Monday, February 29, 2016

Super Tuesday: Voting From a Christian Perspective

Tomorrow is an important day in the United States. Millions of people across the nation will be voting in our primary elections to choose a nominee for the post of President of the United States. This next presidential election is especially crucial for our nation. Our country has become highly divided along many different lines. The way in which the next president leads and the values he or she possesses will play a big part in determining the future success or failure of this country. With the weight of this heavy responsibility in mind, the questions must be asked: Should Christians have a unique set of standards when choosing a candidate as compared to non-Christians? Does voting matter as a Christian? Why or why not? Let's look at these questions both biblically and historically.

Biblically, I don't think we can find a single case of Jesus or the early disciples ever supporting, or working against, any particular political leader. They themselves never pursued a political office of any sort. Certainly, Jesus could have, in all his heavenly power, become the King of all Israel and conquered the world. But he did not. The disciples could have sucked up to the Roman leaders and sought favor for the Christian movement through political means. But they did not. Paul was a full-fledged Roman citizen; a great orator and writer. He could have sought out and probably achieved a governorship and received protection for Christian followers. But he did not. Probably one of the only political statements Jesus Christ ever made is found in Mark 12:17, as well as in the other gospels, when Jesus refers to taxes; "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." About politics and government, I think the disciple's views were best summed up by Paul in Romans 13: 1-7: "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."
That is a hard word, especially when you do not agree with the actions or policies of the government leaders over you. Please notice that neither Christ or the disciples ever commanded us to seek political office or seek to have Christian brothers and sisters assume positions of political power. The Christian message has always been about the "good news" of the Gospel and about spiritual matters concerning the coming Kingdom of God. The world with all its nations and governments and laws has biblically been presented as a place which is quickly passing away and a place in which humans will have trouble. We are given instructions on how to get along in this world, but we are even more so instructed to focus our attention and efforts on the coming kingdom and the making of disciples for Christ. In summary, Jesus and the disciples seem to be telling us, Do what you have to do to get along in this world without causing trouble, but focus on what is to come.

Yet, as Americans, we are afforded a right to vote for our leaders. As Christians, should we not seek to elect those who share our values? Certainly! But, if we take a historical view, what should we be looking to achieve and to expect? Even though our nation was founded primarily by people who were of the Christian faith or at the very least followed Judeo/Christian principles, our country was established on the notion of religious freedom for all and not the advancement of Christianity. Our government has never been about ensconcing in law the tenets of Christianity. As Christians we have enjoyed when presidents have shared our common faith and sought to govern in our best interests. When it comes down to the meat of the matter, however, the United States government does not exist and was not designed to promote and advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. The most we should expect from our leaders is that they act in an honorable fashion and protect the rights of all people to worship and express their faiths without undue hindrance. We should not count on that though. The Bible tells us that Christians will be on the receiving end of ever-increasing levels of persecution as time goes on. We are warned in advance of the moral and ethical downfall of the world. To seek remedy of that in our political leaders is to be looking in the wrong place. Do not look for a Christian in office to save us. We are always instructed to look to Christ for our salvation from all troubles and hardships.

Nevertheless, we have the opportunity to vote. So how should we vote? I can not tell you that. Vote your conscience. Vote for somebody you would trust to watch your children. It is a very personal decision, yet one that should not be made lightly. Do your research. Know your history. Study your constitution. For what it is worth, I will  briefly share my opinion of the major candidates that are still in the race.

Donald Trump: I do not trust Donald Trump any farther than I can throw him. I think Trump does what is best for Trump in any given situation. Yet, I can not deny he is a highly successful businessman and a skilled negotiator. He makes a lot of promises and says many things I like, but that is the nature of campaigning. I think it is a plus that he seems to be able to work with both conservatives and liberals. The big downside for me is whether he can be trusted to follow through with all his big talk.

Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz: Honestly, I do not think he is a natural born citizen. I am of the belief that the founder's intent of the term meant a person born to two American citizens, especially if born abroad. People will question this interpretation. However, were Cruz born in Saudi Arabia of an American mother and a Saudi prince, we might be looking at this issue differently. I really want to like Cruz. He professes to be a Christian and claims to stand for many of the issues that are important to me. However, looking at his work as Solicitor General of Texas, I have seen a number of times where the man seems to lack sound judgment. Also, he is currently part of the ruling establishment which has gotten us into this mess in the first place. He has not garnered much support among his colleagues. That leaves me to wonder; if he cannot achieve anything major as a senator, why would I expect him as President to be able to achieve anything with these very same people? He is only a junior senator and we can see how well that worked out with Obama. I am also disappointed with his deceptive tactics on the campaign trail.

Marco Antonio Rubio: Like Cruz, I think he is not a natural born citizen and is ineligible to become president. Rubio was born in the U.S. of two foreign nationals who did not become naturalized citizens until after his birth. He is an "Anchor Baby." If you believe Rubio is eligible you must also believe that two Iraqi followers of Isis can obtain U.S. Visas and have a child here, and that child is then eligible to become the U.S. President. Regardless, I do not like his demeanor. He also has many shady dealings in his past that bear investigation. I also think he is the GOP establishment pick for the nomination, after Jeb Bush crashed and burned. No thank you.

Benjamin Solomon "Ben" Carson, Sr.: I honestly like Dr. Carson very much. I think he is highly intelligent, very honest, and a good Christian man. I do not necessarily agree with all of his social or economic positions, but I feel he is trustworthy. However, his support in the polls has been lackluster thus far and I fear he does not have the national support to become the nominee. Also, he appears to be overly ponderous about things and I question his ability to make snap decisions in a crisis. Certainly he could do so as a neurosurgeon in a field he excels in. I fear though that his inexperience as a statesman and with foreign affairs could leave us hanging in a crucial moment.

John Richard Kasich:  Kasich comes across as a very pragmatic individual. He has good experience in government and policy-making. However, he seems to want to keep things in the status quo as much as possible. He wants change but seems afraid to rock anybody's boat. Primarily, I feel he is in this race solely to achieve the VP nomination or perhaps a cabinet spot. He is not showing the drive of somebody who really wants to become President and pursue reform.

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton: What can I say? The history of Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill is one of massive deception, lies, shady deals, and dead bodies. The list of their scandals together would be longer than this blog. Primarily, I blame her as Secretary of State for the deaths of those in Benghazi, whose security she was responsible for, for the mysterious loss of over $6 billion during her time in office, and for deceiving the American people by making backroom deals with foreign entities via an illegal private server. She is hot mess of deception and death from start to finish.

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders: Despite the failure and dangers of socialism throughout world history, Bernie Sanders wants to give it another go. The fact that so many young people are attracted to him is a scathing indictment of the failure of our educational system. Sanders seems to have achieved very little of substance during his lifetime and even less after worming his way into politics. He seems to have no realistic grasp of economics or the way the world works. I hear he is a genuinely nice person. I would probably enjoy going on a nature hike with him or visiting an art museum, but I feel what he wants to do with this country is greatly foolish and destructive.

So now we all have a decision to make. As Americans, we should choose the person we feel best represents our values and ideas and that will uphold our constitution and our laws. As Christians, we should pray that God's will be done in this election. We can take some solace in knowing that no matter whom we elect, God will use that person and this situation for His own ends. In the Bible we see God using the most ungodly and unlikely people to achieve His goals. King Cyrus was certainly not a Jew but God used him to ensure that Jerusalem was rebuilt. God's kingdom will come to pass, regardless of our decisions here on Earth. If once again we feel that we are left to pick the best turd out of the bucket, so be it.

Pray hard and vote with hope!!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't Judge Me!!!

The world is split along so many lines of thought these days; religious, racial, political, scientific, sexual, etc... Whenever a Christian is involved in a debate along these lines it is almost a default answer for the non-believer to tell the Christian something to the tune of, "Jesus said 'Do not judge!', so you can't judge me or what I do." It is an interesting thing to observe that when a non-believer gets offended by a Christian they suddenly become Biblical experts. However, the claim bears looking at because Jesus did indeed say, "Do not judge....". He also said much more on the topic though that needs to be addressed to bring that quote into context. The whole matter really falls into the categories of Judgment and Condemnation. The Bible, when taken as a whole, as opposed to cherrypicking certain verses, brings much clarity to the matter.

Let's look at the first of these - Judgment. A judgment can be made on a behavior as to whether it is right or wrong. A judgment can also be passed on a person as a decision of whether or not they are behaving in a good or bad manner. Without even getting into the scriptures, logic would tell us that human beings do, and must, make judgments every day just to survive. If we didn't, we would all be putting our hands on hot stoves, walking into heavy traffic, and hiring child molesters as babysitters. We all make 'common sense' decisions every day in order to survive. However, many of these are learned by experience or simple observation. Where many people differ are with behaviors that deal with differences in moral or religious standards. In short, they look to different sources for their ideas of right and wrong, or they translate the same source differently. So, how do we judge behaviors of these sorts? Let's tale a look at what Jesus did say about judging.

The verse most commonly quoted about not judging is found first in Matthew 7:1-5, although it is repeated in the other Gospels. It is part of what Christians refer to as 'The Sermon on the Mount.' He was speaking primarily to His disciples, teaching them, although undoubtedly others heard it as well as the scriptures mention a great crowd being assembled before Jesus climbed a hilltop with His disciples. It should be pointed out that Jesus' disciples were not always the sharpest knives in the drawer at times and there was occasional backbiting, and, as was the example set by the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, there was often much finger pointing concerning 'religious correctness', just as we have 'political correctness' today. Jesus said this: "Pass no judgment, and you will not be judged. For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt back to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye, with never a though for the great plank in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye', when all the time there is that plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's." Jesus never says not to remove the speck of sawdust from your brother's eye but only warns of making sure you do not have a plank in your own when you attempt to address him about it. This is a clear warning to avoid being a hypocrite and a lesson that Christians should learn well! There are far too many out there warning people about sexual immorality and the sin of homosexuality, for example, when they themselves are caught up in adultery and pornography. In modern terms, Jesus might be saying the Biblical equivalent of, "Check yourself before you wreck yourself!" You have no business addressing another person about their behavior if your own hands are not clean on the matter.

Many people get hung up and offended at being judged or a judgement being made against their behavior because they confuse the word 'judge' with the word 'condemn.' A judgement is nothing more than a decision a person makes as to how they will view a behavior. It happens to everyone all the time. When you go for a job, you are judged on your previous personal and work behavior. When you go into a restaurant or a shop, you are judged by your behavior and treated accordingly. People decide to befriend you...or not, all depending on their judgement of your actions and words. So if somebody says to you, "Don't judge me!", what they are in essence asking for is that you pay no attention to, or that you condone, their behavior. I don't think that is fair to ask of anyone, for without making judgments, or decisions, on the people and things around us, we will never know what the right course in life to take is, what friends are good for us and which are detrimental, what things will get me in trouble and which will bring me progress and most importantly, is my neighbor or loved one in trouble and need help. Judging has to do with behavior, and that is crucial to remember! You can judge a person and say, "I believe such and such a behavior that they are doing is wrong, therefore I will not hire them, be close friends with them, let them watch my children, or whatever....but once you say, "I think that person is an evil person or a bad person and I will punish them," you have just crossed the line from judging to condemning. Condemning is what most people think is happening to them when they are judged for their behaviors. However, condemnation is different because it includes a punishment that is the result of a judgement. Remember that a judgment is nothing more than a decision or view of a behavior. Condemnation is imposing a punishment based on a judgement. While the Bible encourages believers to judge for themselves what is right in many places, it speaks very differently of condemnation.

First of all, and the best news of all is that the Bible says, in Romans 8:1-2, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.…". For true believers, they will not receive the punishment they deserve. They will not be judged and condemned for their behaviors because Jesus himself has taken those bad behaviors upon Himself.  When Jesus stepped in and kept a woman from being stoned to death, He did not ask her, "Has nobody judged you?" He asked her, "Has nobody condemned you?" The woman's behavior had already been judged by those in the crowd as being deserving of death according to the law. Thank God we no longer live according to the law only but have the opportunity to be saved from it by God's grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross! However, in order for her to receive that punishment, she would have to be condemned according to that judgment. Thankfully, for her, Jesus taught an amazingly important lesson about forgiveness and repentance that day when He told the crowd, "Let Him among you who is without sin cast the first stone." Jesus also told the woman, "Go, and sin no more." He did not disagree with the judgement of her behavior, He was making not only the point that we all sin and deserve forgiveness, but also about the nature of condemnation and who has the authority to condemn or punish people for their sins. James 4:12 tells us, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy;", referring to God Himself. As God has made the law, while we are able to judge for ourselves what is right and wrong according to it, God is also the only one who has any right to condemn a person according to that law. The judgment of a behavior is plain for anyone to see according to God's law, but it is only God himself who has any right to punish, or condemn, anyone for their violation of His law.  This point, however, is where some Christians cross the line when they seek to publicly shame and distance sinners, thereby placing a punishment upon them for their actions. Some wrong actions will bring their own negative consequences, but those consequences should not come at the hands of believers in Jesus. Instead, they should be heeding other specific words of Jesus when he says in Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." and in Mark 12:31, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Christians are called to gently correct fellow believers if possible when they stray and to go and make disciples of unbelievers. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. So, in order to love your neighbor and do unto him as you would have him do unto you, it seems only fitting to be loving, yet loving enough to warn a person if you believe they are heading in a dangerous direction in life. After that, the decision is solely theirs and the consequences are left to nature and nature's God.

In closing I would only say two things: If you feel like your actions are being judged, get used to it. You yourself judge all sorts of things and people just to get by in the world every day. People will judge you every day of your life by your words and actions so as to decide for themselves exactly what sort of person you are. Unless someone is actively punishing you for your actions, quit your whining and don't be using the Bible to try and shut people up. If you are one of those Christians who makes a bad habit of obsessing over other people's sins, especially if those other people are not believers...stop it! Remember this: Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges." In other words, look after your own behavior and those of others who belong to the church. Why should you expect people to follow the laws of God and the teachings of Jesus if they don't believe in or follow God to begin with?! Certainly, preach the gospel to them, but what happens to them in the end is between them and God.

God bless and play nice y'all!!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Heroic Example

Take a look around you. I want you to take a good, long look at our American society and the condition of the world in general. When did we become a people who can so easily set aside all the constructive and healthy values that mankind has been guided by for millenia? When did right become wrong and 'rightness' or righteousness no long matter? Looking at just this country alone I see a place where honesty no longer matters and dishonesty and corruption go unchallenged, especially among our public officials. I see a place where we celebrate homosexuality and sexual depravity and mock chastity and purity. Our entertainment is filled with violence and lasciviousness. Our schools will teach our kids how to wear a condom but not how to read. Veterans go homeless without medical care while our government rolls out the red carpet for those who have no concern whatsoever for our laws and our country. The American flag is considered a racist symbol by our own highest court. Our churches and synagogues are attacked as being 'intolerant' and 'bigoted', yet we welcome onto our college campuses the presence of those who are persecuting, raping, and slaughtering thousands around the world. We are being divided along racial and class lines more than ever before. Common sense and the rule of law no longer matter.

There was a time in our country and I would even say in the world when people understood easily the difference between right and wrong; not that all people always did the right thing but goodness and a God-based morality was valued and seen as something to strive towards. Once upon a time there were actually people who would stand up for their beliefs and not bend to absurd cultural trends. Where are those people now? Our society calls for us to accept and tolerate anything, no matter how blatantly destructive and unhealthy it may be for us as a people physically, mentally, and culturally. We are expected to let everything slide and go with the flow. "What difference does it make!" has become the new mantra for our times. We seem willing to let go of thousands of years of learning and advancement under God's guidance for the sake of convenience and societal acceptance. Things were not always so. People were once willing to live, fight, and die for what was clearly right and sensible. Faith in God was an integral part of life, not a cultural option.

I would like to share a story with you of a fine example of a person with this type of mindset. There is a set of old Hebrew writings named The Maccabees, specifically the books of First, Second, Third and Fourth Book of the Maccabees. These writings are part of the Apocrypha. Very basically, the books that make up the Apocrypha were never part of the Hebrew scriptures but were accepted as biblical by the early Christian church. They were later separated out from what we know as the Bible today for various reasons. Some versions of the Bible printed today still contain the Apocrypha although most do not. The name Maccabees was given to the group of Jewish guerrilla fighters who revolted against the Syrian kings ruling over Israel around 167 B.C.. The part of the story I want to share begins at a time when the Hebrews were being persecuted heavily by King Antiochus to persuade them to abandon their ancenstral customs and no longer regulate their lives according to the laws of God. If you'll bear with me, I will let the writings themselves tell the story, directly from 2 Maccabees 6:18-31.

"There was Eleazar, one of the leading teachers of the law, a man of great age and distinguished bearing. He was being forced to open his mouth and eat pork, but preferring an honorable death to an unclean life, he spat it out and voluntarily submitted to the flogging, as indeed men should act who have the courage to refuse to eat forbidden food even for love of life. For old acquaintances' sake the officials in charge of this sacrilegious feast had a word with Eleazar in private; they urged him to bring meat which he was permitted to eat and had himself prepared, and only pretend to be eating the sacrificial meat as the king had ordered. In that way he would escape death and take advantage of the clemency which their long-standing friendship merited. But Eleazar made an honorable decision, one worthy of his years and the authority of old age, worthy of the grey hairs he had attained to and wore with such distinction, worthy of his perfect conduct from childhood up, but above all, worthy of the holy and God-given law. So he answered at once: 'Send me quickly to my grave. If I went through with this pretense at my time of life, many of the young might believe that at the age of ninety Eleazar had turned apostate. If I practiced deceit for the sake of a brief moment of life, I should lead them astray and bring stain and pollution on my old age. I might for the present avoid man's punishment, but, alive or dead, I shall never escape from the hand of the Almighty. So if I now die bravely, I shall show that I have deserved my long life and leave the young a fine example, to teach them how to die a good death, gladly and nobly, for our revered and holy laws.' 
When he had finished speaking, he was immediately dragged away to be flogged. Those who for a little while had shown him friendship now became his enemies because, in their view, what he had said was madness. When he was almost dead from the blows, Eleazar sighed deeply and said: 'To the Lord belongs all holy knowledge. He knows what terrible agony I endure in my body from this flogging, though I could have escaped death; yet he knows also that in my soul I suffer gladly, because I stand in awe of him.'
So he died; and by his death he left a heroic example and a glorious memory, not only for the young but also for the great body of the nation."

The story continues on to tell of many others who, because of Eleazar's example, stood up to the persecution and cultural degradation of the Syrians, and chose death over dishonoring their country's traditions and the law of their God. Truly, this brave man set a heroic example not only for those of his generation, but for the entire future nation of Israel.

So this brings us to our generation, and our nation. Who will be the ones to set a heroic example for the people of our time? It certainly won't be the politicians. Most of them seem pretty content with just lining their pockets and working to get re-elected. I can probably count on one hand the number of Congressman that actually give a damn about the American people and that have a properly working moral compass. The current administration is seemingly doing everything in its power to destroy traditional American values and snubs its nose at our Constitution and our laws. I'd like to think our churches would be taking a stand for God's word and His values. Unfortunately, it seems all too prevalent these days that so many churches are more worried about the numbers game. How many people can we draw in to fill the collection plates? How do we stay relevant to today's culture? The end result is that God's word ends up getting so sugar-coated and watered down that it is hardly distinguishable from a Tony Robbins seminar. Worse yet, that kind of attitude does a true seeker after God absolutely no good. A church that stays true to God's word is getting harder and harder to find in America. You can count out the press as well. They have proven beyond any doubt that if they are not acting as shills for one party or another, they are simply the sellers of the sensational. Ratings and money is what journalism is about. It seems like wherever you look, all the institutions who are supposed to safeguard this nation and its people are asleep at the wheel, totally confuzzled, or fighting for a good seat on the gravy train.

So who will take up the responsibility to turn this ship around? Look in the mirror., and me, and the folks who live next door. We have to be brave enough to speak up about the corruption, the lies, and the downright evil and perverseness in our society. Vote your beliefs, even if it doesn't seem to do any good. Call your Senators and Representatives. Badger them! Challenge your pastors and rabbis...respectfully. Talk to your friends and neighbors. I think you'll find you're not alone. There are many people searching for answers in this country and in this world, but those in control have us all thinking the next guy hates us and has it in for us. That's a lie meant to divide and conquer us. I firmly believe there are more good people in this world than there are bad folks. It's just that the bad folks make more noise and don't care who they have to step on to get what they want. The good people have become like sheep, quiet and timid. If they continue that way they will be led to the slaughter like sheep. It's time to wake up and remember who you are and where you came from; where we all came from as a nation and as believers. Live like a lion and don't worry about what the haters think! The world is waiting for heroes. Be that heroic example to your family, to your community, and to the world! Most of all, love each other. Care for each other. Work together to bring peace to wherever you go. All those things are both godly and traditionally American. Despite the growing darkness, I still expect the light to break through in time!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Welcome to the Junction!!!

Allow me to sincerely welcome you to Straightjacket Junction! Whether you are here out of curiosity, out of boredom, or perhaps just because you hit the wrong button on your keyboard, you are welcome nonetheless. In the days to come I hope this blog will become a place where we can look at the craziness around us and make some sense of it. If nothing else, at least have fun with it. The topics will be highly varied; from politics to religion, music to movies, mainstream news to off the beaten path…nothing is off-limits at the Junction.

Since I see it as my right to spew words into the ether, I certainly encourage you to throw your thoughts right back at me. Just like voting in Chicago, I strongly urge you to comment “early and often.” I only ask that you be respectful. Not so much of me as of others who may be leaving their comments as well. I have no problem with sending your rude comment into the seventh level of hell, to burn eternally along with other likeminded comments and most of the Bee Gees lyrics.

As this blog progresses, and I actually figure out what I’m doing, there will be more features, links, and gadgets, so please check in often. So make yourself comfortable here. Feel free to kick the padded walls. Take a shot of thorazine if necessary. Actual blogging will commence after my next anger management session.

Practicing Medicine

This is what modern doctors do. They practice the art and science of medicine upon their patients. Doctors take the knowledge they have been taught, they look at your situation, and they practice what they have learned in hopes of finding a cure or treatment for your individual ailment. It is far from a perfect answer to all medical problems, as doctors and modern science have yet to learn everything there is to know about the human body and mind. In fact, what they think they know changes almost daily. So, they practice and hopefully they get it right. It can be quite a disconcerting thought if you are laying on a gurney in the emergency room that the people who are possibly responsible for your life or death are just 'practicing.' Practice is something we normally equate with something that is done in preparation for the 'real thing.' Most people consider their lives to be the real thing, having no fake life to compare it with. This is not to disparage doctors or anybody in the medical professions. They often do the very best they can with the knowledge and tools at their disposal and there have been many times I have been extremely thankful for their services. But still...their knowledge is limited and they don't always have all the answers for every ailment they are presented with.

This realization has very recently hit very close to home for me. Most people don't know that for a number of years now I have been living with a yet to be determined auto-immune disorder. I also lived through (obviously) a heart attack in 2010. My daily life is a long slog through sometimes severe pain and extreme fatigue. Despite being now unemployed as a result of this, I do attempt to make the best I can of every day God gives me. A couple weeks back my condition took a nasty turn as my fatigue increased dramatically and I have begun experiencing chest and back pain. Well, as is common nowadays, it took me two weeks before I could get an appointment with my doctor. In the meantime, blood-work was done so my doctor could see what was going on to some degree inside this amazing human machine which their files list as 'Sanders, Steven E. - Male - Age 49.' The results were not very positive in many respects. There is a suspicion that perhaps the stent in my artery is becoming clogged again. So, with all the haste of a snail-driven chariot, it has been arranged for me to see my cardiologist in about another month. He will then most likely draw upon his limited knowledge, poke around inside my vital organs and blood vessels, and, gaining some more practice for himself, hopefully come out of it all with a successful fix or treatment for what is ailing me. However, it is not my medical problems that I wanted to talk about. It is the Christian spiritual subject of Practicing Medicine that is on my mind today.

I think most Christians, and those of some other religions as well, would agree that human beings are more than simply physical entities. It is my personal belief that men and women are spirits (spiritual beings) who possess a soul and are temporarily encased in an earthly body. I think this view is supported by the Bible in such verses as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 in which the apostle Paul says, "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." If this is the case, certainly this trinity of human existence is not always in perfect balance just as our earthly body is rarely in its optimal state. So I got to thinking this morning, which is always a dangerous thing in itself, if our earthly bodies are very often in need of the practice of medicine, how much more must our spiritual bodies require similar attention? After all, our material bodies are only temporary, whereas our spiritual bodies are potentially eternal. The question then becomes, what type of treatment is fitting for our spiritual selves and who is the doctor to provide such crucial care?

While whole books can be and have been written on the subject of spiritual maintenance and well-being, I would simply refer again to Paul who said in Ephesians 4:23-24, " and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.…" and in Romans 12:2,"Do not conform 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." Paul also told us in 2 Corinthians 4:16, "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day." Jesus Christ Himself told us plainly who our doctor would be. John 14:26 says, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." So clearly we are to be renewed and transformed daily in our spiritual nature and the Holy Spirit of God is the one who will be there to teach us and guide us through our daily treatments.

One thing I find so encouraging about this is that, unlike the imperfect practicing of bodily medicine that we receive from our earthly doctors, who must draw upon the limited knowledge of their learning, the Holy Spirit draws upon and passes on to us the knowledge of God Almighty. He has created all and knows all. That wisdom that we receive from Him and put into practice daily is 100% reliable. We have no need for further tests or consultations from other specialists. God knows exactly what you need and when you need it. If only we stay in daily consultation with Him through the Holy Spirit and through the studying of His word, we can be sure that the health of our spiritual being will be in tip-top shape! However, the key phrase in our success is daily consultation. Every once in awhile will not get it and will often, as is common, result in repeated visits to the spiritual emergency room when we find ourselves suffering from one sort of inner sickness or another. So, as we go about our daily lives, perhaps we should consider practicing medicine of the most valuable kind. " My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body." - Proverbs 4:20-22

Have a blessed day!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 Reasons The Obama Presidency Has Failed

On January 20, 2009, the people of the United States of America handed over the keys to the kingdom to their new leader, Barack Hussein Obama. For so many, there was a vibrant feeling of optimism in the air. Obama promised Hope and Change, a fundamental transformation of politics as usual, and a strong recovery from the flailing economy. Yet almost four years later, a large number of Americans are feeling hopeless, the change that was promised is far from what they envisioned, the country is far more divided, the politics of Washington is dirtier than ever, and the economy is without a doubt in far worse shape than when our country started down the road of Obamanism.  How could this happen? We were told that Obama was the smartest, most eloquent, and most capable man to lead our country in a new direction full of hope and prosperity. Despite the arguably good intentions of this administration, I believe there are at least 5 basic principles that have been ignored, or bungled, by this president that have brought about the demise of his once lofty ambitions.

1. Honesty -  From Day 1, this administration promised to be the most transparent ever seen in modern times. We were told the healthcare debates would be televised for all to see. There were promises of a reasonable time of review for all legislation. Guantanamo Bay would be closed and our federal debt would be cut in half in just three years. Needless to say, none of these things, or the many other promises made, has ever come to pass. In fact, the Obama administration has done just the opposite. No matter what the subject, the president and his minions and czars have done just about everything possible to obfuscate the truth or just outright lie to the American people. From Healthcare to Immigration or the Economy to the latest revelations about the Islamist attacks on our consulate in Benghazi, Obama has used every tactic imaginable to try and make the people believe that his actions were right and just. Even his own past is shrouded in a legally protected cloud of mystery. He has hidden behind a wall of lawyers to protect the full truth of his personal history from being discovered. From birth certificates to school records to his own social security number, Obama has ducked and dodged every attempt to get at the truth. While he has been quite open about his past as a frequent illegal drug user, he has kept hidden his past activities as a socialist and his ties to radical communists. The American people are far beyond expecting perfection in their national leaders, but they do expect all the cards to be laid out on the table. Obama's lack of honesty in his actions as a president and about his past have soiled his reputation with the people.

2. Likeability - Just recently, former Obama aide,Neera Tanden, told the press that "he really doesn't like people." For anyone who has watched the President over the past four years, this is not any great surprise. Barack Obama cannot be said to be someone who plays well with others. It is clear the man has an ego problem. When he talks to others he comes across more as if he is lecturing than holding a discussion. Obama is a person who is easily offended when others disagree with him and he expects everything he says to be considered truthful and correct. We witnessed his inability to work with others in his hot-tempered fiasco with John Boehner over economic policy. He is quick to walk out on an uncomfortable situation and does not like to answer questions about his actions. Let's face it, for an incumbent president to be in a dead heat or even behind in the polls to Mitt Romney at this point in the election process shows a serious problem with the likeability factor. Romney is no Care Bear of a person. Even many Republicans do not like Mitt that much. Obama's charm of 2008 has proved to be a superficial mask that is more for political show than reality.

3. Strength - At the time Obama took office in 2009, the world economy was spiralling downward and America was heavily engaged in two wars. What our country, and the world, needed was an American president who could display qualities of strength that would lead our allies to believe we would soon be returning to prosperity. More importantly, we needed a leader who would let our enemies know we were unyielding in our commitment to fight them and that we had every expectation of solidly defeating them. What we got was a failure in both areas. Obama's economic policies have worsened the American and world economies and he has shown that he clearly has no plan for turning the ship around anytime soon. His foreign policy has been one designed to "understand" and appease our enemies. There are very few in the Obama administration who have any military experience, and it shows. He does not understand how wars are fought or won. Worse yet, he has ignored the advice of his military leaders and put many of our courageous servicemen and women in great danger on the battlefield. For a wartime president, his greatest achievements have been to allow gay soldiers to come out of the closet and to take personal credit for making the no-brainer call to take out Osama bin Laden. He squandered every strategical advantage handed to him by the Bush surges and is now responsible for basically the loss of both wars. He tried to show his muscle by following the French into supporting Al Quaeda-backed rebels in the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. We have seen how well this has worked out, with the death of Ambassador Stevens and several others and the unabashed attacks on our embassies throughout the Middle East. He has invited the terrorist leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to the White House while adeptly avoiding the leader of our greatest ally in the region, Israel. His kowtowing to Islamic leaders and his attempts to appease the savage sensibilities of our enemies has lead to our country being viewed as weak and ineffective. Many people have said that George W. Bush ruined our reputation with the other nations of the world. According to most international polls, under Obama we are now viewed in an even more unfavorable light than ever before. Barack Obama's strength appears to be mere bravado that folds quickly under the pressure of real-world confrontations.

4. Values - Let's face the facts. President Obama does not and probably never has shared the traditional American values that most citizens hold to be the foundations of our society. He is the product of two Muslim fathers, Barack Obama, Sr. and Lolo Soetoro. He spent a good part of his youth being schooled in a Muslim madrassah in the Philippines. His mother and grandparents were ardent communists. He was mentored through his youth and young adulthood by people like Frank Marshall Davis, a communist activist and pornographer, and William Ayres, a convicted domestic terrorist who, to this day, is unrepentant of his crimes. His only real connection with Christianity was his attendance and mentoring at the church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright's brand of Chistianity at Trinity United Church of Christ is one of Black Liberation Theology that has been clearly displayed as anti-semitic and racist. These are all parts of his past that Obama attempts to sweep under the rug. The fact is that Barack Obama's values are mostly a mystery to the American people. His attempts to use oratorial eloquence to blend in with whatever crowd he is speaking with denote a man who is a chameleon, ever changing to display whatever values are needed to garner the influence he wishes to exert. What little background information we do have about Obama show a man who has contempt for the Constitution, capitalism, and the traditional Judeo-Christian values that our country was founded on. Barack Obama's values are far from those of most mainstream Americans.

5. Leadership - Perhaps one of the greatest qualities needed in an effective president is that of leadership. Great leadership involves the ability to bring people together to work together towards a common vision. As expressed above, Obama's value system, if truthfully told, does not put forth the kind of vision most Americans would want for our future. Regardless, Barack Obama has not been effective at all in laying out a clear goal or vision for the future of this country. His administration has been one of haphazardly moving from one issue to the next without regard for the rule of law or the desires of the American public. It is my suspicion that if his true vision for this country were known he would swiftly be run out of town on a rail. Instead of uniting this country behind a common goal, his tactics and policies have been to play differering segements of society against each other; rich against poor, black against white, and liberal against conservative. In this way he hopes to weaken any large united front against his administration and play to each group individually to win votes. He will again be the chameleon, becoming whatever it is each group wants him to be. Obama does not lead, he manipulates.

It is my belief that Barack Obama is a man who lacks a moral compass to guide him. His agenda and values are kept hidden from the public. He holds none of the requisite qualities needed to be an effective and upstanding leader. Considering that a man like this currently holds the most powerful position in the world is extremely frightening. What is even more frightening is the thought of what he might try to do with four more years of virtually unbridled power.

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Own Lance Armstrong Confession

NOTE: This blog is obviously a work of fiction. However, with the farce of an investigation that has recently been brought against Lance Armstrong, I couldn't resist a little farce of my own. If you have no interest in cycling, this probably won't mean anything to you and you should probably skip it.

Now that the USADA case against Lance Armstrong has come to a close, and everybody from George Hincapie to Dave "Buy My Junk" Zabriskie is coming forward with their own confessions of doping, I figure it is about time I came clean about my own involvement with Lance Armstrong and the USPS organization. It is a sordid tale I'm not proud of. In retrospect, I should have known better.

My involvement with USPS started innocently enough. I was a regular purchaser of postage stamps sold by USPS that, in part, went to fund the activities of Lance Armstrong and the USPS cycling team. Living in a rural area as I do, I had a regular habit of buying my stamps directly from my mail carrier instead of driving into town to get them. Every month, exactly on the 15th, when I got paid I would meet my letter carrier at the mailbox to buy myself a roll of stamps. It was on October 15th of 1999 that my life changed forever. It was that day that I willingly joined the "dark side" of the competitive cycling world.

On that day, instead of being met at my mailbox by my regular letter carrier, there was a dark-haired stranger behind the wheel of the USPS mail truck. When I greeted him and he responded, I noticed he had an odd accent. I asked him where he was from. He replied cryptically, "I come from the land of the Stroopwafel." Before I could question him further, he began to congratulate me on my regular and generous contributions to the USPS cycling team and asked me if I would like to help them out in a more substantial way. Having just months before watched Lance Armstrong win his first Tour de France victory in Paris, I was awestruck and felt honored to be invited to play even a small part in such a prestigious organization. I didn't realize then how deeply I would be getting involved.

The stranger explained to me that twice a month, a box addressed to Juan Pelota would be delivered to my house...along with my regular order of postage stamps which, thanks to my participation, would now be free of charge. I was to deliver this box personally to Lance in Texas. It was explained to me that the contents of this box would greatly help Lance win more races, but that he was not exactly supposed to have it while cycling, which was why discretion was most important. I was instructed that if I should ever be stopped by the authorities, the origin or destination of the parcel must never be revealed. I was immediately suspicious but, in the end, the temptation of receiving free postage won out over my better judgement.

So, all during the off-seasons of 1999-2004, I would make two runs a month to deliver the boxes to Lance. The boxes, when shaken, made the sound of glass containers clinking together. As the boxes were heavily sealed with packing tape, I never dared to open them and take a look inside. That is, except only once, in 2003 when my curiosity got the better of me and I made a small cut with a box knife and removed one small glass vial. I kept the container safely hidden away and nothing was ever said about its absence from the box. My meetings with Lance followed a set routine. I would meet him exactly at noon in the parking lot of the X-rated video store just across the Oklahoma-Texas border. He always arrived on a Trek racing bike with an odd cargo rack over the back wheel to which he secured the box I would give him. He was never very talkative and always seemed in a hurry. I asked him once why he was in such a rush. He replied that it was important for him to make it back to Austin before the contents of the box got too warm or else they would be no good. I took advantage of this opening to ask him about what was in the box. He paused for a long moment and then smiled. He told me that the "magical oil" that was in those boxes allowed him to race and win without ever having to train. He laughed as he told me that just a little of that stuff would give him more than enough energy to leave Ullrich, Basso, and Pantani "in the dust." Seeing that perhaps he had said too much, our conversation was quickly over and he proceeded to do as always. He opened the box, took out one vial and "used" it, attached the box to his bike and sped off south, quickly disappearing into the distance.

Despite the oddity of my arrangement with Lance and the USPS, I never worried much about the legality of what I was doing. The free postage kept rolling in and I figured, with all the members on the team, certainly I wasn't the only one doing this. There must be others making such deliveries. and if this what it took to see the boys in blue on the podium in Paris, I would do my little part. It wasn't until I received a subpoena to testify in an investigation of Lance Armstrong and the USPS team for defrauding the federal government. Oh good Lord! I was frightened beyond all belief. I was being implicated in participating in an organized doping ring! I was threatened with major jail time and even worse, a lifetime suspension from free postage!

It is to my shame that I did not stay loyal to Lance and the team. Yet, I knew, what I had been doing was wrong. And I had my family and career to think about. I told the feds everything. About the boxes, the deliveries, and...about the one vial of "magic oil" I had hidden away at home. I've never seen people so happy. The investigators jumped and danced and hugged each other! There were high-fives being given all around. They explained that once they tested the contents of that vial, they would have a slam dunk case against Lance and the whole USPS cycling organization. They escorted me home to retrieve the evidence and held me in custody at the lab as they tested the mysterious substance.

The time spent sitting in the lab offices seemed to stretch on for hours. I pondered my own personal fate and cursed myself for my own greed. Yet the investigators laughed and joked and seemed very festive about the whole affair. After what seemed like an eternity, a lab technician stepped into the room. He was holding a single computer printout sheet which he handed to the lead investigator. This investigator who just moments ago was so bubbly and jubilant suddenly turned pale as he stared at the printout for a long moment. He turned slowly to his coworkers and said softly, "Case closed. Charges Dropped." He then approached me angrily and shoved the printout into my hands. "This never happened and I never want to see you again." I slowly scanned the piece of paper he had handed me. It said across the top, 'Lab Testing of Unknown Substance.' Below followed a list of indecipherable numbers and abbreviations. But at the bottom of the sheet was a single line of text. It said very simply, 'Identification of Unknown Substance - SHINER BOCK BEER.'