Americans, Christians, and Refugees: A Response to All the Responses

America is allegedly being overrun by refugees of all stripes. Well, based on most rhetoric, they’re not of “all stripes,” they are of one stripe: evil people who want to kill you, take your job, and rape your daughters.

Candidates from both parties continue to back themselves further into their parties’ corners, doing all they can to inflame their people to get votes.

This will not result in wise decision making.

During this “refugee crisis,” many Bible verses have been employed bolstering either side. Some say Jesus welcomes all-comers, so America should to. Others say we need to defend the faith and keep certain evil influences out, lest they leaven our American lump.

I have listened to arguments on both sides. I have heard the politicians’ sound bites. I have observed the various Christian voices pontificating.

I must say, it all leaves me rather depressed.

The Bible is not going to solve this national issue. I know this sounds like heresy to most. “The Bible is our final authority for faith and practice! Are you suggesting it isn’t?”

I do believe the Bible is my final authority. Thus, if a refugee from the evilest of all refugean countries refugeed into a house next door, my job is to love them. In fact, the more they hate me, the more they despitefully use me, the more I am to love them. Jesus Himself said there is no thanks for loving people who love you.

That’s what the Bible tells me to do. Therefore, I know what I would do if a refugee came to my door. “Come on in. Let me get you some food and a glass of water.”

However, the Bible was not written as a manual on governing a nation. I do not think the President, or any other national leader, is mandated to make a nation do what the Bible says to individuals. The Bible was not written for nations; it was written for people.

The Bible tells me, an individual believer, to honor the king, to pray for my leaders, to submit to all government authority, and do this with thanks, honor, and respect. Therefore, the leaders of our nation will make the call on what to do with refugees, and I will honor their decision.

I do not know what to do with refugees. I don’t know what to do with many issues that confront our nation’s leaders. I have no idea. The Bible tells me not to entangle myself with the affairs of this life. Preach the Gospel and love people.

What does the Bible tell America to do with the nation’s refugee crisis? Nothing. Be very wary of applying the Bible’s commands intended for individual believers to a secular nation. It wasn’t written for that.

What does the Bible tell me to do with the nation’s refugee crisis? It tells me to pray for my leaders, submit to their decision, and love my neighbor.

If the nation refuses to let them in: so be it. I continue to pray for and honor my leaders and love my neighbor. If the nation lets them all in and ISIS moves in next door. I continue to pray for and honor my leaders, and love my neighbor.

It’s quite simple really.

Why You Should Not Express an Opinion About Kim Davis’ Choices in Life

There have been many stories written about Kentucky’s Kim Davis who refused to give a marriage license to a gay couple.

Christians and non-Christians pontificate as experts, bashing her character one way or another, even though 99.9% of all people pontificating do not even know this woman, nor the authors of these articles they pontificate on.

Non-Christians bash Christians as homophobic, and mock her looks and her beliefs. Christians support her as George Washington Part II, or find her to be embarrassing.

I will dismiss the non-Christians’ opinions on the subject simply because it’s irrelevant. My point is about Christians’ opinions of this woman.

Based on passages like Romans 14, the Bible says that there is a certain amount of freedom in how we apply our doctrine. The Bible does not give instructions on 100% of life decisions.

Romans 14 uses the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. There are two camps 1) eat and 2) don’t eat. Each side has verses. Each side has conscience. Each side has thought out reasons. Each side, more than likely, has emotions tied up in their side.

Whether a court employee should give out a marriage license to a gay couple is probably one of these issues. It seems, from the vast split in Christians, that you can support each side.

–Christians are to submit to the government; yet there are exceptions throughout the Bible where they do not.
–Christians are to submit to their boss/master; yet the Lord is our ultimate master and His Word is firmly against homosexuality.
–Christians are to love; yet there are times Christians are to pass judgment.

I’ve seen Christians defend either side. Paul’s advice in Romans 14 is: don’t worry about it. Let each person make up their mind and do their thing.

Kim Davis made up her mind. That’s what her conscience told her to do. Based on Romans 14, that’s what she’s supposed to do. If I talk her into violating her conscience, I now become the person in the wrong.

Kim Davis will stand before God and give an account for her stance. I have no idea what God’s judgment will be on the subject. I do not know all that He knows. Nor do you.

Which is why Paul tells us to chill and let people do their thing. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

What would I do in the situation? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. What I do know is that I will do what I think I’m supposed to do, and I would hope for support from fellow Christians in doing so, whether they agreed with my decision or not (although I would be completely shocked if I got it).

You don’t have to have an opinion about everything other people are doing. In the end, your opinion doesn’t matter in relation to God’s Judgment. Your opinion only matters to you; you need to keep your conscience clear.

When the Bible speaks out against being a busybody (which it does about as much as it speaks against homosexuality incidentally), it’s referring to stuff like this. A busybody is a person who is “especially busy about other folks’ affairs,” according to Thayer’s Definitions. It’s being an authority in other people’s matters, most of which you know very little about.

We should not make Kim Davis a hero or a villain. She is neither. As far as we know, by giving her the benefit of the doubt (which is what we’d like to have from others), she is doing what her conscience told her to do. She is a human being making decisions before God. We don’t have to despise her, nor judge her for choosing to act differently than we would

I trust that God will work in her life whether I pontificate about her life or not. We have decisions to make in life. Stop worrying about everyone else’s and take care of your own. When you make those decisions, make them quietly, stand by them, and deal with the consequences.

At the same time, there is irony all throughout this post! If your conscience tells you to pontificate about Kim’s choices in life, I guess you need to pontificate!

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

One Dweeb’s Opinion of all Those Groups Out There

Apparently, the cool thing nowadays is to belong to groups. This may have been a cool thing in previous days, too. I don’t know. I’ve never been “cool.”

I believe the term “dweeb” was invented for guys like me. Definitely not a nerd, didn’t get algebra.

There are so many groups it’s ridiculous. Every person with a hobby has a group to join about their hobby. Every job has a career group to join. Every possible thing you can hate in the world has a group of people who hate it.

People who eat vegetables have a group. I don’t even, I mean, you eat vegetables. Great. Good for you. Why do you need a group?

Perhaps I shall create a group for people who don’t belong to any group because they think groups are stupid. I shall call it the Non-Grouping Group. Meetings are the second Wednesday of the sixth week of the thirteenth month of the year 1098287.

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter giving you the latest non-events of our non-group.

It’s possible I’m just missing the boat on this one. I guess I don’t feel a need to have 1,387 other people approve of my hobby in order to make it through another day.

I think the whole need for groups derives from the downfall of the family unit. It used to be people could survive in the world because they knew they had a “group” who had their back already. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist.

Perhaps belonging to a group bucks up your self-esteem. “See, there’s this whole group of people who enjoy playing Pink Floyd songs backwards on a harmonica. I’m not weird.”

No, you are weird, you just managed to find 1,387 other people who are just as weird as you. There are 7 billion people in the world. 7 Billion. Nice group you have there.

I’m not really going anywhere with this. I’ve tried several times to make a biblical point out of this. It didn’t work.

I know, the Church, is a group, too. I know. It’s nice to have a group of like-minded folk around you. I get it. I just don’t get why every single detail of a person’s life has to have a group identity. Something is not right about that.

I bet the Antichrist will have a group. Probably a diet plan too. And a Antichrist Diet Plan Group for that matter.

Anyway, again, don’t forget to sign up for my non-group group for people who are confident in themselves enough to not have to have a group approve of every action they partake of in a day. You can sign up at the link below.

 

(There is no link. See, it was a joke. There is no group. You don’t need a group of people to approve of your non-groupness. You can just non-group and carry on. God loves you.)

Customer Reviews of Scissors and Why I Hate the World

My beard is in full bloom right now. I haven’t trimmed it yet. Thinking of going big this year.

But I hate the hairs that grow around the mouth that tickle my nose and get in my food. So I decided to go on Amazon and look for a cheap pair of little scissors to trim beards.

Little did I know there are about 300 beard trimming scissors available.

My beard trimming scissor criteria are the following, 1) they must look like scissors that can handle cutting a piece of hair, and 2) they must be cheap.

But then I discovered that people have opinions about these little pairs of scissors. One pair of scissors had 126 customer reviews!

Really? There are 126 people out there who are concerned with my scissor experience? Do scissors really inspire enough emotion to motivate someone to write an Amazon review? I had no idea.

If I were to write a bad review on scissors I would say, “Yeah, for me they didn’t really cut it.”

Even more amazing, there are no beard trimming scissors that have a cumulative five-star review! People have problems with tiny scissors! One star for scissors, really?

Again, I had no idea it was even possible to not be pleased with a pair of scissors. Did these scissors make your hair grow longer, or what?

I don’t get people. A stupid pair of scissors can garner 126 people to respond, yet my sermons go largely unheard and unremarked upon. This makes me feel poorly.

What are my sermons missing that even scissors get more response?

But then again, is the problem with scissors or with people who are too busy to get to church as they must urgently review scissors for strangers?

I am a stranger and a pilgrim on this earth. This is not my home, I’m just passing through.

And, yes, the scissors work just fine and I got the cheapest pair and they also had zero customer reviews. So, if you’ll excuse me, I must go review these cheap, non-reviewed scissors before they develop a complex.

Top Ten Near Death Experiences in My First 40 Years of Life

If everything goes right, and Lord willing, I will be dead in the next 40 years!

Amen.

I have always had a desire to depart, never suicidally, but a good healthy “I can’t wait to go to heaven, which is far better” desire. I have posted here previously about how many guys in the Bible desired to die. It’s not always a bad thing.

Any time I hear about diets or medicines or special obnoxious things a guy can do to “lengthen his life,” I make sure to do the opposite.

“Honor your mother and father so your days may be long on the earth” didn’t quite have the desired effect on me.

I honored my father and mother because my father had a way of making not honoring him turn out very badly for me.

I am of the conviction that a guy must present God with the opportunity to end his life every once in a while just to give God a handy way to off ya in case it’s time.

If you’re not somewhat regularly nearly dying, you probably aren’t really living.

Here are my top ten near death experiences in my first 40 years in no particular order, cuz they were all, in their own way, awesome.

1) River Canoe Ride. I was about five-years old and canoeing down a river with my dad and another guy. We hit a submerged tree. The canoe flipped all the way over and back around to right side up. I never let go of the metal bar in front of me and went around with the canoe. But I was alone for terrifying moments.

2) Bike Rides. I have been hit by one car. I have been nearly hit many times. Once by a high school chic speeding around a 90-degree turn and sliding right across my lane about four feet in front of me and then she went into a ditch and into a tree. Idiot. There have been many mountain bike rides where I assumed I would die, including two where I slid down a hill on my head.

3) Icy Lake Superior. Junior high me was walking along an ice covered cliff on Lake Superior. Oh yeah, here ya go God! I slipped and began sliding to my death and was saved by my uncut fingernails. Who says bad personal hygiene is actually a bad thing?

4) Downtown Minneapolis. My wife and I used to regularly attend Minnesota Twins games at the Old Metrodome. We found a great place to park for free at a housing project where you had to walk across a pedestrian bridge over the highway to get to the stadium. One night around 11 as we were walking back to our car a guy came running up the embankment, over the fence and onto the bridge right in front of us. I thought we were dead. We were not. Minnesota nice!

5) Stupid Marathon. The training went so well. But when you’re hyperventilating, crying and being hugged by overweight women who are walking the same speed as you, death seems imminent.

6) Downtown Chicago. College age me with two friends got lost in downtown Chicago, a significant portion of which was spent underneath the main roads with a large population of homeless folk. I have no idea how we got there or how we got out. Then we got kicked off the tollway cuz none of us had any money for the toll! “Do you take checks?” was the awesome line of that night. A night that will live in infamy.

7)Wilhelmine. I was a janitor at college in Nazareth Hall, a huge old building from an old Catholic seminary. There were many reports that the building was haunted by a woman named Wilhelmine buried in a chapel on campus (you can watch a documentary on her here. Kevin Thompson and Dan Monson–interviewed in the documentary–were two guys I worked for.). I worked at night. I was often the only one in the building. One night in particular while I was cleaning the cafeteria, by myself, a door that went into a tunnel under the courtyard that was always, and I mean always, locked, suddenly opened and I saw things. There are more stories I have on that, but we’ll just move on. I gave myself the creeps again.

8) Dating. Pretty much every date I went on until I met my wife-to-be was a near death experience for me. My insecure self was too messed up to stay calm in such situations. I knew I’d marry Cindy cuz at no point in our dating did I ever feel like throwing up. Except that one time when I had that spicy chicken Chinese meal, but trust me, that was different.

9) Sickness. In one six month stretch I had four different strains of violent stomach flu. Whether I nearly died or not, I remember praying that God would please kill me now. Then there was the episode with the abscess. But I’ll move on.

10) Riding with Idiots. Since I couldn’t drive due to my eyes, I had to hitch rides with friends. Being an idiot myself, I had idiots for friends. There are way too many stories about near death in cars. There is a reason young men have high insurance rates. One particular moment will always stick in my memory–looking down on the driver from the passenger seat because we were on two wheels.

Top 10 Hopes for the Second Half of Life

OK, so the first half wasn’t perfect. I spent most of that time being a rude, ignorant fool.

Now that I know a little bit more, what implications does that knowledge have on the next half of life?

I have no concept really, but here are a few hopas.

1) I am going to get a study with walls around it. No sense getting irritated at people for using their own house. I’m the one in the way.

2) Being decisive. My wife will like this one. One of the results of being insecure is that you learn to fudge answers. “I don’t know” and “whatever” and “fine” make up about 80% of my answers to questions. Man up wussy boy! Make some concrete decisions!

3) Be rigorous. Rigor is defined as “strict precision, exactness.” My theory of education was “go for the B.” Getting a B was a great strategy for me in school, I had other things to do. Unfortunately, it has developed into a habit of doing good, but not great, stuff. I could work harder, more thorough, more dogged and determined to exhaust a subject rather than calling it quits with sufficient information. Be more precise, not so quittingly sloppy.

4) More people time. I spent a large portion of the first 40 years avoiding people at all costs. I have come to see that I lose on that deal, not to mention the loss that people have not being around me. Indeed. You can’t love people if you aren’t around them.

5) More willing to look the fool. I spent too much time not doing stuff for fear of looking dumb. I have embraced my inner dumb, might as well make it the outer dumb. I will still feel dumb, but hope to enjoy the freedom of accepting this, rather than shrinking from it. On a serious note of this: more evangelistic conversations should happen in my life

6) Less media time. This probably means I’ll have to cut down on watching sports. This will be tough for me, but I’m realizing I should. Less mindless internet surfing. Freecell might have to be deleted. Oh dear. I don’t own a cell phone or any “devices.” My goal is to finish life that way.

7) Some spiritual stuff that would sound arrogant if I publicly announced it. Bringing my body under subjection, not out of legalistic pride or self-righteousness, but out of the idea I am running out of time and Judgment Day nears. The love of God constrains me, etc.

8) Do the uncomfortable. The older I get the more I see the value of forcing myself to do uncomfortable stuff. It’s easy to make excuses, to give the old “I’m sooo busy” line instead of going the extra mile. Force myself into situations where discomfort comes. I see way too many older folks sitting in their houses all day doing nothing of any discernible value. I don’t want my latter years to be a pursuit of the comfortable.

9) Invest in commodities. Rather than wasting money on frivolity, or speculating in markets I don’t understand, I desire to buy quality things that retain value regardless of Wall Street or Washington. The more money is tied up in public markets, the more influence and tracking the markets and government do to you. Yeah, I’m a bit conspiratorial and Luddite on this one. Sue me. Courts won’t be able to find any of my money to seize anyway!

10) Ensure my family. A life insurance salesman was grilling me on my life insurance a month ago. I said I didn’t have any. “Well, consider our products, we just care about your family.” Oh, well that’s nice. Basically I was told I didn’t care about my family because I have no life insurance. Surely he cares more about my family than his commission.

I want to ensure I have a family, not insure my family. I want my kids to grow up to be friends. I want my relationship with them to be healthy, so we can continue to enjoy being together. I want to do whatever is in my power to make sure we are a family that loves each other and are willing to serve each other.

If nothing else, I want my family to be a testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Word of God are of utmost importance to me. And when they bury me in the ground, this awesome rendition of Amazing Grace will be played.

40 Years In, Here are 10 Lies I no Longer Believe

Through forty years of life, I have learned a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff I have learned was wrong and it took years to figure that out and in some cases, years to overcome.

Life is all about learning. “Live and learn” aint just a pithy phrase, it’s the way it is.

Here are the top ten lies I used to believe were true.

1) People are saved because they said The Prayer. Nope, sorry, don’t buy it. There is no verse in the Bible that even remotely comes close to saying that salvation comes by “saying the prayer.” Faith is a fight, it’s a race, it is no one-time event that you did and then move on. Continue in the faith. Those who continue in the faith are the only ones who are saved by faith. The just shall LIVE by faith.

2) The Cubs should be rooted for. I grew up with diseased people who coughed their Cub fandom germs on me. It took me many years to get better. The Cubs are an awful organization mired in stupid. Continuing to cheer for them does not show loyalty, it shows mental disorder.

3) You can’t mow the lawn on Sundays. Yes I can.

4) I don’t need anyone, I’m just fine by myself. People were always creepy to me. I isolated myself, stayed away from people and did my own thing. When I talked to people it was to rip them apart. Who needs em? I’ll be fine. Except I wasn’t. Plus I hate cooking.

5) I’m the only person in the world who truly understands the Bible. I actually remember the moment when this began to crack. My buddy Joe beat me at a game of Bible Trivia! Joe? Joe the Catholic? Beat me? I’m a pastor’s kid! HE beat ME? Yes, yes he did. Plus the D I got in Old Testament Survey. Plus the one time the WWII vet asked me if it was too late for him to get saved and my mouth said, “Yeah, probably.” That was a pretty low moment too. Oy.

6) Getting good grades is the key to your future. Oh wait, I never believed that.

6) People in church have everything together. The only way you would think someone has a perfect life is if you don’t know them. Most churches are filled with unknown people who either purposely want to be unknown to keep their outward perfection, or don’t want to be known because they know they aren’t perfect. Everyone needs to relax and help each other come to Christ.

7) You know you did well because someone told you you did well. I learned part of this when I played my trumpet. Whenever I totally blew my song I would get the most compliments! When my daughter began playing piano in public I told her the same thing, “Hey, don’t worry about messing up, you’ll get more compliments that way.” Try it some time. It’s true. And the compliments are all lies too incidentally.

The flip side of this one I am still learning–the desire to get a compliment. That I didn’t do a good job unless someone told me I did. Growing up as an insecure flop, I like a good compliment. When no one says anything about the sermon, was it any good?

The need for approval is in everyone, but growing up being rejected by many, turned on by a lot of people I thought were friends, made me especially susceptible to this one. I admit I’m still learning this one. Doing what I do before the Lord and letting it rest there. I’m trying, I’m trying.

8) You should sell your gold, it’s not going to go up. D’oh!

9) Girls are gross. Some of em are, but not nearly as many as gross boys. The female mind is a land of wonder. I continue to be amazed at the insights and perspectives I would never in a bazillion years come up with. There is one female in particular who continues to impress me with her ingenuity, supreme baking skills, great recipes, charm, wit, and business sense–I love you Martha Stewart.

10) Everyone I know is going to go to heaven. This has been a painful one to learn. Heaven isn’t populated based on who you know. You are not the fortunate one to be born smack dab in the middle of people who have it all right spiritually. Some people leave the faith. Some people play games with you. Some people bluster and intimidate so as not to be challenged. Heaven is reached by a narrow road, not the broad, crowded road. If everyone you know is going where you are going, you might want to change roads.