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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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Holding Firmly to the Faith We Profess

Hold firmly quote by Thomas-Aquinas“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). The New King James Version states it like this, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Not grow weary . . . . Folks, there are days when I have grown so weary from these past five plus years of unemployment that I can hardly stand it. And the weariness does not come from the fact that I’ve been unemployed all this time, not that it doesn’t have a huge and detrimental effect on how I can live my life. For example, just try renting an apartment as an unemployed person and see how far you can get. No, the weariness comes from people. And one of the hardest realizations I have had to face has not been from the futile search for a job but rather from the lack of genuine compassion from people including fellow believers that I have been around–folks who claim the name of Jesus Christ just as I do.

However, with that being said, on any given day if you were to run into me when I am out and about in the community, and that includes when I’m attending church every week, you would find a smile (genuine, not fake) on my face, and a willingness to engage folks of all ages and backgrounds in conversation. God shows no partiality when it comes to people, and neither should we (see Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11). Even when I grow weary from the duplicity that I find at times in others (but certainly not all others), my conversations and responses are genuine.

On the rare occasion when the weariness gets to be a bit too much, I’m reminded of the fact that as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can always “come boldly to the throne of grace, that I (we) may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV). Taken in context, the passage reads as follows (from Hebrews 4:12-16):

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The word of God is the Bible. And it does, indeed, “discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” And that includes every heart . . . even those who do not believe. “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

We all are easily deceived at times–by others and by ourselves. If we want something bad enough, we’ll go to any length to create a deception to appease our own conscience in order to acquire what it is that we want. We can even convince ourselves that what we want–regardless of the deception we have created and believed–is from the hand of God (for those of us who believe in God), whether or not it is (and most often it is not). However, if it involves abusing another person or group of people for our own purposes, gain, or satisfaction, it certainly does have a source, but that source is not God.

The Thomas Acquinas quote in the photo at the top of this post–“Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this and you dissolve the unity of the Church”–makes for an interesting statement. What exactly does he mean when he said that our faith should be identical with that of the ancients? The faith of the ancients is not a faith we often experience here in America unless we fall on very hard times. And our faith doesn’t often appear to require much of us on a daily basis, either. In fact, if a “Noah” (who built the ark) showed up in our culture today we’d laugh and mock as hard as the folks did back in his day. And that is most likely true regarding many of the other Biblical characters who went against the mainstream of their culture (see list below from Hebrews 11).

We need to take a look at what the faith of the ancients entailed in order to see how our faith measures up to the faith that they exhibited, and the best place to look is in Hebrews 11, titled the “Faith in Action” chapter and also known as “Faith’s Hall of Fame”:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

That which we don't understandCan we say that our faith is identical to the faith of those mentioned above? That is the kind of faith that pleases God. If we spend any amount of time mocking others instead of believing what God has clearly stated about those who possessed genuine faith, we need to consider what believing faith really means and whether or not we who claim to have faith actually use it.

The opening verses (vv 14-16) in another classic reference regarding faith found in James 2:14-26 state the following:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

And further down in the passage, verse 24 states “a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” And it’s not about a specific list of things we have done that we can point to and say “see, I have faith.” No, it goes all the way to the heart of the issue and why we did it in the first place. Motives are key. Is what we do genuinely done to help others, or are we looking for some kind of “kick-back” from it without really caring about those “others” except on a surface or “looking good” level? And if “the crowd” doesn’t like someone, do we automatically not like them either? Do we judge them unfairly? Do we point fingers and mock?

When it comes to our motives God is not deceived, even if we think we can deceive everyone else including ourselves. We live in a culture that, over time, has become increasingly biblically illiterate while many claim to have faith. The question is, faith in exactly who or what? When was the last time our faith was put to a test of endurance, or tested when we didn’t get what we wanted (and we didn’t try to manipulate the outcome)? And when was the last time we just plain stopped judging others and gossiping about them? And when was the last time we tried helping someone outside of our own comfort zone? When?

If you’re a bit disgruntled at this point, stop being disgruntled. We can be a hard-headed and hard-hearted bunch. If we can’t stop judging and start loving, there is something seriously wrong with our faith. And confession is the only way to fix it by confessing it to God (I John 1:9). And by meaning it, too. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Genuine faith requires action . . .

Will we act, or just react?

The choice is ours . . . .

YouTube Video: “Walk by Faith” by Jeremy Camp:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Faith That Conquers

The New New ThingOkay, okay, this isn’t “A Silicon Valley Story” but it is “the new, new thing.” And, I’m pretty sure my niche is definitely here on this blog site. I know I mentioned in my last post that I had started a new blog site and I called it “a new thing”; however, after writing two blog posts on it, it really isn’t turning out to be much different from this one. And while I won’t trash that site yet, I can hear the wrecking ball in the distance . . . 😉 Some things just need to be trashed. (UPDATE: I completely trashed it on June 8th and I just replaced that blog post mentioned above with one of the posts I wrote on my new blog site that no longer exists.)

May 2013 has been an interesting month for me. I think I’m glad it’s over, too (along with another birthday on May 31st). Besides the never-ending frustration of being unemployed for a zillion years now (okay, maybe not that long, but it sure feels like it), I was hoping that by starting the new website that I could sort of “showcase” my writing skills to potential employers with the hope of possibly landing a writing gig. (You do know that I want to be a writer when I grow up, right?) And, most employers (except for Christian employers and that’s still a “maybe”) probably aren’t interested in reading what I write on this blog.

Well, after encountering a bunch of hacker issues on that particular blog site (no point in going into the details) and writing two blog posts that were not significantly different in topic then what I write on this blog (well, they may have been a bit more “edgy” then what I write on this one–after all, I’m pretty sick of being unemployed and going nowhere fast or slow or at any speed, really), I decided that it was best to leave the month of May in the past, and start fresh again in June.

I am in definite need of inspiration and I’m not getting it by what I’ve been doing lately. So, I’ve been thinking about taking a road trip to the most inspiring place I can think of right now–Washington DC. It’s about the same distance as my trip to Houston, but Houston wasn’t too inspiring (after all, I lost my job there over four years ago now). It’s been years and years since I’ve been in Washington DC. In fact, if I remember right, the last time was when I attended a national conference (NASPA) held there when I was a grad student at Iowa State University.

lincolnmemorialMy first stop would be at the Lincoln Memorial. I can’t think of a more inspiring place to start my tour. If it was possible (and it’s not, I know . . .) I’d like to crawl up on Lincoln’s lap and ask him for some advice. He had a pretty tough life and, of course, he was assassinated at the end, but slavery was abolished under his tutelage. And that is a very big deal. A VERY big deal. Slavery was one of the worst blights ever to appear on the American landscape.

And my next stop would be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where so many, many soldiers of my generation died at way too young of an age in a war that divided our nation and brought scorn to those who did returned. Another blight for which the creation of “The vietnam-memorialWall” has provided much healing especially for those who served in Vietnam. And, of course, there’s the Washington Monument, dedicated to our first president, George Washington. And, a tour of the White House would be nice, but due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration tours have been cancelled.

There is much to see and I’m sure I’d plan to pack in as many sites as I can during the few days I’m there; but mostly, I want to go there because it is the greatest place of inspiration and dedication to America and what America stands for in our nation. And I’m in need of inspiration . . . (a job would be nice, too).

I’ve been alive long enough now (61 years) to have seen a deterioration of America over the past few decades. It started when we threw God out of the public schools and the public arena; drugs became highly fashionable with the invasion of the hippie revolution, as did a major decline in morality on a large scale; and there was the whole women’s lib movement as well as the civil rights movement that brought two significant issues to a head that certainly needed to be addressed, and there was also the “God is dead” movement followed by the “Jesus freaks.”

The disco era bought in shallowness as a mainstream lifestyle and the 80’s brought in the “Me generation” with all of it’s excesses in greed and materialism (on a mass scale), and somewhere along the line making money became our god and God was put on a shelf. Even our churches started catering to the culture to draw and keep crowds, and the birth of mega-churches produced “the 20-minute sermon” to go along with our fast food and fast paced society. Our lives became a long, never-ending “to do” list of things and events and how to make more money. Spiritual maturity ended right after the “get saved” prayer and the Bible was relegate to a shelf on the bookcase except when it was dusted off to take to church on Sunday morning (if we even took it or if we even attended).

Wall StreetThen there was the Wall Street crash right after the worst terrorist attack on American soil to date–9/11. And we started a “war on terror” overseas and here at home. Over the next few years there was a housing boom that was really built on nothing more than a “house of cards” waiting to fall. What looked like a real boom for several years wasn’t . . .  and it fell with the second Wall Street crash of September 29, 2008, the greatest crash of all that sent shock waves around the world and the world economy reeling.

Of course, the unemployment rate started to skyrocket in 2008 when the “house of cards” started falling and the recovery ever since has been very slow and in many cases, nonexistent (for those like myself who are still unemployed). We live in troubling times.

Times, of course, have always been troubled . . . ebbing and flowing with whatever is going on in the world and our own culture at the time (the two are intrinsically intertwined). And we threw God out of the public arena in the 60’s–fifty years ago now. The very principles this nation was founded on no longer seemed to matter to anyone (at best, we’re admonished to “keep it quiet”). Now when the tough times hit, there is nothing to fall back on. We have a whole generation (primarily people under 40) who have been raised with little or no “religious” values of any kind or if they have been raised with them, they are shallow at best and never meant to be an “anchor” for their lives. Faith in self is their motto (or maybe faith in technology).

the Cross of 9-11Let’s look at how Americans responded after 9/11. For a few months after it happened people flooded into churches all over the nation and God was mentioned everywhere, but in very short order life went back to “normal” and God was put back on the shelf and faith in ourselves was back full force. But what will happen if something worse happens in the future (after all, terrorism hasn’t disappeared)? If people haven’t put their faith in anything other than themselves and/or their own financial resources, what will happen when it all collapses? Where will they turn?

I feel fortunate to have been raised in an era when Christianity was still very much a part of the fabric of America. It’s not that everyone in my generation (the Baby Boomers) adhered to it–in fact, many didn’t–but it was still there and widely available. Discipleship was taken seriously after conversion and we knew there was a “growing” process to a new life in Jesus Christ. The focus was on Him and learning how He expected His followers to live, and not on all of the focus on “us” that started happening in the 80’s (or possibly earlier) in mainstream Christianity. We can’t ever get to know Jesus Christ if what we are looking for most of the time is what He can or will give to or do for us and/or if we were brought up to believe that our sin doesn’t matter or that sin is irrelevant (just look at how the whole topic of sin has died out in the past few decades).

These past four plus years of unemployment have been some of the hardest years of my life, and I know that if I didn’t have my faith in Jesus Christ along with the Biblical knowledge of how to live my life (not perfectly, mind you, but knowing the direction it should be taking), and without having a relationship with Him that is “two-way” and not just “my-way,” I don’t think I would have survived for this long. My faith in Jesus Christ (and not faith in myself) is the anchor that holds my life together, and while many folks in our society today ridicule such beliefs I find it amazing that they ridicule something they don’t even understand, nor do they even try to understand. They just mock. But what will happen if/when the bottom falls out of their lives? The Wall Street crashes have proved that any monetary support that people have built up over the years to support themselves could be wiped out in an instant and that happened to millions during the Great Depression. Faith in self and/or money is no faith at all.

Do you want to know the type of faith that conquers the world? It’s stated in I John 5:1-15:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

This life is not just about the “here and now” of how to keep ourselves going and trying to stay away from trouble as much as possible and/or trying to accumulate as much money as possible (circumstances have a way in interfering with that as we all know). It’s also about eternity, which lasts forever . . . forever . . . . I am amazed at how trite people take the concept of eternity, if they even allow themselves to think of it much at all. This life on earth isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.

Many of our early leaders in America like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were strong believers in Jesus Christ and they were not ashamed to lead with the clear knowledge and conviction that they were not in charge, and that God was (and is) ultimately in charge. And, this nation was founded on Biblical principles and with the eroding of those principles over the decades there has been an eroding in our culture. But just because our culture has eroded, that doesn’t mean we as individuals should allow our faith in Jesus Christ (if we are truly His followers) to erode into a shallow type of Christianity that looks and acts no different from the rest of the culture and will not stand when the tough times comes, and they will come as they always do.

So you may be asking if I really need to make a trip to Washington DC to be inspired? Maybe not. But I want to go and celebrate a nation that is still the greatest nation on the planet, and celebrate the lives of all of those leaders and soldiers and other folks, too, who have made it great. And where is our nation headed? I don’t know. I can’t even find a job let alone answer a question as big as that, but I am grateful for our past and where it has brought us and I look forward to being inspired by all of those folks from our past while I’m there.

So, let me ask this question . . . what or who are you putting your faith in? If it’s anything (self, money, etc.) or anyone other then Jesus Christ, your faith will not hold, and you’ll cave in at the first sign of trouble. Don’t cave in. And if you don’t know Him, get to know Him now.

You’ll never regret it, no matter what circumstances come your way . . . .

YouTube Video: Here is Salvador singing that great Steve Winwood song, “Higher Love” (1986):

Photo #1 credit here
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