newspaper when I saw Intel was coming to the Massachusetts to interview.  I faxed in my resume and instantly got a call for an interview the next morning.  I studied all day to get ready and did great.   That evening we got a call for me to come and do an on-site interview.  I went a few days later and by the end of the day I had 2 job offers and it was my call on which one I wanted.  Shauna and I prayed about it and all my other interviews back in Massachusetts dried up and yielded no other options.  We were off to California and by January 1st 1990 we were on a plane out west.

   I often call Shauna "My Wonderful Detour!", as my mom had so prophetically said, "God must have something in store for you out in Massachusetts".  However, in God's eyes this was never a detour.  This was his plan and his path.  My path and plan would have cut short his plan and purpose and I would never had met Shauna.  I am so thankful now God didn't let me go out west in 1986 but sent me the other way instead.

   We all have our dreams and plans in our lives.  It may be to get a certain job or own our own business.  As I watch my own kids now map out their own lives I tell them to relish the detours God puts in their lives.  The people they put in their lives that they would not have met had it not been for their change in direction.  A lot of the time, God lets us choose our path, but when it really matters I believe God steps in and gives us no other choice.  It may be an illness or a job loss. It may be a death in the family or loss of a good friend.  But one thing is for certain. Jesus says,
"Truly! I will be with you always! Even unto the end of the earth!"
   Of course, as they say, hindsight is 20-20.  It's easy to look back and see where God's detours were for our best.  It's not so easy when we are in the middle of it.  When I was laid off I was angry.  When Intel did not come to my college I was depressed. I felt I was being punished or not being listened to.  We cry out to God that we don't understand what he is doing.  It's like meeting a detour sign when you feel you are 10 minutes late already and this alternate path is going to put you even farther behind.  We feel resentful towards God in these moments. I am not saying that everyone gets back on the path they had originally planned on going.  Yes, for me, I did eventually get my dream job. But even if that had never happened my new path would have been better than to the one I had mapped out for myself.  Now when things don't go my way I just remember my mom's words

"I guess God has something in mind for you...."