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Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts

Monday, October 30, 2017

I don't understand!

    We've all had those studies in school that we had to take that pushed our ability to understand the subject.  Subjects, that no matter how much we read the material, we can't seem to wrap our brains around.  For me, that subject was Quantum Physics.  I did well in my other studies in college.  I could handle Calculus, Newtonian Physics, Thermodynamics, Differential Equations, Chemistry, Statics, Dynamics with a little bit of effort, but when it came to Quantum Physics it was a whole different matter.  Essentially we were told at the beginning to put aside Newtonian Physics altogether because it didn't apply here.   Electrons were NOT round balls of mass moving around in space, but instead were particle-waves moving from one state to another.   No longer can you say the electron goes from point A to point B and arrives at time T because you don't know with any certainty where the electron really is and what it's momentum is.  Here we can only predict a probability that it will arrive and that is about as best as we can do.  No matter how hard I tried to "reason it through" I could not.  My professor told us to just take the course on FAITH that this is how the world works at the sub-atomic level.

   FAITH IN SCIENCE????

    Seems like this is an oxymoron.  Two things that have nothing to do with each other somehow had become intertwined.   But it was the only way forward for me to get through this class.   I took his advice and plowed through it resisting the whole time my desire to "figure it out" or "see what is happening".  (I managed an A- out of it).

    Our faith in Jesus is often much like Quantum Physics.   What does not make sense to us, makes sense to God in his kingdom.   To me, Jesus sounds a lot like my Quantum Physics professor as he tries and tries to get across to the people what God's Kingdom is like and how it works.  Words fail to fully express it.  He tries multiple parables to get it across to different people

Are you a farmer?         Listen to my story about a lost sheep
Are you a wife?             Listen to my story of the woman and the lost coin
Are you a merchant?     Listen to my story about the pearl of great price
Are you a land owner?  Listen to my story about the hidden treasure

It doesn't make sense!

    The problem for most of us in listening to these stories is we don't see the sense in it.  First in the story of the lost sheep, it's about 1 sheep that leaves the fold of 100 and the shepherd leaves the 99 for the 1 that is lost.  The numbers don't add up!  The ONE is worth more than the 99?  How?  Next, Jesus says, "He returns with joy!".    Over ONE sheep?  Why?  He has 99 that didn't get lost!

    In the Lost Coin story a woman carelessly loses a coin of great value.  Back then woman were the banks of the family and stored their wealth in a bag on a string around their neck.  Somehow a coin had rolled out of the bag and was now lost.  When she finds it after sweeping the floor she runs to her neighbors with joy yelling, "Rejoice with me! I have found my lost coin!".   You and I would not be so proud of our accomplishment.  It's like saying, "Rejoice with me! My 401K which was savaged by my foolish investments has returned back to its original value!". 

   In both the stories of the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure, something of great value was somehow overlooked and found by a person who then must go and sell EVERYTHING he has to gain that property.  Who does he pay to?  He hasn't even had it appraised.  What if it's less than what he sold to gain it?

You have intrinsic value to God that you don't see

    In all the stories there is something of value to the owner.  A sheep.  A coin.  A pearl.  A treasure.  It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks.   He wants to obtain the item again and must spend time, energy and property to obtain it back.  I remember one time being confused about the story of the hidden treasure.  I had gotten the story backwards.  I thought the man was ME and the treasure was God's Kingdom and I should give all I have to obtain it.  But a good Lutheran pastor told me I had it backwards.  He told me, "John, YOU are the treasure in the story and GOD is the man who sells everything to obtain you".

    The issue here is that we don't see ourselves as a priceless treasure (maybe a stupid sheep... but not a pearl or chest full of gold coins).  Maybe when we are younger we might feel this way, but life has a way of tarnishing that treasure we see.   What we thought was gold was not gold.  Sins we thought we would never do we find ourselves committing.  We then perceive our value to diminish in God's eyes.  We then begin to think,  "Certainly I am not worth much now to him now!"

   But we need to understand that our value is not connected with what we do or not do.  In all the stories that value is assigned by the owner/finder. The items do nothing to find their way back to the person looking for them.  They are found by the person on their own.  Our value is not connected to our actions.  He created you and therefore you have value to him.  You, like the sheep/coin that gets lost, are bound by sin to fall away.  Your value, however, is greater than the cost it takes to retrieve the item and some ways the item is worth even more now to God than it was before.  God's accounting does not equate to our accounting on earth.  What looks like foolishness to us is wisdom to God.

The cost is paid back to himself.

   The final issue we have in understanding these stories is who the money/cost is paid back to?  Is it Satan?  Who?   The answer is to God himself.  Imagine a friend borrows you car and runs off the road and totals the vehicle (let's say for this story there is no insurance involved).  Your friend is without a job and has no way to pay you back.  You must therefore pay out of your own pocket to restore the car.  When you return with the new car you hand the keys to your friend and tell him to use it as long as he has need of it.  Why?  Because you value your friendship more than you value the car.  You LOVE your friend MORE than you love the money you lost.  Both in Economics and in Christianity we call this by the same name:  The Great Exchange.   In Economics, if I pay $5 for a gallon of milk to a store owner, both he and I walk away with more.  He valued my $5 more than the milk and is glad to take it.  I value the milk more than my $5 and I am glad to take it.  In God's world he sees our value as his creation as being greater than the cost of his Sons own life and gladly gives it for us.

St. Paul writes in Romans 8:32,
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Faith is what you need

    Of course, all of our "analogies" fail at some point to fully compare to God's world.  We must, like myself when taking Quantum Physics, accept what we are told with FAITH and ACCEPT it as the TRUTH it really is.    The debt is paid.  The door is open.  You are loved by God.









Saturday, October 28, 2017

Front doors do matter

  I just got done sweeping on the front entryway into our house and it got me to thinking.   We put a lot of importance on our front doorway.   First we spend money to make a nice flat and level concrete surface for our visitors to walk on because we don't want them to trip or get their feet muddy while coming to our house.   Some people even put solar powered lights to illuminate the entryway at night so it's easy to see.   We also put a light near the door so they can see where the door is and where we have put the doorbell for them to ring.   We put plants and flowers near the door as well to make their coming here pleasant.  We also put a seat near the door for older visitors to sit at while they wait for us to come to the door to greet them.

 

   Front doors do matter!

   Today, many say that there is more than ONE way to heaven.  All that matters is you are sincere in your beliefs and want to help others.  But Jesus says in  John 14:6
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
and in John 10:9 he also says,
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
  My argument with the "All ways go to heaven" crowd is simply this:  "Why would God go through all the trouble of building a front door then?".    After all, Jesus doesn't just pop on the scene to announce God's grace and forgiveness out of nowhere.  God works over thousands of years from Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, to David, to all the Prophets to finally get to Jesus.  His planning takes thousands of years and the pain and suffering of many of his servants both before Jesus and afterwards.  If God was going to allow ANY route into heaven, then he wasted all his time and energy with sending his own Son Jesus to bear all of our sins.

   If we invite someone over we EXPECT  them to use the front door.  If they decide to use the window or the back door we would probably call the police to report an intruder.  If we used the same "all ways lead to heaven" argument, you would be confronted with policemen who would tell you that the intruder is just a visitor who chose to use an alternate means of entering your house and since there is no one acceptable way to enter a house there is nothing illegal about it.  You would argue that you DO care about how a person enters your house!

  God does care about how you enter too.

   In the story about the Wedding Feast, Jesus says that at the end there was found a man who was not wearing wedding clothes.  The King asks him, "Friend, why are you not wearing the wedding clothes I have provided?".   At this the man was speechless and he was thrown outside.  That is how those who come to God but want to have nothing with the forgiveness he has so graciously provided through Jesus his only Son who died on the cross for them.

Dealing with our "faults"

   In computers, errors are a constant source of problems.  Almost every part of a computer tries to detect and even fix errors as they occur.  Your hard-drive stores a value called a checksum on every 4K byte sector and whenever that sector is read, a checksum is computed and compared to the value stored.   If there is a mismatch, the computer might try to re-read the sector again to fix the error.  Your computer memory can have Error-Code-Correcting bits stored to not only detect a bit flip (0 becomes 1 or a 1 becomes 0) it can actually determine which bit is wrong and fix it on the fly.  When your computer sends or receives data over the internet, its data is checked and re-checked along the way to make sure it arrives unchanged from the source.

   But there is one place in a computer where errors are hard to detect and fix.  That place is the microprocessor.  Often referred to as the "brains" of the computer it can't see where it's going wrong. If it adds 1+1 and gets 3, then it will always add and get the same number.  The only way for it to detect a fault is to compare itself to another CPU running the same code in parallel with the idea that having two-heads is better than one.  But even if it does see a mismatch with the other CPU, it can't determine who is wrong and who is right.

   We as humans are like these microprocessors.  We know we are not perfect and we look to find someone to compare our lives to in order to stay on track.  It might be a sports figure like Tom Brady or a Hollywood actor like John Wayne.   But these people are as faulty as we are and we are always disappointed in the end. 

   In Psalm 19:12, King David writes:
   "Who can discern his errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults"
    I remember when a friend of mine suffered a mental breakdown from the struggles of life.  I had not seen him in many years and he came back to our company to work with us.  We could tell something was wrong with him and at first just ignored it.   After a few weeks though it became very apparent to all that he was not right in his head.  He was sending out long winded emails to various people about things that had nothing to do with work.  He wasn't coming into work but was working from home.  My boss sent me to go talk to him and see what was wrong.   I went to his place and it was like a scene out of the movies "A Beautiful Mind".  The walls of his apartment were covered with newspaper and magazine articles and the floor was cluttered with empty bottles of Coke and boxes of pizza and Chinese food.  I tried to get through to him that he needed help but he was convinced he was fine and in need of no help.  He was sure that everything was going to be fine once he solved this problem he was working on for our company.

  Our brains, like my friends, are so fouled up with sin we cannot even see our own faults.  We may even think that certain qualities we have are "good"  when in fact they are "bad" for us.   We have hidden our faults so well we can't even see them anymore.   But God does see them and he has pity on us.

   Jesus said to the crowds below him as he hung on the cross
  "Father!  Forgive them for they know not what they are doing!"
He was not just saying that to the Pharisees that had come to witness his death, but also about us as well.   We think we know so much these days and are convinced that it's GOD that has it all wrong and not us.   We are fine and everything will be better once we fix these few problems we have.

  So where are we left?   Who do we compare ourselves to?  How do we make sure we don't go too far away from where we should be?

Jesus has the answer:
 "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.  
   No one comes to the Father except by me"
I highlight the word TRUTH here because he is who we are supposed to be.  He is the benchmark.  Of course we can never measure up and he knows that.  That is why he credits our lives with his righteousness and atones for us.

Friday, April 14, 2017

WHY

   The word "why" seems to be one of the first words children seem to learn, right after "momma", "dadda" and "no".    This word can drive a parent to near insanity on long car rides.

Why is the sky blue?
Why is the grass green?
Why can't I drive the car?
Why do we need to go on vacation?
Why can't we stop for ice cream?

The questions seem unending to a young parent.  This line of questioning would put a CIA operative to shame who must resort to water-boarding to inflict higher levels of pain and mental distress.

Some questions of "why" we can answer, but the child is too young to even understand our answer if we gave it to them.   We know that such answers would only be open to 10 more "why" questions that we don't have the time or energy to answer.  To this, we often resort to our simple answer:  "Because it just IS!",  This answer will hold a 5 year old for about 10 seconds before they bellow out a loud "WHY?" from the back seat of the car.

On Good Friday, while Jesus is hanging on the cross he screams out a question for God the Father to answer:
"My God! My God!  Why have you forsaken me?"
Christ, suspended on a cross between two worlds: earth and heaven.  Rejected by the earth and forsaken by the Father.

Why?

Why is often the hardest question to answer in stories like this.  Journalists can give you the Who, What, Where and How, but often they struggle to come up with the WHY.    When a crazed husband shoots his wife at her school and 2 other children we are left empty when we search for the reason of WHY.  Or when a soldier sees his friend take on heavy fire from the enemy and dies so he can crawl to safety we are left empty as we search for the answer to WHY.

The answer to Jesus' question comes to us earlier in the book of John
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life"
The answer is because he loves us.

All to often we get too caught up in answering the other questions that we overlook (or maybe we just don't want to face it) the most important of questions.  Knowing HOW Jesus died, WHERE Jesus died, WHEN Jesus died won't bring you any closer to God.  Today we are blessed with great cinematography and actors who can portray Christ's suffering in great detail and almost make you feel like you are standing right there under the cross.  But that won't save anyone.  Only when they come to face the question of WHY... are lives changed.   When we see that it was for US that Christ died.  He acted as the mother stepping in front of her child to shield them from the oncoming bullet to protect them.

I have often found it amazing that the one thing you can say to a child that you will never get a WHY question for is this:   I LOVE YOU!

Children just get it.  They accept it.   They know they are not perfect, but they accept the love of their parent as irrefutable and will often immediately respond with "I LOVE YOU DADDY!"

God loves you too and all he asks us to do is to accept it and not ask WHY.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We don't know what we are doing!

   Never before did a verse from the Bible become more clear to me than when I had to deal with a friend suffering from mental illness.  Several years a friend of mine had been rehired to work with us.  We had worked together back in the 90's and he was a genius to work along side. I was excited to work again with him along with 2 other of my friends.  He had left the company and worked away from us for several years and we had lost touch.  We had a benign interview with him (we were required to do it) assuming we knew he would be a great fit for our team (we had worked with him for several years so we had no reason to believe he wouldn't be).  Well after a couple of weeks we realized we had made a mistake.  Our friend was not showing up to work or for meetings.   He would ramble on in emails about nonsensical things and would make odd conversations on the phone.  I finally took it upon myself to go find out what he was up to and went to the apartment he was staying at.   I knew from the moment I walked in that I was in the presence of someone with a mental disorder.  The place looked like something out of the movie "A Beautiful Mind" with papers everywhere and printouts tacked to the wall.   There were pizza boxes and chinese food boxes on the floor and I could tell he was living on Coca-Cola as there were dozens of empty 2-liter bottles of it everywhere on the floor.

   I tried desperately to reach him but he was out of his mind.  I could not reason with him on anything.  He was convinced that he had the answer to all our companies problems if we would just give him a few more weeks.   It was the saddest thing I had ever witnessed in my life.  Here was a good friend of mine who had been a great engineer at one time now reduced to a crazy person who was convinced in his own mind that everyone else had the problems and not him.

   When Jesus hung on the cross, he said to the people who put him there,
"Father! Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!" 
   He was very much like me trying to reach my lost friend.  In his case, we are very much like my friend.  Our minds are so twisted by our sinful flesh that everything to us is really upside down.   We claim that everyone ELSE (including God himself) has the problems and we are completely right in our beliefs.  God tries to reason with us and help us to see how much we need him to fix our minds and our souls.   We cannot do it on our own.  Like my friend, our minds cannot fix themselves.  They are like broken computer processors that think there are problems everywhere in the PC but the real problem is with the processor.  In our view,  we think we have it all figured out.  We know what is best and what is not.

Adultery?            That's just a new loving relationship being formed to replace a broken one.
Homosexuality?  That's just an alternative lifestyle.
Pornography?      That's just self-expression
Lying?                 That's just an alternative form of the truth.
Stealing?             That's just an attempt to reapportion wealth from those who don't need it.
Intoxication?       That's just acceptable form of release from the cares of the world.
Abortion?            That's just fixing a female medical problem.

   This brings to mind another verse in the Bible.

"There is a way that appears to be right,
 but in the end it leads to death."   
-- Proverbs 14:12

Only God's Spirit and Love can bring true healing to our minds.  If only we will let him



POST NOTE: my friend did get help in the end and is doing much better today




General Relativity and God's Law

  In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton developed the first laws of gravity based on his observations.  He hypothesized that all matter has a gravitation "flux" emanating from it outward to other matter and this "flux" was responsible for attracting other matter.  From this he was able to derive his basic Law of Gravitational Attraction


   Of course Newton could not prove the existence of this invisible flux but based on planetary motion and other experiments it all seemed to fit.   Newton's laws were also based on some basic fundamental foundations that seemed to make sense to the scientists of his time.  The first assumption is that all space can be described in a simple 3D (height,width,depth) Cartesian coordinate system and all observers would measure the same distances no matter their orientation or movement.  Second, all observers would measure the same amount of time to pass regardless of their location or movement.

   Both of these basic assumption all seemed to make sense.  Why wouldn't we all measure distances the same and all of our watches run the same?  No one could see a reason why not, and so for over 350 years those assumptions were never challenged.   That was until Albert Einstein came along.  His observations of light bending around the Sun revealed that Newton was not 100% correct in his assumptions.


   Therefore, because Newton's basic requirement was wrong, all the laws of motion, momentum , energy etc. all had to be re-evaluated leading to Einsteins greatest achievement: The General Laws of Relativity.   This paper showed that gravity is not some mysterious invisible "flux" but instead a bending of space-time by mass which causes objects moving in a straight-line to appear to be moving in a curved line to us.  Like marbles rolling on a large stretched sheet of rubber that has been indented by a large heavy bowling ball they appear to be changing their trajectory because of the curved rubber, but they are trying to stay on a straight line that has been changed by the bowling ball.


  
    So what is that to me?

    We are often like Newton and the scientists of his time.  We have basic assumptions of up,down,left,right and that all our watches are the same.  It all makes basic sense to us.  How we see the world and how we THINK it should work are not always correct.  For some of our decisions, like Newton's Law on Gravity, it works fine.  Newton wasn't 100% wrong but he wasn't 100% right either.  His law was "good enough" to get us to the moon and back but if we used it to get to a nearby star we would miss it by a billion or so miles.   We also, spiritually think we have it all figured out.  We know what is best and what is not.   Adultery?  That's just a new loving relationship being formed.   Homosexuality?  That's just an alternative lifestyle.  Pornography?  That's just extreme art.  Lying?  That's just an alternative form of the truth.   Stealing?  That's just an individuals attempt to reapportion wealth from those who don't need it as much.

   But that is not how God sees it.   Like Newton thinking the world coordinate-system is all straight lines, what matters is how the universe sees the coordinate system.  So also, how we THINK the world should work and how God sees it are different, but in the end what matters is how God sees it and not you.

   Let's take Homosexuality for example.  Let's assume that our world reaches the point where homosexuality is EQUAL to heterosexuality in every way.  No more taboos and full acceptance by all members of society.   What would our world be like?   First, let's admit that men and women are different when it comes to relationships.  Men want physical love (sex) and women want emotional love (communication).   Given this, which will men "gravitate" towards to fulfill their individual needs?   It has been said that "The ideal mate for a man is another man and the ideal mate for a woman is another woman".   Men would essentially be given to mating to other men.  This is because we as a species are extremely lazy when it comes to working for what we want.  Have you seen all the fast-food restaurants around you lately?  One late-night comic once said, "I am waiting for the day when I can just pull up to the drive-in and open my mouth and have them feed my burger and shake straight into my mouth".   The same will be true about our sex lives as well.  Take for example prostitution.   Here men, unwilling to spend the time to communicate and woo a female partner are more than willing to pay for sex with a woman to get what they want.  It's a lazy-mans form of sexual release and it willingly degrades a woman to achieve that goal as well.

    God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows that laziness + homosexuality = death to our species.   Of course he can't communicate this to a primitive man in the Old Testament and so must use the "Don't do it because I find it disgusting!" argument to scare them away from these practices (who knows maybe many men in the Moses-era were already doing these things).

    God is not some irrational angry being.  He has reasons for his law and when take the time to try to see things from HIS perspective we see that he is right.






















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 homosexuality (and other sins) 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 homosexuality (or any other 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. 










Monday, February 29, 2016

Choosing the lesser of 2 evils .... or not

     Back in 1987 I was working in Massachusetts and I was on a company softball league of other fellow engineers.   Even though I grew playing sports, sadly that was not the case for many of my peers on the team.  We decided on a team name called : None of the Above.   To illustrate its meaning our shirts were printed with a check-off-list of items related to the question at the top that said

     "Our team can: "
  • Hit
  • Catch
  • Pitch
  • Run
  • None of the Above
     You can guess which item on the list had a check mark next to it.

     On Facebook a friend named Barbara posted, "We must select the lesser of 2 evils" to which I responded, "Would you vote for Hitler if the only other choice was Stalin?".   Their answer was simply "No".  Of course no one is calling Trump Hitler or Hillary Stalin but it goes to show you that not all choices are simply between the lesser of 2 evils and sometimes it's none-of-the-above.

    As a Christian, some often make you feel like "not-voting" or "voting for a 3rd party" is some sort of mortal and unforgivable sin.   Back in 1992, a fairly large group of disaffected voters cast their vote for an outsider by the name of  Ross Perot who had caught the eye of many Republicans for his "no-nonsense-approach" to government spending.   As this split the GOP vote, it allowed Bill Clinton to come into the White House with a dismal 42% of the vote.   And the same might happen again, only instead of the vote being split between 2 people it could be split between Trump and that other outsider candidate called "none of the above".    But if you recall, from the 1992 election what happened was of not much consequence.   We are still here.  The world still spins on its axis and God still reigns.

    People get their necks all out of joint on this issue.   They almost turn purple in the face when they say "Do you want Hillary to roll into office?", like as if the world is going to end.   Of course I don't want Hillary in office, but I won't sacrifice my morals and faith to do that.   I will still vote, but it will probably be a write-in for Ted Cruz instead.    How have we gone from George Washington, who tried as hard as he could be be ethical, moral and straight with the American people to voting for a man who lies, cheats, calls people stupid, ugly, liars, dumb, and says he can't remember asking God for forgiveness for anything.  

     Jesus said, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth".   The political system here is just a temporary system until God comes to make all things right.   The Constitution did not come down from Mount Sinai with the 10 commandments.   It's a man-made invention and an attempt to bring a just system to help us get along.  I personally think its the best one we have going so far that allows the most personal freedom, but not everyone likes freedom (sad).  God will still reign on his throne and will still accomplish his goals for our world somehow, even if Hillary becomes POTUS.  The people of Israel were often frustrated in trying to understand God's will for them.  They wanted to return back to the good old years of King David or King Solomon, but they were constantly under other peoples control.  First it was Alexander the Great and then later it was the Roman Empire.   They tried everything they could to fix the situation, but nothing seemed to change.   Yet it was through the Greek and Roman Empires that God brought the Messiah.   These empires made it possible and also easier to spread the gospel to millions of more people.   God's will was accomplished.

     Maybe our desire for a new "Reagan" is much like their need for a new "King David".   It's a selfish desire and a short-sighted goal and not in keeping with God's will at this time.

    And really, isn't God's will what it's really about in the end?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

We need to see more than just Christian movies

     Recently there have been a large amount of new Christian movies that have hit the scene.  Most of the movies are the product of Kirk Cameron who grew up on TV's sitcom "Growing Pains".   Starting with the movie "Fireproof" Cameron has capitalized on a small group of evangelical Christians who feel their views are not emulated well in Hollywood.   As a Christian I feel compelled to see these movies and support these artists and producers.   But I don't see it that way at all.  Most of these movies follow a common and almost predictable plot line.  First there is the main character who is either a coach (Facing the Giants) a fireman (Fireproof) or a policeman (Courageous) whose family life is falling apart while their work life is in shambles   Next comes their pastor who challenges them to return to God's word after which everything thing changes. Their wife returns back to them, their children do better in school and their work becomes amazing. In the end everything works out gloriously and even the villains are saved. 

     But that is not how life really works nor is it guaranteed by God in his word. Jesus often even showed quite the opposite when he talked about being hated and being chased from town to town on account of him.  While I appreciate people trying to reach a dying world, the problem is that almost 100% of the people who see these films are already saved and therefore don't achieve their goal. 

    Another reason I don't support Holy-wood is because I am sick and tired of seeing Christians cloister themselves off like a bunch of monks so they don't have to touch the world they walk in.  We have christian music, schools, movies, radio stations,TV stations, bookstores, gyms, coffee shops, dating sites, businesses, and even cruises!   How can you relate to your neighbor if you have NOTHING IN COMMON WITH THEM!!  Here is how your conversation will go with them if you cloister yourself off and only see Holy-wood movies

Jim:     Hey Bob have you seen that new movie The Matrix?
Bob:     No.  I only see Christian movies. Did you see Fireproof?
Jim:     No.  Too religious (alternative:  "Never heard of it")
            (End of discussion)

     This is not how Jesus intended for us to live.  Instead he said exactly opposite when he told us to:
                    "Be in the world but not of the world".   
     How can you be "in it" if you don't participate "in it"?   Granted that doesn't mean I am free to go to strip clubs and the like, but it doesn't mean I sit at home and watch re-runs of  "The Walton's" every night on DVD either.   We have to find a happy medium here and for my Holy-wood is not where the line should be drawn.  To me, it's like saying that you can only discuss your faith if you are inside a church building and since your neighbors never want to go to church with you then ....oh well...guess you never will have that chance to share your faith then.  Of course we see that as an absurd path of logic but often that is exactly what we do.

    St. Paul exhorts his readers to "Always have an answer for the hope you have inside you"

    Translation: Find answers to questions as they arise as we live in this world

    Let's take the conversation earlier and see how it "might" play out differently

Jim:     Hey Bob have you seen that new movie The Matrix movies?
Bob:    Yes I did.  I saw all three.Pretty intense movie I must say.  I wouldn't take my kids to it but I found it interesting
Jim:     Yeah. me too.   I liked the story line
Bob:    Yeah I did too.  I found it very biblical in nature
Jim:     How?
Bob:    Well the names for example.  Trinity is the name of our Christian God. Father,Son and Holy Spirit.  Then their is Neo, which is Greek for NEW so he is kind of like Jesus.   He has the amazing powers no one else has.  Smith is sort of like the Devil that he has to fight.   In the end, when he is connected to the matrix and laid out in a cross formation and is fighting Smith its just like Jesus.  The Bible says of Jesus, "He who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that the power of sin could be destroyed once and for all".   That is just like Neo turning into Smith at the end and then destroying Smith from the inside.  Then their is Zion, which is also a biblical name for Jerusalem, and they cry out at the end "The war is over!".  We as Christians believe too that the war with God is over.  We are no longer enemies but his children now.

Jim:  Wow!  I missed all of that.  Do you think the writer intended that?
Bob:  I don't know.  Maybe.  It just seems all to coincidental to be an accident.  I think he is trying to get across a deeper message of salvation possibly.

And the conversation goes on from here....

I am not saying that every movie we go to has a direct application of the Gospel, but we should try to look and find ways of using our culture to reach out to a dying world.   Take for example St. Paul when he visited Athens.   Did he only go to the synagogues?   Apparently not.   When he visited Mars Hill to talk to the philosophers of his day, he mentioned their temples and even gave them credit for being very religious.   He also quoted one of their poets which means he either read their writings or attended their plays.   He uses this as a spring-board to the Gospel.  A way to connect to them.  In other writings Paul talks about athletes running with no clothes on which could mean he attended these competitions personally (something most Christians today would avoid like the plague).

    We, like Paul, might not agree with all of our world's "poets" but we must take want God gives us and use it wherever and whenever we can.  Who knows maybe a rap-artist might even have some social commentary that we can use to talk up our faith.   We must be more like Paul who even though he doesn't agree with all the greek poets writings, takes what he can and even gives credit to them.   We miss these chances when all we have to say is bad things about our culture and nothing good.  How do you think these Greek philosophers would feel if Paul approached them like this instead

Paul:  Hey I have been here for a week but could only hack walking around your city for a day because its covered with these shameless nude statutes of these "so-called" gods which really aren't gods at all but are stupid idols you guys think are so great.   I was also invited to go to a poetry reading but because I heard the poet was a heathen who has no religious background I told my friends that it would not be good for me to ingest that tripe.  But hey!  While I am here let me tell you about this man I follow named Jesus of Nazareth who is the Son of God and was crucified by you gentiles and was raised to life 3 days later.

How many do you think would have stayed around to hear?   None.

Yet that is how we sound too.


    

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A conscience is a terrible thing to waste!

    Back in the 1970's an ad-campaign by the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) had a very simple and catchy phrase:
Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste
    This meant that wasting anyone's mental abilities to contribute to society would hurt us all in the end and therefore we should try to help ALL people become more educated.   The campaign worked and blacks enrolling in college increased through scholarships offered by the UNCF.

     Today we may need a new ad-campaign:
Because a conscience is a terrible thing to lose
     Martin Luther, the 16th century Christian reformer, was what you might call a conscientious objector.   He was called before the Catholic hierarchy and the politicians to re-cant (take back) all he had written as he revealed how far the church had strayed from its roots and teachings.   Martin Luther asked for one day to formulate his answer and he was granted it.   After a night of prayer Marin Luther returned to the court to give his answer and here it is:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.
     We owe much to his bravery to stand up to the powers as he was branded a "heretic" and had a bounty put on his head for anyone to collect.   He was given refuge by a German nobleman who agreed with his teaching and lived in his castle attic for many years while he took on the work of translating the Bible from Latin into German.   His willingness to stand up for his conscience freed many more like him who also no longer agreed with the Catholic churches teachings.

    A conscience is a very personal thing.   It is at the very heart of our Freedom of Religion and to have our own set of beliefs to follow.   It was once said that,

 "If you can't live with yourself then who CAN you live with?".   

    A dead conscience will eat you alive from the inside like a maggots eating rotting flesh of a deceased person.  A conscience drives us each to do what is right in our own eyes despite the opposition.   We've all been there at some time in our lives.  We were in a position to speak up for someone or some group and we chose to be silent.   We  remember those times vividly as we play it over and over again in our minds. We agonize over our choice knowing we chose wrong and the repercussions of us doing so were obvious.  It's a difficult thing to do.   Often it is occurrences like these that cause so many our war-weary-soldiers so much depression and guilt that it incapacitates them and prevents them from rejoining society.

     Today, people around our country are being asked to go against their consciences as well.   For example, people who own bakeries are told they MUST make wedding cakes for weddings they do not agree with.   You may not like their position any more than the Catholic church did not like Luther's.   But at odds is their conscience verses your insistence that they bow to your edicts that gay marriage is no different than traditional marriage.   Should they stuff their conscience away and never listen to it again?   What kind of country will we become if we force all of our citizens to ignore their consciences when they go counter to the governments or the majority's wishes?  Should they only care what the government believes is right and follow orders?   Should such people be jailed for having a difference in opinion or view?  Should they be put out of business for their faith?  Should the churches they attend be taxed or fined since it was those institutions that undoubtedly influenced them to have such a narrow view of marriage?

    Another thing to consider when you decide to use the blunt force of the government stick to get people to do your wishes is you build increasing amounts of anger and animosity towards you group rather than acceptance.  Of course you can force their physical bodies to perform the deeds you asked for, but their hearts and minds will be forever against you.   This will only require you to use increasing amounts of force over time to move the pendulum further to your side of the room.   But watch out for the day will come that you will not be able to push it any further and the pendulum will swing the other way and all that pent up energy will be released in ways that can be very destructive.   Other countries have witnessed this in their own countries (mostly African countries where one tribe rules another for so long and then it flips on them).    In South Africa this almost happened against the whites after the blacks gained control of the country and only by the grace of God through the work of Nelson Mandela did it get diffused.

    I am glad to see people of reason from the other side standing up for people of conscience and telling their people to "knock it off!" in attacking these people in the court of law and also the court of public opinion.     We need more of these people to come forward and I hope and pray they do.   I believe they recognize the value of a conscience and how it is one of our most basic rights as human beings to be nurtured and protected.  After all, a society of citizens whose consciences have been numbed will be a terrible place to live.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How God's word has changed my view on homosexuality


   I recently wrote a blog called,  "What's your bungee cord made of?"  in which I layout that all of us have sins that pull us back away from God and the life he wants for us to have.  For the rich man who comes to Jesus looking for the one thing that would put him in good standing with God ("What must I do to inherit the Kingdom of God?"), its his wealth that pulls him back and keeps him chained.  I too like the rich man have been chained as well in many ways.  Like most men, sex is a very potent drug that tugs at our very being and in our society it is used everywhere to get our attention.  I recently went to the gym and could not believe what the woman next to me was wearing as "gym clothes".   She looked like she just stepped out of a Victoria Secret catalog for their push-up bra line.  There she was, jogging (not walking) on the treadmill next to me.    I strained to keep my eyes looking straight ahead at my TV screen as she bounced along (she was voluptuous to say the least).  But I had a choice:
  • Keep trying to look ahead ... but peeking whenever I could get a chance 
OR
  • Move to another treadmill.  

    My option was the second one...but not without a lot of contemplation of #1 first and I must be honest that it took me much longer to come to this decision than what it should have.   Did I feel superior in making this decision?  No, not really.  In fact it made me realize even more how sinful I really am that I could not stay put where I was.   Like a laser-pointer in a presentation it brought to my attention even more how weak I am  (maybe that is what God meant when he told Paul, "My grace is sufficient, because my strength is made perfect in weakness") .

    After writing the previous blog I have a had a lot of time to contemplate how Jesus handled the situation with the young rich man.   It says, "he looked at him with love".   Not anger or righteous indignation.   Either of which he would be totally entitled to but yet he did not.   And even when the man left "sad",  Jesus did not point at him and say anything angry or negative to him.  Did he call for the man to be stoned?  No.   Instead he makes a very truthful and sadly profound statement when he says, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God"  and then later "It is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God".

     I think Jesus said this with a tear in his eye (though the Gospel doesn't say so).   We too will come in contact with many people who will "walk away sad" after hearing the Gospel.  Either they will think it too easy to be true or too difficult to accept.   We are all given choices in our lives to either follow Jesus or stay attached to the things in this life we want more.  Jesus understood this more than any of us and yet he still went to the cross for the rich young man as well.   We too must have the mind of Christ as well and have compassion for those who choose NOT to walk with us and let them walk away in peace.

    Another section of verses that have greatly influenced me are from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister[c] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”[d]
     Here Paul lays out for how the church should deal with those who are sexually immoral, greedy, swindlers or idolaters.  But note the little phrase in verse 10 where he says, "not at all meaning the people of this world".   To the people in the legal profession this is called, an exception clause.   He even shows them that to  avoid these people in the world would require you to hop on a rocket move yourself to another planet.  Instead the people should be avoided ONLY if they pretend to be followers of Jesus and are in the church.  There is the line in the sand that Paul draws for us to pay heed to.   He later in verse 13 even goes on to remind them that "God will judge those OUTSIDE (the church)".

    Does this mean we don't speak the truth to the homosexual community?   Not at all.  Just as Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth to the rich young man ( I wonder how many lackeys the rich young man had following him were unwilling to tell him this truth Jesus was telling him to his face).  But we must do so in love.  We must be willing to confess our own weaknesses and sins and show them that it is BY GOD'S GRACE we are forgiven and that we are made righteous by what Jesus already did for us on the cross.   We need to understand however that they have some very strong "bungee cord" attached to them and that it will take a miracle of God's grace to help them walk away.   


    Recently my wife and I were in Carmel CA on vacation.  We were being served by a young man who by his own way of speaking you could not but notice he was gay.   In the past I would have probably opted to go find a different place to eat, but because of God's grace I was able to smile at the young man and allow him to serve us our food.   Did we talk about faith or anything?  No, we did not.  He was there to work and serve others and to do so would keep him from doing so.  I did pray for him that God would reach out to him some way through those around him.  Maybe some already have, I don't know.    I just pray that whoever does talk with him someday has this mindset and not one that seeks its own self-righteous indignation as I might have a few years ago.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What's your bungee cord?

   I was at a county fair once where they had some fun games set up for kids and adults to try that involved various structures of vinyl filled with pressurized air (like bouncy houses).   One of the games had a structure that resembled a bowling alley with two lanes in which participants attached a bungee cord to their waste via a belt.  The object was for 2 people to race down their alley as far as they could go and place a small block of wood with Velcro on it to the wall between the two lanes.  The winner was the one who could go the farthest before the bungee cord snapped them back to their starting point.  It was very challenging and a lot of fun to watch contestants reaching as far as they could to beat their opponent. 



    In life, we all have various bungee cords attached to us that hold us back from where we want to go in life.  It could be fear, sadness, depression, anxiety.  It could past experiences and us not wanting to relive those moments over again.   So we sit the game out not wanting to play it again.    But this blog is not just about reaching your "potential" or some form of "self-realization".   Instead I want to look at this from a Christian perspective.   Today, much is made of homosexuality and how Christians respond to it.   To those outside the church we are seen as rigid or uncaring for our stance on gay marriage and the gay lifestyle in general.  Maybe too much focus on just one aspect of life has been written and discussed without opening up the dialogue to a much broader discussion of sin and its hold on our lives.

    Jesus was once approached by a person who is only described as a "rich young man" (some versions use "ruler" instead of "man").  He comes to Jesus and asks an interesting question.
"Good Teacher!  What must I do to inherit the Kingdom of God"
   This is a very puzzling question when you think about it.  First of all, he is a rich man so he understands the need for a will and determining who your heir is.  For the Jew in Jesus day, this was normally the first born son who got it all.   So for this man to ask what he "must do to inherit" is interesting.   Did his father put requirements on his inheritance?  Maybe.  Normally it was just who you are and not what you do that determines your eligibility for an inheritance. 

   Jesus responds first by calling his attention to his use of the word "Good" by saying there is only ONE who is good and that is God.   This sets the stage for the rest of what Jesus has to say as it lets the man know what the standard is for good.  It's not, "a little better than average" or "relatively good or better" but instead it is PERFECTION.   Next he asks the young man, "What does the law say?".  At which the young man quickly quotes commandments 4 through 8.  Don't steal, Don't commit adultery, Don't murder, Don't lie, Honor your Father and Mother.  Then he ends with the following statement
"All these I have kept since I was a boy!"
   Does Jesus get angry with him?  Does he say "Oh yeah? ... Really??".   Does he call him names?  No.  Instead it says,
"He looked at him with love and said to him, 'One thing you lack.  Go and sell all of your possessions and give them to the poor.  Then, come follow me!"

   The gospel writer then says, "the man's face fell and he went away sad because he was a man of great wealth".  It was like watching a person making a tall house of cards when one of the cards is pulled out and the whole thing collapses.   Of course Jesus could have shown him any number of ways he broke the other commandments he listed for he undoubtedly did.  Instead Jesus brings to his attention the one commandment he didn't give much weight to.  Maybe this was his one "pet sin" that seemed miniscule in comparison to other more destructive sins like murder and adultery.  (In this respect we are all like the rich young man too). 

   I was often puzzled why Jesus put this extra requirement on him.   It seemed awfully harsh.   But the answer is in Jesus reply.  When he said, "one thing you lack", he was bringing to the mans attention that he stopped short in his list of commandments.  He failed to mention the last 2 commandments that deal with coveting.  Coveting is sometimes misunderstood.  It differs from stealing as it deals more with the heart than with the action or item taken.  Coveting is about our desire for worldly wealth and how we spend our time and energy trying to acquire more and more of it.  You can obtain these items from the world legally, but it does not mean they should consume you.   

   In this story the man has GREAT worldly wealth and it owns him rather than the other way around.  Jesus knows this and he wants the man to cut the cord before he sets off to "follow" him.  Like the bungee cord attached to your waste it will pull you back with ever increasing force until you must relent and give in to its power and allow you to be pulled back to where you started.   All the energy exerted for nothing!  A complete waste of time!   Jesus doesn't want that to happen to him.  He is not challenging him or putting a extra restriction on him.  Instead he is trying to LIBERATE him from his bungee cord of wealth by showing him that his wealth controls his time and his life.  Jesus request also serves to show this man how truly far he is from God using his own righteousness as the vehicle to God's kingdom.  Here he came thinking he was not far and just needed a little more to put him over the top but only to see that he had only climbed a small hill, and a mountain 100 times larger than Mt Everest loomed in the distance. 

    But the "rich young man's" story is not just his story but all of our stories as well.   You can fill your  adjective for "rich" (or "rich young") in any way that suites you.

  A ________    man/woman
  •    Rich
  •    Gay
  •    Intelligent
  •    Famous
  •    Politically powerful
  •    Sexy
  •    Popular
  •    Strong/Tough
  •    Self-made
    Whatever it might be that you hold more dear to you than following Jesus is what will snap you back and away from him in the end and so it HAS TO BE ADDRESSED FIRST before you do anything else otherwise you are just wasting your time.

    Is it UNFAIR to ask a person to walk away from their gay lifestyle?

    The answer to that question is a resounding: NO

     Oh yes, I can hear the replies already.  Surely God can't seriously ask someone to give up their sex life for him... can he?   It's too much to ask a person to put an invisible God ahead of their own physical needs that they are born with!  This is just too much to ask!

   But it's just as fair as Jesus requesting that this man sell all of his possessions or a another to leave their political seat of power, or their popularity in Hollywood or high school or their towers of ivory college institutions or their popular daily 30 minute TV show to follow him.   Difficult?  Yes.  But not impossible.

   After this conversation, Jesus says,
"It is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than fro a rich man to enter heaven"
    This blew the disciples away because it ran counter to all they had been taught.  The thought it was easier for the rich and than for the poor because poverty often caused people to steal, lie, cheat and even become prostitutes.  They may have also felt as we often do, that wealth was a sign of God's blessing and a reward for following his law.  But Jesus turns this upside down on them.

     Note, also, that Jesus talking about "eye of a needle" could have referred to a gate in Jerusalem
that was very small and so called  the "Eye of the needle".  It was large enough for people to walk through but getting a camel through was very hard because you would have to first unload the camel completely.  Then you would have to get the camel to get on its knees and crawl though to passage way.   A difficult trick, but possible with training and patience.   So also for a rich person, entering the Kingdom of God would mean leaving it all behind and be will to part ways with it and crawl. 


    Crawling is not a commonly used word in our American language and especially in regards to how we see ourselves spiritually.  It runs counter to our view of ourselves that God should be happy we are on this earth and "being ourselves".   Crawling is seen as beneath us and we feel no one should be belittled in that way.    But that is what God demands of us.  He wants us to lay those burdens down and enter his Kingdom of rest and peace.   But as sinful people (which we all are) we all too often leave his kingdom and pack it all back on and tie our bungee cords to our wastes and try to serve both masters again and again. 

      But thanks be to God he daily offers us the same request again and again to cut our bungee cords and come to him
"Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest"
Through God's love and forgiveness that he offers because what he did through Jesus on the Cross he cuts those cords and removes that load that holds us back.  All we need to do is ask.

So as in the Capital-One commercial where they ask "What's in your wallet" let me finish here by asking you:

"What's your bungee cord made of?"






Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is God unfair to homosexuals?

    I often hear the lament of homosexuals in regard to Christians views (which are actually Biblical views) that they cannot help how God has made them.  In doing so they have placed the blame at God's feet for their "life-style" rather than on themselves.   But is that valid argument?

   First let's look at the 6th commandment:  Thou shalt not commit adultery.

   In Jesus day, the Jews (of which he was one) were trying to validate their own righteousness by systematically going thru the law and trying to keep all of the commandments themselves.  When it came to the 6th commandment, they felt they had that one in "the bag" as all they thought it meant was you just had to keep certain male body parts away from other female body parts and you were fine.  But Jesus breaks up their little charade by saying:

   "You have heard it said, 'Do not commit adultery', but I say to you if a man looks upon a woman with lust in his heart he is already guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart.   If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. For it is better to enter heaven with one eye than to enter hell with two"

   Let's parse this section a little.

   First of all, imagine the Jewish pharisees standing around him when he said this. Their mouths must have dropped when they heard this.  Really?  It's not enough to stay "physically pure" I must stay "mentally pure" as well?    This must have felt like a smack across the face.

    Second, notice how Jesus says "man looks upon a woman with lust in his heart".   He doesn't say "a person looks up another person".   It's strictly man to woman and not the other way around.  Jesus knows that MEN have a much harder time adhering to this commandment than woman do.  He knows its in our DNA to chase every female who presents herself to us.   I would say in fact men have 100 times more trouble holding to this commandment than woman do.  (also note how Jesus' puts the problem on MEN and not WOMEN as Islam does.  He does not call for woman to cover themselves from head to toe to keep men from lusting ... instead he calls out the men).   

    Third, Jesus follows it up with some of the most incredible advice ever given by saying we should "gouge our eyes" if they offend us.   Now here I think Jesus is actually killing 2 birds with one stone.  First of all he is making a point to those who want to EARN their place in heaven by showing to what extreme they will have to go to in order to make that happen.   He knows how he made us and how incredibly difficult of a task it will be.   Next he is saying to us that he knows we are fighting out own bodies.  His illustration of eyes, feet and hands "offending us" makes them out to have a life and will of their own.  Consider it like an involuntary "reflex action" in which the body does not need the brain to tell it to take your hand away from the burner... it does it all by itself (or at least only up to the spinal cord and back). How many of us men also feel like we are not in control of our own actions.   We see a pretty woman walking down the street and INSTANTLY our eyes turn and we must look at her.   How many men do we see shown on the evening news who seem to have no control over themselves sexually?   For example, we recently had 3 teachers (in the past year) in our high school found guilty of having sexual relationships with girls under their care.  Even my son said, "What are they thinking!  Is it really worth throwing away a career and all the money you spent in college to get that job?"   Obviously other needs took a higher priority in their lives and they are paying the price for it now.

    So let me ask you this?   Is it fair God made us men they way we are?   Why didn't he make woman this way too?   Why do THEY get a break and we don't?   ( Oh I know movies and TV like to make you THINK that woman are as lustful as men are but in reality that only happens in very very rare cases.)

    Once when Jesus was teaching about divorce he said,
"You have heard it said 'A man may give his wife a letter of divorce if she does something that displeases him' but I say to you, except for marital unfaithfulness (adultery) it is wrong to divorce.   To this Peter (who was married) said, "This is difficult command.  It is better for man to not marry".    
 Jesus doesn't cut us any slack but instead points us to how things ought to be rather than how we would like them to be.   One time I was talking to my son (who's 22) about marriage and told him about a couple in which the wife became paralyzed from the neck down and was no longer able to have a normal sexual relationship with her husband.   I told him that even though this is not what the husband bargained for when he said "I do" he remained with her and loved her regardless of the fact that he would never have sex again.   My son was aghast and said " I don't think I could do that!"   But you must ask yourself: "Is God being unfair to the married man?"   Should he not have the right to have sex?  Shouldn't he be allowed to divorce her and find another mate in order to be happy?   Shouldn't the wife adopt the philosophy of  "If you love something set it free!" and let her husband go?  After all sex is a vital part of being human... isn't it?

    That brings me to my final point.   Our world has indoctrinated us on how vital sex is to us.  TV, books, videos filled with countless doctors, lecturers and gurus and told us we are sexual beings and it is wrong to pent-up those feelings and urges.   We instead should express ourselves sexually whenever and with whoever (as long as its consensual, the other person is older than 17 unless its the case of an older woman and a younger man then the age requirement may need to be overlooked or dropped  to 13 etc.. etc.. etc...) ,  We are told it's as needed as food and water for us to be healthy humans.  But what does Jesus say? 

    When Jesus started his ministry he fasted for 40 days (went without food) and the Bible says that at the end "he was hungry"  (starving would be a better word).   The devil tempted him to turn stones into bread and eat.  Now of course no one today would scold Jesus for taking care of his own physical needs.  But Jesus says "Is life more than bread?"   The answer to that question is of course NO.   He trusts God will provide food for him when the time is right.   He knows that while "public opinion" might be on his side to use his power (his right) to fill his stomach,  he must instead rely on God.

     We too must also ask ourselves, "Is life more than sex?"   Is it sooOOOooo important that we should abandon God's commands?   Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commands".   You will put him before everything else just as he put US before himself to save us by dying for us on the cross to do all we could not do ourselves.

    So back to the original question:  Is God unfair to homosexuals?   I think in light of this you would say NO. 


POST NOTE:

   To those who say "Because Jesus never said anything directly against homosexuality and only Paul did in his letters,  must mean that Jesus was OK with it and Paul was just a bigot"  I will say this.

  1. Jesus' 3 year ministry was to the Jewish people who knew the Old Testament teachings.  Telling them that homosexuality is wrong would be like union president reminding his members it's wrong to work past 5 o'clock without getting paid overtime.   He doesn't need to say that because they already know that.   Instead he spends his time with them teaching them that they cannot work their way to heaven but must rely 100% on God's grace and love.
  2. Paul was ministering to the Gentiles (non Jews) who had no knowledge of the Old Testament and so he needed to instruct them on these matters
  3. An absence of discussion does not mean it's condoned.  For example, I have never heard my pastor say anything in his sermons about how smoking marijuana is bad.  That does not mean he is "cool with it".  He has only so much time to preach and cannot cover every topic under the sun.