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Mixed Messages

12 May

Sometimes we use excuses as a means of sidestepping responsibility for actions, or words.  Blaming others is part of human nature for many.  We see this in our politicians blaming predecessors.  We see this in our children.  It appears in the media, and it is certainly found in the workplace.  Taking responsibility for things that we say and do just seems like something passe.  Today we are told that words and actions do not have to line up.  In fact, words are justification for ill-behavior and it is quite annoying.

Take, for example, the sign that was tacked to a tree near a Catholic convent:  “No trespassing!  Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law–Sisters of Mercy.”  We call that a mixed message.  I cannot help but wonder how often we come across the same way, because of our words and actions.  I am sure it is pretty close to daily.

Nothing irks me more than the practice of hypocrisy, which is most likely why one political party bothers me so much.  Momentary, political expediency and vilification of anyone different is the practice.  Character assassinations and double standards are hypocritical and send mixed messages.  I think the height of this “mixed-message-syndrome” is found in the recent killing of Osama bin Laden.  Allow me to explain.

On the one hand, the president is against any technique that causes a terrorist to give up information to save lives.  Information given up through touch interrogation techniques yielded a booty of intelligence that lead to bin Laden.  Obama defines such techniques as torture.

I am sure the president would allow torture of a terrorist if his wife’s, or daughters’ lives were in jeopardy.  But all of that aside.  How can a person be so against a technique–torturous or not–and then be in favor of assassinating a terrorist and others in a raid?  We don’t torture, we just kill?  I call that a definite mixed message.

Politics aside, we struggle daily with the sending of mixed messages.  The root of this struggle is found in two areas of our human nature.  First, we value “self” over others and seek to hide things deleterious to our reputation.  We see this “saving our hides” attempt in the Garden of Eden story in Genesis.

Second, with power comes the ability to make certain of outcomes in one’s favor.  So, our words can be overridden by actions.  Both are hypocrisy at their core.  We find each of these problematic–both in our own lives and in the lives of people to whom we entrust power.

As an educator, I work in the trenches daily.  I am entrusted with power over many lives.  The moment I say one thing and do not follow-up with actions that align with my words, my students are quick to call me out on it–and rightly so!

I get quite frustrated with the media that does not hold our president accountable to his words and actions.  I wish I could get the same pass by those who hear and see me, but I can’t.  My power is limited and it is shared.

Power is addicting.  The more it is used, if combined with lessened public accountability, one begins to think he or she is actually right over time.  Therein lies to deception that comes with hypocrisy.  Promises are made and broken, and are not reported.    Controversies arise and are quelled.  Events are spun to sound like “truth.”  No wonder power can be so intoxicating.

The lasting truth about mixed messages and hypocrisy can be summed in double-mindedness.  It is quite clear that those of us who practice double-mindedness in words and deeds are “unstable in all our ways.”  (James 1:8)

Have you ever wondered why our chief executive says one thing, does another, confuses all of us with rhetoric, etc.?  Remember all the promises he made during his campaign just to get elected?  The truth is that he is unstable, due to shifting ideologies.  In other words, the anchor in his nature dangles just above the ocean floor.  There is no greater mixed message than what emerges from a messenger that believes dangling, unfixed anchors are actually evidence of positive change.

Power is best used when it is shared.  Power used to obtain more power is glorification of self.  “Do as I do, not as I say,” is a hypocrite’s mantra.

Know what I mean?

Change

28 Apr

Things change.  People change.  Life moves onward within the marking of days, weeks, and so on.  Philosophically, there are a few things that will never change–and one of these things is change, itself.

As creatures of habit, we all seek to find our routines and establish some sort of normalcy within the context of our daily regimen.  We all do this, as we seek order to our lives.  Yet as we do, we glance in the mirror, or we watch our own children and grandchildren, and we come “face-to-face” with reality.  We are made aware that change is a constant.  Some of this change is celebrated and some is not.

Are you ready for the oxymoron of the day?  Here it is:  Change never changes; Change remains constant. 

Having said that, we must add, also, that since nothing ever stays the same, we can conclude that change indeed changes everything by its very nature.  It even changes itself, by not changing.  Are you still with me?

As humans, we can either succumb to the universal law of change, or choose to work within it.  I like to call this universal march of time by the term “our path toward decay.”  I am smiling over that phrase because I know the changes my body and mind have undergone these past few years.

The acceleration toward the big “event” seems to be picking up speed.  Yet in all of this reality mixed with humor, we humans are creatures of choice.  We can choose to battle forward, directly in the middle of this change.  Or we can sit back and allow change to maintain its exponential impact, right squarely in the middle of our supposed routines.

We only live one life.  We enjoy our sense of stability, with family, friends, and even with work.  But do we have regrets about things unchosen?  I mean, look . . . we can’t undo past choices.  But we can certainly make new ones.  Do we regret not having made a choice to do something differently in life?  That choice not to choose is really a choice, too!  I don’t like living with regrets, do you?

We can choose by faith.  We can choose by sight.  We can choose by both.  We are not dead yet and, for many of us, making a choice to cause change in our routines might very well be what is best for us at this time of our lives.  There are as many reasons why we should do so.  There are some good ones why we cannot, as well.  But I have to be honest.  I am both fearful of, and apathetic to some changes.  I am probably not alone.

People of the Baby Boom Generation have given so much to this current generation.  Those of us in our 50s and 60s need to ask ourselves, “What now?”

So let me offer this challenge right from within this short blog on this lovely morning.  Do you have a passion that still drives your soul?  Is there an area in life whereby you can imagine yourself making a difference somewhere?

In order for change to occur in our lives, we first have to choose to allow this to occur.  As a Christian man, I choose to walk by faith into that arena.  I know in my spirit that “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

It has been said that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Hebrews 13:8 puts somewhat differently:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes, and forever.”

As for me, watch out change!

Storms Are Blessings

7 Feb

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1:12)

Life is such an interesting pilgrimage.  The moment we think we possess it, it turns back around to illustrate the reality of its possession of us.  There are people we come in contact with in this life whose inconsistencies of friendship are extremely tiring and trying.  There are others who come into our lives for a season, due to life’s hardships, a connection through empathy, or some other personal challenge.  There are still others whose purpose in life is to fight, argue, and play power games, mostly in “thorny” ways.  I am hard pressed to find things that occur in life that are purely circumstantial and happenstance.  Normally what happens is the result of issues with people.

I guess I am “purpose-driven,” “passion-focused,” and even spiritual in many ways.  But I am as human as the next guy, and admittedly just as prone to error, if not careful.  Even with the best of care, I will fall short in some way or another.

In terms of the storms of life, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or interpersonal . . . it’s nice to know we all have a “rock” to which to cling.  It is quite obvious to the perceptive ones when people disregard their safety and security and place it in areas where the footing is wobbly, or unstable.  I understand this well, as I’ve been there myself.

When people persecute you, it is not YOU they persecute.  The persecution is aimed AT you, but is truly directed at your spirit, your heart, and your integrity.  If there was nothing in you or your character that was worthy of destroying, no one would waste the effort.  No one is a hero to the masses for persecuting anyone.  Yet, in one’s own eyes, he is deified, bolstered by just a few with louder voices.  These louder voices overtake those who are quiet.  During storms, the wind seems overpowering, true.  Yet, as well as know, there is more calm and peace than there is storminess.

Regardless the storm, here is my early morning set of deductions.

1.  People are hurting and lonely and so they lash out in attempts to either latch on, or try to bring down those whom they think have it all together at the moment.

2.  Storms pass, head into other areas, and those who have endured can send out warnings and survival guides.

3.  Persecution is not personal, it is issue-oriented, philosophy-attached, and normally is the result of confrontation.  People who find it difficult to separate issues from the people sharing them, have deep-seated personal issues.

4.  The manifestation of hatred means there is an inability to come to terms with deeper issues in a person’s life.  Most are aware of the wreckage left behind, yet pretend to move on like, receiving “It’s all going to be ok” from a group of “adjusters.”

5.  Persecution leaves real damage, some recoverable, and some not.

6.  It is fruitless to scream at persecution, inasmuch as it is wasted effort to yell at the storm.

7.  Knowing where to make one’s home and the conditions which cause storms are essential.

8.  Emotional hurts and scarring are forever, but living with them, through them, and beyond them is all right.  I call this condition the tattooing phase.  Persecution is art for the soul.

9.  Storms batter in the same way that fire refines.  Sometimes cleansing and purging are taken to extremes.

10.  The storm clouds always dissipate to yield the bright, blue sky, and the golden rays of sunshine.  It is at these moments, when light hits the wreckage, can we begin to rebuild and regain the confidence of outward actions, which stem from the assurance of the spirit within.

Who or what is YOUR rock during times of persecution, or stormy trials?  Also important:  WHO ARE YOU?

Christian Ethics and Choices

30 Oct

The following survey questions were written with the Christian in mind, and are part of my larger lesson on “Christian Ethics and Choices.”  A fully informed choice is the responsibility of us all.  Ignorance can lead us into all sorts of choices that, at first, seem the only way to decide an issue.  However, the choice measured by “truth,” is the most informed choice.  But do we desire such choices?  Therein exists accountability morally, as well as spiritually and physically.  In a culture that seeks quick decisions and easy answers, I do not believe we always take the necessary time to find the best answers for our choices.  The question is out there . . . What is God’s role in our choices?

As Christians, we are called to live by different standards than those who are not believers.  Society glorifies individual “choice,” and the believer is called to glorify God.  There is serious biblical tension in trying to accomplish both. 

If truth is unchanging, and not subjective to relative changes in culture, then it is lasting beyond each generation, and serves as a measure for all generations.  There are “truths” that each of us live by.  But what are the ultimate principles that are unaffected by belief, or practice?  This remains to be seen.  Welcome to my lesson . . . [smiling].

Feel free to respond to any or all of the 13 questions that follow,  and let me know what you think.  I am not collecting data from this survey.  That is reserved for in-person activity.  Your answers are strictly for blog dialogue.

TRUE or FALSE

_____  1.  Life has value because society has added to its value.

_____  2.  It is morally wrong for a Christian to believe in abortion.

_____  3.  Human life begins at conception.

_____  4.  Being human implies personhood.

_____  5.  Human beings are eternal beings.

_____  6.  Abortion is always sin.

_____  7.  Personhood begins at conception.

_____  8.  There was a time when the Son was not God.

_____  9.  A Christian should have a choice over how he or she dies.

_____ 10.  If a Christian commits suicide he or she will still go to heaven.

_____ 11.  Physician-assisted aid in dying is sometimes the right thing to do.

_____ 12.  God has a plan for our lives and deaths.

_____ 13.  Abortion is murder.

The Other End of the Spectrum

8 Sep

This evening, I would like to open a little of my life to the reader.  I don’t practice transparency all that often, particularly about my years as a youth.  However, tonight I find doing just that is most apropos.  I have learned a lot about myself over these past many years.  I realize the obvious:  Choices have consequences.  I also learned that consequences can be used for good in the long run, if channeled into something productive.  Suffice to say that I am who I am today because of some concerted efforts on my part, coupled with the direction and grace of God, and rounded off by some very important personal mentors in my life (my awesome wife and family, friends, professors and coaches).

I have titled this blog “The Other End of the Spectrum” because those who know me today–and only today–have absolutely no idea what I was like in high school.  My high school friends know.  In fact, there is shock that registers on the faces  of those who know me today, when I share the person I was those many years ago.  I am not any more special than anyone else.  But this is MY blog so permit me to recap those earlier, formative years, and you will see why I gave this blog its title.  **smile**

As a teenager, I was quite shy.  I was shy with the girls and i was shy in front of my peers.  I was deathly afraid of public speaking and I felt threatened by those with intellects.  For some reason, I remember having terrible crushes on girls, yet always fearing rejection.  I must say I was almost a functional illiterate and a social nerd.  In those days, vocabulary avoided my conversation, so I avoided conversation as a result.  Quietness was my security.  I had a few friends, yes.  I am thankful for their acceptance.  We all wanted to be accepted, didn’t we?  So all was not lost.

Academically, I was a bit challenged and I do think most teachers has pity on me.  This pity carried over into college.  Yet, there were a few in high school teachers and college professors who saw something in me that I did not see.  Thank God for the few teachers and professors who saw into the future though optimism and hope.  Two special men in my life who took me by the hand and walked with me are Drs. John Warwick Montgomery and Dallas Willard.

I recall a lot of angst and frustration over not being a risk-taker.  I also know that I missed out on so many wonderful opportunities to meet people and get to know so many others as close friends.  Academics were not my forte.  In sports, I would have rather passed the ball than shoot it, and share resources with others rather than horde.  Social networking was not my strength.  Confidence was not a strong-suit of mine.  No poor-me stuff.  Just the facts.

But if I stopped this blog right here, I would dishonor the wonderful people who walked with me into adulthood and helped to shape the person I am today.  In addition to the men mentioned a moment ago, there are so many people who have helped to stitch the fabric of my being.  Who said “You can never go back”?  Some goofy non-risk taker, that’s who!  It has been fun reconnecting with high school and college friends and acquaintances.  It has been like night and day to share as a colleague with former professors–the very folks I admire so deeply to this day. 

Becoming a teacher has taught me more about myself than I could ever have imagined.  I have become a very different person since high school.  I changed again in college, when I got married, and then again after I earned some college degrees.  Responsibility and a broader understanding of life certainly do help to bring people out of their shells of insecurity.

Where once there was shyness.  It has now been replaced by gregariousness.  The lack of vocabulary has yielded to verbosity and vigor.  Where confidence was lacking, security in knowledge and persona  produce smiles held high.  I could go on, but I think the reader gets the point.  I am now at the other end of the spectrum.  When once I was laughed at and ridiculed by some.  I am able to point out my own flaws and identify with the laughter we all share about ourselves.  I can turn most anything negative into a positive. 

Looking back, I can see clearly why I went into teaching.  Many of the reasons surround the fact that I wanted to stand in the gap for kids like me, when I was of high school age.  I wanted to be a bright spot for some teenager trapped in his or her shyness and apprehension with fellow students.  I desperately wanted to educate young people about the value of making good choices and mentor them accordingly.  Even when I fall short of my own personal mores and expectations, those with whom I am genuine lift me up and forgive my humanity.  And off I go again!  I wanted to share my story to motivate others to achieve beyond what others predetermined for them.

In reality, being on the other end of the spectrum is a great place to be.  Just talking about it does not cut it.  God has brought me to a place where being genuine, open, and honest has grown new friendships I had only dreamed about in my teen years.  I am still amazed at how many felt and thought as I did.  What is it about the baby-boom generation that just never gives up?  Learning from the negatives does produces positives.  Experiencing kind personalities, and observing how others relate through optimism and hope are catalysts for myself, and others, to take certain risks we’d otherwise avoid.  Thank God for you all!

I know enough about science to state that one end of the spectrum is cold, while the other is hot.  Thanks to Mr. David Byrne, my chemistry teacher, I saw this in action.  In high school, I tended toward to “cool,” side.  I wasn’t cool at all, come to think of it, but you know what I mean.  All indicators are that today I am at the other end of the spectrum–HOT!  Now don’t get ahead of yourself here.  I don’t mean like THAT!  DO I REALLY HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT?  😉

ROYGBIV . . . Where are you when I need you?

  

I would be remiss not to mention the place God and my family have played in the development of who I am as a person.  The “Light of the world” refracted through my regenerated soul, empowers and enables me to be the person I am.  The love of our Lord through my family and their unconditional forgiveness and acceptance buoy my soul.  One of the best illustrations of this process is found on one of my favorite classic rock album covers . . . Let’s see who reads these goofy blogs I write . . . Anyone recall the band and album title?

In closing, I just want to say that CHANGE is a good thing–as long as it is accompanied and marked by clear indicators of the following:  (1) Positive change FROM something TO something else; (2) Change for the better, and not just for change’s sake; and (3) Change that results in higher virtues than before the change occurred.  No one wants to be worse off because of someone else’s notion of change forced upon us all.  (I will not get political . . . I will not get political . . . )

I’d love your thoughts about your teen years, at your leisure.

Honoring Our Parents

8 Sep

As many of you know, I am working on this brand new class for church–and I am excited about its direction.  It’s no secret that we assimilate and emulate a lot of what we are taught, and we appropriate to our lives the things which our parents also have appropriated.  Yes, it is true that we all must live our lives for ourselves.  However, when things go wrong, there is this popular notion that we should blame our parents for our problems.  Well, I am here to say that rather than cause dishonor to our parents by making ourselves victims, why not see things and practice things differently?

Taking personal responsibility for actions and words brings honor to our parents, for it shows the quality of ownership of one’s humanity.  Being unable to stand back and accept full responsibility without also saying, “Look how imperfect you are too,” is a dishonor to our parents.  Standing back and saying “I was wrong, forgive me,” is an honor to parents. 

There are those of us whose parents messed us up royally, or at least we think so.  OK, but so what.  Show me an average human who is not messed up somehow.  I think we’ve messed up enough because of our own choices as adults, that we can now let parents off the hook.   Show me an average human who does not yet have choices in life to move away from one thing, or another.  Show me a human who is honest, sincere, and willing to come alongside others without pointing out another’s “second-hand humanity,” and I’ll show you someone who honors his or her parents.  We need to focus on ourselves and get off the side-taking and finger-pointing.  Those things are dishonorable and childish.  Our own kids will do to us what we have done to our parents–including the blaming part.  We need to break that cycle.

Whether our parents are still with us, or whether they have departed this earth, our words and actions continue to demonstrate honor, or lack of honor for their roles and memories in our lives.  I pray that one day when I am gone, my own children will carry on the legacy of honorable living for themselves and for the honor with which they presently live. 

I am not a perfect man.  It just seems that way to negative people who cannot, or will not change to change.  In many people live by negative emotion rather than common sense.  They are used to the negativity and are addicted to it. 

Piety is not notoriety.  It is humility.  Efforts to change on our own are often met with futility and it’s easier to tell the world to celebrate its foibles than overcome them.  I am an overcomer, a victor.  Most of you are too.  There can be no greater honor to our parents than evidencing in our daily walks the Godly qualities by which they lived.  The second greatest honor is getting it right for our own kids to appropriate into their lives, and so on.

So, to those of us who are moving forward, getting a few things right each day by the grace of God, we are living in honor to our parents.  Those of us who are not are probably not living an honorable life in the eyes of their own families. 

Break the negative cycle with each and every choice to do so.  It is so freeing.  If a friend is a bad and toxic influence, break the friendship–or be a better friend and a better influence than the negative one.  Make the choice.  It will bring US honor.  It will demonstrate honor to our parents, which should never stop just because they have left this earth.

Thanks for reading!

Life is a part of Death

5 Sep

We all seem to think that when death occurs that life is over.  Let me flip this whole notion on its head.  Do I have your attention yet? 

We all use phrases such as “That’s life,” or “Death is a part of life.”  We even use the phrase “Life’s not fair,” as our bumper-sticker philosophical and theological default. 

These phrases, and others, have small places in our minds and realities, to be sure.  But are they true?  Are they true as long as they “happen” in another person’s life?  Do they become unfair and an invalid statement, losing it’s truth, when something happens in OUR lives? 

I am wondering today, “Where is the truth about death these days?”  Are we avoiding it for the universal reality that us really is?  Or have we just accepted its reality, sort of like the elephant in the room no one wants to address?

Excuse my Political Incorrectness.  It is not vogue to discuss death and dying.  As my mother used to say, “If you talk about it, you might cause it to happen,” and “Stop being so morbid.”  I’d swear she thinks reality hinges on my words and that I somehow have the power to cause mayhem and malady upon the world.  Let’s face it.  People who avoid discussions of death simply do not want to consider the emotional aspects of what we all know will occur to each of us.  Welcome to my blog addressing “This Journey Called Death.”

Our Upbringing.  We all were raised with parents who said things like, “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.”  We’ve all teased and told others, “Come here, I’ll kill ya.”  I could go on.  But we don’t seem to have a problem addressing the issue of death when it comes to power play and humor.  The sheer fact is, death is real.  Death is eventual.  Humor and extreme language may help to defray the deeper issue of its reality.  However, none of us make it out of this world alive, in the body as we know it.  Besides, would YOU want this body to make it out into another life?  Talk about torture!

I argue that we are all really good at evaluating the circumstances of others, but get quite blinded when similar circumstances strike close to home.  Un fairness never looks so “unfair,” as when it is delivered unexpectedly to those of us who expected to remain unscathed in this life.  I think one of the reasons for this, quite honestly, is that “living vicariously through others’ experiences is easier than living through our own.”  Because we wouldn’t do to others what life has just done to them, or us, we claim life to be unfair.  I totally understand these emotions.  It feels as if we died while we are still alive!  But where does that leave us? 

That’s Life.  (“Oh, that’s what people say.”  Remember that song?)  What do we mean by this?  Do we elevate life to some deterministic boogey-man, or is the statement a natural admission of our cluelessness about what is going on in our lives?  Moreover, is the phrase an acquiescence to a force that is outside our control?  Do we then relinquish our wills to the “whatever we cannot control” forces of life?  In my mind, the phrase “that’s life” is stated most often toward others, and not ourselves.  It is used as an attempt to ameliorate the impact of life’s stuffus upon others.  We should just say “Relax and accept what took place” in their lives.  The notion that we all face similar experiences sooner or later is a commonality and point of identification for us.  But we’d all like to defer the bad stuff, or hope it avoids us and our loved ones. 

The phrase “That’s life,” is shallow, indeed.  But the truth of the matter is, “Life happens”–another colloquialism used by the masses.  Life happens because life is not under our control. 

Death is a Part of Life.  Nothing is farther from the truth, with respect to life as we know it here on this planet.  Death is the cessation of life, and not incorporated as a part.  If it was a part, as such, it would be occurring in the string of life and be evidenced in one’s daily existence.  Death affects life–ultimately for those of us who experience it, and those who are left behind to grieve. 

Now, instead I like to use the phrase, “dying is a part of life.”  I think this adequately reflects the truth in a decaying world.  This implies that we are aging, getting older and things are literally less alive than they were in months and years past.  Somewhat interesting in all of this is that feelings are not normally affected by this process of decay, but the body certainly is.  Does that not imply that living on as a conscious, aware, and feeling individual is expected–even for those dying?  As the body ages, the “person continues to grow, apart from this process.”  In my mind, this is an evidence of life after death.  It is not the strongest evidence, and certainly not the only evidence.  But advocates of “death is a part of life” ideology–whether knowingly or not–actually provide an argument for “eternal life being a part of earthly dying.” 

Life’s Not Fair.  Define fair.  My experience is that life is fair and that are consequences that occur, along with unintended consequences for most of our actions.  If life is fair because we all get the same size piece of birthday cake, then we must be careful what we wish for.  Life is neither fair nor unfair.  It is not life’s fault that death occurs.  Is it?  Is life not fair because death, disease, and dying are mixed into the equation?  If these were a PART of life, as advocates state, then they ought to be accepted as such. 

If we were all honest, the reason we do NOT accept them is because we know the truth.  Life is of great value.  Death does not diminish life or its value–regardless when death occurs.  Life is a natural right granted by our Creator.  Life at any stage does not have the right to claim “unfair.”  But people do.  Is it fair that a person chooses abortion?  Is it fair that a baby is born with Down-Syndrome?  Who decides “fair?”  If life happens by our choices, and death is a part of life, then “life’s not fair” is to be accepted as well.  But is that the case?

With all the talk of atheism and evolution, there should be no squawking about whatever comes our way.  Yet, when things do happen in this dying world, we blame God.  Sounds a little like the way politicians like to blame predecessors for the current messes.  It is just another way to deflect responsibility for our parts in creating this mess on earth.  We wanted free will.  We got it.  We argues that we can create our own truth, contrary to life.  It is irresponsible to blame God for gracing us with what we deeply cherish. 

Do We Know?  Since none of us knows for certain, by personal experience about the existence of life beyond this physical realm, we really can’t say for sure that life is completely over at death.  In fact, the only reasons we would ever imply that life is over at physical death is (1) we know for certain that nothing exists after death, (2) that life as we know it is the ultimate, (3) life as we know it does not have an eternal aspect, viz. eternal life, etc.

I am not a proponent of universalism.  It is not popular these days to believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell (place of eternal torment).  But may we be reminded that we just didn’t sit around making up these beliefs.  Christians, like myself, are followers.  We place our trust and faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.  So, the beliefs for which we are judged as intolerant come from Him.  Is Jesus intolerant of people choosing to reject Him? 

I find it quite intolerant to judge a follower of Christ as intolerant, for just holding a belief and obeying the command of sharing this belief.  Life does not remove ultimate truth.  But show me a life that removed the ultimate experience of universal death, then I am paying attention. 

Not believing something doesn’t make it less true.  Discarding as intolerant does not remove the fact that Jesus taught something and followers believe it.  Now let me move this provocation along a bit by the following statement.

There is No Such Thing as Universal Afterlife.  We are all NOT on the same path, moving in the same direction.  We all die at different times, so the path is not one.  Is there REALLY anyone who lives as if loving someone deeply as another human is a ticket to ride?  Is there a human love that can override truth?  Are there wrongs that are just wrong to us, but not to God?  Are there “rights” we possess and act upon that are wrong to God?  You know, where all is said and done, death is universal.  Then what?  Do we even care?

Where are we Headed?  Our spiritual GPS is not loaded and focused on the same destination.  One religion has the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Birth, another does not believe in the death of Jesus, but allows for dozens of virgins for eternal pleasure.  Wisdom for the ages is good to live by, but terrible to die by.  The path we take does matter.  Who and What Jesus is does matter.  Do you care?

Again, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I submit my understanding to His exclusive statement.  John 14:6:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”  Either statements like those are lies, deceptions, myth, or sheer ego-mania.  Statements like those are exclusive to Jesus. No other religious leaders, founders of religions, etc., make such claims.  Could it be that this uniqueness is worth listening to, or rejecting?  But if statements like those are true and we reject them, then what?  

Life is a Part of Death.  No one can reject away death by one’s beliefs.  One’s beliefs will be proven true, or not, in the end.  Scientology and Christian Science can “believe away,” or even pay for the privilege of “feeling cleared” of all past baggage.  The stuff is still there and its effects just as certain.  Death happens.  L. Ron Hubbard and Mary Baker Eddy are proof.

As a guy, I am told that I do not stop and ask for directions when I am lost.  But I am atypical then.  I ALWAYS stop and ask for directions.  If I reject the directions and try to find a shortcut, or believe all ways lead to my destination–or that my way is better, then I must accept the consequences.  Today we blame the direction-giver for why we chose to get lost. 

Where is the Hope?  I think we have it quite backwards in society.  We no longer provide hope for people.  We have taken hope and called it tolerance, thereby reducing truth to levels of “truth for you,” and “truth for me”–as long as it is watered down, so as not to cause a stir.  As long as it works for you and me, truth is subjective enough to be elevated to THE truth.  Once that occurs then the argument is made, “all truth is subjective.”  This is pure nonsense, in my thinking.  Just think about applying this principle to a marriage, or to justify a behavior to a boss, or whatever.  Is all truth subjective because YOU say so?  That statement alone seems like an exclusive and objective claim.  How then can ALL truth be subjective by a universal declaration that is objective?  Do you see the way we elevate ideas in our culture?  Here is an example.

“Jesus cannot be the only way to God because there are many ways.”  Pure nonsense!

Faith has its Place.  We place faith and trust all in the here and now, for fear of offending someone else.  Then we get bummed out when life doesn’t pan out like we expected.  In terms of our nation, in reality, minimizing Jesus’s deity equates Him to the rest of religious leaders.  But they have no answers of security for the next life.  Now what? 

Likewise, placing faith in men and elevating all the other religious leaders to the level of Jesus Christ places them in positions which they did not intend as mere humans.  Now what? 

How does either of those attempts help anyone in the long run?  If the words of Christ and His promises are false, all Christians have done is validate that all religions are essentially the same, and that He was truly a mere human.  Christianity then becomes just more religious stuff to do as humans, then we die.  But is that the case?

Non-Exclusivity?  If all religions get us to the same place, then all the “unfair things of life” in the name of religion are honored by some brutally sadistic universal power . . . That doesn’t work.  If it does, then I am heading off to the most selfish of religions and living for myself right now–ATHEISM!

All roads cannot lead to a place that is exclusive.  If they do, there is no exclusivity.  That would be like saying all political beliefs lead to the same political party, or the same political candidate.  Simply makes no logical sense, let along practical sense. 

If practicing a religion is the key, we are all in–assuming a few thing are in line.  

  • How much does one have to practice? 
  • Are we trusting another mere human to keep the tally and tell us? 
  • How much good one must do? 
  • Who or what defines good? 
  • If good is enough, they why would anyone do better? 
  • And what about doing our best? 
  • Is it just pass-fail? 
  • Who defines “bad,” and is there a subtraction factor from the good?

Here is where the ludicrous enters the universalist salvation philosophy.  

  • What if a person does good for a nation, and not the world, does he or she get in? 
  • Who is keeping the tally? 
  • And if a person does one good deed in life, or gives the most money to a cause, is that good enough? 

Universalism does not work, because people were good Nazis for their nation, good terrorists in the name of Allah during Jihad, and good murderers in the name of God throughout history.  Would you like to share an eternal life with these people?  If there is no eternal life, or punishment for anything, what is keeping all of us from destroying each other?  Would others like to share an eternal life with ex-spouses, or abusers?  Based on things done, universalism has no answers. 

Religious practice simply doesn’t cut it.  Religion may be universal in belief, but relationship is not.  If all roads led to the same place, then Christians practicing Buddhism, along with adhering to Jihadist ideology, and Roman Catholicism, etc., etc., along with polygamy are just fine and dandy. 

“Relationship with Whom,” you ask?  With God Himself–not religion.  I did not make this up.  Again, I trust the words of Jesus:  “I came to the world that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  In the final analysis, I am placing my trust in the next world, right here and now in.  But I place it in Someone Who has been there, conquered the very thing we all cannot escape, and Who accepts me as I am. 

Religion enables my conscience to have a one-way relationship with a continuous grasping upwardly set of beliefs and practices.  Jesus Christ secures a relationship downward and validates it by His death and resurrection.  You know, come back from the dead on your own and  You, sir, at least have my attention–if not my soul. 

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

“Eat, drink, and be merry.  For me to live for myself is the ultimate.  There is nothing after this life.  For tomorrow we may die.”

Which one of these gives hope both now and later?  And do you even care?  The choice is yours.  It always is.

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