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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Taking Up Our Cross

Take_up_Your_Cross

In my last blog post, The Power of Propaganda,” I mentioned a very important book published in 2010 titled, When A Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn From Nazi Germany,” by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago. I focused primarily on Chapter 4 which is titled, “Propaganda Can Change a Nation.” However, there is so much crucial information in this book that I simply could not touch on most of it in a blog post. I highly recommend this book for those who are concerned about the direction our nation has taken over the past several decades.

I’ve been a Christian most of my life since the day I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was ten years old at my home church back in Iowa. Now that I am 63, I’ve witness major changes in the church over the past several decades. Today we have a church that very much celebrates success, money, and materialism, and it is thought of as being “normal” if things (like careers) just keep getting better and better with bigger salaries and more prestige. Our lifestyles mirror our culture more then they mirror our Christianity. And social media has added to this intense focus on self and success. Sometimes I think that if I have to view one more “selfie” taken by anyone on Facebook I’m going to cry. This intense focus on self would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragically common among us. And in the process, those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian miss the reality of what genuine Christianity is all about. Even much of what passes as modern Christian music today focuses on self and feeling good, and often is full of words that are just plain bad theology. It’s often filled with “feel good” pop psychology. And we have replaced feelings for facts and made feelings what we go by in judging so much that we think, do, and say.

There is a surface type of Christianity that blankets our culture that is about an inch deep, and most folks don’t have any issues with it as it basically has little meaning or substance to it. And it certainly isn’t the type to cause waves. And for people who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, what exactly do they believe? I’m not sure anymore that we (e.g., those of us who call ourselves Christian) even believe what is actually required of us when we read (and if we read) verses where Jesus clearly stated the following to those who claim to follow him:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” ~Matthew 16:24

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” ~Mark 8:34

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” ~Luke 9:23

“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” ~Luke 14:27

Denying ourselves is something we don’t do well here in America. In fact, if anyone comes along stating otherwise or challenging our materialistic lifestyles, we have no problem mocking them openly with disdaining looks or callous words. After all, it doesn’t fit into our image of Positive Christianity (Hitler actually coined the term–see link here) that is so prolific “from sea to shining sea.” And if we don’t look and act the part of “success” (we want fancy titles to impress others along with bigger salaries to go along with it) that is so prevalent in the eyes of our culture, we think there must be something wrong. Even housewives aren’t housewives anymore. They are “domestic engineers.” So who are we trying to impress? Mostly ourselves, I think. And we crave everything the culture craves, and we have turned Christianity in America into a multi-billion dollar business. And, apparently, we’d all like to be on that bandwagon.

In answer to the question, What did Jesus mean when he said, ‘Take up your cross and following me‘”?, GotQuestions.org gives a straightforward answer:

Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.

Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.

Wherever Jesus went, He drew crowds. Although these multitudes often followed Him as Messiah, their view of who the Messiah really was—and what He would do—was distorted. They thought the Christ would usher in the restored kingdom. They believed He would free them from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Even Christ’s own inner circle of disciples thought the kingdom was coming soon (Luke 19:11). When Jesus began teaching that He was going to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords (Luke 9:22), His popularity sank. Many of the shocked followers rejected Him. Truly, they were not able to put to death their own ideas, plans, and desires, and exchange them for His.

Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.

In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.

Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?

In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?

Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26). (Quote source here.)

Whoever-Has-Ears-Let-Them-HearWe have too often replaced the cross with a dollar sign and the image of success. We don’t admit it but our lifestyles and how we treat others proves it out. Actions do speak louder than words, or singing worship songs in church on Sunday morning. The proof is in how we live every moment of everyday. And if we don’t really understand just what the cross means in our lives, we will put on a good show with all of the substitutes we have replaced it with. And that is exactly what the Pharisees did back in Jesus’ day–they put on a good show for others and craved the attention they received, too.

In the last chapter of Dr. Lutzer’s book (Chapter 7 titled, “We Must Exalt the Cross in the Gathering Darkness,”) I want to share his closing words to us. It is critical that we understand what he is saying to us:

Here in America we have what many believe is a new phenomenon in the history of the church. In previous eras we have seen the Gospel neglected or even mocked by religious liberals and nominal Christians–that is to be expected. What is different today is that the message of the cross is being ignored even by those who claim to be saved by its message. At the very time when the Gospel must be proclaimed most clearly, we are hearing muffled voices even from some of the great evangelical pulpits of our land. Christian books flood our markets that have little to do with the heart of the Christian message.

Here are a few substitutes for the message of the Gospel that I have observed:

  • God wants you to experience physical healing.
  • God wants you to be healthy and wealthy too.
  • Jesus will help you be a better businessman, parent, entrepreneur, etc.
  • God wants you to cheerily face life by knowing “God is for you”–whether you’ve repented of sin or not.
  • God’s will for you is good nutrition, physical exercise, and in general, living the good life.
  • The message of Christianity is community–not the cross.

In the evangelical community, psychology is substituted for theology and cheap grace has replaced what Bonhoeffer described as “costly grace.” In short, we have lost our intellectual and spiritual center and replaced it with consumerism, self-help, and the quest for personal advantage. We are self-absorbed rather than God-absorbed. And we can see the results.

A Final Glimpse of Germany

The most discerning analysis that I’ve read about the failure of the church in Nazi Germany was given by an evangelical pastor who preached a moving sermon to his weary congregation. His words should cause us to stop and ponder their relevance to us in America.

In April 1945, amid the ruins of a defeated Germany, Helmut Thielicke, a German theologian and pastor, spoke movingly to his congregation in Stuttgart about the meaning of all that had happened. In a message that surely must have left his congregation spellbound, he, in effect, said that the nation got what it deserved because it had “repudiated forgiveness and kicked down the cross of the Lord.”

In his powerful critique of what had gone wrong in a nation that was “Christian,” Thielicke said that the cross of Christ has been neglected and thus the church was blinded to Germany’s militarism. The church had overlooked its greatest danger, namely, that in gaining the whole world it might “lose its own soul.” The heart of the matter, he said, was this: “Denying God and casting down the cross is never a merely private decision that concerns only my own inner life and my personal salvation, but this denial immediately brings the most brutal consequences for the whole of historical life and especially for our own people. ‘God is not mocked.’ The history of the world can tell us terrible tales based on that text.”

In history, he says, the invisible is mightier than the visible. Anybody who still had not grasped that Germany with its program “was wrecked precisely on this dangerous rock called ‘God’ and nothing else has no eyes to see. Because he sees only individual catastrophes he no longer sees the basic, cardinal catastrophe behind them all.”

Finally, he reminded his listeners that “the worship of success is generally the form of idol worship the devil cultivates most assiduously . . . We could observe in the first years after 1933 the almost suggestive compulsion that emanates from great successes and how under the influence of these successes even Christians stopped asking in whose name and at what price they were achieved. Success is the greatest narcotic of all.

Casting down the cross of Christ! Intoxicated with success! Substituting the temporary for the permanent! Thus was the church and the entire country crushed, crushed on the rock called God, “who is not mocked.” Destroyed for being blinded by the pride of nationalism instead of being humbled by its great need for repentance. The church stood with pride, but it would not bow in humility. The church neglected the cross and had to live with the consequences.

It’s Our Turn

The Christian church has suffered throughout the centuries, and now it appears as if it is our turn. Like the early apostles, we will find that our commitment to share the Gospel will run counter to the laws of the land. We must ask ourselves: At what point do we have to because lawbreakers rather than betray our faith? At what price are we willing to take the cross into the world and identify with our Savior? How do we both love the people of the world and yet oppose the agenda of those who would crush the Gospel?

These are questions well beyond the scope of this chapter. But I believe it is time that we all began to live for eternity–not time, and for Christ–not ourselves. We must realize that our public effectiveness is largely based on our private relationship with God. The American church participates in many of the same sins as the world. Our passion for God is smothered, and our vision is marred. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” said Christ (Matthew 5:8).

When we come to the foot of the cross, it is there that we area finally broken; it is there that we learn to reach out to our confused and hurting world. The cross breaks down the barrier between us and the whole human race. Then we will no longer see ourselves as fighting the ACLU, the media, or the politicians. We must rid ourselves of the mentality that says, in effect, “If we just cleared all of them out, all would be well.” Not so. As Os Guinness said, the problem with this view is “that there is no problem in the wider culture that you cannot see in spades in the Christian Church. The rot is in us, and not simply out there. And Christians are making a great mistake by turning everything into culture wars. It’s a much deeper crisis.”

At last we come to the heart of the matter: the cross reminds us that the battle is not so much between church and state as it is within our own hearts. If Christ has all of us, if the cross stands above politics and the world as Bonhoeffer has reminded us, we shall overcome regardless of the cost.

As Christians we can welcome an assault on our freedoms as long as we see this conflict as an opportunity to bear an authentic witness for Christ. Without trivializing the great horror of what took place in Germany, it is nevertheless a fact that without suffering we would never have heard of a Neimoller or a Bonhoeffer or a Corrie ten Boom. Nor would we have read about thousands of courageous pastors, mothers, and fathers who kept living for God at great personal cost without any visible compensation in this life. Without suffering, God would not have seen their faith, which to Him is “more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7).

We must be confident that Christ will set the record straight. Those who are faithful to Him and His cross will be rewarded with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:7-9). All rival crosses will be exposed and judged, and every knee shall bow and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Until then, God is glorified by our steadfastness. If we suffer faithfully, the cross will be exalted in the world. Bonhoeffer was right when he said “that it is before that cross and not before us that the world trembles.”

Sola Deo Gloria!

(The above is taken from “When A Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn From Nazi Germany” (2010) by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pp. 136-141.)

As Jesus said in the Parable of the Sower found in Luke 8:4-15 . . .

He who has ears to hear . . .

Let him hear . . . .

YouTube Video: “Gotta Serve Somebody” (Bob Dylan’s song) sung by Natalie Cole:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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The Power of Propaganda

George Orwell Quote re DoublespeakAnother election year has blanketed America again in 2016. It’s been in force for the better part of the past year and will culminate in November when we elect a new President of the United States who will officially take office in January 2017. I don’t get into political discussions with anyone as the heat can get too intense, and I’m of the mind that my vote is a private matter. I’m also a registered Independent but if I don’t find a more permanent housing situation by the time the election comes around (I’m currently living–and have been for the past 16 months–in hotels due to circumstances beyond my own personal control), I won’t be able to vote as I won’t have a permanent address even though I’m a born and bred U.S. Citizen. I think that still matters. Maybe . . . .

I’m not here to endorse any candidates. Vote your conscience. The topic I’m about to discuss is not aimed at any particular candidate of either, or any, political party who is currently running for office. However, it goes without saying that the political, social, and economic landscape in America has shifted dramatically over the past several decades, and that leads to one very important question . . .

Where are we, as a nation, headed?

I don’t recall what exactly sparked my recent interest in understanding what was going on at the time of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in the years after World War I which left the German economy is such a state as to give rise to a charismatic character such at Hitler in the 1930’s. As noted on the BBC website:

Hitler’s rise to power cannot be attributed to one event, but a mixture of factors including events happening outside Germany, the strengths of the Nazi party, and the weaknesses of other parties within Germany. Hitler used these factors to his advantage and in 1933 he legitimately gained power to become chancellor. (Quote source here.)

A synopsis states: “Born in Austria in 1889, Adolf Hitler rose to power in German politics as leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, also known as the Nazi Party. Hitler was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and served as dictator from 1934 to 1945. His policies precipitated World War II and the Holocaust. Hitler committed suicide with wife Eva Braun on April 30, 1945, in his Berlin bunker.” (Quote source here.)

Innumerable books have been written on the life of Adolf Hitler, and of the best known volumes on the topic is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany,” by William L. Shirer, a 1280-page tome first published in 1959, and as one customer review titled “One of the best books I’ve ever read” on Amazon.com states:

Don’t be intimidated by the 1100+ pages of “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” It reads more like a novel than a dry historical narrative and — trust me on this — this book is awesome.

As a reporter for CBS, William Shirer lived and worked in Germany during much of the Nazi movement. Until he left in 1940, he saw firsthand Hitler’s rise to power, the consolidation of that power, and the use of that power. . . .

Particularly well covered was Hitler’s rise to power — a story that is not often told. The Hitler that Shirer paints during these early years is a very astute political observer who shrewdly plays the German people like a violin. He promises the people what they want, plays on their fears, and is extremely ruthless to anyone who dares to oppose him. . . . (Read the entire customer review at this link.)

How one man could so totally gain control over and sear the conscience of a nation of people who were not that dissimilar from us and resulted in the vitriol hatred and catastrophic slaughter of millions of people deemed to be somehow “less human” then they viewed themselves to be, is, well . . . there are simply no words that can adequately describe such horror. However, what he accomplished is not an isolated event in history (see a list of The 25 Worst People Ever at this link–Hitler is #4 on the list), but the case of Hitler is notable as it is a part of recent history (1933-1945).

So how did Hitler gain such control over the people in Nazi Germany?

Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, wrote a book titled, When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany,” published in 2010. A description of the book on Amazon.com states:

This excellent book is so important. It clearly and powerfully explains what the parallels are between Germany’s fall from grace and the beginning of our own fall. Eric Metaxas, author ofBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

InWhen A Nation Forgets God,” Erwin Lutzer studies seven similarities between Nazi Germany and America today—some of them chilling—and cautions us to respond accordingly. Engaging, well-researched, and easy to understand, Lutzer’s writing is that of a realist, one alarmed but unafraid. Amidst describing the messes of our nation’s government, economy, legal pitfalls, propaganda, and more, Lutzer points to the God who always has a plan.

At the beginning of the twentieth Century, Nazi Germany didn’t look like a country on the brink of world-shaking terrors. It looked like America today. “When a Nation Forgets God” uses history to warn us of a future that none of us wants to see. It urges us to be ordinary heroes who speak up and take action. (Quote source here.)

In a customer review titled “A Powerful Appeal,” the customer writes:

As religious faith is increasingly privatized, particularly with regard to Christian belief and practice–as church and state are increasingly separated, laws creep in that actually circumvent justice and morality. Freedom of speech is lost in the name of political correctness and a confused view of tolerance. As economies melt down, people can become increasingly willing to give up their civil liberties in exchange for comfort. Media is increasingly used to define the cultural norms of society and sets the moral boundaries. Public school systems increasingly take over the role of training children from parents and in the process have the potential to indoctrinate them with groupthink.

These are the techniques that Hitler used to gain control of Germany. An economically crushed nation, desperate for some glimmer of hope latched onto what it perceived to be a strong leader, one who promised to give the people their national pride back. And he did. In the process, he systematically took complete control of the creation of civil law, made it government-sponsored education compulsory (homeschooling was illegal), turned the people against the Jews, put laws into place that made it not only legal, but acceptable, to murder them.

In essence, he sought to create a Germany in his own image, after his own likeness.

Today, there are some parallels in America, according to Lutzer, and as a Canadian it is fascinating to read his concerns. “Political correctness has now affected the general culture and created an aura of censorship and a climate of fear,” he writes on page 27.

The bottom line is that we are going down a dangerous path as “hate crimes” are linked to “hate speech” and thus our First Amendment rights are curtailed. . . . From “Hate Crimes” the next step is for the courts to prosecute those who are deemed guilty of “Hate Speech,” which one of our senators called “domestic terrorism.” Thus, what we think and what we say are both open to prosecution. Hate speech in this country will mean . . . simply stating an opinion that the government thinks should not be expressed (p. 28). (Quote source here.)

A second customer review titled “Hard book to read. Hardest where it is most true” states:

This book was not always an easy one to read. I imagine it was an even harder one to write. But when your subject matter details the parallels between the political and social climates of Nazi Germany and modern-day America–and when you bring up hot button topics like abortion, censorship, homosexuality and hate speech–author and reader alike would do well to not expect an easy ride. Though I didn’t agree with every comparison, Erwin Lutzer made some poignant insights in “When a Nation Forgets God.”

As Lutzer explains, “Nazism did not arise in a vacuum. There were cultural streams that made it possible for this ideology to emerge and gain a wide acceptance by the popular culture.” In particular, it was disturbing to read how inept the majority of the church was during the rise of Nazism. While this is a short book, he deals with some heavy material as the chapters headings suggest:

1. When God Is Separated from Government, Judgment Follows
2. It’s Always the Economy
3. That Which Is Legal Might Also Be Evil
4. Propaganda Can Change a Nation
5. Parents–Not the State–Are Responsible for a Child’s Training
6. Ordinary Heroes Can Make a Difference
7. We Must Exalt the Cross in the Gathering Darkness (Quote source here.)

wellpackagedwebofliesI found a copy of Dr. Lutzer’s book at my favorite used bookstore last night and I have to tell you that it’s a hard one to put down. It’s a remarkably relevant book that any concerned Christians across our nation should take the time to read to be informed of the similarities between our current American culture and the conditions that gave rise to Nazi Germany less than a century ago.

One of the chapters in Dr. Lutzer’s book that I want to make note of in this blog post is Chapter 4: Propaganda Can Change a Nation. Propaganda is defined as:

1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc. (Quote source here.)

Lutzer opens the chapter with a little background on Hitler and how he made use of propaganda (pp. 75-77):

PROPAGANDA HAS POWER.

Hitler had to learn the hard way that propaganda could serve his purposes even better than a political revolution could. In 1923 he tried to overthrown the Bavarian government by organizing a march though Munich, but it was aborted and ended in failure. He was tried for treason, but given the opportunity to define himself, and to his delight, his speeches were widely read in the newspapers. Already then he knew how to tap into the anger of the German people by railing against the unfair treaty of Versailles and by propagating the widespread belief that the Jews were responsible for the loss of World War I. Hitler knew that the masses could be led if only he could tell convincing lies.

At the end of his trial, he was sentenced to ten months in the Landsberg prison for treason. There he had time to write “Mein Kampf,” in which he outlined a basic plan to implement his agenda. He had time to reflect and to articulate the value of propaganda, and he showed how with a deft use of disinformation, he could almost certainly accomplish what his “Brown Shirts” could not.

I’ve taken the time to carefully read what Hitler said about the power of propaganda. He explained the techniques he used to win a hostile crowd to his side. He knew how to tap into their anger, how to handle their objections before they voiced them, and how to get them to see the reason for his philosophy. In my opinion, he was a master at reading human nature and knowing how to manipulate the masses to gain a zealous following.

Think of what Hitler could have done if he could have used today’s media to gain followers.

Hitler believed that books could never bring about a revolution; only the spoken word, delivered by a person who could connect with his audience could convert them to a radical agenda. He said that when you want to tear down a world and build another in its place you must first of all separate the supporters and the members. The function of propaganda was to attract supporters, and change people’s minds so that they could be in agreement with the aims and philosophy of the movement. A member was one who had taken a further step and not only supports the movement but is willing to fight on its behalf. Notice what he wrote in “Mein Kampf”:

The first task of propaganda is to win people for subsequent organization . . . The second task of propaganda is the disruption of the existing state of affairs and the permeation of this state of affairs with the new doctrine, while the second task of organization must be the struggle for power, thus to achieve the final success of the doctrine. (Mein Kampf, p. 583.) (Quote source, “When A Nation Forgets God” pp. 75-77.)

Some of the uses of propaganda include using slogans, which has a very powerful effect. For example, in the case of Hitler, instead of coming right out and stating their plans to exterminate millions, “the leaders spoke only in abstract slogans such as ‘the final solution.’ Sanitized terms were used to camouflage unspeakable crimes. Planned massacres were spoken of in clinical terms to mislead the naive and to assuage the conscience of the perpetrators” (p. 79). An example Lutzer uses in our own culture today involves the topic of abortion. “No one speaks of killing preborn infants. Rather, pregnant women are only removing ‘a product of conception’ or a woman is simply ‘terminating a pregnancy'” (p. 79).

Elsewhere in the chapter Lutzer writes about “a willing blindness.” For example, “a dominant idea promoted by the media and willingly adopted by a critical mass of people who want to believe a myth so badly they will close their minds to all contrary evidence. When such a cultural movement gains momentum, people will stare at facts and filter out what they don’t want to believe. Contrary evidence will be ignored or reinterpreted to fit their deepest wishes. And the more people who believe the myth, the more difficult it is for those who wish to counter it. In a spirit of euphoria, all warning signs are brushed aside. Before we know it, we are in a world where facts do not matter.” (p. 80).

Lutzer goes on to state: “Perhaps the most enduring lesson of Nazi Germany is that ordinary people, simply concerned about living their own lives, can be motivated to become a part of an evil movement through the power of compelling propaganda, intimidation, and mass euphoria. Yes, it is possible for ordinary people to commit atrocities they never thought possible when they are swept up into a cultural current where everyone is both expected to fall in line and be rewarded for it. In such a climate, anyone who swims against the stream is demonized by misrepresentations, false evidence and ridicule. With such pressure, even rational and decent people who refuse to be co-opted begin to question their own sanity. Can they alone be right when everyone else is wrong?” (p. 81).

Of course, Lutzer gives the excellent example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he states that “Bonhoeffer warned Germany about Hitler when he was declared chancellor of Germany, but no one listened because they yearned for a strong leader who would lead them into prosperity. So they closed their eyes to Hitler’s excesses. Warning signs were overlooked because of this passion of people to believe. And once the cultural current was widening and flowing with increased speed, anyone swimming upstream was deemed subversive. As Richard Terrell wrote, ‘Create a critical mass of people who cannot discern meaning and truth from nonsense, and you will have a society ready to fall for the first charismatic leader to come along.'” (pp. 81-82).

Also, Lutzer notes on p. 84 that propaganda is used to “wear opponent down to the point of total fatigue, until they are willing to give in to their agenda.” And on p. 85 Lutzer states, “Hitler believed that it was necessary to totally destroy the credibility of one’s opponents; at no time, he said, should one ever concede that they might be right on a single point.”

Read that last statement again . . . . “Totally destroying the credibility of one’s opponents.”

This information is a very small part from a very valuable book that Christians should considering reading, and not just because 2016 is an election year. Dr. Lutzer states at the beginning of the book, “If you read this book with the sole intention of finding more grist for your political convictions, then you have missed my heart. Yes, I am deeply distressed over the direction our nation is taking, but I am even more concerned about how the church–the people of God–will react to what is taking place. To become angry, vindictive, and filled with self-pity is hardly what God expects of us. We must respond on many different levels, but surely one of the most important is that we as individuals and the church at large must bear a credible witness to the saving grace of God in Christ” (p. 7).

In a closing paragraph in the last chapter, Lutzer states:

At last we come to the heart of the matter: the cross reminds us that the battle is not so much between church and state as it is within our own hearts. If Christ has all of us, if the cross stands above politics and the world as Bonhoeffer has reminded us, we shall overcome regardless of the cost (p. 140).

And one last quote from p. 55:

The hard road is often . . .

The one we must have . . .

The courage to choose . . . .

YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Of Hearts And Minds

some things never change
One thing that is a constant in life is change (although there are some critical things that never change–I’ll get to that in a moment). In starting a new blog post today, I discovered that I’m apparently being forced (just a little humor) to give up the old “format” of writing blog posts after five years with a new updated formatting version. I had a choice for a while between the old and the updated version, and I stuck with the old familiar format (how very human of me, eh?). But now that choice has apparently been taken away, so here’s my first blog post using the new format. You won’t notice any difference in the look of my blog as the theme hasn’t changed, but on my end the “behind the scenes” stuff sure looks different. And it’s taking longer to create, too. However, I should be “up to par” by my next blog post.

This morning I read an article in Religion News Service that got me thinking about a topic that needs some clarification. The title of the article is, New head of major secular group is a Christian,” by Kimberly Winston. Apparently, “‘The Secular Coalition for America,’ a lobbying group with atheist, humanist and other nonbeliever member organizations, has hired a Christian as its new executive director” (quote source here).

Now, it’s certainly nothing new for a Christian to work for a secular organization, but as I read the article I came across the following paragraph about the new executive director:

Larry Decker, 40, was raised in an independent Baptist church but now identifies as a “none” — one of the 23 percent of Americans who say they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. Like the majority of nones, Decker is not an atheist; he still identifies as a Christian, albeit a nominal one.

“I was raised Christian but for years I have been unaffiliated because I cannot reconcile my values with traditional Christianity, including their concept of God,” Decker told Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist blog in an interview conducted before his appointment was announced Tuesday (Jan. 12). “Right now, if I have to put a label on it, I would say that I identify as an unaffiliated Christian. And like millions of people in our country, my belief system continues to evolve and is entirely personal to me.” (Quote source here.)

Genuine Christianity does not “evolve” according to a person’s “evolving belief system” nor is it ever “entirely personal” to the exclusion of others (as in keeping it a private matter) to the individual. While I realize that the nones (see article titled, ‘Nones’ on the Rise at this link) are becoming more common among us, the term “unaffiliated Christian” sounds more like an oxymoron than a description of a new subset within Christianity. I don’t understand how one can be either unaffiliated or “nominal” about Christianity, especially if they understand the basic tenets of Christianity. However, one can certainly walk away from it, but then if they do why include “Christian” when describing themselves at all? And what exactly is a “nominal Christian” anyway? Do they just make it up as they go along? I found the following definition for “nominal Christian” on Wikipedia:

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) defines a nominal Christian as “a person who has not responded in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord.” The LCWE notes that such a one “may be a practising or non-practising church member. He may give intellectual assent to basic Christian doctrines and claim to be a Christian. He may be faithful in attending liturgical rites and worship services, and be an active member involved in church affairs.” The LCWE also suggests that nominal Christianity “is to be found wherever the church is more than one generation old.”

Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk suggest that “nominalism” is a major issue. They assert that “many traditionally Christian populations know nothing of a personal faith, true repentance, and a trust in the finished work of Christ for their salvation,” and estimate that 1.2 billion people are “nominal and non-practicing ‘Christians’.”

American Reformed theologian Douglas Wilson disagrees with the category of “nominal Christian” and argues that all who are baptized enter into a covenant with God, and are obliged to serve him; there is, therefore, “no such thing as a merely nominal Christian any more than we can find a man who is a nominal husband.”(Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Are We Losing Our Religion: The Growing Classification of None,” by Jeanne Joe Perrone, who is a Millennial, she states the following:

Is America losing its religion?

Should we care?

As a millennial raised going back and forth between divorced parents and their respective Catholic and Evangelical Christian churches, I have had approximately 38,476 existential crises to date. So you may rightly guess that I found this news relevant — fascinating, even, with a dose of that good old cozy feeling of schadenfreude. (Without religion, HOW will the people experience the wonders of the Christian music industry!? I pity them. I pity them all.)

While the residual evangelical in me can’t help but expect fire and brimstone to rain down on our godless nation at any moment, I am cautiously optimistic. There’s something fascinating about seismic shifts and crossroads; they’re messy, but full of potential. I wonder: Are we as a culture throwing out the baby with the bathwater in losing our religion, or can we seize the day and use this cultural shift for good?

The answer seems to be: who knows? The thing about the ‘nones’ is that they are not actually an organized group — yet. They don’t all have the same background or beliefs or avoid traditional religion for the same reasons. They mostly don’t meet for weekly potlucks or have a clear-cut, religiously motivated political agenda like, say, evangelicals. . . .

Nones are less like cultural warriors and more like a one-size-fits-all dress — no one knows what they’re supposed to look like. Part of the problem with defining yourself in negatives (i.e. not religious) is that it’s hard to pinpoint what you actually do stand for.

For-God-So-Loved - John-3-16I don’t doubt that being raised by Baby Boomers hasn’t had it challenges, and the church culture has shifted so much over the past several decades that I can’t keep up with it most of the time. But the culture has also changed dramatically, too, since the 1960’s. What once were considered moral and ethical norms have been cast aside, and add in the technological wonders of this age, and no wonder some are calling themselves nominal if not “nones.” I found her choice of the German word schadenfreude (as in “a good old cozy feeling of schadenfreude”) interesting, too. It means “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” What is there to enjoy about the suffering of others? Do people who get that kind of enjoyment not realize it could happen to them, or do they not care? That is something I have witnessed more of in the past decade or so especially in the younger generations, but it’s not without it adherents in all generations. Do I detect an inbred cynicism? That does not come from genuine Christianity.

However, with that being said, the basic tenets of Christianity have never changed, and if a culture or subset of a culture can change them to reflect what they want, or throw out what they don’t like, it’s not genuine Christianity. Christianity transcends culture, and that includes American culture.

Christianity got its name from its founder, Jesus Christ. And Hebrews 13:8 states that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Christianity is unique among all other faiths. It is not about religious rituals; it is about a relationship. GotQuestions.org answers the question What is Christianity and what do Christians believe?” as follows:

The core beliefs of Christianity are summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was resurrected, and thereby offers salvation to all who will receive Him in faith. Unique among all other faiths, Christianity is more about a relationship than religious practices. Instead of adhering to a list of “do’s and don’ts,” the goal of a Christian is to cultivate a close walk with God. That relationship is made possible because of the work of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Beyond these core beliefs, there are many other items that are, or at least should be, indicative of what Christianity is and what Christianity believes. Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired, “God-breathed” Word of God and that its teaching is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Christians believe in one God that exists in three persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

Christians believe that mankind was created specifically to have a relationship with God, but sin separates all men from God (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ walked this earth, fully God, and yet fully man (Philippians 2:6-11), and died on the cross. Christians believe that after His death, Christ was buried, He rose again, and now lives at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for the believers forever (Hebrews 7:25). Christianity proclaims that Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to completely pay the sin debt owed by all men and this is what restores the broken relationship between God and man (Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:10; Romans 5:8; 6:23).

Christianity teaches that in order to be saved and be granted entrance into heaven after death, one must place one’s faith entirely in the finished work of Christ on the cross. If we believe that Christ died in our place and paid the price of our own sins, and rose again, then we are saved. There is nothing that anyone can do to earn salvation. We cannot be “good enough” to please God on our own, because we are all sinners (Isaiah 53:6;64:6-7). There is nothing more to be done, because Christ has done all the work! When He was on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), meaning that the work of redemption was completed.

According to Christianity, salvation is freedom from the old sin nature and freedom to pursue a right relationship with God. Where we were once slaves to sin, we are now slaves to Christ (Romans 6:15-22). As long as believers live on this earth in their sinful bodies, they will engage in a constant struggle with sin. However, Christians can have victory in the struggle with sin by studying and applying God’s Word in their lives and being controlled by the Holy Spirit—that is, submitting to the Spirit’s leading in everyday circumstances.

So, while many religious systems require that a person do or not do certain things, Christianity is about believing that Christ died on the cross as payment for our own sins and rose again. Our sin debt is paid and we can have fellowship with God. We can have victory over our sin nature and walk in fellowship and obedience with God. That is true biblical Christianity. (Quote source here.)

In describing Christianity, to some it may come off sounding boring or too “religious.” However, genuine Christianity is anything but that. But it has to be experienced by the individual–there is no substitution. And it is very costly, but it is worth every bit of the cost. And it is about following a Leader like none other this world has ever seen.

Once when I was traveling back to Houston in late September 2012–my first brief trip back after I lost my job there in late April 2009 and moved back to Florida in late September 2009–I stopped in the Panhandle of Florida to get gas and had a wonderful, yet telling conversation with a young man of 18 who was about to start college at a Baptist college nearby. Raised in a Christian home, he told me that his parents instilled in him the importance of understanding politics as it related to getting ahead and how it was more important than anything else he learned in order to be successful in life. The fact that Jesus never talked politics and never played favorites never came up. That was the “telling” part of the conversation. And what his parents taught him was clearly no different then what the rest of the world lives by and does. We have so intertwined our cultural beliefs with our Christian beliefs that it does not surprise me that there isn’t much there to hold the younger generation’s interest, especially those who classify themselves as “nominal” or “nones.” What a travesty, too, as they have never tasted what genuine Christianity is all about.

Before “a cozy feeling of schadenfreude” takes over with its ensuing cynicism, why not search the Scriptures with an open mind and an open heart. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus gave this invitation:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Come to Me

All you who are weary and burdened

and I will give you rest.

~Jesus
(Matthew 11:28)

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Behind the Scenes

behind the scenesYesterday afternoon I noticed a book on the shelves in the book area at a Goodwill store here in Orlando with a most intriguing title. I immediately recognized the author, Dr. R.C. Sproul, who is “an American theologian, author, and pastor. He is also the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and can be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally” (quote source here). The book is titled, The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (1996; republished in 2003). No doubt there have been times when most–if not all–of us have asked that question, and most likely asked it far more than once.

The inside front flap of the hardcover edition states the following:

Is it merely coincidence when events occur that cause . . .

Joy to fill our lives,

Evil to seemingly triumph,

Our efforts to succeed,

Sorrow to engulf us . . . ?

Too often in today’s age of secularism we fail to see God’s hand in both the rewards and the trials of our lives. Because He is invisible to us, we erroneously think that many events happen by coincidence; we don’t sense God’s active presence in the course of human affairs. With these blinders in place, we look at the world’s past, present, and future and speculate, “What if . . . ?”

But as R.C. Sproul convincingly writes in “The Invisible Hand,” “There is no ‘what if?’ in God.” He doesn’t roll dice! Nor does He have to wait to see which fork in the road we choose…. He knows the future precisely because He wills the future as He did the past. “He is a God whose providence is in the details”. . . . (Quote source: inside front flap.)

From my own experience over the past seven years, “What if . . . ?” has been a question I’ve asked on a number of occasions. While I believe in God’s providence in all things that happen on this earth, from a human perspective the question is still a haunting one. “What if . . . ?”  And we all tend to ask it especially when the hard times hit, and even more so when those hard times stick around for a very long period of time–far longer then we imagined with still no resolution to the situation. My version of the “What if . . . ?” question goes like this:

What if I had never taken that job and moved to Houston over seven years ago?

Well, most likely I would not have been unemployed all this time and now, for the past fifteen months, living in hotels to keep a roof over my head (a situation I have explained in a previous post). Regardless of how often any of us might revisit the “What if . . .?” question, the fact remains that “What if’s . . . ?” don’t actually exist. There is only “What is . . . .”

Dr. Sproul’s book goes into great detail on this very subject. There are twenty chapters in his 210-page book, and he tackles every question we could possible come up with regarding God’s providence in our lives and in our world. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all there–from “Providence as Provision” to “Train Wreck”; from “Everything Is Against Us?” to “To God Alone the Glory”; from “The Invisible Hand” to “The Visible Hand”; from “Providence and Government” to “Providence and the Problem of Evil”; from “Providence and Miracles” to “Counterfeit Miracles” and “Providence and Prayer.” And those are just a few of the chapter titles.

Regarding my own “What if . . .?” question stated above–when I first lost my job in Housotn in April 2009, I had every confidence that God would help me find a new job soon as I was my only means of financial support. My initial focus and all of the my time from the first day after I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 was devoted to one specific goal–to quickly find another job, and before I ran out of money, too. Seven years later I can look back and see now at how narrow my view of the world was back then.

From our human perspective, it is very hard to understand why God doesn’t move in our circumstances (especially the hard circumstances that come to all of us at one time or another) as quickly as we would like him to move, or that the way He sometimes provides for us isn’t the way we had planned. If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you know that my current housing situation is one I never expected to happen and has lasted for over 15 months now. If I thought finding another job was hard (and it never has materialized), finding affordable housing on a Social Security income is just about impossible to find without waiting on a waiting list for long period of times (and I’m still waiting). So what is one to do in the interim? And due to that fact, I have found myself living in hotels for the past 15 months as I have been unable to secure more permanent housing that I can afford through the various avenues available to me. At this point in time, I wish I could just twitch my nose like Samantha did in Bewitched (a TV sitcom from 1964 to 1972) and finally find an affordable and more permanent place to live.

This situation brings to mind the subject of spiritual warfare. Most of us live according to the physical world that surrounds us–what we can think, see, feel, touch, do, and get, etc. For those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian, too often we are unaware of the spiritual battles surrounding us because we don’t recognize them for what they are–battles. However, the Bible is very clear about this spiritual world and it’s reality and that we are living in the midst of it all of the time. And that world more real then even the physical world all around us. The classic passage on spiritual warfare was penned by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian believers and is found in Ephesians 6:10-18. And it’s pretty clear that this battle is a serious undertaking:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

When one is feeling weary, it’s hard to pray about a situation that never seems to change. And it is in that weariness that a spiritual battle can rage on. Last night I started writing this blog post without realizing how frustrated I had let myself get over my current housing situation. An incident came up yesterday morning when I was paying for another week to stay at this hotel that made me realize how weary I am getting from having to live in hotels while not being able to secure more permanent and affordable housing (and living in hotels is far from cheap). I was told that starting with the new year the weekly rate price was increasing, and that I would need to start paying the increased rate starting in February. Since it is a business, I understood why they were increasing the rate, but I never wanted to be living in hotels in the first place. And it sent me back to thinking about how all of this got started in my life in the first place . . . back to when I lost that job in Houston in April 2009.

Before I go any further I want to mention something that impacted me when I read it the other day. I’ve been reading the book, Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” by Eric Metaxas, and in a chapter titled, “The Great Decision,” (Chapter 8), Bonhoeffer was really struggling with a decision he needed to make for several reasons during the rise of Hitler in Germany in the late 1930’s. The details surrounding his decision are too long to go into in this blog post, but through a series of events he was sent to America from his beloved Germany for a year by others who wanted him out of the heat of what was going on in Germany at that time (this was in 1939). However, as noted on page 127, “He had not been in New York twenty-four hours, but Bonhoeffer was already deeply out of sorts. His mind continued to churn about the situation back home [in Germany], wondering how long he should stay in America, and whether he ought to have come at all.”

Bonhoeffer stayed in New York only twenty-six days and returned to Berlin with a stop in England on the way back to see family and colleagues living there. Bonhoeffer kept a diary and right after he decided that he needed to return to Germany (he was determined to obey God and was sure he was doing so in deciding to return to Germany), he wrote the following in his diary on the evening of June 20, 1939 as he “ruminated about the decision, puzzled by the strange mystery of it all” (p. 130):

It is remarkable how I am never quite clear about the motives for any of my decisions. Is that a sign of confusion, of inner dishonesty, or is it a sign that we are guided without our knowing, or it is both? . . . Today the reading [from the Bible–specific verses not mentioned] speaks dreadfully harshly of God’s incorruptible judgment. He certainly sees how much personal feeling, how much anxiety there is in today’s decision, however brave it may seem. The reasons one gives for an action to others and to one’s self are certainly inadequate. One can give a reason for everything. In the last resort one acts from a level which remains hidden from us. So one can only ask God to judge us and to forgive us. . . . At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgment on today and all its decisions. It is now in his hand. (Quote from Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” by Eric Metaxas, Chapter 8 “The Great Decision,” p. 130.)

And as “he set his face toward Berlin, somehow he was again at peace” (p. 130). He made a decision that he knew he had to make and he followed through on it, and as difficult as it was once he had followed through with it he knew he had made the right decision.

As I look at my own set of circumstances, the hotel situation is just the latest thing to happen to me that reverberates back to when I lost the job in Houston. For some time now I have felt the need to express what I believe was and is really going that has caused me to run into “closed doors” at every turn no matter how hard I have tried to find work and now affordable housing. However, I never knew how to express what I believed was and has been happening that has prevented me from moving forward. Often, we like to believe that we are in control of our circumstances, but that is not always the case–in fact, it rarely is the case.

I moved 1000 miles to Houston from Florida at the end of September 2008 to start that job that I lost a scant seven months later in April 2009. I met with a lawyer on May 1, 2009, to have her review a separation agreement I had received from the company on the day I was fired, but we did not discuss any of the issues that I knew (but had no solid proof to show her) were going on leading up to the day I was fired. I met with her as I was told by my former employer that it was not advisable to sign the separation agreement without having a lawyer review it. She reviewed it and we both signed off on it, and I turned it back in to my former employer. Three months later in July 2009 I found solid physical evidence linking what had happened to me when I worked there but I thought that since I had already signed the separation agreement, it was too late to do anything with what I had found. However, by November 2009 I decided to write a letter to the lawyer I met with on May 1, 2009, detailing in a four-page single spaced letter what happened to me during the time I worked there and including the solid physical evidence that I had found. I know she received that letter as I sent it by certified mail, return-receipt requested, and I received the signed receipt back in the mail. I did not hear back from her.

Due to circumstances that have occurred to me since mailing that letter to her, I have come to believe that there was a some type of lawsuit that was filed or a settlement that was reached through my lawyer at some point after she received my letter in November 2009 stating the clear, physical evidence I presented to her of what was being done to me at my former place of employment that was both unethical and illegal. For whatever reason on their part, I was not contacted by my lawyer, and I believe my former employer contacted some of my family members and they dealt with the lawyer, and it was mutually agreed upon to keep me out of it for reasons that will go unstated at this time. However, due to some conversations I had early on it was apparent that a family member was hoping to get power of attorney over me so that the money would be diverted away from me. However, it was not their lawsuit, and I am in no need of designating a “power of attorney” to handle any of my affairs, and the parties involved have been keeping me at a distance from knowing anything about the lawsuit/settlement ever since this started.

Thank you for publicly pointing out my typosSince it is now several years later and no resolution has been found on their part (at least the resolution they have been hoping for which takes me completely out of the picture), I believe the original settlement has accrued to a very large sum of money. And the fact that no one will contact me continues to delay any action regarding it because they don’t want me involved, yet there would be no lawsuit if it wasn’t for what happened to me in the first place. The details are more complex than I have stated here but those details allude to how I have ended up living in hotels as this saga continues.

It’s amazing to me what greed will do to people. It can separate the best of friends; it can separate family members; it kills love; and it is incredibly selfish and self-serving. And public perception has been skewed to not favor (or even hear) my side of the story. From what I have experienced these past several years, it is shocking to see what greed will do to people. And all I’m asking is for some resolution and to be included.

Is that too much to ask for?

I’m asking . . . .

YouTube Video: “Games People Play” sung by Hank Williams, Jr.:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Righting a Wrong for the New Year

With the start of a brand new year today, January 1, 2016, many people are busy making a list of New Year’s Resolutions in an attempt to, once again, turn over a new leaf or to right a wrong such as changing bad eating habits or starting an exercise program; or perhaps making an effort to restore ailing family relationships or friendships or whatever else might be ailing them. Gaby Hinsliff, a columnist at The Guardian and former political editor of the Observer, stated that her New Year’s resolution for 2016 is to stop being a lousy friend.” And I’m sure most of us can relate to that one.

While I stopped making New Year’s resolutions at least a decade or two ago, a brand new year always holds out hope for new beginnings as I’m sure it does for most everyone else, too. There’s something fresh and squeaky clean about a brand new year beginning again, and while it seems it doesn’t take much (or very long) to put a smudge on it, we hold out hope for a world tangled in chaos. Just review some of the top news stories of 2015 if you don’t believe it isn’t chaotic in our world today. ABCNews reported, The San Bernardino shooting [on December 2, 2015] marked at least the 57th mass shooting this year where three or more people were killed, according to an ABC News analysis.” (Quote source here.)

While we may shake our heads with each new tragedy that strikes with ever increasing frequency, most of us haven’t got a clue how to solve the problem of the escalating violence taking place all around us in our nation and around the world. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have for those of us who believe in God, but I know that sometimes there are simply no words to adequately express what is going on all around us. When words escape me and I honestly don’t know how to pray about what is going on, I often pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, also known as The Lord’s Prayer,” found in Matthew 6:9-13:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts (e.g., our trespasses),
as we also have forgiven our debtors
(e.g., those who have trespassed against us).

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.”

We tend to stumble a lot over forgiving those who have trespassed against us, and perhaps this is one of the biggest causes of the human tragedies that happen in our world that are not caused by nature. And the ability to hate others we often don’t even know has been endemic in our world since the beginning of time. It is, indeed, the age old battle between good and evil. But the lines of evil have clearly been blurred over the past several decades. We’ve replaced the true meaning of evil with meaning something seemingly innocuous and self serving. “If it feels good, do it” became the “emerging values of the 1960’s and 70’s” (quote source here) and perpetuated to the following generations. When we look out only for ourselves without regard for others (especially those we don’t know), everyone eventually loses. A society cannot sustain itself for long if everyone is mostly concerned about what they can personally get out of life. If we take what we want from others without any regard for them, we shouldn’t be surprised if someone eventually comes along and takes it from us.

page-under-constructionUPDATE: I’m in the process of revising this post from this point to the end. Since it was originally published earlier today, I don’t plan to delete the post but I decided after rereading it that what I had written from this point to the end needed a lot of “tweaking” (and that’s putting it mildly) so it was just easier to delete it for now. I was actually bemoaning my plight since I lost my job in Houston almost seven years ago (in April), and while what I wrote was cathartic for me to get it off my chest, I do so hate pity-parties and I was having a major one when I wrote it. Listening to music and/or reading a good book usually gets me out of it (fortunately, I very rarely have pity-parties) so I spent the rest of the day reading a John Grisham novel, The King of Torts (2003), which is about a young lawyer in Washington D.C. who gets caught up in a “get rich quick scheme” that actually works through mass tort litigation.” However, greed certainly has it’s down side and this young lawyer gets the full brunt of it before the story ends. At least he gets to keep the old girlfriend.

Trust me when I say that reading that book was a much better deal then reading through what I had written on here before I decided I didn’t need to go so public with my own personal pity-party. What was name of that Leslie Gore song back in the 1960’s? It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To (click link for YouTube Video). Okay, so I did. Enough already . . . 🙂

So I’ll leave “Righting a Wrong” to those who need to right it (but haven’t so far). What I wrote earlier (and deleted) was actually “Writing a Wrong,” and I’ve written about it in previous posts. Ya’ll know my story by now… 😉

In the meantime while I figure out how to fill up this space (or maybe just leave it as it is), please enjoy the Rascal Flatts song, “My Wish,” linked below.

And Happy New Year!!!

Thanks!

YouTube Video: “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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