Where is my stinkin’ HAM!?

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Image used with permission from Freeimages.com

Here is the “digest” of Senate Bill 568;

Religious freedom restoration act. Provides that a state or local government action may not substantially burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise of religion is: (1) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides that a person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a state or local government action may assert the burden as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of Religious freedom restoration act. Provides that a state or local government action may not substantially burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise of religion is: (1) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides that a person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a state or local government action may assert the burden as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the state or a political subdivision of the state is a party to the judicial proceeding. Allows a person who asserts a burden as a claim or defense to obtain appropriate relief, including: (1) injunctive relief; (2) declaratory relief; (3) compensatory damages; and (4) recovery of court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

The “digest” is basically a summary, and after reading the law language itself, there are very little difference between the two besides this is written in English and not “leagaleze”. It is much easier to understand. You can find various places online for the full text of the law that has been adopted and changed in several states.

After reading this you will see that this is a law that supposedly allows the exercise of “religion”, just like the Constitution does, and makes it more difficult for the government to restrict said freedom and exercise. Notice there is no “discrimination” language in here pointing at anyone. Why is this? Because the Constitution already allows and guarantees the free exercise of religion. But when it comes down to it this is really not about religion at all is it?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
                                                                    – Text of Constitution (Bill of Rights)

When we look at the actions of the individuals calling “foul” here we see that this has nothing to do with religion, this has to do with people’s opinions and point of view being squashed, not by those who would refuse service, but those to whom the service was refused. In other words not the store owner, the customer.

One of my friends went into a sandwich shop and asked for a ham and cheese calzone. The man behind the counter sat there for a moment just staring at him with a funny look on his face. Then the man said; “Do you realize where you are?”. My friend was in a Jewish sandwich shop. They don’t even have ham in the store! Now, would it be right for my friend to boycott, harass, demand ham from, and/or picket the establishment until they got ham in the store to cater to him or shut the place down? No, of course not. I know, I know, “but that’s different”. Right?

Nope, no different. Just because someone doesn’t have a sign in front of their store that states; “Warning, establishment owned by Christian or religious people!!” doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to refuse service for something that would be against their principles or religion. There used to be signs all over the place that said “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. This was more than just a principle, this was also for protection. If a customer, or even potential customer came in and was disgruntled or rude, the worker, manager or owner could ask the person to leave, thus not serving them. This also allowed for any product, a cake for example, that would go against the principles, religion, or even image of the company. What is wrong with this? NOTHING!

Here in Colorado a man who wanted a cake done with a verse in the Bible that is against homosexuality was denied service at a bakery that was pro-homosexual. This was taken to court and the store owner was granted the right to refuse to this person. The court stated that it was “hateful”. I disagree. This is called religious apartheid. If the store didn’t want to make the cake because they did not agree with the message, or they did not want to be associated with the message, I have no problem with this, regardless of the message. Where I have and issue is the Bible being called “hate speech” or “hateful” in a  court of law that is supposed to be upholding the rights of the citizen.

Yet, on the other end of things we have a bakery who refused service to homosexuals and the opposite happens. The court goes against the bakery this time. Why? Because like I said before it is not a matter of religion, it is a matter of agenda. It is not a matter of freedom, it is a matter of agenda and specific bias towards a people who want more than freedom, they want conformity.

We are looking at the slow and methodical erosion of freedom in this country. Look at how both of these court cases slowly, on different fronts, get rid of religious freedom. Put them together and you have religion being regulated by the “state” and the Bible specifically classified as “hate speech” when convenient, therefore all laws governing such will apply to it. Which ultimately means we are completely removing Christianity from all parts of society. Not just the classroom this time. 1962 was bad enough and we can see the results of removing God from the classroom, going from issues like chewing gum and talking in class to guns, teen pregnancy at an all time high, kids getting high, and total moral abandonment. There is no denying this.

I’m tired of being silent on this and I am tired of Christian people, being squelched by the media, politicians, the schools, companies, and more.

 

Here is the link where you can check this law out for yourself. I wonder how many people have actually gone and READ the law BEFORE they have commented on it, especially commented publicly on it. (LINK)

The Next Generational Crisis…

Image used with permission from Freeimages.com
Image used with permission from Freeimages.com

We have a crisis on our hands in the church! There are too many young people who are headed for the same fate as my generation. I am part of a lost generation that not only will not realize what they have done, but they also will not listen nor take responsibility for their own failures and are too lazy to make any of the needed changes to make the next generation better.

Our country has become a culture of death and entitlement where we no longer value life or see the value of hard work that will benefit others. We are self-centered and if we don’t change things soon, we will lose yet another generation.

This young generation is one of Facebook theology where they are so protected behind the wall of anonymity that they will indulge even the darkest parts of their heart with no thought of anyone else but themselves. I have watched young people turn into heretics through the eye of social media where they would never say these same things if they were face to face.

Why so careless? Why so selfish? Because they have not been taught to think. they have not been taught to pursue truth, real truth that can only come from scripture. Without this they wander aimlessly listening to anyone that will give them what they want. They see no value in anything difficult and will not hear of anyone disagreeing with them. They see disagreement as offense and someone who does not think the same way as wrong, crazy or someone to be silenced. They do not see the value of different points of view. Even those that are against the very scripture and theology we preach. Even these can be good in that they make us more aware of the places we need to study and be educated. They keep us on our toes. But then, who wants to be challenged?

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” – 2 Tim. 4:3-4

It was not long ago when young people were not only seen as the next leadership generation, they WERE the leadership. Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd at 28 years old and his speech would cause most senior citizens to cringe with the truth and wisdom of it. In this speech he warned that if America were to ever fall, it would be because of suicide, not from any force from without. If we take his words to heart we can see how close we are to this very thing happening!

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” – Abraham Lincoln, Lyceum Speech

If we do not change our course, if we do not get more passionate about the youth of our country and the world, we are headed for a disaster that will eclipse all before. If we, as Christians, think it is tough now, without changing course, we will be no different than those in the Middle East and Europe!

Pray for our country and our youth!

“.. if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

 

Does Social Networking Numb Us To Purity?

As Christians, does social-media numb us to some of the basics of our faith? Does it so numb us to slurs and profanity that we no longer even see them as wrong or harmful? Does it help or hinder our witness?

I think the real question is one that many churches have to answer seriously and finally, are we Christians, a sub-culture or a counter-culture? Which are we supposed to be?

Does the Bible say anything about swearing? YES!!

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.”

(Eph. 4:29, NIV)

I have been told by Christians that they “have” to use profanity either in their job or to “reach” people and have respect from them. I will admit there have been times when I have heard this and said nothing, but I think it is time to speak up. No, that is not right, it is not genuine and it is not Biblical. I guess the question I would ask is if Jesus were in the same shoes as these people, would he be violating scripture to “reach” people? I don’t think so.

I have “friends” on Facebook (that’s a whole other article) that have told me that they “repost” funny comments and pictures because they are funny. Now the pictures and most of the comments themselves are quite humorous, but the names of the sources are what is offensive and wrong. Many of them come from sources that have profanity in the title. Why would we as Christians be promoting this?

Now, if these friends were not Christian, I can understand. It doesn’t make it any less offensive, but people who do not have Christ will act like that. However, many of these are my Christian friends. One of them actually defended their choice to use one of these offensive “repostings” and said that it was sad that their other Christian friends were wondering what had happened to them. I actually chose not to say anything because I would have joined with the others in saying they should have expected this since they chose to associate themselves with the profanity. It is damaging to our witness and from this type of reaction it is obvious.

There are others that have also had the same reaction to people being critical of them when they have used reposts that had profanity within the actual posts they put up. They have used, like the world does, the whole “don’t judge me” phrase. Actually we ARE supposed to judge the actions of our brothers and sisters and make them aware of it. Check out Matthew 18:15-17 to see the proper way to do this.

In the professional world I have talked to many, and I mean many, people about this subject. They have been both professional and labor in their background, they have been the workers and the managers, and I have been really surprised at what I heard from them. The most common theme when talking about profanity is that it gives the impression of lack of intelligence. Professionals and managers actually have less respect and less confidence in those who use profanity in their conversations. Now I have worked with managers that use profanity and it is interesting because I have found that it also works in the opposite direction as well. The workers under these managers have less respect and trust of them than ones who do not use profanity.

Okay, so let’s hear form you. What do you think? Does social media, networking, posting, etc. numb us to purity?

Have we progressed or regressed in the last 3000 years?

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 21:25 (NIV)
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)

There has been some great progress made in biblical understanding with some of the archeological finds we have made. There has been an amazing amount of “evidence” found in these finds that has strengthened our faith and even more proven the scriptures validity.

However, like scripture says, there is nothing new under the sun and man is still inventing ways to do wrong. As a church, we have grown and shrunk. Over time we have had reformations and some dark ages of our own. In these last decades we have become apathetic, more like Laodicea than the vibrant, impacting church we read about in Acts at our beginnings. We have become a sub-culture to our society instead of the counter-culture we are called to be instead. We have redefined “church” to mean buildings and meetings instead of being the people who are called and follow Christ with every fiber of their being. We have allowed the powers-that-be into our churches to dictate that which we can and cannot say or talk about. This was never supposed to happen! For a “Discount” on our taxes we have traded some of the most important influence and freedom we had, to speak as the moral compass of our country. But it’s worse than that. We have lost our passion, influence, and credibility by standing idly by and allowing the world’s influence to move us instead of the other way around. We are no longer the conscience of society; we are its target, to be silenced, be mocked and snuffed out.

We have work to do, but I have great hope that things will change for the better and that we can once again become the moral compass and ethical guide for the world that surrounds us. We must educate ourselves, become intentional, and take action. We need to stop being silent, unless it is appropriate and will send the right message.

Why all this?

I think one reason is that many people simply don’t think anymore, they simply accept. They do not take the time to reason through the ramifications of belief and action. This is unfortunately true in the church as well as the world at large. People believe and think a certain way, but they have no idea why they do think or believe that way. I have talked with youth, especially those who have “graduated” from our supposed High School programs in “church”, and what I have found is disturbing. Not only do these young adults not have any idea why they believe what they believe, they also have no idea of the basics of faith either! When asked about salvation, communion, the significance of baptism, they can’t articulate any of it. They don’t know how to explain how they know they are “saved”, they don’t know what they are saved from, they can’t tell what the purpose of communion is, nor the reason or significance of baptism to a follower of Christ! This is after FOUR YEARS in a program that is playing games instead of promoting maturity in Christ!

Most in the church are not taught HOW to study, they are simply told to do so. For years I was told to read the Bible, but was never taught how to get anything out of it. Because of this I was never taught, nor did I think I had the capacity to think on my own about my faith or the truth of the Bible. This runs rampant in the church! Why are we not teaching men that God holds them responsible for teaching their households the truth of the Bible? Why are we not teaching young adults the foundational truths, and why those truths are important, so that when they get into college we don’t lose over 80% of them to secularism. This is a hard, cold fact! Like we see so many times in the media where people are asked about why they did what they did, why they voted the way that they did, they have no idea. They look foolish. Well, isn’t it the same with the Christian church? If we are not “prepared to give an answer”, and an intelligent one at that, how can we possibly “reason” with the world? Yes, I know it takes the movement of the Holy Spirit to draw a lost soul to Christ, but let’s not be the stumbling block for this process by not thinking and not knowing why we believe what we believe! Bottom line, I guess, it would come down to two things. One, educating people on how to read, understand, and apply the Bible. Through this they will be able to have those revelations and confirmations from study, meditation and experience in application. Second, we need discipleship, which goes with the educational concept, but it is more intimate. This is where education goes into training. It goes beyond telling and it moves into showing, demonstrating. It is a one-on-one, or one-on-few demonstration form of leading, applying scriptural principles to the “student’s” lives. It is personal, not corporate. In all of this we do need to be cautious about becoming socially “relevant”, as the world defines it. This can lead to a watering down of the truth. Ultimately the world will reject the truth, this is a truth in itself. However, we need to be prepared to give a reasoned, honest, logical and truthful answer. This is where Apologetics comes into play. Through understanding the world’s thinking process and logic, or lack thereof, we can better address and challenge the foolishness that is presented as truth. And through as fully and understanding as we can get of our God and His word, we can be more in tune with God’s will and better experience, mature and explain these concepts to a lost people. This is not easy, but it can be learned.

What do you think? Have progressed or regressed and how? What are the reasons for it in your opinion? What’s the solution?

 

An Anniversary of a Different Kind

Pic-of-Boys-Box

Once a year I remember two people that were in my life for a very short period of time (less than four hours). I never got to “meet” them because of the circumstances we were in at the time. I really wish I could have seen them before they were taken away, but I was not able. It’s been 19 years and there are times it feels like yesterday.

Now for a small rabbit trail with purpose…

You know I have read through the book of Job and looked at the massive suffering he went through and the amazing faith Job showed in the deepest and darkest of lows. I have sat through teachings on this book and found most great, until they reach the end. You see most people have the impression, and teach, that Job had everything restored to him. This is just simply not true. Yes, he gained a lot of wealth and possessions, but what did he “get back” when it came to family?…Nothing..

Look here at the final verses of the book of Job;

The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold. Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers. After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.” (Job 42:10-17, NASB)

Notice two things here. First, in verse ten it says “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job”. This is important to note. Job recieved two-fold the fortunes that he had lost. This is great! Then it also says that Job was given seven sons and three daughters and that “In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters..”. This too is great! However, understand that Job still lost his children from before, there can never be a replacement there. Also, would he not live the rest of his life looking at all he had with at least a small hesitation about ever getting too attached to anything again?

The second thing to notice here that many seem to skip over is the fact that the scripture states plainly “..and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him.” Notice it does not say this was a result of Satan’s work, it was God’s work. Shocking I am sure to many, but we must understand this clearly. God has complete and total soverignty, which means He has total and complete control over everything at all times.

So was God wrong in what He did? Was God evil here for allowing Satan, no, challenging Satan to do what was done to Job? No. Why? Because we were created to bring glory to God. It is not for us to judge God, nor try to unlock the mystery of His thoughts that are so above ours that there is no way of fathoming them.

All of this to say that on this day every year I mourn the loss of two individuals that I wonder what life would have been like with them. It’s been 19 years and I will always miss them. You see we lost twin boys. Today they would be 19 years old. I am not angry with God. I know they are in the best possible place. I know my grandmother who went home to be with the Lord is up there playing with them and enjoying thier company. I know they are with the other kids that we lost through miscarriages. Unlike the ones who miscarried, the boys lived for a short time outside the womb and then went home.

There is no way I could ever understand nor can I ever explain why god took my boys. But this I know, God is good, and God is just. He gives and He takes away. Like Job there is no way that anything could ever take the place of my boys, there are not children that can take the place of the ones I have lost.

Children are a precious and wonderful gift from God that we not only have the priviledge to raise adn bring up, but also to send out into the world as a gift to it as well. They are a reflection of us, our parenting and can be an impact on our world. They are the ones to carry on the legacy that we leave them, whether good or bad. The children and young people that I have come in contact with over the years have been treasures and memories that I will keep close. They mean a great deal to me.

With loss, and I will say much gain as well, I will encourage you that have children to treasure every moment you get with them. Not in a parinoid way that you’re looking over your shoulder wondering when the next foot drops, but in a devoted, loving, and excited way that makes the memories that will never go away. Teh types that you will sit and like watching a wonderful movie, play the memories in your head and smile, cry and wonder at them!

A little encouragement from a guy who KNOWS loss…

Thrilled Doll

Image by phostezel on FreeImages

Do you ever sit and wonder about life in such a way that makes you so thankful for all that you have that the issues and troubles you are experiencing fade away into nothingness? No? I’m sorry for you.

You see there have been too many times that I have sat and mourned for the losses I have experienced. I have experienced loss that I would not wish on anyone. I have dwelled on this time and time again and ended up missing out on some really great times with family and friends. I’ve also missed out on living the way that God wants me to live and thus being very unhappy.

God never promises us happiness, but He gives us full access to Joy any time we desire to experience it. We can have it even in the most dire of circumstances.

Here’s the point….We need to stop worrying and grieving all that we have lost and concentrate on what we have been given, even if for a short period of time. We don’t know how long we will have that job we love, or even the children we have. We need to cherish all we are given and make it a priority to make a difference with all we are given as well.

The greatest joys of my life are when I am able to bring joy, wisdom, or positive change to another. These “others” have been my family, my daughters, my niece, my wife and those outside of my family that I have had the privilege of having a relationship with.

Don’t get me wrong I have failed and sometimes miserably. But there have also been times of great victory and I have seen my influence change people’s lives. I don’t say this to be arrogant or selfish, I say this to give you hope.

I can honestly rejoice with all I have, a wonderful family that loves me for me, with all the flaws that come with me. I have some wonderful friends who I know are there for me when the chips are down. I have a home, it may not be my own, but we have a roof over our heads, food in our stomach, and warmth in cold times. I have a great job with some amazing people. It doesn’t pay all the bills or allow us to live “on our own”, but it does give us enough to get the essentials of what we need right now.

Right now…now there is a phrase that at one point in my life became so important for me to survive that I have taught it to many. Right now, in this very moment, everything is okay. While you sit reading this the roof is not caving in, the bill collector is not calling, the world can be quiet for you. So enjoy the moment. We may not have peace in the next ten seconds, but right now, during this moment, we can enjoy the peace we have. For me with all the anxiety I had this is how I survived. But let me tell you a secret. God gave me this for a reason. He was teaching me how to slowly and surely learn to be content in any circumstance. He was showing me that it is possible to feel at peace in the midst of the storm. Try this yourself, even say it out loud if you need to so you will act on it.

Be thankful for all you HAVE, not concentrate on all you may have lost. I look at how fast life moves by and feel that I don’t have time to wallow in self-pity over my losses. I allow myself time to grieve if it appropriate, but then it is time to live again!

Be joyful today and enjoy all you have been given. Remember, even the breath you are taking is from God. He allows us to live day to day. If He is giving this to us, there must be a good reason for it!

Can you state at least some things you have to be thankful for? Take action!

More than believing and trusting…

Trust Image

Image by David Dufour – http://www.davedufour.com

I had a bit of a revelation this last weekend. A special speaker was at our church and talked about belief and hope. He said something incredibly profound about the state of Christianity today. He said that we need to become a people that do not just believe that God can do anything, but we need to be a people who can believe God FOR what we need. Today at church this morning another thing hit me hard along this same line and that was our pastor said that our belief is not simply knowing the facts, it is a matter of accepting the facts as truth, and then acting upon those facts as a lifestyle. It can not be a weekend thing, it has to be a lifestyle that encompasses every part of our life.

Its amazing when we see God working in our lives and are able to use that “evidence” to make things easier to accept. Its when we are not seeing God’s work, it is when the heat is on that the faith we have, the REAL belief in God we have is put to the test. If we do not have that commitment, that belief, that faith in God that is strong, it may falter. Do we really believe that God WILL do what is best for us? Do we really trust that God will supply for our needs and the situation we find ourselves in is really within the will of God if we are His children?

We need to have that assurance. We need to give all to God, our life, our reason, our thoughts, our worries, our everything. We MUST surrender all to God before we can truly trust and believe that God will do all that He promises.

Easier said than done, I know…but let me encourage you to work at this and make this a priority in your life!

Do you have areas or needs that you are needing to trust God to supply for? What are ways you can accomplish this, or at least be working towards that goal?