A SIN PROBLEM WITH A JESUS SOLUTION

All in all, after everything has been examined and argued, dissected and debated – whether in matters of war and peace, religion and politics, gender and race, crime and justice, health and education, economy and environment, marriage and family, pride and prejudice, gossip and greed, arrogance and ignorance – it all boils down to this one thing: we have a sin problem with a JESUS solution. So until we get this right, and until He returns to make everything right again, we will continue to live in this world of hurt.

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SHAMEFUL CHARACTER

“In all tests of character, when two viewpoints are pitted against one another, in the final analysis the thing that will strike you the most, is not who was right or wrong, strong or weak, wise or foolish…. but who would go to the greatest lengths in considering the other’s perspective.” ― Mike Dooley

I find the current political process to be disheartening. The presidential candidates treatment of one another (in both parties) is shameful – a continual barrage of belittling, degrading, and insulting each other. When children act this way at home or school they are immediately disciplined; when employees exhibit such conduct in the workplace they are written up or terminated; and when this type of behavior is demonstrated out in the community people are often ticketed or arrested.

So why do we put up with this when it comes to politics? Why is some of the worst behavior tolerated by those who are supposed to be our most esteemed public servants? And why do we the people accept this, applaud this, and endorse this week after week as it is aired over national television.

This is absolutely shameful and so is our approval of it. Shouldn’t the current and upcoming President of the United States, as well as every other public servant at the federal, state, and local levels, represent the best of character and attest to the highest virtues of humanity? Yet, where is compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience being displayed by these candidates? Where is common courtesy? Where is the ability to disagree without becoming disagreeable? Instead, we have name-calling, mud-slinging, and party-bashing. A shameful demonstration of character, yet nobody seems to care.

Don’t all of us have better things to do, and don’t these candidates have jobs to attend to? Just think if all of the money, time, effort, energy, and hot air being spent on campaigning (and the reporting of it) were used to help hurting people in our nation and around the world? Certainly a great deal of good would be done, rather than this nonsense.

 

 

BETTER GENERATIONS

In 1998 Tom Brokaw released a book titled The Greatest Generation, that tells us about the generation of Americans who grew up during the Great Depression, and then fought in and/or contributed from the home front, in World War II. Though I haven’t yet read this book, I agree with Mr. Brokaw that this was (and is) a great generation which accomplished much. What stands out most to me is at the core of who these men and women were (and still are for those living today) was a true willingness to make sacrifices and go without, to share and direct resources where they were most needed, and to voluntarily serve one’s country and community for the greater good of all. Sacrifice, sharing, and service – three characteristics best expressed in the life of Jesus Christ.

But, by enduring so much through an era of depression and then war, these men and women from The Greatest Generation didn’t do the rest of us any favors in one aspect – for they vowed that their children and grandchildren “will have it better than I did” – and this declaration, I believe, is where many of our problems today stem from. Though it sounds wonderful in theory, the results have been disastrous, because “better” has erroneously equated to mean “easier,” and as we now see, “easier” doesn’t turn out “better”. For in wanting their children and grandchildren “to have it better than I did,” each succeeding generation has had more and more given to it, with less and less expected from it. Thus, every subsequent generation has received a lesser degree of parenting as well.

Here are four different versions of two verses from The Bible on the topic of parenting:

 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6 (King James Version)

Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.  Proverbs 22:6 (Good News Translation)

 Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.  Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

 Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.  Proverbs 22:6 (New Living Translation)

 

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.  Proverbs 13:24 (King James Version)

 Those who don’t correct their children hate them. But those who love them are careful to correct them.  Proverbs 13:24 (New International Reader’s Version)

 If you love your children, you will correct them; if you don’t love them, you won’t correct them.  Proverbs 13:24 (Common English Version)

 A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.  Proverbs 13:24 (The Message)

 

Effective parenting requires training, teaching, pointing, and directing; it also includes lots of correction through loving discipline. Unfortunately, when parents decide that their children and grandchildren “will have it better than I did” it often ends up like this:

Not saying “No”, “Don’t”, “Stop It”, “Knock It Off”, “Quit That”, “Cut It Out”, “Wait”, etc…

Giving in to all wants (which soon turn into demands);

Rewarding all “participants” as well as not keeping score to determine the winners and losers in anything;

Excusing inappropriate behavior;

Ignoring a lack of manners;

Foregoing common social courtesies.

 

As Proverbs 30:15 (The Message) states:

A leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” Three things are never satisfied, no, there are four that never say, “That’s enough, thank you!”— hell, a barren womb, a parched land, a forest fire.

 

Since WWII, we have produced multiple generations of children who cry out “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” Thus we have millions of spoiled brats and crybabies in our society who have entered into adulthood and run into roadblocks, because they have never had to wait for or work toward anything in their lives, nor have they developed the ability to think and speak intelligently for themselves. Now, as adults, they are unable to discuss and debate important life issues, so instead they call foul, cry victim, and play the “hate” card. They accuse, attack, and attempt to silence those who disagree with them, and continually jump from bandwagon to bandwagon in their support of popular causes endorsed by celebrities and perceived “social victims.”

Compounding this has been the ever increasing divorce rate over past decades, that is now around fifty percent. Think about it – at least half of all men, women, and children in the United States are products of at least one broken family unit, which carries varying levels of emotional and relational baggage. Parenting is difficult enough in homes which have never experienced a divorce, but after divorce occurs everything becomes more complicated for an infinite number of reasons. This isn’t to place blame, just to state the facts of a situation that has greatly contributed to our current state of affairs, as divorce is usually accompanied by things like guilt, fear, confusion, misunderstanding, struggle, bitterness, pain, etc…, and often leads parents to give more and expect less from their children.

Of course, at the root of this is our broken human nature. The more we have handed to us, the less we appreciate it, the less we care about it, and less gratitude we show for it. Getting something for nothing breeds contempt. It produces disrespect for ourselves, as well as for those who give us what we know we don’t deserve and haven’t earned. Deep inside we realize there is something wrong in not having any of our own “skin in the game”, but we are too under-developed and undisciplined to do anything about it.

Having it “better” (easier) has cut short the critical character-building required to produce offspring who are as honest, hardworking, committed, disciplined, and responsible as those from The Greatest Generation were (and are). By having it “better” (easier), most of us have no clear concept of what sacrifice, sharing, and service even mean.

Today, so much of American culture is centered around “self” – self-expression, self-indulgence, self-promotion, self-satisfaction – it’s all Me, Myself, and I (along with my Homies, of course). But what made The Greatest Generation so great was that for a brief period in our history, the notion of “self” was removed, because the survival of our nation demanded it to be that way. Life became an all-encompassing matter of country and community with everyone making sacrifices, sharing resources, and serving in whatever way they could.

How do we get that back? Will it require another depression or recession? Will it take another world war to unite us again? I hope not, but with so much self-interest, self-love, and attention seeking taking place, it will take something significant to wake us up, to shake us up. Perhaps this is why GOD allows us to wallow around in our sin sometimes; why we endure suffering, and experience pain. We need to get to a place where we can actually understand what true mercy, grace, and love really are. Even though The Greatest Generation may never be duplicated, we can certainly turn out Better Generations in our future if we start teaching, training, correcting, and disciplining our children and grandchildren in ways that create greatness, since we are living proof of what doesn’t,  since “easier” hasn’t turned out “better”.

RELIGION & POLITICS

It’s pretty easy to understand why many people refuse to talk about religion and politics. The Church has been divided for centuries with every denomination (and congregation) pushing its own definition (in both word and deed) of what it means to be Christian. Now we have a horde of Republican candidates campaigning for the Presidency with each giving his/her own take on what it means to be conservative.

We humans sure have a way of complicating simple matters.

 

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Pursuing happiness may be one of our inalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence, but is it really a worthwhile pursuit? How many people are truly happy? We have all heard others say: “If it makes her happy,” and “He deserves to be happy,” or “Do whatever makes you happy.”

Are you happy? Am I happy? What makes us think we are even supposed to be happy?

Happiness is subjective, as well as a shifting target. One day it’s here, the next day it’s there. It fluctuates like the wind, flows in and out like the tide, then flees the second problems arise. Happiness swells from a selfish, rather than a selfless perspective, and what makes you and me happy today won’t make us happy tomorrow.

Happiness is elusive until it has this or does that…then it changes again.

Happiness desires prime rib and lobster until it has it;

Happiness wants a Manhattan penthouse, a beach-front cottage, or cabin in the mountains until it has it;

Happiness longs for a Lexus until it has it;

Happiness is often found waiting for the weekend or retirement until they arrive.

But something newer, nicer, bigger, and brighter will appear and then we will want that instead, because happiness lives in the immediate and lasts only until it sees the next thing. Likewise, happiness only stays around when our happenings are kind to us, once our happenings get nasty, it is nowhere to be found.

 

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  1 Timothy 6:6

Godliness with contentment pursues the eternal and welcomes the present. It doesn’t dart when difficulties come, but intentionally moves god-ward, on a steady, lifelong quest seeking to know GOD and be known by GOD. Godliness with contentment tries to carry a Christ-like attitude and produce long-term Spiritual fruit – things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) – no matter what happens to be happening to us. Nobody does this perfect, or even close to it, but godliness with contentment embraces all of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – causing an increasing level of satisfaction and significance.

For godliness with contentment is okay with what it has and where it is…

Godliness with contentment can enjoy a cup of soup and crust of bread;

Godliness with contentment can live very well in a tar-paper shack, a studio apartment, or a mud hut on the Serengeti;

Godliness with contentment likes the old Buick LeSabre just fine;

Godliness with contentment doesn’t expect to retire, but to transition into its next assignment.

While happiness is about right now and what’s next, godliness with contentment makes the most of today while preparing for tomorrow. It is both responsible in this life and ready for endless life, allowing for peace and joy through it all.

 

Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!  Psalm 144:15

POLITICALLY CORRECT

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” – George Orwell

Can anything “political” be considered correct? Supposedly, politically correct speech attempts to be nice, neutral, and non-offensive, but in reality, this is an impossibility. Just take a look at Jesus. He was the most caring, compassionate, and helpful person who ever walked and talked, and certain people still hated Him enough to beat Him ruthlessly, mock Him relentlessly, and then murder Him on a Roman cross. No, people are not neutral over important or even unimportant issues. People have real opinions and it is imperative to know what they are. So instead of trying to be politically correct, how about this: 

…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,   Ephesians 4:15 

Political correctness attempts to conceal the truth and coerce its listeners. It is interested in giving an image, gaining supporters, and getting votes. In doing this, political correctness does not present a neutral position, but a neutered one. It is both impotent and irrelevant since it won’t commit to anything. Sure, there are times when the truth can hurt, but as Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho said: “Telling the truth and making someone cry is better than telling a lie and making someone smile.” 

Speaking the truth in love focuses on enhancing trust, edifying relationships, and encouraging dialog. It places a priority upon protecting the character of others, not silencing the opposition. Speaking the truth in love emphasizes communicating in a way that is not boastful, proud, nor rude, and it is also quite simple to do.

“It does not require many words to speak the truth.”  Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Tribe

So how about we put an end to all this patronizing and placating one another with political correctness – which isn’t correct at all – and commit to doing as Great Grandpa reminded us to do, “Always speak the truth but don’t always speak.”

 

OPINIONS MATTER

There is a barrage of opinions being aired everyday about everything and this is good. Everyone is entitled to both have and to voice their own opinion about the various issues, items, and happenings going on, and everybody’s opinion is a valid one. Some opinions are right, some are wrong, and some are totally irrelevant, but still, opinions do matter. Differing opinions are not a problem, people should have different opinions about various matters because we are different – we have different needs, we have had different upbringings and experiences, and we view the world in different ways. Differing opinions drive people to talk, to test, and to try new approaches.

Yet few things in life are worse than having an opinion without knowing why you have it.

Problems arise from people without their own opinions who attempt to silence those opinions which oppose theirs. These people can provide no reason of their own for supporting the opinions they have adopted because their opinions belong to somebody else, i.e., they have an opinion without knowing why they have it.

Thus, these people are threatened because they know they cannot accurately explain or defend their opinion, since they have never really thought it through, so they resort to using force, generating fear, employing terror, and/or playing the role of the victim to accuse those who differ in opinion as being haters.

Really? Because I have a different opinion about a matter means that I hate? How and why can I hate people I don’t even know?