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Sunday, April 21, 2019

He Is Risen!

Sometimes only the old hymns will do....

Low in the grave He lay --
Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day --
Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose!  He arose!
Hallelujah!  Christ arose!

Vainly they watch His bed --
Jesus, my Savior!
Vainly they seal the dead --
Jesus my Lord!

(Chorus)

Death cannot keep his prey --
Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away --
Jesus my Lord!

(Chorus)

"Up From the Grave He Arose" also known as "Christ Arose" -- Robert Lowry, 1874

Lowry, a Baptist preacher, also wrote "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus" and "Shall We Gather at the River."  When asked about writing a hymn Lowry said, "It must be readily apprehended by the Christian consciousness, coming forth from the experience of the writer, and clothed in strong and inspiring words."

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Weeds and Empty Spaces

Have you ever noticed how weeds are a never-ending challenge?  Anywhere there is an open patch of ground, they will sprout.  Sometimes they sprout in places that you wouldn't even consider open, such as the crack in a sidewalk.  They exploit empty or, broken places.

There's a couple of ways to look at this: 1)  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Weeds are the pioneers that begin the process of filling empty places.  2)  The unwanted will always exploit the un-tended.

That exploitative view of weeds is what comes to mind this morning.  As I think on the historic events we commemorate on this Easter weekend, it occurs to me that we must constantly cultivate our relationship with Jesus and with others in order to keep the weeds out.  Weeds are the sin in our life that come into the empty places.  The best way to prevent their growth is to fill those spaces with the good which is Jesus.

Filling those spaces requires continuous attention -- not just once a year on Easter.  Feed the good; pluck the evil out by the roots.

The first way to look at weeds also applies; if we equate weeds to evil, it is easy to see that it quickly exploits empty spaces and expands to fill them until it crowds out whatever good may have been planted.  Evil will fill the emptiness that was designed by God for His presence.  Fill the empty places with Jesus.

Friday, April 19, 2019

What is Good About This Friday?

Why is today called Good Friday?  Last night as I lay in bed this thought came into my mind.  After all, this was the day on which we commemorate the crucifixtion of Jesus.  Why would we in the western church call it good?

The history has been tainted by the passage of time as to why we call it good.  I won't go into any detail here because there have been many, many things written and recorded that theorize the reasons.  The one that seems most logical to me is that it is a corruption of "God Friday."  This seems to fit typical English corruption of various phrases which were once common that referred to the Deity such as "goodbye" or, "goodness."

In many traditions throughout the world it is known as Holy Friday.  I personally think it would be a better way to refer to this day which is not one of celebration, but one of contemplation and prayer focused on the supreme sacrifice God made on our behalf.  In that sense -- the focus on God -- it is "God Friday."

I would encourage you to read through the gospel accounts of Jesus' last days on this day of commemoration.  For reference, the readings practiced by the Byzantine Christians in what they refer to as the "Matins of the Twelve Passion Gospels" is a good place to start.  They are listed below:


  1. John 13:31 - 18:1
  2. John 18:1 - 18:28
  3. Matthew 26:57-26:75
  4. John 18:28 - 19:16
  5. Matthew 27:3 - 27:32
  6. Mark 15:16 - 15:32
  7. Matthew 27:33 - 27:54
  8. Luke 23:32 - 23:49
  9. John 19:25 - 19:37
  10. Mark 15:43 - 15:47
  11. John 19:38 - 19:42
  12. Matthew 27:62 - 27:66
May your contemplation be filled with the presence of God.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Political Venting

Some thoughts on the mess in Washington:

  • All laws should apply equally to every citizen -- no matter economic status, or whether or not they hold political office.  This includes insurance, retirement, etc.  ALL laws.
  • If members of the Senate and House want to see the President's tax returns, they should first publish their own.  Perhaps it should be required that all elected officials at the national level be required to publish their returns, including all sources of income, for the duration of their time in office.
  • Compensation for office holders should be Indexed similar to what is done with Social Security.
  • A 2/3 majority vote should be required for any bill to pass.  This would mean very few laws are ever passed.
  • No lawmaker may serve more than 25 years in elected office -- all offices combined.  Term limits is a tricky area because we need experienced lawmakers, yet we need to limit the accretion of power over time.
  • Some type of limitation on lobbying must be instituted.  This is another tricky area because lobbying serves the purpose of educating lawmakers, however, it must be restricted in such a way as to prevent the undue influence of the tremendous amount of money that is poured into lobbying efforts.
    • No elected official can become a lobbyist after leaving office.  Ever.  Period.
    • No elected official can join the Board of Directors of any firm for a minimum of 5 years after leaving office.
    • No elected official can be paid a salary which exceeds that which they made in office for a minimum of 5 years after leaving office.
  • Assets of anyone elected to the Senate, House, Presidency, or who serves in a Cabinet level position must be placed in Trust and managed independently, similar to what is required of the President.  There are too many officeholders who accumulate extraordinary wealth while holding office.  This could be done similar to a Mutual Fund for elected officials.  Such a fund should also be available for the general public to invest in so they receive exactly the same opportunity to benefit as do those elected officials.
  • Except in times of war or national emergency, the federal budget cannot increase by an amount greater than the average inflation rate of the preceding year adjusted for growth in revenue due to economic growth of the country.
  • Leadership of the House and Senate must rotate every 2 years with no individual serving more than 2 terms in the leadership role over the course of their 25 years (maximum) in office.  There must be a minimum of 2 years between terms.  This includes Speaker, President Pro Tem, committee chairmen and the majority and minority leaders of political parties.
  • Except in the case of national security issues, any reports (such as the Mueller Report), or other information available to elected officials, must be made available to any citizen.  Note:  Officeholders are elected representatives, not our leaders.  How can they represent us if we are not able to be informed at the same level as them?  We cannot provide them appropriate input for them to represent us if we do not have access to the same information.  We, as taxpayers, pay for it all.  What we pay for is ours.
  • Details of any litigation against any elected official must be disclosed to the public.  Any and all arrest records, traffic fines, parking tickets....anything...must be disclosed to the public if such occurred while campaigning for, or holding office.
I'm sure someone could poke holes in a number of the points above, but they at least point to areas where improvement needs to occur.  There also are many more items that could be added.  I'm just venting some of my frustration this morning.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Sufficient

"My grace is sufficient."

That's all the words needed to describe what our relationship to God should be -- one of dependence and submission.  His grace is all we need.  Everything else is meaningless.  Everything else is superfluous.

When your mind is filled with questions
And you don't know where to turn
Focus on the Father
For it is there that you will learn
His grace is all you need
To get you through the day
Because He sent His only Son
To show us all the way
Into His presence.

This morning as I sat and thought of all the things going on in the world and the things people are going through, these words came to my mind.  The troubles of this life will be gone in the blink of an eye and our place in the "bigger picture" will be made known.  It is all temporary, so we should focus on the things that are important -- the eternal things -- and put all the rest in God's hands, for He is sufficient.

2 Cor. 12:9 "But he said to me, 'Mygrace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Insomnia

Sometimes random thoughts
Flit right through my head.
Often when it happens
I'm lying there in bed
Trying to get to sleep.

It's very frustrating
When my mind is racing so
With all the crazy things
It doesn't matter if I know
That certainly aren't deep.

If I was contemplating
Something that was needing thought
It wouldn't bother me as much
If understanding was what I sought.
Instead it's just random stuff.

These things that keep me wide awake
Instead of getting sleep
Just aren't that important
That 'til morning they should keep
And I want to yell, "ENOUGH!"

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sanctuary for Refugees

The massive influx of illegal immigrants on our southern border has created a crisis of conscience in our country that is not couched in such terms, but is one nonetheless.  Normally, when such massive numbers of people leave their country to migrate elsewhere it is due to an easily recognizable event such as war.  The people are often sheltered in refugee camps in neighboring countries until they can be re-settled elsewhere, or until the event is over and they return to their homes.  The current migration north from central American countries is the result of economic events that threaten the security of individuals -- primarily due to poor governance.  It includes overwhelming gang and drug violence in many of the countries that is similar in impact to war, but it is also due to corruption in the governing bodies that control those countries.

The moral dilemma is in this country.  How do we deal with the humanitarian aspects of the crisis while protecting the integrity of our border and our country -- especially from the violence of drug and human traffickers who exploit the surging numbers of migrants?

In the current media-hyped environment of the President's suggestion that the illegal immigrants be sent to "sanctuary cities," a clear point is being missed, calls by individuals within those cities to accept illegal immigrants into our country are based in the concept that they will be placed elsewhere and that others will have to deal with the impact they will have on local infrastructure and taxes.  It is a typical liberal response of mandating the government deal with an issue rather than taking personal responsibility.

A complicating factor is that the liberal call is for government largess (funded by all of us law-abiding taxpayers) to provide the humanitarian relief placing the burden on ALL rather than on those who would choose such a response.  Big government and "federal" responsibility is a mantra of those on the left.  By planting those dependent immigrants in Republican strongholds, the impact is to dilute the voting strength of those of opposing mindset with the influx of new, government-dependent voters.  What were once strong Republican voting districts become Democrat strongholds in a short period of time -- witness the rise of the new and highly visible Representatives such as Omar.

Placing illegal immigrants in those areas declaring "sanctuary" status makes sense.  Let those who want to allow them unfettered access to our country carry the burden.  It also concentrates their voting power into areas where it will make no difference.

What should the Christian response be to these immigrants?  That is a difficult question to answer in some ways and yet our responsibility is clear -- provide humanitarian relief.  It should be done with wisdom. 

How should the government deal with them?  Their status as illegal immigrants should be maintained and they should be provided housing similar to refugee camps.  Their transition into society should follow legal channels that require meeting citizenship standards established by law.  Criminal elements found within them should be prosecuted for their crimes -- not sent home merely to return again.  Access across our borders should be controlled -- that requires limiting access to a few points which can be done effectively only with a wall.  Efforts to stabilize the countries of origin of the immigrants should be initiated, including assistance to eliminate the criminal elements -- including those within governments -- that are fueling the crisis.  Closing our borders is not the answer.  Doing so merely adds to the resentment of our economic success and increases global instability which does no one any good.

If our country is so attractive to others, we should export those things which make it that way.  Make it so people desire to remain in their own country rather than to leave.  Export our form of governance (at least the basic philosophy) and export our economic model (again, at least the best parts of it).  We have allowed our own country to drift toward a model that threatens to implode, but we still have something that is extremely desirable as evidenced by those risking everything to get here. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Light by Which to See

Some mornings as I sit and wonder what to write
I let my mind begin to drift.
Words begin to flow upon the page in front of me
And I hope that they will uplift
The spirits of those who might stumble across them
Someday when they're in need.
We search blindly for the answers to struggles that may come
Never knowing where the search might lead
But, when the answers aren't forthcoming,
Never there before our sight,
There is one place we can always turn and see;
The Word of God says Jesus is the light.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son
That we might live with Him eternally
If only we acknowledge He is Lord of all in life
And came to earth to save you and me.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." -- John 3:16

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Sleeping to the Rain

Lying in my bed I hear
The sounds of gentle rain
Falling
Falling

I drift into light sleep
To the steady, rhythmic
Falling
Falling

Drops upon the roof
And my mind drifts
Falling
Falling

Into the swirling pool
Of thoughts that lead me
Falling
Falling

Deeper to the edge
Where sleep beckons
Falling
Falling

Crack!
Boom!
Jolt!
Awake!

Lying in my bed I hear
The sounds of gentle rain
Falling
Falling....

Friday, April 12, 2019

Tunnel Vision

It is easy to get tunnel vision about things.  We become focused on one thing, or we condition ourselves to look at things in a specific way and we miss important things that occur.  We simply fail to see them because our mind gets in a "rut" to some extent.

The best way to avoid tunnel vision is to constantly challenge our mind with things that are "outside" our normal way of thinking.  We must constantly exercise our mind, just as we do our body.  Practicing critical thinking skills on a daily basis is necessary to maintain the ability to think through problems and to see relevant information that is not directly "in the path" that we are used to traveling.

The thing that triggered my thoughts on this today is the controversial comment by AOC regarding Rep. Dan Crenshaw's need to "do something about it" as an accusation that he was unwilling to support a bill related to victims of the 9-11 attack.  Her focus seemed to be on providing money to those affected -- many of whom live in her district.  His opposition, to her at least, indicated he was unwilling to fight for those affected.  There are many things about this that are ironic:  First, she was partially lashing out in defense of her friend and fellow Democratic freshman Omar who is Muslim, just as the perpetrators of the 9-11 attack were Muslim.  Crenshaw had previously called Omar out for saying, "some people did some things."  It appeared Omar was minimizing the event as "no big deal."  Second, Crenshaw is a veteran of Iran and Afghanistan and lost an eye in service to his country -- specifically, against anti-American elements in the area of the world from which the perpetrators came.

My comments aren't "in defense" of AOC, but this example points out how one can develop a closed view based on their focus and completely miss the reality around them.  This is part of what is widening the divide between those of a "liberal" persuasion and those who are more "conservative" in their views.  We each become totally convinced that we are "right" and those in opposition are "wrong" when the reality is likely somewhere in between -- if there is a clear right or, wrong at all.  Often, it is more one of viewing a problem that is commonly recognized and seeing totally different approaches to a solution -- but not always.

I wish it was that simple -- just a matter of two different approaches to solving a commonly recognized problem.  It seems that isn't the case in most instances.  It is probably more about power than anything.  Problems are approached as opportunities to gather power, not as something needing to be solved -- at least by our lawmakers.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am sick of it.  Once upon a time I thought a career in politics was something I wanted to pursue; I'm happy that my career took other directions.  It seems that today, the political landscape is about as corrupt as it has ever been in history.  Sadly, it will never get better until God says, "I am making everything new." (Revelation 21:5)
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