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Monday, March 28, 2016

I can do it on my own!

    Recently I decided to get back in shape as I was over 50 pounds overweight. My size 36 jeans were almost too small now and I needed size 38 instead.  I still remember my wife bringing me to the Eddie Bauer store in the mall to try on some new slacks and shirts.  I decided to give size 36 one more try and went into the changing room knowing in the back of my mind that they were not going to fit but thought maybe, just maybe, they were a large 36.   So I put them on and could barely button them up.   There I stood in front of the large mirrors and tried to pull my gut in, but finally just said to myself, "No John!  Just let it go"  and so I relaxed and my gut pushed out and the pants clearly were not going to fit and I was a hideous site to see.   I couldn't pretend anymore.   I was obese.  I handed them back to my wife through the door and said, "I need size 38 now"  and she without saying a word handed my the size 38 slacks I needed.

    That moment was life changing for me.  I had to change.  I started to workout every day (sometimes 2 times a day) and the weight slowly began to come off.  Of course I decided to do it all on my own.  I played lots of sports in grade school and high school as a youth.  I knew how you have to work hard and do lots of running to burn calories.    I have always prided myself on being self-sufficient.  In my work I could take on most jobs without any help.   Even at home I could get through most home projects without too much help from friends or neighbors.  But I soon learned that much of my knowledge on weight-loss was outdated and I need to not only address exercise but also my diet and eating habits.  My wife helped me with that as well.  She too was in need of losing weight and when we joined a new gym she signed up for a Team Weightloss class to help her get going and what she learned in the class "spilled over" to me as well and helped me lose more weight.  In the end I've lost the 50 pounds and I am in better shape then ever.  In the exercise business they refer to this as "transformation".

     It's interesting that in life we all too often don't want help.   Maybe it's our American Spirit or something that says "I can do it on my own!".  This attitude isn't just with work or at the gym but is also in our spiritual lives.   We brazenly say,
"Don't worry God!  I can do it on my own!   I've got this!  "
    He must chuckle inside like an fitness coach looking at an obese person who hasn't exercised in years  who is trying to do it all on their own.   How silly we must look to him as we think to ourselves that we can fix our sin and the evil inside of us.   He quietly tells us, "Let me help you!" but we resist until we finally have to face ourselves in the mirror of his law and say, "Let it go!" 

    In the Gospel of John, we read about Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman.  She was getting water from a deep well in the middle of the hot afternoon.   She was not a well liked woman in the community as she was divorced 4 times and her current "husband" wasn't her legal husband.  She had figured out a way to do it herself.  She would get the water in the middle of the hot afternoon so she wouldn't have to endure the lectures and hateful looks of the other women.  Like the obese person who as found the perfect time to go to the gym to exercise so no one can see them (including no trainers).   Her solution was like theirs, "self-imposed social isolation".   But Jesus is like that trainer who won't go away.  He comes up to her and talks to her.   He knows her situation fully and he reaches out to her with the truth, that he is the Messiah and he wants to have a living relationship with her.   She has her "Let it go!" moment and runs off to the local town to call all the people out to the well to meet Jesus. 

    Jesus reaches out to us each day on the Cross and says "Let it go!  I've got this!"  we just need to surrender and listen to his word and let him transform us from the inside with the help of his Holy Spirit.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Thy Will Be Done!

    These are probably 4 of the most difficult words to utter in the Lord's Prayer.  In these words we completely surrender our desires and goals to that which God's desires and goals for us.  Jesus prayed a similar petition on Good Friday in the garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed, "Father if it is your will to take this cup from me, but not my will but your will be done".   Shortly after praying this Jesus gets his answer.   The mob is in the garden and they are there to arrest him.  Jesus knew all the pain of the scourging , beatings and crucifixion  that awaited him but yet he prayed "your will be done".   He surrenders himself to the crowd and then to the Sanhedrin and later to Pontius Pilate himself. Ultimately he surrenders his will to the cross as the soldiers nail him to it.  At any moment he could summon a legion of angels to rescue him but he doesn't.   He could yell "Damn you all" and in a moment his enemies would be thrown into hell, but he doesn't.

    We often pray this petition with our fingers crossed and hoping that God doesn't take it too seriously with us or that he goes easy on us.  But that is not always the case.   As I have written in some previous blogs, God's will is to save as many people as he can.   That is his ULTIMATE WILL.  But to do so often  requires pain and suffering.   CS Lewis once wrote
"Pain is God's megaphone to a deaf world"
   We don't listen too well when the times are good.   We are too busy doing our own thing and thinking that THIS is our heaven and it will all keep going on as it always has.   Pain shakes us to our core.  It focuses the mind in ways that enjoyment can't.   I challenge you to put a small tack in the bottom of your shoe and try to walk around for a day.  It will drive you mad!

    I think a great economic collapse is coming our way.   We know that we can't debt our way to economic stability.   The bills will eventually come due and we will all have to pay the price for our indulgences.  I think God will work tremendously when that day comes.  Some are hoping it comes later rather than sooner.   I am quite the opposite.   I want to see people flee their idols of money, wealth and power and run towards a loving God wanting to spare them.   For I see a hopeless generation seeking meaning but not finding any that is only too arrogant to acknowledge how wrong and blind they are.  Sad to say this, but many of these people are in the church as well.   They look at God's word as some sort of heavenly "vending machine" that if we say the right things, do the right actions, vote the right way God will smile upon us and give us peace, security and a full stomach.  They perform rituals like "Washington Prayer Breakfasts" and other pseudo-religious actions in hopes to get God to grant our country favor in his eyes.   Yes we as individuals are called to pray for our leaders and those in power but God does not deign for us to from Super-PACs to accomplish his will. God already knows what he is going to do.   He just wants us to ask for it to be done among us and through us as well.

    As with our economy, so also, many people are looking at this upcoming election with fear and anxiousness.  Some are asking "How did our country slide from past presidents like Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan to a choice between Hillary (a untrustworthy liar and hypocrite) and Trump (an obnoxious self-absorbed con-man)?"  I can assure you that after this election (as with all events in our world) "Gods will" will be done.  Whether it's Hillary or Trump, "God's will" will be done to allow him to reach as many people as possible.  I sometimes think God is like a great business man who must change tactics and strategies to keep his business moving forward.   He cannot keep using the same methods but must adapt to maximize his profits.  God's profits in his world is OUR SOULS which he has redeemed.   Maybe all God wanted from the U.S. was for us to invent the Internet so he can reach even more people in places too difficult by any other means.  Who knows.  But then again maybe God is not done with us yet either.

   But in the end all we can say as his followers is: "Thy will be done Lord.  Thy will be done!"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Karl Marx was right

   I don't like to quote socialist/communists like Karl Marx but even a broken clock is right two times every day and so is Karl Marx.

    Marx once referred to the religion as the "opiate of the masses".    His view was that religion (Christianity in particular) was responsible for the masses not getting angry and mounting a massive revolt against the upper class and rulers.   With words like,
  • "Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth" 
  • "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God!" 
  • "Money is the root of all kinds of evil"
  • "Forgive as you have been forgiven"
  • "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and give unto God that which is God's"
      How can you get a group like that to stage a revolt?   But it's not so much a drug of religion that keeps people from revolting, but the understanding that this world is passing away and a much better one is on its way.   Like a guy driving an old clunker is not going to get too upset when it breaks down because his new BMW is being delivered and on its way.   You have a different perspective because of your faith in God.

    As I watch this election it seems to me that as our country becomes less and less Christian (and I include so-called Christians that are more concerned with their worldly wealth than with heavenly wealth) we see people becoming increasingly angry towards one another.   Everything seems to hinge on the "next election" and whether or not "their guy (or girl) gets into the White House".   No matter what after this election I can tell you this:  HALF the country will be angry and the other HALF will be elated.  One half will call the other illegitimate and the other half will be called bitter haters.  Recently I saw a story about a guy who video taped himself running over TRUMP signs on the side of the road.   He was caught by the police and he said he thought it was his "moral duty" to run over the signs.   REALLY SIR?   MORAL DUTY??  My guess he hasn't darkened the doorway of a church in his entire life (at least I hope not).  Personally I would like to see someone put their sign in front of a boulder or brick wall and see him plow his vehicle into it just to teach him a lesson in "morals".   At a TRUMP rally a man sucker punched a black man who was disruptive and was being removed by security.    Why did you have to do that??    Others have jumped on stage and hijacked a candidates microphone and taken over their speaking engagement.  Was it their "moral duty" as well?

    George Washington referred to religion as the necessary "third leg" of a 3-legged stool for Democracy to work.  In recent decades people have been taking a saw to that third leg and now it's almost gone completely and our democracy is teetering on collapse (something these leg cutters want to happen).   Each President who has taken office for the first time has paid homage to our countries ability to peacefully transition control from one leader to the next without violence (sometimes referred to as a "peaceful coup").   This "peaceful coup" is based entirely on our religious beliefs that no government provided to man is without God's will.   That's a hard concept for many (even Christians like myself) to get behind.   How can you support what we might see as an illegitimate government or leader?  

    Let's see how Jesus handles an unjust political system.  First we see Jesus himself put himself 100% in control of the government as he is taken in the night to a Jewish court called the Sanhedrin and even though it is against their own law to try someone at night he allows it to go on.   He then is sent to Pilate and allows his ruling to be decided by an angry mob rather than a just judge.  He goes to his death as it is the Father's will.  When he's on the cross in agony he summons enough energy to stand up on the nails in his feat/ankles and say "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do".   Even after he raises from the dead he doesn't tell his disciples to get even with the Romans for his wrongful death.   He moves on like it's nothing.

    In the book of Acts, we see Peter, Paul and other disciples thrown into prison as well in much the same way.   They are unjustly scourged  to teach them a lesson and they are overjoyed by God allowing them to suffer for the faith as well.   They didn't yell obscenities back at their jailers or floggers and tell them "You just wait until the power pendulum swings back our way and WE are in control!".  No, instead they sang hymns in prison knowing tomorrow they may die a horrible death on a cross like Jesus did.

    Sadly, too many Christian leaders have thrown their collars into the ring with a variety of political parties and leaders today as well.  They too have taught their followers that it's time to "take back your country".   Well last I read, taking anything is paramount to stealing.  Are we doing God's work or are we fighting against him?   Are we too focused on the things of this world and not focused on the things of God?   Paul says,
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"
    We should be spending our time praying that God's word would be effectual in the people's heart and not wasting our time praying for God to get our "guy/girl" into the White House.   We should be praying for our children's hearts and minds to not be contaminated by this worlds view on God and not be praying Hillary goes to jail (even though she deserves too).    We should be praying for Hillary and Obama that God may reach them too (even if we think their heart is too hard to listen).  We should be praying that God's will should be done and not our will.

    Let me put it this way....

    If God can reach 10 times more people with the Gospel when times are tough and money is scarce, then shouldn't we be OK with an economic collapse?   Too many Christians today want only God's blessings on them so they can have it easy.   They fear sin taking over our country because God might take his blessing (ie - protection from bad times) from them even though Jesus has already paid for all of those sins on the cross and the only sin left unpaid is unbelief in him.   If God does take his "blessing" from us it isn't to punish a long list of abominations but instead to wake up this world and drive them to their knees to repent and be saved.

    So what do you pray for when you watch the news?   Are you hinging all of your hope and faith on this years election?   If Hillary gets elected will you feel God has abandoned you?   Will you be angry at God and go off and sulk in a cave like Elijah?   Or will you move on to what God wants you to do next?

   I myself used to get angry listening to the news and frustrated with how the Obama administration is trying to transform our country into a socialist cesspool.  I spent hours reading news stories and watching Fox News.   I would send articles to friends on Facebook and wait for their replies.  In 2012 I was elated when the GOP regained the Senate but later dismayed as still nothing seemed to get done and Obama continued to move forward with Executive Orders.    I waited with anticipation the rulings from the Supreme Court on gay-marriage and also on ObamaCare, only to have my hopes dashed by their ridiculous rulings in which Roberts seemed to contort himself like a yoga-master to make the rulings fit the Constitution in some way.

    I came to peace when I read Jesus words,
"All authority has been give to me in heaven and in earth".   
      Those words showed me that those sitting in Washington DC are not the real rulers of this world.   Christ rules and is allowing these charlatans to fill in until he comes again.  So what if Hillary gets into the White House!   Let her have her few years of fame.  So what if the GOP collapses into a pile of crap!   God still rules and this "temporary tent" will be replaced some day.   No longer do I worry about this "next election" or if people will forget their Constitutional rights and fall to tyranny.   As for me and my house, nothing changes, we will serve the Lord.  Though we may be scoffed at and ridiculed and treated like dirt.   It's okay.  And I have good company in that view as well.   As Paul writes,
As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    This doesn't mean that I stop writing blogs or I stop looking for leaders who are good and honorable.    But I can stop fretting over what will happen if things continue to deteriorate. I will let the "opiate" of God's love and forgiveness guide me and not fall victim to the unholy angry masses who surround me. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Watered down beer

   I personally love a strong tasting beer.  To me, if I am going to shovel out $8 or more for an 8 pack of beer, I want something that has some taste to it.  My brothers-in-law are just the opposite of me and both are fans of Bud Light which to me is tantamount to water dyed to look like beer.   One thing nice about a strong beer is that if it's too strong, you can always water it down a little on your own whereas a weak beer you have no way to make it stronger.

   The same goes for politics.  You can always water down your brand but it's virtually impossible to make it stronger.   That is what is essentially happening to the GOP this year with the addition of Trump in the race.   He has brought with him a large assortment of "independents" to the GOP to vote for him.   While the GOP has been trying to expand their tent in recent years, this expansion has weakened the brand considerably like adding water to your beer.

   I have never understood people who choose to not to choose sides.  To me they are nothing but a bunch of cowards who don't know their own mind or values.  Whenever I hear a person proudly pronounce to the world "Oh.  I'm an independent!",  I would want to say to them,  "You mean you don't care about your country at all??".  At least with Libertarians, you've made a choice for a third party, but independents isn't a party at all.  It has no values, no core, no platform and no candidates.   Personally I thing the GOP should require ALL primaries to be closed-primaries.  After all, do you really want a bunch of fence-sitting-cowards to be allowed to choose your parties candidate? 

   Oh I can hear the independents who might be reading this now saying, "Who's he to call me a coward!  I just don't agree with everything the GOP stands for and so I choose to be an independent".  Well, do some research on all the parties available to you: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Socialist, Communist.  At least ONE of them must appeal to you at least 60,70% or more.  I don't even agree with everything the Libertarians stand for but I do agree with about 80%. 

   I think the reason the term independent appeals to so many is 2 reasons.  One, they don't have to commit.  Like the guy who would rather live with his girl-friend and get the sex for free, independents don't want to commit to anything.  They feel that somehow they can avoid any confrontation by staying out of the fight altogether.   The second reason is they can never lose (of course they never win either).   No matter who gets into the White House in November their person didn't lose, because they didn't have a horse in the race to begin with.  They therefore save their pride and their little egos (what little they have) from being crushed. 

    So now the GOP will have to live with watered-down-beer this election.   They will have to probably march into November behind a spray-tanned con-man with no values and no plans other than to "Make America Great Again!".   The media is already queuing up their endless in-depth investigations into Trumps fake university, fake investments, over-exaggerated wealth, past marriages, past sins against women and other minorities.  They will pummel Trump like a pinata at a birthday party for a class of  8 year-old boys with ADD and hyped up on soda and candy.   

    The question for the GOP is this.  Is it worth it?   Maybe their only option is to broker a better candidate and hope all the "independents" that came in for Trump will stay home on November and not vote for Hillary.   I can't say if that will happen or not.  It's a big gamble