|May 12, 2012||Prism of Perspective|
|May 05, 2012||The Value of Identity|
|April 28, 2012||Intolerant Atheism|
|April 21, 2012||The Hunger Games, Bully, and Teen Violence|
|April 14, 2012||Tim Tebow? Not Your Type.|
|April 07, 2012||First Fruits vs. Easter|
|March 31, 2012||A $640 Million Question|
|March 24, 2012||When You Just Cannot Help|
|March 17, 2012||Never Wrong|
|March 10, 2012||A Good Mystery|
Went to the eye doctor yesterday to get new glasses. I've been needing new glasses for quite some time now as it's been probably 5 or 6 years since I last had my eyes checked. The world, it seemed to me, had started growing "a little cloudy" or blurry. Certain small fields of my vision were perfectly clear, but others it seemed could not be brought into focus.
I sat through the battery of tests where they show you the little farmhouse off in the distance, the "little pufts of air" for each eye, and the dilation drops which turns regular sunshine into something bordering on offensive. In the end, it turns out my eye glasses were just really scratched up. There were no changes to my vision, but my perspective had changed because of what my glasses had been through. I was looking at a perfectly clear world through a bad set of glasses.
As I walked, squinty-eyed, to my car, I began to think of a conversation I had with a friend earlier that week about the whole gay marriage debate. My friend, who is a Christian, felt that people could be born gay. Not that he was completely convinced of it, but leaned toward that as he has also held the opinion that not everything in the Bible is true. It was a very interesting conversation for me, because I like rational discussion with rational people who can explain their position without finger-pointing and name calling. For my friend, it all seemed to revolve around the concept of a question: How could two people, mutually committed to each other in love, be wrong?
I conceded that I have seen some gay/lesbian couples in relationships that seemed far more loving, healthy, and even "more Christian" than some Christian marriages. However, I still held the view that it was wrong, simply because the Bible very clearly spells out that homosexuality is wrong. Where I think my perspective differs from others is that homosexuality is wrong, but it is no more grievous or wrong than the other sins of fornication or adultery. For that matter, homosexuality is no more wrong than any other sin.
I think there is too much focus on homosexuality being wrong, and not enough focus on simply loving people where they are, regardless of where they are. This is not in any way a condoning of homosexuality, but it is my view that it is not only useless to condemn people for it, it is also hypocritical. As abhorrent as the idea of homosexuality is to some people, every single one of us is equally abhorrent in the eyes of a perfect sinless God without Jesus Christ in our lives. Only by the blood of Christ are we made perfect. I believe it is enough that the Bible condemns homosexuality (and all sin), there is no need for me to do so.
Because of my acceptance of Christ, I am forgiven, loved, and accepted. I will not lose my place of relationship with Him, nor will I ever exhaust His love and forgiveness for sins. I can accept that I will do wrong things, for nothing prevents my sinful flesh from being tempted, and I am still just as human as anyone unsaved. The difference in my life is an acceptance of forgiveness, a recognition of right and wrong behavior according to the Bible, and a desire to please my Savior through a life that is pleasing to Him.
And what would be pleasing to Him? Should I then, as a forgiven, loved, and accepted son of God, run around finger-pointing and name-calling? Or rather, should I be just as accepting and loving of others as Christ was of me?
To my friend, I made it clear that while the Bible may actually speak of some people being born not attracted to the person of the opposite sex (Mt 19:12), the Bible is very clear that homosexuality is wrong. The greater explanation is that maybe these people were born to serve God unencumbered by marriage (I Cor 7), and that while others may be tempted by sexual sin with someone of the opposite sex, there is no way the devil would leave these people untempted by sexual sin, and so we have the sin of homosexuality.
I wish I could get into all the aspects of the topic we talked about as the discussion was very interesting. I am convinced that what confuses people on the topic is not what the Bible says, but where we stand on our perspective. Just like my glasses were scratched up and had affected my vision, if we see this sin-scratched world first and try to align it with what we know about the Bible, our perspective will be skewed. However, when we look through the clear prism of the Bible first at the world, we then see the world as God sees it.
There is no need to justify the world of sin to relate to it, Jesus justified all who would accept His payment on the cross. Homosexuality is no less wrong than any other sin just because it is forgiven, the difference is a recognition of what is right and wrong, and a born-again life that seeks to please God. As God sought you in your sin, to redeem you to Himself, so ought we show the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God that is available to all regardless of where they are in life.
"Who are you?" My daughter had been parading through the house with just about every piece of plastic jewelry she could find in her toy chest on her person along with parts of two or three different princess costumes. Oh, and sunglasses. "I'm a princess," she responded and began to tell me her own little tale about the world she lived in. It was fascinating to just watch her play.
It reminds me of another story, this one not so pleasant, about a young man who was having a hard time with life. His parents divorced when he was a child, he took up drugs and alcohol and had taken a job as DJ at an old bar. His story began like everyone else who comes into this world, but quickly took its own path somewhere along the way, and he began asking the questions we all eventually ask: "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" Not finding any answers, depression overcame his will to live and he took his own life.
Even for Christians, this question is hard for many to answer. Ask anyone on the street, "Who are you?" and if they aren't feeling to suspicious of your motives you may get their name, but the name of a person is not who they are. My name is John Bagwell, but who is John Bagwell, and why is he here on this earth? Stop and think about it for a moment before continuing on, for the question of "Who are you?" is not one of asking your name, but your identity.
You see, your identity is not just who you are, it also gives you purpose and context in life. Walk up on a car accident and you will see all kinds of people with identities. A policeman, an EMT, a wrecker driver . . . and they all are doing something. They are not haphazard about what they are doing either. It is an orchestra of motion, each person with their identity doing their job according to their identity and the context of the situation. Then there are also the bystanders. "Who are you?" "What is your purpose here?"
The bystanders have no identity here, they have no purpose here, and so they stand around and do nothing. So many people in life are still searching for their identity. For many who do not find it, they ultimately end up standing around, doing nothing while life passes them by. They do not know who they are, so they have no purpose and life for them is meaningless.
If you are a Christian, allow me to help you just a little bit on the path of identity, for who you are now is not who you were. Romans 6:6 "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, . . ." (You may also see Ephesians 4:22 and Colossians 3:9). Too many Christians today are trying to walk around with two identities. They have their old identity as a sinner, but have failed to let the dead weight fall as someone who has been born again. They have a new heart, but still carry the old identity, and so they do not know who they are.
To discover your identity as a Christian, let's take a look at another few verses from the Bible. Try reading just Ephesians 6: 14 - 17 and see if a picture does not develop. There we read of different types of armor for the body, a helmet, a sword, and a shield. Who operates this type of equipment? Get the picture?
As Christians, we are soldiers bred for battle, but not a war of flesh and blood. It is a warfare fought in the minds and hearts of men, and evil fears who you are and what you are capable of doing, for within you dwells the presence and power of the Almighty. "Who are you?" Well, what is that in your hand? You have a sword and a shield and armor to fight, so stop standing on the sidelines and become engaged in the battle before you so that at the end of this life on earth you may say, 2Timothy 4:7 "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:"
As a Christian and a parent, I wish to both protect my children from the dangers of the world while at the same time educating them about the problems they will face in life. Sometimes this comes by way of learning experiences when things happen to them, and other times it comes by way of an event they happen to witness. Then there are those teachable moments when something happens outside of their perception, and you actually bring it to the attention of your child so they can see and understand. Such was the case when I read an article yesterday.
I want my children to be aware of bullying, how and why it happens, and to be able to defend both themselves and others from the practice of bullying by others. However, when I read the article yesterday, it kind of set the whole thing of bullying and intolerance in its proper perspective. You can read the article here: "Anti-Bully Speaker Bullies Christians"
When you read the article, what strikes me most is that Dan Savage, the speaker invited to address specifically the topic of bullying, is a known homosexual, yet many Christians still went to hear him speak - not to judge him, hold up signs, heckle or protest, but to listen with an open mind. They certainly didn't go there to be bullied. The audience? Teenagers. Not a group of adults, but kids. What happened next is all too typical of what happens by the same people who call Christians intolerant.
Dan Savage chose this moment to address his personal views about Christianity rather than talk about what he was actually there for. Instead of talking about bullying, he cursed, name called, and generally bullied anyone in the audience who was a Christian. Exactly what he was there to speak against, he began to do. The Christian response? They got up to simply walk away. They did not scream, yell, protest, or anything. They quietly rose up and walked out. Dan Savage's response? He name calls and bullies them even more. Typical.
How does he justify this behavior? He makes a claim leveled by many by saying "there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong." This is wrong on two counts. First, there are not "many people" doing anything even remotely like "gay bullying" and there is not one single account I have heard of where someone specifically used the Bible as their justification for bullying gays. The Bible does say homosexuality is wrong, but as soon as some idiot bully happens to bully someone who is gay, it is people like Savage that assume the context must be the person was using the Bible condemnation of homosexuality as the cause of the gay bullying. Again, typical.
Savage is but the tip of the ice-burg. The situation in that moment all too clear. Christians, when bullied, are expected to remain silent and are expected to take it, while if the same speech had been given anywhere in the nation by any Christian leader, that Christian speaker would have been labeled a "hate-monger" and accused of inciting "hate-crimes" against gays. Savage is a hypocrite, and a bully. Savage is also just one of many who persecute Christianity and Christians in general for no other reason than that they are Christian. They like to lift their own banner of "free speech" while conveniently labeling any dissent "hate-speech not covered under free speech", and seek to remove the freedom of religion.
It is one more example I am going to use to educate my daughters about what they will face as a Christian. It is a lesson about intolerant people claiming Christians are intolerant, bullying by those who claim to help the bullied, and hypocrisy from the same people who point the finger at others claiming they are hypocrites. Dan Savage, as is the case with those who hate and do not understand Christianity, is simply ignorant. My task in educating my children will be to teach them how to deal with that ignorance, intolerance and oppression, simply because they are Christians.
Some few months ago, my wife started talking about this book she was reading called "The Hunger Games". I asked her to give me the basic plot outline, and during the telling she mentioned the books were quite controversial because of the violence. Then about a month ago there was a lot of talk about the movie "Bully". There was a lot of controversy over the nature of the movie, again, because of the violence, and there were a lot of people wondering if kids should be allowed to see either movie.
My wife and I talked about the controversy, and she made a good point in that it was not the violent acts everyone was complaining about, but the rather that the violence was being perpetrated by teens. Two weeks prior to this conversation, I went to watch the movie John Carter and in that movie, the lead character beheads one of the aliens and everyone cheers. In Star Wars - Attack of the Clones, a Jedi knight beheads Jango Fett in front of his son Boba. Never a word from the media about any controversy there. While we are not allowed to see the actual beheading take place in either movie, there is a dramatic thud as the head of the character visibly hits the ground after their respective confrontations.
In the world we live in today, violence is everywhere for teens to view, but there is no outcry. They are saturated with it in movies, video games, and all other forms of entertainment, but there is a sense that "it's just entertainment" and that "kids understand the difference." I'm not one to disagree on the face of it, but there is another side of me that says all this has to be having some effect on how kids and teenagers perceive their world. Or is it a reflection of how far we have already come?
In one of the more recent news reports regarding the movie "Bully", it showed a small handful of teenagers who were allowed to view a small portion of the movie and give their opinions. Their response to the movie? "That's how it is with teenagers in school today." My response: "Yeah, that's pretty much how I remember it, too."
I remember seeing a gang of guys in high school jump one single guy and nearly beat him to death because he insulted the girlfriend of one of the other guys. I've seen fistfights that left some kids in pools of blood while the offender got a week off from school and maybe a week or two of in-school suspension. I also remember quite clearly being involved in such brawls myself, sometimes managing to put up a good fight, and other times not so much. I've heard every cuss word, insult, and degrading remark hurled between teenagers both male and female. What's more, as a teacher in a private school for a short time, I've been witness to some of the same things. The reaction of parents to these reports? "Not my kid" and "It couldn't have been as bad as they're making it sound" and "I didn't raise my child to behave that way."
This leads me to my conclusion. The uproar over the violence in movies among teens is misdirected. The movies, I believe, are simply showing us a reflection of the society we have become. Violence among teens exists in all its ugly forms. So why is it that there is such an outcry against the movies? Again, my opinion, but I think it has to do with where the responsibility really lies. If the violence is in the movies, it is easy to finger point there, but when it exists in the real world, the finger has to be pointed at the parents.
I'd encourage any parent to go see "The Hunger Games" and "Bully" with their child/children and have the hard conversations about violence among teens afterward. I'd also encourage parents to be more attentive when your kid talks about violence in school in any form, and equally aware of when someone says something is going on with your child acting a certain way and not jump to the "My kid is an angel" or "My kid would never . . ." routine.
Biblically speaking, all the passages about "turn the other cheek" and those that speak against violence are not to be taken out of context (though if you will scroll down to the comments section you will have glaring examples of such). The Biblical principle of non-violence is one that teaches Christians not to fan the flames of an already hostile or tense situation. We are to seek peaceful alternatives whenever possible, yet we are not supposed to just allow ourselves to be kicked around either. When possible, we are allowed to legally defend ourselves within the limits of the law - including the use of deadly force - but again, I would say only after all other peaceful alternatives have been exhausted.
The key to teaching your children about violence is that it is not OK to be violent, but that to prevent violence it is sometimes necessary to employ force in a violent fashion, such as in the defense of others or in defense of yourself. I think Katniss Everdeen was a good example of this type of character in The Hunger Games. That is just my opinion. Feel free to disagree.
A few weeks ago I read an article on Fox News. You can read the entire article here: INSIDERS. In the article, they ask the question "But could all the Tinseltown-type attention jeopardize his game and wholesome Christian image?1"
Reposted from: MenRising
Rewind years ago when the nation didn't really know who Tim Tebow even was. As an Alabama fan and a Christian (yes you Auburn fans, it IS possible!!), my first gut reaction to his public displays of faith were to shrug them off as meaningless. How many times have I seen players kneel in the end-zone, point to heaven, thank God on TV, or make some other overt display of faith on the field only to be caught up later in some drug or immoral scandal later? I thought he was a fake. First impressions can be hard to shake.
As Tim Tebow grew into the role though, I began to pay attention more. I read about his background as a home-schooled kid and missionary kid. As a former missionary to China, I know how tough life can be on missionary kids, and now that we live in the states and home-school our two daughters, we see how the homeschooling movement is just now starting to be accepted even in largely conservative circles. I can only imagine that it must have been tough for him growing up, and here he was experiencing success on levels most people will only dream of, and how does it affect him? It doesn't even seem to register. Nothing changes. Tim Tebow is still the same person, and that is when I became interested.
I watched his last year in college with great fascination and wonder at the unprovoked hate that came from people who did not even know him and from the liberal media, and I found myself in the awkward position of rooting for him even though he played against Alabama. I wanted Tim Tebow to win, but for Florida to lose. It was an interesting year. Then came graduation, and I assumed we'd heard the last from Tim Tebow.
Then came his chance to shine yet again. After a losing start to the 2011 season, Tim Tebow was put in to replace Kyle Orton at halftime and quarterbacked the Denver Broncos on a wild ride taking them almost to victory against a 16 point deficit. The rest of his season, as they say, is history but nothing short of inspiring. The whole time, the media kept touting his style as awkward and that he'd never find real success, yet he kept winning. His win streak was only broken by the New England Patriots weeks later, and again the Patriots handed him the defeat that would take his team out of the playoffs.
What was Tim Tebow's reaction to all this? He was still Tim Tebow. Nothing had changed. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation had heard about him by now, and they couldn't seem to make up their minds about him. Was he a good football player or not? Was his Christianity real or not? Who is this guy really? And why does he have to keep making public displays of his Christianity?
Let me at least answer the last question for everyone. The reason he keeps making public displays of his Christianity is simple: he is a Christian. Would that all Christians had his courage. Then comes this article and I think to myself, "Hollywood just doesn't get it". Maybe the nation at large just doesn't get it. Now, I've never met Tim Tebow, and I'm not his best friend or have any close relationships, but I've seen him enough over the years to realize one thing: Tim Tebow is legit.
As for the worryings of the media over how Hollywood will affect him, all I have to say is "Hollywood, Tim Tebow is not your type." While Tim Tebow is only human and prone to failings and mistakes just like the rest of us, I tend to think he'll take the world on the same way he always has - by just being himself. If he'll do that, then we'll never hear of a drug or immoral scandal unless one is manufactured, and we'll never even have to wonder if Tinseltown will ever jeopardize his Christian image.
He's a great example of a Christian man simply being a Christian man. Maybe the real question isn't why the world thinks he's so odd, but rather why, in the public Christian community, his consistent example as a Christan man is so rare.
Today, I am going to be taking my two daughters to an annual church activity whereby they place little plastic eggs on the ground filled with candy. Some of these eggs will be hidden, most not so much. Then my daughters, along with a bunch of other children, will be let loose to go find these eggs. It will be a great time, full of smiles and children laughing. Sunday morning, they will have a special basket to go through which their mother will have prepared ahead of time. It will also have little candies, treats, and toys in it for them to go through before we head off to church that morning. It is a celebration of Easter, and quite frankly it has little to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let me be clear on one thing. Easter, in fact, was a pagan holiday. First Fruits, is a Christian Holy Day. These two days are separate with the Christian Holy Day of First Fruits being established long before Easter was ever even a word. "The theme of the festival of First Fruits is resurrection and salvation." according to the Jewish Holy Day of Bikkurim. It was one of several Feast Days / Holy Days in the Jewish calendar.
This Holy Day saw several important events, Biblically speaking, that established the theme of resurrection and salvation before Christ died and rose again. Those events include the resting of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat signaling the end of God's judgement on the earth by flood, and the rebirth / new beginning of mankind, as well as the crossing of the Red Sea by Israel when they escaped out of Egypt, and other events.
Study Jewish Holy Days for some time and you will quickly realize they were not only celebrations of events past, but predictors of events to come. The Holy Day of First Fruits was a foretelling of the resurrection of Jesus Christ - the most important event in Biblical history. Without the resurrection, we have a story of a man who lived an incredible life that died, however, the story of Jesus Christ - God in the flesh - doesn't end with a tomb. Jesus rose again the third day (for those of you who do not quite understand the Jewish timing of events, see this page here "How Long was Jesus Dead in the Tomb?").
Point is, Easter and First Fruits happen to fall on the same day. Which do we celebrate? Well, we celebrate the Holy Day of First Fruits actually (I Corinthians 15:23), but the means in which we celebrate it in American culture is much the same as Easter. Is it wrong? Nope. There is nothing wrong with allowing your children to have fun, even if it happens to resemble some pagan holiday. Why? Because if you are like me, you are educating your children about the true meaning of this most important season of great celebration, about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What's more, if I were to suddenly not have anything to do with any and all pagan holidays, I'd pretty much set myself up so that anyone could declare Thanksgiving, Labor Day, July 4th, or any holiday "pagan" and I'd then be expected to have no part simply because of someone else's pronouncements. That is absurd and ridiculous, and I refuse to allow myself to be sucked into someone else's expectations of what I should or should not do. As a Christian, I only need ask myself "What does the Bible say about Easter?" Quite simply, the Bible verifies that the resurrection happened on the day of that recently established pagan holiday - nothing more. It does not condemn Easter, it does not rail against Easter, it does not give a hate speech about Easter, it simply mentions it and moves on.
As that is the attitude of the Bible about Easter, then that is the attitude I am going to choose to take. In the mean time, my girls will still be going out to collect eggs filled with candy, have baskets to dig into on Sunday morning, and they will learn of the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For without the resurrection, there would be no hope of salvation. The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. Far more important than His birth, His life, or His death, we have hope because Jesus lives!
"1Corinthians 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain."
While prime time news outlets devoted at least some of their broadcasting to the record-breaking lottery jackpot that ended with several winners last night, I must say it was a bit of fun conversation between my wife and I about what we would do with so much money. To be honest, my main thoughts seemed to keep navigating toward finding a way to preserve both my anonymity and my sanity, and the best way I could think of to do this would be to take a very long vacation out of the country - maybe for a year. By the time I came back from vacation, it would be hoped, another world issue/problem will have found its way to center stage.
All that money is kinda fun and scary to think about at the same time. Fun to think about what you'd do with it, and scary to think about all the problems it would inevitably bring. I can just imagine the number of people who would suddenly become your friend asking for "just $1 million" out of "all those hundreds of millions of dollars" you'd have. Within days you'd have every worthy cause and crackpot at your door looking for a donation, and then fingering you as a heartless miser (or worse) if you turned any one of them down. Then there are those out there who would seek to find some creatively exploitative reason, however trivial, to sue just in the hopes that you'd settle out of court. After all that, then there are the relatives . . .
Besides the ones you actually know and have anything to do with, you'd have relatives you never knew, and those sudden relatives who are related because you have the same last name, or maybe just the same first name would be enough. To be sure, winning $640 million would start a parade of long-lost acquaintances and friends from all over, and makes me think that year-long vacation I was thinking about would need to stretch out a little longer, like maybe over the rest of my life.
So what would you do with $640 million? It's just a question, but one worth asking if only to think of what could be, and as you do remind yourself of what will be. You see, for those people who won the $640 million, they will have a lot of decisions to make, and I'd love to be one of them, but in the end, both the winners of the $640 million and I will have one thing in common with you. Whatever we have now in this life, we must leave it all behind when we die.
Kinda depressing, but a reality check is in order here. I love dreaming about what I'd do with $640 million if only because of the circumstances I face every day in my life right now. To be sure, I'd be substituting one set of problems for another, but at this moment I'd like to see what handling the problems of having $640 million looks like. However, life is, and always has been, one of the great equalizers. Whether it is money, or problems, which you have in plenty, you will one day leave them all behind.
With the end of March and the end of a record lottery jackpot, tomorrow turns to a new month, and thoughts turn to a new day. As we approach the Easter season, I think of the greatest prize in all of history - that of heaven. The price of that ticket? Paid in full. Availability? Free for all who choose to accept and believe. It is safe to assume I will never know the life of a millionaire on this earth, but with all the potential problems it can bring, I like to think my life is quite a wonderful blessing as it stands right now, and all the dreams I might have of living the life of a millionaire will simply never compare to the coming eternity in heaven. How about you? Did you get your ticket?
I remember having a parakeet in the house when I was a teenager. This little bird did not seem to care much for me or anyone else, that is, until it wanted something. The cage had a small vial for food and another one for water, but whenever I tried to remove the small containers to change out the food or water the bird would be at the edge of the cage trying to bite me. Same went for whenever I tried to put them back. It became very annoying, so I began to let the food run out completely before trying to replace it. That is when something strange happened.
Instead of being at the edge of the cage trying to bite me, the little bird actually seemed to be friendly. To test the theory, I opened the cage and held out my finger for the bird to stand on. It hopped on, and as I withdrew the bird from the cage, it flew to my shoulder where it nuzzled its soft feathers against the side of my neck. I thought the bird had finally had a change of heart and understood that I was only here to help it, but I was wrong.
Once the food and water were refreshed, the little bird flew to the cage and began to squawk and act territorial again, and even went so far as to bite me if I put my hand in the cage to clean the bottom out. I was annoyed. The bird was not a friendly pet, it was a pain, and I soon grew tired of the thing.
Flash forward to a situation that materialized last week when my wife spoke of a friend with family problems. Her friend could not understand why the relationship in her family could not seem to be amended despite all her efforts at trying to do what was right and her efforts to reach out to family members. The results for all her efforts seemed only to anger the family even more, that is, until they needed something.
I think you can see where this is going. It happens a lot in life, not just with family, but in the business world as well. I experienced a similar situation of my own over the past two weeks when I tried to refinance the mortgage on my home. Not going into any details, but suffice it to say it is very safe advice for anyone to keep your own best interests in mind and do everything you legally can to make sure you are getting the best deal possible, because despite the smiles, friendly conversations, and warm handshakes, the banker has no purpose or inclination at looking out for your best interest.
It's a sad commentary on the world as a whole, and as a Christian man trying to live in this world, I sometimes struggle to understand why some people cannot just be straightforward in their business dealings. I have to say I was never lied to, but I was not given straight answers to questions I already knew the answers to, and it only made me angry and frustrated to know that I could not trust this person to look out for me, even though I was about to give them a chunk of business. In the end, I was left with a very bad impression, but a little wiser in dealing with the workings of the world.
What can you do about it? Nothing. In all of the situations above, there is nothing you can do about the decisions other people make in life. You cannot change others, you cannot make decisions for them, you cannot even try to educate them that the relationship, whether with family, business, or otherwise, would actually be better if everyone were transparent and honest. The only thing you have control over is you.
The decisions you make are the only ones you can be held responsible for, and so you simply live and do what is right regardless of what others do, and let others live with the weight of your decisions. Too often, people will make you try to feel guilty or pay a price in lost access to a relationship because of decisions you make. The process is one that tries to lure you into a feeling that you have done something wrong, and that you somehow now owe them something.
When this happens, my advice is to walk away. You simply cannot help some people, no matter how much you give, no matter how hard you try, no matter what lengths you go to trying to be reasonable, they will only maintain the relationship for as long as they get what they want. That kind of one-way relationship will eventually drain you of every resource and energy until you have nothing left to give, and then they will be the ones to end the relationship because you have no value to them anymore.
It isn't healthy. It requires wisdom to know who you can and cannot help, and I am not here to advise on how to differentiate. However, when you identify such a relationship in your life, when you just cannot help despite your best efforts, the only thing you can do to really help them is walk away.
Going to church and calling yourself a Christian is easy, but actually living what you believe can be difficult to endure sometimes. Not because being a Christian is hard, but because the world we live in tends to penalize anyone, not just Christians, for doing what is right.
Take the case I ran into just this last week. On the job, I was trying to help a company who had taken over a hotel because the hotel had gone into bankruptcy. The previous owner of the hotel not only had defaulted on the loan, but just about everything else, and the hotel was decaying and falling apart because of neglect. Worse yet, to save money, the previous owner lied about the room count on the hotel. The management company under order from the bank, came in to rehabilitate the hotel and set everything right again.
Where I come in is when the General Manager of that management company called me to set the record straight on the room count, which represented a more than 100% increase on the room count total, and accordingly a more than doubling of the bill for that hotel. When the bank found out what the General Manager, who is a Christian, had done, the bank's knee-jerk reaction was to stop writing checks, and give the General Manager an ear-full for coming clean and telling the truth about the room count.
You see, to the bank, the General Manager cost them a lot of money. If the General Manager had just kept silent, then no one would have known, and the deception could have continued indefinitely. The problem is, the General Manager knew, and the deception was not just wrong, it was illegal, and being a Christian the General Manager simply decided to do what was right.
Talking with her by phone, I could hear the distress in her voice as she tried to describe why the bank had stopped writing checks and why the work was going to be placed on hold for a time. My response was this: "It is never wrong to do what is right."
I have two little girls, and I am trying to raise them in the greater wisdom of the teachings of the Bible, but one day, they are going to be launched into the world to face the reality that not everyone believes doing the right thing is the best thing, or even the right thing. As I talked with the General Manager, she expressed appreciation for the encouragement, and I told her that I am going to take this story home to my two daughters where I teach them they should always tell the truth, even if it gets them into trouble. This was one real-world scenario I would have never thought of, but is exactly the kind of situation many Christians can find themselves in.
While the world will have you believe there are no moral absolutes, that doing right is conditional, and that there are extenuating circumstances for everything, let me set the record straight. There are hard decisions, sometimes it can be confusing to determine what is right, and sometimes there are some downright heartbreaking decisions that seem to blur the line between right and wrong, but here is one absolute of which I am 100% sure - It Is Never Wrong To Do What Is Right.
I love a good mystery. While I never read Nancy Drew mysteries (those were for girls) I did read a few Hardy Boys stories and listened to the Sugar Creek Gang some mornings. Later, it was the Sherlock Holmes stories when I could get hold of one, and today I still love a good book or movie with a bit of a puzzle or mystery to solve. That kind of curiosity led me to study out the Bible with questions like, "Where are all the 2,000 year old men?" answered last week.
What is even more curious though, is that the question answered last week was not where I initially started, but rather ended. For there was another verse in the Bible that sparked my curiosity, and led me to study out an entire chapter, which then led me to the verses talked about last week. When talking about those verses, I wondered, was it possible any one of them actually walked the earth today?
Practically, my study led me to believe that whoever was there was also simply taken to heaven as Elijah and Enoch were both taken to heaven, but I also wanted to know if it was even possible that "some of those standing here" were still around today. That question led me to a study of a special assignment, given to Paul, and his story of survival against man, nature, and beast. There, woven in the lines of the book of Acts, was this amazing account of how God preserved his life despite some of the most dire circumstances. In short, Paul was told he must go to Rome to testify before Caesar, and God would see to it that nothing would stop him from completing that mission.
Did you know, though, that there was someone else given a similar mission? That the person given such a mission was one of those standing there whom Christ said would not taste of death? Did you know that there was one person in the New Testament where it was actually rumored that this person would not die? It's true. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The verse that caught my attention actually starts in Revelation.
Revelation 10:4 "And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not." You see, anyone who has studied the book of Revelation knows about the seven seal judgements, the seven trumpet judgements, and the seven vial (or bowl) judgements; however, here in this verse is where I first found the seven thunders, and what stuck me is that we are told about their existence, but not allowed to know what the seven thunders actually are.
No big deal, except there is one person who DOES know. John.
You see, John was allowed to know something that no other human on earth would be allowed to know for a very long time. As I studied out the whole chapter, I learned many interesting things, but the most interesting to me was four words in the very last verse: Revelation 10:11 " . . . thou must prophesy again . . . "
Chapter 10 in Revelation is also curious in that it is the only chapter in Revelation where the writer moves from observe/report to actually taking part in the action. He is told to eat of a little book, given a great secret known as the seven thunders, and finally given a special mission. Why? That is when the verses talking about "some standing here which shall not taste of death" began to ring in my mind. Then came these words . . .
John 21:20 "Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
Note: the rumor is that this disciple (John) will not die, but John corrects the rumor to the actual words spoken. What is great about this verse is that Christ sets the very groundwork for fulfillment of the other verses when He said "there be some standing here which shall not taste of death." He literally mentions John tarrying until He comes - the same language used in Matthew 16:28 - as though it is no big deal.
To you and me, that someone could actually be walking the earth for 2,000 years might be a big deal, but to Christ who was there when the universe was breathed into existence, it is but a small matter. Question is, who cares? If John actually is walking the earth today because of some special mission to which only he has been allowed to see in Revelation 10, what do I care? Well, for one, what do you think John would be doing today? Would he be doing what you are doing? Would his priorities in life align with yours? Would he seek to live the life you do, go to the church you do, and pursue the things in life you do?
No. I think John, if he was walking the earth today, would have priorities quite different from my own. I quite believe the rest of Revelation 10:11 may be what he would be trying to accomplish today when it says " . . . thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." As for you, forget about John's mission, how about your neighbor, the person who cuts your hair, the people you work with or see every day in some capacity. Do they even know you are a Christian?
While John may be on some special assignment given exclusively to him, we still have one of our own no matter where we are in this world, no matter who we are in this world: Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."