Open season on Christians

It’s open season on Christians these days.  In Kenya, men with guns separated Muslims and Christians by asking a simple question.  “Are you a Christian?”  An affirmative answer and they were shot.  Here in the West, we think that we don’t kill Christians.  Everyone is free to believe as they wish.  Freedom of worship.  They’re killing Christians in the MIddle East and Africa, but here in the West we don’t do that, do we.  Or do we?

What about in the spirit?   They’re asking the same question here.  Are you a Christian?  Yes, is the reply of some.  Who’s doing the asking?  The media.  If your answer is in the affirmative, they don’t shoot you.  They just tweet and pretty soon you’re a bigot, a homophobe and a hate monger.  They will destroy you.

If they’re not trying to destroy you and your reputation, they are trying to wear the Christians down.  Water down the message.  Make it more palatable for the masses.  Just “be nice” and maybe people will believe.

It’s time for Christians to get strong.  Be sure of who you believe in and what it is you believe.  Get filled with the Word and the Spirit.  Be kind and live what you believe.  Don’t give in to hate.  Don’t listen to the labels that they put on you.  Stay true.

Love is contagious

Yesterday, on the way to work, the finale of Les Miserable came on the radio.  This song always puts me in a mood of contemplation and profound reverie.  It touches us all on a deep level of the simple love that we have for our Father.  That love resides somewhere in all of us, though it may be covered up and rusty in quite a few.  We all desire in our hearts for a world where we can live in peace, where all men will put away the sword.  We long for such a place for our children and for their children as well.

Our present world bears no resemblance to that apparently far off desire.  Today’s world is more a world of the barricade than a world beyond the barricade.  We struggle with news reports of far off wars, local crimes and sad stories of corrupted officials that make us lose hope that such a world of peace could ever exist.

It does exist.  We can achieve it.  I, as an individual, cannot force anyone else to want or create such a world.  I can only look inside of myself and eliminate the hate inside of me.  I may proclaim, “but I am not a hateful person.  I’m a nice person!”  Wait a minute!  What about that annoying person in the next cubicle?  Do I hate him?  What about the person that always rubs me the wrong way?  How about the guy that cut me off on the highway this morning?  Do I hate him?  Or did I pray for him as he was speeding off?

There is a solution to hatred.  Instead of avoiding that person, hoping that he or she will go away, think about his/her life for a while.  What would be something that he/she would really like?  Not a big flashy gift, but something small and simple, that shows you’re thinking of him or her.  Maybe a cup of coffee or just a kind gesture.  Something that would touch his/her heart.  He might end up hating you for doing that, but you will have taken one further step toward eliminating the hate from your heart.

People don’t respond well these days to words and doctrines, but love, they can’t resist that.  The song ends with the words, “to love another person is to see the face of God.”   Love grows.  Love is contagious.

Reacting to the Paris attacks and continuing suicide bombers

In our world today there are so many murders and assaults claiming to be the will of God.  Hogwash.  We are all God’s children.  True religion boils down to some very simple basics.

  • Love God first.
  • Love your fellow man.  He/she is your brother/sister.
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Keep the commandments.  Most religions have some form of them and most of them are quite similar in that they say, “Do not kill.”  “Do not steal.”  “Do not lie.”  Etc.

If we could implement these simple ideas in our lives and teach our children to do so, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live and raise children.

Choose Life!!

P1010248We are surrounded by choices from sunup to sunset.  Just to get out of bed is the first choice of our day.  As soon as we choose to do it, we are faced with more choices: we choose what clothes we are going to wear, what we’re going to eat for breakfast, what we’re going to read while we eat that breakfast and what we listen to as we drive to work.  We do all that even before the official start of the day (for some, the day only officially starts after the first cup of coffee!).

Do I choose a Hawaiian shirt in bright colors or something more subdued?  Do I eat donuts for breakfast or eggs with stewed tomatoes?  Do I check out facebook and catch up with friends and family as I consume my chosen breakfast or do I open the Bible and catch up on some godly inspiration for the day?  None of these choices of themselves are necessarily good or bad depending on the context and my motives in choosing them.

The free will that we enjoy today dates back to the Garden of Eden when God planted two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He warned Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and told him about the consequences.  Our choices do have consequences.  If I choose to eat M & M’s every day for breakfast, there will be hell to pay eventually.  You could compare that to choosing death.  If I choose healthy foods, I would be choosing a healthy natural life.  So too, choosing positive activities, thoughts and qualities enhances my spiritual life.  Choosing those things is like choosing life.

As we go through our day, we can reflect God in our choices.  What does God want me to do today?  And God is not religious!  By that, I mean that He doesn’t want me to stay in my closet praying the Our Father all day.  How can that help anyone?  He understands that we need to live our daily lives.  But as we do that, we have choices that can showcase His goodness and inspire both ourselves and others.  So, rather than choosing to always promote ourselves, we can choose God.  Most interestingly, we can choose our attitude.  When someone rubs me the wrong way, instead of irritation, I can choose love.  Instead of a sarcastic reply, I can choose either silence with a smile or perhaps even a kind answer.  Instead of moping about, I can choose to be happy.  We can all make godly choices in the apparently little things as our day rolls along.  Those choices will engender an abundant and godly life for ourselves and for those that we  meet.

CHOOSE LIFE!!!

Heaven is a choice

P1000891

 

In this photo, there is only one road to choose from to get through Crawford Notch in New Hampshire.  In life, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation with only one way out.  Most of the time, however, we are making choices all the day long.  For example, I go to the store, choose various kinds of food, bring it home and put it all in my pantry.  Of course, what I bought was a choice.  Later on, when I go looking for something to eat, what do I pick out?  If day after day I pick marshmallows and candy bars, pretty soon I’m going to be sick.  In the long run if I continue making the same choices, my body will be depleted of its energy since I have chosen not to give it anything with any trace of nutrients in it.  My body would be running on empty and I would pay the consequences of my choices with ill health, which would in turn lead to my eventual demise.

It’s the same with my choices for both my behavior and my attitude.  When I was young, my parents chose many things for me in their role of guardianship over me.  When I grew up, my boss made some of those choices for me, but it was my choice to submit to them.  Once I am an adult, just as I choose what goes into my mouth, I also choose what my physical body does.  My heart tells my brain what it desires and my brain tells my tongue what to say, and my hands what to do.  That leads me to the main choice that no one can control but me.  It’s my heart’s attitude.  My attitude is entirely my own.  No one can dictate to me how I should look at something.  So, no matter what the situation, I can always choose to look at it as coming from God and know that it is for my good.  I can always choose a good attitude.

Every day my heart is making choices.  Let it choose righteousness, truth and love.  Day by day, as we make our choices in the seemingly small details of our lives, we are choosing heaven.

COMMITMENT

 

Recently, my students were learning how to revise an essay in my evening ESL reading/writing class.  A few sentences in the introduction of the revised final draft that we were studying in the book caught my attention.  “A generation ago, it was common for workers to stay at their place of employment for years and years.  When it was time for these employees to retire, companies would offer a generous pension package and, sometimes, a token of appreciation, such as a watch, keychain, or other trinket.  Oh, how times have changed.  Nowadays, people – especially younger workers – jump from job to job like bees fly from flower to flower to pollinate.”  (Great Writing: Great Essays 4, Cengage Learning, 2014)  We continued reading as the essay went on to explain the reasons people have for quitting their jobs.  However, my eyes and mind remained focused on the ideas and images evoked by those descriptive words, ideas about the subject of commitment.

My own father worked at GMC for many years and retired exactly as described above.  He had a nice party where they gave him a fine watch and a very nice pension package.  He was rewarded for his dependableness and his loyalty and his retirement package helped him to live a comfortable life for many years.  In contrast to his traditional life, it seems to me that nowadays people are not content to be in one job.  They are always looking for something better, something bigger, something with better pay, more benefits, or more prestige.  High profile CEO’s and sports team managers flit from team to team or from corporation to corporation just like the busy bees in the essay that my students read.  University presidents stay at one university just long enough to make a name for themselves before they start a search for something better.  They appear to be loyal at the time that they are at the university, but they are on a career path for themselves, not for the university.

No one blames any of these career people for jumping ship.  The sole exception seems to be when sports figures leave one team for another one that offers them a better package.  The fans blame them for leaving the home team and may even boo them when they come back to the hometown for a game against their former team mates.  The booing may last for a while, but before long that sports figure is replaced by another favorite in the hearts of the fans.  It makes you wonder though.  With so many prominent examples of professionals doing “what’s right for themselves,” how can young people understand the importance of loyalty or of a commitment?

Furthermore, the lack of loyalty in a sports figure or a university president or on the job is just a scratch on the surface of modern society.  What happens when there is no commitment or loyalty in a friendship or in a marriage?  In the United States, many friendships don’t seem to last very long.  Even in marriage, the idea of commitment is on the wane.  Couples come together for a time, but when difficulties arise, their love diminishes and they lose their interest in maintaining the relationship.  Before too long, they find “something better” and move on with their lives.

However, commitment and loyalty are qualities that are desperately needed today.  They are not simply old-fashioned qualities for a generation that is quickly disappearing.  It occurred to me recently that the importance of commitment cannot be negated.  In this life, we all are made up of both emotions and principles.  Emotions are as fleeting as the wind.  They sweep in like a summer breeze and inspire us with all kinds of wonderful feelings and ideas.  We think that these intense feelings will last forever, not realizing that life’s situations will change just as assuredly as the weather and as our situations change, so also do the feelings that accompany them.  For one minute we are on cloud nine and the next we can hardly remember what it felt like to float so high in the stratosphere.  Emotions inspire us, give us courage and make us take giant leaps of faith, but they can never hold us.  In a relationship, when we no longer feel the intensity of our first feelings, the emotional “high” of falling in love, will we “fall out of love” with the person we are with?  Will we forget what we ever even liked about the person?

That is why we need commitment.  We make commitments based on those lofty feelings.  We jump into relationships or marriage because we know what it is to feel on top of the world.  We enter into something that we say is for the long haul, but do we have what it takes to hang on to it?  A true commitment is the faith to hold us through.  It is the anchor that we hold on to when the current gets too swift and knocks us off of our feet.  Life is such that difficulties will inevitably come.  Everyone is subject to difficulties.  If someone has no difficulties, they must not truly be alive.  Some of the troubles that pop up in our lives seem but a moment, but others linger and pester us for years and years.  What does a person hang onto that has no faith?  More and more, we see people around us that are drowning.  They flounder and flail their arms and cry out for help.  Some get angry and act out on their anger in horrible ways that become the next day’s headlines.  They have no anchor.  They would like to make a commitment, but they have no faith.  There is nothing there for them to hang onto when trials come along.  In their relationships, they don’t even see the point of hanging on.

Commitment, on the other hand, hangs on in troubled times.  Commitment knows that troubles cannot last forever.  Faith holds on when everything around it is just a blur, at times not even remembering why it is holding on.  It just knows that it must hang on.  Everything we know and hold dear can crumble, but faith stands strong.  One day, when the situation finally changes and the summer breeze returns and the tender feelings fill our hearts again, then that faith finally receives its reward.  The emotions that once were strong are stronger still.  The person him/herself could not have ever imagined that the original loving emotion could somehow one day be doubled in sweetness, but now finds that it is so.

Reading the Bible in one year

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A wonderful new website to help us read through the Bible in one year!  Very nice that the mayor of a small town in Texas would like to promote the Bible this year.  What a great way to begin this new year!

http://www.thebible2014.com