When fake matters

This past Friday night the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company hosted a family friendly professional wrestling event.  It was very well attended and everyone seemed to have a great time.  One of the members took their 8 or 9 year old son and told him before they went it was fake.  Do some of the things hurt?  They have to.  Do they sometimes get injured?  undoubtedly.  But fights are staged and rehearsed, the outcomes decided, and the people are often friends.  During the intermission, the dad was buying some concessions and told us that his son was asking for sure, “This is fake?”  He described it in a way as to express that the son could not believe it was not real.  Fake may be a strong word to use if you are one of the ones in the ring being jumped on.  But to be sure, it is acting and entertainment.  But nobody complained.  We were all entertained.  That is why people went.

It reminds me of the Bible telling us that there will come a time when people will find teachers to tell them what they want to hear — that they will not want to hear what is real and true, but to hear just what they want to hear.  “Itching ears” is a term used in 2 Timothy to describe people who seek out teachers who will teach false messages and doctrines that condone their own lifestyle, as opposed to adhering to the truth from teachings of the apostles and the Bible.  Sometimes we act as if we are the only followers of Jesus in whom this warning has come to pass.  The truth is the church has been fighting this for 2,000 years.  I am not proclaiming that I have the sole truth.  I am certain there are things I misunderstand and am wrong about.  Yet, I continue to study and pray and present the Good News of Jesus Christ as God helps me understand it.  But we must all stand on guard against what is false.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good*.
~ Romans 12:9

…but test all things. Hold fast to what is good*.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:21

I know that nothing good* lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good*, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good* I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do. And if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
~ Romans 7:18-20

*The word Good is agathós, and describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him in a believer’s life through faith.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

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Still standing after the hurricane

While checking the weather today and realizing there will probably be a heavy frost tonight, I saw a video about a house that is standing along the water in Mexico Beach, Florida.  It stands alone along the water after Hurricane Michael.  It was built last year to a new stricter building code.  It stands on pillars that lift it high above the shore so that the storm surge goes underneath it.  The pillars go 28 feet below the surface.  Everything is connected with bolts.  It was so heavy duty that the guy doing the interview said it looked like a roller coaster assembly!  Even the windows are hurricane proof.  The owner said you have to expect hurricanes along the panhandle of Florida and that is why it was built that way.

As a pastor, I am often with people in the worst storms of their lives.  While I do not judge anyone for how they react in the valleys, once in a while I spend time with people who are just like the “house built to withstand the storm”.  Their foundation goes deep.  They understand that storms come and storms go.  Sometimes the storms take away everything dear to you.  Yet they know that there is an immovable Rock upon which their foundation rests.  It is not that they do not cry or do not mourn.  They just do it with hope.  They do not mourn as those who have no hope.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13

So dig deep, my friends.  Build your life on that firm foundation that is Jesus Christ.

You can watch the video about the house here.

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Posted in Hard times, Obstacles | 2 Comments

You have the right to remain silent

I read an article from the Washington Post that basically says two thirds of Americans are staying silent out of fear.  Not fear of the government, but fear of harassment on social media, and I assume fear of losing friends.  The “exhausted majority” stays quiet on gay and lesbian issues, immigration, and race/racism.  As a pastor, this is always on my mind.  I think about it when I blog, when I preach on Sunday mornings, and when I bring the Word through devotions on Wednesday nights.  One time in the past two weeks I was so bothered by something that I wanted to speak out about, that I sent a text to a trusted friend because I dare not speak in the open about it.  My friend wrote back, “You are wise not to share publicly.  I have to slap my own hands often.”  I would have had a clear conscience, but it would have accomplished nothing.  My wife Diane is also a very good sounding board.

Take the Elizabeth Warren “Native American” issue in the news today.  Snopes says,

“…it is true that while Warren was at U. Penn. Law School she put herself on the “Minority Law Teacher” list (as Native American) in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools, and that Harvard Law School at one time promoted Warren as a Native American faculty member. But specific evidence that she gained her position at Harvard (at least in part) through her claims to Native American heritage is lacking. “

I have an idea for a great blog post on this, but I dare not go down that road.  The fact that I even bring it up quoting Snopes is risky enough.  I would never express an opinion about it through a blog post!

I always ask myself, “Is this a mountain I am willing to die on?”  (I do not even know if that is offensive.)  I have certainly made mistakes in the past.  Sometimes I have written or spoken about things I wish I had not.  There have been times I have been too “in your face” with Jesus only to drive people away.  But I think for the most part, I have not erred on the side of being too outspoken, but being too afraid to speak.  And in a society where our right to free speech is protected, if I find it difficult to proclaim Jesus and His teachings in the public square… well, I pray mightily for my brothers and sisters in lands where they can be killed for doing so.

Lord, forgive me for those times I speak when I should remain silent, and those times I remain silent when I should speak.

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Posted in Opportunity, Walking the Walk | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fly as low as $29

I get emails all the time from Allegiant and Spirit Airlines because I am on their email lists.  Spirit frequently sends emails advertising up to “33% off, 50% off”, etc.  Allegiant always sends out emails saying, “Fly as low as…” and this morning it was $29.  I cannot find a $29 deal.  I checked airports from Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and Hagarstown.  I am certain that there is a flight from somewhere to somewhere for $29 or they would not be advertising that.  However, I am not going to be taking that flight, whatever and wherever it is.  It is not unlike a store in bankruptcy advertising discounts as high as 80% off.  When you go in, what you are looking for is marked double the price of Walmart and then only marked 40% off, meaning it is cheaper at Walmart.  These things are not false advertising.  It is just that you are not likely to be the one who gets the $29 flight or the 80% off.

I pointed out that they are not advertising falsely because I am about to compare the Christian life and walk to the idea of “up to”.  As someone who has been a follower of Jesus for 18 years, I remember when I went to the altar and was saved by the grace of God.  I finally realized that Jesus had lived the life I needed to live, but that I could never live.  I accepted that God was willing to give me credit for the life that Jesus lived, and gave me credit for the punishment that Jesus took for the actual life I lived.  Basically, I get the credit for Jesus’ perfect life and He took the responsibility and paid the penalty for my sinful life.

Now, I have before me this goal of a perfect life, with His help, that I will spend the rest of my life striving to attain.  A life of perfect love, of unfailingly forgiving others, a life of pure thoughts and sacrificial giving of myself and my possessions.  I read about these things in God’s Word, and I know that I can have “up to” this perfect life.  So can you.  Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children…”  As followers of Jesus, we have a lofty goal.  And it is not so we can achieve forgiveness, but because we have been forgiven.  The beauty of our efforts to live like Jesus is that He constantly makes up the difference in every way we fall short, so in God’s eyes, we have achieved it.

It is ironic is it not?  We strive to be like Jesus, yet we do so having already attained the victory through Jesus.  What we must never do is to believe that our own goodness has made us victorious.  We have victory through Jesus, who sets us free to fail as we attempt to live “up to” perfection.

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Posted in depression, Hard times, Opportunity, salvation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

No, I have not been hacked

Most of the people who read my blog are on Facebook.  And most of you, like me, have to get so tired of the messages and posts that say, “please tell all your friends not to accept a friend request from…”.  The funniest one was “Do not accept a friend request from John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.  If you do, his name will become your name, too.”  Sometimes people will say, “I have been hacked. If anyone asks you for money or if you see anything unusual or offensive, it was not me.”  Then everyone says, “change your password”.

Sometimes I think about how my life has been transformed by Jesus and how it is almost like I have been hacked.  I am most definitely not who I was.  Yet, when someone is hacked, the people doing the hacking do not have the best interest of the person being hacked in mind.  And they do the hacking against a person’s will, tricking them.  In the last 20 years, I have willingly given Jesus more and more control over my life.  And that has made all the difference in how I see the world, how I deal with problems that arise, and how I look at all the governmental turmoil. I understand all of this will pass and one day I will be with Jesus and this world will be behind me.  That gives me peace.  The main thing that causes me any angst at this point in my faith walk is the possibility of letting myself get “hacked” by the devil!

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No toilet paper

I took this picture yesterday at a hospital visit.  (To over-share, I actually used that bathroom.)  I took the picture because I thought it was funny.  I guess the person who put it up did not want the next person to need it and not have it, so it is better if you know it is not there before you need it.  It took someone very motivated to take the time to go get a piece of paper, pen, and tape and then walk back to put up the note.  A person who found out too late surely put the note up. I always take pictures of amusing things for my blogs.  Sometimes I know exactly what I will blog when I take the picture and sometimes I do not.  I did not know what I would blog about when I took this picture.  This morning, after looking at it again, it was clear.

God will provide for your needs.  The Bible tells us that and I have personally experienced that, but when I do not have or get what I want, sometimes I confuse that with not having or getting what I need.  Our society greatly confuses wants and needs.  This has become the case because we have been blessed with so many wants that we now see them as needs.  There is nothing wrong with getting wants met.  God is gracious in that way.  But when you or I feel like God is not meeting our needs, we need to take a broader view of the situation.  I guarantee you that He is.  He always does.  Especially in the valleys of life when we did not get what we wanted.

And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.~ Philippians 4:19

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Reap what you sow

We have some sunflowers popping up in a few different places in our flower bed. They are courtesy of a couple of little local chipmunks.  They hide sunflower seeds thinking they will come back to get them later.  They do not realize they are planting seeds.  They must be baffled when they come back to find the sunflowers growing and their seeds gone.  They are unknowingly reaping what they have sown.  We appreciate it, even if they do not.

We are a “reap what you sow society”.  If people end up at the homeless shelter or on drugs, much of our society has this idea that the people had it coming to them by the choices they have made in their past.  I heard a pastor say one time that we want mercy for ourselves, but justice for others.  The truth is, while we are responsible for our choices and our actions, there is also grace and mercy available to us all through Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus, we do not have to reap what we sow.  Through Jesus, we can receive mercy and grace because the justice has already been doled out.  The wrath and punishment I deserve was paid by Jesus on the cross by grace through faith.  That forgiveness I received, I am now expected to show others.  How can I demand justice for the sins of others when I have received mercy for myself?  I thank God that I am not going to reap what I have sown.  I thank God for His mercy toward me and pray that you have received His mercy as well.  Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give.

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