Trouble with the IRS

August 22, 2018

I got one of those phone calls today from the IRS saying that I needed to do something (I didn’t listen long enough to find out) lest I find myself in serious trouble. How did I know this might be bogus?  Let me count the ways!  The first sign was the bad grammar used by the recorded voice.  Seriously?!  If you’re going to scam someone at least speak their language properly!  And of course, there is the whole issue of getting a “critical” recorded message from the scary IRS.  I always have one question related to these things: “WHO FALLS FOR THEM?!?!” I realize it must be lucrative lest the scammers would move on to more profitable endeavors.  But, again, who sends their money to an anonymous voice claiming to be the IRS, or the Treasury Department, or any other government agency?

I’m tempted to send a letter out to the members of Mt Vernon Church that looks something like this (because obviously these things work):

Dear Member,

I have recently been contacted by the IRS regarding your giving to the church. They have notified me that you are seriously behind in your tithe and there will be life altering financial repercussions (not to mention spiritual ones) for you if you do not remit a check for a minimum of $1000.00 to the church by this Sunday.  I will do all I can to hold off the financial penalties that will be assessed by the government, not to mention possible arrest and imprisonment of you and/or your first-born child or grandchild, but I can only do so much. I cannot emphasize enough the need for you to make this issue a priority in your life.  If you have any questions you need not call me. JUST SEND YOUR CHECK! Next month I will write directions for you on how you can obtain money from a frozen account located in Burundi, Africa.  It will only require a check for $1000.00 made out to Ellen Little. The money will then be freed up to an off-shore account that will open to the correct password.  Guess who will get the correct code?  That’s right, you!  Soon you will be rolling in cash.  Well enough of that… I’ll get back to you in 30 days.

Protect your family today. SEND THAT CHECK!

Clearly “in Jesus Name”,

Rev. Doctor William K. Little

I won’t turn any $1000.00 checks away, but I suspect the good folks of Mt. Vernon have a little more sense than those who fall for these lies. That being said, “If we think we can’t be deceived then we already are.”

The Bible has a phrase for these swindlers. They are called “wolves in sheep’s clothing” or “false teachers.”  They manifest themselves in a variety of ways but in the New Testament, they are mostly religious sorts who deceive the People of God.  Neither Jesus nor Paul had any patience with them… none at all!

In Matthew 7 we are warned by Jesus:

Matthew 7: 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.”

Jesus speaking of the end times said:

Matthew 24:Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many…

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Paul speaking to Timothy said

2 Timothy 4:For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

How do we prevent being deceived then?

First, I would say that we need to fully accept the possibility that we CAN BE DECIEVED! Remember “the road to destruction is paved with good intentions!”  I was talking recently with someone who had gotten themselves and a loved one into an impossible situation.  It was easy to trace the roots of their predicament back to years of enabling, i.e., covering and making excuses for the guilty party.  The problem with enablement is that it seems so right in the beginning.  Then patterns emerge that are difficult to see and almost impossible to overcome.  Wolves in sheep’s clothing look so… appealing.

Second, speak the truth and look for the truth. Not what you want to hear… but TRUTH.  Look at Titus:

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.

Know the truth of scripture so that you can recognize the “truth that leads to godliness.” Unfortunately, too many of us have a cursory understanding of the Word of God which just makes us dangerous.

Third, rebuke those in the church who teach or even influence in an ungodly way.

Titus 1:10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach…  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Last, surround yourselves with Christian people who are sincere about seeking after Gods agenda and not their own.

I have to run, but before I go… I have some property in the Everglades if you are interested…

Blessings.

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Vacation

July 16, 2018

I was watching my 15 month old granddaughter a couple of days ago. She was contentedly sitting on the floor making baby noises and going from one toy or object in the room to another exploring and playing.  Do you have any memory of a time in your life when you had virtually no responsibilities other than to play all day?  Seriously, think about it.  How far back do you remember?  I can recall events from the age of 5 and even 4 to some extent. My family didn’t send me to preschool or kindergarten, so I had no school obligations. 5 years old… all I had to do was entertain myself all day.   Maybe the only thing as adults we have in our lives that resembles that is when we go away on vacation.  And I emphasize the words “go away” because a vacation at home is no vacation at all.  When we leave on vacation our only obligation is to do whatever we want/can; sleep in, stay up, eat whatever we want whenever we want, swim, read… Those occasions are glorious!  (By the way, if you are interested, the English word “vacation” comes from the Latin “vacatio” which means “freedom from something.” In our use of the word it generally means “freedom from work.”)

Ellen and I have tried to “do” vacations by staying home and going on fun day trips. It never works.  Somewhere in the back of our minds is the notion that there are things that need to be done around the house and we are being irresponsible by not doing them.  Do you know what I mean?  When you go away however, those things are “out of sight and out of mind.”

Until we find ourselves in a situation where we have NO RESPONSIBILITIES for a period of time, we can’t really identify the subtle (or not so subtle) pressures under which we live our lives daily. When we wake up each morning with a list of things that need to be addressed, that takes a toll.  Not always a large toll, but a toll none the less. Or maybe we chronically wake at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning with nagging thoughts about things that need to be accomplished.  Ellen and I used to have an above ground pool.  The instructions, when I installed it, were very clear that the top of the pool had to be level!  If not you ran the risk of the lower side giving way to the pressure of the water.  When I finally got the pool finished, added all the water and everything settled… one side was an inch lower than the other side.  I laid awake at night for months expecting to hear a giant gush coming from our back yard.  It’s hard to see or feel the effect these nagging thoughts have on our lives until we rise in the morning with NOTHING to do or think about.

Let me be clear… having “nothing” to do for long stretches of time is not good. It robs us of our dignity and confuses our sense of purpose.  But periodic breaks from the demands of this world are needed.  So, what does the Bible say about “vacation?”  Well, nothing that I am aware of.  But it has much to say about “rest.”  Need I remind you that the story of creation essentially ends with God resting?  Genesis 2:  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. There are volumes written on what this means and I do not claim to understand it all. Things like “did God get tired?”  I just know that somehow rest is associated with the conclusion of work.  There are many other passages that imply the desire/need for rest:

Matthew 11:28-30  

eCome to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Exodus 33:14 

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Mark 6:31 

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

Exodus 34:21  

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.

Isaiah 14:7

All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.

We are ½ way through July. Some of you may have already taken vacation but many of you are still looking forward to your summer get away.  It is my hope and prayer that you experience rest and relaxation.

Go with the Lord.

Blessings.

FYI… too much rest isn’t good either:  😉

Proverbs 6:9-11

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

Whipper Snappers

May 8, 2018

Spoiler alert! There is no distracting religious content in this essay.

I’m a whistler and a “hummer.” Like most whistlers and hummers I don’t even know when I’m doing it.  Ellen tells me that she locates me in public by following the whistling.  It’s rare that I’m by myself and a tune isn’t on my lips.  It may not be recognizable to anyone but… well, you get the picture.

I was in a nursing home recently that had piped in music. The halls (not the individual rooms) and the lobby had songs playing that were broadcast from speakers installed in the ceiling.  It wasn’t long before I was humming and singing along under my breath as I went from one place to another looking for the person I was there to visit.  At one point I stopped and realized I was humming along with the music… not a big deal except for this little fact… It was “Hey Jude” by the Beatles!  Then a Van Morrison song, followed by the Rolling Stones!  What?!  Where was the “easy listening music” that I have heard for years in those places?  Apparently, it’s been replaced by Rock and Roll just like the patients have been replaced by consumers of Rock and Roll.  Somehow Grandma and Grandpa listening to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd messes with my understanding of the cosmos!  Or at least it seems like it should.

Like many of you, I remember February 9th 1964.  I was in 4th grade.  Along with 73 million Americans my sisters and I were anxiously gathered around our “giant” 20 inch black and white television as we awaited the much anticipated weekly broadcast of Ed Sullivan.  No doubt the “rabbit ears” were covered with copious amounts of aluminum foil!  Of course you know what I’m referring to.  It was our first time, and the first time for much of the country to see The Beatles.  But sitting on the crowded couch in the middle of my siblings and I was my dad.  I can’t really write here the things he said while the “Fab 4” were performing, but they were less than complimentary.  Shall I say he was not a fan of “our” music!  It was not the last time I would hear him criticize the tunes to which my generation listened.  His words got more and more disparaging as the years went by.

  • Music history trivia… what 5 songs did the Beatles play that day? Answer at the end.

Jump ahead now to 1972. I’m a senior in High School.  My father and step mother kept a radio playing in the kitchen most of the day.  For reasons unknown to me they always had it tuned in to “elevator music.”  You know what I mean right?  Well known songs that were dumbed down and played gently.  Occasionally I would hear a song and ask my dad what he thought of it.  He would listen for a moment and say something like, “It’s okay.”  I took great delight in saying, “It’s the Beatles.”  He never responded.  Nor did he ever allow me to think that he caught on because each time I asked about a song he would say, “It’s okay.”

20 years ago I read an article in one of the Pittsburgh papers about the music played in nursing homes. The author discussed the fact that a time would come when Rock and Roll would be playing for senior citizens.  Well… that time is here!  Those in their 70’s were in High School and College when John, Paul, George and Ringo performed on Ed Sullivan for the first time.  The Beatles and other English bands would permeate the music industry for the next 10 years.  Now those same people are entering senior citizen facilities.  And here comes the Rock and Roll.

I don’t really have much to say about all of this other than the fact that it’s very strange entering the final third to quarter of my life. It’s particularly odd since the first ¾ of my life seems very… um…close.  I recently had a 45th High School reunion… Holy Cow!  My graduation doesn’t seem like it was that long ago!  And yet, the Pearly Gates are more imminent each day.  I can feel the years in my knees as I climb the steps to the church.  By the way… did you know that there are more steps here than there used to be?  There have to be because I used to run up these stairs.  Now I make it to the top by dragging myself up by the handrail while sucking in generous amounts of oxygen.  Well okay, maybe not the oxygen so much… yet.

My earliest memories of my grandparents are of them at the age I am now and they were OLD! Or so I thought back then.

Obviously this rumination is about… “maturing”. Some of you reading this are of the age to be my parents.  You may be thinking something like… “Just wait you haven’t seen anything yet.”  Or, “63!  Why you’re still a whipper snapper!”  Whatever a “whipper snapper is?!”**  No doubt, if the Lord is willing I will learn much more about this process called “life” in the years to come.  I will say there is something I am not looking forward to as the years fly by… I am not enthralled with the fact that young people in our culture disrespect “seniors” more and more as each year passes.  The growing irrelevancy of the elderly is tragic.  I have little to say to our culture as it continues to spin out of control.  But for Christian people here are some scriptures to ponder.  (I know I said there would be no religious stuff… so sue me!)

Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

Leviticus 19:32   “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Exodus 20:12   “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Proverbs 23:22   Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

Blessings,

Answer to Trivia above:

“All My Loving”, “Till There Was You” (From “The Music Man”), “She Loves You”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

**  In case you’re interested: ‘Whipper snapper’ is now a rather archaic term and, although you might hear it in black and white British films, those who are young and streetwise enough to actually be whipper snappers aren’t likely to use it. ‘Whipper snappers’ were known by various names, all of them derived from the habit of young layabouts of hanging around snapping whips to pass the time. Originally these ne’er-do-wells were known simply, and without any great linguistic imagination, as ‘whip snappers’. This term merged with an existing 17th century term for street rogues – ‘snipper snappers’, to become ‘whipper snapper’. The meaning of ‘whipper snapper’ has altered over the years, originally referring to a young man with no apparent get up and go, to be applied to a youngster with an excess of both ambition and impudence.

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/whipper-snapper.html

A New Word

April 25, 2018

I like words. I have mentioned this in previous Ruminations.  I like to find out where they come from and what they mean.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t remember them but I like them.  Ellen is the “rememberer.”  When we lay in bed at night and I’m reading one book and she another I am constantly interrupting her by saying: “what does _______ mean.”  She remembers other things too… like EVERYTHING I have ever done wrong.  Or EVERYTIME I have ever criticized her for something… but I digress.  She has an amazing (c.f., phenomenal, extraordinary, exceptional, unique, rare, astonishing, remarkable, marvelous, mind-boggling… aren’t thesauruses great!) vocabulary.  I think I might have digressed again.

This morning I came across a new word… well “new” to me anyway; one that describes all of us at various times in our lives. Are you ready?  The word is “ultracrepidarian.”  Yep, that’s you and me… at times.  If you want to find true ultracrepidarians go to any bar in the evening and you’ll find loads of them.  But again, we are all guilty.

Did you run for your dictionary yet? Or bring up “dictionary.com”?  If you did you discovered that ultracrepidarians are people who share opinions about things that they know little about or discuss topics in which they have no expertise.  Interestingly enough, the word comes from Latin (not surprising) meaning “the sole of a shoe, sandal.”  What?  “I don’t get it,” you say.  Hang in there for a moment.  It derives its meaning from a phrase by Pliny the Elder (remember him?).  The phrase?  “ne supra crepidam sutor judicare.”  I hope you are impressed with my ability to copy and paste. It means “Let the cobbler not judge above the sandal.”  In other words stick with your area of expertise in making judgments or conversing about things.

Why is it that there are some topics that we all think we are experts on and others not so much? For some reason, we all think we know a great deal about politics, religion, foreign relations, parenting… We have little trouble participating in conversations and expressing opinions about those things.  But rocket science on the other hand; or quantum physics…  Few of us would say, “Well, let me tell you what I think about the current design of interplanetary transportation.”  Yeah right!

All of that to say this… I grow weary of folks telling me their opinions about God and Christianity. Particularly when they have done no more research on these things than they have done on… well… rocket science.  I am too polite to say, “Shut up!”  And given my position I guess I can’t very well say, “I don’t really care what you think.”  When in fact… um… I don’t really care… most of the time.  Don’t get me wrong.  If it’s a productive conversation I am more than willing to discuss these things.  But when it’s “drunk talk” (back to the bar again), I’m not interested.

Look at what Peter says: 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… Notice Peter does not say “always be ready to give your opinion on everything.”  Nor does he say “always, ‘i.e., in every circumstance,’ give an opinion regarding your faith.”  I think what he is saying is this:  “Be prepared in any circumstance (assuming it’s appropriate) to explain why your faith is important and what Jesus means to you.” Of course Jesus would have to mean something to you in order for you to give an opinion.  If not then you are acting like a… yep you got it… an ultracrepidarian; giving opinions on something/someone you know little about. That would be like me telling you about my “good friend” Pliny the Elder.

Do you get it? The Bible does not say that we have to give an opinion on every faith issue in every circumstance.  We are even encouraged to walk away at times.  Mark 6:11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” That’s another way of saying, “There are occasions where we should not waste our time with certain people.” Leave them to their own devises.”

Because of the above issues I think it is best for us as Believers to talk about our faith in the realm of “knowing Jesus and what that means to us.” If/when we get diverted into conversations about “where did God come from” and “how could the story of Noah really be true” and “where did Adam and Eve’s daughters-in-law come from” then we get hopelessly sidetracked.  Don’t get me wrong.  Those are important issues to deal with, but I suggest you study them before giving opinions about them… lest we be… yep one more time… ultracrepidarians.

From one ultracrepidarian (at times) to another,

Blessings.

Video Game Addicts

April 5, 2018

What I’m about to share with you falls under the category of “The Times They are A-Changin.” Otherwise known as; “I sound more and more like my father every day.”  This morning I was watching the sports news on my computer.  There are various articles and videos of major sports happenings… mostly of the sports that are in season.  The Pirates for example are the only major league baseball team still undefeated… 4-0.  That will likely be corrected by the time you read this.  Anyway, in the midst of all the articles came a video about a young woman who is the first female… “first” mind you (that should impress you)… “professional” video game player.  I think the appropriate wording is “gamer.”  The report went to great lengths to discuss her excellence at manipulating the characters on the screen.  Um… Uh…  VIDEO GAME PLAYERS ON A SPORTS CHANNEL?  Seriously?!?!  Video games are not sports… period! The people who are immersed in them are useless couch potatoes who push buttons really well. (Hmmmm… did that sound harsh?)  If she is a professional then she gets paid for pushing buttons.  Pretty soon we will call pool shooters athletes!  “Excuse me, let me move my belly out of the way so I can pocket the 8 ball.”  Don’t get me wrong, video games can be fun.  I have played them myself on occasion.  Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night or when I wake at 2:00 a.m. I’ll play solitaire on my phone… a more simplified form of “gaming.”  But professional button pushers?  I think I’m going to be ill.

And honestly what I just wrote has little to say about the hundreds of thousands of young people and adults who are literally addicted to video games…. Just like alcoholics or drug abusers, or porn addicts. In this case they spend hours and hours of their lives pushing buttons.  It’s bad enough that it’s a monumental waste of time, but it’s a waste of life!  Get that?  A WASTE OF LIFE.  I can’t imagine one person will EVER go to their grave saying “I wish I had spent more time pushing buttons in front of a television screen.”

I asked a friend of mine recently who knows way more about addictions and the treatment of them than I do, “What is an addiction? How does one define it?  I mean, is there a difference between a ‘casual’ beer drinker and an alcoholic?”  I know that we are inclined to say, “Of course there is!”  I agree, but try defining the difference.  Addicts tend to define addiction as “something they are not.”  For example an alcoholic might say:  “An alcoholic is someone who drinks hard liquor not beer like me.”  Or, “An alcoholic drinks earlier in the day than I do.”  Or, “An alcoholic drinks more than a 6 pack a night… I only drink one 6 pack.”  Get it?  We rationalize our addictions by defining them in a way outside of our own behavior.  My friend said (among other things) that an addiction is “the consumption of something that you cannot refrain from consuming.”  “Consuming” does not necessarily mean “taking into one’s body.”  We discussed a friend of his who was “addicted” to exercise.  It controlled his life to the exclusion of other essential things and people important to him.  The difficulty with this definition in terms of bringing clarity to “addiction” is that an addict will say, “Well, I can do without _______.  Just watch me.”  They will give up their addiction for a short while and then say, “See?  I’m not addicted!”  After having made their “point” they are right back at it.

The fastest growing addiction that I am aware of is video game addiction. Video addicts are just like any other.  They rationalize their behavior and define addiction in a way that does not include them.  But truth be told, their addiction consumes their lives.  Even when not pushing buttons, they are thinking of pushing buttons.  They fantasize about strategies that can allow them to be more successful at their game or games of choice.  Meanwhile essential or even non essential activities in their lives go unaddressed.  Relationships become problematic… well unless we are talking about the invisible addicted button pushers on the other side of their endless games.

The other thing that many addicts do is hide their consumption. Do you know someone who plays video games until all hours of the night in a dark room by themselves?  They struggle to get up in the morning for work or school?  Every time you walk into the house they are pushing buttons?  Their weekends or days off are consumed with… you got it… manipulating controllers.  It’s an addiction!  It will not serve them well.

I watched several videos the other day of parents taking their children’s video games away from them or destroying them. The videos were very disturbing!  You’ll get the idea if you can imagine for a moment flushing an addict’s opiods down the toilet, or breaking all of the bottles of whisky, wine or beer in the home of an alcoholic.  You would get similar violent, angry reactions.  Watching 15 year old video addicts reduced to weeping, out of control 3 year olds who just lost their pacifier was sad.

At the end of the day I don’t know what to tell you about all of this. Well maybe one thing.  If you live with an addict… of any kind… DO NOT ENABLE THEM! Do you know what that means?

  • It means you don’t make excuses for their addiction. Let them live with the consequences of their actions.
  • It means you don’t cover for their addiction, i.e., calling your son’s boss to tell them that “Johnnie cannot come into work today because he is not feeling well.” When in fact Johnnie can’t drag himself out of bed because he spent the night playing video games.
  • It means you tell the truth to other people when appropriate, i.e., “My son is a video game addict.”
  • It means you don’t assist them in their addiction. Today ought to be the last day you ever buy a game system or a game for a video addict. If you do then you take some responsibility for their addiction.

Do you know that AA is only one of many organizations who treat Alcoholism? They just happen to be the most successful.  Below are their 12 steps.  How might these apply to a video game addict?

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditations to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Am I over reacting? If you think I am it’s because you have not been around an out of control “button pusher.” Or you are an addict yourself. Most of you know that I am not wrong here.

Pre-election thoughts

March 13, 2018

I apologize for the sarcasm about to come, but it is clearly intended to express my disgust at and loathing of our election processes. I also write this before the conclusion of our local “special election,” so as to not appear to express sour grapes.  I don’t know who will win and this has little to do with that anyway because ALL are culpable.  So with that in mind… here we go.

Did you know that all Democrats rejoice at the destruction of babies in the womb?  They can’t wait until thousands of living fetuses are ripped apart by abortion doctors.  How do I know that?  Because that’s what the Republican ads imply.  And of course I believe all of those things!  And did you know that all Republicans are eager to put assault weapons into the hands of irresponsible young people so they can murder their classmates in bigger numbers?  Yeah it’s true!  How do I know that?  Because the Democrats’ ads surely imply that.  And honestly they can’t put these things on T.V. if they weren’t true, can they?  Of course not!  And our outstanding politicians wouldn’t say them if they were false, would they?  Heaven forbid!  And to further verify these “facts” we have loads of really smart and discerning people placing even more “facts” on the internet.  Again, if it’s on the internet it must be true, right?  Every day I get loads of helpful and insightful posts from… um… really thoughtful people.  I’m sure they have studied and verified their information before sending it out for who knows how many people to see and embrace.  Yep!  I’m really thankful for all of the preparation that is put into this really helpful information.  And I am particularly proud of my Christian friends who eagerly and angrily sow the seeds of division and hatred.  Thanks, guys.  I’m glad someone other than me has that calling.

In this most recent election I got mail EVERY DAY from the two candidates or from some independent party supporting them.  Some days I got more than one mailing.  You know just in case I forgot what the mail said from the previous day.  And thankfully it all started 2-3 months before the actual election so that I had plenty of time to ponder.  And the phone calls…  I had no idea I was so popular!  Or maybe it’s Ellen?  Yesterday I had at least a dozen phone calls; again to remind me who to vote for in case I forgot about the 4 foot stack of useless mailings.  Ellen got texts too.  I didn’t get any texts!  I think I’m a little miffed; maybe even hurt.

Well enough of that. So, why do these elections filled with falsehoods (a nice way of saying “lies”) exist?  Why does every one of these political popularity contests have to spiral down into mudslinging?  And I get it; it may not be the candidates themselves who are pushing the negative agenda, but it is people who support them.  Well again, why does this happen? BECAUSE IT WORKS! We suck it up!  We hear the lies and we pass them along as “gospel” to help support our candidate.  Is it any wonder why the National Enquirer is so popular!?  Seriously, is it?  We love this stuff.  Falsehoods, lies, gossip!  It makes our day!  We love to see those on the top of the mountain get humbled.  I know you are saying, “Well, maybe others, but not me.”  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… whoa almost swallowed my tongue!

When and how are we going to demand higher standards from those who run for office so they can lead us? Yeah, I don’t know either.  But let me tell you what REALLY bothers me in all of this.  What are we teaching our children?  Well, essentially this:  If you want to get into a position of authority and power… lie and step all over people.  Am I being too critical?  Maybe.  But 3 months of this nonsense is enough.  I’ll be glad when 8:00 this evening rolls around and the polls close.  I am ashamed.  I am ashamed for those running for office.  I am ashamed for those who sling mud.  I am ashamed for those “really smart people” who put devisive posts on the internet.  I am ashamed of myself for whatever part I play in all of this.  I am ashamed for all of us.

But… it’s only our children so, keep doing what we have been doing. It can’t be that bad… can it?

Good God

March 12, 2018

For many Christians we would claim that Salvation is dependent in some way on a vital, living relationship with Jesus Christ… Right? In other words, our hope of walking into the Pearly Gates after our last breath is primarily a matter of who we know versus what we know.  I didn’t say that ALL self-proclaimed believers hold to this theology, but I suspect most do.  And yet, when a loved one dies our theology goes the way of bell bottoms, leisure suits and tie died shirts, i.e., it disappears.

Many of us have been in situations where a loved one or friend dies and everyone, including ourselves are proclaiming that “they are in a better place.” Or “they have gone to be reunited with (fill in the blank)” or “they are fishing up in that great trout stream in the sky” or any number of other scenarios that describe a very positive outcome for the deceased.  And yet we know full well that they never, to our knowledge, professed to know Jesus outside of calling out His name when they were angry let alone living a life that might be in any way mistaken for a “Christ follower.”

Of course I know why we do these things. The alternative thoughts are just too dreadful to consider.  I fully understand that.  I have been in those situations myself.  I don’t write this to demoralize us or cause us to think about or feel unspeakable pain.  I write to challenge us in one area.  Whatever our theology is; whatever our thoughts of God might be; whatever we proclaim to the world that we believe.  We must hold to these things in the good times AND in the bad times.  We cannot change our beliefs to suit ourselves depending on whichever way the emotional winds might be blowing.

For example the phrase: “God is always Good.”  I actually believe that.  And I believe it all the time.  It just depends on what one means when that’s proclaimed.  If we mean that God is always good despite our circumstances, then why do we only proclaim this when “good things” happen to us?  Why do we not talk about the “goodness of God” when awful things happen?  I suspect for this reason.  When we talk about the “goodness of God” we are really talking about the “good” things that happen to us.  We are not talking about the essential attribute of “Goodness” that defines God.  The “Goodness of God” does not necessarily apply to or rescue from the circumstances of our lives all the time.  Remember, we live in the midst of Evil.

John 12:31

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

Ephesians 2:2

in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

We cannot live our lives thinking that things will be “good” for us all the time just because God is Good. As a matter of fact, even God brings about calamity in our lives on occasion and he also disciplines us.

Hebrews 12:My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

I hope you read that. Even a Good God brings about tragedy in our lives.  But in the midst of discipline, it’s hard to see the Goodness of God.  What child praises their parents for disciplining or grounding them?  None that I know of.  At least not until much later.

Do I claim to understand how all of this works? Not for a second.  I just know that sometimes the circumstances of our lives are good and sometimes they are encompassed by Evil.  But in the midst of that, God’s nature is always Good.

All of that to say: Be careful what you mean when you say “God is always Good.”  And be careful where you are and who you are with when you say “God is always Good.”  You may be with someone who has endured indescribable hardship and is not yet prepared to hear about a Good God.  If nothing else our proclamations of theology need to be timely, loving and sensitive.  And at the same time they need to be consistent.  What we believe in the “good” times needs to be upheld in the “bad” times lest our beliefs are… well… not beliefs at all.

Blessings.