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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?

What About Goodness?

16 Sep

Much has been said these days about a lot of things, complete with negative tones, rancor, and personal attack of character.  From the political to the theological, naysayers line up to cast the stones of judgment at one person or another, or one belief or another.  Beliefs also receive vicious attacks, and ad hominem statements are made to assassinate the character of persons–regardless their station in life.  Claims of “What are you a racist?,” or “You are intolerant!,” dot the media landscape.  But it is all a ploy to taunt and accuse.

It has been stated by more than a few people that “there cannot be a God, because of all the poor people in America and the world.”  We are given free will to elect people, then we blame God for our choices.  As evidence, naysayers use suffering, illness, and death as their justifications of non-belief.  What did God do to deserve these negatives?  It is actually the accusation through question as to what He did NOT do, that is at issue.  “Some God you have there.  Look what He allowed to happen.”  I’d rather look at what He did NOT allow happen . . . But I see their point. It’s easy to use negative things if a person is negatively predisposed.

Atheists are an interesting bunch.  They claim not to believe in an objective good or evil.  They claim that man makes his own good and evil, define it as such, and that the fittest win out.  The main argument atheists use is that if there is a God then He allows innocent people to suffer and die.  Assume that God does allow this.  Hasn’t the atheist then just made a value judgment that God is not good, and that life–the real good–has been snatched?  That sounds like a belief system to me. 

Let us examine the following arguments:

  • There is too much “evil” in the world for there to be a God.
  • Suffering and death of innocents proves there is no God.
  • There is no such thing as good or evil, outside of what humans define.

Evil in the World.  I was recently talking to a nontheist who argued that he did not believe in goodness or evil.  I asked him whether child molestation, or murder were evils.  He said they were crimes.  I responded, they are not crimes if a person is not caught.  What do you call them if a person is not caught, and still molesting?  If there is no evil, then not getting caught means WHAT?  I had many other questions to ask, but let him off the hook.

Another person, a supposed agnostic, stated his “disbelief” in good and evil.  I pointed out that a person first has to believe, so that he can disbelieve.  There was no response.  In fact, he and others do what is typical once the cozy belief system they claim does not exist is truly exposed for what is really is.  They distract by calling names and it is fun to watch them attack ad hominem.  They lose all credibility at that point.  Personal attacks are atheists’ white flags. 

There is evil in the world, for every generation has committed the same crimes in all lands, among all people groups, and collusion is not a possibility.  Who instructed all the so-called “criminals” throughout all the ages to commit such acts?  One’s belief that evil does not exist does not make it so.  Neither does one’s belief in evil make it a reality.  But the evidence of common sense and data from around the world and its history prove that either man is evil by nature, or that he is “good” by nature, and just commits actions defined as evil.  Either way, one or the other validates good or evil–by nature or by action, either contrary to, or in line with his nature.  Another option is that man is neutral, and only affected by social conditions.  What social conditions?  Human ARE the social creatures affecting others.  How can someone affect another in a neutral way, and have a neutrally murderous act committed?  If this was the case, we would not need places for society’s criminals.  John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, Baron de Montesquieu–and even Alexis de Tocqueville realized the need for government to protect societies. 

Evil is as real as love is real.  Goodness is as real as longsuffering and persistence are real.  One can believe away love all he wants.  But disbelieving love’s existence does little to cease others’ love for us.  Just ask our parents why they still love us when we rebel.  Anger and hatred exist as much as forgiveness and restoration.  Abstracts become real in humans.  Absent action, love still does not cease to exist.

Suffering and Death.  Negatives validate negative statements and affirm disbelief.  Belief is placed in self-fulfilling negatives.  It is enough to counter this with the fact that healthy people, babies being born, surgeries and doctors, medicine, miraculously unexplained cures, and technology are positives.  Weighing them out, if there is one ounce of good over evil, by mankind’s definitions, then there is a God.  Validation of no God because of suffering and death?  Then one must be fair in validating the existence of God with obvious healing and life.   There cannot be God and NO God at the same time. 

If an atheist “believes in disbelieving” for negative reasons, then he should not decry the theist for “not believing in belief” of atheism, with positives for God’s existence.  Personally, I believe atheists do not exist.  None of them have proven that they are atheists, so they don’t exist. 

Is death a good thing, or a bad thing?  I’ve never seen an Atheist Medical Center, or the Agnostic Secular Surgery Lab, etc., etc.  Yet, atheists have no problem going to doctors who might have faith and strong belief that saving life is good.  The implicit reality in so doing is that the person’s life is intrinsically good, and that suffering and evil are to be avoided–whether he admits it or not.  Think about it.  The ultimate proof that God does NOT exist, to the atheist, is suffering,disease, and dying.  Yet, no one I know is willing to validate God’s nonexistence personally by dying to bolster the evidence for someone else to say the same thing about suffering and death. 

I find it interesting how an atheist has no problem being treated in a Catholic hospital, or Seventh Day Adventist hospital.  Enough said about that.  I am glad they receive treatment.  Based on that statement, I now ask, “Is life good?”  The only conclusion I can draw is that regardless the posture, an atheist has the “belief” that life is good and worth saving.

Neither Good Nor Evil.  Human definitions do not define away good or evil.  Belief does not do away with good or evil.  These have existed long before we have, and will be here long after we are gone.  Human intellect can become reprobate and the result is evil thoughts.  Beliefs can be evil.  White supremacy beliefs are evil.  Evil thoughts may lead to evil actions.  Yet, these do not place “goodness” in the realm of the non-existent.  Before we existed, humans were here.  After we die, humans will be here.  It’s only while we are here that we say this or that does not exist.  This proclamation is unable to prove or disprove anything, before us or after us.  For those areas, we need to look elsewhere, outside our own experiences. 

In order to state universally that good and evil do not exist, one would have to be both good and evil, then realize that “poof they no longer exist,” in order to know that absence means nonexistence.  One would have to know objectively for all humans, just exactly the same good and evil, in order to trust the knowledge and that he is not misreading what is claimed as nonexistent. 

It is honest to state one’s disbelief in good and evil.  But such disbelief is conjecture and opinion, and not proof–absent clear and decisive evidence that “belief” in and of itself is enough for proof.  This would be ludicrous, for all I would have to do is say that “I disbelieve that child molestation is evil,” and by my belief, any actions of such would become neutralized–neither good nor evil.  We all know better than that.

In the many years I have debated atheists, I have yet come across any evidence they have presented that proves God does not exist and that good and evil are only humanly defined.  It is not incumbent upon one that exists to prove so.  If an atheist could prove there was no god, and his options were only one–killing himself–I wonder how many would choose that action?

When it comes to the vast majority of atheists, accusations with questions marks are the weapon of choice.  For example, “You don’t believe in that fairy tale God-thing, do you?”  Negative statements with question-marked accusations are not questions. 

To sum up, (1) Any atheist who claims not to believe in good and evil is not to be “believed.”  (2) Goodness in the world is evidence that there is a God, if the atheists’ accusations of suffering and death prove His non-existence.  One cannot have it both ways. 

Just a few thoughts for the evening.  Thanks for reading.

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.

Peek-A-Boo

2 Sep

The human soul has been likened to many things and analogized quite beyond reason.  Likewise, its existence has been questioned and its essence explored by means of countless conclusions, notions, beliefs, and behaviors.  Conclusions have been drawn as to whether humans are eternal, spiritual creatures, or not.   Theologians and philosophers the world over have speculated what comprises this “essence” of humans, whether man is bipartite (body and spirit/soul), or tripartite (body, soul, and spirit).  Many still question whether there is one essence in the universe, or separate, unique ones–or whether trees and other parts of creation all join in a cosmic dance.  To this end, there are advocates that maintain animals have souls, adding even further to the conversation. 

Lest the reader think this blog will be an in-depth treatise on the dialectical denominational differences of the soul, or that Calvin, Luther, and various other Reformers are going to weigh-in, you may relax.  That is not the purpose.  Too bad though.  Calvin’s Institutes are resting on the shelf near my desk–so is Luther’s Catechism.  All that aside, to offer a triple alliteration and not follow-up is sermonic teasing at best.  You may smile. 

Regardless your personal view of the soul/spirit, I think we can all agree of a few things.  Let’s see if this is the case.  First, humans are animated creatures and possess emotions, feelings, intuitions, and even humor.  Second, we reason and think (I hope you don’t mind that I placed myself in the category of being human).  Third, we love on levels not even we can put into words.  Fourth, we are good at expressing and we are good at covering up.  The point of this blog is to ask the question “To what extent have we actually taken a look deep inside ourselves? 

Allow me to challenge the reader, as I also challenge myself.  When was the last time we peered deep into who we are as humans?  When did we last dive straight into the painful parts of our past to confront them as adults?  Too painful you say?  Well, we tuck those areas away when we are younger and then bring them out to “feel” them as we did when we were much younger.  The only problem is we are no longer that age.  So, what is it that causes us to keep those areas of our lives hidden–yet filled?  I already stated it might be pain–but a pain unwarranted for the present.  May I suggest another reason?

I think we humans have “holes in our souls.”  I truly believe that rather than confront what has fallen into the vortex of the unknown, we simply place an emotional lid on that area of our souls and rationalize it away and move forward.  Pain does that to us.  So too does emptiness. 

I also believe that in dealing with that “holey-souly” stuff the depths spring to the surface and can then be dealt with.  Would you agree we’ve become accustomed to holding that “soul-plug” firmly in place, avoiding the issues that rise to the surface and be dealt with?  But that is the emotional part of the soul to which I refer.  Counselors deal with folks every day in these areas.  But how about the “spiritual side?” 

I have lived long enough to know myself well enough to understand that I had a “hole in my soul” that only God Himself could fill.  Solomon was right, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  Activities, knowledge, work, people, and even ministry could not fill what was needed.  There is no high, no stupor, no pleasure, and no self-motivational pep-talk that would ever last long enough to fill the hole within us.  I truly believe this.  We love to be loved and accepted.  We long to have the “God-sized” hole in our souls filled.  At least, this is my view and my experience.  However, it is either a universal reality, or it is not.  Either there is a hole there or there is not.

I would like to hear what has filled your soul to provide you with the realization of the “way” of life both here and after, the “truth” of life now and later, and what completes your “life” once-and-for-all.  What has been sitting in that “soul-hole” just wanting to see the “Light of the World”?

In closing, I’d like to believe that my soul has been plugged, my spirit exchanged for a new one, and that I am evidencing this just a bit more each day.  Only time will tell whether people judge me as being what I claim, or not.  Suffice to say, it is true that when climbing mountains, it is not how many good steps you take to ascend.  It is the one misstep that causes the fall.  Judge me if you must.  But judge me not by my falls.  Look at the entire “trip”!

Now, where are you in all of this?  I would love to know.  Thanks for the personal mails and comments off-blog.  I enjoy knowing there are people being challenged by my thoughts.  Now, plugging the soul is one thing to consider (even though such language is more intentionally colloquial than biblical), I sure wish I could plug these holes in my head.  The draftiness is annoying.  Duct-tape anyone?

“Whooooshing you all a good evening.”

The Death of Me

2 Sep

Today a little piece of me died.  Please don’t panic.  Like so many of you, and like those of greater repute than I could ever hope to attain, something cool occurred.  Part of me died–a bad part!

Dying is a part of life.  Death, however, is NOT part of life.  It is the grandest of life’s interruptions.  Cessation is not a part.  It is the end.  Buy dying to get to the end is a process.

The process of dying to the things of this world is a good thing, in my opinion.  The person who dies with the most toys does not win–HE IS STILL DEAD! 

The tempations that so easily beset us in our youth, are still there.  But have you noticed, the vigor of their pursuits doesn’t seem to carry the same youthful exuberance, now that we are older (at least for most of us)?  What I find interesting–as well as humorous–are those times when we come across the occasional older adult who has not changed much from his or her youth.  You know what I mean.  Let me explain briefly to recap what the old gray matter might have overwritten.  Remember these?

  1. The temper tantrums of adults who do no get their way.
  2. The profanity-laced tirades over the simplest things.
  3. The bouncing from relationship to relationship.
  4. Abuse of substances.
  5. Making of daily resolutions to change, only to slip back time-and-time again.

I could go on.  But the point is made, I think.  We should be about dying to our old selves–especially those of us who claim to be Christians.  Some of our old nature and detrimental behaviors should be slipped into into irrelevance and placed into long-term, distant memories.  Yet, I am afraid, (like a lot of us) that I entertain those things of my past as if they have present relevance.  But I am happy to report that something died and has been buried into the past, forgiven, and placed where the past belongs!

The “death of me” is truly the death of “self,” a little at a time.  Becoming more like Christ requires, as the Apostle Paul stated, “dying daily to self.”  Hopefully I won’t have too many outbursts today, as I drive in my convertible, shirt open to my navel, gray chest hairs flopping in the breezes . . . I also hope I don’t strangle myself on the gold necklaces around my neck.  But you know what?  Those are not going to sit well with my huge black radar-like sunglasses.  Oh well . . .  White shoes, plaid shirts, and striped pants are in style somewhere (just not together).  LOL

Time to grow up . . . Will there ever be a store called “Toys-Were-Us”?  Oh yeah!  It’s called the car dealership.  🙂

Ciao!

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