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Thursday, December 3, 2015

How twisting hypocrisy and a morphed definition of judging is ruining our culture

Have you ever directly or been witness to a situation where a wrongdoing is being called out and the person being called out (or someone defending the person being called out). responds with "Well you do it too!"?  I think we all have many times.  The idea of it is pretty simple:  point out someone's own wrongdoings to make your own wrongdoing either not look so bad or even justified.  Practically everyone has done this.  You could say it's one of our many naturally built in defense mechanisms against social conflict.   Does it make it right? No, not really.  And that's what I'm talking about today.

You know who else wields the same tactic?  Satan.  In fact, one of Satan's most common aliases is "the Accuser".  It's his primary weapon to cast doubt in the minds of God's followers, particularly when they stand up to evil and Satan's machinations.  The basic strategy is much like the above:  a child of God rightfully calls out and stands up to evil when they see it, but then Satan goes "who are YOU to say what is wrong? Look at all the wrong YOU do!".  It's an accusation of hypocrisy, something that Jesus greatly despised.  You could consider it one of the "big" bad things a Christian can do since a hypocrite can sour God's good news among both believers and non believers alike.

One of the most commonly referenced passages in the Bible regarding hypocrisy is the woman at the well.  Being an adulterer the community gathered to stone her to death, but Jesus intervened saying "Those who have not sinned may cast the first the stone".  Naturally, no one did because the people they know they had their own sin.  The lesson seems obvious:  You should not judge someone of wrongdoing when you've done wrong themselves.  And it's this lesson that's been wielded by countless people, and Satan himself, to stifle people from standing up to wrong doing.

But they're getting it wrong, either unwittingly or knowingly as is in Satan's case.  You see, there's a very crucial distinction between what Satan and countless people do when accusing hypocrisy and what Jesus was doing at the well.  Jesus was pointing out only those are sinless can carry out judgment, the actual act of stoning.  But notice that Jesus did not keep them from pointing out the woman was an adulterer.  In fact, he himself acknowledges the accusation when he tells the woman to go home and sin no more.  He doesn't say it was wrong of the people to point out her sin.  It was wrong of them to carry out judgment.  God alone can carry out judgment.

One curious thing to notice in today's culture is the morphed definition of judgment and judging.  Judging used to be about rendering judgment.  Sentencing someone for their wrong doings.   In the courtroom a judge can determine wrong doing, but notice when the cases are criminal, the judge is separated from determining guilt as that's left to a jury.  The jury determines who's wrong, but they do not judge.  They simply tell the judge if the defendant is guilty or not.  The judge then takes that decision and determines an appropriate sentencing or action to be done.  In case it's not clear: pointing out wrong doing is not judging!  Yet today, that's exactly how it's seen.  If you point out someone's wrong doing, you're seen as judging that person.

And this isn't by accident.  This is a ploy by Satan.  By changing judging to mean the calling out of wrongdoing, he's successfully tied the calling out of wrongdoing to hypocrisy.  Jesus didn't want people at the well to judge, so he wouldn't want anyone else.  It's a very stifling tactic.  Now, instead of calling out and standing up to evil and wrong, Christians are cowed into believing they're judging, thus leaving one important aspect of Christianity toothless.

And the effects are indeed devastating.  It's not only about Christians calling out wrongdoing, it's everyone that points out wrongdoing.

I heard a story today about a mom who was rightfully admonishing her child for forgetting her homework.  The child though, having heard from a teacher that her mom used to forget her homework, pointed this out to her mother in an attempt to absolve her own guilt in forgetting her homework.

I've seen one parent attempt to discipline their child's wrongdoings only to have the other parent point out how guilty that parent is of what they were trying to discipline their child.  Which is wrong on a number of levels, but I'll explain one in particular below.

"Yeah, but you're not perfect either!"

"So? You do it too!"

In all these cases, the response to the calling out of wrong doing was to call out more wrong doing.  They didn't attempt to address their own wrong doing, but attempted to discredit the person pointing it out or justify their wrong doing because someone else is also doing it.

And it's totally wrong of them to do so.  If we all avoided calling out wrong doing because we ourselves have also done wrong, then no one would ever call out wrong doing, which is exactly what Satan wants.  He wants wrong and evil to run unchecked and unabated as doing so leads people away from God.

One thing to keep in mind in both the Christian and parent perspective is that neither are perfect.  Christians are perfect and far from it.  In fact, the Christian that claims piety above others is missing the point of Christianity to begin with.  And parents were children once too that made the same mistakes they see their kids doing.  Heck, some parents probably still have bad habits that they know aren't good that they don't want their kids doing.

And that's the real kicker and distinction when it comes to hypocrisy.  It's all about whether one is acknowledging and repenting of their wrong doings.  If I as a Christian point out the wrong doings of someone being dishonest, I'm not immediately a hypocrite if I also have done or do something dishonest.  I'm only a hypocrite if I try to justify the same wrong doing I'm calling others on as Ok for me to do.  That's a hypocrite.  However, if I acknowledge my sin and truly repent and work towards not being dishonest, I'm not a hypocrite.

Because people will inevitably do the wrong things they are speak out about and are against.  That doesn't make them a hypocrite.  It's when when they do those things AND believe it's ok for them to do them that it's hypocrisy.  And that's a highly important distinction.

So if a parent is trying to correct bad behavior in a child that they themselves did as a child, or maybe still do to this day, it doesn't necessarily make them a hypocrite.  If they still exhibit the behavior, then yes, they're providing a poor example.  But that's not hypocrisy.  It doesn't invalidate their authority to correct their child's behavior just as it doesn't invalidate someone's responsibility to call out wrong doings when they see them.

It's not judging and it's not hypocrisy to call out wrong doings.  And it is so important that we understand this.  We cannot be afraid to call out wrong doings because we're afraid of being labeled a judging hypocrite.  And we cannot justify or make right wrong doings just because the person pointing it out isn't perfect.  Wrong doings need to be called out.  They need to be indicated as unacceptable.  Yes.  It may make people uncomfortable.  But that's the point.  They shouldn't feel comfortable doing wrong. They should feel convicted.

A wrong doing is wrong.  It doesn't matter who else may have done it.  Even if the entire world committed the same wrong doing, it doesn't make it right.  It doesn't make it good.  While it's not a Christian's place to render judgment, it is our place to oppose evil and wickedness.  And part of that opposition is calling it out when it's noticed.

Don't let the twisted definitions of judgment and hypocrisy rule our speech.  Don't let the accuser allow wickedness to run rampant just because he's good at pointing out your flaws.  The sooner we realize this twisting is Satan's weapon, the sooner we can push back, reclaim our courage, and stand up for goodness.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

We need to move away from our culture of opposition and into a culture of unity and honor

Over the last few weeks, I've read a number of articles and participated in a few debates about different topics ranging from issues like gun control to the social commentary of modern comic book heroes with a bunch in between.  But while the topics varied widely, there was one common element throughout all of them:  an opposition mindset.  What I mean by this is that in the ideas that were expressed in the articles I read or through the points someone was trying to make, they were either directly stated or implied to be were in complete opposition to some other idea being presented.  These ideas were mutually exclusive to whatever idea they were intending to rebut or counter.

For example, I was reading an article about how we should stop trying to tell women how not to get raped and instead focus on telling men not to rape women.  Another article had a mom admonishing the dad of the daughter her son was dating for "threatening" (I use this in quotes since assessing a threat is widely subjective) her son should he hurt his daughter, stating instead of "threatening", the dad should raise a daughter that knows how to take care of herself.

More general examples of this culture of opposition is "Science vs Religion", "Right vs Left", "Rich vs Poor", and "Whites vs Minorities" to name a few.  These type of opposition memes are quite common in today's culture.  Just look at the "news" channels and blogs these days.  Either explicit or implicit, they promote the construct of diametrically opposed ideas.  And I'm definitely not the first person to notice this as many have lamented how polarized our nation has become.  And how has it become like that? Through a culture of opposition.

But does it have to be that way?  Let's take the articles I mentioned earlier.  In the rape article, while no one will be opposed to the idea of coaching men not to rape, why shouldn't we continue to teach women how to proactively protect themselves from rape?  Why can't both happen?  It's not about blame.  It's about both parties doing what they can to prevent a horrific event.

To go off on a slight tangent, I call this the pedestrian paradigm.   When it comes to traffic law, the pedestrian has the right of way in all but the most extreme circumstances.  Thus, when a pedestrian walks onto a contested road, any intersecting motor vehicles must stop and let them by because, obviously, if the motor vehicle didn't have to stop, they'd probably kill the pedestrian.  A funny thing can happen because of this though.  Knowing that the cars are required to stop, some pedestrian deliberately walk out in front of a moving vehicle, fully expecting the car to stop for them.  And while this happens most of the time, their right of way is not really protecting them from getting run over.  What if someone isn't paying attention or their brakes give out?  The pedestrian still gets hit despite it being wrong for the car to do so.  So while the pedestrian has a lawful right to walk out in front of a car, they're not actually doing everything they can to prevent getting run over by the cars that aren't following the law.  So yeah, while the car was wrong to run them over, they're still ran over.  Yes it's possible for even a cautious pedestrian who did everything they could (aside from just not walking at all) to still get ran over, but that doesn't mean being cautious is worthless.

Anyway, back on track.  In the article about the mom wanting dads to raise their daughters right instead of "threatening" her son, I ask why can't there be both?  Why is there an assumption that a dad level setting with his daughter's date hasn't also taught his daughter how to protect herself?  

The answer: a culture of opposition.  I'll elaborate on the mom article a little.  The mom, being a little ruffled that her son's date's dad "threatened" her son, runs to the conclusion that the dad must think her son to be some hormone controlled degenerate that hasn't been told any better.  But, that's not true! She raised her son right! So it must be the dad's daughter that doesn't know any better!  Do you see the opposition manifest itself in that thought process?  The thought that perhaps the dad knows both kids could get into trouble nor the thought that the dad knows how boys can be even when they have a proper upbringing doesn't seem to cross this mom's mind.  Instead, polarizing opposition immediately springs up.

Let's look at another common example:  Science vs Religion.  How many times have you heard that you either believe in science or religion?   There seems to be this idea that the two are diametrically opposed.  This idea has sprung up because people, usually Christians or conservatives, have challenged some of the scientific "facts" that secular folk have taken for gospel.  This obviously means these people are "anti-science" even though the challenge is against the claims and not the science itself.  Though amusingly, the people that so viciously support these claims are just as, if not more, religious in their belief and intent than the Christians they're deriding.   But again, does it really have to be that way?  No!  Science is not some anti religion ideology.  It's simply an objective method for determining truth and fact by what we can observe.  In fact, many Christians use science on a daily basis and many early scientists were Christian!  So yes, religion and science can coexist, but the culture of opposition has sprung up to put Christians at odds with modern science, but that really isn't the case.

Or how about our political landscape?  Left wing and Right wing.  In many cases, one side cannot acknowledge a sound idea by the other side. You have sites dedicated to opposing everything the other side says or does.  Some might read this and believe I'm a centrist, but that isn't true.   I definitely believe the Right has far more correct than the Left.  But this doesn't mean I oppose leftist ideas simply because they sprang from the minds of leftists.  If the idea has merit, it's worth acknowledging and looking into.  For example, I support capitalism, the free markets, and the reduction of regulations to make it easier for people to go into business.  Yet, I don't support zero government regulation or intervention.  I feel the government's role in the economy is to keep it as free and fair as possible by preventing companies from intentionally corrupting or rigging the system.  If you had to sum it up, I'd say my approach is mostly right wing with enough government such that businesses have an entity to be accountable to if they try to cheat the system.  Which is how I think it should be.  But instead, because we live in a culture of opposition, we're left with hyper partisanship (which itself is used to discredit valid opposition to certain ideas) which would lead one to believe that all regulation is bad or that the other side fully advocates complete deregulation.  Politically, a good solution will not be completely one or the other, but our culture of opposition had made it so acknowledging merit of the "other side" is considered traitorous.

And this is a big problem.  A culture of opposition where solutions and ideas are presented in binary pairs is, for starters, a very immature way to look at things.  "If it's not this, then it's this" or "Not that, instead this" removes a fundamental piece of understand from the equation:  That it's possible to have simultaneous facets and thoughts that may compete with each other.  It takes away the possibility that someone can be both, or all, of something in varying degrees.  It reduces the complexity of humanity into oversimplified, never ending conflict.  Anyone take a guess where I think such a culture comes from?  That's right: Satan.  A culture where we dehumanize those we disagree with to an opposition talking point fits right into his plan because this kind of culture is stagnant and not going anywhere as it fights amongst itself like children.  This is exactly what he wants.

But, let's get one thing straight, this doesn't mean opposition in and of itself is necessarily.  We are told to resist the Devil and oppose evil.  And we can still oppose bad ideas or ideas we don't agree with.  But what we shouldn't do is treat the competing idea as a singular, mutually exclusive point.
That's when it becomes a problem. When the simplistic opposition described above is ingrained in our culture to the point where that's all we do when presented with confrontation. You could even say this culture of opposition is a distraction against the forces we should be opposing:  Satan and his evil.

What we need to do is move in to a culture of honor and unity.  Of true respect despite disagreement.  Of unity despite diversity in background, ethnic culture, and opinion.  A culture of unity doesn't mean there will never be disagreements.  It means that those disagreements are handled with respect and honor.   It's a culture that honors the person you may not completely know and then understand there's more to them than the opinion they expressed that you disagree with.  Easier said than done though, right?  Yes.  I often find myself caught in the culture of opposition's grasp, but I'm thankful I have a God to pull me out of it when I take the time to listen to Him.

And to me, the best way to do this is to simply serve God.  His honor is boundless.  He knows each and every one of us.  All of our facets.  All the knobs and dials that go into being us.  Servitude to Him can bring about the humility and love it takes to see everyone as the complex and awesome beings of light God has made us.  Turning to Him can turn our culture from one of opposition to one of unity and honor.

As long as we continue to allow ourselves to be mired in our culture of opposition, we'll always have the problems we're experiencing now.  Let's turn toward unity and honor.  Let's turn toward God.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The biggest takeaway I had from doing Back to the Future comparisons

Plenty of comparisons today between what the Back to the Future  2 thought the future would be like and how it actually is today.  Probably the biggest takeaway from these comparisons for me is examining how writers from 26 years ago tried to predict future trends based on what they currently knew at the time.

While we're actually quite close on many of the technological advancements, how they manifested were quite different.  For example, both movies have video chatting capabilities.  But instead of using the flat panel tv on the wall we use a compact lightweight mobile device.  What made the difference in this case?  In the late 80's cell phones hadn't quite taken off yet, so it's not surprise they didn't foresee the immense value in having portal, small and high quality technological devices.  Heck, the computers back then were relative behemoths as well.  Compact design just wasn't a variable at the time.

The most glaring of these mismatches is the predicted fashion.  The writers took the fashion and cultural trends of the day and just kind of "futurized" them.  They completely didn't predict the minimalist and simplistic modern look that started to develop about a decade and a half later.  And how could they? There's really no way for them to have known.

So my point is when it comes to eras where we have no accurately recorded data, such as the future or the distant past, how much stock can we put into the information about those times if we're making assumptions that certain parameters are constant when they very well might not be?

How long has there been doom and gloom about the earth starving, running out of water, the temperature reaching catastrophic levels, etc. when something that wasn't predicted or accounted for changed those predictions or when something we thought was constant really was not?

Some may take this post as "anti science", but it's actually rooted in sticking to science.  Science is simply an objective way to understand our world.  It helps give us an idea about things, but can also leave the answer as inconclusive, especially when data is too sparse or there's just too many variables to draw accurate conclusions.

What I am against, however, is the dishonesty when it comes to taking things we really can't scientifically say is certain and making them undisputable, not up for debate, "truth".  That's not science at all.  That's just manipulating scientific findings to fit into what one wants to believe instead of acknowledging that "The data might indicate this, but there's just too many variables to be certain."   These people want so hard for the data to back up what they already believe that they just can't accept that the data doesn't completely support it or may even point in the other direction.

And I'm kind of likening those people to the futuristic predictions that the back to the future writers made.  Of course, it was only for entertainment and there probably wasn't much in the way of a scientific method when coming up with these.  But still, they took contemporary conditions, assumed they would be constant, and extrapolated based off that.  Making assertions that rely upon the assumption that certain conditions are constant backward and forward in time is folly.  We end up looking about as silly as some of the back to the future predictions.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Our culture's science fiction, alien, supernatural, and even conspiracy fixation points to a yearning for God

Being one of those "geeky" types that enjoys reading sci fi and fantasy books as well as watching shows of the same nature, this past decade has been a bit of a pleasant development.   Traditionally, this type of entertainment hadn't really enjoyed the maintstream that much.  Sure, we had Star Wars and Star Trek, but before the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the early Harry Potter movies, there wasn't really much in the way of mainstream visibility to these genres.  Yet fast forward to 2015, and it's everywhere.  Star Wars fever is at an all time pitch with episode 7 right around the corner.  Some of the more popular TV shows and entities have permeated pop culture such that even one not immediately familiar with a show or movie could recognize something from that show or movie even if they don't know exactly what it is.  There's so many supernatural tv shows, both scripted and reality, that it's impossible to keep track of them all.  There's Harry Potter conventions that aren't just a handful of people dressing up in the park.  As Alec Hardison of Leverage rightfully exclaimed "It's the age of the geek, baby!".  Indeed.  

But, is this explosion of "geek culture" perhaps pointing to something larger?  Well, let's look at one point that science fiction, supernatural, fantasy, and even conspiracy theory type entertainment has in common.  In each of these, there's a thirst for "something more out there".  Many have said that this genre offers people an escape from the depressing reality of mundane life.  While maybe that's true for some just as others seek escape at the bottom of a liquor bottle, I don't believe it's accurate to say that as a culture many of us have decided to "escape" our crappy world by surrounding ourselves in fantasy.  Instead, I think the increasing popularity of this genre in our culture is an expression that we yearn for more.  We're looking for "more out there".  The supernatural reality ghost shows seek to find proof of dead spirits.  The conspiracy type shows seek to find hidden truth.  Science fiction and fantasy reaches outward toward the stars and our imaginations to find a certain quality of life that seemingly more desirable than our current boring life.  

And no show exemplifies this yearning more than Dr Who.  Why do people like Dr Who so much?  There's many things.  But at the base of it is the premise.  A nearly immortal being that can travel anywhere in space and  time.  That is the epitome of "looking for more".  The doctor can pretty much witness any event in history anywhere in the universe.  Just the very thought of that possibility gets me excited.  With a Tardis (the doctor's time travelling spaceship), the possibilities are endless!

As a culture we're looking for something more.  We're seeking more meaning to life.  We're seeking a fulfilling life that isn't the supposed boring mundane stuff we deal with day and day out.  

Yet, despite all this searching, the answer has been front of us all the entire time:  God.  The creator of the universe.  The owner of space and time.  The all powerful, limitless and immeasurable God.   Too often people focus on the restrictive nature of the Bible's teachings.  How it's always trying to tell you what not to do and how to live.  But that's not the whole picture.  Here we have a God that is the biggest, most important being in the universe.  He permeates creation.  He's everywhere.  He's the supernatural.  He's the future.  If there's anything real that actually fills the "more" category, it's Him.  

So why aren't more of us turning to God?  Well, for starters it's not easy.  The answer is simple, but the road is difficult.  Why isn't it easy?  Because it requires a couple things that run anathema to human nature: faith in an unseen God and setting aside our pursuit of personal desires to truly serve and seek Him.  Many treat God as a system administrator that is there to help get us out of a jam when we need it, but then go back to our own pursuits after He helps us out, putting Him out of our minds.  Unfortunately, this is not what true servitude to God is supposed to be.  Those who follow Christ have to truly to put Him first.  To put His will and what He wants above our own.  It's a very hard thing to do.

But let me tell you, the rewards for doing so can be phenomenal. I'll fully admit that I still struggle with putting Him first on a daily basis.  It's so easy to get sucked in to the allure that the science fiction / fantasy genre offers and seek fulfillment there.  I'm not saying this genre is bad by any means, but it's also important to recognize when an aspect of one's life is keeping you from seeking God.  And for me, I have substituted God with some story that is incredibly engrossing such that all I want to do is find out what happens.  And what I've discovered is at the end of the story, while entertaining, doesn't quite fulfill me.  

And yet, despite my shortcomings in seeking Him, when I do seek Him, He's blessed me tremendously.  The "boring" mundane life's worries became distant and small and I realize that I can be my own story of fulfillment.  The more I dedicate my life to pursue God, the more my life can become an amazing story all its own, filled with testimony and inspiration.  I've no illusions that it will be easy.  Heck, even in the stories I do read, how often does the story have smooth happy go lucky sailing?  Exactly.  Why should my servitude to God be any different, especially when there IS an enemy out there attempting to bring down His children?

So here's my challenge and/or advice to anyone that finds themselves wondering things like "What the heck am I doing with my life?" or find themselves constantly yearning and seeking for something more, give God a try.  Become an acolyte of Him.  Make Him what you seek.  I guarantee it'll be the best decision you've ever made.  

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Kim Davis is wrong, but the Left attacking her is far worse.

This is one issue I've had to pray about a lot.  I know there are many Christians that really would like to rally behind Kim Davis as some kind of modern day Rosa Parks, but I believe it really isn't so. But it's not because she is full of hate and bigotry as the Left claims.  There's a bit of nuance to it all (as always), but I think it's worth taking a look at.

So why is Kim Davis wrong?  Kim Davis is wrong not because she supposedly hates gays.  Kim Davis is wrong because she's a publicly elected official that has sworn to uphold and execute the law in the state of Kentucky.  Now, I'm not a lawyer and not not profess to know the intricacies of what happens when a state law is considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and/or a court order in that state directly goes against said unconstitutional law.  I don't know the legal obligations.  Maybe Kim Davis does, which is why she was asking "Under which law am I required to give marriage licenses to homosexuals?" (paraphrased by me).  So there may be some legality that needs clearing up.  Regardless, it's clear her choice not to follow the court order is based on her faith in Christ.  And while yes, she has every right to believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman, she is wrong in using that as a reason to deny service and still hold her position.  The right thing to do would have been to step down citing she could no longer fulfill her duties as clerk of court due to her religious beliefs.  If she had done this, she would not have been thrown in jail and she is not capitulating or compromising her beliefs.  As she is a newer Christian, I can understand her desire to stand up against the rampant apostasy in our country.  She just went about it the wrong way.  See, religious freedom allows us to make decisions based on religion without government reprisal, but it does not allow elected officials to simply ignore upholding laws (for the sake of simplicity I'm calling the court order to issue homosexual licenses laws).  If the official believes the act of upholding a law is against their moral code, then they are free to resign with no reprisal.  Yes, it comes at the cost of a job and/or career, but there's always a price when someone stands up in the face of opposition for what they believe in.  But if their faith in God remains, God will not let them fall away.  Bottom line is, Kim Davis should have resigned and she's in jail because Kentucky has dereliction of duty laws, not because people think she's a hateful anti gay bigot.

Speaking of those people, I had the pleasure to run across them on Facebook.  Heck, it's pretty hard not to see it over the past few days.  Whilst gloating about her imprisonment, there were several that brought out memes ridiculing her for being ugly and touting their superiority over such a "hateful, ugly" woman.  Yet, they fail to see the irony in how hateful THEY are in return.  First off, let's make it clear.  Kim Davis is NOT hateful nor a bigot.   The Left is very good at accusing (which btw, is one of Satan's primary tactics, hence the moniker "The Accuser") anyone who disagrees with their opinions as such.  They are so sure their worldview is the "correct" one that anyone that opposes is obviously a low intelligence, hate filled bigot that can barely put two sentences together.  Kim Davis finds homosexuality immoral and has said as such.  Does she hate them? I doubt it.  She doesn't like what they do, but that's not hate.  But as I said before, the Left colors everyone that doesn't like what they do as hate and further adds bigot to somehow make them seem stupid.   On top of that, they're just loving how she had a screwed up life and that somehow makes her a hypocrite even though she just converted 4 years ago and has fully admitted her past sinful life as being what it is.  Heck, she's even a Democrat.

But none of that really matters.  The people that prey upon Kim Davis are committing far more vile acts than someone denying marriage licenses to homosexuals.  And why is that?  Because despite themselves talking about love and open mindedness, they show their true colors when they find an easy target.  They're no better than the bullies they claim to be against and it's frankly disgusting.  It's not enough for people like this to simply disagree and say "hey, she's wrong!".  No, they have to revel in her imperfection and her fail.  They enjoy tearing into this woman to satiate the ugly evil hidden away in their own hearts that they're afraid to look at.

The other day my wife asked me why I continue to follow people on Facebook who say these types of things.  And the answer is simple:  It's to remind me of the true ugliness and evil that has captured our culture and woven itself into the hearts of millions of people.  It's to remind me that while I may not like what they say, I need to see it so I can pray and fight back (when it seems important to). And also to realize that they too are children of God, just lost.  They also need Him, even if they don't know it.

If there's one thing to take away from the Kim Davis thing is to realize that standing up for your beliefs will have a price.  Also, whenever someone does stand up (though she want about it wrongly), it exposes the vile ugliness in the hearts of Leftists.  All we can do is pray and find ways to say God inspired words that will help bring them out of the darkness.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

If politicians were serious about "changing Washingon", their platform would be term limits

While I appreciate the God given wisdom bestowed on the Founding Fathers for creating a governmental framework intended to prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful (because the understood how power corrupts), I don't think they necessarily went far enough.  While the framework does well to prevent an absolute totally in your face tyrant from taking over, what it doesn't seem to ward against is the slow and subtle corruption caused by a series of "minor" infractions that go unpunished due to their relative "harmlessness".  And just like a child who gets away with the little things, these elected officials will continue to be bolder and bolder in stretching their seat of power.

And that's the problem right there.  It's just not he desire for power, it's the fact these people are ok to "settle" for a certain lower level of power and have no aims at being in charge.  They like their little fiefdom and are glad to keep it and will do what it takes to do so.  And you'd think that the power of the vote would be enough to keep them in line, but it's obvious that it's not the case.   Today we suffer from politicians that are good at telling people what they want to hear and to also cover their tracks when it comes to explaining their poorer decisions.

Well, I take it back.  There was at least one Founding Father that was wise in understanding power: George Washington, our first president.  He could have easily been president for the rest of his life, thus effectively making him a king.  But he knew better and stepped down after just 8 years in office saying that no one person should hold power for so long.  Thankfully, the presidents following him for the next 140 or so years had the class enough to simply follow suit and heed his wisdom.  There didn't need to be law made to restrain the presidential tenure.  It took a power hungry liberal progressive in FDR to ignore such a long standing and wise tradition before congress finally made it official.  And it's definitely a good thing it was.  While yes, we could have a longer tenure for conservative iconic presidents like Eisenhower and Reagan, we do not know if they'd be able to resist the lure of power and perhaps slip away from their principles.  And this isn't even mentioning what it would have been like should Clinton, and our current president Obama, have extended terms in office. In fact, it's a relief knowing that Obama and his administration has an expiration date.

But, why hasn't this wisdom ever been transferred to the other branches of government?  Congressmen can stay in office for as long as they get elected.  Judges can too, and in some cases do not even have to bother with an election at all.   Presidents nominate supreme court justices and are only held to a single confirmation vote by the Senate. After that, they do not even have to worry about re election.  They're in there for as long they wish to be.

And it's this endless tenure that creates problems.  For starters, these people get accustomed to the power they have.  They enjoy having it and focus more on not losing it than they do at doing their jobs.  It also gives them a sense of not being held accountable to anyone, especially if they're allowed to get away with the small infractions mentioned previously.  And in a judge's case, their power in the court room is absolute with practically zero accountability to the people for their decisions.

In the case of congressmen, the irony is that they've become powerless in their effort to hold on to their power.  They bequeath the power to those that can influence their access to the power they hold. This is a form of corruption.  When an elected official allows unelected people of considerable influence to control what they do with the power they were given.  And the longer one of them is in Washington, the more they are constrained by their "power handlers".   In the judge case, there's just zero accountability so there's no incentive to follow the law of the land since they can effectively do whatever they want.

Long story short, length of exposure to power increases the chances, and severity, of corruption.

So if a politician were truly serious about "changing Washington", this would be their rallying cry.  The first step would be limiting exposure to power.  And by doing so, instead of a congressman saying "What can I do or not do to keep getting myself elected" they would now say "What can I do with the limited amount of time I have?".  It changes the focus.  If Judges, even all the way up to the supreme court, were given term limits, then at least we know their influence has a limit.

There are definitely other things a "clean up Washington" platform  would include..

  • Accountability into the judicial system to counteract judicial activism, 
  • Adding more accountability of the executive branch to Congress
  • Limiting the influence of former politicians
  • Providing more accountability to the decisions of committees and sub committees.  
All in all, running on a platform that directly limits the power you would be able to yield would send a strong message to voters that they're serious about changing Washington.  In fact, you could consider such a platform to be something a constitutionally minded new party could run on.  Republicans were formed from the abolitionist movement because the Wig party considered slavery too much of an institution to change.  Nowadays, the glaring problem is the corruption in Washington itself and it's quite clear the two parties in power have no intention of limiting their own power.  Sounds like a ripe platform for a new conservative minded third party to emerge.  



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Building your house: The value of learning and instruction in the Word

Recently, my pastor approached me about giving a testimony regarding growth in the Spirit through teachings and instruction in the Word, to which I was greatly humbled that he'd consider me worthy of giving a testimony to the congregation.  As humbled as I was, I realized that there's quite a bit on this I needed to think and pray about.  One thing that came to me was growing in the Spirit is much like building your house in Christ.

In Matthew 7:24 - 25, Jesus said, "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock."

You listen to Jesus' wisdom and His Word, and you'll have a solid foundation for your life that will not be swept away when troubles come.  God will keep you safe if your founding is in Him.  Yet, when I read this, I see the foundation as something basic.  Just like a solid foundation is the most basic and  most important part of an actual house, there's still far more to be built.   And what can be built can vary in size and quality.  

As I've written about before, one of the primary mandates of the church to spread God's Kingdom to all the earth:
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  - Matthew 28:17-20
 And one of the ways we extend His Kingdom by letting our light shine:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven - Matthew 5:16

And how can we let our light shine? By building a house of beauty and quality that glorifies God.  People will see an inviting house and want to come in.  

So how does one build a beautiful house?  One way is by growing in the Spirit through learning and instruction in the Word.   What's learned is not  just knowledge, but it's the understanding and discernment that comes from knowing the details and the framework of the situations presented in the Bible.  

Consider it similar to the difference of someone like myself who has no idea how to build a house attempting to build one vs an experienced contractor building one.  At best I could build a ramshackle hut out of wood with questionable structural integrity.  Sure, I'd put my best effort into measuring and cutting precisely to build something to be best of my own ability, but ultimately the result of me "doing it on my own" without any instruction, learning, or training would be a rather uninviting house that I'd doubt many would want to live in.  

Yet, if someone were learned in building houses were to make one, you could expect it to not only be built soundly, there'd be more than just wooden walls.  There would be plaster walls, windows, electricity, carpeting, plumbing, and air conditioning just to name a few additional qualities.  

The point being the difference between the two would be quite stark.  One, despite being well built (or as well built as I could do it), would be made of the only the most basic material and could barely be considered a house, let alone something one would consider living in.  The other would be something people would see and want to come in to take a look.  

I've experienced this in my own life a couple different ways.  

The first is one of the things that I'll eternally thank my parents for doing: they enrolled me in a Christian school from kindergarten up to 6th grade.  There were many benefits to this, one of them being I received education in the Bible for all of those years.  Unlike many children who may only get exposure to the Bible during Sunday school, I was exposed to it every school day as well.  I didn't really understand the value of that until I was much older.  No, I didn't become the perfect little boy that built a beautiful house at such a young age to astound all those around me in my piety.  I definitely strayed far and wasn't what I'd call any type of shining example of a Christian life.  But, what it did do was instill a blueprint of right and wrong that stayed with me throughout my life even when I thought I was smarter than the Bible.  I didn't always listen to this sense of right and wrong, but it was always there to convict me when I did something I knew was wrong.  And that blueprint has been key in the building of my own Spiritual house.

The second, and more recent, comes from a New Testament survey class I took at our church earlier this year.  What this class did was provide the context for all the books of New Testament.  Not only who wrote the books, but whom they written to, why they were written, and what was going on at the time they written.  This was beyond valuable to me because while I've always had a decent grasp on certain Bible verses in the New Testament, the difference is about the same as my house building example.  Knowing a specific verse is having just one facet of the passage.  Having the details and the context fleshes it out.  

For example, while the meaning to John 14:6 is not hard to understand, one gets so much more meaning out of it when one knows that Jesus was answering one of the disciple's doubts about not knowing the way to where Jesus was going and that the gospel of John focused on Jesus' divinity.  On top of that, this was happening during Passover where Jesus was drawing closer to his own crucifixion, so Jesus was saying a lot of confusing and very heavy stuff.   And this is just one simple example.  

This type of learning has led to a growth in the Spirit that has allowed me to relate situations in my life easier and recognize patterns of behavior.  It has allowed me to become more mature Spiritually which has allowed me to build a more beautiful house on His solid rock foundation.  There's complexity and detail in all of God's designs and it's easy to gloss over them, and be happy with, the bare basic meaning.  Yet, it's in the details and the framework of these designs where God reveals His wisdom.  

So, if you want to grow Spiritually, learn the Word.  Do not just read it, but really learn about it.   One of the primary sources that was used in our class was New Testament Survey by Merrill C. Tenney, which is very good at explaining the books of the New Testament.  I highly recommend anyone wanting to know the beginnings of our church and what the New Testament is all about to read it in conjunction with the Bible itself.

And lastly, by building a beautiful house for God through learning His word, you will not only be an attractive light for others to extend His Kingdom, but you will also allow God to do more in you.

God Bless.



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Challenging conservatives on the Confederate Flag issue

I'm not one to cowtow to the ongoing onslaught of political correctness.  In fact, I consider political correctness one of the more insidious methods the Enemy uses to suppress to truth.  Truth is truth whether it's optimistic, happy, sobering, uncomfortable or unbearable.  When truth is something the world doesn't want to admit, political correctness swoops in to punish and shame those who speak it.

And I say these things to merely point out that in this particular case I just cannot get behind what appears to be the "conservative" side of this argument.  I'm not trying to add to the cacophony of PC warrior battle cries by any means, but just like a broken clock is right twice a day, occasionally they can be right.  And this is one of those times unless someone, after reading below, can explain it to me.

To many, the Confederate flag is synonymous to the Civil War era south as it was the banner they raised to symbolize the coalition of states that seceded from the Union.  And while there are some that like to believe that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, it ultimately was.  They may say things about state rights or how such a "heavy handed" move would have crippled the south economically, the bottom line is that the south seceded from the Union so they could keep their slave labor force intact.  I could go on more about it, but ultimately the war was over slavery.  The South, represented by the Confederate stars and bars, fought to keep their autonomy that would allow them to keep their slaves.  It symbolizes an act of rebellious defiance to a government that was trying to do the right thing and fix a grievous wrong.  

Don't get me wrong though, rebellious defiance can be a strong quality - if you're standing up in defiance for the right reason.  Standing in defiance to a government that tries to strip away Constitutional rights like today (and no - secession was NEVER a right for any state save Texas) can be seen as virtuous.  Yet, standing in rebellion to maintain a "right" that treats other human beings more like property than human beings has such an evil connotation to it that it's just indefensible.

The conservative side seems to be making the argument that the flag symbolizes Southern Pride and not racism.  Which ok, I can see this point. Those that wave the flag may not be trying to promote racism as much as they are proud Southerners.  But this is where I start to dissent.  Southern Pride, as I understood it, was born out of the residual bitter defiance and resentment the South harbors for their defeat at the hands of the Union.   A spirit of malice and hatred that clings to never repenting their wrongdoing in wanting to keep their slaves directed at the Union that forcibly kept them from doing as such.  

I'm not saying this is what Southern Pride means today.  What I'm saying is it has its roots in the resentment of being forced into not having slaves.  Southern Pride could easily mean just being proud to be from a Southern state, which is perfectly fine.  There's nothing with Southern Pride in that context.

However, when trying to claim that the Confederate flag, a symbol that was born out of the Civil War, is a symbol of Southern Pride, it erases any benign meaning of Southern Pride and links it directly with its roots because you are using a symbol born out of a war over slavery from the side that wanted to keep slaves.  

Yes, it's been a symbol of the South forever even after the war.  But again, it was expressly created to symbolize the group of states that wanted to retain the right to keep slaves.  If one wants to celebrate Southern Pride, that's fine, go for it.  But use a symbol that isn't so directly linked with the heinous act of fighting for the "right" to keep slaves.

If any conservatives can put it in a different perspective, please do so.  I just think this is one fight where many are being contrary to the PC police because it's the PC police and nothing more.  I personally oppose liberal policies and political correctness because it attacks Christianity and has a certain Orwellian deceit that reeks of the Enemy's hand.  And while yes, this issue may indeed be a springboard for other issues such as the ridiculous notion of doing the same thing with the American Flag (which isn't the same issue at all), it doesn't mean the issue doesn't have any merit.

This doesn't mean I believe all the other racial huckster talk about how we've still racist because some areas still wave this flag.  While in many people's eyes the Confederate flag no longer is a banner promoting slavery (and racism), it still is, and always will be, a symbol for the side of a conflict that wanted to keep slavery.  It's not something that should be honored or hallowed.  

If southerns are so keen on celebrating Southern Pride, then pick a new symbol for it.  Something that can represent the movement away from racism and slavery to a unity that represents all things good about the South.

Monday, June 29, 2015

You're loved even when you're wrong - A strong Christian message

So I guess God has more for me to write.  Odd considering such a long hiatus.  But in light of the recent supreme court ruling, there's been a ton of opinions and articles linked from all spectrums of the argument.  This post is a spinoff of my post regarding my take on the gay marriage supreme court ruling .   The other day I was directed to a post to what would appear to be a very misleading, some might consider hateful title.   With a title of "why homosexuality is not like other sins", I was expecting some type of justification for the supposedly widespread "hate" that Christians supposedly have for homosexuals.  Thankfully I read it and found out that it was not the case at all.  I'll not go into detail but it's worth a read.  What I will share is a phrase that I find very good:  "You're wrong, but loved".  The phrase takes the stance of separating the sin from the sinner and showing that love transcends one's wrong doings.  

If I were to make it a little less confrontational, I'd put it as "You're loved even when you're wrong".  What's great about this phrase is that it embodies the Father's love for us as we continually fall short and do wrong things.  Yet, despite all the nasty things we'll do, including things directly hateful toward God Himself, He still loves us.  

I'm wrong all the time.  I sin all the time.  I ignore the Holy Spirit speaking to me and sin even knowing what I'm doing is wrong.  I sin even when I'm striving to be more like Him.  I'm hopeless, but even then He still loves me and accepts my repentance as if it were uttered for the first time.  

That's the type of love that needs to be communicated to people.  A love that brings people in and welcomes them into the Church.  A love that trusts the Holy Spirit to do what needs to be done.  A love that speaks truth, not condemnation. 

It's true that people do not like being told what they're doing is wrong.  And there will always be vehement resistance to when truth exposes wrong doing and lies.  And we can't be afraid to speak that truth.  But we need to have the right message that conveys that while truth exposes wrong doing, it does alter our love for the person whose vulnerability is suddenly revealed.  That's what I believe this message can do.  You're loved, even when you're wong.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why I believe homosexuality is still immoral while also believing the gay marriage ruling is a ultimately a good thing.

First, let's get this out of the way:  This is not a "my views on gay marriage have 'evolved'" post.  They still remain the same.  Homosexuality is still immoral and marriage, in the eyes of God and the church, should be between a man and a woman as our creator intended.  Instead, this post is more about a revelation or impression that the Holy Spirit has left upon me over the past few months and how this ruling, along with a few other things in my life, have strengthened my belief in how God's hand is directing His church in the United States.

First, let me take a step back and brag on God a little.  God has many awesome qualities.   But there's one in particular that I get really excited about as I see it manifest all the time and have had the good fortune of the Holy Spirit revealing it to me time and time again.  This quality is God's perfect and impeccable timing.  A very small, but personally awesome example of this is this past Friday I had the opportunity to drive for about 17 hours in one day and asked God to reveal truth to me and allow me to listen to the Holy Spirit more clearly not even realizing that day was the day the ruling was  to be revealed.  So as I was driving, I was flipping through radio stations and happened to stumble upon a news radio station that had a small blurb about the ruling that had just occurred.   At first I was upset, feeling how this ruling was just another wedge the Enemy was going to use to drive His Kingdom out of our culture and into irrelevance.  That we were losing the battle.

But then, I was reminded of the beginnings of the Christian church in the New Testament and the parallels between the Judaizers trying to force brand new Christianity to keep old covenant laws and the European based Christianity of the past few centuries that ironically turned the bible and its moral code into laws such that breaking that moral code could also mean terrible and oppressive reprisal from the ruling government.   And while we're definitely not anything close to the Inquisition these days, we still have laws that attempt to "enforce" morality my making the immoral acts also illegal.

So how is God awesome here?  He placed me in a situation where I'd have a lot of time to think on Him on the day this ruling would come out and guide my hand just enough to hear the news I needed to hear, then have plenty of time to continually meditate on Him and this situation so I could receive a download of inspiration.   It might not have happened had it just been another normal Friday.

Anyway, after having that parallel impressed upon me, it become clear that the supreme court ruling is God's hand moving His Kingdom in the direction it needs to go in.  No, it's not about "coming around" or "catching up" to the world's indifference on homosexuality's morality.  Instead, it's realizing that in order to win souls for His Kingdom, you cannot legislate morality or salvation.  You cannot save people by creating laws that discourage or prevent them from committing immoral acts.  Remember, it's by faith people are saved, not by works (and in this case, simply avoiding doing bad works because you don't want to deal with the legal consequences).  We can't rig the narrow path by making the immoral choices come with heavy legal repercussions.   It doesn't "make" them saved or even make them lead a more moral life. What it does do is build resentment that pushes people further away from making the choice to follow God.

Last week a visiting pastor to our church was giving a sermon and mentioned how conservative Christians have tried to legislate salvation.  And because of that, the people we're trying to save believe we hate them even though that's not the case at all.  And he's right.  Just look at how conservatives are painted in the media.  We're "hate" filled people that hate anyone who doesn't lead a moral life.  Granted this is not completely our fault as the Enemy is also called the Accuser and he is very good at having lost souls point the finger at God's children.  However, it doesn't mean we didn't have a role in getting to this point.  We did by attempting to legislate morality and forcing people to live a certain way.  Yes, we may understand that this way to live leads to a more fulfilling, Kingdom serving life.  But that only happens when people make that choice all on their own.

What I believe God has imparted on me is that what we're seeing with this gay marriage ruling is just another step to bring the Kingdom back to basics.  To bring us out, once again, of a law centric lifestyle to one where everyone has a choice to willingly pursue the Kingdom and discover the right choices on their own.  A movement to shift our focuses away from desperately trying to maintain Christianity's ever slipping impact and relevance through political means to focusing on impacting and influencing our culture by personally connecting with people.  His Kingdom lies in the hearts and minds of the people, our culture, not in the rules our country makes.

Lastly, keep in mind that while I see that this supreme court decision is God's hand moving the Kingdom back to basics, the Enemy will also be using it to further drive Christianity into irrelevance.  There will be tough times ahead and I'd highly doubt if there wasn't some type of incident where a church is targeted for refusing to perform a marriage for a gay couple in the near future.   That road, while undeniably an attack on Christianity, is God's crucible to form the Kingdom in a way that will enable us to bring in more souls.   Just like our Christian lives aren't always easy and fraught with our tests and tribulations, so is the Kingdom's path to God's ultimate glory.

Just have faith and remember we're here to extend His Kingdom and win souls for Him.  As long as that's always our goal and we continually seek Him, the Church will not just merely survive.  It will thrive.

God Bless.