Archive for April, 2015

Why dont the sequels stop?

When we read through the Old Testament, one thing stands out, people keep turning their back on God. Its like watching the same disaster movie with different characters for 8000 years. After a while, we know the plot and we know how its going to end. Its hard to imagine how they could have God play such an active roll in their lives and turn their back on Him or even forget about Him. Often God even sent prophets to warn them of the doom before them, but they were too stubborn to listen and often killed the prophets so they wouldn’t have to hear the judgment of their complicity in sin. Inevitably God raises up a foreign leader to rise up against His chosen people and they’re destroyed until they repent. This just keeps going on, over and over and they just didn’t get it. What is wrong with them?

Still, if we do a bit of reflection, the Christian church of today isn’t much different. Just as the Jews allowed the worship of God to become a hollow inconvenience, so have we. Statistically, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God, at least in theory, but our country is racing away from Him. We are back to worshipping idols again. How is this possible? The American reliance on God has become empty lip service. Sin has become a viable personal decision and calling something sin is the greatest sin. Even the name of God or Jesus is being banned from the public forum.

So again we see His people turning from Him and many believe that God will discipline us yet again. Perhaps our Babylonian captivity isn’t too far into the future. Its as hard for us to imagine, as it was for the Jews thousands of years ago. Would God really allow His people to be crushed so cruelly? Everything in the Bible is there for a reason and there is a lot of history to show us that He would. Our debauchery isn’t something new and although we do have new technology to promote it, its the same old deadly sins rearing their ugly head. Just new idols.

We must remember that even though the world seems to be going crazy around us, God is in control. God wasn’t surprised  by Babylon or taken off guard by Egypt. Neither is God fretting over Islam. Islam isn’t making progress by its own merits, the power isn’t in those leaders. Perhaps God is no longer constraining another Middle East dragon to, once again, discipline His people. I believe God is in control. This isn’t the way He wants it, He just wants His people to return to Him and misery is the only thing that seems to work. We are a stiff-necked arrogant people.

Christians often look at the times we’re in and think that Jesus must be coming soon. Perhaps He is, but why aren’t His people acting like it? Many are sure that they will escape the horrors to come because the rapture is near. If we really believed that, would we be so busy with things that really don’t matter? All that garbage that you’re wasting your life to acquire, wont even survive if He comes back tomorrow. So you’ve then wasted your life for nothing. Cheap idols that stole your life. Reconsider your priorities. Is it God or mindless acquisition of garbage that pushes God away from us? You have to choose. Lets make our heavenly Father our passion before we follow the stereotype.

Lets not become one of those dreaded sequels. We can change how this ends. Seek God with humility and a driven passion. What idols insulate you from God? Are the powers of those idols so intoxicating, that getting rid of them will leave a void in you? What would your friends says if you tossed away your useless idols? What would you do with all that time, read about your Savior?  What if people called you names for not following the greed and sensuality of the world? God wants so much more for us than cheap trinkets.

We aren’t any different from the Jews in Scripture, just different people at a different time. The struggles are the same. Lets not follow the same path, friends. Lets stop the sequel today.

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My Favorite Preacher

Lucy Snow[1]

I met my favorite preacher 8 1/2 years ago. My Aunt Carol had read an ad in the Milwaukee Sentinel from a fellow selling Bernese Mountain Dog puppies and passed it on to me. I had been looking for one for quite a while without much success, so I was elated to find 13 bouncing playful puppies wrestling in the gentleman’s basement. What a sight! More happiness in one room than you can imagine! Then came the daunting process of narrowing it down to one puppy. I started with the smallest who happened to be sitting on my shoe. I had wanted a really large one so the runt didn’t stand much of a chance. I picked her up and played with her a bit, noting her pretty eyes. Happy, but still a runt. I went through all 13 of them. The fellow would bring me one for inspection and as soon as I set them down, they were off to play with the others. Except for the runt. She never left my side. After I had visited with all the little bundles of fur, it was just her and I sitting there. She gave me one of those looks that was easy to read. It was” I choose you.” Well, could you argue with that face?

So Lucy picked me to be her person, her choice, and we’ve had 8 1/2 joyous years so far. I know that Bernese Mountains dogs only live, on average, 6 years so I’m thankful for every day we are together.

Why is she my favorite Preacher? Lucy has to trust me. She doesn’t have to understand all the things that are going on around her, she just has to look to me to know what to do. Even when she needs to get a shot at the vet, she trusts me over the pain. Her eyes are glued on me. Lucy doesn’t need to worry about bad weather, how much money we have, politics or if the car will start. She doesn’t want a new collar or more toys to play with, all she wants is to be with me.

There is little doubt that the Christian Church is going through the beginning stages of an unprecedented persecution. We are seeing Christians targeted for inhumane slaughter throughout the world. Our Holy book is banned in 52 countries. The political elite in our own country are outlawing the very same foundation, and its people, that our country is built on. Even our fellow Americans have turned on us. Within 3 generations our country has become unrecognizable and irrational. Failing to recognize and ignore these facts won’t save you or your family.

So what hope is there in all that doom and gloom? When we don’t understand all the craziness around us, we need to focus on our Master. We have a King that we can trust and He knows what to do. I chose him and He accepted me.

Lucy didn’t just have to choose me, she studied me and we had to learn how to communicate. Now we don’t really even have to speak, we know each others body language. To be most effective we have to study our King as well. He loves us when we disobey, but disobedience hurts the connection. We MUST keep our eyes on our Savior, we MUST study our Savior if we can stand for Jesus through the inevitable trials to come. There is only eternal hope in Jesus. There is no hope in what  you see around you. Nothing you can attain on your own even matters. All that matters is your bond with Jesus to get you through the anarchy to come.

Choose Him instead of running off to play with the others. Its the only hope you have friends.

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Grieving

Do you know those people who always know the right thing to say at a funeral? Well friends, that isn’t me. I mean that I want to say those words to make folks feel better, yet when it comes to speaking to the relatives, I always bungle it. It seems like I only open my mouth to change feet.

It isn’t that I don’t know what I’m talking about. My shelves are packed with books about Theodicy( the study of pain and suffering on earth as it relates to God). Still, knowing the how’s and why’s, the philosophical and theological, isn’t really what anyone wants to hear. The family and friends ask why and many other questions, but I’ve learned that they really don’t want to know why. Listening to me answer their questions doesn’t help one bit. When folks are in pain, they just want and need to grieve. Its vital that all the family members grieve at some point. Maybe not at the time of death or at the funeral, or even in public, but it has to happen. If someone doesn’t take the time to let it go, they’re going to be carrying a burden until they do. People were never designed to carry that burden, so let it out. At some point, purge your system, its healthy and manly.

I’ve learned that the best Scripture to quote is the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35. Jesus wept.

John 11: 1-44 tells the story about Lazarus. Here’s the Readers Digest version: Lazarus was sick, Martha called for Jesus to heal him, Jesus delayed in arriving, Lazarus died, Jesus showed up and Martha was PO’ed, everyone was grieving, Jesus wept, Jesus went to the tomb and raised Lazarus from the dead.

Now don’t miss this, Jesus knew perfectly well that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He still wept. Why? He wasn’t weeping for Lazarus. Here’s the key friends, when we weep, He weeps. Jesus’ compassion for us goes so deep that Martha and Mary’s grief, caused Him to weep. They didn’t grieve alone, we don’t grieve alone. When you are at that casket, and the weight of the world is on you and your heart is totally broken, the King of kings is next to you and He doesn’t go away. Your grief is His grief. Your tears aren’t alone.

Jesus had a greater plan for Lazarus. In his dying, Jesus was able to show how deeply He cares for us. Martha didn’t understand everything that was going on or that anyone would be reading her story 2000 yrs later. I don’t understand everything that’s going on today. What I do know is that He doesn’t leave you and you aren’t grieving alone. His arm is around you and His tears are as real as yours. You just have to trust Him through the pain. That’s perhaps the best definition of faith isn’t it?  Hope is only available through Jesus and its free. Get to know Him friends

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Biker trash Jesus?

Just suppose Jesus were to fit in somewhere in our modern society, where do you think He’d be most comfortable? Sometimes we get so involved in all the stories and research about our King that we almost lose sight of the fact that He walked the earth as a man. Give me a little grace friends and follow me on this path.

So what kind of a fellow was He? If you were to see Him walking down the street would you know Him from anyone else? Its unlikely He glowed or hovered along or really looked that different from anyone else. We shudder to think of a portly rotund Jesus or a peculiar nose. Scripture tells us that people were attracted to Him, but I tend to think that it was a different quality other than His appearance.

Lets say that He looked like a normal fellow, where, in our American culture, would He be most comfortable? He wouldn’t be a political leader. This is where He didn’t meet the Jewish expectations. Even Jesus wouldn’t mess with that, but He did support the role of government. A military leader or great fighter? Yes, but not the way we think of it. A teacher perhaps, but He didn’t follow the cultural rules well, so that wouldn’t have lasted long. So many occupations and segments of society.

My best understanding of Jesus tells me that He would have been a biker. Yes, of course, a Harley. I’m not really sure how that robe thing would work on a bike though. No helmet either, and I’m not sure how He’d shift with sandals.  Consider what we know about His life and the way He interacted with people.  The people Jesus hung around with is the most telling. Burly fisherman and other working class folks. Women supported Him and they weren’t part of the pristine crowd either. Mary Magdaline even had to have 7 demons taken out of her and He was known to hang out with several loose women. The men were loyal, but didn’t always use the best judgment. He was accused of being a drunkard and was pretty good at making hooch.

The elite crowd wasn’t who He liked to hang around with and the feeling was mutual. Although He wasn’t against wealth, He acknowledged it created a challenge for them. The weakest people were his favorites. The physically weak and mentally beaten He protected. Broken and failed people were always welcome.  Posers and users, like the fraudulent religious leaders were exposed and made to look foolish. He sure wasn’t afraid to cuss them out or tear up stuff when He felt they needed it.

Traveling and sleeping at friends houses was the norm and the carpentry career didn’t really last long.

Perhaps that wasn’t exactly what He was like, but I can relate to biker Jesus. I could shake His hand and listen to His stories. Its tough for us to imagine what it would be like to be near and hanging out with Middle East Jesus. The food is weird, they talked funny, but He was still a real man(and yes, God) . Flesh and blood, a real voice and warmth in His hug and handshake.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone by making the divine so common. I guess I enjoy kicking back sometimes and just imagining what kind of an earthly fellow He was. Just enjoying thinking about my Savior. Enjoy yourselves friends

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God just wants me to be happy

Does He?  Maybe. Lets consider what would make a person happy. Often when this phrase is used, someone is trying to justify a purchase that they cant afford. Lets suppose the purchase is made. How long does that happiness last? Likely not very long and the payments will certainly outlast this brief materialistic joy. Stuff might be fun, but there is no happiness there.

Consider Jesus’ conversation with a rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-23:

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sad, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.

That young man was all in for Jesus. Almost. That “stuff” that once made him happy now made him sad. The purchase that you may make will certainly enslave you for a while and you may end up hating the item for the sacrifice it requires. Ask anyone with a boat or a house that’s too large. More doesn’t equal happiness.

Other times the person uttering this phrase is contemplating leaving a spouse for yet another “soulmate.” Again, a clear violation of Gods law, but we try to give God credit for it by playing the happiness card. Then the guilt is on God, not you, so you get to feel justified in major sin. That way when the casualties of divorce are added up, the blame goes elsewhere.  Intentional sin has NEVER made anyone happy. EVER! The idea of a soulmate who you can only connect with by sinning isn’t even a good plot for a romantic comedy anymore. If you’re sure that all God wants is for you to be happy, why did he let you marry your non-soulmate? What if you find more soulmates? Which one is “meant to be?”

Consider what Proverbs 3:13 says,

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding! For her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue; She is more precious than corals, and none of your choice possessions can compare with her.

In Gods plan, happiness is the result of obedience. If you do not obey, you wont be happy. Gods character is shown in the love he has for us. He wants better for us than stuff and a trail of broken hearts. Christians are forgiven, but its tough to look back at the mess we’ve made trying to be happy and have failed miserably. Selfish pursuits, even successful ones, are so small compared to what we could have had by following Jesus. He offers true joy, not in crap you have to store or the latest cure to your emotional woes. His joy fills you to a depth you’ve never known before. If you put you’re happiness before your passion for Jesus, you’ll likely never be happy. That my friends is a sad choice

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Choose Life

There are things in life that I thought were so obvious that they would never need discussion. Yet, here I am with a topic that must not be as obvious as previously thought, so read slowly as this may save your life.

When a policeman says” Stop or I’ll shoot,” choose stop!

A policeman doesn’t say that to fake you out, they mean it. You will not outrun the bullets and what have you done that running seems like your best plan? I don’t care what ethnic origin of the officer is, just stop. I don’t care what your ethnic origin is, just stop. There are things in life worth dying for, but this isn’t it. The only people that want you to run is the people who are going to cash in on your bad judgment and they don’t give a crap about you anyway. All they want to do is be seen and prop themselves up like posers who care. They’ll bus hundreds of people in to march for the cameras, but did those leaders care about you the day before? No friends, they just want to cash in on the pain and grieving of your friends and family.

While the media circus goes on, Christians need to pray for those who truly did suffer a loss. They are grieving and deserve to see the love of Jesus through us. Don’t take the bait of division. Show those folks love and make Jesus a better alternative than those who are just using them.

Lets treat our officers with love and respect. Be kind and it will be easier for them to make sound judgment calls. Causing trouble is only going to increase the tension and you will NOT be better off for it.

If you are ever pulled over in an automobile, here are a few tips to keep tensions low. Pull over as far as you safely can to keep everyone out of traffic. Put your car in park, shut it off and put your flashers on. Turn on your dome light  and keep both your hands on the steering wheel. Yes he’ll want to see your license, but digging for your wallet or purse may appear that you’re reaching for a weapon. Wait till the officer gets to your car and asks for you license, then move slowly. Just be polite. The officer has already decided if you’re going to get a ticket anyway, so at this point you can only make it worse. Generally the less you say, the better off you’ll be. Giving you a ticket isn’t the biggest thrill in his/her day either, so don’t make it worse.

No matter what you are or were doing, when the officer says ” stop,”  what are you going to do? That’s right, choose life and stop!

Now reward yourself with some ice cream for your commitment to behave like a good citizen! Enjoy friends!

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Election Day

Today is an election day and I hope everyone chose to vote.

In a representative republic we don’t actually vote on most things, we hire people to do that for us. We do our best to choose people that represent our moral/fiscal values. If you did not and do not vote you have no license to complain. If you did not participate in the process to maintain or change the direction of our society, you must take what has been done and be silent about it. That is what you’ve chose.

I’ve found that one of the peculiar things about getting older is that we can see how much things have changed. Its the same thing that we used to groan about as children when our great uncles and grandparents would tell old stories. The first dozen times the stories were fun, but  they quickly exceeded that figure and we could recite the stories ourselves, word for word!

America has become like the Phoenix that mightily rises out of the flames only to be consumed by those very same flames. We are a country that is based on a Christian foundation of absolutes and human right of self determined pursuit within those boundaries. Now Americans are using that free will offered by those absolutes, to destroy those absolutes that we are founded on. Sort of like going into your basement with a sledge hammer and knocking out your basement walls. That just isn’t going to end well.

Our type of government only works with Christian absolutes and standards. Replace God with no god and you have anarchy, everyone voting to get what THEY want without the good of the whole in mind.  Sound familiar?  Islam has absolutes, but they  always, ALWAYS, assure death and destruction for anything in its path. Ever see a”peaceful civil disobedience” in an Islamic country? You never will. We will all find that out soon enough.

Just as much in error however, are Christians who believe that a political party or candidate will bring our country back to its foundation of absolutes. The ugly reality is that our government is a reflection of the people. Politics don’t change the corrupt heart of the people, it gives them a voice. The key is, if its still possible, is to help the people reconnect with God and the absolute love that Jesus offers. That’s true in every form of government, isn’t it?

Back to getting older. I wonder what stories we’ll have to annoy our grandchildren with. Will they really believe us when we tell them what America was like? How we were able to spend our summers and that we were free to do so many things? Or won’t we even be able to look them in the eye because WE were the generations that allowed our country to eat itself alive and they have nothing but fear and violence for their future. WE let such a great country go to waste because we were busy acquiring so much crap that we can’t even fit it in our homes. WE acquired so much debt to pacify ourselves in our empty godless lives. We were to busy to even vote.

It takes 5 minutes. Vote and pray friends.

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” I’m basically a good person so I’m going to Heaven”

Most people believe they are going to Heaven. They haven’t killed anyone so of course they should go to Heaven, right? We all imagine Lady Justice(the Greek goddess Themis) holding the scales high into the air and we think that if we’ve done more on the good side than the bad, we get in. 51% good and 49% bad and God has to let us in.

Nope, not even close.

Lets say that you and 20 of your co-workers are in your office on the fifth floor and a horrible fire is raging on the lower floors. You cant get out of the building and you’re doomed. Suddenly you notice a fireman on a ladder truck moving up to the window in your office. All you have to do is go to the window and he will take all of you to safety. You have to go to the window, he wont come in and take you.  Amazingly, in this hopeless situation, some of your co-workers decide to try to find their own way out, trying different rooms or going higher. Some even refuse to go the window knowing that’s the only hope of safety. Now tell me, who gets saved? Is it just the good people he will save or will the fireman rescue the bad people too? Sally is cheating on her husband, Frank watches porn on his office computer, and Jack is doing some shady bookkeeping. Will the fireman save them?  Nancy is a sweetie and brings in a treat every Friday, Pete, a former altar boy, just ran a 5k for Breast cancer awareness, and Emma hasn’t missed church since she was a child. Time is running out, who gets saved? Only those who go to the window and receive the gift of safety from the one who is there to provide it. It costs nothing and you cant buy it. If Nancy, Pete and Emma, try to find a different way out, they have no chance. Sally, Jack, and Frank can be saved if they head to the savior.

Easter is the day Christians celebrate our fireman getting us out of a horrible impending future. We often forget that two criminals were crucified next to Jesus. Both were bad people by their own admission and deserved what they got. One of them cursed Jesus and the other” went to the window” and was saved. Today some people think that they’ve been too bad to be saved. Things in their past or present are just too awful to be forgiven.  Jesus is a Savior and loves you. You haven’t done anything that hasn’t been done before and you haven’t done anything that hasn’t been forgiven before either. Go to the window friend. Trust Him.

If you think you’re good enough and will get into heaven because you have decided that you’re a good person, you’re lying to yourself and are a fool. You’re running around the burning building, trying to find your own way out, without going to Jesus. The Bible mentions that attitude in Luke 18:9-14 .

Jesus then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray;one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘ O God I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity-greedy, dishonest, adulterous- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay my tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed ‘ O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Those are Jesus’ words, the one who does the saving. You aren’t too good or too bad, we all need the Savior. I am so grateful there is someone to get me out of here. Death is all around us, but there is someplace better to go.

Today is a great day to thank the fireman!

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Are you lovable?

Are you Lovable?

Charm and personality aside, is it possible for anyone to love you? Husband or wife, father or mother, boyfriend or girlfriend, is any love possible? Your world view will determine how you answer that question.

To be true to Darwinian evolution, an atheist must say no. There is no source or function for love. A physicalist views percieved feelings as a function of evolutionary survival and reproduction. Percieved love is a method of interpreting pherimones, bone structure and the odds of a mate able to produce healthy offspring. You have no control over it and function more like a robot with no free will. A fundamental atheist cannot love their mother, wife or child. We would be fearful of this psychopathic view, if it wasnt taught as fact in university.

Someone with a New Age world view would suggest that everything is love and its all inside of you,you just need to let it flow out of you. Become one with the universe and experience it. Certainly a more pleasant crowd, but if everything is love then nothing is really love. Its quite peculiar and inconsistant that most New Age followers hold the Darwinian evolution view as well.

A dualist, someone who believes we are both body and soul, offer the only hope for love. The soul is free to choose to and who it loves. Without that free will, love could not exist. Thats why it is so precious and longed for, to be chosen, not for your breeding abilities, or because love is mandatory and unavoidable, but because you are unique and someone is attracted to that uniqueness. That my friends is how we need to view each other. Thats how Jesus viewed us. While He healed many people physically, His message was about saving your soul. That part of you that can love others and choose to love Him. You have free will, and He will never violate your right to decide. You must choose.

Are you lovable? I think you are!

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Church is full of hypocrites

” I don’t go to church because its full of hypocrites”

Have you ever heard that before? Have you ever said that before? I think we can all agree that our definition of a hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another.

So what do Christians say they are? One of the basic principles of Christianity is that we are all sinners, every one of us. When some one becomes saved, they are just as ornery and sinful as they were before. Some people have an incredible experience that instantly turns their life around, but for the majority of us, we wake up the next morning the same person. The difference is that our focus has changed. The biggest change comes when we realize what we were headed for and that Jesus paid an awful penalty to get us out of that mess because He loved us and we have nothing to offer Him. Christians want to get to know Jesus and emulate Him. Sort of like a young child using his little plastic tools to help his father work on the car. The child contributes nothing, but the father smiles because he knows the child wants to be like him. Christians want to be like the Father too, but our sinful nature prevents it. The greater effort we make in trying to help”Dad” , the closer we get to Him. We study about Him and what He does, past, present, and future.

Does becoming saved make us flawless? Hardly! Does that mean we’re hypocrites? Just the opposite, we know who we really are as sinners. No hypocrisy, just broken people with a better future.

I hope you’re able to find a church that you’re comfortable with. There are many different worship styles, so don’t give up if the first one isn’t right for you. You might find out that hanging out with us sinners isn’t so bad after all. Welcome, friends!

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