Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Devil in the Details...

I'm going to go a little of script on this one simply because it kind of blends into my other blog where in I talk about modern media.  I don't normally discuss television in this blog, but I felt this time I had to address something important.
Watching causal television for a Christian, and especially for a Catholic can be a mine field of temptation and depravity.  Without a doubt if you start scrolling through your channel listings you will find something that celebrates moral ambiguity, hedonism, any one of the seven deadly sins (probably all of them).  Prime time programing is a veritable kaleidoscope of everything to avoid as a devout follower of Christ and his church.

In a separate post I talked about the show “Preacher”, and now I want to look the broader spectrum of supernatural-faith based media.  Now a healthy portion of the spiritual elite will decry the show “Lucifer” as being poison for your spirit, and maybe they aren’t wrong.  Depending on how you take the show.

If you approach shows like “Preacher”, “Lucifer”, “Supernatural”, and many others like them for what they are; escapist entertainment, you should be fine.  Obviously these aren’t shows that you should let young children watch (Supernatural being the marginally safest of the programs), but adults and Christians need to approach them with a grain of salt.

Season 2 of “Lucifer” and Season 11 of “Supernatural” introduce a similar character into both of their respective self-contained mythologies; God’s female counterpart.

The concept isn’t that great of a leap from an Eastern religion point of view.  Many faiths around the world recognize a binary creation system, a balance of equal and opposite forces.  Good and evil, light and dark, above and below, and male and female.   This faith system stems from observing biology in the world as most creatures (humans included) require both male and female contributions to create life.  “Supernatural” introduces this system with presenting to the audience “God’s sister” who was presumably locked up at the start of creation because she was too powerful of an opposing force.  The angels in that series even acknowledge her, with one calling her “Aunty Amara”, clearing spelling out her sibling relationship to God.

“Lucifer” Season 2 spins it a different way, presenting the female counterpart as “God’s ex-wife.”  There is a basis for the female counterpart in ancient texts, going back before the split between Israel and Islam, but even still modern interpretations of both faiths exclude the “God’s wife” part.

Further confounding the concepts (setting aside briefly a binary god) is the fact that Christ is nowhere to be found in either show.  “Supernatural” makes the occasional reference to Christ, “Preacher” despite being centered around a Christian community never talks about Christ, and “Lucifer” never mentions him either.  These two concepts, the inclusion of an all but forgotten Eastern concept of a binary deity and the exclusion of Christ is extremely important for the Christian viewer because it sets down one basic rule you should remember before going into these shows…

These shows do not exist in your reality.

While that should be the “no-brainer” of no brainers, it’s important to establish that because too many people don’t take the time to study their own faith.  American culture is very much “spoon fed” when it comes to broader concepts of faith and history.  We know what we are told, but don’t bother to dig any deeper, and every body of faith is guilty of this.  The risk here isn’t that these shows will present the world with an alternative view of God or question God’s supreme divine authority over the universe.  The risk is that the average person will take fiction as fact. 

Both “Lucifer” and “Supernatural” pull heavily from Jewish lore, Islam, and a bevy of other religions, but tend to shy away from Christianity.  This explains Christ’s reduced or omitted influence in the storylines.  If Christ were to show up in either one in all his glory or actually be acknowledged as the way, the truth, and the light, it would up end the basis for the shows.  For “Supernatural” the whole point is that humans have to do everything, and there is no talk of salvation.  For “Lucifer” it would upset the whole dynamic and bring out the major question “If Lucifer didn’t like Hell, why not just ask Christ for redemption?”

Further, you have to look at the way they portray God in these shows.  He’s presented as absent and manipulative as opposed to a loving Father of creation, far from the omniscient and omnipresent deity Christians have faith in.  Essentially these shows do to God, what ancient Greek’s and Romans did to their deities…they made him human.  Human based deities are, just easier to write stories about.  They have faults, failings, desires, and make mistakes.  At one point in “Supernatural” God looks like he’s going to die.  The shows apply human rules to celestial figures because that’s easier for an audience to grab on to mentally, but that is not what Christians and Catholics believe.

As I said earlier these programs will pull from any random faith they can find to fill out their internal mythology and that’s important to remember, because they are cherry picking their background.  If you want to find out more about your faith, don’t tune into prime time television unless it’s EWTN.  Dig into scholarly works; talk with priests and deacons and RCIA instructors.  These shows are works of fiction and only serve the devil if you forget that specific point.

For more of my thoughts on "Preacher" click here.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Three Good Moments...

I was sitting at home last night, reflecting on my day.  I began to wonder…if I were to meet Christ himself right now and he said “I’m going to select three random moments from your day and we’re going to see how you showed the world my love.” what were the odds that he’d find three good moments?

Admittedly for everyone some days are better than others.  I mean I know what moments I’d want Christ to review with me…but what are the odds that out of 24 hours, those would be the moment’s he’d randomly select?  Not really in my favor.  We have great moments, each and every one of us.  We really do, and we can compare those great moments, measure them as great, because we have a lot of not so great moments.  Would He pick the times I was kind and generous to my fellow man, to my spouse, or to my children, or would he happen upon a time when I was short with them, where my frustration ran rough shot over me.

It’s a sobering thought, to be sure.  If you put every single moment of your day on a dial and spun it, where would that little arrow likely land?  Would your ratio be in favor of good moments?  If the idea of such a thing sends a chill down your spine, then you probably already have your answer.  If I were to look to the sky and say “Create in me a clean heart, oh God.” Or “Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice.” Would my next moment show that I was truly willing to accept that clean heart or show that I took that sacrifice seriously?  Accepting Jesus is not a casual thing, it is a day to day responsibility.  We are asked, through accepting Him, to show the world around us, starting in our homes, His love.

This past week we had an issue at home where in one of the children had a school project due.  It was due, the next day.  It had been assigned to him three weeks prior.  There was plenty of time between its assignment and its due date to complete it, but the child in question failed to tell us about it until the day before it was due.  Most, if not all parents know this scenario far too well.  The slapped together science fair project, the tri fold display board with whatever you could find plastered on there at the 11th hour, and the late trip to the library praying that the research gets done before they close and politely tell you to leave.  I recall a heavy as all get out volcano I smashed together the night before when I was in grade school. 

The thing is it’s amazing what we can do when we are under pressure, but imagine if we had more time to do it?  Imagine if we had taken the responsibility seriously and used the time we were given to our advantage.  Imagine what those projects would look like.

From the moment you accept Christ as your savior, regardless of your faith or denomination, your clock is starting.  You are given an assignment, and for the due date you have a question mark.  It could be due tomorrow, it could be due in 30 years, and it could be due in a hundred.  You will never know.  But if you take that responsibility seriously, just imagine what you could do in a day.  Just imagine what you could do in 30 years if you lived every single day like Christ was going to do a spot check on how you are doing.

Now I am going to clarify here because I am certain that somewhere out there someone will read this and say “You don’t do good works for brownie points with Christ.” And they would be right to say so.  We don’t do good works for brownie points with Christ, but as Christ is our example to emulate, we should value his standard.  If I had it in my head every day that Christ would be the one reviewing this work, not just some outsider looking in with no concept of where I am at in my life or where my head is at, but Christ the King of Salvation who knows what weighs on my heart, then I would want it mirror Him.  I would want His approval over my work.  “Lord, does this please you?”  Christ gave us a measuring tool.  “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your heart, and with all your soul.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That is your assignment, whether it be given to you at Baptism, at Confirmation, at RCIA or your rededication to the church, that is your assignment.

Over the past few weeks I have seen some glowing examples of “Loving your neighbors as you love yourself.”  In the wake of Hurricane Harvey body checking the Gulf Coast of Texas, I have seen an amazing outpouring of love in my community and in communities from around the state and from around the country.  There is no purer form of love then asking “What can I do to help?”  “What do you need?”  People have opened their homes and kitchens to those devastated by this storm.  When it looked like entire communities were crippled by this hurricane, surrounding communities opened up and said “It’s alright.  We’ve got you.”

There are some in my community right now that if Christ came to them and said “Let’s review three random moments…” the would have nothing to worry about because they took that call seriously, because every day those followers of Christ looked at the world they woke up in and said “How can I do better?”

It starts at home.  It starts by tending your spiritual garden by weeding out the garbage and sin and temptation that threaten to drag you down.  It grows in your home, where what once were daunting tasks now seem joyful sacrifices because you are tending to the things important to your family.  Then you carry that out into the world around you.  If you woke up today, it’s not too late to begin your assignment from God.  If you start right now, you will have way more than 3 good moments to look back on.


Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 21, 2017


I’ve been sitting on this for a few weeks now and, I really can’t explain why.  Maybe I was just waiting for a time when the thought itself felt more fully formed.  I don’t like writing off the cuff, it feels terribly unpolished, disjointed and scatterbrained.

Anyway, the point of today’s post is simple.  Do you use crosswalks or not?

My commute home from work takes me through the business district of Corpus Christi, Texas, a not terribly big city on the coast.  I take two streets, two left turns and a right, to get from my office to the highway and something I have noticed for a long while is that people don’t like to use crosswalks. 

I could easily assume that those of you reading this know what a crosswalk is, but erring on the side of caution, a crosswalk is a section of roadway, usually found at an intersection, where there is a white painted single column grid indicating to pedestrians that it is safe to cross the street at this location.  It’s usually denoted with “Walk/Don’t Walk” lights.

Now between my office door and the highway there are five crosswalks.  Yet for reasons totally their own, I see many people dart willy-nilly across the street like they are in a live action game of “Frogger”.  On the surface this can confound, because both pedestrians AND drivers know that by law, the cross walk is the safe spot to cross at.  But here we are, with people going to and from work launching them into a full sprint across the street.  The question now is “why?”

This behavior is indicative of the nature of humanity itself.  We instinctively want to follow the path of least resistance.  We want to acquire immediate satisfaction without the actual effort of working for it.  That’s why drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and gambling abuse is so prevalent in our culture.  People see them as a means of immediate gratification for minimal effort. 

In moderation these things are not bad.  When used properly within the scope of legal means, drugs are actually a good thing.  They can relieve pain during a difficult recovery process, but they become abused when the effect of the drug is used to supplant the recovery process.  Let’s say you undergo major surgery for instance.  The doctor prescribes a pain management medication to help you cope with pain while you undergo recovery therapy.  Recovery therapy, anyone will tell you, is not easy.  It can be a hugely difficult process that takes way longer than a five minute music montage, as popular cinema would have you believe.  So when recovery doesn’t present immediate results, there is a temptation to turn to that pain medication for relief.

In social situations, alcohol consumption can be good.  It’s okay to share a drink with friends after work occasionally.  But again, occasionally does not mean “every day”.  It doesn’t even mean “every Friday or every weekend”.  It means once in a while.  Could be once a month, a time for everyone to unwind and decompress.  Alcohol hits parts of the brain that makes you feel good, and people want to go back to that good feeling.  The problem is that the feeling can feel so good, that it starts to make the stress of work or at home look harder than it actually is.  So the inclination is to cut across that street back into alcohol to get back to the good feeling.  This starts to upset the balance significantly where seeking that good feeling of alcohol is actually making the stressors worse because you aren’t taking the time to actually deal with them.

Gambling.  Again, in a strictly social construct, it’s fine.  You can go to a casino to have some fun with friends, maybe gain a little bit of money in the long run.  I’ve heard it said though, that the worst thing you can do in gambling is win.  That’s because that triggers a whole new set of senses in your brain.  That feeling when you get your paycheck at the end of your work period, that gratification you feel for being rewarded for your hard work?  Yeah, that, only without the stress of actually working for it.  All of the sudden you have a means to feel that rush of winning with minimal effort.  The problem now is that you don’t always win.  In fact, more often than not, you don’t win.  But you want to gain back that feeling of winning so you keep playing, spending more and more time and money into an institution that has promised you and owes you nothing.

A gambling win, time available to spend with friends, medical science, these are blessings from God.  God has graced us with these gifts to help us in a difficult world.  But when we rely on this above the work God has called us to, we turn these blessings into self-appointed curses.  God did not curse these institutions; we let the Devil tell us that it was easier to abuse them than to do the hard work.

But how do drugs, alcohol, and gambling relate to crosswalks?  It’s the principle.  The risk of avoiding the work to gain the reward is unbalanced.  Darting across the street offers the same sense of satisfaction as getting high or drunk or riding that winning bet.  Is risking getting hit by a car worth avoiding the thirty or fifty feet you’d need to walk to across the street safely?  Most of the people I see do it don’t seem to even think about it, it’s action without thought.  When they first tried it, it worked without incident.  The second and third time, again without incident.  They could dart across that street fifty times and not get hit by a car.  You might abuse drugs or gamble or get drunk fifty times without incident.  But what happens when you lose more than you were willing to risk?  When getting drunk or high turns into something more important than your responsibilities?  When you can’t pay your bills because you were banking on that next big score?  When you dart across that street without even thinking, or noticing the car who didn’t see you?

Work vs Risk.  Which will leave you more satisfied when you get your reward?

As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Who Are You Willing to Pray For?

A lot of times in our lives, especially as Christians, we find ourselves encountering people who may be in times of trouble, and some who will actively ask “If you could please pray for me?”  Usually we count these folks among our friends, close acquaintences, or co-workers.  But would you pray for a stranger?  Would you pray for someone who hurt you?  Could you pray for an inmate?

Today’s (May 2, 2017) scripture reading is Acts 7:51-8:1

Stephen said to the people, the elders and the scribes: ‘You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? In the past they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers. You who had the Law brought to you by angels are the very ones who have not kept it.’

  They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

  But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep. Saul entirely approved of the killing.”

Now, previously I’ve talked about Jesus’ famous prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  This is one of his final words before dying on the cross for our sins, and this act calls for us as God’s children to unilateral forgiveness. But this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God we are talking about.  Forgiveness is what He does; it’s easy for him…right?

What about Stephen?  We see here Stephen standing up to the people of the day, despite the fact that they CLEARLY didn’t want to hear it, and was stoned to death for his witnessing the Glory of God.  That is to say he was brutally murdered, bludgeoned to death with rocks.  Not “a rock”…rocks, this took a while.  You can imagine the pain he was experiencing, even as he called for the Lord to not hold their sin against them.

Where I work right now, we have over a thousand inmates, all of whom have been accused, some found guilty and convicted of some pretty hard crimes.  We are talking murder, robbery, abuse, sexual assault of children and so forth.  Could you pray for them?  Could you stand there and ask God not to hold their sins against them?  Could you look at the man convicted of sexually assaulting a child and say “I forgive you.” And stand as his advocate before the throne of God?

It’s hard.  We have anger for that kind of thing; we have an intolerance of these heinous crimes.  Imagine the worst crime committed by someone against you, whether it is an actual criminal offense or rather a social infraction; now imagine forgiving them.  But that’s what God calls us to do.  Stephen’s example is proof that we as mere mortals can do this.  We can forgive, we should forgive, and further we SHOULD pray for those who have sinned against us.

Your prayer doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be just as simple as Stephen’s.  If you want to get into more detail, you can, that’s well within your right.

Now that doesn’t mean you are wiping the slate clean before the throne.  We can forgive, but a priest, absolves sins. 

“Absolve: to set (someone) free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt”

“Forgive: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)”

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Our forgiveness, while not wiping the slate clean before the throne of God, does go a long way to make a case for someone with Christ.  Further, it releases our own hearts from the burden of resentment.  You know what it’s like to carry a grudge against someone, how that weighs on you.  What if Stephen, or Christ, had decided to hold grudges rather than crosses? 

So please know this, if you carry something on your heart, at least know that I forgive you.  I can’t set it right, but I can stand there and say “Lord, Heavenly Father, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, please do not hold this person’s sin against them.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

About Prayer

It’s been more than a little bit since I’ve posted anything here, and that’s just because I’ve been really, really busy.  That happens.  My journey through faith is still continuing, I just haven’t had a real opportunity to update you faithful followers.  So today I want to talk about something very specific:


Now, I’m not going to go into what I pray about, that’s between me and God.  Rather I want to address how to approach prayer. When we pray, we are entering a direct dialog with God, we are going to him with our concerns, our wants, and our needs.  If you find yourself confused on how to start off praying, if you’ve never really prayed before, don’t worry, Jesus himself gave us a template in Matthew 6:9-13

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]

    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’”


If that reads as very familiar, it’s because most churches pray this, the Lord’s Prayer, at least once per service or mass, because it is pretty spot on.  I won’t break it down for you, that’s more for something like RCIA to cover, but it is sufficient to say that if you don’t know what to pray, start here.


More directly I want to talk about how to approach prayer.  Hopefully you’ve either gotten a chance to read the book or see the film “War Room”.  If you haven’t I encourage you to talk the time to check it out.  Now the basic premise of the “War Room” is that is brings the suggestion of having a space somewhere in your home dedicated exclusively to prayer.  I fully support this, however I’ll be the first to admit I have no such space in my own home.  So in order to compensate I talked with my wife and we decided instead to keep “War Journals”. The idea is the same, we write down things that we think need God’s intercession on and refer to them when we go into our times of prayer.  The “War” is the spiritual warfare that we are conducting against evil in the world. 


Whether or not you have a prayer room or a prayer journal, the second part is more important, and that is dedicating time to prayer.  I mean DEDICATE time to prayer, not fit it in where you can, if you can.  No, you need to make a decision that you are going make that time just for your relationship with God.  For me, this is when I first get up, after my shower.  I usually spend 5:30am to 6ish, sometimes a little after, in prayer.  Its…not always easy.  I struggle sometimes, but I try.  We have four kids right now, three of which are little, but its important to make that time for the Lord.  If they are awake, I’ll take care of their immediate needs, and then they can join me in prayer.  Or they can watch cartoons in the other room.  It’s a pretty even split when it happens.


So, we have our prayer, we have our things to pray on, and we have our time to pray, what else could you possibly need?


How about the mindset to start praying? Often, when we approach God, we do so with our needs as our focus.  It makes sense, that’s what we want/need and that’s where our head is going to be at.  But I caution you against going from this ego-centric starting point, because while God understands and respects your needs, wants, and desires, He also is looking at a much, much bigger picture.  A good case in point is praying for a new job.  Happens, I think, to all of us at some point.  We find ourselves in a situation where we need to examine our finances and find we are falling short, not to mention we are miserable in that job so we pray “Lord, give me a new job to better pay my bills.”


So your bills aren’t getting paid, that’s legit, but are you balancing your budget properly?  Are you being a good steward with your financial blessings?  You should examine that before you get bent out of shape because you didn’t get that raise. You are miserable at your job so you want a new one?  That’s fair, but how are you approaching your current job?  Are you a good and faithful employee?  Are you kind and courteous to your co-workers?  Or are you acting miserable and bringing the moral of the work place down.


Often God doesn’t put us where we want to go, He puts us where we need to be.  When you approach God about finances, you may not get a “new job” but rather direction on how to make ends meet by extending on your current circumstances or capitalizing on some previously unused talents.


Basically don’t get upset if you don’t get astraight answer right away.  God knows what He’s got in store for you.


Lastly, as you do your personal reflection before praying, look at what it is you really need.  Go to the Wedding at Cana, for instance.  The servants at the wedding went to Mary, explaining they were running out of wine fast.  They identified the immediate need.  The thing is, that had always been the problem, they didn’t have enough wine to start with.  The manager of the servants (there’s always one) should have been looking at the people coming in and if he’d done just a little math would have realized a lot sooner that they were going to need more wine.  So now one person’s lack of preparation or adapting to a situation became an emergency that could have shamed a newly wedded family.  When the need was identified, they turned to God.


We talked about this not long ago in RCIA and one of my instructors said that “God needs you to tell Him what you need…” and I agree with that up to about 75%.  God is fully aware of the needs of his children. Christ at the wedding for instance wasn’t shocked that the wine was running out, because being God he knew.  He knew before the servants knew.  He knew before anyone got up that morning.  God knows what you need.  But before you can go to him in prayer, YOU have to know what you need.  You have to examine yourself and determine where you need God’s help. That’s a big part of it because that is a humbling experience, to need something from someone else.  We like to want, we hate to need.  We like to say “I want a new car because this one is a little old, and the engine knocks around a bit, and I have to do an oil change and new tires and…” but we hate it when our car is smoking on the side of the road and we need the grace and mercy of someone outside ourselves.  We want a new job, because it can be stressful to stretch finances and make cuts, but we hate to need a new job because our car got repossessed and we are skipping meals and dealing without light or water until the next check comes.


God knows what you need.  Are you ready to talk to Him about it?

Friday, February 17, 2017

On Reconciliation...

In any journey of faith we take moments down long, winding roads of self-examination, and these times are extremely important because it helps put us in a head-space to really think about our relationship with God.  Part of that journey is reconciliation.

But what are we reconciling with God about?  I mean, what has caused this rift between us and the Father?  Well that would be sin.  But then there is that ever present question of what exactly is “sin”?

Sin, in broad terms, is any action you knowingly take or refuse to take that puts you at odds with God’s plan, will, and commandments.  We really don’t have the time or the space to dive into all the different types of sin out there, nor do I feel particularly qualified to do so.  Instead I’m going to shore it up with the root of all sin, the center of sin.  “I”.

When you look at the very word “sin” the center of it is “I”, and that really establishes a foundation for understanding sin.  When you go to confession, you can’t talk about what everyone else has been doing, you can only hold accountable yourself.  “Forgive me father, for “I” have sinned.”  When we sin, we are placing ourselves, our wants and desires, above what God has intended.  We love ourselves more than we love anything else.  When we sin, it’s an egocentric action, regardless of what the particular sin is.

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden.  Original Sin, as we understand it, is Adam and Eve taking the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, eating it, and becoming aware of basically everything.  You’ve probably heard this story a thousand times, but let me offer you a different perspective:  There wasn’t anything special about that tree.  Think about the command in Genesis 2: 17: “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  Now, in Genesis 3:6 “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

Notice what didn’t happen?  They didn’t drop dead.  They ate from the tree, and in doing so came to the realization that they could make their own choices, and started coming to imperfect conclusions about the world around them rather than relying on God’s instruction.  They placed themselves before God, the ego, the self, became more important, and that is when they lost their way.  God placed the commandment “do not eat of it, or you will certainly die”, but that was an outcome, a result of their decision, not an effect of the act.

Let me unpack that last part, there is a difference between the action and the decision to act and sin is a choice.  You have to make a decision whether or not to sin, whether or not you are going to place yourself ahead of God.  Exodus 20:3 plainly states “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Now, in an era of polytheistic societies, that means you worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Period.  God comes first in the line of priorities.  Christ himself expands on this in Matthew 22:37-38 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.”

If you love something with all your heart and soul and mind, then you love it more than you love yourself.  That is a very tall order, but there it is.  Sin is placing God anywhere beyond #1.  So, regardless of what your personal sins are, they are all derivatives of placing yourself ahead of God.

                Now that we have identified what sin is, we can actually start looking for reconciliation.  God is a God of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and he is always wanting us to come home.  A perfect illustration of this is “the Good Shepherd”, where Christ is carrying the lamb on His shoulders, bringing it home.  That is what Christ has been trying to do, He’s trying to bring us back to the Father, back to Paradise, and we need him to do that, because if we try to figure it out for ourselves, then we are going right back to placing ourselves ahead of God.  So how do we reconcile this?

Well, if you’ve been reading this far, the answer should be pretty straight forward.  We need to start by placing God ahead of ourselves.  That’s the “how”.  When we find ourselves tempted, either by our friends, our family, our addictions, the pleasure centers of our brain, or the devil himself, then we need to examine the action and ask “Is this pleasing to God?”  Years ago I was working with a gentleman and he asked me “Hey Michael, would it be ethical if I…” and I stopped him right there.  I said “If you ever have to ask “would it be ethical if I did this…” the answer is probably a resounding “no.””  The same applies here.  If you have to ask if something would be pleasing to God, the answer is probably going to be a resounding no.  If something is pleasing to God, we know that pretty much right off the bat, it’s kind of a gut instinct for the most part.  That’s not to say it’s easy, and I highly recommend reaching out to a pastor or a priest or an accountability partner or someone to get a second opinion if you ever find yourself confused.  When in doubt, pray it out.

Now WHY do we need to reconcile with God?  Because, in short, we’ve severely damaged our relationship with him.  Our sin caused our divide from him.  Our continued sin required the sacrifice of Jesus to atone for sin, and our continued sin spits in the eye of Christ every time we do it.

That’s a hard truth right there, because a lot of times we like to gloss over sins by saying “well I’m not really hurting anyone.” But no, we are hurting Christ when we do this.  Further we are damaging our relationship with not only God, but those around us.  So reconciliation is very important.

Many, many years ago, while my grandfather was still alive, my father was looking through the local newspaper and saw that an elderly woman with our last name had passed away.  Our last name is not common in our area, so he reached out to my grandpa and asked if he knew who this lady was.  Boy did he.  My grandfather said that, when he was about to ship out for the army in WWII, he was going around to various friends and family saying his final goodbyes, just in case he didn’t make it home, which you can imagine had to be a very sobering time.  He arrived at this family members house and saw a copy of “Mein Kampf” on the table, (the autobiography of Adolf Hitler) and various Nazi party paraphernalia around the house.  He was understandably upset and told her as much in probably a very loud and colorful way.  He then reported her to the FBI, and that was the last we heard of her until the day my dad read her obituary. 

On one hand this story serves to illustrate the fractioning war and choices can have on a family.  Obviously at some point in their shared history, this person meant a lot to my grandpa, enough that he wanted to tell her goodbye.  So to have this massive rift between the two, to the extent that the greater portion of her extended family had no idea she even existed, that is a devastating thing.  I calculated it out, that was fifty six-ish years.  Over five and a half decades of no communication.  Five and a half decades of missed weddings, of missed birthdays, of anniversaries, reunions, funerals, celebrations of life, landmark events that were lost because of choices made in the heat of the moment.

Yes, being a Nazi sympathizer is no small thing; neither is being reported to the FBI.  But no one can say how she would have viewed the Nazi party during the run of WWII, a month later, a year later, ten years later.  It could have been the very next day she opened her eyes and renounced the party all together, but we’ll never know.  In her defense, had it not been for WWII, Hitler would have been remembered by history as a great leader.  He was Time Magazine’s man of the year prior to the war.  The man she was defending wasn’t declaring a holocaust on humanity; he was the man who revitalized her nation of origin, a place she felt very strong emotional ties to.  She might not have known, and for her ignorance was condemned.

When God became man, in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, he sought to reconcile with us.  He walked the world from our point of view, saw the whole of humanity and understood on a fundamental level what it is we go through.  He understands why we make the choices we make.  Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners not to condemn them but to show that God understands, and still wants us to come home before it’s too late.  He wants to carry us on his shoulders home.  In order to do that, we need to walk in his will and turn our back on sin.  Nobody said it would be easy, but that’s why we have the church and confession.  The Gospel is not about condemnation, but the fulfillment of a promise of father to his children.


Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Are You “Okay” with “Not Being Okay”?

On the surface, it comes across as a rather pedantic question.  Obviously if you aren’t “okay” then you aren’t “okay”, however the issue can be far more complex than that.

There is no dispute that in the scriptures Christ flipped the societal scales.  He dined with the less-than-reputable people in the land, the tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners.  But there is an important point there that a lot of folks get confused on: his tolerance of their life style wasn’t acceptance of their lifestyle.

We need to break it down:  to tolerate something is to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference”, while to accept is to “believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct”.

Google Dictionary

I want to highlight one specific part in the definitions: tolerate “something that one does not necessarily like or agree with” and accept “recognize as valid or correct”.  These concepts are not synonymous; they don’t mean the same thing.  You can tolerate something without accepting it; you can be “not okay” with something.

What brought this about was, my wife and I were watching “Sister Wives” the other night and, while that in of itself is a whole other can of worms, the episode in question dealt with this this family dealing with one of the daughter’s revelations that she was a lesbian.  Her biological mother, Meri, in the episode kept going back and forth during the interview sessions stating that she was concerned that her daughter felt that she (the mother) was “not okay” with her being a lesbian.  If you watch the episode its pretty clear that, deep down she’s not okay with it.  My wife pointed out “it doesn’t really matter if you’re “not okay” with it.”  She stated that it was something that has happened and there it is.  Like it or not.  What I noticed in between the interviews and the footage from their home was that no, she was clearly not okay with her daughter being a lesbian, but more, she wasn’t okay with herself not being okay.  That is what is going to cause some problems.

Society, the world, has us wrapped up in expectations for our responses.  It’s a very “like it or not” world we live in, and if we DON’T like something we are made to feel lesser about it, like we are the one with the problem.  “I’m gay, and if you don’t like that, you have a problem.”  “I use drugs, and if you don’t like that, you have a problem.”  “I’m getting an abortion, and if you don’t like that…” you see the where this is going.

But where the world is demanding we accept something, we have to understand that Christ called us to tolerate, not accept.  We do not have to like it, and we need to be okay with not liking it.  We need to be okay with not being okay.

If you have a friend who is overweight and you know their health is failing due to their weight issues, it’s okay not to be okay with that.  You can “not like” the situation, but still be their friend.  You can tolerate the situation for the sake of the person.  You absolutely do not have to accept that they are overweight, and when you pretend to accept something you are not okay with, you are placing an unnecessary conflict within yourself.  When everything in your head is screaming “You need to lose weight or you will die!” but on the outside you are silently watching them kill themselves, you are not doing them a favor and you are hurting yourself to boot.  If you acknowledge that you are not okay, then you can stand as someone trying to help them out of their situation.

Going back to Jesus, he tolerated their situations for the sake of the person.  He said “I love you, but you need to fix this situation.” And that is love.  Love isn’t accepting someone’s lifestyle unquestioningly, its understanding and tolerating, in the hopes that together you can help them fix the rougher parts.

Going back to Meri and her daughter: she can be “not okay” with her daughter being a lesbian, which is perfectly acceptable and not unfounded.  The LGBT lifestyle has a lot of dark roads around it, and there are two ways people go down these roads: When their families don’t accept who they are, and when they are too accepting of what they do.  Meri’s daughter is a lesbian, and there’s nothing she can do about that, but she can be there as a supportive parent, tolerant of the dynamic, but still not okay with it.  By being there, she can help keep her daughter from the darker paths of the LGBT lifestyle.  She can say “I don’t like the path you are on right, now, but I will walk it with you in the hopes that you don’t get hurt.”

That is love.  Love is not wanting someone to get hurt, and not wanting them to hurt themselves.  Love is patient, understanding and kind.  Love understands that there were things in that person’s life that led them to this point, but love also wants to change trajectory to something that heals.

Now I’m not saying that homosexuality, obesity, and drug use are interchangeable, they aren’t. Each one is its own thing, but they are all something that you can be “not okay” with.  But before you decide you are not okay with something, you may want to pray on it and determine WHY you aren’t okay with it.

I think we’ll cover that another time.


Thanks for reading, and God bless.