Points of Ponderation…..Episode 6.17

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

Yep…..

 

 

 

Religion is a curious thing. I think we are all well aware of our own shortcomings as well as the flaws of others when it comes to living a sinless life, but I also think many of us oftentimes have the misguided notion that  people of a professed faith…Christianity especially…all believe in the same basic principles, whether they live up to the ideal standards or not. However, that is not the case. This isn’t necessarily a shock when it comes to certain social issues. You’ll find Christians on both sides of the debate when it comes to topics like abortion, gun control, euthanasia, & the death penalty. What I find surprising are “Christians” who don’t believe in the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, the unerring Word of God, or the divinity of Jesus Christ. Oh sure, you’ll find lots of folks all around the world that believe that Jesus was simply a wise prophet…sage, yet very human. But most of those people don’t call themselves Christians!! I can’t wrap my head around the concept of an alleged Christian not believing in the very ideas that define the faith. It’s like someone with no discernible talent calling themselves a singer just because it sounds cool. Of course we live in a society these days where even something as indisputable as gender can now be left to an individual to decide based on how they feel rather than what the scientific facts actually are, so I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that anyone can call themselves a Christian despite not even believing in the bedrock foundations of Christianity. Such “believers” are quick to point out rampant hypocrisy within the church…divorce, addiction, racism, fornication…and they aren’t wrong. Temptation is inescapable and too often we fall prey to immoral instincts. However, is it any less hypocritical to “self-identify” as a Christian while casting aspersions on Christ’s virgin birth or a large chunk of The Bible?? Obviously in a free society individuals are permitted to believe or doubt whatever they choose, and that’s fantastic. I am simply suggesting a little more truth in advertising. If you can’t or won’t buy into the essence of what Christianity is then maybe you should find a more accurate way of describing who you are and what you actually believe in.

 

 

 

Well…it’s true!! 🙂

I’m not sure there’s anything much prettier than a woman in a sun dress.

Insights into my current mindset…..

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We just finished celebrating Easter, but let me add a post-holiday thought. Since it is one of the two most important days of the year for Christians I find it a bit odd that the date of this annual “moveable feast” is decided in a rather pagan way. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the paschal full moon that occurs on or soonest after March 21st. In other words, which Sunday we have Easter is determined by…moon phases. And yes, I am aware of some of the pagan related symbolism of Christmas, including late December originally being associated with the Roman festival Saturnalia (Jesus was most likely born in springtime). But atleast it has a fixed date, which is nice. Easter has its share of non-Christian symbolism (sorry Easter Bunny & Cadbury Crème Egg fans), but having the date revolve around the phases of the moon is just…odd. Suggestions for a fixed date (because we don’t know exactly when Jesus was resurrected either) have been made by various legislative bodies across the world, but nothing has ever been changed. Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t a dealbreaker. I love Easter (aka Resurrection Day) and celebrate it appropriately…I’m just thinking out loud.

 

 

 

Good information…..

Pondering The Good News: An Introduction

jumpI am usually not one to leap before looking, to venture out on a limb before pondering the consequences. However, after publicly stating my intention, way way way back at the beginning of 2012, to dive into The Bible book by book here at The Manofesto, I began to wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into.

 

I consider myself to be a pretty decent writer, but with no shortage of Bible studies, concordances, & A Bible studyanalyses of The Good Book out there…especially in The Information Age…what do I bring to the table that’s any better or different?? There is no way that I can even be in the same league as the God-inspired authors who wrote The Bible…men like Moses, Paul, & Peter. How do I approach the task??

 

procrastinateLike a true procrastinator I have spent several years pondering this idea. Have I come to any solid conclusions?? To be honest…no. But I know three things. I know that I learn best by doing. I know that this project will be beneficial…certainly to me, and hopefully to others. And I know that sometimes one just has to jump in with both feet and get started.

 

I have stated many times here & in speaking to people personally that, while I am a Christian, I am not a very mad-man-pulling-hair-outgood one. I fall victim to temptation more often than I care to admit. I don’t think I exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit consistently. I am far too cynical. I become frustrated too quickly & anger too easily. I am frequently distracted by meaningless trivialities. I make poor use of my time. Too often I allow fear, anxiety, & general neuroses to rule my life. I haven’t been “all in” on Jesus. Oh sure He’s a swell dude that did & said a lot of cool things…but do I sincerely trust Him?? On an intellectual level…yes. But down deep in my bones I know I’m not where I need to be.

 

bowlThis internal confrontation with my own shortcomings is nothing new and I have alluded to it before. However, events in the past few years have introduced a sense of urgency. My brother The Owl & I have often commiserated about mutual frustrations & disappointments. He & I have always thought of ourselves as inhabitants of The Island of Misfit Toys. It’s not that we are smarter than everyone else or the only two people to recognize the dark path our world has been traveling down, but we do tend to feel marginalized on many levels. We have observed things occurring in America that aren’t completely surprising, but that doesn’t make them any easier to comprehend or accept.

 

What has become clear is that there is only one answer. Again…intellectually I have always known this, but I have not fully embraced it on a solitudespiritual level. As pop culture, the news media, elected leaders, & commerce go full throttle down a road built on political correctness, sin, & misguided good intentions the wickedness becomes harder & harder to ignore. It has become pervasive in almost every facet of daily life. Ideally one would move to the wilderness like Thoreau and disengage from the chaos & madness, but unfortunately that isn’t a practical solution (or is it??).

 

bible11350One may not be able to completely separate from the aggravation & disillusionment, but we can choose that on which we focus. It is obvious to me that the only path is Jesus Christ. It is time to “put away childish things” and stop being lukewarm lest He vomit me out of His mouth. Most of that involves areas of my personal life that citizens of The Manoverse need not be concerned with and surely have no interest in, but it does mean that I want to follow thru on what I originally talked about doing a few years ago.

 

I will warn you ahead of time that we’ll be skipping around a lot. It is unlikely that I will start with Genesis and end bible3with Revelation. What can I say…I’m a non-linear, outside-the-box, avant-garde kinda cat. As usual I make no promises involving timetables or structure. I enjoy learning, but more importantly The Lord is gently persuading me that this is the next step in my growth process. It’s time to stop dipping my toe in the water and dive in. He won’t allow me to drown. It is time to block out the hatred, discord, & destruction. It is time to stop becoming frustrated with the darkness and find joy in the light. #JesusWins

Why I’m Not Going to See the Movie Noah

After lamenting recently that nearly a quarter of the way into 2014 I had yet to go to the theater and check out any new movies (because in my Noahopinion there hadn’t been any films worth the effort) I finally ventured out to the local cineplex a few days ago. Not only that, but I did a little research on what the rest of the year has to offer and came up with…to my surprise…about two dozen flicks that I hope to check out if circumstances allow such frivolity. However, one movie that I will not be spending my hard earned money on is the alleged “Biblical epic” Noah.

 

sproutsAdmittedly I am a hypocrite. Why?? Well, I have routinely criticized people who say they “hate” guys like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity without ever having listened to them. Remember when you were a kid and you’d turn your nose up at veggies or some other kind of food and your mother would say “How do you know you don’t like it unless you try it?”?? I usually embrace that philosophy and am a bit hesitant to criticize a movie I haven’t seen. Then again, there is usually an exception to most rules and in this case Noah is it.

 

This film first came to my attention atleast a year…maybe two…ago, and my first thought was “Cool. I’ll check that out when it hits theaters”. From what I read it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the type of small independent art film that usually defines and…to a degree…hampers psmany “Christian” movies. This was going to be a big budget blockbuster complete with well-known stars and expensive special effects. Now I’m not usually a fan of computer generated effects, but in some cases they can be cool. James Cameron’s Titanic was largely a love story, but the last part of the movie…the sinking…was really well done and amazing to see on the big screen. The only 5 minutes of 2006’s Poseidon (a remake of 1972’s much superior The Poseidon Adventure) poseidonworth watching is when the rogue wave capsizes the ship. To my pretty boy disliking chagrin one of my favorite films of the past 15 years is 2000’s The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney as a doomed Gloucesterman whose ship is lost in a hurricane. The story is superb, and the effects add to the experience. So in my mind taking one of the best known stories of The Bible and giving it the big budget treatment (“The Flood will be really awesome” I thought) seemed like a great idea. But then details started to emerge out of the production.

 

The director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist.

 

Aronofsky admitted that Noah is ““the least biblical Bible film ever made”, as if that is something of which to be proud.

 

The word “God” is never used in the film…not once.

 

Aronofsky called Noah “the world’s first environmentalist”.

 

Noah becomes a deranged lunatic who wants to kill his entire family.

 

All the sudden I started to get a bad vibe about this whole deal. And that was before the movie even hit the theaters. Now Noah has beenthinking released to the masses and my concerns have been validated. And yes…I feel comfortable saying that without having seen the film. One can ignore the comments of 2 or 3 reviewers, but it’s hard to look past what literally dozens of people are saying about this film.

 

computer-searchNot surprisingly Noah is getting rave reviews from leftist media types. It has a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with words like transcendent, daring, visionary, groundbreaking, gripping, thought-provoking, unconventional, & masterful being bandied about. However, if one digs a bit deeper (which isn’t that difficult in The Information Age) a much different view emerges. I value the opinion of folks who love God and atleast seem to make an effort to live their lives as Christ-like as possible much more than the angry, cynical, Jesus bashers who seem to delight in antagonizing Christians.

 

To be fair, this is a free country and we all have a right to worship or not worship whomever or whatever we choose. aflagSo if Mr. Aronofsky, whose 2008 movie The Wrestler I rather enjoyed, wants to be an atheist that’s cool. Go for it. But honestly…would you let a vegetarian grill your steak?? Would you let an illiterate person write your term paper?? Would you let a European immigrant who just came to America a week ago and doesn’t know a word of English teach a high school English class?? Would you let a 12 year old drive you to work?? That’s not to say that Aronofsky is a poor filmmaker or that only Christians should be allowed to make Christian films (again…that free country thing), but my Dad told me years ago that if you want a good steak you should probably go to a steakhouse and if you want Italian food you might want to try an Italian restaurant. Writers are told to “write what you know”, so it makes logical sense to me that an atheist making a movie about The Bible seems a bit anomalous.

 

bibleOne refrain that I have seen numerous times the past several days is “it’s just a movie!!”. Okay…that’s true. I’m fine with creative license. I know that two people named Jack Dawson & Rose DeWitt Bukater didn’t actually meet on the aforementioned Titanic and fall in love with the sweet dulcet tones of Celine Dion playing in the background. Two of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump and Field of Dreams, are different from the books on which they are based. Even past Biblical epics like The Ten Commandments, The Passion of the Christ, & Ben-Hur have taken a few liberties. But I do expect historical drama to fairly represent…well…history. And when it comes to the Word of God my standards are even higher. One can craft a great story (with CGI and everything!!) and not veer way off course from what actually happened (or for the more skeptical among you what was actually written).

 

Okay…so what actually happens in The Bible concerning Noah?? Another defense I’ve read about this movie is that the Genesis story about arkNoah & The Great Flood is relatively short so the powers-that-be necessarily “had to fill in the gaps”. Alright…I can buy that. However, the fact that this movie is 139 minutes long (that’s 2 hours & 19 minutes for those that don’t like math) is very telling since the average running time for a Hollywood film is right around two hours. What that says to me is that the makers of Noah didn’t struggle to fill in the gaps…it says to me that they had an agenda.

 

Whatever that agenda is…environmentalism…veganism…animal rights…the one thing that is clear is that telling a faithful story that is true to God’s Word is not even close to being part of the equation. That may be fine for a lot of folks…including Christians. It may even be desirable to many. But I just can’t do it. I have had to learn to overlook many things in the name of entertainment. There are so many movie & TV stars whose political beliefs I know are opposite to Man with pen and questionnaire. 3dmy own. Numerous athletes are of the anti-intellectual Neanderthal-thug variety that I know I could never have an intelligent conversation with. Entertainers of all kinds have very publically fallen off many a pedestal after having their personal problems, relationship issues, criminal activities, drug & alcohol battles, & general ignorance exposed. But I had to decide long ago to pick & choose whose foolishness I was willing to overlook as long as they still create a quality product that I enjoy. In the case of Noah and Darren Aronofsky they fail on all accounts because the filmmaker seems to have purposely made a film that reflects his own warped viewpoint and appears to be consciously hostile to a rather large chunk of what could have been a massive audience.

 

I am sure Noah will make a boatload of cash (pun intended). The drive-by lapdog media already loves it. Undoubtedly there will be many lukewarm “Christians” who’ll love it because of the incredible CGI and resemblance to other visually stunning & auditorily obnoxious BeanManIdeaLightblockbusters like Gladiator, Transformers, and every comic book/superhero based film of the past two decades. Well-known Christian “leaders” have already come out in support of the film if only because it is an opportunity to “begin a dialogue” and persuade people to study The Bible. But my money will not be among the hundreds of millions going into the pockets of Darren Aronofsky and whomever else stands to earn a check from Noah. I am not easily offended, and I wouldn’t even use that word in this situation. I just happen to have the privilege of living at a time in the universe’s existence where there is an abundance of data readily available that allows me to make a relatively educated choice. You may choose differently and that’s fine. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

Judge Ye Not

In recent years I have developed what I refer to as hermit-like tendencies. I have stated…only partly in jest…that if I were to ever win the lottery or otherwise come into a princely sum of cash that I would love to fake my own death, move to some remote island,mansion and hole up in a mansion reminiscent of stately Wayne Manor complete with Batcave (minus the bats). I’d have my books, Internet access, radio & TV, and of course Rocco. There would certainly be a few family & friends…my Dad, my sister & nephews, The Owl, and Greg…that would know the truth, but for the most part I’d be completely off the grid and I’d be happy. The reason is simple…humanity too often aggravates me and the less I am forced to interact with people the better I feel.

It wasn’t always this way. While I’ve never been an extrovert I have been a “people person” and enjoyed meeting & talking with different folks. A confluence of factors has led to my semi-withdrawal, probably beginning in 2006 with the two years of my life that was spent in hospitals, “skilled” nursing facilities, and homebound with medical issues that I won’t bore you with now because that’s not my purpose at the moment. It is adequate enough for my purpose here to state that solitude changes a man…alter’s one’s perspective in a deeply profound way that is difficult to reverse. At any rate, there have been other events & observations before & after that carved this path, but that was the major detour from which I’ve never quite returned to the main road…and I’m not sure I’d want to even if I could. Things happen for a reason and I’m okay with that fact.

My general unease & antipathy was recently reinforced in a truly eye opening way. And that’s saying something because I had heretofore been under the delusion that my eyes were wide open. I suppose there is always room to learn & grow.

Eph 1-7I cannot & will not go into any detail here, but suffice to say that an acquaintance of mine found themselves in some trouble…some pretty serious trouble. The story became public. What this person is accused of doing is dreadfully tragic. However, in America aren’t we all “innocent until proven guilty”?? And even if a person is guilty didn’t Jesus teach us that “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”?? Doesn’t The Bible teach us about mercy, grace, & forgiveness?? Unfortunately modern American society doesn’t seem to believe in such principles…atleast when it comes to someone other than the person they see in the mirror each morning.

The story I am referring to was published on a website. Again the details are not important and not mine to divulge anyway. But I was truly saddened by the comments that dozens of readers left. I know Americans enjoy our blood sports, and I sincerely understand why the accusations involved evoked such passion & rage. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking…where is the mercy?? Folks were calling for this person to be shot, stabbed, beaten, burned, raped & murdered. And yes, some even suggested they be stoned, proving some familiarity with God’s Word but obviously not enough. This is all before a thorough investigation has been conducted and due process of law completely plays out. My my my…jump to conclusions much??

Look, I don’t know who did what in all this, but I do know a couple of things. I know that this person’s family is standing behind them and stepping up in ways that a month ago I am sure they never fathomed they’d be asked to do. This is a good, decent, close knit family. I am closer to the parents than the offspring and the little ones, and they are people with a deeply abiding faith, a strong moral center, and unquestionable love for one another. A few comments on the aforementioned article cast aspersions on the entire family rather than family_holding_handsjust the one person, which angered me tremendously since I know what kind of people they are. The fact that they are supporting their loved one is good enough for me and sufficient validation to doubt the veracity of the story as it is being portrayed in the media. Secondly, I know things that I have done in my life. No I have never killed anyone or committed any kind of violent act, but I have sinned in ways that I definitely wouldn’t want published in the local newspaper or discussed on television. I suspect many of you out there in the Manoverse might feel the same about your mistakes. As my relationship with God & our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ evolves & deepens I become more grieved by past errors and increasingly aware of when I choose the wrong path (which isn’t as often as it used to be but still far too much). I would hope that, if a wrong that I did ever grew into some kind of public spectacle, that others would grant me some level of mercy…but after these recent events I have my doubts.

What’s worse is that I can look back and see where I have been just as judgmental as the people who left those awful comments. I am far too quick to size up a person…assess their motives, assume their lack of moral fiber, and judge their actions. It is so easy to be reactionary in 21st century America. Social media gives us all an avenue to respond without thought, to opine without knowing all of the facts. Everyone is a critic, a pundit, and an expert. The mere fact that I can call myself a writer, publish The Manofesto, and dole out my viewpoint on anything I choose is proof of this. Who am I?? I am no better than you. I do sincerely believe that I don’t go off half-cocked and say anything too crazy in this forum, but in other situations I am easily angered and lack patience, understanding, wisdom, & compassion.

Jesus asks “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” and cautions us to “first remove the plank from your own eye, and handsthen you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I am not advocating free reign. I am not saying that criminals should not be punished or that people should not be criticized when they make bad choices. But The Bible teaches us that “as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”, countenance in this case meaning character. Unfortunately too many of us spend a lot of time tearing others down instead of trying to help them or lead them to become better people.

I don’t have any easy answers or quick fixes for this issue. However, I can confidently say that we would all benefit from taking a moment to think…to look in the mirror and reflect on the mistakes that we’ve made and the skeletons we have in our closet whether they are big or relatively benign…before we haughtily lash out at others. No one is perfect…not you and certainly not me. The world would certainly benefit from more empathy & kindness rather than judgment, contempt, and anger.

 

The End of My Sambatical From Organized Religion – The New Hope

Please check out Part 1 & Part 2 or else you will be thoroughly confused. Thanks!!

I had said for several months, as church friends would interact with me online or I’d see them at family events and they would say they missed me & encourage me to come back, that I was bothered by the fact that the one person who I should be hearing from was the one person I hadn’t…the minister. He himself had taught our youth about the Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10) about 15 years ago at a lock-in when I was assisting with that particular ministry. The story had always struck a chord with me, and this past year I had felt kind of like a lost coin. The only difference was it seemed like no one was really looking for me, atleast not in the earnest, diligent way the woman in the parable searches for her drachma. Does this reflect poorly on my own insecurities and self-esteem?? Probably. But it was bigger than me. I feel like it is a microcosm of how the church as a whole operates in 21st century America. The machine keeps humming along and no one really notices when people go missing. There’s a scene in my favorite action flick Die Hard when one of the federal agents given the task of dealing with the crisis at hand says “I figure we take out the terrorists and lose 20-25% of the hostages tops”, with his partner replying “I can live with that”. That’s the church these days. The end justifies the means. It all seems a tad bit cool & detached. A lesson learned in The Godfather  – ”it’s not personal, it’s just business”. Maybe it’s just me, but when the line between the church & the mafia becomes blurred it is disturbing.

 

At any rate, my minister & I had a polite, pleasant conversation on that lazy Saturday. He needed me to sign some papers because I am still on the Board of Trustees and they are getting a loan for some upkeep on the church. Of course…business…The Machine…money. It never stops. He asked me to come back and I expressed some of my concerns. We didn’t dive in too deep, and really there was no need to. I’m not angry and I don’t hate anyone. The people in that congregation have been a part of my life for the vast majority of my existence. My Mom worshiped there, as did my grandmother and several aunts, uncles, & cousins. Its home and I’ve missed it. The fact is that the flaws within the church will be there whether I am or not. My mistake was in expecting the church to be accountable for things for which I need to take responsibility. I am responsible for feeding my body, so why should I assign others the task of feeding me spiritually?? Yes I know that that SHOULD be the first priority of the church, but when they fall short I can either throw a hissy fit about it or get busy doing it myself. I have spent the past year doing the former but now realize I need to do the latter. I have also made the mistake of getting too caught up in the busy work of the church at the expense of my own spiritual well-being. Again, that stuff will exist whether or not I am present. I am the one who allowed it to drag me down.

 

I spent the next few weeks in considerable ponderation of the situation. My ego felt as if returning would be admitting defeat and letting “them” win…a tacit admission that I had been wrong. After all, it isn’t like things were suddenly going to be markedly different. On the other hand, I realize…have always known…that no one in this little drama is really to blame. I don’t think there are people in my little country church or in any other church that set out to go down the wrong path. While I am smart (and cynical) enough to know that bad people with malevolent intentions certainly exist, I choose to believe that the vast majority of folks just do the best they can and try to make the wisest decisions possible. Mostly though, I finally really understand the difference between religion & faith, between being a churchgoer & having a relationship with Jesus Christ. I had always been under the impression that I comprehended that concept, but I guess one is never too old to keep on learning.

 

So now I am back. The sambatical is over. I am rested & renewed. I have returned to the weekly routine of Sunday school, worship, Bible study, committee meetings, and fundraisers. All those things have their merit and meet a need. I have always known that their place on the proverbial totem pole should be fairly low, but I now recognize that they do indeed have a place, atleast in my life. I am fully aware that selling hot dogs or building a picnic shelter or spending as much time drinking coffee & eating cookies as discussing scripture on Wednesday evening won’t get me or anyone else into Heaven. I know that going to church can only provide an outline and that it is up to me to pray, study, and build a relationship with Christ in order to write the full story. My expectations of myself have grown exponentially as I have lowered my expectations of others. All of us are human. We make mistakes. My pride & resentment have not represented me well, but they were things I needed to work through to grow. There is a reason for everything. This past year has been yet another time period I would probably change if given the opportunity, but then again maybe not. I still believe it is possible…maybe even advantageous…to experience Christ, to worship Him, to spread His good news, and to be a shining example of His teaching without chains. A church is still simply a building…land…stuff…money…business. It is easy to get caught up in the work, the responsibility, the politics…the humanity. It is easy to become insulated and not “make disciples of all the nations”. These are weaknesses which rob the modern church of its power & authority. However, I have made the decision to separate religion and faith, as I should have already been doing anyway. And I have decided that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive. Frustration with the business of the church need not rob me of my “blessed assurance”, and dedication to a more genuine relationship with The Lord does not preclude church attendance. The two should ideally intersect more often than not, but when they don’t then I need to assess the circumstances and react appropriately & rationally. The truth is that I have missed my friends. I’ve missed my family. I’ve missed those opportunities to gather together and attempt to do something good for the community or even just have some good old fashioned fellowship. None of that stuff has anything to do with my salvation or loving Jesus Christ, but I have come to appreciate their place in my life. Your mileage may vary & my conclusions may not jive with yours, and that’s okay. We all do what we gotta do, right?? Or maybe…just maybe…you recognize kernels of similarity between my story & yours. If so I hope my experience provides some insight, a pleasant read, and some fodder for your own ponderation.

 

The End of My Sambatical From Organized Religion – Part Deux

If you have not done so, please read Part 1 of this trilogy. Otherwise the rest of it won’t make a lick of sense.

 

Eventually the time came that I was able to get back out & about. I have never lead the most adventurous existence, and the church had been a huge part of my social life for years, so it was with some trepidation that I returned. I did my best to put the acrimony behind me, but if I am being honest I am not sure I ever did. Armed with that subliminal resentment I began to notice the superficial pretense. I had finally taken off my rose colored glasses and saw the church for what it was…a very human creation that I was pretty sure no longer resembled God’s original intent. Little snubs & slights began to gnaw at me. I actually did get angry and skipped a couple of Sundays here & there, always pondering the possibility of finding a new church. But I always came back. I refer to it as Battered Parishioner Syndrome.

 

Then, three years after my triumphant return, the events of last spring unfolded. Again, the details are unimportant, but suffice to say that things didn’t happen overnight. The straw that broke the camel’s back was actually quite silly & petty on my end, but it came at the conclusion of a string of events that built up like a slow filling helium balloon. Even then when I quietly stormed out that last Sunday I knew I’d probably get over it and go back in a week or two. But things began to happen. I got very sick and was unable to attend for a couple of Sundays. When no one called to see if I was okay that old resentment began to rear its ugly head. A meeting that I had every intention of attending went on without me because I was unexpectedly asked to work a Saturday morning shift.  I expressed my displeasure to a few fellow congregants in regards to the aforementioned camel breaking straw, and I was told “You’ll be back. You always come back.” And that was when my pride kicked in and I decided that I was going to prove them wrong and not go back. And I didn’t.

 

At first I seriously pondered finding a new church. That probably would have been the wise decision. Like my friend The Owl I could have visited churches and atleast given them a chance until they gave me a reason to discard them. But I didn’t. I began to realize that the cause of my inner turmoil was bigger than the particular things that had happened in my church. I slowly came to understand that I had lost my zeal for the whole of organized religion. Its hollowness. Its hypocrisy. Its focus on money. Its resistance to try anything new. Its reliance on habit passed off as tradition. Its lack of meaningful influence. Its determination to fit into the world’s paradigms when The Bible clearly says that we are to be “in the world but not of the world” (or something to that effect) and “a peculiar people”. I decided…as I have to a large extent in relation to life in general…to withdraw. When something frustrates, upsets, aggravates, and saddens you the prudent course of action is…sometimes…to just shun it altogether.

 

And then a few weeks ago…on a lazy Saturday when The Bachelor Palace was a complete mess, I was not dressed for company (let your imagination run wild), and I was having a day where I was keenly aware of my own emptiness, isolation, and ennui…there was a knock at my door.

 

Faith 101

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it’s a proven fact that some of history’s best ideas were…borrowed…from others. I am not sure if I am borrowing or flattering today, but I will readily admit that what follows are not my own words. I was reading an introduction to the book of James in a new Bible I purchased recently and it was so good I feel compelled to share. This is probably the best exposition about faith that I have ever read. Enjoy, but more importantly, soak the words in and put them into action in your own life. I was convicted by some of these words and intend on putting a better foot forward in an effort to live up to them.

Faith without works cannot be called faith. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). A dead faith is worse than no faith at all. Faith must work. It must produce. It must be visible. It must inspire action. Verbal faith is not enough. Mental faith is insufficient.

Faith endures trials. Trials come & go but a strong faith will face them head-on and develop endurance. Faith understands temptation and will not allow us to consent to our lust and slide into sin. Faith obeys the Word. It will not merely hear and not do. Faith produces doers. Faith harbors no prejudice. Faith is more than just words, more than knowledge. It is demonstrated by obedience and overtly responds to the promises of God. Faith controls the tongue, a small but immensely powerful part of the body that must be held in check.

Faith acts wisely. It gives us the ability to choose wisdom that is heavenly and to shun wisdom that is earthly. Faith produces separation from the world and submission to God. It provides us with the ability to resist Satan and humbly draw near to God. Faith waits patiently for the coming of the Lord. Through trouble & trial it stifles complaining.


 

Amen

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Proudly Closeminded and Intolerant

Facebook is a mixed blessing, a double edged sword. On one hand it provides the type of beneficially mindless entertainment that even those who rail against such frivolity need in appropriately moderate doses and serves as an avenue to stay in touch or reconnect with friends and family. Conversely, it can, as much as one allows, lay bare attitudes and behaviors that may be otherwise unknown by the masses. I am one who probably puts a little too much out there, providing access to my beliefs and views on everything from religion & politics to sports & pop culture. I also observe what others opine and post. I know for a fact that some are outraged and flabbergasted by my sentiments, and I am oftentimes saddened and flummoxed by theirs. This can create regrettable tension. Theoretically these are your friends and you are their friend, but in reality the relationship is often tenuous. The person you went to high school with but haven’t seen for 20 years probably isn’t a true friend, especially if you weren’t even friends in school. The co-worker from that job you had for 6 months ten years ago probably isn’t really your friend either. So when you combine the flimsiness of the relationship with polarizingly passionate perspectives on issues that some may take more seriously than others it is a combustible cocktail. Fortunately the inevitably disastrous fracturing of the fragile association is fairly painless. You can choose to just not have the stuff your friend posts appear in your news feed, you can delete them, or you can ban them completely so that you won’t even see their interactions with mutual friends. I have done all three, and it is likely all three have been done to me by others.


It is never my intention to anger or offend, and I am not easily offended myself. But one of the things I have observed over the course of the past few years is a growing sense of moral relativism. Society has a progressively increasing “if it feels good do it” attitude. Anything and everything is rubber stamped as long as there is no heinous crime being committed or no one is being physically hurt. Those who espouse opinions that go against the grain of this laissez faire attitude are on the receiving end of a rather vitriolic backlash wherein they are labeled intolerant and close-minded. I have been called those things a few times myself over the years, and I used to get upset and angry, loudly proclaiming that I am indeed tolerant and open minded despite what those who disagree with my principles may think. However, I have begun to reassess this standard defense of my values. Maybe I am a little intolerant and somewhat close-minded. And I think that is just fine with me.


Tolerance is a tricky term. Being tolerant used to mean the ability or inclination to put up with things one did not agree with or like. For example, a non-smoker tolerating a friend lighting up in their presence, or a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (like myself) tolerating a Dallas Cowboys fan (such as my sister). It is an absolute necessity that makes our world more interesting. Afterall, how prosaic would life be if everyone agreed about everything?? The key is something my Dad taught me…disagreeing without being disagreeable. But over the course of the last few decades tolerance has found new life as a politically correct code word meaning “anything goes” and not only blurs the line between right & wrong but obliterates it completely. The only wrong in this politically correct universe are those that attempt to insert any type of ethical standards into the situation, especially if they invoke Christian values and the name of God in the process. Likewise, being open minded theoretically means the ability to be receptive to new or different ideas. This too has unfortunately evolved into terminology that means acceptance of all manner of obscenity and abject ideology. The PC crowd has been enormously successful in weaving these thought processes into society while demonizing God and morality.


What I have been trying to work out in my own heart and mind is this: Where is the line between being judgmental and simply standing up for one’s beliefs ??


The Word tells us in Matthew “judge not lest ye be judged”, but I think maybe that is a passage that has been twisted into a self-serving bit of hyperbole by the tolerance police. It is a sad fact in 21st century America that a growing segment of the population openly mock God, but there is another growing portion of society who, while they profess a belief in God, want to water Him down into an easygoing, relaxed, permissive entity who doesn’t care how far off the path we veer. They treat God like a substitute teacher or a benevolent grandparent who will let us goof off, break all the rules, and still give us milk & cookies before reading a bedtime story and tucking us into bed. Even loyal churchgoers who theoretically study their Bible regularly say things like “love the sinner, hate the sin” which, to my knowledge, cannot be found anywhere in God’s Word. It is true that God is love, that He commanded us to love our enemies and our neighbors as we do ourselves, and that He is so desirous of a personal relationship that He sent Jesus to die on the cross so that His blood can wash away our sin, but we shouldn’t mistake kindness for weakness. Jesus did not hesitate to call people out on their BS, so to speak. He was no pushover and ticked a lot of people off. I mean let’s face it…He was crucified!! That doesn’t happen to a lackadaisical milquetoast. We are to emulate Christ and I believe sometimes that means being a bit more of a radical revolutionary than a pushover. Should we go around picking fights?? No. But I think it means we don’t walk away from them either. It’s all in the approach.


And that is the point at which I currently find myself. I have come to realize that my approach may need some…tweaking. Maybe I do come across as judgmental and a bit harsh on occasion. I have had to diminish my exposure to various political media because, whether I strongly agree or completely disagree with the biased angle being presented I tend to get a little too fired up either way. This is when Facebook gets me in hot water because it offers an immediate forum where I can vent my frustrations before taking the proper time to ponder and cool the engines. At the same time, I do not want to sit on my hands and not express my views, especially when it comes to faith. We are to be “fishers of men” and “make disciples of all the nations…teaching to observe all things that Jesus commanded”. Jesus said “they persecuted Me they will persecute you also” and “you will be hated by all for My name’s sake”. He taught that “blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy”. This is a uncomfortable thing for most to grasp because we don’t enjoy rejection. We want to be liked and accepted. We want to fit in, to belong. Especially for Christians it can be difficult to embrace that we are to be a peculiar people. Who really wants to be thought of as peculiar, aka unusual, strange, or weird?? But at the end of the day I think there are times when we must stand our ground and refuse to back down. There are situations in which we need to be close-minded and intolerant.


I suppose it all goes back to what Dad taught me about disagreeing without being disagreeable. We can stand up for our principles without being hateful, even if “hate” is another word too easily thrown around by touchy feely humanists to condemn anyone who disagrees with their warped outlook on all sorts of subject matter. George Herbert, a 17th century poet and clergyman, said that “living well is the best revenge”. Similarly, maybe the best way to convey Godly principles is not to argue but to live a Godly life with Jesus Christ as our role model. Values like salvation, forgiveness, wisdom, grace, mercy, love, peace, faith, kindness, etc. shouldn’t be treated like a product others have to be convinced to buy under duress or like abstract concepts from an tedious book that are taught in a dry, uninspired lecture. They are to be practiced daily. My Mom always said that you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Conforming that notion to the present discourse it seems that a better strategy in proving God’s way is the right way…the only way…is to become the best example possible. Stay positive and show the power of God in one’s own life rather than being critical of others’ choices. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used civil disobedience or non-violent protest to make his case, and at the end of the day let’s face it…he made a heck of a case and changed the world. I cannot honestly say my protestations are always as civil as they should be and that is something The Lord and I are ironing out, but I plan on continuing to stand up for what I believe to be right, and on the occasions that I am perceived as being captious or abrasive I will need to decide if that is truly the case and what exactly must be done…or not done.

Blessed Are the Meek

Thus far in our examination of The Sermon on the Mount we have learned that to be happy God wants us to be poor in spirit and He wants us to mourn. And now it is time to learn why, in order for us to be happy, God wants us to be meek.

 

Meek can be defined as “enduring injury without resentment (and face it…a lot of us do resentment really well, like a beloved hobby), deficient in spirit and courage, submissive, not violent or strong, docile, spiritless, tame, yielding, and soft.” There’s no way around it folks…in 21st century America being meek isn’t really considered all that desirable of a trait. It’s basically a good way to have others take advantage of you, walk all over you, and leave you in the dust. Being meek is being a loser…or atleast that tends to be the human perspective. Not surprisingly, God seems to view things differently.

 

The Greek word for meekness is praos, which literally means “’to be gentle, humble, considerate, and courteous”. The Greeks used it to describe the tamed state of domesticated animals. In other words, God is telling us that to be trained, to be under control, to be focused on The Lord as our Master will make us happy. I am sure many of us have pets that we command to sit, stay, fetch, etc. Is your pet unhappy?? Probably not as long as you feed it and give it love. Do you love your pet and do anything you can to make its life comfortable and happy?? Of course. Now I am not saying that we are pets or that God thinks of us that way. I am just trying to illustrate that our definition of meekness is erroneous. It should not imply weakness, sadness, or passiveness… it implies an inward strength and poise. jesuschildIt merely means that a person is approachable and kind. It means that a person is not temperamental or harsh…they are even tempered. A person who is meek walks in Godly peace and stays focused on their duty. Meekness does not seek vengeance because that is The Lord’s. A person who is meek knows that their life is nothing without God. Psalm 37:11 tells us that “the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace”. But what does it mean to inherit the earth?? I believe it has a dual meaning. First it means that if we bear this fruit we will receive our reward in Heaven. But I also think it means that if we exhibit the quality of meekness our earthly lives will be better, contrary to the poppycock that society tries to feed the masses. Our human goals of being strong, tough, and independent often lead to arrogance, selfishness, and a superiority complex. And even if they don’t, we need to ask ourselves what the endgame of our actions might be, or rather what we hope might be our reward. Too often the rewards we spend so much time and effort seeking…money, power, notoriety and all the fun stuff that comes with those things…come at the expense of a relationship with God. Instead we are to seek God with a meek heart, full of humbleness, submission, and humility.

 

One of my favorite movies is Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner. And one of the best parts of the movie is when Costner explains to James Earl Jones that when he was 17 years old he was fighting with his father, that he said something awful, packed his bags, and left. Jones asks him why he said and did what he said and did, and Costner replies “I was 17”. I think we all go through that sort of rebellion, to varying degrees, when we are young. As Christians we sometimes go through it as well. But ultimately, if we grow in our faith and bear fruit as we should then that rebellion is suppressed. If we are continuously rebelling against God then we are not bearing fruit. If I, at the age of 37, still acted like I did when I was 17 people would look at me like I was crazy. So why then do we think it is okay to become stagnate in our faith and not exhibit growth, i.e. bear fruit?? Why do we get so caught up in how the world tells us we should act and what the world tells us our goals should be?? Why do we buy into the idea that we need to be ambitious, aggressive, and must assert & promote ourselves in an effort to take what we want?? Why are the ideals of humility and politeness so frowned upon??

 

Obviously we need to change our mental and emotional paradigm, becoming more like what God wants us to be rather than what society tells us we should be in order to compete. The question is…how?? I don’t want to sound like a broken record here folks, but the answer is the same as usual. The only way we can begin to bear the fruit that God wants us to is to become more like Him, and the only way to do that is to forge a closer relationship with The Lord. Pray. Study your Bible. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting, inspirational friends, images, and entertainment. Faith is a living, breathing thing that we must practice, not just read about. James 1:21-22 tells us to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only”.  Do you think Joe Montana became a great QB without practice and effort?? Did your family physician just decide to become a doctor and start treating folks overnight?? Are attorneys, accountants, teachers, and engineers people who just happened to fall into a great job?? No, of course not. Success demands a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Meekness may just require more conscious practice than any other fruit, if for no other reason than it goes against everything that is ingrained into us from the time we are wee tots through grade school and high school and on throughout our working adult lives. But in this case success cannot be defined in terms of money, fame, or power. The only successful outcome is eternity in Heaven. So it is up to you…will you choose to buy into what a flawed and sinful world tells you is right, or will you choose meekness and bear the fruit that God tells us He requires??

 

 

The Fruits of the Spirit – Longsuffering

Patience-Roger-Smith-CEO-American-Income-LifeI was once given the advice “Don’t pray to God for patience because He will give you plenty of opportunities to practice”. Notwithstanding one’s opinion of that particular directive, I have decided for now to write about it rather than pray for it.  As you may have guessed, I am not examining The Fruits of the Spirit in any particular order or with any sort of overriding structural theme. I think they each tell their own individual stories that guide us down the correct path when viewed collectively.

 

Longsuffering is an interesting word. It certainly isn’t common terminology we utilize in everyday conversation. It comes from the Greek word makrothumia, meaning long-tempered…the opposite of short-tempered. Longsuffering can be defined as forbearance, patience, steadfastness, self-restraint in avenging wrongs, and the ability to endure adversity, persecution, provocation, suffering, & ill will with no thought of retaliation or punishment. Longsuffering is the antithesis of anger and is associated with mercy. It is being mild, gentle, and constant in all circumstances.

 

There are many shades of anger. I do not consider myself to be violent. I have never beaten anyone up or made any type of legitimate threats. I don’t brandish weapons, and I don’t generally go around causing mayhem or destruction. But…..I am easily annoyed, tend to hold grudges, and have an overall sense of resentment against people, situations, and entities that I perceive to have caused me harm or even mere inconvenience. This acrimony, more often than not, fruitdoes not manifest itself in any tangible way. Most who interact with me personally and professionally would consider me to be kind, polite, and even-tempered. Only those few with whom I am most comfortable ever get a glimpse of the animosity simmering just beneath the surface. And even then I have the ability to spin things with wit and a modicum of charm. But does the fact that my frustration with those things that fall short of my standards and expectations doesn’t lead to any corporeal damage make it okay?? Jesus tells the Pharisees in the 16th chapter of Luke that ““You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  In other words, I have some work to do.

 

However, I suspect that I am not alone. Our society can be rather aggravating. Between job related stress, the pressures inherent with raising a family, economic woes, inescapable socio-political divides, technology that is both awesomely wonderful yet sadly fragile, and a dog-eat-dog fast paced world where we all want to keep up with the Joneses to the point that even a vacation can cause strife…well, as Kevin Costner says in Bull Durham, “We’re dealing with a lot of stuff”. It isn’t uncommon to hear people wistfully hearken back to a simpler time, where they perceive life was better. But that is a mirage. Life may not have been as fast paced a hundred years ago…no automobiles or super highways, no televisions, no Internet, no video games, not as many “everyone else is going there” tourist traps…but economic conditions were even tougher, people had to work much harder for much less, living conditions and illness meant shorter lives, and the world was far smaller and less accessible. In other words, throughout the ages humanity has had issues to face and burdens to endure. There has only been one constant over all the years, and with all due respect to James Earl Jones, it isn’t baseball. The 13th chapter of Hebrews tells us that God will never leave or forsake us and that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

 

faithWhich leads me to the first key point we need to ponder in relation to longsuffering. One does not have to look any further than the example of Christ to understand the essence of the fruit we are to bear. No greater demonstration of longsuffering can be found than that shown by God toward man. Everyone knows John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” We know it so well and it is a verse that is so often quoted that I sometimes fear its meaning has been watered down or atleast taken for granted. Do you know anyone who would literally die for you, or anyone who you would die for?? We all have close family and maybe a few good friends. It is likely that most parents would answer yes to the question in regard to their children. But honestly…and I am truly trying to put aside my cynical tendencies here…how many people would REALLY die for another human being?? I suspect the honest answer is “not many”.

 

Have you ever done a favor for another person?? I am sure most everyone has at some point in their life. How did the person react?? They probably said thank you, or maybe they went so far as to buy you a nice gift or treat you to dinner. However, have you ever experienced a person for whom you have done a favor say to you “I owe you one”. I have…many times. And let me tell you what usually happens…they never get around to actually doing anything about it. I think that is how we treat The Lord. He made the ultimate sacrifice for all of humanity, and how do we repay Him?? By not being even one thousandth of one percent as patient and understanding with our fellow man as He is with us. Our life is 100% in His hands. Every breath we take is a gift from Him. All that is asked of us is to be a mirror image of Christ, to bear the fruits that we are discussing in this series. Yet every single day…multiple times during the day…we carelessly ignore our responsibility and casually disregard the favor that was done for us…that is done for us every moment. If The Lord was an impatient with us as we are with everything and everyone none of us would last 5 minutes. But 2 Peter tells us that “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” If we make an honest effort to live life in a Christ-like fashion one of the first things we need to do…that I know I need to do for sure…is to shed much of the frustration and resentment that we allow into our daily lives. 1 Timothy says that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting”. If we want the gift of eternal life we need to use Jesus as the pattern and show others the mercy that He shows us daily. Another verse that we tend to use as a cliché without actually giving it the consideration it deserves is found in Matthew 7:12, which says “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them”. Of course we refer to this as The Golden Rule…but do we follow it?? More often than not we tend to bend it into “do unto others as they have done unto you” or even “do unto others before they do unto you”. But those twists are the result of Man’s brokenness and the damage that sin has wrought on the world, and following those rules will get us nowhere except our very own extremely warm corner of Hell.

 

The second point that needs to be touched on is the question of how to bear the fruit of longsuffering. It is not a skill that one can learn in a six week correspondence course or that will magically develop overnight. It takes effort. It might seem rather obvious, but the only way to become more Christ-like is to develop a relationship with Christ and study His holy teachings. In one of my previous places of employment when a new supervisor was hired one of the first things they did was “shadow” an experienced supervisor for a number of weeks. We need to “shadow” Christ not just for a few weeks or months, but every day for the rest of our lives. Spend time with Him in prayer, study your Bible, and surround yourself with fellow Christians who you can learn from and emulate. This last part is admittedly a delicate balancing act because we are not to shut ourselves up in church and only associate with fellow believers. We are to be “fishers of men”. Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”. On the other hand, we need the support and relationship of other believers in Christ. A relationship with Christ is pretty much the whole ball of wax…it is what everything boils down to. And I think as we grow in that relationship we can’t help but become more and more the person that we are meant to be, which in part means bearing fruit. This holds true for all the Fruits of the Spirit, but I believe it is especially important in regard to longsuffering, as it may be the one we struggle with the most yet is most easily put into practice if only we make the effort.

 

When we accept the free gift of salvation we are to be “born again”. Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Once saved we are a new person. Ephesians instructs to “no longer walk as the rest, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus, that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness”. Furthermore, according to 2 Timothy we are to “flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will”. It is important that we bear fruit not only as proof of our maturing relationship with the Lord, but so that we may also be a guiding light for others.  The same chapters tells us that we are to “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching”. Anyone who has ever tried to teach anyone anything, whether it was one on one or in a group setting, will understand the need for patience in such a setting.

 

The final point I want to emphasize about longsuffering is…well…suffering. Afterall, it is part of the word, right?? Many new Christians come to the Lord through a “mountaintop experience”. They hear an especially powerful sermon, attend a large gathering like Promise Keepers, or go to an old fashioned fire & brimstone revival. In situations like that it becomes easy to run to an altar and “make the decision” for Christ. Please don’t misunderstand…I am not questioning the authenticity of salvation received in these settings. I myself gave my heart to The Lord following a performance of the drama Heavens Gates and Hell’s Flames. But my concern is what comes afterward. The next day one must go back out into the world…work, school, friends, family, and dealing with the general public in everyday situations. This is the true test. Contrary to popular belief life does not suddenly become sunshine and roses just because one said a prayer and asked Jesus to forgive their sins. Salvation is not the end, it is the beginning. Relationship and growth must follow, and it is my sincere belief that it is during this lifelong process that Satan will come after a person with a full court press. The question is how will you react to these tests of your faith?? Make no mistake…they are not graded on a curve and a C is not acceptable. Life is pass/fail. Our response to the difficulties we face is an excellent barometer of where we stand in our relationship with Christ. And I am not talking about the big stuff. I think most people have a tendency to call on the Lord in times of real trouble…severe illness, death, and other significant calamities. But how do you react to the “ankle biters”…the little aggravations and roadblocks we encounter every day?? James 1:2-4 counsels us to “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” It may seem a bit odd that we should rejoice when we’re in trouble, but that is exactly what we are supposed to do. Remember, Christ DIED for our sins…so is it really too much to ask that we endure annoying co-workers, bad drivers, slow checkout lines, thoughtless friends, overbearing in-laws, rambunctious children, and all the other obstacles life throws in our path??

 

The 103rd Psalm says “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever”. God is complex. He is love, and He shows us infinite mercy and patience on a daily basis, yet one day we will all face judgment. How can we hope for a free pass that we do not deserve if we do not bear fruit?? Why do we assume and expect God’s continuous patience with us in light of our sins but not show the same understanding toward others ourselves?? I cannot sum up the expectation God has of us any better that Colossians 3:1-5 – “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful”.