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

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 5.14

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

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With Christmas Creep becoming ever so pervasive and Black Friday beginning earlier & earlier I want to take a moment to give kudos to some Thumbs_upestablishments who will NOT be open on Thanksgiving: Costco, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Marshalls, Pier 1 Imports, Burlington Coat Factory, Crate & Barrel, JoAnn Fabrics, TJ Maxx, Barnes & Noble, Sam’s Club, & Home Depot. I have no problem with restaurants being open on Thanksgiving because not everyone has somewhere to go and a family with which to celebrate with the traditional meal. However, I don’t think that retail shops should be open on the holiday.

 

 

 
jesusI get really tired of people yapping about Christians “ramming their beliefs down others’ throats”. Really?? Cite some examples. I suspect that most anything that would be used to illustrate the point would simply fall under the category of expressing opinions or stating principles, which last I checked was called free speech and not ramming anything anywhere. You don’t want to go to church?? Fine. You don’t even believe in God?? Okay. There will be some Christians who might want to discuss your views and try to show you the light, but again that is hardly forcing anyone to do anything against their will. Believe or don’t believe. Listen or don’t listen. It is your choice. What is really interesting is that the people who hurl these accusations at Christians are the very same folks who have spent the past few decades twisting themselves into knots trying to reshape America and shoving their beliefs…specifically about deviant LGBT lifestyles and abortion…down the throats of the populace under the seemingly hospitable guise of openmindedness, awareness, inclusiveness, multiculturalism, fairness, justice, & equality. And it has worked masterfully. They have skillfully created an environment in which Christians simply expressing Godly values is seen as hatred. Look at our nation in the 21st century vs. just 30 or 40 years ago. If this “fight” were scored like a boxing match in which points were awarded for legal reform and socio-cultural change it is the anti-Christians who would clearly be winning a unanimous decision. So tell me again…just who is shoving their beliefs down whose throats??

 

 

 
RIP Dallas. I loved the original show and was excited when TNT decided to air a reboot “next generation” series in 2012. I watched the first two jrseasons, with the second one including the death of JR Ewing (after the real life death of actor Larry Hagman) and its aftermath. However I admittedly didn’t watch one minute of season 3, and apparently a lot of other folks skipped it as well, hence its cancellation. It was a good long run encompassing a big part of the past 35 years. Everyone involved ought to be proud of the show’s legacy.

 

 

 
mansonCan we please stage an intervention for this woman who is planning to marry Charles Manson?? Obviously she has a screw lose, but she’s only 29 years old. There’s still time for her to get whatever help she needs and resume a normal life. But if she goes thru with it she’ll always be the crazy chick that married Charles Manson. Maybe that’s what it’s all about. We live in a celebrity obsessed culture where talentless people are often rewarded with a certain level of recognition by doing nothing in particular requiring any kind of skill. As a rather private person who prefers to fly under the radar I can’t relate to this desire for fame and sincerely believe we ought to stop indulging people. Getting rid of mindless “reality” TV would be a great place to start, as would denying this woman the opportunity to marry a man she barely knows, can’t possibly love, and with whom she can’t ever have a legitimate relationship.

 

 

 
I’ve been doing my best to stay away from political discussions this year, but I have to offer one opinion. If it were up to me the incoming Republican gopCongress would not have Rep. John Boehner & Sen. Mitch McConnell as their leaders. Been there done that. It’s time for new blood. Of course this won’t happen and the Republicans will destroy themselves from within as usual…just in time for 2016. I hope I’m wrong but I bet I’m not.

 

 

 
I ran across the following thread on Facebook recently:

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Original Post: When I see men post pictures with girls and I rejected them because they were perverted assholes who just wanted a hookup. I think to myself well there is a woman with low self-esteem who will have sex with anyone. Good for him.
Girl #1: Men r dogs
OP: Not all but the majority.
Girl #1: Like 80%
OP: I’m just happy they find what they are looking for.
OP: More like 95%
Girl #1: Most of them are not happy with themselves.
OP: Watch the YouTube video I posted last night. It is heartbreaking and shows men’s true character. Its call Bankok Girl.
OP: Men have way lower self-esteem than women and they are lazy.
Girl #1: True
OP: That’s why they like to humiliate and control women and call it dominance because they know they are not as superior as women.

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crazyWow…bitter much?? First of all, to equate prostitution in Taiwan with all men everywhere is idiotic. I don’t know Girl #1 but I do kinda sorta know the original poster a little bit and she has some legit reasons to be somewhat cynical. That being said, this level of resentment & scorn is disturbing. Yes men can be selfish. We can be juvenile horndogs. Too often we are motivated by the wrong things. But really ladies…is it that bad?? Are men truly that horrific?? And let’s talk about women. Y’all ain’t exactly perfect. The Bible says to take care of the plank in your own eye before judging the speck in another person’s eye. Look, I know women like to get together and whine & complain about men. Guys hang out and talk about women as well. That’s being human. But people should be very careful about what they put out there for public consumption. Both of the women involved in this conversation are…physically…quite lovely. I know the original poster is single…I’m not sure about her friend. But I wouldn’t date either one of them because as pretty as they might be on the outside their souls are ugly & damaged. Most of us have enough problems without becoming involved with a person who might secretly hate us and thinks we are lazy dogs with low self-esteem who enjoy humiliating & controlling others. I’d prefer to remain single.

 

 

 
An historic event has taken place at The Bachelor Palace. I am not a fan of bright overhead light, so when darkness falls across the land I have some bulblamps in my living room that I turn on each evening. A couple of them have those funky looking decorative bulbs, but the others use normal 60 watt incandescent bulbs. It is my understanding that environmentalist wackos have been successful in having incandescent bulbs go the way of 8 tracks, VCRs, floppy disks, & freedom of religion. I just had my last incandescent light bulb burn out, so unless I am mistaken the next time I go shopping I suppose I’ll have to purchase some of those ugly fluorescent things that I’ve been told don’t put out nearly as much light. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate change??

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.

The 2013 Sammy Claus Wish List

Boys & girls, first a healthy dose of the truth. Sammy Claus has really struggled to find the Christmas spirit in 2013. There are a variety of reasons for that…..a hundred mostly insignificant things that I won’t bore the masses with. Suffice to say that I haven’t always felt the presence of God in my life lately. Now let me be clear… I have never and will never doubt the existence of God. He is real. I have just had alot of questions recently about His role in my life. As usual though it was my friend The Owl who set me on the right path by reminding me that God is in control only if we allow Him to be, and that of course is the issue…..I have not truly let God be in control of my life. That needs to change…..and it will. Maybe we’ll dive deeper into that topic some other time. Now though it is time for the 5th annual Wish List. As always I must remind you that I have no particular power to make these wishes come true and can only hope that The Jolly One himself up in The North Pole is a citizen of The Manoverse and will see fit to help things along. Enjoy…and God bless us…everyone.

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Obamacare ocare

repeal

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Jimmy Fallon fallon

much success as he takes over The Tonight Show

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People who “axe” a question instead of “ask” one dunce

the strength & perseverance to put away those x’s and find their s’s and k’s – I know you can do it

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Speaker of the House John Boehner bn

a box of tissues and some testosterone

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Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Tomlin

a spot in the next cast of Dancing with the Stars

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Paula Deen deen

the last laugh

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Twitter & Facebook twfb

an “Are you sure you want to post this??” button and maybe a 10 minute waiting period

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NASCAR smoke

a new champion – Jimmie Johnson bores me

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Black Friday thanksgiving-turkey-dinner

a return to normalcy (whatever that means in regards to Black Friday) – let us have Thanksgiving back

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San Diego Chargers LB Manti Teo teo

a real live girlfriend

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Ben Affleck AffleckBatman

best of luck as the new Batman…seriously

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President Barack Hussein Obama & First Lady MeeShell “My Belle” Obama obama

an ounce of class

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Autocorrect texting

Extinction. It’s an unnecessary & faulty technology. If you don’t know how to spell you don’t need to own a smartphone.

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Alec Baldwin alec

anger management classes

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Dennis Rodman rodman

South Korean citizenship. Y’all can have him… he serves no useful purpose here.

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George Zimmerman zim

better decision making skills

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The Star Trek Franchise trek

an awesome new director now that JJ Abrams is moving on to revive Star Wars

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As has become tradition I shall end with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

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p class=”MsoNormal”>“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on SantaJesus764a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

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!!

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.

 

 

 

 

My New Identity in Christ

I’m going to break a few of my own rules today. First of all, I usually do not repost the plethora of little pictures with cute sayings or quotes that everybody puts on Facebook these days. Sometimes I’ll look at them and chuckle or agree with the insight espoused, sometimes I’ll devote a few seconds to mocking & derision in my own mind, and sometimes I’ll just plain outright ignore it in search of an original thought…but rarely do I share with the masses. I suppose it is my nod to non-conformity. However, sometimes I do come across something rather good that I feel needs to be spread to others and therefore happily do my part. Secondly, I am a big proponent of not doing all the heavy lifting myself. If you want to know what a particular Bible verse actually says I feel that it is important that you actually pick up a Bible and read it versus me spoon-feeding you the information. However, in this case not only have I done the work for you I have actually expanded upon the original verses given so as to provide context. The emphasis in bold is strictly mine. And finally, I have avoided, as much as possible, the ol’ cut & paste routine here at The Manofesto. The things I write are generally my own thoughts & opinions, with minimal research done just so I don’t come across as a complete idiot who has no idea what I am talking about. But in this case I feel as if this is something worth sharing here. Enjoy & God bless.

 

 

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.     Ephesians 1:3-14

 

God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.    Ephesians  2:4-10

 

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit. For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;  giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.              Colossians  1:3-15

 

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.   1 Peter  2:18-25

 

Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.     Romans  5:1-5

 

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.     Romans  8:1

 

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.          Romans  8:31-39

 

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. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.   Titus  2:11-15

 

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.    1 Corinthians  15:50-58

 

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters”, says the Lord Almighty.      2 Corinthians  6:14-18

 

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. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians  2:20-21

 

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.    Galatians  3:13-14

 

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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.   John  3:16-20

 

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?   1 John  5:2-5

 

Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.       Revelation  1:5-6

No God, No Peace – Know God, Know Peace

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.  –        Proverbs 16:7    

 

 

 

We last looked at The Fruits of the Spirit nearly one year ago and The Sermon on the Mount just short of two years ago. I have no valid excuses for these long stretches of writing easier, less provocative, more “casual” pieces while being so inattentive to two very important studies. However, today’s adventure in blogging will attempt, in some small way, to make up for lost time by combining The Sermon & The Fruits, as they intersect on a very important subject…peace.

 

Mahatma Gandhi once said that “peace is its own reward”, but what exactly is peace?? It is typically defined in a variety of closely related ways: freedom from war, harmony, agreement, calm, tranquility, serenity, quiet, undisturbed state of mind, absence of mental conflict, contentment, acceptance, and the absence of anxiety. However, to understand the Biblical meaning of peace we must first look at three other words.

 

The Greek word most often translated as peace is eirene, which means “joining what had previously been separated or disturbed.” It is frequently used to signify “setting at one, quietness, and rest.” It doesn’t just mean the absence of conflict but takes into account everything that makes for a man’s highest good. Thus, eirene also indicates inner satisfaction, contentment, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ & content with its earthly lot, and the serenity that derives from living a full life.

 

The Hebrew word charash means “to hold one’s peace”, quiet, silent, rest, and a few different nuances depending upon the context.

 

The final word we need to know about is shalom, one of the most significant theological terms in Scripture and therefore not at all unfamiliar to most Christians & Jews. Shalom has a wide semantic range stressing various shades of its basic meaning…totality or completeness…that include fulfillment, completion, maturity, soundness, community, harmony, tranquility, security, well-being, welfare, friendship, agreement, safety, rest, favor, fulfillment, and wholeness. Much like eirene, it implies that which makes for man’s highest good.

 

So we can see that, Biblically speaking, peace is much more than the absence of war. In its fullest sense, it expresses our hope of reconciliation and redemption that can only be found thru the blood of Jesus Christ. Peace cannot be achieved with drugs, sex, money, fame, power, food, possessions, or any of the other numerous ways in which we distract ourselves. None of those things work, and the evidence is abundant: divorce, substance abuse, ulcers & heart attacks, crime, and suicide. Romans 14:17 specifies that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 8:6 warns that “to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

 

President Ronald Reagan long ago opined that “a people free to choose will always choose peace.”, but is that really true?? Of course Reagan was using the word peace in the limited context of “absence of war”, and in that regard he was probably right. But using the Biblical interpretation of peace I have my doubts as to whether most people would purposely and enthusiastically choose it. We live in a society that mindlessly runs “the rat race”, eagerly “climbs the corporate ladder”, anxiously anticipates the latest ultra-violent movie or TV show, bashes God at every opportunity, actively promotes conflict in all aspects of life, glorifies deviant lifestyles that go directly against the will of God, and profits off the misery that results from all of this worldly strife by mass producing drugs that claim to cure all that ails us. Philippians 4:6-7 instructs us to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”, yet we all know people who are so mired in anxiety, misery, unhappiness, depression, and fear that they’ve forgotten how to be happy. Matthew 6:31-34 says  “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop once said that “a crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety”. Judging by the ample waistlines of the masses and the robust business for Xanax, Cymbalta, and Prozac I’d say we’re doing things all wrong.

 

The Biblical concept of peace is total and profound. Peace is much more than having a restful state of mind…it is our access point to the power of God. Without peace we are unable to implement our spiritual gifts and successfully do the work of God. It touches upon our relationship with God, with our inner self, with other believers, and with the world at large. We sustain peace with God by believing & trusting Him. We preserve peace with our fellow man by eliminating strife, discord, conflict, & dissension. We achieve peace with ourselves by refusing to live in guilt or condemnation and recognizing that God is greater than all of our sins. If a person is of a pure spirit, then peace tends to follow because a pure-hearted person is at peace within himself and is not self-centeredly seeking to impose their will on others. Self-righteousness leads to conflict. Conflict forces a fight-or-flight response. Peace is a dynamic experience of harmony that promotes total well-being. Peace is not passive, but rather is the product of God’s active involvement in our lives. Hebrews 12:14 tells us to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord”. 1 Peter 3:10-12 says “He who would love life and see good days let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Romans 14:19 advises us to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Peace is something to be sought after and pursued. Peace is NOT pacifism. Peacemakers confront issues thru the prism of God, while pacifists choose to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that evil does not exist. Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to handle it effectively.

 

Our first priority should be to find peace with God. C. S. Lewis definitively states that “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Those who delight in God’s law are blessed, but sinners experience misery & unhappiness, conflict & chaos, tragedy & heartache. The Bible connects peace with trust, meaning that when we trust God, His nature, and His plan we can attain true peace. It is when we try to figure things out on our own that we run into difficulties. 2 Corinthians 13:11 admonishes us to “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” Perfect in this context means “perfection in knowledge, grace, and holiness”. Of good comfort means “to encourage, advise, and pray for others”. So in order to obtain peace, we have to seek after God, grow in our faith, do for others, and live in harmony with others.

 

The Beatitudes tell us that “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” You may recall that “blessed” simply means “happy”. Therefore peacemakers will be happy. Notice it does not say having peace will make us happy…we must be peacemakers. Again, peace is an active, dynamic byproduct of a relationship with God. My Dad used to tell me that “winners make it happen, losers let it happen”. Too many Christians sit back and wait for God to do all the heavy lifting. It isn’t that God can’t do…well…anything & everything. He can. But remember…Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. It doesn’t say God will do everything…it says I can do all things through Christ. In other words, we have to put in some effort…the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears…and Jesus will provide the strength necessary for the task. My mother used to become incredulous about parents who would do their children’s homework for them. How were the kids supposed to learn anything?? She always told my sister & I that she would gladly help us but she would not do it for us. I believe that God wants us to meet Him halfway. We all know that one sided relationships don’t usually last. It requires a partnership of two people. God won’t just hand us peace on a silver platter…we must put forth the effort and build a relationship with Him.

 

Of course the question we humans tend to ultimately ask is “What’s in it for me??” We want to know that if we actually have to get up off the couch we will get something out of the deal. And you know what…God delivers. Only He doesn’t give us material things. Instead He provides wisdom, comfort, love, and yes…peace. We are promised the peace that surpasses all understanding (which in our humanness we, of course, try to understand).  James 3:17-18 says that “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy…the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” In the 1996 classic film Jerry Maguire the titular sports agent tells his wife “You complete me”. That’s what God does for us thru our relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says to “become complete, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace”, promising that “the God of love and peace will be with you.”

 

Jesus reassured His disciples before his…departure…that  “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Thank you Jesus for that awesome gift…if we would just take the time and make the effort to enjoy it.

 

 

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.