Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Danger or Glorified Sin

I was talking with a counselor once about how sins often breed other sins. We were talking about the sin of adultery specifically, that when a person commits adultery, the other person in the marriage is much more likely to commit adultery, because it becomes an option. I found it interesting how my counselor friend shared that often the sins of one person opens the doors for others.

There are some things that we would never consider doing, and it seems like no one could do anything, we are afraid of the consequences and the price. One day our friends try it and they live to tell the tale, they may even enjoy it. They didn't die, lightening didn't strike and no one died. This happens with teens with sex. One teen has sex and tells their friends about the experience. It then is no longer a big, strange thing, but something their friends are doing.

It seems to be part of human nature that when someone tries something, we want to try it too. We have to realize that if someone makes a mistake, commits a sin and does the wrong thing, we may not always see the consequences. We may not see how it effects them, it may seem like there isn't a cost. There is. If someone introduces you to a new way to sin, it's not an open invitation. There is still a cost and a price to be paid.

In the same way, we have to be careful how we talk to others about our sin. Just like with the married couple and adultery, we don't want to make our sin an option for someone else. We don't want to make it seem like we "got away" with it or pulled a fast one on God. The truth is, even if there isn't any visible cost, our sin always has a price and it causes problems. It disrupts relationships and causes problems, even when it's hard to see. It's important not to glorify our sin and share it in a way that can cause others to stumble.

When we confess our sins to others, there are things to remember. You should confess and have accountability with a person or people, but we need to choose wisely. You shouldn't be random in your confessions. It should be a mature believer, someone you trust and depend on. It should be someone who won't lead you into temptation or cause you to stumble, and in the same way not to cause others to stumble. We have to make sure we don't cause others to fall, but instead support them in the areas we have learned lessons and failed. Never brag about your sin, or get caught in a competition to see who has sinned the worst. Paul shared that he was a sinner, but did not give specifics or list all the ways he sinned. In the same way, we can acknowledge we are sinners without giving specifics. A man can share that he struggles with lust without painting a mental image of who he lusts after. A woman can share she struggles with jealousy without listing all the things she wished she had that she was jealous of. A couple can share they need prayer for some issues in their marriage without airing all of their dirty laundry for the world to see.

Let's be open, let's stay accountable but we wise about it. Let's make sure we are concerned and cautious about others. Let's not make our sin an option or others and ensure the sins of others doesn't become an option for us. It's a lot of work and takes diligence, but it will be worth it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Most Important Role

I've been a lot of things in my life. I've been a Pastor, Youth Pastor, Education Pastor, Associate Pastor, Campus Missionary, Teacher, Speaker, Coach, Consultant, Operator, Technician, Manager and a whole list of other things. They have been great positions for the most part, but there is one role that is looming over me and I feel the responsibility. I cherish it, but also don't underestimate it. It's the role of being the head of my family. I'm a husband and father.

I haven't always been the best at this role. I've messed up, said and done things I regret, I've dropped the ball and just blown it. The job keeps changing, I started with no kids, now there are three. They keep getting older and it gets more complicated. This year I have one is Elementary, one in Middle School and one in High School. It's no longer simple questions, the questions and problems are much more complex. I'm trying to walk beside my wife as we navigate teenage years. Teenage attitudes. Issues that come up.

Marriage keeps changing too. When we started it was just her and I and we had no idea what we were doing. Now it's been 16 years and she knows what she is doing but I'm still pretty clueless. I try to be helpful but I fail at that. I am thankful that I have a very forgiving wife. I know I have blown it often as the Spiritual leader of the house. I don't pray with her like I should, I have struggled with that our entire marriage. I don't really talk with her about the Bible like I should either. I have tried, but I often end up on things that are more theoretical than practical. Theories and ideas and all sorts of Woven things about time and predestination.

I am not the perfect dad or husband. I mess up but I know that I have to try and I have to do my best. I can't just cut out or cop out or fade out. I'm dad, no one else is going to have that role for my kids because they are my kids. I can't resign or get fired or get fired and tell everyone I resigned. I have to get better. On the plus side, I found out if you read on your chosen field for an hour a day, you'll be an international expert in like 7 to 10 years. I will keep reading all I can about being a good dad and a good husband. I have a good number of books read, so I'll just keep at it.

How about you? Are you the perfect mom, dad, husband, wife, son, daughter, employee, whatever? We live in a day when it's just easier to quit, cut and run, quit and give up. You can't, and you shouldn't. Let's try a little more, give a little more, tolerate a little more and work on that patience thing. Don't buy the lie that if you leave, things will be better. It rarely boosts moral to lose someone from your life, so let's keep going. We can survive, we can thrive and we can do this. You can do this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Update on my Back/ Leg Issue

Well, I had surgery on my back, a micro-discectomy. It did the trick, my leg pain was gone. . . for about a week. Then it began to creep back. It's back in my hamstring and my foot is tingly again. Again. I am having another MRI to figure out what is going on. Hopefully it's just scar tissue and a few injections will take care of the issue. Thanks for all the prayers and support, I really appreciate it. In the mean time, I am chilling at home, writing and reading and being in pain. It's not the best way to spend time, but I'm trying to make the most of it.  I'll keep you all up to date as I find out what is going on. Can't wait for that perfected resurrection body!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Indie Authors, Sharing for Change

Bring a writer gives you an awesome ability to read and talk to other writers. This is one such occasion to read a story that is so much more. I'll let the author, Ang King tell you:

About Black Sheep

About Black Sheep

How does one write a foreword to their life story? I guess I’ll give it a try. I’m not even sure why I decided to write my story, but maybe someone needs to read it.
What is Black Sheep about? About me, well part 1 about me.  You’ll read about my abuse history, memories, and recovery. I plan to write more about my Spiritual Journey in part two but am considering combining the two.
I wanted my story out there, I wanted to let other survivors know they are not alone and to give them a voice. Part of my narrative I am really talking to God.
I hope my book lets others believe they are not alone. Thank you.

You can find her book here.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Let's Talk Education

If you know me then you probably know I consider myself an educator. I am not a public school teacher, but I have spent a lot of time inside the classroom. I have taught (substitute, but I had to prepare lesson plans often) public school, taught one class in a Christian school. It was amazing. I have taught a whole lot in churches from babies to senior adults. I have taught in conferences and in large group settings, down to 1 on 1 classes with people. Teaching is my passion.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the education system of the United States needs some help. I want to address today what I think the issues are, how we begin to fix things and then encourage you to get involved. So let's start with what I see the three biggest issues are in public education as it exists today.

First, teachers are no longer in control of teaching, administrators are losing the ability to administrate, districts have lost control, the state DOE is losing the ability to make decisions because they all have to cater to the Federal Government. What is messed up is that the Federal Government has no real power over state Departments of Education, so instead of saying "you have to do this", they control them by the purse strings. States that play by the rules get Federal funds. If you don't play by the Fed's rules, you don't get the money. The money drives the agenda, not the educational needs of the students. I don't blame the States, the Districts, the Administrators and definitely not the teachers. I blame the legislators at both the state and federal level.

Legislators want to make the best education system possible, but they are not educators and they make bad decisions based on ignorance. Over testing and using material that is not using developmentally accurate methods in teaching and testing. They need to give control back to educators and let them make decisions. They need to be able to make local decisions and not be bullied by budgets. Legislators need to be involved in making the ideal situations for educators to thrive but give the teacher control of the classroom, the principal control of the school, the superintendent control of his district. Give the school board a role of oversight, but let those who know teaching, teach.

Number two is that education is no place to pursue social agenda. The school is not the place to teach kids about homosexuality, transgenderism, religious teachings, Christian or Islamic expect for their place in the history of the nation. Kids in school need not be bogged down in being the social experiment for whichever political party is in the majority. The purpose of education is the create good citizens. We need to teach them to think critically, which means we can't tell them how to think. Moral and ethical issues are to be handled by parents, by religion and by philosophy, not by the public education system. The public school can not be the police force of society by making children of today conform to the idealistic norms of the controlling group. You can't make the kids of Atheists be Christian, you can't make the kids of Christians be Atheists. You shouldn't try to force sexual agendas on kids, and developmentally speaking, you should never try to tell a kid in elementary school what his or her sexual preference is. If a boy plays with barbies, it doesn't mean anything except he likes barbies. He doesn't have to be gay. He can play with the barbie or play house or whatever, let the kid be a kid. It's time to stop making the classroom the place for social experimentation.

Third, the way curriculum and especially textbooks are created. This overlaps some with point two, but let's be honest about textbooks. They are all written for Californa and New York. That is where most of the people are, so they write the textbooks with the largest markets in mind. They don't write textbooks thinking about rural Iowa or Alabama or Nevada. They think about LA and San Fran and New York. Much of what we find has been written to cater to the social agenda of those areas. It is also crazy to think that the student in Nebraska have the same educational needs a those in LA. While we all should be learning the same things, we don't learn them the same way. This is because of an educational principle called scaffolding. It's much like building a tower, you start with a foundation  and build upon that foundation and grow the structure. In math, you learn to count, then add, subtract, multiply then divide. You build on the previous skills. You don't just learn things inside the classroom, but in the community. The things you use in your community and your home impact your education. This is different in farming communities, mining communities, industrialized places, large business centers and travel hubs. Your environment makes a difference, so using textbooks with kids in large cities in mind is not the best for the majority of America.

Here is the question of the day, what do we do about it? First, call your local legislators, call your congressmen and senator and talk to them about your concerns. Talk to the teachers, the principals, and the local school board members about what the issues and needs are. Join a PTO/PTA. Volunteer, speak out and be informed. Learn the educational platform of candidates and vote. Lobby, donate, support the AEA (Area Education Association) your state Education Association the NEA. Speak up, make your voice heard. Write a letter to the editor, heck you can even write a blog. Find ways to speak up and share your concerns and we can solve some tough education issues in our country.

Monday, November 28, 2016

How to Understand God

You Can't.

Ok, I'm going to explain more than that, but that's the honest truth. The knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of God is so far beyond anything that all humans combined together can even possibly begin to scratch the surface of. The wisdom and understanding of God is unfathomable. The problem is how often we attempt to make God make sense to our little minds. In the scheme of eternity, we think our limited time on earth puts us on par with God.

Our first issue is we assume we know that is best. We have decided that all suffering is wrong, and therefore God shouldn't allow suffering. I have seen it said that "If God is all powerful, He is not all good, and if He is all good, He is not all powerful". This is because we assume we know that it would mean to be all good. No suffering, no hurting, no hunger or disease or poverty. We think we know better than God, so a world with no need would be perfect.

This assumes that we understand what things would be like if there was no suffering or need or pain or death. We believe we can fathom perfection, therefore God should give it to us because it would be better. We assume we know more than God. The reality is that suffering exists for our good. We become who we need to be and who we should be through suffering, through working and striving and making progress. The reality is, unless we are first perfect, the world cannot be perfect. If the world is perfect, then we would screw it up by being in it.

This brings us to the more complex issue, why He allowed us to be imperfect. God could have just eradicated Satan, but He didn't. He didn't have to plant the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, but He did. He could have wiped out Adam and Eve and started over. He didn't. This is more of a conundrum than the first question. The first question is only asked by those seeking to disprove God, because the problem with the world is that people are sinful. The bigger question is why God allows us to be sinful.

In all honesty, every person deserves to be destroyed. We all are much better at evil than good. We do evil without thinking, it takes work to do good. We are not neutral creatures, we are selfish and hurtful and go things just to amuse our selfish and sinful nature. We deserved to be wiped out, but God is patient with us and allows us to continue on.

During our family Bible time the other night, my son asked me why God didn't wipe Satan out. My older boy and my daughter started giving answers they heard in youth group and Sunday School and from other people. I just had to shut it down, because we don't know. Yes, maybe the relationship inside of Salvation will be more intimate that God walking with Adam. Maybe there is merit in the way that judgment and salvation and redemption will bring God the most glory in eternity. I'm sure there are a myriad of answers, but the reality is, we don't know. If God told us, we probably still wouldn't understand. It would be like trying to explain outer space to a goldfish in a bowl.

So, next time you decide you are going to put God on trial and demand that He account for the suffering, just remember, you coudln't understand it. If He did solve the issues, it would require your irradication. Be thankful that suffering exists, God is paticent with us and we can grow and strive in hard time because He is faithful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day One Post Op

Well I paid a guy to cut me open yesterday, worth every penny. Had my back surgery to trim back the bulging disc, called a Lumbar Discectomy. The surgeon said it was a bigger bulge than he originally thought, he wasn't sure how I was functioning. I was in a lot of pain, makes me feel vindicated, that I'm not just a big wimp. I fought through the pain as much as I could, but sometimes it was just more than I could tolerate. Guess there was a reason.

This whole experience, even though it's not over, has had some positives. I have been able to spend some time with Elaine talking, I think we have grown closer. I have slowed down since I had no option. I have written more and got some things on that side accomplished, and I feel pretty good about that. I've read some good things, watched a few movies and enjoyed some down time. The pain meds made the down time bearable.

Day one of the recovery. I can't sit for more than 15 minutes, I can't drive or lift anything. Just need to heal. Part of me wants to get back to work, but I'm going to listen to my doctor. Spine issues aren't something to mess around with. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Thank you for support for Elaine, for the food and those who have supplied for my sweet tooth with ice cream and donut. I love you all, thanks for the prayers and well wishes.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Reflections on my Upcoming Surgery

Tomorrow I go and finally have my surgery. I have a major bulge in a disc in my L4, L5 vertebrae and they are going to trim it back. The bulge is putting pressure on a couple of nerves and causing my intense pain down my left leg. I struggle with driving and walking and sitting, all those things cause me great pain. I've been off work for a couple of weeks because I've been unable to work. The surgery is something I'm very much looking forward too.

Surgery is not something we are normally excited about. Being cut open and having things removed from our body is not necessarily a pleasant thing. Surgery hurts, being cut open causes pain. The body does not particularly want to be opened up. It hurts when  things are cut out, but I'm not worried about it hurting. The reason is that I'm already hurting and the localized pain will be better than the extensive pain down my back and left leg. The pain that I will experience will make the pain I'm having now a distant memory.

In life, sometimes we need God to be a spiritual surgeon. There are things in your life that need to be cut out. There are people in your life that need to be removed from your life. Perhaps you have a relationship that is not good for you. Many say that love is blind, but also love is foolish, we have emotional connections with people who are bad for us. We have friendships, we have idols, we have things in our lives that control us. Often we like these things, but they are destroying us. The sin that in our lives is like a cancer in our lives. We need spiritual surgery.

Having things cut out of our lives can be painful. There is recovery, there is therapy, there is a process and it can be uncomfortable. Tomorrow, they will cut my back open and go inside to trim back the bulging disc, and my body will experience pain. The pain will bring healing. Are you grieving because something you loved has been removed? It's for your benefit and you will heal. You don't have to like it, but trust God, because He loves you and knows what is best. His love will bring healing and wholeness. Trust God, hold tight to Him and stay connected with other believers. Healing is happening.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I'm Not Sure That Means What You Think It Means!

I'm going to be honest and share one of my biggest pet peeves. Isogesis. Isogesis is when you have an idea or a belief or a thought and then you find a Bible verse or part of a Bible verse to support what you say. That problem with this it ignores context completely. If you take a phrase out of context, you can make it say whatever you want. The media has been doing this for years, politicians are pros at it. Don't do it.

Instead, you need to exegete a passage. I want to teach you today real quickly how to let your theology be Biblical, instead of having to twist scripture to match your theology. Remember, the Bible should shape your theology, not your reasoning, not your feelings, and not some guy on TBN. You must take the Bible as a whole and use context, scripture, and the Holy Spirit to come to a correct understanding.

First, when we study, we read entire passages that complete the thought. Don't worry about the verses or chapters, read the complete thought. Let's look at Romans 8. We all loves verse 28, right, that all things work for the good of those who love God. Then we stop. Sometimes we fight about the idea of "being called according to His purpose", cause that sounds like election. Then we get to 29, and people often gloss over it. We just sort of skip down to verse 31, cause we like that part. This is not the way to read the passage.

First, start at verse 26, read through verse 30. I'm not going to post it, go get your Bible. This is all part of the same paragraph, so how does 26 and 27 relate to 28? The Spirit is praying for us according to the will of God. What is the will of God for you? Skip down to verse 29, for us to be conformed to the image of His son. All things work together for our good in accordance with the will of God, which is for us to be more like Christ. This has been God's will for us all along, this is why we were predestined, called and justified, so we can be secure that God is not leaving us or abandon us in trails. That is the next section, verses 31-36, that God is with us.

So, it's not that God works everything for our good so we will be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise. It's so we can look more like Christ. All things happen so we are more like Christ. Does that sound a little different that the interpretation of the TV preachers? You know it does.

Let's tackle one more, one of my favorites. Jeremiah 29:11. We love this verse, it's KLove's encouraging verse of the day. With this, I want to teach you two parts. First, we have the exegesis, which is the same process. We read the whole passage. God is telling the people of Israel, through Jeremiah the prophet, that they need to get cozy. They need to accept the exile for now, but God has a plan for the future. He isn't finished with the nation of Israel yet. Did you get that last part, He is working on the nation of Israel. Who is this verse too? Was it to the people of Babylon? Nope. Assyria? Nope. It's to the Southern tribe of Judah, not even the whole nation, it's to Judah, to the exiles. He has plans for those in exile. Should we take a promise made to a specific people at a specific time and make it a blanket statement for everyone? Hmmm.

Here is the second part. This was a promise to Judah, but it's in the scripture for a reason. This is important, because not only do we need to study and understand the correct meaning of scripture, but then we apply it to our lives. We do this by finding the timeless principle that God is demonstrating. God's nature is revealed in this passage, He is working and He has a plan. We know from Ephesians, chapter 2 verse 10 that there are works that God prepared beforehand for us. God has prepared a path for His people, both for Judah and for us. We see God's character that He has and knows the plan for us. We can't directly apply this verse because God doesn't  have a plan to give us hope, the hope is now given, we have the hope, which is Christ. We have a future, it's our eternal life with Christ. He has given us those things, so now we must walk in the path, the good works which God has laid out for us.

This process of study for the Bible may be a little longer, a little more complex but it's a much more accurate and rewarding that finding a verse that supports your idea and making the Bible conform to your theology. Let the Bible shape what you believe and how you think, this is key to having the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit will teach you if you are a Child of God, and you will find great wisdom. The alternative is folly, and you don't want to speak of God what is not true. Just ask Job's friends.

Monday, November 14, 2016

When We Are Wronged

Have you ever been wronged? Like someone did something to you that was unjust, unfair, hateful, hurtful or just plain mean? You have, we all have, it's happened to everyone and everyone is guilty of doing it to someone else. We all hurt people, we hurt the ones we love and we hurt strangers and friends and allies and people around us. People have become pretty easy to hurt these days, just look at our college campuses. These kids are hurt if you don't have the same political ideology, it's sad.

In recent days, we have seen a trend of how to react when you are hurt. Riots, protest, fights and attacks, and of course the social media posts. People have lashed out in every way they can. People are struggling when they don't get their way and when something hurts their feelings. It's human nature, it's built into us as infants. Take a toy away from a toddler and see what happens (I don't really recommend that).

How should we, who are in Christ, react to being wronged? What does the Bible say about this? Jesus is pretty clear in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus says "do not resist one who is evil, but if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also". (v 39). We are to show kindness to those who wrong us. We are to be patient and humble when we are wronged. If we are wronged by an unbeliever then we pray for their salvation and respond in kindness. If we are wronged by a believer, we need to go to them. We need to tell them how they wronged us, and help them see their error. If what they did was in sin, then we need to help them by showing them they need to repent and seek forgiveness. If what they did is not a sin, but still hurtful, then we find common ground. If they said something that hurt you, but they did not intend to hurt you, simply tell them. Explain you were hurt. If they get angry, then you have a chance to really disciple the person and help them grow in their faith. It's a great opportunity.

Hurt feelings are no fun, but they can be great opportunities for growth. Don't run from the hurt and don't run from and block out those who hurt you. That is not what Jesus commands, but He says to love those who persecute you, to bless them. Pray for those who would hurt you, reach out and build bridges. It's much better than burning them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Fear is Real, but It Doesn't Have to Be

When my wife came home from school today (She's a librarian at a public school) she told me some heartbreaking things. A little girl who I think is Hispanic asked Elaine is she heard that Trump won the election. She then asked if she thought she needed to run and hide. She isn't alone, many are afraid today after a Trump victory, afraid they will be put in jail, send away or killed.

People are afraid, and I don't blame the Trump camp entirely. Yes, Trump said some things in a pretty harsh way, but nothing that should make a little girl afraid. There is fear of deportation for illegals of course, but that was always the case, Obama did support amnesty but the law still existed.

Much of the fear in exists in the LGBT community, Mike Pence is not a great friend of the LGBT. In reality, the Trump campaign was mostly silent on the issue with the exception of the appointment of Constitutional Justices for the Supreme Court. The fear is not coming from the Trump campaign, but from the rhetoric used by the Hillary crowd.

Republicans aren't innocent, we have talked about the destruction that would come at the hands of Democrats, first Obama and Hillary. We talked about how Obama would destroy the economy and turn us all into Socialists. The economy is doing ok, and we are still Capitalists. Obama did some things I don't agree with, but he hasn't be the destruction of the country.

It's time to stop the rhetoric, we need to stop talking about the opposition like they are Satan or the Anti Christ. We are all Americans, we are suppose to be on the same team. The bottom line is, the children are listening, and right now they are scared of the elected Commander and Chief of the United States. This shouldn't be the case. I know I need to show respect to all those who God has appointed to lead, our current sitting President and the one who will follow. This goes for all our leaders and public servants. Let's stop the hateful rhetoric and behave like civilized humans.

Election 2016, What Did We Learn?

What happened last night shocked most of the nation, I'm sure the national media had the biggest shock. I was watching NBC, and they were very straight forward that they missed it. They had not listened, they were very wrong. There is no secret that the media in this country is left leaning, and they were clearly in the Hillary camp. The entire camp was shocked as Donald Trump took state after state last night. NBC was straight forward and Glen Beck was guest interviewed and shot straight himself saying "I have done a bad job listening".

What this election has shown is the country is upset, angry and no one was listening. This was a vote that sent a message to the media, the establishment and to the powers at large. They are tired, they are upset and angry. There is lots of anger, and I want to break down what I think the biggest points of contention and frustration are over. Again, this is my opinion.

First, I think that most Americans are unhappy with the liberal agenda. Increases in taxes, open borders, rises in health care premiums, and progressive policy. The majority of Americans are not progressives, they are not excited about the redefinition of marriage, late term abortion, amnesty or illegal immigrants, protests, riots and BLMs, and the increase in welfare. A majority of Americans want lower taxes, less regulation, more opportunity with less government involvement. That what they said last night, right or wrong, agree or disagree, this is not a liberal, progressive nation. Those conservative values still exist in many places, and the media and government has ignored it for too long. The Obama Administration ignored it, Congress ignored it and the Supreme Court ignored it.

Supreme Court justices was probably one of the biggest issues in this election, and America responded by saying "no" to the liberal nominations. America doesn't want late term abortion, same sex marriage, gun control and restrictions on religious liberty. America has spoken, and the media and the government needs to make some changes.

If you are a progressive liberal, it's time to realize that your voice, your opinion isn't the only one out there. Your view is not necessarily "correct", even though in your mind, same sex marriage and abortion are the "right thing to do", there are many who don't agree. They believe you are wrong, and it seems those voices are the majority of the voters in the United States. They have spoken, and time for progressives to step back and listen to conservatives for a change.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On the 40th Anniversary of My Birth

I turn 40 today. I have lived in 5 decades and 2 centuries. I have learned quite a bit, most of all knowing how much I don't know. I have been part of some incredible things, and been humbled beyond all imagination. I have had my heart so filled with love and joy I thought I would burst and had my heart shattered into billions of tiny pieces like it was frozen in liquid nitrogen and smashed with a 40 pound sledge. I've gain and lost friends, loved and lost and been the hero and the villain.

Through it all, I have learned a few things. First off, what you do is important, but who you are is not limited to what you do. There are many who will condemn you forever for one mistake. God doesn't do that. If the modern day Pharisees were in charge, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, none of those men would be allowed to do anything because of mistakes they made. They would be "unqualified" for ministry. That isn't the economy God operates in. He uses murderers, adulterers, quitters, hypocrites, sinners to do His work to give Himself the glory. I think part of the reason that the church lacks so much power is because we are using the power of the "qualified" individuals and not using the losers. God uses losers and I want to be one of God's losers.

I have learned that good friends stay good friends. If you leave a job or change churches or move away, some friends will fade away. They were friends for a season. You need to have some of these friends who last your whole life, regardless of the separating factors. Also, if you can find a friend like this who has a beautiful sister, marry her. Worked out great for me!

Get a dog. As I write, Scrappy is laying next to me, snuggled up. He is a great dog. My other dog, Rowdy is outside because he lives us to his name, but he's just a puppy. I'll let him in when I'm done. There is something special about having a dog, they are the greatest companion. Don't get a pet store dog either, get a rescue dog from the pound or the Humane society. Scrappy is from a local rescue program here in Sioux City, and he is an awesome dog.

Read, especially your Bible. Read it. Listen to it and listen to preaching and study your Bible and take classes and talk about it and read it more. It will fix your life. Some things in the Bible are easier to understand than others, but that is why we study and listen and get tool and resources like commentaries. Nothing will impact your life like God's word, so spend some time there. It really has the cure for everything in it, and the answers to the most important questions. The meaning of life, who you are and where we came from, all in there.

I am sure there are thousands of other things I could share that I've learned. Love your spouse and love on your kids. Help people, share and let others help you. Get involved, do some stuff, help a friend, help a neighbor, help a stranger. Lots of stuff that is good advice and cliche, but more than anything, make sure you pray. Do something every day that is positive. If you feel depressed, struggle with the depression, don't just suffer from it. If you have conviction, change your behavior. Hope you are blessed and well. I love you all.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Update on my Physical Condition

In my blog, sometimes I share some personal information, so that is what I want to do this morning. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I've been having some back issues. A quick synopsis, I have a bulging disc at the L4, L5 vertebrae that is putting pressure on a couple of nerves and a nerve root. The doctors have said it's a very large bulge and it's leaking fluid, so there is a nice mass of stuff. The pain has continued to grow, I have pain in my back, down my left leg and my left foot hurts and tingles and has numbness.

I went to the doctor and got some anti inflammatory meds. They didn't help. I then got some steroids. They didn't help. I got an epidural flood. It didn't help. I went to see a spine surgeon, and he said I need to have the disc trimmed and take the pressure off the nerves. I have that scheduled for Friday, Nov 11th.

I'm ready to have the pain gone, it is getting progressively worse and keeping me from doing. . . well much of anything. I am a little nervous about surgery because, well it's surgery. I have had generally good experiences surgery, but my last surgery about killed me. My wife isn't real excited about me going into surgery either, our last experience wasn't a good one. My other concern is that what looks like fluid leaked out of my disc may not be fluid. There is a very small chance that it's a tumor. The doctor doesn't seem to concerned, but my dad had symptoms just like mine, and his turned out to be a tumor in his spine. I am a little concerned about the amount of cancer in my family.

If you are so inclined, you can pray for us in a couple of ways. First, I would really like some relief from the pain. Second, that surgery goes well and there are no other issues. Prayer for our finances would be appreciated, I'm off work right now and will need to be off for a few weeks post op. Pray for my family as they have to deal with me being out of commission for a while. Thank you so much for reading my blogs, for your prayers and support. I love you guys!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Are You Willing to Have Peace?

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

We live in a day and age that self focus is pretty high on everyone's attention. We take care of ourselves, we are focused on self and what we want. It's safe to say that as time progresses, the generations become more and more selfish and self focused. One of the things that has fallen away is community. We have ceased to live in healthy communities because we are so selfish. College students are protesting everything they find offensive, which is everything. There are movements and protests about everything these days, because we all want to be taken care of.

If this reality we live in, we have a desire to be justified, to be coddled and if someone wrongs us, we want revenge. We expect to be respected and taken care of. We will demand our rights be taken care of, or all hell will break lose. This is true even among Christians. What this what Jesus demonstrated? Clearly not, He died on the cross to atone for sin, even though He never committed a single sin.

What would it cost to have peace?  First, each of us has to put aside our wants and look to the greater good. We need to consider what is best for the family, for the community, for the church, for those around us. Sometimes we have to give up what we want. Very few are willing to give up what they want. So often we fail to see the long term and we are not willing to have a short term loss for a long term gain. We must remember some important truths.

To gain, often you must first lose. Great things always come at a cost. Remember the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field. The people sold everything to gain these things.

Long term peace is healthier than short term justification. We will live a better life by giving up our rights in the short term.

Living at peace doesn't mean you have to affirm wrong behavior, you simply overlook an offense when possible.

I realize that sometimes peace is not possible. Sometimes you must defend the rights of another, and sometimes there is nothing you can do. Sometimes the other person is set on conflict, to which we are best served by turning the check and walking away. Remember to walk away from the trouble and towards Jesus. I'm praying we can all find some peace today. Blessings!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Here I Post- A Celebration of Reformation Day

In honor of the 499th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, I am posting a paper I wrote in Seminary on a biography of Martin Luther. Enjoy.

Part One

Here I Stand by Roland H. Bainton. A review.
July of 1505, Martin Luther vowed to St. Anne to become a monk if he survived the lightening storm. In promise of his vow, he made the preparations to become a monk. His parent’s were unhappy with the decision, desiring him to go into law. Luther understood what he was going into, knowing it was a hard life. It became a struggle with his father Luther would deal with the rest of his life. (Chapter one)
Luther went through his first year, spending his days in prayer, meditation and song. When he performed his first mass, he was filled with dread and shook with fear. After the mass, his father rebuked him again for his decision to go against their wishes and enter the monastery. Luther spent many hours in attempts to make himself pure and holy, praying all night and working until he could no longer work. He would confess for hours, and as soon as he exited the confessional, he would become terrified because of sins he had neglected to confess. (Chapter two)
            During his trip to Rome, Luther saw things that disturbed him greatly. His trouble continued back in Wittenberg, where he transferred, he continued his rigid lifestyle, spending hours in the confessional, working himself in attempts to mortify his own flesh. Luther found himself hating God because of the view he had developed of God as cruel judge. Luther’s mentor, Staupitz decided to have Luther study the scripture and preach. He hoped this would help Luther find peace with God. Luther began to study and preach on Psalms, and later the book of Romans and Galatians. It was in this study that Luther’s theology and view was forever changed. Luther began to relate with the desperation of Christ on the cross, understanding that in that moment, Christ took the iniquity of all mankind. (Chapter two)
          Luther saw the wrath of God, but he also began to see the mercy of God on the cross of Christ. The verse “the just shall live by faith” began to take meaning for Luther. He emerged a change man, but did not seek to reform the church in the beginning. He did speak against the offenses made by many in the clergy, but his trust in the church remained. (Chapter three)
          It was the selling of indulgenced that started the fire that led to reform. Leo X needed funds to complete a rebuilding and restoration of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. To raise funds, he sold position, which the buyers borrowed money with the approval of selling indulgences to recoup the dept that was owed. The selling of indulgences was not in Saxony, because Fredrick the Wise did not what it to take away from his collection of relics, which was on display during All Saint’s Day. Many from Luther’s parish did make the journey and return with indulgences. Luther was outraged by this, along with the preaching of Tetzel, who claimed, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” (p. 60) (Chapter four)
            Luther’s reaction is the 95 Thesis, which he wrote in response against this practice. Luther wrote against not only the selling of indulgences, but the papal power to grant indulgence and forgive sin, only God has this power. The church can only revoke punishment issued by the church, and not by God. (Chapter four)
             Luther was summoned and ordered to recant. Luther refused to recant and a papal bull was issued, and a diet was formed. It was moved several times until it finally took place in Worms. Before Worms, Luther continued his attack on the papacy, stating that a council and popes could error. Luther engaged in debate with the likes of John Eck and in the Leipzig debate. This debate with Eck only increased the rift with Luther and Rome. (Chapter five)
            As the bull reached Luther, he burned it in protect. His writings by this point were very extensive, including The Babylonian Captivity, which made the breach wider. Luther’s books were burned in the Piazza Naona. At the empiral diet, the Archbishop of Trier examined Luther. He was confronted with a pile of his books, and asked if he was the author. He was then asked if he would recant what is written in the books. Luther asked for one day to think the matter over, and it was granted to him. (Chapters 5-8)
            The next day, Luther was brought before the diet. He gave clarification that not all of his books were the same, and he could not recant them for various reasons. He was asked again if he would repudiate his books. His reply was “I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscious in neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” (p 144). (Chapters 9 and 10)
            The Edict of Worms condemned Luther as a heretic. Upon leaving Worms, Luther was taken and hidden by Fredrick the Wise in Wartburg. It was here that Luther began his translation of the Bible into German. While Luther was in hiding, reform was happening in Wittenberg. Zwilling, an Augustinian monk led the charge. Many monks and nuns married and Luther approved. The Mass was reformed, having both elements given to laity. Such divisions occurred, mass was stopped all together until there was revolt. The violence continued and Carlstadt led the masses to rid the churches of all images and idols. The revolt was calmed, and Luther was returned from hiding. (Chapter 10 and 11)
             The impact of Luther’s work continued to make waves in Germany. Fredrick the Wise ordered his collection of relics to be given to the poor after having them booed. Much of the population, especially the peasants were experiencing civil unrest, led by men like Carlstadt, Muntzer and Zwigli. Peasant uneasiness led the revolt. Peasants plundered and demolished churches, cloisters and monasteries. Muntzer led the way, causing the violence to continue. Luther openly condemned the rebellion, saying it was out of God’s law and is full of murder and bloodshed, which makes widows, orphans and turns everything upside down. Luther called for the faithful to put down the rebellion, and the princes were ready to comply. Muntzer’s rebellion was put down, and he was tortured and beheaded. Luther tried to counteract the slaughter of peasants with another tract, but it was not noticed as the one, which read, “smite, slay and stab.” Catholic princes blamed Luther for the whole episode. (chapters 14-16)
          On the 13th of June in 1525, Martin Luther was publicly betrothed to Katherine Von Bora, the last of twelve nuns whom he had helped escape the convent and marry. Luther stated he had three reasons to get married, first because his father wished him to have a son to carry the family name. The second was to spite the Pope and the devil, and the last was to seal his witness before his martyrdom. Luther did not have the financial resources to support a wife and the children that were to come, but God provided for their finances through support and household prophet, such as selling meat and produce. Luther even had a lathe he installed for doing woodwork. (Chapter 17)
Martin and Katharine had six children, Hans, Elizabeth, Madgalena, Martin, Paul and Margaretha. Luther and his wife also took in borders and other children to live with them, as many as 20 boarders. Luther’s views of marriage never became that of the loving and adoring husband, but an institution that God created for procreation and family relationships, but he did learn to love and cherish Katie. Prior to his marriage, he viewed marriage as a remedy for lust, marriage as a purer state than sin. After his marriage, his emphasis shifted to a place to learn character. (Chapter 17)
            In the war of words, the most powerful weapon in Luther’s arsenal was the tract. Most of these tracts contained cartoons and illustrations, and were used in great quantity by both sides of the argument. Many tracts are shown with Luther as a hero or villain. Luther was shown either in war with the devil or in league with him, fighting for a cause or fighting against. Popes, kings and the Church of Rome were displayed in many tracts, as well as illustrations in the bible, such as the Harlot of Revelations wearing a papal tiara. These tracks helped to spread the message of the reformers far and wide. (Chapter 18)
            As these tracks were spread, the message of the reform was spread. This naturally led to problems, splits and differences of opinion. One of these differences was on the nature of communion. It was such a large issue, it was the reason a common confession failed between the differing denominations. During the hearing in Speyer, all protestant denominations presented a confession. Luther was tolerant of other denominations in so much he did not wish them to be condemned to death, he felt banishment was suitable. Luther held the position that eternal judgment would wait for those of an incorrect faith, and that was punishment enough. (Chapter 18, 19 and 21)
Luther’s work and labors are still celebrated, his bible for example is considered one of the greatest works of its time. Luther worked diligently to find suitable words for his translations, going to professionals to ask about items, such as a butcher to ask about sacrificial animal part names. Luther’s other works have also earned him notoriety as a great scholar, such as his catechisms, the small for children and the larger for adults. (Chapter 19)
          Luther’s impact on the church service as we know it has also had lasting impacts. We still sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in churches today, a hymn written by Luther. In 1524 Luther put together a hymnbook of 23 songs, putting songs in the hands of the people and singing in their churches. Luther elevated preaching as the center of the service, and his work in this area is quite extensive, preaching almost daily. (Chapter 20)
          With all the accomplishments and great things Martin Luther did, he was still a man. He fought with depression, turning often to manual labor to relieve his bitter moods. He loved his wife, and mourned the loss of a child. He felt fear and pain, he suffered diseases like chronic constipation. He was a great man, but like all great men, he met the end of his life. The world said goodbye to the man, but his work endures through the ages. (Chapter 21 and 22)
Part Two
Here I Stand. A reaction
            I think there is a little bit of Martin Luther in everyone. The same forces that drove Martin Luther to his knees do the same for us. His search for truth is the same search many of us find ourselves questing for. When I was younger, I found myself very confused by faith verses works. I felt like I was told in Sunday School that I needed to do good things, to listen to my parents and follow all the rules. I was confused, John 3:16 said if you believe, you will be saved. It was through a sermon that I found the truth and gave my heart and life to Jesus. My search was not as involved as Luther’s. I was not forced to enter a monastery, study for hours, struggle as intently, risk my life, hide in a castle and translate the scriptures. Most of us have an easier time with the search than Luther did, but on some level, we must all comes to the place we are open to the truth, and willing to dig into the word and truth to find what it has for us.
            Luther’s life convicts me of my own sin and depravity. Luther lived his life in mortification of his own sin. He struggled during his time in the monistary, trying to rid himself of all impurity. As a believer, I should be as dead to my sin. I don’t find myself hating my own sin as Luther did. It has made me realize that I have trivialized my salvation, and sin even though it should repulse me and lead me to heartfelt repentance on my face before the Throne of God.
            Luther’s work and diligence is inspiring. He found time to do so much in his life, imagine what he could have accomplished if he lived to be 70 or 100. In his short life on this earth, he did some amazing works. Although I don’t completely agree with all of his theology, he did amazing things and took great and powerful leaps in thought and doctrine. He, as a single man, revolutionized the way we approach Christ and the way we worship. It has inspired me to see that one person can do great things for the kingdom by working toward what he believes is right. Luther never set out to change the world, but to follow what he knew in his heart was right. I am sure he never would have thought that in the year 2005, seminary students would be reading biographies about his life, and writing papers about how he has inspired and challenged them. It’s a goal we can set for ourselves, to be the kind of men that people will read about and be inspired by.
            The biography itself by Bainton is not the best biography I have read. It is complete, but was hard to follow in parts. I was disappointed that it did not cover the end of his life. The read itself was slow and dry, but the illustrations added to the book, and helped to see and understand the thoughts of the day in the pictures.
            Luther had a character that was stone like. He was very true to his word, from his vow to enter the monastery to his unwillingness to back down and recant to the strength of his convections with faced with differing views, like those on communion. Luther was a stubborn and hardheaded man, not backing down in hearings, diets, with friends or foes, with the rich or the poor or even his wife and children.
            The flip side of that coin is that Luther was committed to what he believed, and was willing to fight or die for it. His reasoning for not wanting a wife was “if he was to be burned at the stake within a year, he was hardly the person to start a family.” (p 224). He was ready to die at any time for his convictions, so much that Fredrick the Wise was forced to hide him after Worms. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus commanded his disciples to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Luther got part of it right at least.
            Luther’s theology can be described as reactionary. When we became a monk, he lived in reaction of his own sin, constantly in confession. When he found the truth in scripture, he lived in reaction to the fact that the righteous shall live by faith. When faced with indulgences, which was a contradiction to his new belief, he wrote the 95 Thesis. The papal reaction to this work was to recant. Luther’s reaction was to fight the papacy. Every action caused a reaction. Luther never set out to reform the church, but as he reacted, the church was reformed. He never set up a new belief, he simply modified the existing beliefs to come in harmony with scripture. Luther, for example, did not keep the belief of transubstantiation, but incorporated parts of it in the Lutheran Church by still believing Christ is physically present during communion.
            Many will argue that Luther did not take the reformation far enough. The Anabaptists would agree, moving much farther away from the Catholic church than did Luther. Luther never desired to leave the church, and always had a desire for unity, but never at the expense of his beliefs. He believed he had found the truth, and that truth took priority over everything else.
         The work of Luther is a combination of his brilliant mind and his tireless efforts. Luther spend his entire life as a man in the service of his belief. As a Catholic Monk, he was the best monk he could be. He worked hard, disciplined and punished his body, prayed and fasted with zeal and did all he could to rid himself of sin. His life during the reformation was no less zealous. He wrote a large number of tracks, many great works on top of his preaching and translation of the bible. It is no wonder he died at 50, his life works would take any other man 80 years to complete.
          Much of Luther’s work, however, was reactionary. He wrote and said things that would later come back to haunt him. During the peasants revolt, Luther wrote and issued a track with said: If the peasant is in open rebellion, then he is outside the law of God, for rebellion is not simply murder, but it is like a great fire which attacks and lays waste to a whole land. Thus, rebellion brings with it a land full of murders and bloodshed, makes widows and orphans, and turns everything upside down like a great disaster. Therefore, let everyone who can, smite, slay and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish that a rebel. (p.216-7).
            The reaction to this tract was the slaying of countless peasants. Muntzer, who led the rebellion was captured, tortured and beheaded and the countryside was cleansed. Luther tried to counteract his first tract with a second, but it was too late by this point, and he was blamed by many for the slaughter that took place.
            The contribution of Martin Luther cannot be measured. We read biographies, study him in schools, watch movies about him and read his works. There is still a major denomination that bears his name, and it’s influence is still prevalent in many communities. There is no way to lose the influence of Martin Luther on the church today.
         The first and most major impact Luther left is the place of preaching. The pulpit in Luther’s day was elevated above the alter, and given a place of prominence in the service. Luther preached almost daily, making preaching the focal point. Music was a large focal point for Martin Luther, writing hymns and putting together hymn books. I am convinced that if Martin Luther lived today, he would be working with Power Point and praise choruses. He set things in motion, and the music in the church has been in a constant state of flux. In this day and age, we find people fighting to keep the organ. In his day and age, people fought to keep it out. Music is always a sensitive issue in the church, but for Luther, it was an important one. Luther said that music is “a fair and lovely gift of God which has often wakened and moved me to the joy of preaching . . . I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God.” (p266).

           We can learn a lot of Martin Luther by looking at the example and the legacy he left us. Luther gave of some strong example of how to behave. He was strong in his faith, courageous in the Lord. He used his mind as well as his heart, and he did what he knew was right. He gave the scripture the place of authority it deserved and worked to make the church all it should be. There is also much we can learn from Luther of how not to live. He rebelled, caused arguments and divisions, reacted instead of thinking much of the time, neglected his health and drove himself in the ground. Martin Luther took his place in history, and did what the Lord desired for him. Like David, he served the Lord in his generation, and made a lasting impact.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Reformation 2016; Let's Reform The Way we Talk about Salvation

We are a few days away from Reformation Day, remembering Oct 31st, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg Germany. The 95 Theses were the errors that Luther saw in the church that he wanted to address. He didn't mean to start the Protestant Reformation, but the wheels began turning and things began to change.

I am not wanting to debate if the Reformation was a good thing, if it went far enough or it's validity. What I want to discuss is the need for a new Reformation, or perhaps an on going reformation. One of Luther's main issues was that salvation was being purchased or achieved through works, through sacraments, through artifacts and icons. Salvation wasn't found in Christ alone. Today, we face an issue that salvation is talked about using very unbiblical language and based more on emotionalism that on faith. We push people to say a prayer and celebrate them making a good choice, and God has become auxiliary to many of the "experiences" that people have. The aspects of conviction and repentance have been replaced by feelings and decision.

When Peter preached at Pentecost, he told the people to repent. There was no talk of praying or coming forward to making a decision. The act of salvation was not laid out as a formula because Peter understood that salvation is a miraculous event that happens through the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter understood, as seen in his epistle of 2 Peter, that assurance of salvation doesn't happen until you have demonstrated growth in your Christian life over time.

In the modern church, we have tried to make salvation an act that is controlled by the will of man, when it fact it's a working of God in the Holy Spirit. We are simply told to command people to repent, to tell them truth and give them instruction. Those who the Spirit works, those who are saved will grow and mature in faith. They will begin to show fruit and will live out the Christian life. Those who are not saved will depart from the faith because they don't have they don't have the power of the Spirit.

We don't like the ability to not control and count those who are saved. We have rejected the Biblical teaching and instead focused on control and man's effort. We have made false converts by telling them they can control something that only God can do. Despite the popular Christian song, dead men cannot tell their hearts to beat again. The dead must be raised by God, and only God can do so.

Let's preach the truth of repentance, following and obeying. Let's tell people to make their salvation sure by following the teachings and commands of Christ. Let's toss out the unbiblical language and man made rhetoric that deceives people. There will be many individuals who believed themselves to be "saved" on judgement day who will hear "depart from me". They will be looking at the church, feeling betrayed.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Token Political Piece, What This Election Has Taught Me

So everyone is writing stuff about the upcoming election. We have the selection before us of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or a variety of 3rd party options, none which as emerged as a real contender. The whole thing is a train wreck in my opinion. I don't believe that a man like Donald Trump has the temperament to be President, he just doesn't have the character to be in public office. On the flip side, I think Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt individual who has ever run for office. She is a criminal, everyone knows she has broken laws, lied and covered it up, and the system seems to be turning a blind eye like it doesn't matter. It's really a disgrace to the entire system.

What I have seen and learned this election cycle is there is a major flaw in America, and I think the center of the flaw is the public education system. The system as a whole is failing. I don't blame teachers, I know great and amazing teachers. I love teachers and I hope to once again be a professional educator. I don't blame administrations, they are doing the best they can with what they have. I don't think it's even an issue with common core or no child left behind. Sure, those things are broken and need fixed, but that doesn't seem to me to be the big problem.

The big issue, the main problem is we have forgotten the purpose of public education. We have forgotten about teaching our kids how to be good citizens. America is a Democratic Republic, and being such requires an education citizenship because we choose representatives and vote on laws. The purpose of the education system in this country is to allow each citizen the opportunity to learn and obtain the skills necessary to be part of the governing process. It begins to picking good leaders, having good laws and common sense in Washington. Education is beyond reading and writing, but how to think critically, how to be civic and community minded. How to look at the needs of the whole.

Instead, we have become so incredibly selfish that the entire system is a mess. Government caves to special interest, companies are allowed to fleece the people, industries like Pharmaceuticals are not kept in check, and programs like Obamacare are making things worse, not better. Special interest is tearing things apart and Washington is so broken it's lead to a man like Trump being the Republican candidate. Hillary should be in prison without a doubt, the debt should be cut and common sense needs to be in politics. It's not. Everything is bought and sold, including lives and freedoms. The corruption has gotten so out of hand for one reason. The people let it get there.

We stopped teaching people how to be in charge of the government, we lost the power of being the people. We now stand by and let politicians and companies gouge us. With the corruption going on and the DOJ and FBI allowing it to happen right in front of the American people, nothing will change. It won't change until there is base level reforms that teach the people how to be good citizens to be watch dogs and involved in the system. Once honest and integrate are focused on in Education, they will never be returned to our government.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Should We Trust Maslow?

I was listening to an education class the other day and heard the teacher talking about Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. I learned about Maslow in high school and college, in psych classes and in education classes. He created a pyramid that says that we have needs that must be met before we can move higher. First is food, water and shelter, then safety and up to self esteem and self actualization. In education, the idea is that students must have their basic needs met before they can perform well, so if a student is hungry, they can't learn math.  We make sure the kids are fed and feel safe so they can perform well. This is pretty accepted by most people.


Yes, I said it, Maslow is crap. The laboratory of real life demonstrates this is crap. Let's look as some examples. Exhibit A is found in any public school. Kids who have money and nice homes, are well provided for, even a little spoiled. They are cocky and think they are God's gift. According to Maslow, these kids should be superstars. Are they? The rich, spoiled, snooty kids, are they the best kids in the school? Are they the highest achievers?  According to Maslow, they should be, and the kids who live in shabby homes with two parents working and they struggle to make ends meet, they should never achieve well. We know that real life doesn't pan out.

Exhibit B, William Kamkwamba. He was born in poverty and was educated by visiting a school library. He learned about electronics and built a wind turbine to power some appliances in his home. He didn't have all the basics that Maslow says are required, yet he achieved great things.

The reality and our last exhibit, Exhibit C is human history. We achieved great things because we were in need of food, water and safety. Necessity is the mother of invention, and humans need motivation more that anything else. People learn, achieve, and succeed in the face of adversity, not in the absence of hardship. The main idea of Maslow is as we move upward in thinking and achieving as we take care of more basic needs. This is now what human kind has demonstrated. When societies have put his plan into effect (this is the basic of socialism and communism), people have not achieved. The socialist idea is that we provide for people, the government will take care of the basic needs and the people will begin to achieve and perform. Didn't work. It doesn't work. People achieve to fill needs, they don't achieve because needs are filled. We are not wired that way.

Sorry Maslow, you got it wrong.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why You Need Diversity in Friendships

One of the biggest blessings in my life are my believing friends. I have some great, very close friends who love Christ and His church. Some of them are in vocational ministry, many serve as volunteers. They have been great helps and supports for me. I made great friends in seminary, many in churches I have attended or served in and some out in the world as we have crossed paths. Having your closest friends be in like faith and spirit is very, very important. You need to have great Christian friends to encourage you, study with you, pray with you and fellowship. I am thankful for those who have been friends for years and some who I have just met. They are vital for my survival as a Christian. You need to be with and around other Christians, together you make up the body of Christ. You are a family, a team, a unit, a single functioning organism to do the ministry and work of Christ on earth. If you are a Christian without a church, a group of believing friends, then you are failing. Get to church, connect with some believing friends and be supported.

You will undoubtedly have friends who have similar beliefs that you do but are not part of the same local church you attend. Some are closer and some are more distant. These people are also vital. We need to remember the kingdom is not an exclusive club. In matters of theology and practice, there may be disagreements. I have friends who are pedobaptists (baptize babies) but I'm a credobaptist (believers baptism by immersion). We disagree but it's ok. We can discuss and challenge each other. It's important to have those types of people to help you grow and learn and be challenged.They are great people to have discussion and learn new things from. Stay humble, stay teachable and stay friends.

There are people in your life that may not believe but will be supportive. These are great people, and you can talk to them about what is happening in your life and show your faith in life. They are the people that you will have a chance to share your faith with. Pray for these people that you may gain a believing friend. Share Jesus with them, invite them to church and speak truth to them. Be humble, be kind. These people will teach you about your faith as they ask questions, so stay in the word. Make lots of friends who are not believers but are supportive.

Lastly, you will have friends who disagree and are opposed to your faith. Yes, you can be friends with agnostics, atheists and members of different religious groups. I have friends who don't believe in the same things I believe in, and sometimes we talk and discuss. They stretch me, they push me and they really make me examine what and why I believe. I love my atheist friends, I love my agnostic friends and those who have beliefs outside of the Christian faith. They are valuable, they are people, made in the image of God and they are worth my time. It's important to be kind and gracious. Jesus loved those outside of the Jewish faith, the Apostles loved those who were part of pagan faiths. Some of those who were outside became believers, some didn't. That will be the same with us, some of our friends outside the faith may become believers, some won't. We love them anyway.

As you live in the world, there is more to being salt and light than just attending church and Bible study. We need to be salt and light everywhere at all times. We love people, we interact with people and we share with people. It's what the gospel is all about. Let's love on those around us and the world will be a little nicer for everyone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Where Does Satan Live?

I want to teach you about a phenomenon that happens inside of religion, and happens in the Christian faith all too much. It's called syncratism and it has snuck in and done some horrible things. It's when something from inside a culture gets brought into the faith and the two merge to become one. This is what happened when the Israelites made the Golden Calf, they merged faith in God with false idols and said that this (golden calf) is Yahweh. They made mistakes through Isreal's history of bringing idols and false worship into the Temple.

We see this around the world, for example in Haiti, voodoo is commonly practiced along side of Christianity. Christian faith is mixed with pagan faith and it's a corruption.  There are lots of very real illustrations, in the American church we have done it a little more subtly. We haven't brought it golden cows or witch doctors, but some of our knowledge and teachings are very flawed. What I want to focus on is a teaching that makes me crazy, and people say it all the time. They talk about Satan being in hell.

Movies, books, tv shows and all sorts of things in popular culture depict Satan as the ruler of hell, residing in hell, chilling with other demons in hell. The culture depicts hell as the abode for Satan and his demons and they are really quite happy there. In a book called 23 Minutes in Hell, the author talks about being tortured by large demons while in hell. To all those tv shows, books, movies and stories, I say STOP IT.

The idea that Satan lives in hell comes from paganism. The ruler of the underworld was Hades/Pluto. He lived in the underworld, he ruled the underworld. The idea that God was in Heaven, the Devil is in hell comes from pagan culture. In many pagan religions, the evil force lives in the underworld. This is not the case with Biblical Christianity. Hell is not the throne room of the devil.

Hell is a place that God has control of, God created it and prepared it for Satan to spend eternity in torment. Satan and his demons will be cast into the lake of fire with those who are found to be apart from Christ. Hell is the place that will torment Satan, it's not his luxury palace. Satan is not in hell right now, he's on the earth. Demons are on the earth, but hell is their final judgement. The idea of Satan ruling hell would be like building a prison and letting the worst criminal be in control. That's not what a prison is, not what it's for.

The heart of the issue is what we think about God vs Satan. We see this in movies, this idea of balance and the light and dark, good and evil. In most pagan religions, there is a balance and the scales can tip one way or the other. It makes for good movie plots that way. This is not the truth. The truth is, God is all powerful and in control. Satan roams the earth, completely with the permission of God. When time ends, God will then cast Satan out and he will be in the lake of fire forever. Satan doesn't get to rule hell, he doesn't get to torment the lost. He will be in the same position, he will be judged by a Holy God.

It's time we see Satan for who he really is. He is not torturing the lost, he is on earth waging war with believers. He is attempting to devour you and I. His ultimate goal is not to send you to hell, but for him to avoid hell. If God forgives a single sinner apart from Christ, then God must forgive all sinners apart from Christ. If God does this, then Satan will go unpunished for God's justice is perfect. God will send those who are covered in the blood of Christ to heaven and those apart from Christ will suffer eternity in hell with the devil and his demons.

That's it. No balance, to scales of good balancing evil. There is no gate to hell that opens and lets the demons come free. I would go as far to say that hell in itself is not evil. It is the place where evil is tormented, just like a prison is a crime, it's just a place to send criminals. No demons torturing people, no throne room of the devil. God created hell for eternal punishment. Trust me, you don't want to go there and neither does Satan.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Presumptive Narcissism: The Problem with the Selfie Culture

I'm creating a new term for you today. Presumptive Narcissism, the idea that people are interested in you, desire you and even stalking you because they pay any attention to you. Let me back up and start with what I have discovered to be a disturbing trend. When my dad was my age, he would often tell young ladies they were pretty and they would say "thank you". Now that my daughter is a teenager, I wouldn't dare tell one of her friends they look pretty. When older men that I knew in the church would complement young girls, they were often seen as creepy. Even in simple remarks that I have made about a hair cut looking nice or a complement on a jacket, it has been as "weird".

This phenomenon happens mostly to girls in their teens and 20s, the same ones who take and post pictures of themselves constantly. They bait for complements, and when they get it they freak out that it's creepy that someone noticed them. They proceed to tell their friends and the Facebook world that someone is a stalker and creeping them out.

This stems from a few things that come together to make this perfect storm. First is the existence of micro-celebrity-ism. With Youtube, Facebook, and Instragram used by so many they can count their followers, see their likes and the comments and feel a sense of being famous. Social media have given us an opportunity for good outlets, such as my opportunity to write a blog. This can someones go to far and make people become conceded, and even narcissistic. The ultimate sign of celebrity status is being stalked by people, feeling like you are elite in your beauty and charm.

As these young people get compliments and feel like they have celebrity status, they begin to feel that anyone saying anything nice to them is a form of stalking. A man saying "you look nice" is no longer a complement. It is, in their mind, at attempt to "get with" or seduce the girl. They feel as if there are no innocent intentions, they are desired and in constant danger.

Of course most of these girls are being presumptuous. Most men my age and older have little or no desire to be in a relationship with a 20 year old. There are very few who do, and most of them are not complementing friends of their children. In this day and age, we need to be careful and watch out for child trafficking, sexual predators and those who would take advantage, but the behavior has gone too far. It is possible to be aware of strangers and predators without gossiping about your friends dad who said you look like. We must be aware there is a difference between "you look pretty" and "you are so hot, come see me". Narcissism, however, fails to notice the difference.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Problem with the Free Church

I was serving at a church years ago that had a strategy that involved block parties. In the supplies for the block parties were signs that we placed along the road, and many of them involved the word "free". Everything at the block parties was given away, the hot dogs and chips and drinks and so forth. This isn't uncommon, I served at another church that did block parties and gave things to the people who came. This is a good idea and it's a great ministry. When doing so, I remember talking with my lead pastor about the signs. I wasn't a great fan of the wording that everything was a "free".

You see, at a church block party it's not free. The lead pastor and I went to Costco to buy the supplies, so I know they were not free. In that same church we did a coffee house church service, and we gave away coffee. Good coffee, and it was made on a very good espresso maker. The coffee wasn't free either, it just didn't cost the recipients anything. There was a cost, it cost someone.

Salvation is a gift of God that we do nothing to earn or merit or deserve, but it's not free. It cost Jesus everything to purchase our ransom. Discipleship also has a cost, in fact it should cost us everything. There should be nothing in our lives that we don't lay down before the cross. We should be willing to give our hearts, lives, money, time, and energy to serve Christ.

The problem with the church is often that there is no cost and people have begin to not give. There are two sides to this issue I want to unpack, first is those in the pews. People have come to expect that church will cost them nothing. They are there to spectate. I have heard people complain about the music, the preaching, the seating, the lighting, the sound and the temperature of the worship area. There is too much of an expectation to come and be taken care of. We have become consumers of church. This is bad, and it's not what Jesus had in mind. When He said "church" what He implied by the very word is that people would come together to contribute and unite and invest and be involved. It takes time, talent, money, effort, thought and investment. You and I should contribute to the church, not just partake. You don't go to church to be "fed" you go to invest.

People have become lazy, and leaders have empowered the church. Those who are in control often don't want to give up control. They don't want things to look bad or get out of control. They don't share power, they don't include others in the decision making. They want to run the show, so they never open up enough to let others contribute. There is a controlling atmosphere that the leaders come together and shut and lock anyone else out from being involved. They can't contribute because they are not allowed to contribute anywhere. Many leaders take the "us four, no more, lock the door" attitude towards church ministry.

It's time to stop it. It's not free, church isn't free and neither are we. If you are alive, you are either a slave to sin or to Christ. Let those who are slaves to Christ serve Christ to ensure the slaves to sin can be set free. Let's contribute, let's invest and let's change the sign. Instead of saying "everything free" let's say "Christ paid the price for our salvation, so we would like to pay the price for your enjoyment today". It may be a little wordy, but it's the right message.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Can You Make a Difference?

This world is a messed up place. This country is a messed up place. We have crooked politicians, protests about who's lives matter, killer clowns, school shootings trafficked teens and a host of other problems. The issues are real, and they are big and daunting and it makes us think that one person can't make a difference. That is where you are wrong.

The Bible is full of stories of one person making a difference, to the Judges of Israel to Esther to Nehemiah, Jesus, Peter, Paul and on and on. Real people making a difference just by doing whatever they can, when and where they can. They followed where God led them an incredible things happened. Sometimes it changed entire nations, and sometimes it just changed one life.

Maybe God has you in a place to make a difference. Little acts can make big changes. Be kind to someone who needs some kindness. Go out of your way to be helpful or thoughtful. Do a little extra, tip a little more and hug often. Above all, pray often and for everyone. You never know when it will make a difference.

In our adult lives, my wife and I have had opportunities to be part of some amazing things. We have served in various places, interacted with all kinds of people and traveled to some great places. We have never been part of anything that will get roads named after us or get memorialized on a plaque, but we have seen God do some thing things. Maybe someone who we helped will help someone who will change the world. You never know what God is going to do with the gift you give.

You make a difference. With all the evil in the world, the good you do know is holding it at bay. The decline we are on is being slowed every day by those who would pull against it. Those who hold the line and say "I will love in the face of hate and I will do good in the tide of evil".  You make a difference and God sees what you do. Remember to pay it forward and pass it on, do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Sin of Favorites

In the church today, I think we have a big problem that is being overlooked. I think it's huge, it's massive and it's killing our church and we ignore it. It's not pride of our pastors and leaders (although that's probably number two and needs it's own blog). It's not liberalism or legalism or bad doctrine. All those things are bad, but I really believe the slippery slope began with the sin of showing some individuals partiality. Let's look at some scripture.

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
James 2:1-10

There isn't a whole lot of exegesis to this passage necessary. It was clear that James is pointin out that when we give honor to the rich and dishonor the poor, we are sinning. James points out where it's blatant, like the best places to sit and honor. Often it's more subtle. How many wealthy people in our churches have title and position? How many poor people? It's not pleasant to think about, but often those who are professional and successful and fit the "American ideal" are those who are in control of the church. Those who are not doing so well, they are not as influential. It effects things in the church. Decisions are made to keep those who have in control and those who don't on the fringes. Those with power can influence and make decisions that are not Godly. How many men have been forced out of church by a few with power and influence.

What's the answer? First, we need to admit it and acknowledge its' a problem. We need to look around our churches for those who are fit to lead and serve but may not have the status. We need to repent and maybe even remove some leaders/deacons/elders who are not as qualified to lead but have degrees and status and money and power. We need to begin looking beyond what society looks at, admit and repent of the partiality.  We need to look at the status of our church, many things we do or don't do because of pressure of those who get special treatment. Many of the legalism or the liberalism began simply with trying to make the powerful  people happy.

We need to look at the decisions that we overlook. In a church, there was a young couple who were told they couldn't serve in ministry because they were not involved in a Sunday School class, yet a man and his wife who had influence and money were allowed to miss all small group experiences. This is sin, and if you find giving a pass to the rich or influential, it's time to repent. If you hold the poor, young or less impressive to a higher standard than the rich, you are showing partiality. This is in. If the doctrine, teachings or ministries of your church a directed by the needs, wants, or opinions of a few powerful people, that is sin.

It's time to put God in the middle of our ministries and church life. It's time to get rid of the politics and games that we too often play.  Let's look at people the way God looks at people, not at the bank account or social status, but at the heart.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Elusive Happiness

Not to long ago I wrote a series of blogs on happiness. At the time I wasn’t happy. There are several reasons for me not feeling happy and I don’t want to rehash all of it. A few weeks ago and nothing in my life has really changed, but I’m feeling much happier.

I’m still dissapointed about my lack of ministry involvement, about my lack of time to do the things I enjoy. There is still stress about money and finances and to top it off, my truck is out of commission. Things are still rough, but I am happier today than I was a month ago. What is the secret?

Truth is, there isn’t one. I just started being happy about things. I play minecraft with Brayden and joke with Collin and Kaylee and spend time with Elaine. I enjoy the friends I have in the short amount of time I get to spend with them. I focus on the things I like about my job and I try to do things for myself here and there.

I’m trying to do things that make me happy. I focus on things that I am happy about and I try to look forward to some things. I look forward to the future more and look at the past less. Things aren’t perfect, but they never have been nor will they be. They are still good. It’s all good.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Perils of Older Faith

I was listening to a message the other day about some of the men in the Old Testament who started well but didn't always finish well. Solomon began strong, but turned away from the Lord because of his many foreign wives.  At the end of his life, David performed a census in direct disobedience and was punished.

Some men made bad decisions, like Hezekiah who showed all the treasure of Jerusalem to the representatives of Babylon. When he was told by the prophet Isaiah that Jerusalem would fall into ruin, his reaction is "as long as there is peace in my lifetime." Men who began well who fell away later in life.

This phenomenon is not just found in the scripture, but in history. We hear for evangelist, missionaries and pastors who begin well, but later in life turn from God and fall away. Some fall into temptation or sin, some have a crisis and some just walk away. I struggled to understand how men can experience God in amazing ways and then turn and walk away. How Israel can see God at work and then doubt and grumble and complain.

I started in ministry while I was in High School. I was excited and gung-ho. I went to college, I went to Seminary and I served in church. Time and the realities of life can be hard on a calling. It can be hard on a faith. It can cause lots of damage. I'm not in church work right now, even though I would love to be. I don't see it happening again anytime soon, probably never again in a local church setting. There are some things that happen in older faith, things I think we should all watch out for.

We say things like "if people make you lose faith in God, then your faith is in people" and that is true. Never the less, the church is the Body of Christ, it's the incarnational representation of Jesus on the earth. The Body of Christ in America needs a doctor, because it doesn't often listen to the head. Most churches run more like a business than a ministry. In church work, I was judged by my "business attire" and I was treated like an employee. Jesus told his disciples not to lord their authority of people, but people with authority in the church today act more like business leaders than disciples. Dealing with leaders who take the name of Christ but act like Donald Trump in the board room can hurt your faith. (Aside, I have some personal experience, but much of this critique is not from my experience alone, but many, many individuals I know who are no longer serving at the local church level because of these exact situations).

As we get older, we find more and more and more things that don't seem to make sense. I know that God is eternal and has understanding far beyond that I'll ever have. As I get older there is a statement I can intellectually combat but emotionally struggle with. "If God is all powerful, He cannot be all good, if He is all good, He cannot be all powerful". Of course this is referring to injustice and suffering in the world. On an intellectual level, I know this statement is crap. Suffering is essential, we must suffer. Job didn't fully understand God and therefore his relationship and worship was incomplete until he suffered. Without hurt and suffering, we would never mature. We would be selfish, prideful and lost. Suffering has a job, a purpose and a function and if God took away all suffering, he would be crippling mankind in so many ways.  That being said, I don't like it. I don't like pain, loss, hurting and things I don't understand. I don't like trying to explain to someone how illness, death and tragedy plays into a greater plan in life. It takes a toll.

The reality of constant criticism and judgement is hard to handle. We live in a world that will throw every stone at faith it can. People will tell you that Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, naive fairy-tale believers. The atheist will tell you how much of a joke your faith is, but if you mess up, screw up or do something wrong, you are going to get martyred. Satan will use every non-believer to mock you, tempt you, judge you and condemn you and it takes a toll on your faith. You can overcome, but it takes a toll.

What do we do about this issue? How do we overcome? First, it's important to not be arrogant and prideful. Saying ridiculous things like "I'm not going to lose my faith" or "i'm stronger than that" is just silly pride. I can promise that individuals who are strong, smarter and more faithful than you have stumbled. Don't believe me? Solomon was wiser, he built the temple, he was blessed by God and anointed king. He blew it. Are you better than Solomon? Oh, but you have the Holy Spirit? It doesn't take long to find a long list of men who started strong in ministry and fell away. Temptations, pain and doubt, suffering took it's toll.

Once we have some humility and realize that we have the ability to fall and walk away, we have to find a way to deal with it. The best way is to have some real friends. Most of us have church friends who are friends as long as we attend the same church. If you change churches, you end up changing friends. It's horrible and disgusting to realize that our relationships that are suppose to be the closest are so superficial. When I moved out of my parents home, I was still their son. If you leave a church, however, you are no longer part of the family. Toss those relationships to the back burner and find some real connections. People who will be there for you even if you move 1,000 miles away. That's not a made up number either, I lost relationships with people who live 5 miles from me when I changed churches, but guys 1,000 miles away from me still keep in contact, still invest in me and still care. Find friends like that.

Stay in the Word even with it's hard. When you are questioning God, questioning your faith and the promises its' easy to drop the Bible in the corner. Don't, keep in it. The Word is powerful and you need the power in your life. Do NOT substitute the Bible for Christian music and sermons and podcasts. They can talk about the Bible, but you need the Bible. I have found I have had to cut out a lot of Christian music and sit in silence in the car, because the lyrics at best are bad theology. Many are heretical garbage. Too much TBN influence. I don't care if you like Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyer or Pat Robertson, it's bad teaching mixed with heresy.

Good friends, God's word, add to that lots of prayer. It's going to be hard, and you have to be honest on those days you don't want to pray. Those days I tell God that I'm mad and hurt. I hear all the little saying like "give it to God, turn over your anger and bitterness." Ya, that's a nice saying, but my anger and bitterness is stuck in my like a barbed fish hook. I can't just hand it over, I have to work it out. Ignore all the stupid, non Biblical platitudes that people make up, like "God won't give you more than you can handle" because they are not helpful. In the end, it will damage your faith more than help.

I'm knocking at the door to 40, meaning i've been saved for more than 30 years. I've had victory and tragedy, I've done great things and I have blown it, badly. I struggle with my faith more now than ever before. I have about 40 years left, give or take. I'm going to hold to my faith like a little kid holding to his mom's leg on the first day of preschool. I'm going to fight by admitting i'm weak, seeking help and being honest. I'm going to write things like this, risking the anonymous commenter is going to come on, pick out something I said and rebuke me, ignoring the bulk of the article. (When you find people like that, they are more in love with being right than with other believers. They are clanging cymbals). I'm a 40 year old ex-pastor who is struggling every day to keep with faith above water. I'm really out of things to lose, so maybe being honest and real and trying to help encourage you will be a blessing. Maybe God is letting me struggle a little more so I can help you struggle a little less.

Like Red Green says "I'm pulling for you, we're all in this together".