What Do You Do In Times Of Trouble?

Recently I was asked about life’s good times and bad times,  The expression ‘When it rains, it pours.‘ (to describe multiple events of a like or same nature occurring together in a short period of time) came to mind.  I was reminded that sometimes we are overwhelmed by life’s events and we wonder whether or not the whole world is against us or if God (and we caveat this in our own minds with ‘If there is a God‘) even cares.

It is in times like these we might tend to sink into hopelessness and despair.  It is also in times like these that we may find others giving us sage advice, offering words of comfort, or simply offering a listening ear or a hug,

Personally, I believe God places us into trying times like these for His own Honor and Glory.  It is in our weakness that His strength is shown.

Have you ever watched a wrestling or a boxing match?  Two mighty champions will climb into the ring and flex their muscles in front of the crowd.  They will both show their prowess and agility as they dance around the ring.  They will stare each other down and predict a great defeat for their opponent.  But whom amongst us is impressed?  The real answer is “No One”, and if you answered differently, you didn’t understand the question.  All of the bravado means nothing.  Oh sure, the fighters may be trying to psych each other out and whip the crowd into a frenzy cheering for them, but this does not win the fight.  What eventually gets written about in the history books is when the fight begins and one fighter confidently walks over and takes his opponent out with a single blow.  That is the point that the crowd becomes impressed.  When they see a great display of strength and skill and prowess.

In some regards, God is the same way in our lives.  He can tell us in His word of His strength and greatness.  He can show us the majesty of His creation.  But what do we do?  We do not listen to Him when He speaks and we ascribe His creation to a process He is not part of.

However, when God steps into our lives and demonstrates His great strength and His love and His mercy, that is when we are impressed.  That is when we see Him for who He truly is.  That is when, in wonderment, we look around and ask “How did that happen?” and the only answer is: “God”.

But there is a condition.  You have to let God into the ring of your life.  Just like the great fighters who climb into the wrestling or boxing ring will only fight the opponent they are scheduled to fight, God will not take His intervention into someone’s life who does not want it and has not scheduled with Him.

This is why I always become uncomfortable when people start offering people in need advice or comfort.  When we try to solve the worlds problems through our own wisdom and understanding, we keep God out of the ring and don’t allow Him to work in our lives and the lives of others.

And more importantly, I believe we rob the individual going through the trial or tribulation.  God is trying to show His strength in their lives, not ours.

I am able to illustrate this in a very simple way.  Find an atheist and describe God’s goodness in your life.  Tell them of all of your experiences with God and what it has meant to you.  I can almost certainly tell you that the atheist will point to anything else in the world other than [a] God, to explain your experiences.  The atheist doesn’t need your experiences for proof of God.  The atheist needs an encounter with God.  Their own personal encounter.  And the same is true of us when we encounter trials and tribulations.  God wants us to interact with Him in a very real and personal way.  Not through someone else’s experiences, no matter how similar.

I am reminded of a King who lived a few thousand years ago.  This king was the King of Israel.  And he has been regarded as a great King indeed.

King David experienced his own set of trials and tribulations.  He may not have known the expression “When it rains, it pours”, but he would almost certainly identify with its sentiments.  King David allowed God to work in his life during these times.  He sought out a personal encounter with God in the close confines of the ring of strife within his life.  And King David walked out with his own answer as to how to address troublesome times.  Not someone else’s answer.  Not the answer of some program, or a counselor, or friends.  He walked out with a personal answer from God.

I like King David’s answer.  God asked him to write it down for us.  And he did.  King David’s answer to troublesome times in his life is this:

Psalms 23:
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  King James Version.

King David simply had to remember that it was THE LORD who was his Shepherd.  It was THE LORD that was doing the leading.  It was THE LORD that was restoring his soul, leading him in the paths of righteousness.  It was all about THE LORD and nothing about him.

How about us?  When we find ourselves in times of trouble do we invite a Holy God into the ring of our trials and allow Him to show us His strength?  Do we make it about Him?  Or do we stand there in our own bravado and face the situation without Him?

Do you want to prove to yourself there is a God who loves you and wants to show you mercy?  Invite Him to show you His strength the next time you face trials and tribulations and you will have your proof.

Do You Have An Affliction?

Are you afflicted by something in your life?  Perhaps it is a physical affliction.  Perhaps it is an emotional affliction.  Or perhaps it is a spiritual affliction.  Maybe you are one of those rare cases where it is multiple afflictions.  Whatever your affliction may be, it would seem that the world today has an answer.

My real question today though is not what your affliction is, but rather what your treatment of that affliction is.  For you see, I have a hypothesis that the world today is full of answers to our afflictions that make us feel good, but perhaps don’t actually treat the afflictions themselves.

You can see evidence of this through a simple Google search.  Try it.  Google your affliction and count the responses you get back that offer a world view that is non Theistic in its foundation as opposed to those that are.

Now before I go any further, let me make it plain that there is nothing wrong with treating afflictions through medical, psychological, or therapeutical means.  If you have poor eyesight you need glasses to correct that.  If you have a cold, medicine can help you.  If you are heartbroken, counseling may be a path to recovery.  My problem with the world today is where our focus is.  And I perceive that to be more on our afflictions, and the cures for them, than on the Creator and the sin cursed world that has brought about the afflictions, that we suffer, in the first place.

We seem to think that we have all the answers to our afflictions, or at least more answers than have ever been available before in history, yet we never consider what God has to say about them.  In other words we never consider the Biblical approach to our afflictions but rather only what medicine or psychology has to say about them.

Afflictions are not new in the world.  They have been around since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  Paul of Tarsus told us of his afflictions (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), Job was afflicted, I’d argue that both Cain and Abel were afflicted.  And perhaps there are those around us that may not be as normal as we perceive them to be.  Some may hide their afflictions very well.

Certainly our afflictions today cannot be so great as to compare to the afflictions of the early church, those that have experienced hardship during times of war, and certainly not the thieves on the cross (Mark 15:27).  But many will still cry out about how they were born with their afflictions or else cursed with them through no fault of their own.  Perhaps they should consider the blind (John 9:1-3), or the lame (John 5:5-9), or the deaf (Mark 7:31-37), or even the spiritually tormented (Matthew 8:28-34).

Personally, I know of no other living person today whom I would consider more greatly afflicted than those that have had all possession of their faculties compromised.  Such as those that may suffer from Down’s Syndrome or are in a coma.  I have long contemplated the thoughts those that suffer from such afflictions must possess.  Imagine living out your entire life, or even a piece of it, unable to express your deepest and innermost desires or dreams.  And yet, but for the Grace of God, there go I.

But as I stated, I am not interested in what your affliction today is, but rather your treatment of that affliction is.  I am more than sure I could survey enough people to come up with a book full of afflictions that each and every person thinks is the greatest burden any living person has ever had to bear.  However, the number of people that have met their afflictions head on through Faith and Grace, those are rare and hard to come by.

Today, there seems to be a cure for all of our afflictions.  We have adult play doh, adult coloring books, puppy therapy,  Dr. Phil, and a whole host of other so-called treatments for all of our self-diagnosed woes that I neither have the time, nor the inclination to parade before you.  We have cures for our illnesses such as have never been available to mankind before in the history of the world.  When did the Disciples of Jesus Christ ever get to stop at a local drug store and pick up some aspirin?  You want to consider some folks that must have had some colossal headaches for their day, the Disciples of Jesus would have been perfect candidates.  Just as I’m sure that the people dying from the plagues of the middle ages would have loved to have penicillin and some of the other miracle drugs that are available to us today.

People in the past had to cope with whatever came their way because they did not have anywhere near the arsenal to draw upon to fight their afflictions that we seemingly have today.  And yet, in some ways, I’d argue that people in the past fared far better when facing their afflictions, than we do today.

My problem with the treatment of our afflictions today is not that there is a treatment, but rather that we consider the treatment to be the paramount answer in the cure of our afflictions.  We have traded Faith in God for faith in some man made, non-theistic world view, cure to all our ills.  I could care less if coloring therapy does wonders for you or not.  If it does, great!  That is if it really and truly does.  What I care about is whether the coloring therapy is keeping you from spending time with the God of the Universe.  Whether it is compromising your Faith in the Creator.  And whether or not it has become a crutch to replace seeking after him.

Consider the blind man, who had sinned that he should be blind from birth?  The answer was “No one”.  Not he, nor his parents, nor anyone else in his life.  His affliction was solely for the Glory of God.  What about our afflictions today?  Are they for the Glory of God?  Or are they just some annoyance to keep us from seeking after Him?

WHY DID THE TREE HAVE A NAME?

I have a question, the answer to which, is not 42.  The answer, “42”, is an esoteric reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a science fiction work by Douglas Adams.  In Douglas Adams’ fantasy realm, the Earth is actually a Super Computer, named Deep Thought, running a 10 million year-long program to calculate the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything“.  A rather fanciful way of asking “What is the meaning of it all?”  And the answer, “42”, has become a euphemism to state “The answer is too complicated for you to understand”.

In reality, the question asked in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is not too complicated to be understood, as long as one goes to the correct source to research the answers.  And that source is the Book Of Life, the Bible, which is the real guide to the universe that God himself provided to mankind.

Of all the other sources available to us, none provides an exact answer to the questions surrounding good and evil with the clarity and finality that the Bible does.  Not Science, nor Religion, nor Philosophy, nor Politics, nor any other source you may care to name.  The answer to the meaning of it all is found in the Bible.  And at the root of that study is the answer to good and evil.

In Genesis chapters 1 & 2, we have the great creation story.  And within that story we have the Garden of Eden with two main inhabitants, Adam and Eve.  And very early on we are introduced to the concept of good and evil.  In Genesis 2:9 God made the plants to grow in the Garden of Eden, two of which, had a name,  One is the Tree of Life and the other is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  And my question today is: “Why were those trees, specifically, named?”  Of all the plants that must have grown within the garden, two were specifically, and deliberately named.  Why did the tree have a name?

The first tree, the Tree of Life, is interesting in and of itself.  It’s purpose is found in Genesis 3:22.  Eat of the Tree of Life, and you live forever.  Pretty straight forward.  Perhaps I’ll come back and revisit the Tree of Life someday, but for now, the tree I’d like to contemplate is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This tree brought death.  At least the taking of the fruit did (Genesis 2:17).  God specifically said that the day Adam ate of this tree, he would surely die.  This is an interesting statement to me because at that time the world did not know death.  Neither Adam nor Eve had any basis for understanding death.  And yet they clearly understood that there were consequences associated with eating of the fruit of this tree.

However, eating of the tree also brought something else.  It brought with it knowledge.  Specifically knowledge of what was good and what was evil.  This is interesting to me because the tree brought knowledge of, not the substance of.  And knowledge is gained by learning, by being taught of something, or by discovery.  Clearly the concept of, and the very existence of, both good and evil existed before the Garden of Eden.  Otherwise there would not have been a tree that provided knowledge of them.

It is also clear who the teacher of the knowledge was (and who held the knowledge prior to the planting of the tree).  In Genesis 3:4-5 the Serpent told Eve that  God knew her eyes would be opened, as gods, knowing good and evil.  Obviously for God to know this, he had to have prior knowledge of good and evil.  And this is not a situation of God possessing all knowledge (epignosis) as the Serpent was aware as well, prior to either Adam or Eve eating of the fruit.

No, God did not simply know the future, that Eve, and then Adam would eat of the fruit of the tree and that evil would suddenly enter into the world.  Evil was a concept that already existed and could be taught.

I also note that the Serpent was partially accurate in what he relayed to Eve.  The tree really did bring knowledge of good and evil.  And more to the point, that knowledge made Adam and Eve (and by extension all of human kind) as gods (Genesis 3:22).  God acknowledges that Adam and Eve had become like Him (the phrase “as one of us” is in reference to the triune God in the form of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to know good and evil.  That is, by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had learned of good and evil.  And human kind has known of good and evil ever since.

The sin, for Adam and Eve, was disobeying God and eating of the fruit.  The consequences that it brought into the world is knowledgeKnowledge that humans did not know how to deal with then, and still don’t know how to deal with today.  Dangerous knowledge that God had intentionally protected with  a commandment that Adam and Eve not eat of the fruit of the tree.  God did not warn Adam and Eve of the knowledge they would gain or the consequences thereof.  The Serpent did that.  And he did it rather convincingly since Eve understood that the fruit of the tree would make one wise (Genesis 3:6).

It is interesting to me that the definition for the word wise contains the words power, discernment, and judgement.  Because that is exactly what most of us think of ourselves as.  Powerful, discerning, and judges of right and wrong.  We have become as gods, all because of knowledge of good and evil.  Knowledge that is dangerous in our hands.  Is it any wonder that Christ warned us not to judge (Matthew 7:1-5)?  Because though we may be as gods, we are not The God, who judges rightly and perfectly in every case.

Another thing that knowledge of good and evil does to us is to make us believe we are self-sufficient.  We have power (knowledge), and discernment (to chart our own course), and judgment (to rightly align those around us).  Nothing is further from the truth.  It is the greatest deception of all time.  Those are exactly the things we should be crying out to God for and relying solely on Him to provide in our lives.  But because we have not, we stand in our own understanding and then wonder why we have conflict and struggle in the world.

So you see, there is a reason as to why the tree had a name.  The question is, are we going to understand the reason and apply it to our lives?

United States Presidential Elections Continued (Part 3)

This post is a continuation of my previous two posts.  If you want to read this post in context, go back to this post and read through sequentially.

I left you in my last post with the thought that I find the current allegations by women against the Republican nominee for President of the United States Donald Trump to be too convenient, contrived, and too coincidental to the leaked tape of his (so-called) locker room talk.  They hold little credibility when compared by the same measure to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial hearings.

But the last thought I’ll leave you with is the comparison of the physical and historical evidence.   In President Bill Clinton’s case we really do know that he ‘walked the halls of power with his pants around his knees’.  We know this for a fact because of the stain left upon the blue dress.  This, as you may recall, was confirmed through DNA testing.  One might wonder if any of Donald Trump’s accusers will be able to produce any similar evidence.

I don’t really need to provide this, but I will, in President Bill Clinton’s case there were not any real dissenting witnesses.  In Donald Trump’s case, there are those like Natasha Rickley that have come forward to paint a picture that does not quite line up with the stories put forth by his accusers.

However you  compare the cases, it seems clear that Donald Trump is at least equal of the same verdict as President Bill Clinton and should be acquitted of all charges.  But the media doesn’t seem to want to draw this conclusion.  They would rather charge forward, needlessly trying Donald Trump in the press without just cause.  A case they seem unwilling to bring against candidates they support wholeheartedly.  That is a fair and balanced press for you.

I could spend time a lot of time making a case for Donald Trump to be our next President.  But the counter would just be all of the reasons why others don’t believe he should be.  So instead, please allow me to make a case against Hillary Clinton,  You see, I do not believe that the United States of America can afford Hillary Clinton as President at this time.  And given the nature of our political system, the alternative is Donald Trump.  One of them will be President of the United States of America.  I pray that it will not be Hillary Clinton for the following reasons:

  • Probably at the top of my list is Hillary Clinton is Pro Death.  She is for the killing of unborn babies in every conceivable case.  If you are Pro Life (Christian/Catholic/or just a respecter of life), and you intend to vote for Hillary Clinton, I’d respectfully ask that you not show up at the March for Life.  At least be consistent in your actions.
  • A close second is Hillary Clinton is Anti Religion.  She said it herself as reported here.  Hillary Clinton does not believe that the Clergy should interpret and expound upon God’s word.  She believes that the only thing that should be preached are those things that align with her own world view.
  • Hillary Clinton is Anti Freedom.  Once again, she said it herself.  She has publicly stated that the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.  Forget the Constitution or the separation of powers.  The only thing that matters is Hillary Clinton’s own world view and her ability to force it upon others.  If you value your freedoms, a vote for Hillary Clinton is sure to erode them.
  • Hillary Clinton is Anti Military.  I’ll admit some guilty knowledge here, but it has been pretty well established that Hillary Clinton has not been a supporter of the U.S. Military in the past (you need look no further than Benghazi to substantiate this).  If you desire a strong America and a Military equipped to protect our homeland and our allies and other interests in the world today, a vote for Hillary Clinton will not get you there.
  • Hillary Clinton promotes socialism.  She wants to fix the current healthcare system in America (the Obamacare law) by guiding us towards a single payer system.  Federalization of the healthcare system for all Americans is socialistic.  It is contrary to the values this county was built upon.  If you desire to protect and promote American democracy, a vote for Hillary Clinton will work against you.
  • Hillary Clinton is Anti Economy.  Hillary Clinton’s tax plans, her ideas of larger government, confiscatory taxes on the wealthy (who are the ones carrying our tax burden to begin with) are not what America needs right now.  America’s economy is currently very fragile with almost nonexistent growth and an anemic job market.  A vote for Hillary Clinton could push our economy into a free fall that would take years to recover from.

Personally, I do not believe that America can afford Hillary Clinton as President at this point in our history.  In a few weeks, we will all decide.  I pray that God will place the President in place best equipped to preserve our prosperity and our freedoms.

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United States Presidential Elections Continued (Part 2)

So this morning I left you with some thoughts on the current Presidential Election here in the United States of America, in this post: I Attended The President Clinton Impeachment Trial.  I’ll continue that discussion here.

The point I was trying to make when I left off this morning, was people are quick to impose their own self-righteous, moralistic views  on others, but they don’t want to consider others views in their own world view.

Which is EXACTLY what they accuse Christians of.  I’m accused of wanting to impose my moral values on everyone else (Which of course, is absolutely not true.  I simply want to exercise my freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  AND – I actually am an ordained minister and thus at least somewhat qualified to do so.  If it just so happens that I, in correctly filling my God-given mandate to proclaim his word, you are convicted by the Holy Spirit of God that you are in sin, well I am sorry.  I hope before God I fulfilled his will correctly, and accurately represented his word, as I am called to do.  But your conviction is between you and God.  I personally expect nothing from it.  You are free to go about your business as you see fit.  But I digress.)

So, Mr. Anderson Cooper.  YOU want to play the moral card?  I’m the one that should be outraged here.  Why do you get to decide that when I speak the truth about God’s word and homosexuality that it is hate speech, and then turn right around and decry Mr. Donald Trump for his use of language regarding women?

It isn’t conservative Christians that have taken away free speech in America, it is duplicitous liberals who want to control the very essence of our lives.

For most of my entire adult life, I’ve had to sit in the workplace and listen to people take the name of my Lord and Savior in vain.  I’ve had to silently sit by while people swear by God, ridicule God, make God out to be something he is not, and yet I cannot even say that God’s word says that homosexuality is wrong.  That is hate speech.  That is hurtful.  That is demeaning.  Really?  Well all of the speech I’ve endured concerning my religion and my faith, is equally hurtful.  Equally as hated.  And equally demeaning to me.  I’ve endured it for decades.  Why doesn’t the other side step up to the plate and do the same?

Alright.  I perceive you’re screaming at your screens about now that you get my point on the speech, but that the question was concerning actions that the speech described.  I also perceive (based off my current word count), that there is going to be a third blog post continuing my current diatribe.

You can decide for yourself as to whether Donald Trump’s words were vulgar, hurtful, disrespectful, and language that should not be used.  And I would probably agree with most of you.  However, if we are going to analyze Donald Trump’s words and parse them through some special moral parser, then it is only fair to do the same thing with Hillary Clinton.  But when that is done, suddenly free speech goes out the window.  Suddenly there are protected categories.  You see, I believe that Donald Trump is free to all the vulgar language he wants to use.  Because if I am free to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then lives are changed and vulgar speech is changed.  But if we start deciding in this country what can and cannot be said, then we might as well just move to North Korea, or the old Soviet Union, or Iran,  because our freedoms will have been lost regardless.

But the question (and current allegations) concerns Donald Trump’s behavior more so than his words that were used.  So I’ll move on.

Suddenly, after the scenario at the debate I described in my last blog post played out, women have been coming out of the woodwork to say that they indeed, have had their space violated by Mr. Trump.

As near as I can tell, from the current set of allegations, the stories are ranging from supposed incidents in 2007 all the way back to 1986.  A span of 9 to 30 years.

And my question is Why now?  Why at this point in the election cycle are we suddenly hearing from you?

Let’s consider the fact that within days/weeks of the Oval Office incident, Monica Lewinsky had confided in her friend Linda Tripp.  And it wasn’t long before Linda had told someone who had told someone else, and suddenly someone is coming into the Oval Office saying “Mr. President, We have a problem.”  Bill Clinton’s charges were while he was still in Office.  As near as I can tell, Donald Trump’s charges are at least a decade old (and in a few cases multiple decades old).  What happened?  Why did it only take a few days for Monica Lewinsky’s story to grow legs and leave the compound but for Mr. Trump the stories have been tightly locked away for decades?  You’ll pardon me, but I am highly dubious.

I might also inquire as to the nature of the alleged altercations.  I mean, for all I know, if they really did occur, they could have been consensual.  Isn’t that the claim that was made about President Bill Clinton?  Hey, it was consensual so why do we need to go sticking our nose into it?  And before you trot out the former Apprentice contestant all in tears and visibly shaken over her ordeal in 2007, let’s go check with Monica Lewinsky, because perhaps the passage of time has brought her to her senses as well.  I’ll bet that Monica Lewinsky now realizes, that as a young woman she was taken advantage of by the most powerful person in the world, and was made to believe that she was OK with it.  But now, 28 years later, she probably realizes just how horrible and demeaning it really was and is ready to break down and cry before the cameras.

And with that equally controversial thought, I’ll leave you once again until my third post on this line of thought, this evening.

TO BE CONTINUED ……..

I Attended The President Clinton Impeachment Trial

I opened this can of worms, and now I’m stuck with seeing it through to the end.

When I started this blog site, I looked at areas of discussion that would interest people and keep them engaged.  These are generally the areas we are most passionate about.  Politics is one of those areas.  However, when I originally added politics, I was not necessarily thinking of political races for office.  I was considering discussions that were political in nature.  That is, discussions that revolved around the governance of society.  Our laws, our freedoms, our methods of meeting needs as a society.  This is the broader and, in my view, more important discussion.  We all live in a society in one form or another.  There are very few, if any, people on Earth today that are a society of one.  And societies, by necessity, must have rules and regulations, and governance of those rules and regulations.  And that is the important discussion.

However, given my previous post, I Am No Saint, and given the latest news reports, it would be disingenuous of me to leave things hanging as they are.  So I will continue on down this path no matter how ugly it gets.

First of all, I actually did attend the portion of the President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton impeachment trial that was open to the general public, for the period of time I was allotted (and that was allotted to each person seeking to attend).  I attended the trial for several reasons.  First of all it was historical.  President Bill Clinton is only the second U.S. President in history to be impeached.  Neither of the two were removed from office (both were acquitted after Congress failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote).  Secondly, I was interested in the proceedings.  It is not often in one’s lifetime that the opportunity affords itself to see government in motion in real-time.  I was fascinated with the process and wanted a glimpse into the inner workings of the congressional process.  And, as a bonus (if you can call it that), there were a lot of celebrities in the audience.  We got to sit on the same row, about five or six people down from where Whoopi Goldberg sat (I’m pretty sure her views on the trial were the exact opposite of mine).  Funny side story about that:  We watched Whoopi come in and sit down.  The person she sat next to greeted her when she arrived and they shook hands.  After a couple of minutes she got up and left the chamber for a few minutes.  While she was gone, the young man sitting next to the person that had shaken Whoopi Goldberg’s hand leaned over and whispered something to them.  The person chuckled, nodded, and then shook the young man’s hand.  I pointed it out to my wife at the time, commenting that obviously the young man wanted the opportunity to say that he had shaken the hand that shook Whoopi Goldberg’s hand (right after Whoopi had shook that hand).

So I was at the Bill Clinton impeachment trial (for a few minutes of it anyway) and know first hand, how seriously (or not so seriously) those proceedings play out.  And it was serious.  President Clinton was charged with perjury concerning his testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.  And while he was acquitted of both charges (and thus not removed from office), the dividing vote (50 – 50 in the Senate on the Obstruction of Justice charge) speaks to the highly political nature of the proceedings.

It is a simple question.  Did he willfully give false testimony while duly sworn before an appointed body concerning his relationship with a White House intern?  I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, he did.  And you can either agree or disagree with that, but the legal system spoke and we have our justice (or lack thereof) today.

The interesting thing to me is the political rhetoric at the time.  The feminists who supported President Bill Clinton came out of the woodwork to decry the proceedings.  They claimed that the President’s personal sex life was private, and of no concern to the people.  They claimed it was consensual and that what two adults do is none of the business of the rest of us.

Today, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump is getting his own impeachment for perjury trial in the general media and free press of the United States of America.  This stems from an answer he gave in the second Presidential debate with Former Secretary Hillary Clinton.  When pressed by moderator Anderson Cooper about whether or not he had actually done the things referred to in his comments to Billy Bush, he replied “No, I have not.

And, obviously in response to those words, several recent claims have been leveled against Mr. Trump that would seem to suggest that he was being somewhat less than honest (one such story here).

In effect, Mr. Trump is being tried in the media for perjury (interestingly enough, just like President Bill Clinton was tried before Congress for the same charge).

Now I personally find these charges to be ludicrous and comical in nature, but I will do my best to treat them as seriously as they possibly can be given the circumstances.

To begin with, I am actually shocked at the outrage over Donald Trump’s comments.  I thought what a couple of guys talked about in private was between themselves and not any of the business of the rest of us, correct?  Why is it that Mr. Trump’s talk concerning women is so far out of line as to be considered grounds for public persecution and Former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s words are not?  And yes, I know, if it weren’t for double standards, liberals would have no standards at all.

We allow flag burning in the United States of America.  Protected by the courts (some of the highest in the land), as a right of free speech and expression.  And flag burning means, the flag of the United States of America.  The National Flag.  Try that in North Korea, without getting shot.

And before the language police go to far, consider the fact that the inevitable outcome of limiting free speech, is to eventually restrict your own freedoms and liberties in the future.

And with that controversial thought, I’ve reached my self-imposed limit for a blog post.  I purposefully set out to make my blog posts, readable, digestible, posts that one can read and contemplate in about five-minute sittings.

So ….. TO BE CONTINUED ……. In another post this afternoon.

I Am No Saint

I have a sermon entitled My 10 Greatest Sins.  It is actually a discourse on The Ten Commandments, however I talk about them personally and how they apply directly to my life.  I explore them from the standpoint of how I am guilty of each.

I’ve only preached this particular sermon a couple of times in two different places.  I ought to bring it out more.  The interesting thing about this particular sermon is, that it is illustrated (verb, definition 2) by sin in my life.

And the thing that makes that interesting is that every single course on preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I’ve taken, every great preacher that I’ve discussed sermon delivery with, every instructional work I’ve read on the topic of sermon delivery, has told me (and will tell you) that you never, ever, talk about your own sin.  Let alone illustrate points of sin out of your own experiences.

And I understand why that instruction is there, however, I have one small problem with it.  And that is Paul of Tarsus.  Paul did not shy away from informing Timothy that he was Chief amongst sinners (I Timothy 1:14-16).  Paul was straight forward with the early Church because he knew they were aware of his past (Acts 7:57-59).

You may not personally be aware of my past (though there are those that are), but you should not assume that my sins are few and my transgressions lite (just as I do not assume that for anyone else in the world).  Paul of Tarsus may have been foremost amongst sinners when he walked the Earth, but today, I tell you that I am Chief amongst sinners.

You may inquire of me who I have murdered and why I am not in jail for it, but you should consider that one does not have to physically end a life in order to take a life.  You and I impact people around us every single day.  And given the chance, we impose our will on others.  And where we win, we rob others.  And where we hate with an intense hatred, we murder those people in our hearts.

So yes, I assure you, even though the breaking of God’s law may not meet your particular definition, I have broken them all.  And I believe that is by His definition, not mine, and I don’t believe I could stand before the Throne of God and defend any one of them were He to chose to charge me with any of the 10.

So I am Chief amongst sinners.  You may ask, so what is my point?  How does myself being the biggest transgressor of God’s law in the world today have any meaning or effect in anyone else’s life or the world around me?

Well you are (hopefully) reading this blog, are you not?  Are you not contemplating your own arguments, defenses, introspection, and evaluation of your own world view at this very moment in time?  I believe you are, whether you admit it or not.

And it is important, because by doing so you evaluate my positions and arguments and use that information to conclude your own agreement or disagreement.

You see, the dirty little secret is: I could really care less if you agree or disagree with me that I really am Chief amongst sinners.  That is really my position before a Holy God and how I approach my own world view.  I understand that when my sin is great, His Mercy is greater.  When my transgressions are  not loveable, His Love loves more.  When I am pathetic and hopeless, He finds Value and Hope.

It is not that I make myself a great sinner in order that His Salvation becomes greater, it is I recognize that I am great sinner so that His Great Salvation is not diminished.  And I believe the great songwriter/theologian William R. Newell understood this principle when he penned the words (At Calvary):

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!

No, it doesn’t really matter to me much at all if you agree or disagree with my self characterization.  What matters to me is that you understand that I believe it, and that it then becomes part of your evaluation of your own understanding for the purpose of the discussion.

Which brings me to the thing that is pressing heavily upon my soul, and that is the pending elections for the President/Vice President of the United States of America.

Within the last 48 hours or so, we’ve now discovered the so-called October SurpriseDonald J. Trump has expressed some pretty ugly views about women and used some very vulgar language.

And now, apparently, the entire Republican Party leadership wants to abandon him.  Many prominent leaders have called for him to step down, to abandon the race (story here).

And I have but one question: Has the entire conservative electorate (in the United States of America) lost their collective mind!?!  The election clock is ticking and we have less than 30 days until the people of the United States of America vote for (ostensibly) the leader of the free World and somehow the answer to lewd and insensitive talk (I am sure that there have been recent examples, but what is currently being put forth is 10/11 years old) is for the nominee to step down?  And do what?  Hold another Republican Primary?  Have those in charge place their presumptive candidate forward?  Less than 30 days before the election is to be held?

AMERICA: If I, whom am Chief amongst sinners, am allowed by a Holy and Righteous God, to preach His word, to espouse on this blog, to represent Him here in this life, can we not find it in our hearts to be a little more civil towards the person the majority selected as their nominee?

Consider the alternative.  The opponent doesn’t face her mistakes (sure she said she made a mistake having a private Email server, but that didn’t address the issue).  She has always skirted her own accusers and condemned those who have brought the spotlight to bear on her transgressions.

The fact is, America just cannot afford Hillary Clinton as President.  The Nation is probably near bankruptcy as it is.  And she is certainly not the one to be casting any stones.

Donald J. Trump has sinned in the past, and he will sin in the future, but he is still the best choice for America, and he is my choice.  And I pray that God will spare the United States of America by placing him in office.  And I pray you will join me in that prayer.

By-the-way – I lied.  I titled this post I Am No Saint.  But I am a saint.  Not because of anything I’ve done, or will do, or ever could do, but because Jesus Christ has redeemed me through his work upon the Cross.  But when you look at me you will not see a saint.  You will see anything but saintliness and you would agree with my post title.

Hopefully when you look at Donald J. Trump, you will not see the sinner, but rather a President.

What Is Your Favorite Movie?

Do you have a favorite movie?  I do, as most of us who have had the privilege to view a story on the silver screen do.  My favorite movie is Hook, starring Robin Williams as Peter Pan.  If you’ve ever read the literary work that is Peter Pan (and I refer to the full length book by J. M. Barrie and not the condensed short stories we read to children as bedtime stories) you realize that the story line in the movie Hook is so well conceived, and so well researched, it could have been part of the original story line.

I like the movie Hook for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the lead character, Robin Williams.  If the definition of an actor were “One who makes you believe that they really and truly are the character that they portray in the play or film“, Robin Williams would truly be a master of the craft.  Who else could make you truly believe that they were Mork from Ork and then English professor John Keating at an all boys school in Dead Poets Society?  From a doctor in Patch Adams, to a cross dressing housekeeper in Mrs. Doubtfire, and yes, as Peter Pan in Hook, Robin Williams was a master of his craft.  Making me believe that he was each character in each role, and that only he could possibly fulfil the role that he was in.

The second reason I like the movie Hook, is because it is just plain cleverly done.  In story line parlance, a hook, is a reference (either forward in time or backwards in time) to an outside event that usually is completed (explained or made sense of) later on in the story line.  And Hook is a mastery of hooks (pun intended).  Hook not only has backward references to Peter Pan (a character dating back to 1902, with stories in 1904 and 1911, a full 89 years prior to the movie), which is easy enough to do (I can easily take an already written work and write a new story line that correctly references back to the original work), but it also incorporates a forward reference from the original work to the new work.  And it works.  This is completely astounding when you consider the writers took a work written some 80 years before their storyline, and created a new story that the original 80 year old work references as if it could see 80 years into the future and predict an outcome.  Given the film’s title, Hook, obviously referring to Captain Hook within the story, and the double entendre it creates with its story line hooks both from and to the original work, it leaves one enthralled.  At least it did me.

However Hook is not the movie I’d like to leave readers with today.  Rather the story/film I’d like to consider is Mary Poppins.  With a side note on its companion film Saving Mr. Banks.

The film Mary Poppins has been translated into 17 different languages, shown in countries around the world, is the winner of 5 Academy Awards (the most of any Disney film to date), and is one of the most profitable films of the 1960s.  It is truly one of the classics of its time.

I was 3 years old when the movie Mary Poppins was first released in theaters and I don’t recall the first time I saw it.  I was most likely quite young.  I do remember however, the first time I had a glimpse into what the movie was all about.  And it was during the second Feed The Birds sequence.

I’m not sure how many times I had seen the movie before that particular song and scene in the movie struck me, but I do know that it was long before anyone else in my circle of family, friends, school mates, or even co-workers, expressed anything other than the story being about Marry Poppins, a magical nanny come to have adventures with the Bank’s children.

If you watch the film carefully (this is one of those time when you have to pay attention and study the film, rather than just sit back and enjoy it) you realize that the climax of the film is at that still, quiet, moment when you hear Feed The Birds.  And if you watch the children, and Mr. Bank’s reaction, you suddenly realize, the story is not about Mary Poppins at all, but rather about Mr. Banks.

Several years later Disney Studios came out with the film Saving Mr. Banks to chronicle the making of Mary PoppinsSaving Mr. Banks has been criticized for perhaps not getting all of the history quite right (or at the very least, telling it from the Walt Disney point of view), but the one thing I know it did get right was depicted in the scene where Walt Disney sits down with P.L. Travers and tells her that he gets it.  He understands that her story is not about Mary Poppins, but rather it is all about Saving Mr. Banks.

Disney historians have confirmed that that meeting did not actually take place.  However the reality of the message of the story line is not lost.  It was Mr. Banks that was about to lose his children, his home, and even his job.  It was Mr. Banks who needed saving, not the children that needed some magical nanny.

Shortly after Mr. Banks loses his job at the bank, and returns home despondent, and proclaims all of his trials and tribulations the fault of Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins gets this concerned look on her face as if perhaps all may be lost.  This look clues you in as to who the real mission was all about.  And it is not until Mr. Banks realizes that his home, his wife, and his children are the most important things in life, and he is off to the park with them to fly a kite, that Mary Poppins quietly slips away.

You realize, at that moment in time, that you have been watching a film you thought was all about a magical nanny, Mary Poppins, and her adventures with her young wards, when in reality it was all about a man whose world was about to come crashing down and who desperately needed saving.  And, at least in my case, you think to yourself, how clever!

It has occurred to me that God is like that in our lives.  Practically the whole world goes about their daily activities thinking that the events that play out are about them and those around them.  They believe they are the star of the show.

When in reality it is not about us at all, but rather all about Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  He is the center, He is the focal point, and it is all about Him, not about us.

But here’s the beautiful secret of creation.  We are made in His image.  We were created to have a relationship with Him.  And we are part of His family.

And if you let Him, He will give you the starring role in the story that is all about Him.  And others watching that story unfold will marvel (just as I did with Mary Poppins) as they suddenly realize that whereas they thought the story was all about the star character (you), it really wasn’t, it was actually ALL ABOUT HIM.

Are You Good Enough To Get Into Heaven?

A question that I have asked a few times in the past on this blog deals with exploring why there is evil in the world.  I’ve asked this question both from the standpoint of why God allows bad things to happen to good people and why God allows evil in the world if he is indeed a good and gracious God.

However, a question that is seldom explored, and one that I have rarely, if ever, heard espoused from a theological standpoint is Can an evil person commit good acts?  Most purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ seek to point out mankind’s sin.  That we are fallen creatures.  And that we are separated from a Just and Holy God.

The Bible explains that we cannot have any hope of eternal life save from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  And the entire reason that sacrifice was (and is) necessary is because we are a fallen creation.  That is, all of humankind is sinful.  We have violated God’s law, and are worthy of death, which is an eternity in Hell.

And thus evangelists, those that seek to spread the Good News that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the hope of winning souls (changing lives) for His Kingdom and His Glory, are apt to explain the state of mankind.  And that state is a separated, sinful state.  But the Good News is that we need not suffer the penalty of that state because the price has already been paid for us.  By God himself.  As only he could.

I’ll return to that in a moment.  But before I do, perhaps you are one of the many who has wondered what in the world you have ever done to deserve God’s wrath.  Perhaps you have wondered, if indeed the Bible is true (and I assure you it is), why God’s standard is so high as to condemn all who have lived, who live, or who ever will live.

In other words, why would God’s grand design be one in which we cannot win?

The genesis of this question, whether we recognize it or not, comes from putting ourselves (humankind) at the center of the equation and not God.  We want to consider things from our point of view and not His.  But the creation should never try and explain the rules to the Creator.  Rather we should seek to understand Him and His purpose, His plan, and His grand design.  We can never understand it apart from Him because He is the one who put it all into motion.  Not us.

And when we consider things from our point of view we begin to reason that yes, perhaps I have lied, but they were only little white lies.  No one got hurt by them.  They were not some atrocious acts of evil that altered the world.  After all, the vast majority of us who have ever lived can honestly say that we have not murdered anyone.  And therefore we are mostly good and only a little bad, and thus we are not really deserving of Hell, and if there is a God (and I assure you there is) He will look favorably on us because we tried really hard and did more good than we ever did bad.

In doing so, we fail to consider things from God’s point of view.  God never, ever, once (that I am aware of) asked if we had told an egregious lie, only if we had lied.  Whatever that lie may have been.  And God never, ever, once applied some scale of good and evil to our state of sin.  Only whether we had, or had not sinned.  And the Bible clearly states that ALL have sinned (and thus come short of the Glory of God).

This then creates what many may think is a paradox.  How is it, that humankind, who is sinful in nature, can do so much good in the world?  If I am so bad, why is it I am so good?  Can one who is evil in nature, find it in their heart to do good in the world?

The Bible, not surprisingly, has an answer to that question.  No one would disagree that there is good in the world.  Of course there is.  But to place ourselves at the center of that good is a fallacy and leads us down a very dangerous path.

Paul of Tarsus explained it this way in Romans 8:18-24:  We are told that it is God who shows mercy and lifts up those who falter.  Even when we sin against God himself, God works His plan for good: Genesis 50:20.  Paul further asks the question:

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor?  22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:  23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,  24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Romans 9:21-24, KJV).

Paul, after telling us in Romans chapter 8 that we are all sinners who have fallen short of the Glory of God, tells us in Romans chapter 9 that we cannot even lay claim to the good that is in the world as it is God, and God alone, that shows His mercy in us by allowing His good works to be wrought in us.

So are we good enough to get into Heaven?  Most decidedly No.  Not when perceived from God’s point of view.  But are we without hope, being placed in a no-win situation by the very Creator who set His great plan into motion in the first place?  Of course not.  You, and I, and everyone else, have been given the free choice of belief.  We simply need to believe in Him, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the great work he did upon the Cross in order to redeem us from our sin.

Why?  Because it is all about Him, and not about us.  It is for His Honor, and His Glory, and for Him to receive Praise.

We simply need to stop making it about ourselves, and start making it all about Him.

Are You Silent When Accused?

For the vast majority of us, when accused of wrong doing, we are quick to voice our defense.  Even when we know we are wrong we are wont to profess our innocence.  It seems to be something about human nature that leaves us unable to not respond.  Few, if any of us, will stand before our accusers and remain silent.

I learned a very valuable lesson years ago.  And that is, you cannot defend your own honor.  I was caught in a situation where a member of a church had been involved in a horrific accident and died.  The Pastor of the church was away at the time.  The nature of the tragedy was such that it caught the attention of the local news, who ended up reporting on the death and the horrible events that had befallen the immediate family for several nights (it was over a weekend as I recall).  The news stories prompted an outpouring of support for the surviving family members from the local community.  But no one knew where to send their gifts, that is until word got out that the family attended the same church that I did.  People began to send their gifts to the church.  The church treasurer, who had not encountered any similar situation in the past, took the monetary gifts, carefully logged them, and then deposited them into the church’s general funds.

When the pastor returned from his trip the local news station stopped by for an interview with him.  Questions began to arise as to the disposition of the donated funds.  The pastor accurately reported the state of the funds, however, you may imagine how it sounded in the press when they relayed that the gifts had gone into the churches general bank account.  The pastor came under great scrutiny and there were many negative articles in the press.  The more the pastor tried to explain the situation, the more outrageous the nightly news became.  It was as if his explanations were falling on deaf ears.

Finally, to get out from underneath the firestorm of the press, the church opened a charitable fund in the name of the family who had suffered the tragedy, placed all previously donated money into that fund, made a rather generous contribution to the fund itself, and then had a moderator (a third-party individual with nothing to gain or lose) hold a press conference and announce the fund, publically release the ledger of current donations, and request that all future donations go to that fund.

No longer was the story a hot topic on the nightly news, and the pastor of the church was no longer under the spotlight.  I remember he came to me shortly thereafter and told me, “Paul, you cannot defend your own honor.”  And he was right.  When you try to defend your own honor it rings hollow in the ears of your accusers.  Yet we all seem to rush to do it anyway.

However, today, I’d like to consider one who did not jump to their own defense.  So much so, that the magistrate who presided over the case was left in awe of the individual.  The story is found in Matthew 27:11-14 and goes like this:

Matthew 27:11-14King James Version (KJV)

11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.  12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.  13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?  14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.

One might wonder why Jesus stood silent before his accusers.  Indeed most people approach this passage with regard to what Jesus did, as can be found here.  I’d like people to consider this passage from another perspective.  And that is from the point of view of all the people who said nothing on Jesus’ behalf.

Consider the great silence in the hall of justice as Jesus stood facing his accusers.  It was so great that Pilate was in awe (he marveled greatly).  Jesus said nothing in his own defense, but neither did anyone else.

Where were the Disciples who had followed him all throughout the land for three years?  Where were the multitudes of people he had healed over that time?  Where were the lame, whom He had made to walk, the blind whom He had made to see, the sick whom He had healed?  Where was the woman, who caught in the very act of adultery, when brought before him heard the words “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”?  Where were all of the people who could have come to the defense of Jesus and testified on his behalf of the proof that they had been given that he was indeed the Son of the Living God?

You see, I believe that Jesus stood silent before his accusers not only because he was obedient to the Father and was headed to the Cross, but also because he was waiting to see who would step forward to proclaim him Lord.

And I believe he is doing the same thing today.  Jesus is silently sitting in Heaven at the Right Hand of the Father, waiting to see if you, and I, and others around us will come to his defense.

And just like that court some two thousand years ago, the silence today is deafening.  We might as well stand in just as much awe and wonder of the silence as Pilate did when Jesus stood before him.

Yes, Jesus could walk the Earth today and proclaim that he is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  But He would be met by skepticism and ridicule.  However, if those of us who have had our lives touched by Him step forward, one-by-one, and give witness as to how He has healed, how He has forgiven, and how He has saved, that builds a very powerful defense indeed.

Will you?  Will you join me and give witness to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Christ, Jesus, the Son of the Living God, today?  I believe he is silently waiting for us to do so.

The discussions that matter.

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