Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why Going to Church is Important

You need to go to church. You need to go to a worship service and Sunday School.
It's imperative to your spiritual life.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

You may have heard people say "I don't need to go to church to believe in God." That us true, but even demons believe in God. Not the best company to be in. The goal is not to simply believe in God, but to become a disciple. Salvation is free, but discipleship is costly. You shouldn't do it on your own. You can't do it on your own. The intention is never for you to do it on your own.

All the ways the Bible describes being a follower of Christ used phrases that involve connection. The term church is not a building, but an assembly of people. We are the church. We are called living stones. We are called the body of Christ. We are referred to as sheep, which are always in a flock. A solo sheep is a lost sheep and will soon die. The church is called the bride of Christ, a singular group, which implies unity.

We are to grow in our love for God and for others. How can you do that alone? You need others. You are suppose to be with others. Praying together, carrying each other's burdens. I'll go as far as to say if you are not in church, you are not living out the Christian life. You are a biker with no club. A player with no team. A soldier with no army. You are missing out.

So, get to church. Don't miss Sunday School. Get plugged in and find what you've been missing.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Trump and Sanders Indicates About Education

Donald Trump is the front runner in the national poles. He is leading the pack for the Republican nomination. It's interesting and it points to something in our education system. On the other side of the aisle, it's Hillary but Bernie Sanders is closing the gap. The Socialist candidate is popular with the young voters. It's a telling situation. Even the election of our current President says a lot about where we have come with public education. Don't see the connection? Let me explain.

The founding fathers of the United States sought to put in public education. The reason is simple, America is a Republic with elected officials, voted on by the people.  We also vote on laws and measures and bonds, etc. As citizens, we must make complicated decisions and to do so, we must be informed and educated. The system of public education exists to make informed citizens, capable of making decisions to run the country.

Early on, the education system stressed teachings ethics, civics and government. We taught students how to be part of a community. We stressed community and the people understood that the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few. We taught, lived and believed in working diligently, serving others and making good choices. We made hard choices, and we sacrificed for those choices. The entire country came together during WWI and WWII, we didn't protest and we didn't argue over petty issues while our young men were spilling their blood.

Today, we don't come together, we protest and cry "raciest, sexist, homophobe" and demand a safe space. We are not the same people, and part of the issue is our education system. We have begun to educate children for the sake of education. They are learning facts, but not how to think or make good decisions. They are coming out of school lacking the ability to think critically. They don't think about the community, they don't think about effects or long term realities. They have no concept of supply and demand, of trade off and the fact that everything has a cost or a consequence.

It's time we need to start teaching common sense and ethics and community again. We have focused too much on teaching kids to feel good about themselves and trying to build self esteem. The humanist movement has produced it's fruit and it's not good fruit. Maybe it's time to return to the roots of the founding fathers. We need to focus on making good citizen and less about making kids who feel good about themselves.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,
     I am not writing to endorse you, I'm not even writing about your campaign or election. I am writing you today because I want to make an observation on something you recently said. I know that sometimes we say things later we wish we could take back, and I hope that is the case with this statement. To summarize the statement, you basically said you have never asked God for forgiveness, you just go on and make things better.  I want to address this statement and share with you what you have probably already heard. I want to share it anyway.
     Each of us has opportunities to make good and bad decisions. We have opportunities to tell the truth or lie, to help or to hurt. As humans, we are for the most part selfish and evil. We choose the wrong thing and we do the very things God tells us not to do. We don't love God and we don't love other people. We break God's laws. God gives us the basic rules called the 10 Commandments. We break them so often. Our hearts are selfish, our motives are selfish and our deeds are often evil.
     God is holy and righteous and because He is holy, He does not tolerate sin and punishes it accordingly. Sin is punished by eternal separation from God in a place the Bible calls hell. We all deserve hell because we are evil. There is no one who is a good person when we stand before a holy and just God. There is hope and good news, and that comes from Jesus.
     We owe a penalty we cannot pay, it would be like someone paying rent for an office space using paper clips. If they don't have US currency, they cannot pay rent. We owe God a debt of holiness, but we don't have any of our own. We have things we say are good, but they are not holy. We need some holiness, but we can't get any. The debt piles us every day and there is no way to pay for it. Jesus, however, has all the holiness we need. He has the ability to pay our debt for us, and as a result we give Him our life. He takes our broken, selfish and sinful life and covers it with His and our debt to God is paid in full.
     We turn from doing things ourselves, we trust Christ to be the Lord and master of our lives and follow Him. Now Mr. Trump, I've never met you, but I know you are a wealthy and powerful man. I am sure there are a few things hard for you. To admit you are wrong I know must be hard, it's hard for us all. To admit you are weak and helpless before God I am sure leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I am sure the idea of someone else having control of your life isn't something you are excited about either. I know it must be difficult to have all this worldly wealth a power and then submit to Jesus. You aren't the first rich guy to have this problem.
     I am going to pray that Jesus will touch your heart. You may be rich and powerful and you may even become the next President of the United States, but all the gains in the world will be nothing compared to your soul. An eternity of hell is not worth a life of pleasure and wealth. Mr Trump, my hope and prayer for you is that you do ask for forgiveness, that you trust Christ and give your life to Him. Nothing else really matters.

Dan Barnes
The guy who owns this blog (and very little else)

Monday, January 18, 2016

I'm Emotionally Constipated

I don't know who coined the term emotionally constipated, but it's great and it fits me and maybe you too. The symptoms are the inability to express emotions that are appropriate at the time. You are happy when you shouldn't be, more often you are angry for no reason. You are irritated or complacent or just emotionally absent much of the time. Sound like you? Sounds like me too.

The root of my emotional constipation has been diagnosed. I don't let myself feel negative emotions. Pain and loss and grief are all bottled up inside, crammed down and tucked away. Why? Well it's really quite simple, I have bought into the lie that as a Christian I must be happy and ok all the time. I quote the "I have been content" and "I can do all things" verses, telling people my joy is in the Lord. Those things are true, but it doesn't mean we don't get sad or upset or tired and grieve. Jesus wept and cried out and got upset and irritated. Jesus felt things and He was open about feeling things. He wept in front of friends, He took time to himself, He spoke and shared and was open about things.

I have to learn to grieve. I don't grieve. I didn't grieve my parent's death, my friends death, my grandparents death. I had my dream die (or brutally murdered) a few years back, I kept a stiff upper lip. I stayed strong, I crammed my feelings deep down and now I'm emotionally constipated. I was once so full of despair that I had to get relief that I listened to a haunting song over and over until I finally broke down and wept. I cried on my wife for a while, she still has no idea what that was all about. I had to get some emotions out.

So now I'm learning about grieving. It's not easy when you haven't done it for the majority of your life. I'm not sure what it's suppose to look like or sound like or feel like. I don't know how to get the lid off the bottle and actually feel.  It's a long and slow process and I'm asking others to help me.  Are you emotionally constipated? Maybe it's time to get some relief and get some emotions moving again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No One Taught You Evil

If you have ever been around little kids, you know there is often a struggle to get them to behave. We teach kids to be nice, we don't have to teach them to me cruel. We teach kids to share, we don't have to teach them to be selfish. We teach kids to be kind and gentle, we don't need to teach them to hit and to hurt. Somehow kids learn these negative behaviors, despite our best efforts. It's clear that kids are not the blank slates that some psychologists have tried to make them out to be.  The reality is, we are evil, and the evil behavior is in our hearts.

I know that I have often struggled with the desire to do the wrong thing, wanting to do what I know I shouldn't. I have never had a strong, overwhelming urge to do what is right and had to fight it off. That happens with evil. We are tempted to do evil, we often have to push ourselves to do good.  It's so much easier to be selfish and self centered. It's easier to let the rude and harsh words than the kind and encouraging ones. Like Yoda says, the path to the dark side is quicker, easier and more seductive. Why is it easier to give in to hatred than to submit to love.

We have to face it, we are people with dark hearts. We spend too much time attempting to justify our behavior that we know is wrong, but still do anyway. Our hearts our dark, our eyes are dark, our minds are dark, and apart from God and His grace, they will stay that way. Without the light that is Christ, we will never have brightness in our lives. We can deny it, we can fight it, but we can never escape the reality. We need to repent and turn to Christ, without Him we are evil.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Change Like Frog

I have written quite a bit about the issue of true change/discipleship vs behavior modification. Let's face it, behavior modification is easier, we can just get people to act like us, talk like us, even think like us. The problem will be the number of people in hell who have no idea why they are there. They will say "we were in church and did stuff for church" and Jesus said "apart from me, I don't know you". The truth is that behavior modification doesn't save people, it requires saving faith. Without faith, without grace and conviction of the Holy Spirit, an individual is not saved.

The smaller issue when it comes to behavior modification is that it can't make us perfect. The law cannot make us perfect, and behavior modification is basically New Testament law, which Paul warned us about over and over. At some point, even the strongest person will fail. We will blow it because we cannot keep the law. When we are focused on behavior modification and then we blow it, then what do we have?  It's a problem.

Sometimes I forget that it's about growing to be more like Christ and not just changing my behavior to act like I'm suppose too. It's a process of changing my mind and my thinking. Those changes effect my actions and behaviors. It's more like learning to ride than getting zapped by lightening. It's like slowing going from a tadpole to a frog, it's not an instant change. We need to understand that we are being transformed by grace and faith. We need to give grace to others and grace to ourselves.

I pray that you will reject the theology of behavior modification. It will leave you empty and broken. Instead embrace a God of grace and limitless patience who is changing you at the right time.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why Jesus and I Don't Hang Out With the Religious Leaders

I am going to tread lately on this post, because I want to make a point but I don't want it to be read for what I'm not saying. Jesus spent time with sinners and didn't really care for religious leaders, and I get it. You see, Jesus came to seek and save sinners and they are saved by grace through faith. Religious leaders wanted people to be saved by obedience through law. Today we seem to preach grace, but do we live out the grace we preach? Yes and no.

In churches today, if you have sinned and I mean really have blown it, you better not be a Christian. If you are a Christian then there is forgiveness and repentance. If you have already been saved and you blown it, then often you are lucky to escape with your life. We want those who are believers to suffer, bleed and pay greatly for their sins. It's true that obedience is important, as Christians we need to do all we can to crucify the flesh and the sin nature. What about the times we fail.

We blow it sometimes, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in bigger ways and sometimes in really big ways. If a Christian really messes up big time, how does the church respond?  I'm not talking about a habitual sin, because as Christians we need to do what we can to get one another out of destructive lifestyles. Often Christians need to be confronted in their sin, because the sin is a trap and a prison and will destroy their lives. I'm talking about the repentant Christian, the grieving Christian, the Christian who messed up and is sorry. Do we restore?

I see restoration happen less and less in the church today. More often than not, when someone really messes up, they leave the church. Have we asked why? Who do wounded Christians leave the church? Maybe it's shame, maybe it's embarrassment, but perhaps it's something more sinister. Maybe it's the condemnation, the expectation they are scum because they have messed up. They will never been looked at the same way again, and will always wear the scarlet letter.

Jesus didn't like the condemnation when the teachers of the law and the religious leaders brought in the woman caught in adultery. He didn't like their teachings, what He called the leaven of the Pharisees. They were hateful people and Jesus didn't care for their company and I understand why. I agree.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Surviving The Fall

I'm a self starter, I work hard and I try to please those around me. Life started good, thought I was going to be great. Wanted to do great things and change the world. Things were good, but then it changed. I disappointed people, I struggled in places and was wounded. Rejection. It hurt and so I protected myself. I had failure in school, struggled with spelling and handwriting and math. I just stopped trying to coasted by as an average student. I was teased and bullied, so I pulled away and hid. I stopped caring and I found places I couldn't fail. Sometimes I still failed. I hid and I ran away. Many hours alone in my room, listening to music and hiding in make believe because I was broken. People were not impressed.

As I got older, I found it harder to hide and easier to fail. I started dating and found more rejection. The girl I liked didn't always like me. Sometimes it didn't work and sometimes they said hurtful things I couldn't deny. I tried new things and often failed and was rejected. The bullying stopped or at least changed forms. Still rejection. There was still places I didn't measure up. Grew into an adult, finished school and started working. Found lots of failure and disappointments. I sucked it up pretended to be strong and act like it didn't bother me. Inside I was hurt, but it's not ok to be hurt. I am suppose to be strong and trust God and be ok. I wasn't ok. I found my dream job, the place I wanted to be, but I wasn't good enough, I was rejected. I was wounded but I pretended to be ok.

I found myself in a depression. I don't know how it happened, but there I was. It was like being in the dark, and being lost and falling into a pit. The pit is wide and there is lots of room, so I decide I'm going to do some work while I'm in the pit, after all you have to stay busy. If I do well, if I work hard and do the right things, maybe someone will notice. Maybe they will accept me. I need to work hard and do great things, I don't want to disappoint. I have to find a ministry, so I take up some tools. I grab the shovel and pick and spade of ego and self sufficiency. I dig a hole and I plant a seed called pride, I water it with good intentions and fertilize with compromise. The tree grows quicker than I thought it would, but it doesn't look right. It grows in the gloom and it looks sick. The leaves are a mixture of green and brown and yellow. The truck and branches are twisted and scrawny, and it seeps a yellow sap. There seems to be some flowers, but they are not pretty, they are dull and have a mixture of a sweet and sickening smell. The trunk twists in browns and grays with a scaly looking bark. The branches resembled snakes as they swayed and rocks, even though there is no wind. The roots are shallow, but the tree seems to cling tightly to the ground.

I look at the tree and there is a single piece of fruit growing from the branch that seems to extend towards me. The fruit looks ok, in fact it looks good. It's tempting. I reach for it, it's covered in a sticky coating that smells sweet. I take the fruit and look it over, it looks pleasing to the eye, maybe it will help me be wise. It's a bad tree, but maybe it will bear some good fruit. I take a bite. The fruit is sweet in my mouth, but bitter in the stomach. Another bite and another. I feel sick. This was a bad idea. I go to drop the fruit, but I can't. It's stuck.

Holding the fruit I notice I can't move. I'm stuck and this sticky substance is now all over me. I can't take a step, I can't drop the fruit and I realize I've made a huge mistake. My pride, my ego and my self effort have led me to this place that I'm now covered in sin. I don't feel so good, I sit down, now stuck where I sit. All I can hear in the echo of the judgment and rejection echoing in my ear. How I wasn't good enough, how I wasn't smart enough. I couldn't do it, I couldn't be good enough. When I tried to do it on my own power, I ended up here. Stuck, and now the words aren't coming from others, they are coming from myself. I'm an idiot, I knew better.

I look at the sick, bad tree. It seems to be sneering at me. The pride in my heart is now covering me and the sap is dripping on me. It no longer smells sweet, but now rotten. Soon everyone will see me and they will know what a failure I am. I realize what's happened and my desire to be great has led me right into the hands of the enemy, he has me. Pits litter the landscape, deformed, twisted trees growing bitter fruit are common. In this dank, musty and dark landscape, we are trapped, so many are caught in the snare. The fruit looks different for everyone, but the sticky covering is the same. The sap is the same. The cost is the same.

I look over an I see a water hose, it's called grace. I struggle against the sap to the hose, and find a soap called repentance. I find myself covered in the soap and rinsed with the water. Next to it is a ax called humility. I take the ax and take a swipe at the tree. It falls effortlessly, because it's not my work but God's work that fell the tree. It melts into the dank earth. I'm still in the pit, but I have hope. The darkness is not so dark and the mist clears some. I have hope that one day, with the ladder of prayer and the help and support of others, I'll get out of the pit.

Common Sense Diplomacy in Our Political Climate

I watched Obama's speech,  well some of it yesterday.  I watched him cry. I'm not a big Obama supporter,  I don't agree with a lot of his policies and I don't like how much my health insurance costs have risen. That being said, I think many of the attacks against him are unwarranted. He is wrong about a great many things,  but he makes some good points too.  Maybe we need to become more diplomatic and less hostile to move forward in this country.

First,  I support the 2nd ammendment.  I'm a gun owner and soon to be a concealed carry individual. Banning guns will not work, it's unconstitutional and makes no sense. Criminals will still get guns just like they get illegal drugs. That being said,  there is wisdom in making some common sense changes. I heard Obama say that with the technology we have now,  we can make things safer. I agree,  trigger locks have become more and more advanced,  and they are a good safe guard. We can find ways to make guns safer, reduce the risk of accidental discharge and shootings. It's a good idea.

I also believe the idea of a gun free zone is not effective,  we should increase armed guards. Hospitals,  schools and even commercial venues like malls and movie theaters could benefit from armed security.  We can utilize our National Guard to protect their home communities.  After all,  the National Guard was created to guard our nation,  right?  Let's let them do that.

I'm a conservative, I stand pretty far right on most things,  but I know that this is a country of all different opinions and philosophies,  and maybe we need to find more common ground and less reasons divide. After all,  this is our country,  not just the Democrats,  not just the Republicans. Maybe it's time to focus more on the ways to make things better and less time degrading the man who sits in the Oval Office.  That's my opinion.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Goodbye 2015

I don't really like the idea of posting song lyrics, they are the words and poetry of someone else, but in this case I'm going to make an exception. Colton Dixon summed up 2015 too well for me to pass it up.

There are days I've taken more than I can give
And there are choices that I made
That I wouldn't make again
I've had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This is has been the story of my life

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

That pretty much sums it up, thanks Colton. The song is Through All of It, and that has been 2015. I came into the year recovering from my surgery and back at work. We made it through the school year, had a pretty good summer. We went back for my 20th class reunion and saw a lot of things I haven't seen in a long time. I think that trip opened a floodgate in me, because I began to slip into a depression towards the latter part of the year. Changing jobs didn't help, I started with Orkin as a Wildlife Tech, it's a cool job but new stuff to learn. New schedule and new expectations.

I have blown it plenty in 2015. In my depression, changing jobs and ignoring any and all emotions that deal with Wyoming, I haven't been the best husband. I didn't treat my wife the way I should have, I didn't get that part right. I'm sorry Elaine. I haven't been the best dad either, sometimes avoiding everyone and staying locked in my room. Sorry kids, I do love you very much.

In 2015, I started going to a counselor, granted I've only gone twice. Going to check my medication and see if I can deal with some of my baggage. I need to be emotionally healthy because I have things to do. I am working with a great group of people starting a new church in Sioux City. Redemption Hill meets on Sunday nights and I think it's going to be an amazing thing. My skill set is slated towards church growth, outreach and discipleship. I want to be as much of a help as I can be in this area. I need to get emotionally healthy so I can be used and be helpful.

So, bring on 2016. It won't be the perfect year but I sure hope I can do better in 2016 than i did in 2015. 

Goals, get my licenses for my job and get trained and be independent. I would love to buy a house this year. I want to get the Mustang back in driving shape (need to get the backend fixed, it met the van recently. New driver in my house). Get the truck fixed up. Finish Postologyism and Confessions of a Depressed Pastor.

Motto for 2016: TBD