Points of Ponderation…..Episode 9.17

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

 

 

 

 

 

When Eagles co-founder & frontman Glenn Frey passed away about a year & a half ago his bandmate Don Henley indicated that it was the end of the road for the band, which seemed appropriate. However, now a reconfigured Eagles’ lineup with Frey’s son Deacon & country star Vince Gill are performing some shows this summer, and at first I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that. Upon further reflection, I don’t really have an issue with the band continuing, even though it can’t ever be the same. Lots of bands have continued on after the departure…voluntary or otherwise…of original, even founding, members. I think it’s cool that Frey’s son will be involved. I assume he has some degree of talent. I’d like to see former Eagles Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, & Don Felder included in any future activities, but understand that there are…issues. I’m not sure what to think about the inclusion of Gill. It seems a bit incongruous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God has really laid it on my heart to ponder John 8:7, in which Jesus says “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”. One of the disadvantages of social media is its immediacy, allowing folks to pronounce their passionate, unfiltered, oftentimes hypercritical condemnations without a cooling off period. In the past I have been as guilty as anybody of such rancor but have made an effort to dial back the venom and skew toward mercy in most cases. It is really easy to sit in judgment of others, especially when embracing the mantle of keyboard warrior, but the truth is that we really don’t know what it’s like to walk in any shoes but our own. Yes, right is right and wrong is wrong, and most of the time it’s pretty easy to tell where a situation falls on the grid. However, even when a particular entity is clearly wrong perhaps we’d all be better off to take the high road. Is my sin any better or worse than yours?? Maybe. Maybe not. But Matthew 7:3-5 says “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not consider the plank in your own eye? First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”, and I tend to believe that’s pretty good advice. People make mistakes…sometimes really big ones. Oftentimes something or someone might truly be heinous & immoral, but the world would still be a better place if everyone didn’t feel compelled to add their negativity into the mix.

 

 

 

I’m just gonna leave these right here…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been rather uncomfortable this summer seeing the amount of Adam West merchandise popping up online in the aftermath of his death. The body wasn’t even cold yet before my Facebook feed was peppered with t-shirts and other memorabilia. The same thing happened awhile back when Carrie Fisher passed late last year. The 1947 holiday classic Miracle on 34th St. has a character lamenting that “there is a lot of bad -isms floating around this world and one of the worst is commercialism”. Many of us always say that kind of thing at Christmas time, but it’s just as true throughout the year. Using the demise of a beloved cultural icon to make a buck is sick & twisted, and such purveyors of tastelessness won’t be getting a dime of my money.

 

 

 

I’m not really into the whole astrology thing, but these do seem to be fairly accurate summations…..

 

 

 

The OJ Simpson saga long ago stopped being a sports story, so allow me to ponder his parole in this forum. Unless you’ve been in hiding or on vacation far away from civilization this week you’ve probably heard that The Juice will be turned loose…likely in Florida…in October. While it is tempting to look at this news thru the prism of the infamous mid-90’s trial that saw Simpson be found not guilty of double murder and become outraged that he is being set free, one must remember a few things. First of all, whether one believes in his innocence concerning that monstrous crime or not, the fact is that a jury…for whatever reason…declared him not guilty, and we must respect the American legal system because as flawed as it is it is still the best in the world. Secondly, Simpson’s robbery conviction is an entirely different case. Multiple experts have said that he probably served much more time than any other person would have for the same crime. The consensus seems to be that, in a vacuum, a typical citizen involved in a similar situation might not have went to jail at all, or at most served a year. So essentially the judge that sentenced Simpson to 9-33 years did about as much to remedy perceived injustices of the past as legally allowed. The fact is that, in relation to the offense committed, OJ Simpson’s release from prison is the objectively fair thing to do. Of course anyone over the age of 40 can’t completely separate the robbery from the double murder and most will believe that justice has not been done. I don’t know what to say about that. Chances are that Simpson will land on his feet and live the remainder of his life in relative comfort. I wouldn’t be surprised if ends up having his own “reality” show. Is it disrespectful to the two murder victims?? Obviously. But we should all know by now that life isn’t fair.

 

 

Yep…..

 

 

 

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 2.17

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

 

 

 

 

 

apatowDirector Judd Apatow on stress eating over Donald Trump: “I think it tests our ability to not want to numb out. There’s so many things that are hard to hear every day that you do want to have some Oreos. Like people say, what do you invest in during the Trump era? I feel like, Hostess Cakes. Most of us are just scared and eating ice cream.” No, not most of us Judd. The vast majority of real Americans outside the liberal Lands of Make Believe in New York, Chicago, & Hollywood are mature functioning adults with common sense & a soul. You enjoy those Twinkies though.

 

 


I’m not a green thumb at all, but some of y’all probably are, so here you go.

 

 

Very sad to hear of the imminent closing of Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus, which has been beguiling children of all ages for a century & a half. I loved the circus when I was a kid. Unfortunately a combination of the modern entertainment landscape & pressure from animal rights wackos doomed The Greatest Show On Earth. I’ll refrain from a rant about animal “rights”, but I can speak to the entertainment angle. I’ve opined in the past that I think brick & mortar bookstores might eventually become obsolete thanks to Amazon & other online book sellers. Netflix and streaming services in general have surely had an impact on movie theaters. The Internet itself can provide hours of infotainment. I’m as much of a homebody as anyone, but I’m not so sure that’s a good thing for any of us. It seems like our population is becoming less & less sociable, with business & technology as willing accomplices. We can shop at home. Watch movies at home. Download & read books onto our e-readers without setting foot into a library or bookstore. Food delivery & drive-thrus decrease the need of sitting down in cpotatoa restaurant for a nice meal. Grocery delivery is already a thing in many big cities and will likely become more widespread. How long until all schools are online, eliminating snow days & the spread of disease among children?? Many places of employment already offer work from home options. Pretty soon we’re going to be a nation full of Howard Hughes-esque hermits, the necessity…and the amusement…of ever leaving home virtually eliminated.

 

 


Food for thought.

 

 

 

Speaking of Donald Trump…

Whoopi Goldberg. Barbara Streisand. Al Sharpton. Amy Schumer. Cher. Jon Stewart. Miley Cyrus. Samuel L. Jackson. Raven Symone. Chelsea Handler. What do all of these people have in common?? They are all “celebrities” who indicated months ago that if Trump won the election they’d leave the United States. What else do they have in common?? If my information is correct…they are all full of crap and aren’t going anywhere because they know where their bread is buttered – right here in the good ol’ USA. Just like many similar people of their ilk they like to hear themselves talk but don’t have the cahonas to back up the garbage they spew. I wish someone…as a joke (sort of)…would just rent moving vans and have them show up at these morally bankrupt sycophants’ houses. I haven’t been able to verify it, but I think I read somewhere that alleged comedian George Lopez has already or atleast indicated that he is soon going to actually follow thru with his promise to leave the country. If that is the case then I atleast have to respect him for being a man of his word.

 

 

I have had occasion…twice…to catch the 1989 rom-com When Harry Met Sally on television recently. The first time I was pleased. The second harrysallytime my heart was filled with absolute joy. When doing my 100 Favorite Films series a few years ago I ranked it 46th, and upon further reflection I think I probably undervalued it by atleast a couple dozen spots.

 

 

 


 

Yep. Exactly.

 

 

 

stormjesusUpdate: I’m still doing well with staying away from sociopolitical debates on social media, and I’m not posting anything controversial or quarrelsome on my own page. However, I still do a bit of trolling and recently observed this gem in a thread discussing climate change: “The Right seems to think God controls the weather, which he does not.” Seriously…someone actually offered that up as a thoughtful opinion. I can tell that my transition from annoyed dissenter to quiet observer is going well because that particular comment made me laugh out loud rather than become ticked off as I likely would have not long ago. Look, to each their own. I understand that people have a variety of spiritual & theological views, and that’s fine. However, my Bible tells me…in the 8th chapter of Matthew…that “when Jesus got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’”. So yeah…God does control the weather. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Passion Diminished

The word passion is derived from the Latin passio and the Greek pathema, both of which mean suffering or enduring. Today this meaning is most closely associated with what Jesus Christ went thru in the last hours of His earthly life.

 

Modern usage of the word passion is more commonly connected to other definitions… ardent affection, a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept, and of course sexual desire. It is the first two definitions that have been on my mind lately, especially as they are connected to the Latin & Greek terminology.

 

ponderThe question that I have been pondering is this: Is anyone truly passionate about anything anymore?? It seems to me that most of us have subjects that pique our interest, activities that we enjoy, & stuff that we get involved in for one reason or another…but are we really passionate about any of it?? Nelson Mandela once said that “there is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”, yet that is exactly what most of us do…we play small and settle.

 

This train of thought began, in part, with a conversation I had with The Owl. We were lamenting the lostbowl art of customer service. We are both old enough (especially him) to remember the days when one could go into a clothing, music, shoe, electronics, or any other kind of store and find genuinely helpful salespeople, the kind of folks who had been doing the gig for a long time and really knew their stuff. They were passionate about their work and cared about doing it the right way. Oh sure they wanted to make a sale and earn extra cash, but it seemed to be understood that the two things weren’t mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, back then it felt like everyone knew that being honest, respectful, knowledgeable, & diligent is what would clinch the sale. I am sure that kind of service is available today, but it is certainly rarer than it used to be. Such jobs are looked down upon now. They are viewed as stepping stones to something better. Few employees are passionate about the products they produce/sell or the companies for which they work. It’s just a job, a necessary evil to be able to pay bills & put food on the table.

 

bbeeBut this lack of passion isn’t just reserved for the 40 hours/week that we are on the job. It permeates almost every aspect of our lives. We are overwhelmed by sensory overload. There are so many choices at our fingertips that we go from one thing to another, like a bumblebee gathering nectar & pollen, darting from flower to flower, never staying in one place or focused on one thing for too long. We are always in a hurry and have such a diminished attention span that we don’t take time to embrace excellence or let our passion ripen. We have developed faster & cheaper ways to do just about everything, but quality suffers because craftsmanship has become all too uncommon.

 

passionWatch a ball game. Go to a concert. Check out a museum. Read a book. Go see a theater production. What do all of those things have in common?? Passion. Excellence. Hard work. Effort. One doesn’t make it to the NFL or NBA, get a book published, become part of an orchestra, or star in a play, movie, or television show without all of those things. Certainly natural talent plays a part, but the finished products that you & I enjoy are the result of a lot of blood, sweat, & tears and countless hours of training & preparation. Yet the people that do those things at a high level make up a fractional percentage of the population. Most of the rest of us just try to get thru our day with as little stress as possible and without putting forth any more effort than necessary. And when we are forced to work hard we usually don’t feel good about it because we really don’t enjoy what we are doing. We feel obligated to serve on the committee. Parents feel like they have to involve their kids in every extracurricular activity available. Folks begrudgingly volunteer for the hot dog sale, book drive, or brainstorming meeting. We show up because we like the people and believe in the organization & its mission, but also because we’ve been taught that it’s the right thing to do, we don’t want anyone to dislike or be disappointed in us, and simply because we don’t know how to say no even when that is exactly what we would prefer to do. I’m not saying these are horrible reasons to be involved in something or that anyone has bad apathyintentions. I am only suggesting that those reasons/excuses don’t mean a person is passionate about their involvement and in the long run it shows. Most everyone has a job and atleast one hobby…but in my experience few people nowadays have a true passion. On the rare occasion that those things intersect it is obvious and the outcome is beautiful. Harriet Tubman observed that “every great dream begins with a dreamer”. Perhaps that is part of the issue. We have become far too pragmatic. We play it safe. We don’t take chances. To call someone a dreamer is at best dismissive and possibly even an insult.

 

lukewarmSadly this issue infiltrates our churches and the spiritual realm. Sunday mornings are oftentimes just a social outing where we get to drink coffee and hang out with friends. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with good coffee or great fellowship, but how can we say we have a relationship with a God & Savior that we only interact with a couple of hours per week and even that time lacks passion?? The meme you are seeing on the left is something that I ran across a few weeks ago and it’s been gnawing at me ever since. Those words are probably responsible for this discourse as much or more than my conversation with The Owl. None of us want to spend eternity in Hell so we seek salvation, but salvation should be as much about living our earthly lives in relationship with God as it is spending eternity with Him. We rob ourselves of years of joy by continuing to wallow in sin and paying lip service to God, playing “church” on Sunday but doing whatever feels good or seems cool & hip the other 6 ½ days of the week. God tells us in Revelation that “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” The third chapter of 2 Timothy talks about “having a form of godliness but denying its power”, which I believe is a perfect definition of religion in America.

 

Part of the reason why we lack devotion is because we prefer to avoid suffering, thus the two meanings of passion concurrently toe-in-the-wateroverlap and diverge. Not only do we not have the dedication to put in the work required to attain excellence, we are uncomfortable with the idea of suffering, whatever that may entail. It is much easier to just dip our toe in the water than to dive in and fully immerse ourselves.

 

I do not say these things to pass judgement. I am as guilty as anyone for lacking passion in my life. Neither do I offer solutions because a) I’m not that smart and b) I’m not sure there is one pithy, one-size-fits-all answer for everyone. These are just things that I have observed, and the first step in solving a problem is admitting that there is one.

Thou Shalt: A Brief Refresher

bowlIt isn’t unusual for my friend The Owl & I to engage in thoughtful & lengthy discussions about sociopolitical issues and/or religion. That’s just how we roll. Recently the subject matter was The Ten Commandments, and we were both dismayed when we could only come up with eight off the cuff. Like many others we fancy ourselves to be men of faith but too often come up short, falling prey to the frustrations & distractions of the world. However, unlike (sadly) too many we are unhappy with that inadequacy and seek a meaningful relationship with Jesus. It isn’t enough to pay lip service to The Almighty, lazily go thru the motions for a couple of hours on Sunday morning while sinning freely 6 ½ days/week, & use an old dusty Bible for a paper weight. So if we are going to try to emulate Christ and live the life God desires for us to live it would seem fairly essential to know what the His Word says. I understand that rote memorization of Scripture isn’t necessarily a hallmark of genuine faith, but shouldn’t broad familiarity/knowledge/awareness of what’s inside that dusty Bible be important not so that we can impress anyone with knowledge but rather so that we can have that aforementioned meaningful relationship?? Ponder your friends, family, and significant other. You know them, right?? You know what they think, believe, & deem important in life. You know their birthday, where they grew up, what colors they like, what they studied in school, which sports teams they root for, what their favorite foods are, & what kind of TV, books, movies, or music they enjoy. That’s all part of a relationship. If you want a relationship with God it might be a good idea to learn His ways. To that end let’s talk about those Ten Commandments.

 

First of all, it should be noted that these commandments (also called The Decalogue by some) can be found in two places in the Bible: Exodus 20:1–17 and Glasses on Open BibleDeuteronomy 5:4–21. They were given to Moses on Mount Sinai, inscribed on two stone tablets. When Moses came down from the mountain after 40 days & nights he saw his people partying like it was 1999 (BC obviously), so he got ticked off and broke the tablets. No worries though…God wrote him a new copy because God’s an awesome Dude.

 

10Unlike the ceremonial and sacrificial laws of the Old Testament these commandments are still applicable. These commandments represent God’s eternal standard of right vs. wrong. They represent vital obligations to society. They represent behavioral benchmarks. We have volumes of verbose laws at all levels these days, governing everything from taxes to intake of food & beverages to how much noise we’re allowed to make in the neighborhood late at night, and I would never suggest that all of those laws are irrelevant. However I believe that many of the problems we face on a daily basis could be considerably minimized if we’d just adhere to the foundation laid out by God. What follows is by no means meant to be a comprehensive, in-depth examination of The Ten Commandments. It is simply a little reminder of what they are, what they mean, & why they’re so important. Let’s take a look:

 

 

 

1          I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

It’s all about priorities. God wants to be THE priority in our lives. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things…but…do we?? What are priority1“other gods”?? Nothing in all of Creation should be held up as a god – not the stars, sun, moon, planets, anything in Nature, nor any other spirit, statues, bones, relics, money, fame, sex, or any intellectual or philosophical concepts. I don’t think there are very many people out there melting down gold and making it into idols that they worship or pray to, but I know there are lots & lots for whom God is way down on the ol’ priority list. Jobs, family, entertainment, alcohol & drugs…we have no shortage of options to distract us. I’m not suggesting that anyone should ignore their family or that it’s not okay to have some good clean fun on occasion, but God needs to come first.

 

 

2          You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them nor serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.

Remember those golden idols I referred to?? Well, people actually used to do that sort of thing. I don’t know…maybe there are places where they still worshipdo. However, idolatry is a big no-no. A graven image is an idol carved from stone or wood, a material effigy that is worshipped…but let’s dig deeper. An idol can be anything we depend upon to meet needs of the heart like love, security, worth, or significance. When we seek to find identity & security in something besides God we have made it an idol. What are you addicted to?? What do you need to get thru the day?? What pursuits do you enjoy and why?? It could be something as simple and seemingly harmless as shopping or eating…or much more sinister things like gambling or pornography. Yet anything that you become a servant to and that pushes God down further on that priority list could be a culprit.

 

 

3          You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

It’s about respect. God’s name is holy. Using the power of His name without submitting to Him or having a trusting relationship with Him is wrong. mouthWe should never use God’s name to curse, deceive, or condemn anyone. Rather we should call upon Him in times trouble and use His holy name in prayer, praise, and giving thanks. Sadly…in large part due to flippant usage in modern entertainment…the perception of this particular commandment has become watered down and overlooked. I think there is an attitude of “If cussing is the worst thing a person does then they’re probably an okay person”. God just might disagree with that assessment.

 

 

4          Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son or daughter, your servants, your cattle, nor any stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

One word comes to mind…worship. It is God who supplies our needs, and if God rested after His labors why do we think we can outdo God?? When Isabbath was a kid we had something called blue laws, which basically meant that almost all businesses were closed on Sunday. That all started to change during my formative years, and now blue laws are mostly viewed as a quaint artifact of the past…but is that okay?? It is important that we consciously set aside one day each week for worshipful rest to remind ourselves to whom our time…our life…belongs. And no…spending a day off from your job running around like a headless chicken doesn’t count. That kind of day isn’t about God…it’s about you, your wants, your desires, your interests, & your ego. Refer back to the first two commandments.

 

 

5          Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

I’ve always been taught & believed wholeheartedly that nothing on Earth is more important than family. We need to recognize that someone else gave parentsus life and took care of us when weren’t capable of taking care of ourselves. Parents have been entrusted by God to be our guardians & teachers from the day we were born. We are to serve, love, & obey them and hold them in the highest esteem. I am well aware that some aren’t blessed with great parents and I’m not sure what to say about that except that it is likely that in that type of situation someone else…a grandparent, another relative, a neighbor, or some type of guardian…took care of you as a child. Honor that. The time comes for most of us when our parents are no longer around, and then there isn’t a day that goes by that they aren’t missed.

 

 

6          You shall not kill.

The Hebrew word ratsach means “to murder or slay”. It specifically refers to the premeditated murder of one person by another.  Sadly we don’t seem killto appreciate the sanctity of life as much these days as in previous generations. We are to cherish all life and recognize it as part of God’s Creation.

 

 

7          You shall not commit adultery.

There’s no way to have accurate statistics, but I’d be surprised if this isn’t the most broken commandment, the one that many people are far too marriagewilling to overlook & ignore. If it feels good do it, right?? We give lip service to the sanctity (aka holiness) of marriage, but genuine respect for that particular bond seems to be at an all-time low. Adultery is any sexual act committed by a married person outside of that marriage. We are not to do anything that would lead a person to break the sacred union of marriage, but unfortunately it is all too common. And I won’t even get started on fornication, which is a whole other ballgame.

 

 

8          You shall not steal.

Ownership is a sacred boundary. Stealing is dishonest & treacherous conduct that shows great disrespect and a lack of love toward fellow human thiefbeings. It disturbs societal stability and the results are feelings of fear, insecurity, & desire for revenge.

 

 

9          You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Lying and dishonesty pervert & corrupt hearts and are abominations to a God of truth. He wants us to learn to hate lying gossip& dishonesty and to love truth. We are not to deceitfully betray, slander, or defame our neighbors, but defend & speak well of them. A person’s reputation is an extension of themselves and we should not violate it for our own selfish gain. Integrity is not for oneself, but for the sake of others, so that they may live in security, knowing that we will treasure their reputation above our own.

 

 

10        You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, ox, donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Covet means to long for something that belongs to another person. And yes, the word neighbor means everybody…not just the few people that may covetlive beside of you or across the street. If we claim to be in relationship with God we must see people in the same way He does. Their lives are not ours to take for our purposes. In modern times we probably don’t covet anyone’s livestock, but we may be envious of their car, job, or general lifestyle. Yet the Bible emphasizes multiple times that we aren’t supposed to focus on worldly possessions. Look back up to those first couple of commandments. God wants to be the center of our lives, and if we’re too busy keeping up with the Joneses or loathing them because they have cool stuff that we can’t afford then we’re not living for Him.

 

The Fruits of the Spirit – Temperance

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
– William Shakespeare

fruitNearly seven years ago we began a quest to examine, assess, and learn about the nine Fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Today we finish that journey. I don’t know why it has taken seven years to complete a project that could have easily been wrapped up in a few months, but hey…I just go with the flow folks.

 

If you’d like a refresher on what we’ve talked about previously just follow the links to see my thoughts on love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness/gentleness/goodness/meekness, and faithfulness.

 

tempWe are crossing the finish line by taking a closer look at temperance. The first thing that probably comes to mind is The Temperance Movement, which dealt with promoting moderate consumption or even outright banning of alcoholic beverages, especially in early 20th century America. However, the Biblical definition of temperance is a little more comprehensive.

 

There are two words in the Bible that correlate with temperance. The first is enkrateia, which means “strong in a thing; strength; power; dominion; having power over; being master of.” The second word is nephalios, which has the same general meaning but more specifically refers to self-control as it relates to drunkenness.

 

Obviously we know that temperance is, in part, about avoiding intoxication. The Bible cautions against drunkenness on multiple drunkoccasions. Isaiah 5:11 warns “woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them.” Proverbs 20:1 says that “wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Ephesians 5:18 instructs us “do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”, with dissipation being a synonym for debauchery. Proverbs 23:29-33 asks “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?” and answers “Those who linger long at the wine and go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things.” Isaiah 28:7 says that ”The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink. They are swallowed up by wine. They are out of the way through intoxicating drink. They err in vision and stumble in judgment.” Though drinking wine seems to have been a part of normal, everyday life in Biblical times, God’s Word strongly advises against imbibing to the point of intoxication. There are two reasons for this.

 

First of all, when referring to drunkenness the Bible often uses the Greek word methuo, which means “to be filled”. Look at Ephesians 5:18 again. It says not to be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Spirit. If we’re going to fill anything…our body, our mind, our time…it should be with the Holy Spirit or corresponding things that are edifying to and glorify God. Romans 8:5-8 says that “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

 

drunk3Secondly, Mark 7:15-20 says that “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled. What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” Think about that in terms of intoxication. It’s not the wine, beer, or liquor that is the issue. They are merely things that we are putting into our bodies. But what often happens when we overindulge and get drunk?? We make bad decisions, say & do wrong things, and generally act immoral & ungodly. So the actions that come out of us as a result of that intoxication are what defile us in the eyes of God, not to mention tarnishing our relationships and our reputation.

 

This thought process can be expanded to so much more than just our use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance requires moderation in everything. It is the ability to master our desires. It is a sense of duty with regard to conduct. It is the practice of always controlling actions, thoughts, or feelings. The influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart should make a person moderate in all indulgences, teaching them to restrain passions and control evil propensities.

 

Glutton ElfThe opposite of the Fruits of the Spirit are the works of the flesh spoken about in Galatians anger5:19-21. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” All of these things are the opposite of temperance. They indicate gluttony, wrath, & being out of control. Proverbs 16:32 teaches that “he who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city..” Self-control is mastery over passions, thoughts, emotions, & words. It is the virtue that holds our appetites in check, controlling our rational will and regulating our conduct without being duly swayed by sensuous desires.

 

Jesus2Self-denial, self-sacrifice, & self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life, but notice the troublesome use of the word “self”. It is indicative of the stubborn human notion of trying to achieve this massive goal on our own, which is demonstrably impossible. This is another reason why temperance is a key fruit that we must exhibit. Temperance is vital to demonstrate to God that He is in control…not one’s flesh. It is the proof that Jesus is the Lord of one’s life. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. With God’s Holy Spirit help we can practice temperance. Titus 2:11-14 says “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Temperance is a necessary building block in our relationship with Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-9 instructs us to “Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. If these things are yours and abound you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Jesus3Lord Jesus Christ, for he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Romans 13:12-14 says that we must “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Galatians 5:16-17 says to “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.”

 

And what is the ultimate goal of this temperance (as with all the Fruits of the Spirit)?? 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says “Do you not heavenknow that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” I’m not very athletic and don’t know much about running races, but I am knowledgeable enough to know that one must have the proper tools & training to compete. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lays the cards right out on the table, cautioning “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Timothy 3:8 says that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

Righteousness – Hunger, Thirst, & Persecution…Part 1

I am well aware that The Manofesto has been somewhat sports-centric lately. That tends to happen during football season. Rest cornassured however that I have not forgotten the mission of this little rest stop on the ol’ information superhighway to be a cornucopia brimming with the vast array of topics that frost my cupcake. And for anyone who might be following the progress of our concurrent examinations of The Sermon on the Mount and The Fruits of the Spirit that thinks things may be moving a bit slow…you are not wrong. For some reason God has not laid upon me the inspiration to complete these series in a prompt & timely fashion, and I have decided to follow His lead and go with the flow. At the moment though I am being guided to pick up the pen (so to speak) and take a stride forward.

 

Over the past couple of years we have looked into why The Sermon on the Mount tells us we’ll be happy if we mourn, if we are meek, and if we are poor in spirit. Our next step in studying is to define righteousness, something so important that we will be persecuted because of it. We’ll get to that, but first we are told that hungering and thirsting for it will make us happy.

 

Now I am pretty fortunate. I live in the United States, grew up in a solid middle class home, and throughout my adulthood have had DrinkingWatereatrelatively stable employment. I have always had a roof over my head and food on the table. I cannot identify with the folks we see on television in impoverished Third World countries who know true hunger. But when it’s been a few hours since my last meal and my stomach is growling, y’all best not be standing between me and wherever the food is stashed. And we’ve all had that parched, dry feeling in our mouths on a hot summer day or after any type of strenuous activity. Nothing feels as good as that moment when we finally get to pour an ice cold drink down our throat. But do we seek God on a daily basis like we hunt down the nearest pizza joint on a night out with friends?? Do we earnestly yearn for a relationship with The Lord like we desire that cold beverage??

 

The Hebrew word for righteousness is tzedek, which means integrity, equity, justice, & straightness. The root of tzedek is tsawdak, which means upright, just, straight, innocent, true, & sincere. To be called righteous in Scripture is a compliment. It means something akin to what we say when we call someone “a great guy” or “salt of the earth”. Righteousness is simply freedom from guilt or sin. It is following the ways of God. It is doing the right thing (according to God, not Spike Lee). However we tend to go about such things halfheartedly. We give lip service. Just like most of us have never experienced true hunger or thirst, we aren’t really passionate about living Godly lives. The book of Revelation says “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth”. Yuck. That sounds rather unpleasant, but it can be avoided. God is happy…and He promises that so are we…if we have a sincere hunger and thirst for understanding His Word and knowing Him personally. In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John Jesus tells a Samaritan woman “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  Righteousness describes the nature of God – justice, truth, mercy, and love. So here Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst after…who deeply desire to identify themselves with…the nature of God.

 

It is extremely important to recognize a significant distinction made by Jesus. He says “blessed are those who hunger and thirstright after righteousness”…not those who are righteous. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to hunger and thirst for Him and for transformation into the fullness of His image and likeness. Implied in this blessing is an understanding that we are being challenged to commit ourselves to a process, a journey, an ongoing reaching out for the righteousness of God. This blessing comes with a promise that we will be satisfied, we will be filled, and we will be transformed by his Holy Spirit. Thus it seems that as we hunger and thirst to identify ourselves with God, God’s Holy Spirit will honor that desire, fill us and transform us. Matthew 6:33 instructs us to  “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. To thirst after righteousness means wanting to live according to God’s will instead of the world’s.

 

Both a physical and a spiritual appetite are normal for a healthy human being. Neither the body nor the soul is self-sustaining…both must be fed regularly. Just as physical hunger is a sign of physical health, so is spiritual hunger a sign of spiritual health. But while we instinctively understand that when we are physically hungry or thirsty that we need to eat food or get something to drink I am not so sure that we recognize or comprehend the spiritual appetite. Restlessness and longing are universal traits of the human heart. Gambling-The-Problemcollege-guys-drinking-300x200God has put eternity in our hearts and we have a wretched yearning. Many of us understand that there is something missing in our life…that too often we are unhappy, frustrated, anxious, unfulfilled, bored, angry, and discouraged. We try to solve those issues any number of worldly ways…spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need, climbing the corporate ladder, scenic vacations, accomplishments of creativity, stunning cinematic productions, national sports extravaganzas, illicit sex or pornography, drugs & alcohol, gambling, overeating, etc. But the longing remains. In Isaiah 55:2-3 we are asked “Why do you spend your laddermoney for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”, but then we are given the answer: “Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live.” Why is that so hard for us to grasp?? The very first Psalm says “Blessed smoking-man-300x262is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Yet in our humanness we shun the opportunity to prosper, mostly because we think that walking in the counsel of the ungodly and sitting in the seat of the scornful is a lot more fun. The 37th Psalm tells us that “a little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked, for the arms of the wicked shall be broken but the Lord upholds the righteous.” I think it’s that “little” part that is our downfall. We want more. We are too bullheaded to grasp the fact that most of the time that “more” is temporary. Proverbs 10:2-3 says that “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from Michael_Dudash_Living_Water_700death. The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish, but He casts away the desire of the wicked.” We’ve all been told that “you can’t take it with you”, and we get that on a physical level. When you die your fancy car, nice big house, and whatever else you’ve collected in your time here on Earth won’t be buried alongside your body. But we need to wrap our heads around the fact that there is something more important than those possessions that we enjoy so much…our soul. And while we can’t haul a boat or a fat bank account into the afterlife we will be taking along our soul. It says that the Lord will deliver the righteous from death. We have the opportunity to live eternally in a place that’ll be a lot more fun and way more awesome than anyplace we’ve ever lived or visited in this world. As my new minister might say “ain’t that cool??

Stay Tuned!!

The Fruits of the Spirit – Faithfulness

“What makes an authentic disciple is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter & verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection & ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses & relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots and wandered into a far county. Yet, they keep coming back to Jesus.” – Brennan Manning

 

 

 

fruitsThus far in our examination of The Fruits of the Spirit we have looked at love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and kindness/goodness/gentleness/meekness. And now we’ll take a closer look at what exactly God expects out of us in exhibiting the fruit of faithfulness. This one has been a long time coming and to be honest I’ve really struggled with writing what you are in the midst of reading. The words just haven’t come easily. I believe there is a reason for that. The other fruits we have discussed or will discuss (we will finish up with temperance…at some point) could…theoretically…be discussed on a purely human level. They are behaviors that deal with how we act toward ourselves & toward each other. Of course we know that from a Biblical perspective there is a deeper significance, but hypothetically we could be kind, patient, loving, etc. just because it’s the right way to treat people. However, being faithful is a whole new ball game. Why?? Because it deals with how we treat God. Faithfulness is authenticity, the power & motivation for Christian living. Faithfulness is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas the others are from the Spirit working in us. Faithfulness is both an attitude and an action shown toward God.

 

The word faithful means a variety of closely related things: loyal, full of trust, constant, steadfast, devoted, staunch, and firmly & resolutely sticking with a person, group, cause, belief, or idea without waver. These adjectives imply adhering devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one’s fidelity. Constant stresses uniformity and invariability. Steadfast implies fixed, unswerving loyalty. Staunch suggests unshakable attachment or allegiance. Biblically speaking faithfulness comes from the Greek word pistis, which at its root is about holding fast or steady. Pistis is considered one of God’s strongest personal characteristics. God is a covenant maker who is faithful to that covenant with us even when we don’t hold up our end of the bargain, which is all too often for most of us. Pistis was common Greek lingo for trustworthiness and is the characteristic of a person who is what we would call reliable. The Hebrew for faithfulness is emunah, which literally means firmness, figuratively means security, and morally means fidelity. Being faithful combines prioritizing what is important and being committed to those priorities. God wants to be the #1 priority in our lives and desires for us to remain committed to that priority. I don’t know about you, but in that regard I fail miserably.

 

I’ve never been to Yellowstone Park near the Teton Mountains of Wyoming. However, most Americans have heard of one of the park’s most famous features…the geyser known as Old Faithful. From what I have read about Old Faithful it isn’t the biggest or most powerful geyser, but it is the most reliable…the most faithful…erupting every hour or so. We tend to like our people as we like our geysers. Whether it is a friend, a spouse, an employee, or any other relationship humans engage in, we like to know who we can count on. One of the best abilities to possess is dependability. oldfaithfulTalented & smart are positive traits, but if a person isn’t dependable then those positives hold little value. Proverbs 25:19 says that “like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble.” I used to be a supervisor at a teleservices company and one of the biggest issues we faced was retaining dependable workers, because it didn’t matter how skillful folks were at their job if they didn’t show up for work half the time. Of course we seek exceptional skill & talent in almost everything, from sports, business, & entertainment to our personal relationships, but faithfulness…reliability, loyalty, and the ability to have priorities in their proper order…is a bedrock prerequisite that, at the end of the day, outshines everything else. Afterall, what good is marrying the prettiest gal in town if she’s just going to end up breaking your heart?? Obviously God understands that much better than any of us, because while we are oftentimes led astray by superficiality, glitz, false promises, & emotion, God doesn’t care about any of that silliness.

 

What God also doesn’t care about is our own shallow, worldly take on faithfulness. In the holiday classic A Christmas Story the narrator tells us that “Some men are Baptists, others Catholic. My father was an Oldsmobile man.” We all have a particular level of allegiance to certain things. My friend The Owl has knowledgeable opinions about who makes the best guitars and other assorted musical equipment. My friend Greg has manufacturers of photography equipment that he prefers. I have been a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers for almost four decades. All that is fine, but it must be understood that the kind of faith we are speaking of here goes much deeper and is far more FGN02medimportant. What we are dealing with is faithfulness to one thing and one thing only…God and His guiding principles. Without faith in God and faithfulness toward God nothing else matters. Even Confucius instructs to “hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” So why then does it seem to be so darn difficult for us to manage this first principle?? Faithfulness is based on what we value as important and our commitment to those things. We must love Christ above all else. If we are not willing to put Him before earthly possessions & earthly friends and obey Him above e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g else (including our own carnal desires) then our attachment to Him is tenuous at best. Faithfulness is love hanging on. It is love saying, “I will not quit. There may be misunderstandings, there may be disappointments, there may be discouragements, but I will not quit.” Being faithful requires personal resolve not to wander away from commitments or promises and requires trust in God. Humans can show a powerful capacity to be faithful to what we believe to be important, be it a spouse, friendship, employer, school, athletic team, or a brand of particular products. Where we often fall short is in translating that level of commitment & loyalty to God. Doubt, distrust and misplaced anger are the opposite of faithfulness, and they cause us to lose our trust that God is in control. When we are not exercising our faith we will be consumed with doubt & distrust. We use God as a kind of vending machine to get what we want then lose our patience with Him when things don’t go our way, but we have it all backwards. Proverbs 28:20 tells us that “a faithful man will abound with blessings.” In other words, God doesn’t have to prove anything to us…we’re the ones that have to prove our faithfulness to Him.

 

Deuteronomy 7:9 says to “know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Psalm 101:6 says that “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me. He who walks in a perfect way, He shall serve me.” In Matthew 24:35 Jesus says that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” Psalm 100:5 says “The Lord is good & His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations.” 2nd Timothy 2:13 says that “If we are faithless He remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself.” Jesus told His disciples before He ascended to Heaven that “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” Hebrews 13:8 instructs that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So you see God is faithful to us…always. All He asks is that we return the favor. But how??

 

We are studying the Fruits of the Spirit, right?? As I’ve mentioned, if we are doing things right we will bear visible fruit much like one can clearly see apples or oranges on a tree. If we are being faithful to God & His way there should be some proof.

 

Faithfulness means being selfless. Contemporary culture goads us in to asking “What’s in it for me? What are my needs, my ambitions, my desires, my goals, my hurts, my values, my profit, my benefit?” God says faithfulness is proven by giving our life away, by looking at others rather than concentrating on our own self. How can a person be faithful to God when he loves himself more treethan God? How can a person be faithful to God when his own gratification means more to him than pleasing God? We live in a world in which selfishness is promoted as the way to go. Television, movies, & music promote instant gratification – why wait, why deny ourselves, why sacrifice, why not go along with everyone else??? The occasion to sin, the incentive to do so and thus sin’s frequency & intensity are at their highest levels since just before the Flood. In other words, the environment to commit sin more easily grows ever more amenable, and human nature takes advantage of it. We have been born into an environment in which it is exceedingly difficult to remain faithful. Hollywood sells adultery & fornication as acceptable as long as the people involved are attractive and somehow oppressed thus “deserving” of a “better” relationship. We constantly hear, “Indulge yourself because you deserve it.” This isn’t really all that surprising. The apostle Paul saw this coming hundreds of years ago when he wrote in 2nd Timothy that “in the last days perilous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” But 1 John 2:15 urges us to “not love the world or anything in the world” because “if anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” Romans 12:2 says that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So when the world tries to persuade us to be self-centered and have a Me First attitude we need to remember that faithfulness requires the direct opposite.

 

Faithfulness means living by the correct values and making sure our witness has integrity. A faithful person knows what’s important and what isn’t important in life. A faithful person can differentiate the significant from the trivial and considers what kind of testimony they have with unbelievers. It is more important to ponder what unbelievers think about you and how they see you than what fellow believers think. Christians should have an impeccable reputation of being dependable and keeping their word.

 

Faithfulness means good stewardship. How you handle your money is a test because the way thattithe you handle your worldly wealth affects what God is able to do in your life. We spend all our lives earning & accumulating money, saving it, and spending it. If we haven’t been faithful handling worldly wealth, who is going to trust us with true riches?? One should always ask “Do I pay my bills on time? Do I live within my budget? Am I consistent in tithing? How does my giving compare with my spending? How does my spending compare with my saving?” Luke 16:10 says that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

 

Faithfulness means developing & using our gifts and talents. If you are not using the spiritual gifts God has given you people are getting cheated. Just because we can’t do the spectacular doesn’t excuse us from doing nothing. Faithfulness is based on what we do with what we have. The old hymn Victory in Jesus says that “He sought me and he bought me with His redeeming blood”. God has made an investment in our lives and He expects a return on it.

 

bible11350Faithfulness means obeying God’s Word. God defines faithfulness as obedience to the commands of Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:1 says that “Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” A Christian is responsible to be a good custodian of the truths God reveals and to minister these truths in a reliable manner to those who will be taught. But how are you supposed to obey something you know nothing about?? You’re going to have to become familiar with the instruction manual. Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

 

Faithfulness requires us to look inward and ask some difficult questions. How do I exhibit faithfulness in my daily life? What can I do to develop a better attitude of faith? What hinders faithfulness from working and being exhibited in me? How can I make faithfulness function better, stronger and faster even in times of uncertainly and stress? We all have our stumbling blocks. We all face temptation. Holding true to the course God has laid before us is difficult amid this world’s many alluring distractions clamoring for our time and attention. Being faithful necessitates identifying our weaknesses and overcoming them. Jesus tells us in Luke that “no servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” We must commit to God and make Him our priority. Easier said than done?? Perhaps. But an apple tree doesn’t stand out in the middle of an orchard prayer-end-of-the-age-intercessionsaying, “Now how do I develop apples?” An apple tree produces apples because that’s what apple trees do. And when we are Spirit-led Christians, when we are a branch attached to the vine who is Jesus Christ, then we produce fruit because it’s the natural thing to do. We don’t have to sit around & think about it & analyze it. We just have to be careful that our branch is never detached from the vine. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 implores us to “hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus, that good thing which was committed to you keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” Author Oswald Chambers said that “faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time”, and that is true. But the more we pray & study the more apt we are to understand. Actor & evangelist Kirk Cameron says that one should “Put your nose into the Bible every day. It is your spiritual food. And then share it. Make a vow not to be a lukewarm Christian.” We are pressured on every side to develop negative habits, tempted to be unfaithful in church attendance, in prayer, & in studying the Word of God. But if we prioritize and determine to serve God faithfully then people will be able to count on us. We’ll be consistent, trustworthy, & reliable. Hebrews tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We need to seek the Holy Spirit’s reinforcement in developing regular, positive, spiritual habits. We must cultivate these habits so that they become automatic. And when Satan tempts us, we can be prepared because we’ve grown the fruit of faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

My 2013 Lenten Non-Sacrifice

Ash Wednesday completely snuck up on me this year…came & went. I knew Easter was early (March 31), but I still wasn’t quite in that mode yet. To me Easter signifies spring, and since we just had a fairly significant snowfall here lentin West Virginia a couple of weeks ago my brain is still in the midst of the winter doldrums. Unfortunately I did not make it to the always lovely Ash Wednesday service at church a few days ago due to some untimely mechanical difficulties, and I am a bit tardy in publishing the present discourse, but hey…it’s a long season so we’ll just go with it.

 

At any rate Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent which is usually 40 days (give or take) before Easter. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a reminder and celebration of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. Lent is a time of preparation that symbolizes Jesus’ time in the desert where he was bibletempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13), the forty days & nights Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving The Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 19:1-25), the forty years the Jewish nation spent wandering in the desert, and the forty days & nights rains fell upon the Earth while Noah & his family were in The Ark with all the animals (Genesis Chapters 6-9). Forty is a very important number in The Bible, used by God to represent a period of testing or judgment. To that end it is traditional for Christians to make a sacrifice during Lent, which usually entails giving up a certain vice or bad habit that may be hindering our relationship with God.

 

For many years I did not fully embrace Lent. Sure I would go to church and participate in all the ceremonies & rituals, which since I am a Methodist doesn’t really involve all that much. But as with many other churchgoers who simply go thru the motions it really didn’t hold any type of significance outside the walls of the physical church building. However, citizens of The Manoverse will recall that I have mentioned on multiple occasions in the past few years my desire for a deeper, more genuine relationship with my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ and know that there has been an ebb & flow of growth, churchunderstanding, failure, and detours along the way. In 2010 I decided to make a true Lenten sacrifice, which meant giving up Facebook. And trust me…at the time it was a genuine hardship!! The following year I gave up fast food & chocolate. Again that may seem superficial to some, but honestly at that time those two things comprised the majority of my diet so it was difficult. In 2012 I was nearing the end of my year long sambatical from organized religion, a time that I regret but also appreciate because it was a necessary reset for many reasons. Since I wasn’t in church and still trying to sort some things out I didn’t choose any kind of sacrifice. I believe my running joke at the time was that I had given up church for Lent. Anyway, I returned to church right around Easter 2012  and have enjoyed the past 10 months or so.

 

In pondering potential sacrifices for 2013 God led me in a new direction. I am not exactly Mr. Excitement. My life is pretty basic and usually uneventful. That’s not a complaint because my lifestyle is a byproduct of my own choices, most of which I fully embrace or atleast no longer run away from. I didn’t want to make any kind of food sacrifice because I am already on a weight loss journey and have already lowered my intake of all those really good things that are bad for me. And there wasn’t really any other kind of sacrifice that seemed appropriate for a variety of reasons. As I pondered the issue I began to recall various things I have read and sermons I have heard wherein it was stated, in essence, that it is just as appropriate to add something for Lent as it is to give gregolsenup something. The whole idea behind Lent is to acknowledge that we fall short in our relationship with God and draw closer to him. I have done a lot of re-evaluating in the past few years and have stated my displeasure on multiple occasions with the superficial nature of the modern church, and it seems to me that Lent has become a perfect example of the problem. The Lenten sacrifice…for most folks anyway…has become nothing more than a sequel to meaningless New Year’s resolutions. If quitting smoking, giving up chocolate, or reducing your intake of booze & caffeine helps you develop a more meaningful relationship with God then by all means go for it & don’t let me stop you. However, I suspect that such removals are…most of the time…simply hollow acts of self-righteous vanity in which we all try to top one another with the level of our “suffering”. No thanks…not this kid. I want my relationship with God and my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ to have more depth. Your mileage may vary.

 

Having said all that what I have decided to do is refocus myself in a more dedicated effort to cultivate my relationship with The Lord. I feel like such an endeavor is a more positive way to approach Lent and something that won’t just last 40 days. Now lest you think that statement is too general…too “big picture”…I think there is a way that I can fit the task into the more rudimentary, more tangible paradigm most identify with Lent. One of the ways that I can palpably grow both my relationship with The Lord and my own depth of knowledge & understanding of things more profound than General Hospital, Double Whoppers with cheese, and Judd Apatow movies is by reading, studying, & writing. Sometimes I think that God really does have a sense of humor, and I have to smile sheepishly when I realize that after commenting at the beginning of the year that “I have an increasing hunger to write” and that “inspiration flows more steadily” the past 6 weeks have not been nearly as productive as they should have been. Sure I write superficial little ditties now & then, and that’s not always a bad thing. But The Manofesto is meant to be more than that. A year ago I promised a book-by-book look at writing-fountain-pen-400 (1)The Bible that I have yet to start. 31/2 years ago I started a series on The Fruits of the Spirit that is still incomplete. There are only nine of them for Pete’s sake…what is taking me so long?? Nearly three years ago I began a similar examination of The Sermon on the Mount that is still not finished. That is unacceptable. When I look at The Bookshelf section here and realize that I have only written 14 entries in four years I am ashamed. There was a time when I constantly had my head in a book. I don’t know what has happened as I have gotten older. There are dozens of books in The Bachelor Palace that I could write about and share my experience with The Manoverse. Therefore what I have decided to do for Lent is commit to adding atleast 6 entries each in both The Bookshelf and Values, Principles, & Truth sections here over the next 6 weeks. In practical terms that will naturally necessitate focusing my energy on reading & studying as opposed to wasting my time on more worthless pursuits. One of the  things I like about The Manofesto is that I feel a certain sense of accountability to the things that I publically proclaim, which is a good thing. I am not a disciplined person. I am single, which means I get up when I want, sleep when I want, eat what & when I want, and go where I want whenever I want to go. The only responsibilities I have are my job, my bills, & Rocco. While that freedom is kind of nice for the most part it also means that there is a tendency to become somewhat lazy & neglectful of other significant things. I want to use Lent as a launch pad to be more responsible to God, to the talents with which He has blessed me, and to the commitment I have made here at The Manofesto.

 

God bless you all and may you utilize this Lenten season to draw closer to God and improve your life as well.

The State of The Manofesto 2013

As a new year dawns it is once again time to take stock of things here at The Manofesto and make some plans for the future, or atleast the next several months.

 

2012 was a good year. I achieved some internal goals in relation to the site, and even more importantly I have found that I have an increasing hunger to write. Sometimes I’ll be at church or out running errands and just can’t wait to get home to write. That’s not to say that I Still-Life-With-Inkwell,-Quill-And-Bookscouldn’t be more productive or don’t endure funky little lulls where the words just aren’t coming to me, but I have found that those moods have evened out a bit more and inspiration flows more steadily now, rather than seizing me like some sort of fit of insanity only to be followed by weeks or months of malaise. I am fortunate enough to have a job where oftentimes I have time to write, which is a fringe benefit I am in a unique position to appreciate.

 

I have been pleased with several of the things we’ve gotten done here in the past year, but better things are on the horizon.

 

football-introducing-the-science_1The Pigskin Picks of Profundity were a lot of fun to do, even if my career in the prognostication arts won’t ever make anyone in Vegas quake in their boots. In the classic sports film Tin Cup Costner’s characters says that “sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you’re not good at them”, but I would argue that picking football games could legitimately be thrown into that mix as well. Next season the tentative plan is for my eldest nephew Zach to join me in a slightly altered, Siskel & Ebert-esque version of the PPP’s. I have no doubt he’ll smoke me like a Virginia country ham. We’ll also get back on track with the Winning & Musing feature, which has sort of been put on the backburner during football season because this site is supposed to be an eclectic cornucopia of ponderation and not specifically sports-centric.

 

Thinking_ManIn the “everything old is new again” department I have decided to bring back two old favorites. A couple of years ago I discontinued Random Thoughts, choosing to exclusively utilize Twitter for pithy contemplations of life. However, I have found that sometimes 140 characters just doesn’t cut it. There are times when I have something more to say, yet not enough to warrant a standalone entry. So I think what I would like to do is have a regular feature where I pontificate on various minutiae. The details are not concrete at the moment, but I’ll work it out soon. Do I have enough discipline to commit to a consistently scheduled column?? A year ago I would have leaned toward “no”, but I kept up with the football picks pretty good so I think I can expand upon that. Secondly, a feature that I quickly canned when I brought The Manofesto to WordPress from MySpace a few years ago was the Person of the Month. Again, at the time I just didn’t have the focus to maintain such an obligation, but I am confident it won’t be a problem now. It is likely that we’ll actually do two persons of the month…a good & a bad, or in pro wrestling parlance a face & a heel. I’ll have it all figured out by the end of January.

 

Back in November the Presidential election really kicked me in the gut. I was quite despondent for a few days and pretty much ready to throw in the towel. I’ll even admit that my faith in God was shaken. We all know that the Jews…aka Israel…are God’s chosen people, but let’s face it…we Americans have always fancied ourselves His special silver medalists. After the events of November 6, 2012 I am not so sure that is the case anymore. While I still believe that each of us can have a relationship with Him on an individual basis if we so choose, it is clear to me that God has lost His patience with our nation and has decided that if we want to head down the wrong path then far be it for Him to stop our descent.cross-and-flag And really, who can blame Him?? The United States began to marginalize God and push Him out of various aspects of life a half century ago, so we deserve everything we get. But, though The Great Experiment may have finally crashed & burned, life goes on and we just have to re-adjust our focus and pick & choose our battles. That being said, don’t expect to see much of anything political here for the time being. I have been refraining from posting political stuff on Facebook & Twitter as much as possible and don’t really have any desire to write about such things here. I had already backed off a bit for most of 2012, but now I think a wise strategy is wholesale retreat. I still retain my beliefs, but am well aware that I am a combustible engine in a hybrid world. If the majority of the country wants to engage in class warfare, yield to economic mediocrity, embrace “alternative” (i.e. abhorrent) lifestyles, sacrifice traditional values & American exceptionalism, and spend their lives with their hands out expecting Big Government to hold them gently & whisper softly in their collective ear that everything is going to be just fine then hey, who am I to argue?? I’ll still get up every day, go to work, enjoy my life as much as possible, and write thought-provoking pieces at The Manofesto…..just not about sociopolitical topics.

 

Speaking of God…

I did make my triumphant return to church last spring after a one year absence. I have embraced it as the social gathering that it has become and enjoy it on that level. If some spiritual enlightening trickles down in the process it is a lovely but unexpected bonus. The duty of developing a relationship with Jesus Christ is on me, not a bunch of very nice people who nevertheless pretend to be something A Bible studythey aren’t for a couple of hours every Sunday morning. As a matter of fact, I need to stop being one of those lukewarm dabblers myself. Having said that, I am fully aware that a year ago I stated that I was going to begin a Bible study here at The Manofesto and have not followed thru. I have been on the cusp of a breakthrough with that particular task on multiple occasions but for some reason the inspiration never fully materializes. I think the idea is of sufficient significance that it is worth waiting on God’s green light and not forcing the issue, but my intention is to get the ball rolling in 2013. We will also continue with both the Sermon on the Mount & Fruits of the Spirit series, both of which I have neglected.

 

The other primary focus here in 2013 will likely be The Bookshelf. My apartment is filled with books that I have either never read, half read, or would need to read again in order to intelligently express an opinion here because it has been far too long since I originally read them. Right now the plan is to concentrate on three authors: Shakespeare, Twain, and Dickens, all of whom I enjoy immensely. Since I genuinely believe that Shakespeare is best experienced in a live performance rather than in a william-shakespearebook, and since I live in a town whose idea of comedy is Honey 353L12408_6M43ZBoo-Boo and tragedy is when the last pack of cigarettes in a carton is gone, my plan is to find the best possible performance of each play on video and watch it in conjunction with reading the play. As with all of my other long term projects I may not finish until I am old, grey, & arthritic, but I’ll get there eventually. In addition to those three authors I am sure there will be a smattering of others…a little Bradbury, maybe some Steinbeck, and possibly even some Faulkner, Heinlein, or more Stephen King. I have some biographies & non-fiction books that might be worth writing about too. I am also going to dive into James Bond. I must admit that I have never watched a single one of the nearly 2 dozen Bond films, but not long ago I ran across a set of the original Ian Fleming books on eBay for a terrific price and snapped them up. I think they’ll be a nice little diversion from the tedium of the daily grind.

 

cropped-eaglecleanlogo.gifAs always these plans are subject to change, but I am pretty comfortable with the blueprint I have in my head. I would really love to see The Manoverse experience some significant growth this year and know that the first order of business in meeting those expectations is to provide a reason for people to want to come here to spend a few minutes of their browsing time each day. Folks are busy…jobs, kids, social obligations, etc. But I know that most people spend atleast a little while online on a daily basis decompressing from the pressure cooker, and I would love it if The Manofesto became a favorite destination for anyone looking to chill out & maybe learn something interesting at the same time.