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Metamorphosis

Hey everyone, it has been a few weeks since I have last posted. I want to give a brief update about some upcoming changes.

I am wanting to change the look just a bit. The other changes have to do with content. I am going to return to some original considerations before I began blogging, while still implementing some of the changes I had made afterward. Briefly, the changes will be as followed:

1. Slightly new look.

2. Shorter blogs encouraging reflection for those who have busy schedules.

3. Subjects touching on important matters I think are often neglected in sermons.

4. And, hopefully, still offering encouragement to the depressed and discouraged.

Lord willing, I hope to make these changes sometime this week, but life has a way of changing our plans, does it not?

Anyway, I hope you may have a blessed week during a very strange year!

Blessings to you!

Unfocused, Unbridled Anger Will Fix Nothing

I have a few honest questions concerning our society. I’m not trying to be controversial or flippant. First, why all the unfocused, unbridled anger? The general answer seems to be “injustice!” Ok, this is a good starting place, but the answer goes awry when it shoots in all different directions. For example, a “black” man dies because of a “white” cop. THIS is the injustice. But what has followed are directions that are off focus and untrue:

  • All cops are bad
  • All “whites” are “racist
  • All “blacks” are oppressed
  • All cops are “systematically racist “
  • No body cares
  • This is Trump’s fault
  • Capitalism needs to be replaced by Marxism

Each of these are off focus and untrue. Everyone I know was upset with what happened to George Floyd. But somehow, things have spiraled somewhere unknown. We must remain focused if we are to fix anything.

Second question, will screaming obscenities and being destructive help fix injustice? So many pictures and videos I’ve seen shows persons with signs or shouting out things like: “F— cops!” “F— Trump!” F— you!” “Get the f— out of here!” Etc. I have yet seen such a word reconcilable. The same thing with destroying property. People are destroying things just to be destructive. But honestly, will this fix the problem? No, because none of this has anything to do with the original injustice. Furthermore, NO ONE responds well to being told, “f— you!” This kind of behavior is counterproductive. All this does is heighten the walls and thicken the barriers. This fixes nothing but is only further destructive.

Although I have more, my last question for the time being is this: do “black” lives matter or only the ones that fit a certain narrative? Something I have observed for several years is often if a “black” man is successful, he is labeled an “Uncle Tom.” The same for those who support Trump. Mind you, my posts are not meant to be political, but my point is this: on the one hand, “whites” are condemned unfairly as being “racist.” Yet, on the other hand, “blacks” are ostracized if they go against some unwritten script to think for themselves.

None of this is supportive of justice. It is not true that every “white” is racist anymore than saying the “black” community is free of racism. Furthermore, it is not supportive of justice to criticize “black” men as “Uncle Toms” when they are successful and/or think for themselves. All these accusations stem from the racism within the accusers’ hearts.

Truly, I believe things can get better, but first we have to keep focused on the actual offenses and avoid the untrue generalizations. If we refuse, we will all suffer the consequences of infernos of our own unbridled rage.

Is Hypocrisy Relative?

I have heard numerous people state the reason they neither like nor attend church is because churches are “filled with hypocrites.” Such persons give the impression that they hate hypocrisy. But wait, is such a statement true, or does it also reveal hypocrisy—the very thing persons imply to dislike?

First, what is hypocrisy and what are hypocrites? Hypocrisy is to claim or to give the impression of having moral standards, yet to live in contrast to these standards. Thus, a hypocrite is one who does not live in accordance to what he professes.

It might surprise some, but Jesus hates hypocrisy. In Matthew’s Gospel He says of some:

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’ (15:7-8)

And,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (23:27-28)

In any case, is the issue people have against church really that of hypocrisy? Mind you, I am not saying there are not any hypocrites in churches, for there are some. However, is this really the reason persons despise churches? I dare say, by and large the answer is a resounding “No!”

If there is any realm where hypocrisy surpasses religious hypocrisy by far is that of politics! How often those on political platforms project an image of moral superiority, all the while lying to the masses with all sorts of ulterior motives. The hypocrisy and corruption in politics knows no bounds. But I have noticed, no matter how repulsive the hypocrisy of the political figures, multitudes will not only gather to see them, but to cheer for them!

The tentacles of politics, like parasites, dig into the realms of media and entertainment. Those who denounce the hypocrisy in churches will defend the hypocrisy of journalists spreading agendas rather than giving the facts. While Christians trying to live honest and moral lives are condemned, immoral Hollywood elitists are viewed as purveyors of truth as they applaud and support the cause of the rioters—so long as they do not come to their neighborhoods!

But is hypocrisy relative? Is hypocrisy wrong in religion but permissible in politics? It is an amazing thing to me when I hear persons criticize preachers as being  deceivers, while saying, “Amen” when a politician or talking head speaks boldfaced lies.

So, generally speaking, do people really hate hypocrisy? No, for you cannot truly hate something when you applaud it in other areas. Then what is it about religion, Christianity in particular, people find revulsive? Is it really the hypocrisy? Granted, religious hypocrisy can leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths; but again, many find hypocrisy in other settings quite flavorful. I assure you, God hates hypocrisy in every form and in every setting. In both the Old and New Testaments, hypocrisy is condemned in religious, political, and personal realms.

So what is the real issue people have with Christianity? Jesus gets straight to the point when He declares the true reason people hate not simply Christianity, but Him: “The world … hates me because I testify about it that it’s works are evil.”

No figure in history has ever displayed more powerfully what it truly means to love and show mercy to others. Some denounce Christianity as being “too exclusive,” but no figure has ever had such an open invitation to everyone who will come to Him. However, His teachings strike at our greed, lust, hatred, prejudice, selfishness, etc.

Again, many dislike Jesus’ exclusivity, but consider the reason people are condemned:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ~ John 3:16-20 (ESV)

The light of Jesus Christ shines into our hearts and exposes our cracks and brokenness. His light exposes our depravity and barbarism. His light exposes who we truly are, and instead of humbly coming to Him, many choose to curse the light and embrace the darkness. Many choose to criticize the broken followers of Jesus, condemning them as hypocrites, all the while extolling hypocrisies far more vehement, divisive, and destructive.

Is hypocrisy relative? No. Hypocrisy stands against truth—which is also not relative. And when one stands against truth he must embrace lies.

The Lost Priceless Art of Common Courtesy

Many of the narrators (i.e., the talking heads) say the problem in America is “racism,” but I dare say the problem is deeper than this. You see, in my fair amount of years of living, I have known very few people who were racist in the true sense of the word, regardless of their ethnicity. Oh sure, there are cliques and biases, but every color and sector has these. For example, when I was a teen there was a fellow a few years older than me who lived in the same apartment complex. He had a shirt that read, “If You Ain’t Chicano, You Ain’t Caca!” Today, such a shirt would be  considered “racist,” yet this person was not racist. His friends included blacks, whites, and Asians.

The deeper problem today, I believe, is the decline in respect and common courtesy all around. I have seen such a rise in disrespect toward others from elementary schools to professional political platforms.

I have witnessed people treating employees at fast food restaurants and department stores as though these individuals are beneath them, as they yelled and belittled them. I’ve seen videos of cops being screamed and cussed at because they pulled persons over for speeding. I’ve observed young men treating others with contempt yet demanding respect. I’ve experienced reaching my hand out only to have persons look down at my hand then back at me, keeping their arms crossed.

In media, whole groups of people are generalized and demonized—especially if persons or groups do not share the same opinions and agendas.

Kids can cuss and threaten teachers or bully students; yet, many parents will side with their children—regardless of the rebellious behavior. Some parents yell awful, demeaning things at kids’ sporting events. Many belittle police officers, referring to them as the “pigs.” We live in a day where the position of president is not even respected. I read of a children’s book recently portraying President Trump as a pig. There has been a growth in numbers who show utmost disrespect for the flag, those in the military, and those who have sacrificed much. Let us not forget the disrespect shown to our elders. I recently came across a video of and elderly man of color being punched by a group of young men of color for wearing a US winter hat.

We’ve become a society having a sense of entitlement, as if somehow others owe us something. But why would anyone owe us anything while we “do not owe anyone a single thing”?

The disrespect and lack of courtesy transcends color, ethnicity, gender, economic class, etc., and these have poisoned our society like nothing else can. How can our country deal with racism if it disregards the necessity of respect. Mind you, showing respect does not mean to agree with someone or to like them. Rather, it is to show honor for a person’s position and/or personhood. Yet, how often I will hear people say, “I’m not going to respect him/her, they don’t deserve respect. Respect is to be earned!” What a bunch of baloney! We’re to demand respect while dishing out disrespect?! It does not work this way, and this is precisely a major reason our society is in the mess it is in.

The Bible tells us:

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. ~ Matthew 7:12

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. ~ 1 Peter 2:17

How can we cry out for love and justice if we cannot even show respect and common courtesy to one another? This is like crying out for light and warmth, yet pouring water over any flickering flames.

Somewhere on a shelf in the dark basement of the human heart is the lost, but ever so valuable, art of common courtesy. Until we can find this and finally display it again, the cries against racism, injustice, etc. are but also a lost cause.

Understanding Justice, and the Cries Thereof

Just(ice) – notice the key word, “just,” meaning “morally right and fair.”

So many are crying out for justice, but do they truly care about justice?  How many women are raped each year? How many children are abused? How many innocent babies are killed before they even have a chance to enter the world? Society is not outraged by these. There is no rampage. But is any of this just, morally right, or fair?

Now, consider present happenings and consider the meanings of just(ice). This vilifying cops as a whole because of the acts of a few, is this just? This is no different than viewing all blacks as criminals because some are in jail. Burning vehicles, looting and destroying businesses, and screaming at/threatening/harming police officers who are trying to maintain order so no one (else) gets hurt — is this just? Is this morally right and fair?

Some will say I don’t understand because I’m “not black.” Well,  I’ve seen some videos of some very upset black individuals whose properties were destroyed. They did not understand either. Is their lack of understanding due to having “whiteness” somewhere in their DNA? Are such racist comments (whites not “understanding” the rioting and looting) and justifications of the destruction just, morally right, and fair?

Finally, this accusation that whites, by nature, are “racist,” — what a racist, stupid, and unjust accusation it is in itself! A white’s friendship with a black is, by default, insincere? What a crock!

Damn the media! Damn the political hypocrisies! Damn the fakeness and insincerity of Hollywood! Damn antifa and all these things that add fuel to the fire in the name of “justice,” yet have NOTHING to do with what is just, morally right, or fair.

A note for all of us when we claim to desire “justice”: Is what we are saying and doing just, morally right, and fair? Consider these:

  • Would you want broad generalized accusations said about you?
  • Would you want such actions done to you or your property?
  • Emotions, feelings, agendas, and ideologies aside, is what you are saying true?
  • Is what you are saying or doing morally right? THIS is a tough one, since our society tries to teach that there are no moral absolutes. Yet, if this is true, then why is racism wrong? What is wrong with a person being beaten for whatever reason? If there are no absolutes, then justice is merely imaginative. And if there are absolutes, where do such absolutes come from?*

This post is in no way meant to be controversial, but I am so sickened by all the stuff going on in our country. Indeed, what happened to George Floyd was an injustice. There is no doubt about that. However, so much that has occurred after this injustice are simply more injustices. What utter nonsense when corrupt politicians, immoral celebrities, and spoiled, militant renegades want to lecture others about “justice.”

*Check out the book, Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis. He discusses absolutes masterfully.

The Relevance and Hope of Nehemiah’s Prayer

Recently, many of us saw the video of the unjust treatment and killing of George Floyd. Since then, chaos and destruction have inflicted cities all across the United States. There is a lot of concern, fear, anger, and rage. But is there hope?

Nehemiah was a Jew and served as a cupbearer to a foreign king. Word was brought to Nehemiah concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the great city of his homeland. Upon hearing the news, he sat down and wept. For days, being anguished in spirit, he fasted and prayed.

I believe within Nehemiah‘s prayer we can find hope and healing for our nation.

First, he humbled himself before God, acknowledging His faithfulness in both love and word. As he prays, he says:

I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.” ~ Nehemiah 1:6-9 (ESV)

Notice, he confesses the sins of the people at large, he then shifts attention to his own sin and those of his father’s house. All of these sins contributed to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Our nation is spiraling downward. It has been for some time, but the pace seems to be increasing. There is not just a single sin by a particular group of people. Rather, there are a host of sins each of us have contributed.

At large, we have so many politicians and big businesses cemented in corruption—greed, lust for power, sexual scandals, deceit, and even crimes of all sorts. Then there is Hollywood with all its vain extravagance, well known for all its immorality and mockery of God. Added to this is its love for debauchery, not only indulging in sex, but also substances. Even the church is not guiltless, as many churches have turned away from the faith and true teachings of the Bible. Churches are well known for hypocrisy and judgmentalism. Yet, the sins do not stop here. Added to these are the areas of education and journalism, rewriting history and polishing stories, not for the sake of truly educating or showing what is happening, but rather propagating and brainwashing. Yet, again, the sins do not stop here.

Now, bringing it in closer to—but not quite—home, I saw a touching video. There were two groups: one side was “whites” and the other side “blacks.” The whites were kneeling, and one man prayed aloud, confessing to God our sins and the sins of our fathers. Acknowledging real injustices done to blacks. The black community joined in prayer, as a man pronounced forgiveness, then acknowledged the anger and resentment of theirs and their fathers. I know of one writer who mocked this video; yet, the prayers of these men and communities are in line with the prayer of Nehemiah. Neither side blamed the other, but simply owned up to personal sins and sins of society before God. This, I believe, can open genuine discussion and healing—IF we will let it.

Now, bringing it home, personally. This has been difficult as I have taken some spiritual inventory of my own life. I find it easier to burn bridges than to build them. I am guilty, at times, of being biased, partial, and assuming the worse in others before taking the time to know them. There are times when I do not validate another’s words or feelings. This is all sin, because I am not honoring those made in God’s image. I am not loving them as I love myself nor treating them the way I want to be treated. Thus, I have had to do my own share of confessing. But this has led to the reconciliation between a friend and me.

A lot of healing can take place in our world if we would humble ourselves, validate and honor others, genuinely own up to our own offenses, and let go of the anger, rage, biases, presumptions, refusal to forgive, and the like. Healing and hope are possible, even for our nation. However, the challenge for each of us is following the directions of what God prescribes to us. For many, this is too big a pill to swallow. Our own pride is often one of the biggest obstacles to genuine unity and healing.

    

When I Only Want to Go Home

There are times when I really want to go home. No, I do not mean the place of my upbringing; rather, to breathe my last breath so I can go to my eternal home. I was experiencing this longing recently. Perhaps you can relate?

Mind you, this is not a morbid death wish, nor is it a grunge rock anthem about how life sucks. Life is precious and creation is beautiful. For me, the crushing weight is the inner loneliness I feel and the gnawing question as to why am I here?

I used to be a pastor. Yes, I preached sermons of encouragement and hope, but I also preached against sin. While I made my share of mistakes, I also did a lot of things right. Yet, in the end, I was betrayed and deeply wounded by certain individuals. I now loathe church politics and want nothing to do with it.

I have been ordained. I worked hard to earn my bachelor’s degree in ministry (graduating with honors) and my master’s degree in discipleship (graduating with a 4.0 gpa). All of this, for what?

I am a theologian, in my own right. I am an introvert and deep thinker, with a melancholy temperament to match. I am not the life of a party, to say the least. Genuine friends are few.

My desire is simplistic: for people to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, and to truly grow in relationship to Him. Yet, when all is said and done, I often feel like a vagabond.

So what do I do when I am feeling weary and useless? What do I do when I only want to go home? I try to look to Christ, and remember that I am not an accident or a mistake. God was actively present when I was being formed in the womb (see Psalm 139). I try to remember that He is at work even when I cannot see or understand. I continue to write, even if readers are few—trusting that God will use my writings to minister to someone’s heart and spirit. Finally, I try to remember my real purpose is to glorify God. If I can maintain this, then I am fulfilling my destiny regardless of the perception of my eyes and heart.

Although I look forward to going home, God has me here for a reason. I do not need to understand, but I do need to trust. Perhaps today was simply to offer some needed hope to someone reading this—like you?

Books on Hope and Faith

My blogs, overall, are meant to encourage and hope for those struggling with depression, anxiety, and the like. I rarely use posts to advertise. However, at this time I do want to mention some books I have a available through Amazon. For a limited time each book is under $10.

Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World – This book is intended for the Christian always on the go. There are 150 brief reflections with Scripture and questions to help a person think about eternal things in the midst of the busyness. $5.99

In the Eye of the Calm: Reflections and Poems on Faith, Hope, Love, & Life – Approximately 100 poems along with numerous, more in-depth reflections on many of life’s experiences, both joyful and painful.  $4.99

Light in the Darkness for Weary Travelers – A compilation of 35 of my blogs on hope and encouragement. $5.99

Take Up the Shield of Faith: Christian Reflections for Young Adults Serious About Their Faith – 100 brief reflections with Scripture and questions, covering twenty subjects, such as: the Bible, the Fall’s effects, faith, truth and wisdom, false teachers, spiritual warfare, conduct, etc. $4.99

A Royal Priesthood: The Christian’s Privilege and Responsibility – Studies in Practical Theology – The Apostle Peter says believers in Christ make up a holy and royal priesthood. How should this change one’s perception of God, himself, other believers, and the world around him? This books seeks to answer these. $6.99

I hope you will take the time to check these out. Again, these prices are for a limited time.

Blessings!

Peace in the Coming Night

Uncertainty is a mark of the time we are living in: What is going on? Who can we trust? Where are we headed? When is the storm going to hit? Why is this happening? Our world is giving ample reasons to fret and fear. I want to encourage you to  place your faith in Jesus Christ.

Oh, I know the “experts” say to jettison the faith. Many university professors, celebrities, and politicians scorn such faith. This is fine, but I ask you to ponder this: The more the world pushes out Jesus, do things get better or worse? Does the world become more peaceful or more turbulent?

I know it is common for some (e.g. Mikhail Gorbachev) to blame wars on religion, but this is not true. Most have to do with a lust for power. Have you ever considered dictators are never religious individuals? Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, etc. were neither religious nor virtuous. And this New World Order we occasionally hear about, this will be an atheistic, secular humanistic totalitarian government. This might be closer than we realize.

The Bible has warned us for many years there would come a time of great difficulty (see 1 Tim. 3:1-7); a time when many would reject the Christian faith (see 2 Thes. 2:1-12); a totalitarian government and cashless society (see Rev. 13). I do not profess to know when all this will fully fall into place, but the process has begun. Even now, there are many within the U.N. pushing for a one-world government and an ecumenical one-world religion. The present Pope Francis does not hide his ambitions concerning these.

All of this gives us multiple reasons to be afraid, but Jesus invites is to find refuge and peace in Him.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:1, 6 (ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

The world continues to promote the myth and superstition of a secular humanistic “utopia.” This tale is but a smokescreen for a lust for power of the elite. Nothing less. And like deadly spiders, they will spin whatever lie to catch and devour.

Jesus is up front with us and tells us there will be difficulty; however, in Him we can have peace, and He will get us through the difficulties.

May these words encourage your heart, and help you fix your eyes on Jesus with a renewed confidence.

Jesus and Prayer

Jesus and prayer. Many scoff at these during these difficult times, saying they don’t work. However, this is like a person cursing tools because he can’t get a screwdriver to screw in a nail or a hammer to saw through a plank. The problem is not the tools but the one misusing them. 

There is peace, guidance, and even healing for our nation and its citizens; Jesus and prayer are the means by which these can be attained. However, we want to approach Him, the King of the universe, as if He is some waiter still in high school: “Hey buddy, yeah, we’d like riches, cures, and power. Do these and you might get a $5 tip and maybe even a thank you… Oh, and make it quick!” We treat the King like some schmuck, then wonder why we seem to be ignored?

Yet, the Scriptures give us promises for if we are ever really ready to do business:

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. ~ Isaiah 1:18

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

So much good can happen if we would but go to God with humility and sincerity. Jesus and prayer are not the problems. We are. 

If we would but go to God on His terms, acknowledging our guilt (guilty we are), and truly seeking His face—only heaven knows what incredible blessings would come!

Lose not hope. Instead, let us lose our pride.