Friday, December 28, 2012

Say "I Do"

Churches for centuries have placed women in a subservient role.  It started with the cave man, and the traditional Muslims in the Middle East have carried it to an extreme to this very day.  The Jewish customs set that up officially, and we have perpetuated it.  But is it realistic considering that God chose women to be Judges and to have leadership positions in the Old Testament.  It would seem a cultural rather than Biblical decision on our part to perpetuate it.  Go Joyce Meyer!  Go Sister Teresa!  If you look at Western Culture today, the subservient woman role doesn’t fly very well anymore.  Have we abandoned the Bible?

How does the Bible integrate on this subject with the family structure today?  Ephesians says that wives should submit to their husbands, and I view that word submit more as “respect” as it is worded later in the same passage.  It also says there that a man should love his wife as he loves his own body, which is a pretty incredible standard when a guy takes the time to think about it. Love and Respect…what a concept!  Philippians says "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself."   I think it is clear that we are responsible for meeting each other’s needs.  Instead of trying to figure out who is the boss or blaming each other for our difficulties and selfishly considering only our own needs, we should be looking out for our lover’s needs.  I’ve often said that a marriage is not a 50/50 proposition as so many have said --it is a 100/100 proposition.  If you are not willing to commit to that viewpoint, there will be problems. 

Is it always going to be a consensus decision-making process in that kind of marriage?  Somehow I doubt it, and at some point one or the other will have to give in.  Husbands and wives need to keep that in mind.  But if you commit to and follow the 100/100 principle, it shouldn’t be impossible…difficult sometimes…yeah, let’s not be naïve about it.  Still, it can be done.

Can you imagine a world where we all took to heart our biblical responsibility and tried to truly meet the needs of those we are committed to?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's Not Your Birthday!

I wonder how many others God went to before getting Mary to birth His son to save mankind.  Think about it.  This young girl, probably in her early teens, was asked to carry this child who would be conceived without her having sex with a man when she was already engaged.  She would be expected to risk death by stoning as a result for that adultery.  Now that would be pretty weird to most women, and I suspect most would say “huh-uh Mr. Angel, I think I’ll take a pass on this one…but good luck with your search for a virgin though, and have a nice day.”  I can see what Catholics must feel in their veneration of Mary.  She must have been an amazing woman.  And then there’s this business of having a child in a stable.  Women died in childbirth back then under the best of circumstances.  Then there is that long trip on foot over the mountains for more than a week to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem…I thought it was a frightening and enormous chore just to get my wife to a real hospital 45 minutes away.

So here we are on Christmas morning opening our presents like it was our birthday and often just focusing on the value of all the material wealth we strive and dream to accumulate.  We don’t really think about Mary and Joseph and Jesus.  We think about things like the Polar Express and the Grinch.  Christmas has become a holiday about Santa Claus and presents to most people.  We can’t even say “Merry Christmas” without the politically correct police coming down on us.  WalMart won’t even let me inside the store to ring the bell for the Salvation Army (I have to stand on the curb outside) and their clerks aren’t allowed to say “Merry Christmas.”  The bulk of our merchandizing capitalist economy relies on the sales that occur in the last 30 days of our year.  And yet the real gift of Christmas is not those pretty boxes wrapped under the tree, but rather the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.  What an incredible Christmas gift of love that is for us…and it is totally free!  You won’t be getting credit card bills on it for months, you don’t have to put it on lay-away.  It’s there, right now.  Paid up in full.

Yesterday my fire station crew responded to a three-car crash that killed one driver.  I sit here and wonder this Christmas morning, “did he know Jesus as his savior?”  Do you?  Life turns on an instant.  It is unpredictable. There is no guarantee, and for sure you will come to that reckoning with God at some point sooner or later.

Be ready.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Be The Candle

Today the news is full of the story of a man pushed in front of a subway train and no one tries to help him get up and back safely onto the station platform.  One man stands near and makes the effort to take 49 pictures of the event in full living (and dying) color.  Perhaps it happened so fast that everyone was “stunned” into non-action.  I can’t even begin to analyze it fairly since I wasn’t there, but it does make me wonder about our willingness to do the right thing in our society.

Conversely, there was another story a few days ago about a police officer in the same city who bought a pair of boots for a homeless man who had no shoes (I wonder if he read the story about the Good Samaritan?)  Positive actions in our society don’t often get coverage, and maybe that is because they don’t happen often. It is the evil in the world that often takes the headlines, and the media does that by choice, I believe.  It grabs our attention and increases ratings (or sales back in the days when printed newspapers ruled.)

I wonder if those positive acts of kindness would bloom if they were covered more often in the news?  Would we be driven to emulate those actions more often?  I suspect so, and it wouldn’t take much to get that kind of movement started.

I still remember a visit I made to the old Eagle Gold Mine in Julian, CA.  This 1870s tunnel bores deep under the town, and at one point in the tour they turn off the non-historic light bulbs that line the shafts.  You stand in darkness blacker than anything you can imagine.  Then the guide lights a small candle in a sardine can reflector, which is all the miner of that time had for illumination.  The glow of that candle in the darkness is unbelievably bright and hugely illuminating.  All it takes is one candle to make that difference.

Be that candle to your world.

Cohabiting is Habit Forming

I ran across an article in the local newspaper today that discussed those who cohabit instead of getting married.  Most of the article was a glowing discussion about how beneficial the whole idea is, and came replete with testimonials from locals who were effusive about what a great experience this was - with nothing but positive outcomes.

It’s amazing how for we’ve come.  In 1970 it was illegal to cohabit in every state in the union.  Also, back in 1970 the idea of journalistic excellence was still in practice, and a real newsperson gave fair coverage to all sides of an issue in a front-page “news” article.  My liberal community and its newspaper don’t waste time with fair coverage of issues very often.  This article surprised me in that it actually at least had a one-liner by a professor that stated that those who cohabit statistically have poorer outcomes with marriage (Surprise!  Those who don’t want to make a commitment have an easier time dissolving a commitment when they finally make one…hmm it takes research to figure this kind of morality out??)

Duh!  So, the news doesn’t cover things objectively.  Big surprise.  William Randolph Hearst was notorious with it.  Our past elections demonstrated that as well.  Why should we be surprised?  Still, I find it sad that the generally liberal media promotes these causes that are not what God felt was wise for our lives.  Conversely, I find it sadly funny that we live in a society that promotes “non-marriage” for heterosexuals, and demands “gay marriage” for homosexuals.  What a weird bunch we are. 

So, do you sense a pattern here?

The pattern here at work in our country is a consistent movement to undermine what God defined as healthy for us in our family and relationships.  The other related pattern that is not mentioned much is that the rest of the world is experiencing a massive increase in those coming to faith in Christ, while those of us in the U.S. are showing one of the greatest declines in believers in our history.  God isn't relavant to us as much as our Facebook and Ipad and a Black Friday sale at Walmart are.

I wish I had a magic pill to fix all this.  I pray God will lead us back to him and I hope you are praying with me for that revival of faith and values.  What scares me is that God usually winds up having to lead us back to him with some serious “discipline” to get our attention.  In what form that will come, I cringe to think.

Friday, November 30, 2012


I recently had the opportunity to view a film documentary that examined the age old  conflict between Muslims and Christians.  I found it very disturbing.

Normally the term extremism these days is most often found coupled with the word Muslim.  It is an unfortunate fact that Muslims have an expanding element of individuals who are so committed to this religion that they wish it to be their government as well (Sharia Law), and they wish to impose it on everyone else.  Make no mistake…that is their aim.  Still, having said that, one can’t help but to notice that extremism exists within the Christian community as well.  The fundamentalist groups can often be found to have a fanatical commitment to not tolerating anyone who is different than they are.  They emphasize ritual, form and law and often enter the political realm and seek to change religious or socially accepted behaviors that don’t meet with their religious standards.  It’s a perfect storm of differing ideas.  The separation of Church and State is a powerful and important ideal, and we need to keep that in mind.

Do I have an opinion which one of these groups is correct?  Sure, but nevertheless I am certain that either group is ultimately going to be destructive to a peaceful and free society.  Both seek to impose God’s control on people he designed to be free to behave in a manner that would, in the end, be solely His responsibility to judge.  So, where behaviors do not impinge significantly upon another in society, we have an obligation to let them be (yes, I know that impingement is sometimes hard to decide.)  Certainly, we can come along side and encourage, in love, a different set of behaviors and beliefs.  In the end, however, we need to let it go.

When I examine the Muslim approach to controlling behavior and beliefs, I am stunned by its violence.  The encouragement to kill a woman who is raped, a child who marries a non-believer, or simply kill a non-believer seems extreme to the point of insanity.  The idea that if we simply leave them alone in the middle east, then they will leave us alone doesn’t fit with the facts of their beliefs or actions, and for sure the end result would also be the annihilation of the Jewish race.  Their numbers in our country and other western nations are increasing rapidly due to immigration and just plain out reproducing “us.”  They are not content to live just in their own “world.”  Are there moderates among them who would not wish to impose violence upon the Western beliefs such as Christianity.  Yes, most definitely!  Yet those who aren’t moderate will likely do such damage as can hardly be imagined, and it will be even worse if the Christian extremists get involved treating Muslims like Christians have in their violent attacks on abortionists and soldiers.

Playing out this thirteen hundred year-old conflict doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the future.  Tolerance is the only answer, and it is in short supply.

The Followership of the Ring*

In the 60s there was a song called “I Will Follow Him” which today would be rejected by most of society because of it’s statement that this girl who was singing it would follow this boy anywhere (bet you thought I was telling you about a religious song, huh!).  It is way to un-liberated for the 21st Century.  But yet it does speak to something that I think is very important in life: There is a role for being a follower and there are ways to properly do that.

We all know a leader’s job is to lead.  Some know that a leader’s job is to prepare a replacement leader from his followers, but does anyone think about what a follower’s job is.  Most followers are content to think that their role is to show that they are the best at what they do (at least if they think beyond the typical ones that just want to get by.)  I think it is much more rare for them to think that their job as a follower is also to make their leader successful.  That doesn’t mean do something illegal or keep your mouth shut when you should be telling the leader something (respectfully and with facts) that he needs to do differently in your mind.  Does that mean you have to endure improper activity by the leader?  Absolutely not, but how many times have you heard a fellow employee gripe about a leader who was just doing what was good for the company and didn’t meet with the selfish concerns of the particular employee?  How about the children who don’t wish to follow the rules of parents that are well meaning?  Being a good follower is an honorable role and has its long-term benefits in life…and the hereafter.

There are consequences for not being a good follower, too.  For example, people get fired from their jobs.  God also put those consequences out there as boundaries to give us notice that this particular behavior is not good for us.  I remember when I was searching and arresting people as a police officer.  I would put them in a control hold.  It only caused pain if they struggled against me and tried to get out of it.  I would tell them, don’t do that and it won’t hurt.   God has done the same thing with our boundaries in the Bible.  When we struggle and step outside of them, we get clobbered.

Jesus told the apostles “Follow Me.”  In essence that was his command to all of us in order to make his birth on earth the success it was supposed to be.  He gave a great many other guiding principles that followers can find value in.  Can you find value in followership?  Can you find value in living out the life Jesus outlined for you to follow?

* Yeah, I know the title has nothing to do with what I wrote...I just thought it sounded cool!  Gandalf would be proud.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Next New Thing

My Mother was a true child of the great depression.  She lived in a rickety little cabin of unpainted boards in Virginia.  I remember watching, as a child growing up, her putting the little pieces of several used up bars of soap together in a pot to melt them back into one big new bar.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

We live in an era of materialism and waste that has proliferated to a level unheard of in human history.  We justify that computer full of rare earth elements tossed into the trash, because it would cost more in labor to fix it than it is worth.  We consider a three-year-old car ancient and a “clunker” that has to be replaced, and it gets traded off to a car dealer in Mexico.  Our cars cost what whole houses go for in many places in the world.  The landfills proliferate, the toxic waste dumps get added, and we all wonder if they will contaminate our water with all our trash.  I went on a fire in a landfill dump recently and wondered if it was even safe to breathe the smoky air around me as I drove my fire engine into the site. There is an entire island many miles wide in the Pacific Ocean where trash from our rivers and beaches around the world floats as the various currents meet.. 

I am not much better than most at this either.  I do try to recycle most of what I can like computers, bottles and cans but it barely scratches the surface of what I consume.  But what this waste says to me about our culture’s insatiable appetite for more of everything is troubling.  You barely buy an Ipad before it is obsolete and you “have to have the new model” yet much of the world lives in abject poverty and hunger.  Those of us with an abundance of possessions and all the new toys and trinkets are not all that much happier than we were without them, and we often turn to drugs, alcohol and other forms of release to search for happiness.  We can’t see that things don’t buy happiness.  True joy comes in knowing God and living in that peace and expressing his love to others.  It comes more from giving than it does from taking and using.  I’m not saying that abject poverty is a whole lot of fun, but I know all our excessive materialism isn’t the answer, either.

Look Ma, No Hands!

I was walking downtown today and happened to encounter a man and his very young son.  The boy was on a bicycle without training wheels.  Mom was walking a little ways back as he picked up speed.  Today was the big day, apparently, where he would hopefully learn to control the bike and ride on his own without crashing.  Dad was there holding the seat slightly out of the range of the kid’s vision.  I can imagine all the days with training wheels, and all the times after the wheels were removed that that father watched his child jackknife and start to fall.

Today was going to be different.  The excitement was visible in this humble spectacle, and even I enjoyed watching and remembering going through the same exercise with my son and daughter years ago.  Nothing is more satisfying than to see them succeed at the task.  It is rewarding to them, and it is especially gratifying to the parent when they succeed.

I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to God’s careful instruction to us on how to live.  His desire is for us to succeed and to be able to “balance” and reap the rewards.  We balance living in a world of self-centeredness that ignores God, and our job is to worship Him and try our very best to live according to his guidance as we grow up in Him.  When he lets go of our “seat back” and watches us roll down that sidewalk of life, he is always there like that little boy’s father ready to catch us if we lose control.  He may be behind us out of sight, but he is there. 

Nothing could make him happier than to see us living according to his guidance, and riding that bike safely with perfect balance.

Love In Action

I often find it hard to love.  I’ve been around the block a few times and I know from experience that the people that I have to interact with, or those I let even closer into my life, are by their innermost nature not going to be lovable sometimes, most of the time, or even all of the time.  They are going to do their best to put themselves first and me second (if I’m lucky) or third and on down the line to infinity.  It’s just the way it is.  Yet, am I confusing “love” with “like” here?

Reading the Bible is an exercise in love.  It’s central theme is love…but what is love?  Webster’s says a lot about it.  It is one of the longest definitions in their dictionary…ending with “scoreless in tennis” (been there, done that!)  Most of their definitions relate to feelings and actions expressed to another.  Is love just a feeling of affection or an amorous sexual episode (that is if you’re not playing tennis!)  Or is it something more, and how do we relate that to our own attitude and behavior?  The Bible defines love, too.  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is one of the best places to find that definition.  In the Bible’s simplest definition it says “God is love.”  Even Webster’s Dictionary recognizes that. I think that is where we need to take our cue about love and how we need to express it.

So, back to my problem.  I often find it hard to love, but am I confusing “love” with “like?”   Jesus didn’t command me to “like” one another.  He commanded me to “love one another.”   I once read a statement that sums it up pretty well:  “You may like someone because of who he is, but you love someone because of who you are.”  In the same way, God’s love is unconditional and he loves us because of who He is and not who we are.  That doesn’t mean he likes how we behave or how we relate to Him.  Still, he goes on loving us just as much.  It also doesn’t mean that we don’t wind up being disciplined by life or by God for what we are like and what we do.  That is the practical take away from all of this…that our loving someone doesn’t mean we completely overlook what they do.  Consequence is a part of life and learning.  Our patient, kind, and loving correction is expected as a part of our loving others.  I agree, by our nature it is hard to do when you don’t have the “like” to go with the “love.”  Still, that is what is expected and we should strive for in our lives.

Jesus said, “love one another, even as I have loved you.”  He loved us enough to die in our place.  I don’t honestly think I could do that for someone I don’t even like.  I’m human and very flawed…but I can understand what the message is and I can try to get as close as possible to that attainment. 

Will you?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

OK, The Election Is Over

The selection of a leader in our country is a sacred obligation in a democracy.  I have discussed before how appalling it is that only about 1 person in ten who lives here and is eligible to vote in this country actually is responsible for choosing the president (I understand in Australia if you don’t vote, they will charge you criminally and fine you!)  So now that it is all over and the bumper stickers and campaign ads are gone or of no purpose, what do we do?

We have a Biblical obligation to support our government leaders in the performance of their civil duties.  We should pray for those leaders.  But, when those civil administration duties conflict with our Christian beliefs we have a duty to stand with God.  We have elected a president who believes that abortion is good, and that marriage is not a sacred union between just a man and a woman.  We do not give up our disagreement with his position because of his position as a “ruler” over the nation (and don’t miss the significance of that word “ruler.”  He does set rules and has a host of agencies that make “rules” that function as laws without benefit of your vote or the vote of your elected representative’s.) 

I guess I am somewhat libertarian in my views.  I think God pretty much set it up that way when he gave us free will…and laid out the consequences for disobedience.  I have talked about my feelings on gay marriage in the past.  We have turned marriage into a civil ceremony where historically it had not been.  At this point, it matters little to me if gays marry in front of a judge or a radical religion that then claims them “married.”  If we are forced to perform ceremonies in a church that follows Biblical teachings, then I will stand against it.  The concept of abortion is much more difficult for me to accept.  The point at which life begins is a question that will be argued into eternity, and I would rather think it begins earlier than at the moment of birth.  Regardless of your position on either of these, I don’t think Christians should retreat from standing up for what they believe on these faith-based questions.   Is our country definitely in need of a spiritual renewal and a real wake-up call on our deteriorating moral values.  I think so.  We need to stand as Christians for those beliefs.

Just as serious a problem to me is what the elected leaders will do in a society that is increasingly “entitlement” oriented.  Democracies tend to disintegrate as the electorate discovers it can vote more money away from the wealthy through taxation and redistribution until society collapses economically.  The Bible says that someone who doesn’t work shall not eat.  I take that to mean that we have an obligation to take care of ourselves and not be lazy and depend on government handouts WHEN YOU ARE CAPABLE OF WORKING.  (Please note the emphasis, I am not talking about those who are genuinely seeking work, disabled, etc.)  In this country today, nearly half the population is receiving some kind of government assistance, and the number is growing along with our growing and alarming national debt.  That is not a good sign for the future.  We need to create jobs and we need to create an expectation that you will work!

Watching the post election stock market trend significantly downward again today and hearing the political posturing of our leadership in this post election period is not encouraging to me.  I think it is time we all began praying for wisdom on the part of our leaders in a big way. 

Pray continually folks…

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Believe In Satan

I believe in Satan.  Not the Flip Wilson style “the devil made me do it” Satan, but the real one.  Not the cute harmless little guy with the horns and the pitchfork in the red suit either.  I’m talking about the one who whispers lies.  The one who considers “self” the center of the universe, and “others” and “things” just a means to our own pleasure.  I believe in the devil who is shut out of heaven, and because of that desires to take as many others with him as he can.  Misery loves company, and I believe the devil is miserable.

We call him by different names these days and don’t even realize it.  I’ve encountered reports documenting that people contact more spiritual mediums and channelers than professional counselors for advice.  I find that pretty scary to be perfectly honest.  I’ve seen people in my own life who have gone down that path.  Many are duped by clever charlatans, but I believe some become ensnared by Satan himself in the person of these modern day demons who simply go by a different name.

The Bible doesn’t spend a huge amount of time fleshing out the devil’s character or the reasons for his actions.  We are told he did battle with God for control and he and one-third of the angels of heaven fell from heaven that day.  We are told he walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but actually more time is spent on the nature of God and our relationship with him.  After all, the whole book is just one long love letter to us to get us to straighten up and fly right and to have that relationship with God that He longs for.  But that “Dark Knight” has his reasons and his methods for destruction.  Satan’s lusts, negative thoughts, accusations, self-doubts, are all inserted into a listening mind.  And yet he has no power if we reject those lies and live in the Truth that God loves us, and our armor against Satan is the sanctification given us by God through Christ’s death on the cross.  Satan’s goal is to make us focus on ourselves, the material and the present.  We are given the chance by God to focus on the eternal, the spiritual and service to others.

Satan is persistent, I’ve got to give him credit for that.  He even badgered Christ Himself in the wilderness and offered Him all the material self-aggrandizing things he could think of.  If he is bold enough to attack Jesus, the we surely have a daily need to put on protection from his onslaught.  Reject Satan right now, out loud in Christ’s name so you hear it and he hears it.  Continue that fight and immerse yourself in the light of God’s word.  Satan has no power over you.  You are free.  Accept no cheap imitations of life now...or in the hereafter.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Right Time Every Time

“Timing Has Everything To Do With The Outcome of a Rain Dance”Will Rogers.

What if Jesus had come to the present day United States to do his work of redemptive power instead of Israel in the first Century.  Well, firstly, there would be no first Century.  Who knows how we would have marked time now without that event.  Up until then, my sense is there was no marking of time in any particularly meaningful way except by seasons and annual celebrations in various cultures.  I hear the Mayans had a calendar, perhaps beginning with the first known ear of corn or the first sacrificed virgin or who knows what.  The Jews could date back through the generations and determine their cultural existence back about 3,000 years or so, to Adam and Eve, but did they remark that this was the year 2999 and worry about Y3K making their pens run out of ink and cows not give milk, etc.?

So if Jesus came now, we would start a new calendar…yes?  Or would the event be marked by being largely ignored by the press, mocked by investigators, and relegated to the world of fringe lunatics like those who are waiting for the aliens to pick them up and sport them off to faraway planets. 

I suspect in the U.S. Jesus would be tolerated about as well as we tolerate the Chevy Volt, Bill O’Reilly, Gays, Muslims, Lindsey Lohan, and the TV series Jackass.  Just another day in paradise.  Small blip on the evening news about a hilarious rumored feeding of 5,000 men in Yosemite Valley and maybe an episode of “Ghost Hunters” devoted to proving spirits can reside in pigs.  Doctors would mock the concept of healing.  The culture would absorb it and largely ignore it.  We’d go on to playing pong and Tetris on our 4g Tablets, and drinking Venti Lattes at Starbucks.  We are more blaze and materialistic than any culture in history.  I think it would just pass us by and travel into history like the “Howdy Doody” and the “Slinky.”

I suspect that God had a specific reason for appearing to the Jews of ancient Israel at that place and time.  I suspect that reason had a lot to do with his knowledge that that would be the time He would have the most impact on the world.  Being all knowing is a handy attribute for God to possess, afterall!  Not one single person on the face of the earth has had the impact that Jesus Christ has had on the world.  I am glad he came then, and I look forward to his return when God knows the right time and place will be for that event.


The Bible tells us to pray.  Jesus prayed and encouraged prayer as a means to connect with God.  So, what should we expect of prayer?  So often, our prayers are a laundry list of what we want God to do for us.  “Help me pass my chemistry test, make that cute cheerleader be my girlfriend, give me that bright shiny new car I want…” and the list goes on.  Even if the things we ask for aren’t self-centered or materialistic, does that mean we should expect God to grant our every whim?  After all, He is God, not Santa Claus.  Loving us implies that God may have a better idea for us than we do.  Jesus said God will give “good gifts to those who ask”…he did not say he will give you exactly what you ask for.  Sometimes “No” is the right answer to prayer. If you factor in the concept of mankind’s God-given free will, how can God be compelled to answer all prayers the way we want?  If Janie wants the Team captain instead of you for a boyfriend, which prayer does He answer?  Hmmm….  I can just see everyone at God Central running around pulling their celestial hairs out trying to answer all those conflicting prayers.

I am convinced that prayer is more often effective in changing our hearts than in getting everything on our “Christmas list” of wants.  God wants us to communicate with him and to recognize that he is with us in this thing called living.  We are to pray in keeping with God’s will, not just our own selfish desires.  And what’s more is that we are to be God’s hands on this earth for getting things in keeping with his will accomplished.  If we don’t do it, no one will.  If we gather together, unified, and pray in keeping with the kinds of things we know from the Bible that God would want…and then work toward accomplishing those things instead of just sitting on our hands, it will come to pass.  You can count on it!

Finance 101

In slightly less than a month, the federal budget control act is scheduled to implement spending cuts that might very well result in a serious new blow to our economy.  If nothing is changed in that law, on January 1, 2013 the average person’s household tax payments will go up by $3,500, and the mandated spending cut of $110 billion would potentially threaten the nation's security by being mostly taken from the defense budget.  Nonetheless, the independent Congressional Budget Office projects that it will at least improve the U.S. $16 trillion dollar part of the debt problem markedly by 2014, though we will still be in debt somewhere in the vicinity of 2 trillion dollars each year going forward from 2014.

But the hidden real story is even more significant.  The current national debt is actually much more than 16 Trillion dollars (over $140,000 per U.S. taxpayer by the way.)  Not only is this increasing debt from the money our government borrows from investors (like China) but also money the government owes itself (like the Social Security trust fund which has been raided by congress to attempt to balance its spending nearly every year for almost 40 years and is virtually empty.)  When you take all of this into account, our government actually owes more than $70 trillion going forward. This number also includes money we can project that we have committed to pay in the relatively near future for things like Medicare (about $38 trillion.) 

Part of the problem with both Medicare and Social Security is our U.S. population’s increased life expectancy.  Back in 1935, when the official retirement age was put at 65, life expectancy averaged out at about 62, now men live on average to 83, women to 85.  Additionally, when Medicare was created in 1965, 16 workers contributed retirement funds to the program for every person receiving these funds.  The situation was similar with Social Security when it was created.  Today the ratio is about three to one and estimates are that in 2030, it could be around two to one. If you extend it out even further, the number of Americans over 65 will double from about 40 million to 80 million by around 2050. 

The huge amount of money planned to be chopped from the Federal budget in the arena of Defense spending is particularly troubling.  Since about 1960 the percentage of the national budget that was provided for defense has fallen from 52 percent to 23 percent; the part spent on health has gone up from one percent to 23 percent.  Both are important, but how do we go about financing both adequately?  Which of the many demands like these two are really the responsibility of the federal government?

Our nation needs a complete budget overhaul in what government is expected to provide and when, especially at the federal level.  We have seen much of Europe plunge into chaos from its reliance on the socialist provider model, and unless someone takes the reins to change our approach to government, we could very likely follow in that collapse.

If we are to be good and faithful stewards of what we are given in this world, we need to think long and hard about what we allow and expect our government to do.  We also need to think about what God expects us to do in serving our fellow man.  Many in this country have turned the job of “charity assistance” over to the government.  Does the government do an efficient job of providing this assistance, or does the government just make those who receive it comfortable and dependent on it?  Is the government efficient at the work it does with our money?  I don’t pretend to know the answer to those questions, but it is certainly part of the overall question that needs to be answered.  What exactly is government expected to provide versus what is my personal responsibility?

I don’t know what either of the main presidential candidates or congressional candidates will really do in January to improve the situation.  They all seem to have very different positions in the matter.  I do know that if the ones elected continue to spend at the wicked rate that both republicans and democrats have done over the last 12 years, we are in serious trouble.  I pray that God guides us all in our decisions on voting day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 40 Year-Old Non-Virgin

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a guy when I was having dinner and listening to a friend sing in a restaurant/bar downtown.  There were two women uncomfortably sitting on the same bar stool at the bar, and so I got up and offered them my table with two chairs in exchange for their one seat.  I shortly struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me at the bar and apologized for running off the two beautiful women and blowing his chances.

It was interesting that what followed was a unique opportunity for me.  He started to share with me his life’s dating experiences.  Turns out, he unburdened himself about a lot of things about his doubts about what he wanted in life.  At age 40 he was fearful of losing out on sex someday, and wanted as much as he could get from the women he dated now.  He said he wasn’t looking for marriage, either.  He didn’t want kids (and his current squeeze had one) and yet he said he loved kids and doing “Dad” kind of things with them.  I felt an overwhelming need come over me to share what I had experienced in my life, my failures, and most of all my belief that God was the answer.  And, that I felt that following His plan and rules for living was the most rewarding way to live.

I can’t say that I had an impact on him (he told me he wasn’t religious, although he would want his kids to be if he had any!  Hmm…that interested me.)  I will probably never know if I had any real impact on this fellow, but what prompts me to write all this is that I have never been one to do “cold call evangelism” on strangers all the time.  It’s not my gift, but in this exchange it was the right time and the right place.  I had built a relationship with this man by sharing of my life and his, and our mutual ups and downs…and THEN told him about what mattered most to me.  That sharing of Christ with him was natural and logical because of that.  Like Jesus with the woman at the well, or Jesus healing and preaching, a relationship was built and then the message was delivered.  I once had a woman come in to my work and the first thing she did was march up to me and ask was I a Christian?  Then she launched into a fire-laden prayer for my soul when I told her I was.  It put ME off, and frankly if I had not been a believer I would not have been “evangelized,” I am sure!!  It just made me think, “people would think:  this woman was weird and crazy, why should I believe what she believes?”

Which brings me to the point of all this.  We need to establish a level of relationship with those who we seek to bring to Christ.  Don’t hide it.  Don’t just spend your religious life in Church, but take it to the world in all your activities.  It is not the healthy that need the doctor, but rather the sick, to paraphrase Jesus. Use the opportunities that arise out there in the real world…and remember, they will arise and be accepted when you show love and concern in relationship with your fellow man.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Apple A Day (or MacIntrash!)

Is Apple’s logo blasphemy?  The Russian Orthodox Church apparently thinks so. This is the kind of silliness that plagues religion and wastes everyone’s time, as well as turning people off to actual “faith.”  The difference between “religion” and “faith” is typified by this kind of nonsense.  People think “if this is what religion spends its time and energy on, I’m not interested in being part of it.”  It becomes laughable.  The designers at apple present a whole different explanation of what it meant to them…and besides, the “real apple” had not one but two bites out of it!!

If we are going to go along with this kind of reactionary thinking, then why not ban all apples from the grocery store?  Why not arrest people for taking a bite out of an apple.  To further waste time on this, it is important to note that the Bible doesn’t even say it is an apple that Eve gave to Adam.  Since we don’t even know if it was an apple, I guess we have to ban all fruit and fruit symbols just to make sure.  No more underwear by Fruit of the Loom, either. Good grief!  Many in the Christian world suggest the whole “apple” story is an allegory to represent man’s fall into self-centeredness from God-centeredness.  Whether we believe that or not doesn’t really matter overly much, as long as we understand that man chose to obtain the knowledge and power of God and become his equal which caused our downfall.

Instead of wasting time, energy and money trying to ban Apple products in Russia, why not spend some effort getting rid of genuine corruption and crime there?  Why not spend some time working on righting some of the “real” wrongs in society or serving the poor or spreading the faith instead. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if all this weren’t really designed as a plan to boost sales of some Russian knock-off computer company “Ipad” and get rid of American influence there.
To my friends reading this in Russia: Don’t waste your faith energy getting involved in this kind of thing.  And if you want to support the Russian economy by buying something made in Russia, then do that.  Just don’t make it about Religion.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Angel On A Pin

So, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (and are they doing the salsa?)  I remember hearing that philosopher’s question as a kid and thinking it was pretty silly, until I began to think more on what was meant by asking it.  What does God and the rest of his creation look like?

What do we know of God?  Did you ever consider that the one thing that appears to make us different from all the rest of earthly creation is that we have an in-built antenna that seeks out God? (By the way--why have a receiver antenna if there is no one sending a message--?) The world has been filled with different faiths virtually since time began.  Of course there are a few who have made atheism their creed  but the reception is bad on their receiver as far as I’m concerned.  (Remember, if you cry out to God during sex, on your deathbed, or when you feel he is convenient to damn something, then you lose your gold card membership in the “My God is No God” club!)

So then, what is the nature of God?  How many angels are there?  Are they very tiny and that’s why we don’t always see them?  Is any of that even important?  Hardly.

I think the important thing we need to think about in learning the nature of God is what he says about Himself in the Bible through those who have had contact with Him.  He appears to have been pretty serious about not appearing and being looked at physically.  Moses, had a few things to say about that and never really got a clear look because it would have killed him.  That’s a bit scary, isn’t it?  To think that looking at God would make us “surely die.”  How come is that?  My theory is our sinful nature would be so painfully obvious to us in God’s presence that we would literally die of shame…but that is all pre-Christ.  Now with His death on the cross, we can stand before God as a sinless creature…and live.

To me the big take-away from all this business of trying to picture and define God is that he is beyond all that…except to say that He is Love.  We've clearly been told that repeatedly in the Bible.  If we remember that, we simply don’t need to know what his physical looks are like…we’ll find out soon enough! 

And it will pay to be His and be ready.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I’ve worked for most of my life in law enforcement and firefighting/medical/rescue work.  One of the things we emphasize in the extreme is always being aware of what is going on around you and what your mission is at any given moment.  “Be Vigilant and Stay Focused” is one way I’ve heard it summarized.  Failing to do so can get you hurt, or can injure your crew or the people you are trying to help.  It is also a good guideline for life itself, no matter who you are or what you do.

There are always people out there who actively want to lead you astray into a lifestyle that is not productive or even may be dangerous, either in the now…or in the hereafter.  Often times it is because they feel guilty about who they are and how they live and want you to ratify their status as “OK” by becoming like them.  The old phrase “misery loves company” has some application here.  Recognizing those temptations and plotting a better path to the goal is constant battle.  Paul likens it to running a race and the focus that it takes to keep up the mission even as the runner approaches exhaustion before the finish line.

The Bible repeatedly encourages us all to be vigilant and stay focused.  If you let your guard down it is very easy to get off track in your life.  So much is tempting to the fleshly self-centered humans we are.  Sex, drugs, wealth, power.  Do I have the cool car?  Do I have the latest Iphone?  We measure our success as individuals often by these standards.  Am I wealthy enough?  Am I pretty enough?  Do people admire me enough? 

God admires me.  God loves me unconditionally just the way I am.  I need to be vigilant and stay focused on Him and not on those externals that would lead me astray.

Be Vigilant, Stay Focused!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It's Mine!!

Is Satan the ruler of this planet?  Luke 4:6 says that the Devil told Jesus that all this Domain and its glories have been handed over to me and I give it to whomever I wish. So are we truly foreigners in a land that is not ours…a land in which God has no power?

I rather think that the Devil is the father of lies and was being a bit boastful to make himself seem more powerful than God. I think that when Paul refers to Satan as being  “the prince of the power of the air” that maybe he meant “hot air.”  Frankly, I don’t believe anything the Devil would say.  He is often referred to correctly as the father of lies. In fact, the ONLY power Satan has over us is the lie. Yes, this is a broken world in which Satan holds influence.  He is able to have free reign to lead us into our natural man’s self-centered behaviors…but God is still in charge over all.  It really bothers me when people say that this world belongs to Satan. God is not a visiting ambassador and we as Christians are not aliens without a green card.

To me it seems more like the parts of the city that get written off during battles (whether they be against crime or political enemies.)  The city is under the control of one power group (the government) but they haven’t completely cleaned out pockets of resistance or crime.  The enemy is on the run.  He is defeated already, he just hasn’t bled out yet from his wounds.

This earth was not created to be Satan’s domain of action.  We pulled that stunt out of the bag when we disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.  But Christ defeated Satan’s grip on us by his crucifixion and resurrection.  The battle isn’t over in each of our daily lives, but the tide of that battle has changed, and Satan has no hope of winning in the end if we simply believe that the gift of salvation is ours through Christ’s atonement.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Search

You know it’s funny, my whole life I’ve been searching.  At thirteen I accepted Christ, but I still was in search mode.  The world offered so much in the way of fulfillment and success that even if I knew God, I still looked for identity, fulfillment, success and achievement outside of my relationship with Him.

It’s taken me this long to figure out that all I really need to do is recognize that God loves me for who I am, and that all I need to do is love him back.  How simple is that.  And what a model for our relationships in the world…especially with our significant others like wives, kids and other family and friends.  Maybe we should even think about extending that, since Christ said we were to love our enemies too, after all!  Wow, that’s a hard one, isn’t it?  Love people who hate us?  How do we do that?  How do we?  I know I sure don’t do it on my own power…and guess what…I sure don’t enjoy doing it, either. It’s a huge struggle.  I think God probably understands that struggle…he probably feels that way about most of us sometimes!

I remember in one of my seminar classes at work we all did an exercise called “Stranded on the Moon.”  We had a list of things we had available to us in our wrecked spaceship, and the group was supposed to figure out how to survive on the moon using those things only.  The idea was that as a group we would come to a better plan than as individuals.  But, in spite of that, once in a while, one person would figure out the best way to survive all by themsleves.

Faith is like that…it’s a one-person plan.  The world or your friends aren't going to do it for you.  You figure it out by yourself and make that decision on your own.  The group doesn’t save you.  You stand alone before God based on your decision.

What’s your plan?  Are you still searching…?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spiritual But Not Religious

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest.  If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children.  The Life Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost.” 

Lewis called it “wishful thinking.”  Today we cleverly call this being “spiritual but not religious.”  I’ve noticed it’s all the rage in the online dating circles, and to me it says nothing about what you believe…and speaks volumes about who you are.  It reminds me of Revelation 3:15 “So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  I’ve heard it called “generic spirituality.”  It is the kind of faith that you are in favor of because it doesn't cost you anything.  This generic spirituality has its shortcomings.  It is most often not “other” centered, but focuses on “self” and it seldom provides things of importance to mankind in general.  It certainly doesn’t focus clearly on eternal values.  And it lacks structured organizational power (how many orphanages in Kenya or Guatemala are caring for hungry children with a banner over the door that says we are “Spiritual But Not Religious.”)

Not that I’m trying to say that those who consider themselves “religious” are perfect.  We often go to church with what I’ve heard called a “transactional mindset.”  We think, if I go to church, I get brownie points and God will bless me.  Or we give money to the church not so things of value can be done for mankind, but because we will “earn” our way to a reward and please God (read about Cain in Genesis and see how well that turned out for him.)  Sometimes it is subtle and done unconsciously.  I am so glad my pastor usually makes a point to have people understand that giving is not to be done that way with a “I have to” or a “reward” attitude, but it has gone on that way for centuries in churches all over the world.

In America, the people who count themselves as not being a member of any religion has grown five percent in the last five years.  That’s a big jump.  It’s the fastest growing “religion” in America.  Almost one-third of all Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation at all in spite of all our upbeat efforts to make churches more entertaining with contemporary music, light shows, charismatic speakers, high tech media, and coffee cup holders in the pews.

As far as Western Civilization goes, we still do better than most at finding folks in church on Sunday.  Europe, on the other hand, shows a dreadful decline.  Here at least some continually care enough to fight battles over whether we can put up a cross or a manger in some community somewhere every Christmas.  We at least are willing to argue that it is OK to say Merry Christmas to a customer at Wal Mart when someone files a lawsuit about it.  But what about tomorrow?  I still don't like the trend.

Though most Americans claim a belief in God, that belief lacks the statements of faith of organized religion and often becomes whatever the individual wants.  Voltaire once said:  “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  It seems as though in America, we are on a course to do just that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Well, I hope you all watched the first in the U.S. Presidential Debate Series…it’s sort of politics’ version of the World Series in baseball.  Hopefully, one person hits it out of the park and wins, and the other loses.

As these candidates and the political action committees put out advertisements that are often filled with exaggeration, innuendo, and even outright falsehoods, remember, in a war of words it is the one whose actions have matched his words that should be chosen the winner.

In Romans, we are told by Paul that it is our duty to obey our government (except where it violates our Christian faith.)  I think it is also our duty as citizens to watch these debates and be informed.  It is the only opportunity to see the candidates discuss the issues of importance and challenge each other’s approaches and falsehoods directly.  It is a sad fact that almost 30% or more of the country’s citizen’s who can mail in ballots early, will have voted before these debates occur.  In a country where money usually makes the difference in election outcomes, we cannot overlook the only opportunity we have to level the playing field and have an honest debate by the candidates.  Frankly, I wish we could remove all the advertising and bar all spending except that provided by our taxes and by public service programming all divided equally between the candidates.

I believe our country is at a critical juncture, and the very survival of the United States as we know it is at stake.  This election will forever affect our economy, businesses, health care, education and likely our sovereignty and the very basic freedoms of speech and religion we cherish in ways we cannot even predict at this point.

Make your voice heard…but be informed before you do it!  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Here Come The Judge

Have you ever been told: “Who are you to judge me?  You don’t know me!”  How many times have you felt that way when someone judged you in some setting?  Was it a teacher, a coworker, a friend…a pastor?  I’ve often thought that Christians are the most judgmental people on the planet, largely because they have a set of immutable standards given them in the Bible.  Unfortunately, it often goes further than that because they judge out of a sense of “I’m better than you,” which is a horrible thing to do...and a false concept as well.  Oftentimes the judgments go beyond the standards given by God and are applied simply because of superficial things that have no real meaning.   For example, the guy with all the tattoos is judged as a bad person by some people, or the woman with the tattered and dirty clothes is judged as a bad person, and the list goes on.

But aren’t I being naïve if I fail to judge?  We are born with an innate ability and need to judge.  It keeps us safe. We make judgments on the weather based on the clouds; we judge the driving risk when the road is wet.  We avoid dark alleys and certain areas at certain times.  Or maybe we see a rickety bridge or even a hungry cougar and decide it isn’t safe.  But sunny days come along and roads dry out.  We judge an event or condition based on time.  Things change…and people change, too.  I remember the vivid image in the Scarlet Letter of the woman who committed adultery being shunned and forced to wear a big red “A” on her clothes forever.  She was judged.  There is a huge difference in judging versus disciplining.  I would hate to be judged that way forever on my mistakes and sins.  How about you?  Those early pilgrims were taking on the role of God in permanently judging character rather than giving loving discipline over behavioral mistakes.  Our court system was fashioned on this principle, yet so often the ex-criminal carries the stigma of judgment like a “Big Red A” on their chest even if they are completely reformed by their “discipline” in the court process.

I worked with the Major Crimes Task Force for several years, and we rotated undercover officers out of those drug and prostitution environments regularly.  It was not a place to hang out for long.  It would be naïve to continually and closely associate with people who constantly involve themselves in sinful behavior as men like the well-known “Preacher of Bourbon Street” in New Orleans found out.  That’s the kind of  “judgment” we all have to make to take care of ourselves.  Going to wild drug parties or cruising around in cars with people who plan to commit burglaries would be pretty dumb. Telling those people that their behavior is wrong would not be.  Jesus hung out sometimes with serious sinners for the express purpose of disciplining their behavior and beliefs, but his close inner circle, that he spent most of his time with, were those he picked for their more mature qualities.  Were they perfect…not in the least.  And when they were visibly imperfect, Jesus disciplined them with love…but he did not judge them.

He was the only one who actually had the right to judge them and he didn’t…can we do no less?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weighing In On A Slight "Slight"

Years ago when I was instructing martial arts to police officers, I had a student in the training class who was comparing the difficulty of taking control of someone who was really big with someone that has a “slight” build…at which point she aimed her finger at ME as an example of the “slight” build!  Just days before my doctor had just told me that I was overweight by all standards and needed to lose at least 15 pounds to be on the mark.  So what was she talking about!  My build wasn’t “slight.”  It was a silly thing to react to, but I think its implications are more serious than they might seem.

People in America are so overweight that we consider ourselves, or someone else, normal or even thin when they really are not, and I think we are so influenced by the society that we live in that we have trouble distinguishing what is correct in matters way beyond just how much we weigh. The same issue applies to the relativism we apply to our behaviors.  “It’s OK because everyone does it!”  So that unreported income and underpayment of our real income tax due, the excessive amount of alcohol we all consumed at that “great” party at Joe’s house, that lie we told to keep from getting into trouble at home, that person we flirted with outrageously at work or even maybe slept with while our spouse was out of town—they all become normal and we tell ourselves we are OK.  How often is that kind of moral relativism taking over our lives because of what we learn from the media and others’ presentations and opinions?

The only real standard to measure against is God’s word.  It becomes the “weight chart,” so to speak, that we need to measure ourselves against.  The only way to do that is to read it and listen to it, instead of reading and listening to what the world offers.  Let it become the seed on the good ground that flourishes and grows in your life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's The Oldest Profession and Also the Oldest Problem

I’ve been avoiding this subject for several days.  But, I’ve spent time chewing on it and I just have to bring it up here.  It’s really personal, but I think it’s important.
We live in a morally decadent society in a broken world, which is nothing new.  It’s been that way since creation, and it’s just what we are given to deal with.  And one of the most pervasive things that seems to crop up is how we see sex and what our resultant beliefs and actions are.  In America we are rapidly losing Christian believers as a proportion of our society.  “New Age” and “Spiritual but Not Religious” philosophies are taking over and they are quite comfortable with sexual experimentation and also living together or engaging in sex before marriage.  Even inside the Church for those who remain, huge numbers of members are involved sexually outside of marriage with little or no conviction before God.
Is all this moralizing by those who follow the Bible misguided?  Isn’t sex just a normal act between two consenting adults (which sidesteps the whole teen sex scene involving over half of our young people.)  I’ve heard it argued this way by so many, but I still can’t accept it.  Don’t get me wrong, I know you can wind up having sex and know it’s wrong and reset your goals not to do that (like any of the other many sins we all commit as imperfect beings.)  I’m talking about those who have no thought to avoiding sex.
Why do I think all this is important?  Because I think sex should be an outgrowth of a relationship that absolutely will be there regardless of whether sex is involved or not.  “I would love you and be with you if we never had sex” is the goal.  Then sex becomes an awesome plus to a relationship, and often produces children that fulfill that relationship even more.
I get the “You are just a prude who doesn’t like sex” thrown at me, and nothing could be farther from the truth.  I miss it terribly.  It is awesome.  I also get: “Yeah, but I need to check out the merchandise before I buy it, what if they aren’t any good in bed!”  Well, did you ever think that maybe you might not be any good in bed yourself?  How do you think anyone satisfies another person sexually?  They talk about it and learn it…with each other…because they care enough about each other to be together even if there were no sex…ever!  That is caring and love that seeks to offer oneself and really satisfy each other.  That’s what we need.
I also think that all too often people engage in sex early, outside of marriage, and that REALLY short circuits the whole process of developing the relationship.  Oh sure, you realize you may like them as a sexual partner, but you may find you can’t stand the idea of being around them the rest of your life.  Plus, there is always some kind of psychic debris resultant from any sexual relationship that goes awry and breaks up…it has to do with the power of the act.  It’s like putting superglue on something you find out you don’t want to join together…when you tear it apart it rips everything all to pieces and leaves scars.
I’ve got enough scars from a whole bunch of things in this life.  I don’t need more.