Monday, October 29, 2012


....the mortal will be swallowed up by life....

This morning I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians 5, the chapter in scripture that accompanied my Oswald Chambers devotional. Even though I have done this same devotional for the past three years I am continually struck by the unapologetic truth Chambers brings forth in his short writings. He never ceases to bring forth the truth of a scripture in a way I hadn't seen before. He doesn't sugarcoat the difficulty in the Christian life and he doesn't dance around the tough truths. He tells it like it is. And I need that.

But this morning it wasn't his words that struck me so deeply. It was the simple picture laid forth in the scriptures: the mortal life will be swallowed up by life. What a beautiful picture. This life, so temporary and fleeting, is just the mortal. True, eternal life is still ahead. Right now we know only this earth and the life we lead here. But it is just a temporary dwelling. While we are on this earth we are away from our true home and true life. While we walk on this earth we will encounter struggles and trials. These are all characteristics of the mortal.
Thank God it doesn't end there. The mortal is a blink of an eye. It is here today and gone tomorrow. We, those who have put their faith and life in the hands of God, have something marvelous to look forward to: life. This mortal condition we experience now is going to be swallowed up by life! That life is going to be so amazing and glorious words won't be able to describe it. We will be taken out of this flawed world. We will be united with God in Heaven. Can your mind even take that all in? It defies my comprehension and leaves me in utter awe.

As for this life, this time spent in the mortal, I find 2 Corinthians 5:4 freeing. This life is just a blip on the screen. It isn't even really, truly life. The true life is still to come. That fact makes this life and all its struggles much less significant. Instead of being caught up in demanding my own way, this scripture frees me to endure the trials of this life, knowing that everything I am experiencing is fleeting. I don't need to feel the pressure of having perfection here on this earth. Instead, I am called to live a life devoted to Christ, walking by faith and carrying my cross daily. That is the command for this mortal life.

I look forward to my heavenly dwelling. Who wouldn't look forward to perfection? . Until I get there, I am here living out my life with my eyes on Christ. I don't know how long he will have me here or what plans he has for me on this earth but I do know that no matter what my circumstances I am to be fixed on him. As I do that, I am preparing for the life ahead where each and every day for eternity will be spent in celebration of God as I praise and worship him face to face! LIFE is something I am looking forward to with great anticipation!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New ad, new low

Alert to the American people: the office of the Presidency and his political campaign have reached new lows (I know, who knew it was even possible?) Have you been assaulted yet by the latest of the Obama rhetoric? This time it comes in the form of a morally bankrupt TV ad that is sweeping the internet and blowing up the blog world.
From the very start Obama's ads have been morally depraved, focusing on lies and covering up the truth of his own record, votes and opinions. Instead he has taken the office of the presidency to new lows by telling bold faced lies on network television and then making them into ads to make himself look like a hero. If this doesn't make any sense to you, don't fret. Pure evil and deception shouldn't make sense. It should cause us all to run - sprint, actually - in the opposite direction.
But back to the ad. This ad goes beyond lies, deceit, false-truths, twisted numbers and cut and pasted sound bites. This ad takes a sacred act, designed and given by God, and turns it into a benchmark of teenagehood, a simple step along the path to growing up, an act of pure pleasure and "fun". Yes, I'm talking about sex. His newest campaign ad focuses on sex and a girl's "first time". Apparently, to the Obama campaign, a girl losing her sacred virginity is the equivalent to voting for Romney or Obama on November 6th. This is the campaign's deplorable attempt at raking in the female vote.
Where to begin? Let's start with the degrading view the ad takes of women. This is what we care about? Having mind blowing sexual experiences while keeping up on our daily birth control pill courtesy of the US government? Is this truly of utmost concern for the female population? What about jobs, the right to life, the security of our country from foreign attacks? I care more about four Americans killed in Libya, at OUR embassy, then I care about some teenager getting birth control so she can sleep around and hope the pill is working so she doesn't receive any of the "consequences" of her actions. Obama must think women are so dimwitted that all we care about is our reproductive organs. Wrong. We are not objects, we are not the sum of our physical parts.
Even worse, this ad campaign erases all consequences of sex. Liberals tout Planned Parenthood as their savior for the women of the world (Notice - not just our country. Thanks to this President and his funding of abortions in Mexico, we can now say that his Planned Parenthood agenda reaches beyond the borders of our sovereign nation.) The Democrat agenda has been obviously pro-sex, yet against the very life that sex creates. Their health care plan gives women free birth control. AKA: have as much sex as you want! Free of charge! Then, if by chance that 1% failure rate of your pill strikes with the natural results of a child (gasp), just make an appointment at your local Planned Parenthood and they'll take care of that in a jiffy. Twenty weeks along in the pregnancy? The answer is still the same. Just schedule an appointment. They wouldn't want you to actually have to birth the child that you brought onto this planet through your actions. The official Democrat platform makes it clear that it should be a right of all women to get rid of their child at any point in their pregnancy. And Obama, in his own personal opinion, believes that even after the child is born there is still wiggle room as to whether or not that child needs to be cared for. If, lets say, the women had an abortion yet the child survived and lived to full term, Obama thinks it is okay to let that child simply die ONCE IT HAS BEEN BORN.
But voting is just like sex, remember?
There is only one way this logic makes any sense to me - and you'll see it put into action on November 6. The American people voted for you - they engaged in the activity. And now, we will remove the consequences. We will vote you out of office. You deserve much worse. You deserve to be prosecuted for the lies you have told - too many to count and far beyond what we as an American public are aware of. If for nothing else, you deserve to be behind bars for your inaction in saving American troops on September 11, 2012. And that, I'm sure, is just the tip of the iceberg of your corruption.
You have caused enough damage to this country. You and your administration have taken the constitutional principles of this country and replaced them with a Socialist agenda in which Communism reigns supreme. But there are people in this country who believe in something greater and far more powerful then your evil schemes. We are a people founded on the principles of God. We believe that life is special and sacred. We believe that freedom is something worth fighting for. You may have fooled enough people with your promise of free stuff and a rosy picture of hope. Well, fool us once and shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. I'm praying, trusting and believing that you won't get that second chance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Savor the season

Are you in a quiet place in life? Is it so silent that you could hear a pin drop? Can you hear the rush of wind through the trees?
Do you feel like all the world is rushing by but you are at a stand still, just waiting for a green light - or even a yellow one? But, alas, you are stuck on red. You are a ship without its rudder.  A car without an engine. You have been grounded, delayed until further notice. It is as if someone has put your life on mute. You can watch the rest of the world make noise but you have been hushed.

Maybe you didn't choose it. Maybe your silence has been thrust upon you like a child at their very first day of kindergarden. They don't want to leave their Mom but they have no choice in the matter. Kicking, screaming, crying - all do no good. They are stuck in the classroom till the last bell rings and Mom is back at the door, this time to whisk her child away (only to repeat it all again tomorrow). You may be long past kindergarden and matured past all out tantrums on the schoolroom floor, but your heart may still be aching to break free from the hushed circumstances of your current existence.

When you look outside and see the rest of the world enjoying the noise and commotion of activity it is easy to grow melancholy in the stillness you find yourself surrounded by. You may question why you are sequestered while the people around you are not. Why the isolation? Why the deathly, eirie quiet? How did you get locked into this box while everyone else seems to be enjoying a sort of freedom that isn't open to you? When, if ever, will this change?
Your thoughts may be those of doubt and impatience. Just like a child you yearn for what your peers have. You don't see the precious value of what you possess. Instead, you are caught up in looking at what everyone else seems to be enjoying. Without even realizing it, you have come to wallow in your own condition. The grass must be greener on the other side.

Or is it? Have you stopped to consider the blessing that is in this stillness? Have you completely overlooked the splendor of a quiet season? Have you forgotten how beautiful the wind blowing through the autumn leaves can sound?
The rest of the world can't hear what you can hear. They are too busy. They are too surrounded by the clatter and racket of life. Their ears are filled with sounds coming from every direction, of every pitch - causing too much distraction. They miss what you enjoy.
They miss the soft rain pattering against the roof in the early morning hours. They miss the first birds of spring and last of fall. They miss the hum of dimmed lights and the soft simmer of water on the stove. They walk but don't hear the crunch of autumn's foliage under their feet and the soft swaying of leaves in the afternoon's breeze. The pleasures of the quiet life may be simple, but they are a marvelous creation easily missed and too often taken for granted.
But you are being blessed. You have the privilege of soaking in the presence of these beauties. Your life is not too loud. You do not miss the hushed tones of the uninterrupted life. You have been given a gift.
Your quiet time in life might last longer then you ever expected. A year, two years... maybe even more. Not one of those moments, days or years is a waste. It is not just biding your time. Each one of those precious moments is bestowed upon you to grow you closer to the wondrous God who created the quiet and the beauties that accompany it. He has let you remain in the quiet. He, himself, is in the quiet. And he wants to share it with you. God is waiting in the silence, yearning for a deeper walk with you. Will you join him?
How will you use this time? Will you wish it away? Or will you savor it? Will you use this time to grow intimately closer to God - fostering a relationship unlike any other? He wants to get to know you better. He wants you to know him better. That can only be done through time spent in the company of one another. How important is your relationship with him? He is giving you time to show him just how much of him you want. He has already shown you how deeply he desires you - sending his son to die for you, separating you from the rest of the world to fellowship with you, alone. Will you meet him there? His invitation has already been extended. It is written in the silence.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What will you pursue?

Dreams, plans, aspirations, hard work... they all sound good, don't they? Not only do they sound good but they sound logical. In fact, they sound like the kind of thing your Mom and Dad would have applauded and encouraged. In school these were the principles that students were to aspire to. It has been engrained in young minds that these are the actions of the successful. Just think of the quotes you find printed on mugs, t-shirts, and banners in the school cafeteria: "Dream big"..."Reach for the stars"..."If you can dream it, you can do it"..... These are the sayings our society loves to quote and live by. No wonder it is common place for adults to ask students what they are planning for the future. It is assumed that everyone should be focusing on what is coming next.

Would you like to know what I think of all those sayings and that entire mindset? I have come to see that it is pure silliness. We can try to plan and plot for the future, striving to reach a goal and become a success at something or be successful in some relationship. Our lives can become defined by what we are attempting to accomplish but in the end all of it will amount to trying to grasp the wind: we will come up empty. Sure, maybe by the world's standards we will look like we have it all together but don't be fooled. Looking good to the world is often deceiving. The world has expectations and standards that are far from Biblical and often in stark contrast to the things of God. What is a slam dunk in this world's eyes is often a major fail in God's.
This leaves us with two options. One, we can work to gain the things that our society tells us we should want: money, friends, success, fulfilled dreams, fun experiences, security... These, among many others, are what our culture and our human nature puts value on. Our aspirations become molded around what is comfortable and most enjoyable. We become caught up in attaining that which will make us successful from a worldly perspective. That usually involves money and a title - a degree, a job with a fancy description and bold letters with big words that no one fully comprehends. These are the things that tell the world: I'VE MADE IT!
But what does God think of that? If we've hit all the milestones to be a success here, on this earth, does that translate to success in God's eyes, on the OTHER side of this earth?
Romans 12:2 tells us, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Clearly, God isn't caught up in the successes of the world. He doesn't seem to put much stock in the things that our human flesh falls prey to. He is calling us to something bigger, higher, greater - he is calling us to his way of thinking.
I've been challenged and convicted to change my own thought process. This morning I woke up with a word from God: Until you pursue me with your whole heart, you will never have full health. In a nut shell God was telling me to stop running after the things of this world. Stop getting caught up on earthly aspirations. Stop looking at all the meaningless, trivial distractions that are so plentiful in this world. Pursue HIM. Look to HIM in all things and all ways.
Is success sinful? I don't think so. Are relationships inherently sinful? God created them so I would assume they are not. Is hard work against God's will? Of course not. But all of these things can become road blocks between us and an intimate relationship with God if they become our pursuit in life. Our pursuit should be after the heart, character and mind of God. Getting into his word, fostering a deeper relationship through prayer, soaking in the presence of his spirit, learning through study and reading - all of these practices grow our most important relationship: the one with our Savior.
To put our focus on any earthly thing or any earthly goal is only a lousy replacement for a deep, lasting relationship with our father God.
He wants our undivided attention. If we give it to him, he will take care of the rest. We do not need to stress ourselves out trying to map out our future or plot out our five year plan. If we are rightly focused on God he will guide our steps and gradually reveal to us HIS plan. He will open doors and direct our steps. He will show us where to put in the hard work and what opportunities to pursue. But there is only one way to receive this kind of guidance and instruction: pursue him first. It is only when we are pursuing God first that every thing else in life will fall into its proper place.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Walk it off

Do I have a future? Some days it is so hard to trust that there will be a life beyond what I'm living right now. It is taking all of my faith, and then some, just to believe that God is going to do something with me that will be of value. Right now, I couldn't feel further from that. Right now, I feel like a waste. What is my purpose? Why am I even here? These thoughts keep plaguing me and crushing my spirit. I don't have a job. I'm not enrolled in school. I don't have a life dedicated to volunteering. I'm not taking care of children. What is it that I am doing? What am I accomplishing? When I logically look at my life and my circumstances I know that my health has backed me into this situation. But why? Why did this happen to me? I almost never question it. I almost never raise this question at all. I usually just take it all in stride. I usually figure that God gives everyone a different lot in life and why not give me this? Why should I be spared difficulty?
But some times I succumb to the "why me?" mantra. I know it isn't right. I know I should trust God more than this. Yet, I give in. Depression overwhelms me and I quit fighting against it. I willing let a dark cloud settle over me.
I've watched my life be reduced to so little - and more than just a little weight. There is so little that I do with myself and that I accomplish. Each day I wake up - for what? What is the purpose? It wouldn't make a difference if I never got out of bed. I used to fall asleep each night thinking about my future and dreaming of the aspirations and hopes I had. Now I almost never think of those things. Yesterday, for the first time in months, I thought about the dream of working in DC that I used to have. But my mind didn't stay there long. My thoughts have once again slipped back to the day-to-day, unknown, uncertainty that is my reality.
I feel cheated. Other people my age are out in the world working towards something. Maybe they are only working for the next pay check or maybe they are studying for a degree - but most are putting an effort into something and seeing a result. I'm so discouraged that I can't even imagine being in their position, yet what they have I want too. I want to be in school. But right now, I can't do anything but pray that I get healthy. And right now, that feels like a stretch.
I wish I had a resounding resolution that would make all of this ranting better...but I don't. All I have is the aching pain of discouragement and a heavy weight that is crushing my spirit. I want it to go away. I know it isn't of God to feel this way. These are the tricks and tactics of the devil. He wants me to feel hopeless - he gets his kicks off this sort of thing. I don't want him to get any pleasure out of me though.

Enough wallowing in my own sorrow. I'm going for a walk.

When in doubt, walk it off.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

His beloved

"Lord, the one you love is sick."
I've read the story of Lazarus and his death and resurrection too many times to count but never before was I so struck by that sentence. It is at the beginning of John 11. Martha and Mary (Lazarus' sisters) sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was deathly sick. What is so amazing to me is not that they wanted to tell Jesus about their plight but how they told him. They referred to their brothers as the one Jesus' loved. They knew God's love was so deep for their brother that they could refer to him in such an intimate way. 
Jesus doesn't respond by saying, "Who?" He knows exactly who they are talking about. He knows Lazarus so personally that this kind of reference is natural. His response is that the illness won't result in death. Then he just sits where he is at.
If Lazarus is going to be healed Jesus should probably get going to do some miracle work, right? But he doesn't go running to Lazarus' side. He loves him deeply but he stays put.
From the outside looking in, this doesn't make sense. How could a loving God not rush to the side of the one he loves at his time of need? Shouldn't he be there holding his hand and sharing in the suffering of his beloved?
It took two full days before Jesus began his journey to the town Lazarus was in. When he reached it, he was greeted by Martha who wasted no time in telling Jesus that his presence could have prevented her brother's death. I'm sure she was itching to speak those words! Can you blame her? She knew how powerful God was and how Jesus could do miraculous wonders in his name. I'm sure she was hoping for such a miracle for her own brother. Yet, even if she was discouraged, she didn't lose her faith in the Almighty. She went on to tell Jesus that she knew he could still do something wonderful, even after her brother succumbed to death. Her faith wasn't contingent on Jesus showing up when she would have liked him to be there. Her faith wasn't dependent on her own time table. She trusted God, even when circumstances looked like they weren't in her favor.
The story goes on and we see the purpose behind Jesus' absence and Lazarus' death. In reality, Jesus wasn't "absent" at all. He was waiting for the right moment to present itself so God could be glorified in the most amazing of ways. What could be more powerful then seeing a man raised from the dead? Jesus used Lazarus' pain to bring forth the ultimate testimony: one of resurrection.

After reading this scripture this morning I was moved on two levels.
First, by Martha. Her unwavering faith is inspiring. She was faced with a dead brother and still remained steadfast in her faith. Nothing could come between her and Jesus - not even the death of a beloved sibling. She had called on Jesus and it seemed that he hadn't answered but she didn't get angry or bitter. Instead, she continued to believe in the providence and limitless power of her Savior.
The second thing that struck me was Lazarus, the one Jesus loved, and how he was treated. Jesus let him die. How could he do such a thing to someone he loved so passionately and so deeply? What kind of "love" is that? Couldn't he have saved Lazarus the pain and suffering that accompanies sickness? He could have, I'm sure, but he chose not to. He allowed him to die so that, when given new life, Lazarus would be a walking, talking, breathing testimony to the one and only, all powerful God. If Jesus had healed his sickness days earlier it would have been a miracle and, I'm sure, it would have moved many witnesses to put their faith in God. But there was an even bigger plan. How many do you suppose were brought to faith through the resurrection of a dead man who had been in a tomb for four days? I can't even imagine the hearts that were changed by just this one single life.
God was never ignoring Lazarus and he certainly wasn't unaware of the severity of his illness and consequential death. He knew the most precise details of Lazarus' situation, yet he let him die so that glory could be brought to the name of the Lord Almighty. He bestowed on Lazarus an amazing blessing - the blessing of being a resurrected testimony to the power of God. That is no small thing. How many can say that they were raised from the dead? But God loved Lazarus so much that he blessed him with such a testimony.
Lazarus was truly the one Jesus loved. He was loved so deeply and passionately that God gave him the greatest testimony you can ever imagine. He once was dead, but then he lived all because of the incredible power of his Heavenly Father.
For four days it appeared that God wasn't there. But he was working in the silence and the death of his beloved. If he worked in such mysterious ways in the Bible, who is to say he doesn't work in that same way today? Even when it appears that God has gone silent, he is not absent. He is working in the still and quiet. The silent moments may leave us wondering and questioning: what the purpose is? Why isn't God acting when he could and when we'd like him to? Remember Martha. She knew Jesus could heal her brother and called on him in her time of need and he didn't come running. Still she kept her faith, knowing that God works in ways she doesn't always see or recognize. Her faith remained steady. When it seems like God is silent in our own lives, we too, must remain steadfast in our faith, knowing that God is still working even while he is quiet. He is working a plan bigger then we can imagine and more marvelous then our dreams can comprehend. While we remain faithful in the small and silent moments, he will remain busy working a miraculous testimony for his beloved.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Waiting Game

Growing up my best friend for most of those years was a a lively, outgoing, energetic girl named Chelsea who always had a creative idea of the next best thing to do. She was never idle. She was always going, doing, thinking, planning and plotting. We met when we were in first grade and were practically members of each others families during third, fourth and fifth grade. When I left the public school we both attended in the sixth grade, our friendship changed and, naturally, grew apart.
Like any relationship, I learned things from my friendship with Chelsea. I remember her Mom used to get frustrated because Chelsea was always looking for the next activity on the agenda. If we were at the mall she wanted to know what we were doing afterwards. If there was nothing on the schedule she was sure to come up with something that could fill the next available time slot. Her Mom would sigh an exasperated stream of breath and then let out these words, "Chelsea, live in the moment!" Chelsea just couldn't stop looking forward to the next best thing. She couldn't focus and enjoy the moment. She was always looking to the next moment. I used to think this was a problem only some people dealt with. I knew how to live in the moment. I knew how to enjoy life, right where I was at... or at least that's what I thought. But the truth of my flawed and sinful human flesh is becoming evermore evident to me. The gap between who I am and who I want (and sometimes even think) to be is bigger then I could have ever imagined. As my eyes are being further opened to my own flaws I am beginning to see that I, too, suffer from the inability to truly live in the moment.
Much of life seems to be spent waiting for something else to happen. Think about it - the engaged girl is waiting for the wedding day. The accountant is waiting for April 15th to pass. The nurse is waiting for her shift to end. The child is waiting for summer vacation. The snowplow guy is waiting for winter's first snow fall. Everyone is waiting for something.
All this waiting isn't sinful.  It is healthy to have a sense of anticipation and expectation. A pregnant woman in her third trimester undoubtedly has every reason to be excited as she eagerly awaits the arrival of her child. The college student in the final months before graduation has every reason to be hopeful, looking toward the future and making plans for what lies ahead. There is nothing wrong with waiting for the excitement of the future to arrive. The trouble comes when we become so focused on the future that we neglect to see the present.
It is easy to get so caught up in what we think is around the corner that we unfortunately miss the beauty of the journey itself. The pregnant Mom should be excited for the baby's arrival but think of all she will miss out on if she doesn't take the nine months leading to that blessed moment to prepare, pray, and enjoy some freedoms she won't have once her child arrives. The college graduate can be counting down the days till they put on a cap and gown while still enjoying their final classes and outings with friends who will soon be going their own way upon the graduation date.
I don't propose how each and every individual should go about "living in the moment." It will be different for everyone. Maybe for one person they will need to stop and close their eyes, take a deep breath and count to three when they are starting to live outside the moment. For others, that kind of ritual won't be necessary. Either way, we all run into circumstances and situations where we are jumping out of this moment and into the thought life of the moments to come.
Recently I've been guilty of not living in the moment. Shall I start in on my list of excuses or would that be a waste of energy? Probably the latter. No matter how difficult life's circumstances become, there is no good reason to live like life is only one big waiting game. I'm afraid that is exactly what I've been doing. Instead of cherishing this time in my life, struggles and all, I've been twiddling my thumbs with the impatience of a three year old. My thought life has been the equivalent of doodling during math class. Things are happening around me but I'm tuned out; my mind is elsewhere. I've stopped living in the moment. I've retreated to thoughts of what the future might be - what I hope it will be. I have let my current trial sap me of my joy for the present. I have willingly given over "living in the moment" to "retreating from the moment". Call it depression, sadness, or just plain emotional exhaustion - I'm calling it the waiting game. I have been deliberately escaping my present, simply waiting out my current life circumstances.
This isn't the way life is meant to be lived. Each moment is precious and allowed by God. He has, for whatever reason, let our current life circumstances come to pass. Maybe those circumstances are exciting and joyful. In that case it is easy to live in the moment. Who wouldn't want to live in a moment of pure bliss? It is the trials and tribulations of life that are harder to remain present and all accounted for. Those are the times we want to run and hide until the storm has passed. But God ALLOWED the storm. He knew it would come and said, "bring it on." He didn't fly us out of the hurricane's path. He didn't divert the storm on another track. When times get rough it isn't a surprise to God. He knew they would come. So, who are we to retreat from them? If God knew they were coming and could have changed their path, yet didn't, then who are we to run from them or ignore them? Who are we to overlook them, shut our eyes tightly while they pound down on us and just hold out for the sunshine?
I'm reminded of that quote by Vivian Greene, "Life's not about waiting for the storm to pass... It is about learning to dance in the rain." Whether life is in its bleakest moments or is pure bliss, it is a time ordained by God. If He saw it fit that we should be in our given moment, then we should give it our full attention - not seek to escape it or simply wait it out. The moment isn't here to be endured, it is here to be embraced. Maybe it is to grow us spiritually, bless us relationally, heal us emotionally or challenge us mentally. No matter what the purpose - don't miss it. Don't miss the blessings that can only be found by living in this very moment.

Friday, October 5, 2012

You reap what you sow

We've all heard the saying, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." This little phrase is familiar and a favorite among parents while rearing their small children. Kids want it all while giving up nothing. Opportunity cost is a foreign principle in their young minds. It is easy to see the flaw when the person is five and wants to have cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a lollipop for a snack. They are being unrealistic. They aren't thinking things through. They simply don't know what is best for them.
Unfortunately, this naive approach to desires and wants doesn't end with childhood - is plagues the adult population with a vengeance. Adults are just as guilty of wanting what they want, when they want it without thinking through the consequences, or admitting that the consequences even exist. It is the equivilant of feeding a child happy meals for every meal and expecting them to have the health of a farm fresh, balanced diet. You can't have both. You can't put in garbage and get back riches. You get what you put in.
When it comes to eating this principle seems simple enough. You get what you put in. But what about the rest of life? We are sucked into a culture and a society that is feeding on mental and moral trash yet we want a peaceful and prosperous world where love and kindness abound. Our TVs are spewing obscenities and moral degradation like it is no big deal. Sitcoms make sex into a pass time and partying with alcohol and drugs as just part of growing up. Our culture is defined by what is happening at home. When we are welcoming this depraved behavior into our living rooms, we are making it acceptable in the eyes of children and adults alike. The moral standard flies out the window when right vs. wrong becomes blurred on the TV screen.
And it isn't just on TV. Music is just as pervasive. The hot topic of popular music is either sex, alcohol, partying, hooking up or all of the above in one crazy night. And these are the lyrics that kids are singing, so many of them not even grasping the gravity of the words and their meaning. Yet the truth behind those words is permeating the innocent minds of a generation that is still being formed, molded and developed.
We are bombarded every day by these outside influences. If you walk into a store, drive your car, log onto the internet or turn on the TV you make yourself susceptible to the filth that has seeped into every corner of this culture. It feels unavoidable. It has taken over.
Still, we want the people in our society to be "good". This word has different meaning to different people. But it is safe to say that majority of people want a law abiding, kind, tolerant, accomplished society. We don't want violent outbursts, murder and fights in the street. We don't want drunken accidents and beer bottle lined streets. We want things to appear to be under control and all in order.
There is one major disconnect in this logic. We want the good things of this world while getting to "enjoy" (if you can call it that) the filth that we are offered. It simply doesn't add up. You get what you put into life. If you fill your mind with sex and partying through the TV it becomes acceptable behavior, or at least normal, in your mind's eye. If you listen to music supporting violence then chances are violent behavior will become dulled on your moral radar.
You cannot fill yourself with darkness and expect light to pour out.
You cannot ingest poison and expect a healthy, vibrant body.
You get out of life what you put into it.
Our society would like you to believe that you can ingest all the rotten sludge it has to offer and still reap love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is just not so. If you put in sin, violence, perversion, lies and disobedience then that is precisely what you will reap.
But, if you sow the characteristics of Christ and the principles of upright, moral, Godly living then that, too, is what you will sow. This basic principle is simple. It is addition and subtraction in school. It is the ABC's in kindergarten. It is so fundamental that the need to spell it out is almost silly. Unfortunately, it does need to be spelled out. It needs to be shouted from a mountain. Our society has slipped away from the upright and righteous living that was once the common standard. Now there is no standard. Moral relativity abounds and right/wrong is a matter of opinion. There is no expectation for upright living. Every kind of behavior has become acceptable. What kind of world can we expect when this is the new standard?
How can we expect good results when we are feeding off of the equivalent of moral trash?
The short answer: we can't.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fraud spotting

How do you spot a fraud?
I'm not talking about Coach purses being sold on the side of a New York City street. If you don't know those are a fraud we have a problem. Coach is not creating a special line of purses to be sold on fold-and-go tables on dirty city streets by men in baggy jeans and a three day old shave jobs. No. Coach has different standards. If your "authentic" Coach purse/tote/i-pad cover/luggage came from such a vendor, I am sorry to inform you that it is far from authentic and 100% knock-off. Same goes for these "purse parties" that sell top of the line purses for bargain basement prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I understand this concept when it comes to buying designer goods, getting work done on the house or buying electronics. You get what you pay for. If something looks the same yet costs a fraction of the cost there is probably something beneath the surface that is also only a fraction of what it should be. At first you probably won't miss it, but just wait a while. Sooner or later you will long for the fraction you didn't know you weren't getting and weren't paying for.
And that brings me to the deeper question, the one that goes beyond purchases and products. How do you know when a person is a fraud? How do you tell the true, genuine, authentic people from the manipulators, liars and downright two-faced?
This question raises some real doubts about who we surround ourselves with. Think about who you have dated in the past. You thought they were one thing but, turns out, they weren't all they were cracked up to be. Some people marry such characters. 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Obviously, somewhere along the line one or both of the parties involved wasn't what they claimed to be. Or maybe they just "changed" or "fell out of love". You know, the normal lines that every divorced couple leans on for a time being after they've signed on the dotted line, ending a union that was meant to last till death did them part. But something happened. Something wasn't what it appeared to be. Maybe someone was a full blown fraud.
Fraudulent people are harmful to more then marriage vows. They break business agreements and friendships. As president they can be downright dangerous. Given too much power, the fraud can pursue an agenda that is evil and corrupt while the innocent are taken for a ride.
How do you spot such a fraud and how do you arm yourself against them?

Google isn't helpful on this subject matter unless you are talking check fraud or a con artist. But I'm not talking specifics such as those - I'm talking general. I'm talking about the everyday variety liars and schemers. I'm talking about the real soul of a person. How do you know when it is truly decent, pure and good? And how do you know when it stinks to high heaven?

Is there a foolproof spot checking technique?  There is only one hope: be authentic yourself. Being a genuinely upright person is the only chance we have at gaining the discerning wisdom to spot those who aren't authentic themselves.
We can never be guaranteed that we aren't face to face with a fraud (unless it is a Louis Vitton on the side of Madison Avenue). We rely on our judgement and our senses. Unfortunately, those are often flawed, too. At the end of the day the best chance we have is to live an upright life in God's eyes. We are called to something bigger than even the moral standards of this world - which are bare bones to say the least. We are called to live in such a way as to win the prize. We are called to live by the grace of God, not by the power of our human flesh. When we order and dictate our lives by this standard the outside world looks a whole lot different. People look different; circumstances look different; and the truth becomes clearer. The fraud wears a big "F" across the chest much like a sacrlet letter. The truth is brought to light. The frauds lose their upperhand and masterful edge.
Will you still fall prey to a lying cheat in the office? Maybe. We are human - remember. That means we won't always use the discernment God is offering us and we won't call on His wisdom. There are times we will fall short in our own character and spirit which will render our fraud spotting skills ineffective. But, if we walk with God in authenticity and obedience, we will find that we are saved the heartache and pain inflicted on us by fraudulent people.

The goodness of God knows no limits. We pray to Him and thank Him for creation, but He is so much more then even those wonders. He is a fraud spotter. He sees people and things for what they truly are. He knew the hearts of the pharisees and called them out for their lack of faith. If He could do it in the Old Testament, He can do it today. And the amazing, glorious truth is that He is doing it right here and now. He is spotting the frauds and granting us the power to spot them, too. But there is only one way to get that: live a life filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in obedience to God by his grace, mercy and power.