Race Is Not the Problem. It Is a Symptom.

3.-Root-causeYesterday I heard the information unfold about the shooting of police officers in Dallas.  11 injured and 5 dead at the hands of one man who felt he needed to set something right.  This act was the result of two very publicized deaths of two black men in the past week.  I have watched a lot of video and read a lot of articles, and I am emotionally battered and bruised as a result of all of it.

There are a lot of hurting hearts out there today.  I speak not only of the families of those officers, but also of the families of the men who were killed by police.  No matter which side of the law those killed were on, their families are hurting today, grieving the loss of loved ones.  In that, all are equal.  I pray for God’s peace for them.  I also pray for an end of this.

Our country is sick right now yet we continue to look for a solution to the illness my treating the symptoms of the illness.  We add laws and programs. We spout rhetoric and demands.  We speak of rights and injustice. We point fingers and call for action.  What has it done?  Have we seen improvement?  No.  We might see momentary calm, but then the sickness returns stronger than ever and seemingly immune to things that once held it at bay.

I would like to say that I am angry, but I am at that point that we come to after anger and outrage.  I am almost in a state of complete despair regarding the future of our country and its ability to maintain any type of unity.  We are divided, and as long as we stay that way, things will continue to decline until the point that there is nothing left that is good, sacred, or safe.

So, what brought this on?  How did we get here?  Is this because of economic inequality, social class, race, educational opportunities, or bigotry?  Which of these or a hundred other things have brought us here?  Honestly I don’t think it is any of them.  They are just symptoms of the bigger problem.  The sickness is evil and it has been around a long time.  We like to think that we always recognize it, but it has been growing under different guises, hiding behind symptoms, building its strength and weakening our nation.

America is still a great place to be, and I am proud to be an American.  We have freedom like no other nation in the world.  It was sought out for that freedom by the Pilgrims, and then it was fought for by the early colonists. It has been defended through wars, both here on our land to deliver freedom to those in slavery, and abroad to give a part of our freedom to other countries that were in dire need.  Freedom is a good thing.  It is important to us and is should be defended, but in it I feel that evil has been allowed to flourish.

I think that in our pursuit of happiness and protection of so many of our rights, we have given birth to the most dangerous symptom of evil in our country – moral relativism.  The belief that what is right and wrong is based on my view of the world in any given moment.  When this type of mentality gets played out, it leads to one person’s “rights” being more important than another person’s “rights”.  Then, if those two “rights” are inherently opposed to each other we get conflict.  Over time, that conflict grows and becomes something out of control.  Here we are.

How has this happened?  I think C.S. Lewis summed it up quite well in the post below:

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Saw this quote yesterday paired with an image of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  While that is a whole different discussion, I think it applies very well to a discussion on how evil has been able to thrive under the guise of freedom and the development of moral relativism.  Satan likes to see us in a state of reaction because reaction is generally done without thought.  It takes us places we might not have gone if we had spent some time contemplating the issue and searching for what we truly need – truth.

We can list all kinds of things we see around us that live in the extremes and we can react to them with a total opposite action.  There are always going to be extremes.  There is crime, but that does not mean we should have police brutality.  There has been police brutality, but that does not mean we should have open season on police.  There has been racism, but that does not mean reverse racism is an answer.  There has been gender inequality, but that does not mean we should erase gender.  Answering an extreme with an extreme does nothing more than tear down the moral fabric of our country.

I know it is easy for me to sit here and type these words as if I can solve the problems all over our country.  I am not that naive.  I also know that there will be people who may be upset by my words, thinking I am minimizing the effects of heinous acts in both directions.  I apologize if I make you feel that way.  My intent is not to belittle anyone in this.  I merely want to point out that it is time that we take a stand and stop talking about the symptoms as if they are all that matter.  We need to take the fight to the disease!

What if everyone in the country stopped their arguing for a day about who was right and who was wrong?  What if we just stopped and asked the question, “What is right and what is wrong?”  Remove the person from the equation because people will have differing views.  We must have a proper understanding of what is good and what is evil before we can agree on how to move forward.  If we aren’t all playing by the same rules then we will never play well together.

God’s Word used to be seen as a yardstick to hold right and wrong up against.  For me, it still is.  The Word of God is not only true, it is True.  The standard.  The thing that all should be measured against.  It is a measure of how we should treat our families, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors, our employees, and how we should conduct ourselves in society.  If we could go back to holding up Truth as the standard instead of a person’s beliefs then we would finally be able to start rebuilding the damaged relationships in this country.

I am not saying we need to throw out our laws.  we need them because we will always have evil. We will always have those who will try to lift their agendas above all others.  We can’t let that stand in the way of putting things right again though.  We must stand and do the right thing.

I know I am a white guy from northern Michigan who grew up in a little town that has literally had almost no ethnic diversity for most of my life.  I also know that as I have grown up we have had crime.  We have had murders. We have had theft.  We have had violent behavior, and it has happened on both sides of the law.  I can also say that it has been committed almost solely by white people.  Does that mean that white people are the problem?  No.  Not any more than crime in a predominately black, hispanic, asian or any other ethnic area is indicative of crime being attributed solely to their color or nationality.  The problem is that we are all PEOPLE. We are people and we sin by doing evil things.  Evil is the problem, not skin tone.

My heart breaks for the fear and anxiety in the world today.  I have not said much about it, and I am not going to pick a side because the lines are so boldly drawn and far apart that there is simply too much room for ambiguity and falsehood to wreak all kinds of havoc on both sides of the issues.  I cannot choose one over the other because I think that sometimes both sides in any issue are wrong.  Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. and if we can find it, we will be free to live our lives as God so desperately wants us to live.

Jesus Christ is that Truth.  He came so we could have that life we all want. An abundant and rich life.  A life that our founding fathers really had in mind when they penned the words “pursuit of happiness”.  I am not saying this is a Christian nation, but I am saying that it was founded on biblical principles because they saw and understood the Truth in God’s Word.  They saw that following those rules would give us our best shot at the happiness and freedoms we were designed for by God to have through a relationship with Him.  They wanted us to have freedom through those principles because in the principles of God’s Word, true freedom is found.

I have been challenged in my devotional reading yesterday that it is important to realize when enough is enough and it is time to stand up and say what needs to be said.  If I am going toe Relentless in my life, then that is what I need to do.  I want to be a man of God, obedient to Him and reaching out to those around me with Truth.  Not my truth. God’s Truth. So, today I am calling out those who read this to do the same.

1 Corinthians 16:13 says:

“Be on alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

So, how about it?  Do I stand alone, or will you stand with me to pull back the cover that shrouds evil?  Are you willing to look past the symptoms that are tearing us apart and Relentlessly seek the root cause of the decay we are experiencing around us?

Let’s stand up.  Speak Truth into the circumstances around us. Pray for our country. Pray for our families.  Pray for a return to Truth.

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From The Toilet To The Light

Home repairs.  They are never done!  As soon as you get your list ready and start working on something, you find two more things to add to the list.  By the time you’re done with that project, you will add another five!  Such is the life of a home owner.  Being home for the back half of last week I had several opportunities to walk around the property and think about things that needed some attention.  The more I looked, the more I saw that needed doing!  Of course, that makes a trip to the Hardware store a necessity.

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My new fence! I think the ray of sunshine is God’s approval!

I had good reasons to go to the hardware store.  I needed some screw for the fence I had been building on the side of my house that separates the front and back yards.  It was a great project, and with the help of my kids, I was able to see it through to completion!  I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.  I also had a lamp post that needed a new light bulb, a shed that needed a new light bulb, and a toilet that needed a new tank flapper.

So, Saturday morning I got the toilet fixed.  Not much of a task.  A $4 fix that takes about 2.5 minutes and that includes letting the tank fill a few times to make sure the little flapper seats properly.  I crossed that one off, tossed the trash and moved on.  I wanted to get the lamp bulb swapped out before I went back to work on the fence.

I pulled the top off the lamp and make the quick bulb replacement.  Before buttoning things up, I decided to go ahead and clean the glass so my new bulb could shine as intended.  Once I had everything clean, polished, and back in place I went to turn on the switch.

Nothing.  No Light. At all.  Hmmmm…

So, I pulled everything back apart and gave everything a cursory glance to make sure that there was nothing in the socket affecting the light bulb.  Then I tested the lightbulb to make sure it worked.  Then I checked to be sure that I had the bulb inserted properly and not cross-threaded.  Everything led me to the belief that I had done things properly.  Still, no light.  This was going to take longer than I had planned.

So, I pulled the socket out and there was the problem. It was an old lamp, and the socket had corroded so the juice was no longer flowing!  Now I face a dilemma.  Back to the hardware store or apply my skills of “adapting” things to my needs?  Well, I knew I had some of the parts necessary to make the lamp work, but the sticky part was going to be getting the new socket to stay put in the lamp base.  I needed a nice, flexible piece of rubber that would fit around the socket but still fit in the hole at the lamp’s base.

replacement-toilet-flapper-wchain-930003-2I couldn’t think of any way I was going to avoid a trip back to town, and then it hit me.  I had just thrown a toilet flapper in the trash, and that might be the exact thing I needed.  So, I did some digging through the trash and found my prize.  A little work with a knife and we were in business.  If you didn’t know I had been playing in the trash to find parts, you would think it was the real deal!  What was once a piece of trash that didn’t even have a purpose in a toilet anymore was now serving a whole new purpose.

Sometimes we are the same way.  There are things in our lives that didn’t go the way they should have.  We made mistakes and were left damaged.  We might even have felt like we were not good for anything anymore – just something to throw in the trash.  But we’re not!

No matter the choices we might have made in the past, we have a potential to be something.  We might not be able to do it in ourselves, and it might take a little refining or trimming, but if we allow ourselves to be taken and worked on by the One who knows us and sees a bigger, better plan, we can be given a new opportunity!  We can go from a dark place to a new one where we can shine in a way we never dreamed!10530767_10206445028595556_53115382904636385_n  I’m not trying to make this little toilet flapper sound like a Disney success movie or anything, but I am trying to point out that there are always things that we might feel leave us disqualified for God’s service.  There might be things we can’t do, but our past doesn’t mean we can’t do SOMETHING!  God will take what we bring Him, and if we are willing, He will use it and restore our joy in serving Him.

I’ve thought in the past that I have messed things up to the point that God might be done with me, but the more I read His Word, I see His love for me and His desire to see me improve my reliance on Him.  Through honest assessment of myself and a willingness to be remade by Him, I see new opportunities, and I have been given a stronger, Relentless desire to know Him and to point others to Him.  I want people to see God as I see Him, and to feel the joy of knowing Him not only as Savior and Lord, but also as Sustainer and Friend.

Relentless Growth is the result of my being taken from the toilet of my own making and being repurposed for the task of sharing His light with others!

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A Journey Begins

0bc4684I am a bit of a homebody.  I have my little piece of land here that I live on, and it really is my favorite place to be.  I like the familiar, the known, order… Yes, some call that boring.  Maybe it is sometimes…

I like to stick with what I know, but I know that there is a growth that comes from trying new things too.  I have now eaten Chicken Cordon Bleu.  I actually liked it!  (Yes, the best example I can come up with for expanding my horizons is food.  Gotta work on that…)  I have tried several new things over my life, and some of them have made me very happy, and the others have not killed me, and I have learned something from them, so I guess new things always leave me better off!

One area that I have stuck to the familiar is in my Bible reading.  I might have read a paraphrase or a different translation from time to time, but my method has largely stayed the same.  I start at the beginning of a book and I read to the end of it.  The amount I read may vary, and the timetable has always been free to move around, but I, on the other hand, only move from the beginning to the end. Orderly.

This morning I sat down to have a quiet time in the Word where I have been reading in Isaiah, and I wrestled with it.  I have been reading there for a couple weeks, but I am struggling to get something out of it.  I know God has truth throughout His Word, but I have felt like this passage is just not speaking to me where I am right now.  It is like being in a house with someone you are trying to have a conversation with, but they are in another room.  You pick up the occasional word, but it is not conducive to understanding.

Presentation2So, the question becomes, “How do I get into that room with God?”  I want my times with God to have purpose.  I want to know His story, His desires, His people, His plans.  I want to better understand the Bible as a whole rather than looking at the snapshots of a single book at a time.  I want to see how He works His way through the entire Bible and to see the flow of His desire to know us, redeem, us and sanctify us!  I need the whole thing, not just a book at a time.

I have read the Bible through several times in yearly reading plans that start at the beginning and run to the end (Ah! familiar!)  It feels like a race, and I never got to enjoy the journey, and some of those books were just plain torture to get through!  I know it is all important, and the Word is timeless, but I did not look forward to it for any purpose other than to say I read it.  Not a good reason to read.  The purpose of reading the Bible should be to get to know God better, not to put a check in the box for the day.

Presentation1So I started reading a single book at a time and going through them by smaller segments, and that has been very good for me, especially when going through the letter of Paul in the New Testament, or reading through the Judges in the Old.  It allowed me to chew smaller bites and savor them a little more.  There are those books in the Bible that bring so much action or intense teaching that you cannot pull yourself away from it!  What about the others?

A few years ago, I requested a gift for Christmas or my birthday.  I got a Chronological Study Bible.  I thought it would be interesting to look through it from time to time and see how things tied together if I was doing a lesson on a particular story in the Bible for a class.  I have used it off and on again over the years, but it has largely rested on the shelf next to my desk collecting dust.

This morning I pulled it out.  You see, I want to know what God has for me to see in the books and chapters that we don’t always hear in church.  I want to know the Truth He has in the lists, descriptions, and lineages that I generally skip over.  I want to better understand His instruction to the people and His warnings in the books of the prophets.  I feel a desire to break into something new that will help me see His Word in a different way.

Chronological-Study-BibleSo, this morning I started reading chronologically.  It starts, of course, at the beginning with the familiar account of Creation, but that is fine.  There we see the order of God, where one day leads to another.  As I get deeper into this I will start to see where the editors have taken the Bible apart and then put it back together so the parts we tend to skip are mingled in and I can better understand their importance as the unfold in “real time”.  I look forward to a better appreciation for these parts I have hurried through in the past.

So, I am looking at this as a journey.  It’s going to take longer than a year to do it, but that is fine.  I have the rest of my life to get to know God better and to be changed by Him.  This is part of a Relentless Life. Driving and pushing to know God better and not accepting apathy in reading His Word.  It is alive, and I want to break it open and get everything out of it that I can.

This is my journey to know God better.  What is yours?  Are you spending time with Him regularly?  There are many different ways to read the Bible, as I have mentioned a few here.  I don’t think there is a wrong one.  The most important thing is to get into it and experience His Word!  Don’t worry about where you are, or the things that you have going on.  Just get to know Him!

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Building a House

building-manPsalm 127:1 – Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Over the last almost 19 years of my life I have had a lot of projects to work on here at my house.  We have renovated, repainted, resurfaced, and replaced a lot of stuff.  Some of it was fun to do, and some of it was a royal pain, but at the end of the projects I have always been able to look at it and say that it was worth it.  Sometimes just barely, but worth it nonetheless.

In reality, I love doing construction and restoration projects.  It gives a sense of pride in a job well done, and I usually learn something along the way.  I’m currently working on finishing a breezeway for my in-laws, and this has given me an opportunity to play with some wiring I have not done before. It also gave me an opportunity to deal with a big frustration that I have. WASTING TIME

There is nothing more frustrating for me when I am working on a project than when I realize that what I have been doing is wrong and needs to be re-done.  That happened on this project last weekend as I had to go back over wiring that was not working properly.  I’m not an electrician, but I have done this stuff before and now it isn’t working!  It took me about 30 minutes to find that a wire had gotten disconnected as I pushed things back into a box.  No harm done, no materials wasted, but time and effort that I can never get back is gone for good.

In building you always lose time with a mistake.  You lose the energy that you put into doing something wrong the first time.  You often lose materials that were cut to the “right size” for the job.  These things each carry their own type of expense.  Some of that expense is felt more in one person than it would be in another.  The time and effort lost are my biggest frustrations because I tend to take my mistakes apart and try to use them in the future when I have another project, but that still leads to spending more  money that I don’t always have.

Avoiding these mistakes requires planning.  If I know what I am supposed to do and have thought it out it should go better.  I will have a clear vision of what I am going to do and what the finished product should be, and that will minimize a lot of errors.  Another thing is to have everyone on the same page.  When building with someone else you have to keep those lines of communication open so you don’t end up finding out that one of you was building a treehouse and the other was building an outhouse!

Psalm 127:1 – Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

This verse is not referring to the physical house, but to the household.  One is just a shell that holds the other.  We get so wrapped up in working on our houses, but how much focus do we put on what we are building inside them?  I get so angry when I have to tear out wiring or replace drywall, but do I get equally upset at the wasted time, or efforts (usually a lack of effort) in building into my family?

Sadly, not as angry as I should be, and not often enough.  I get wrapped up on something else, and I miss the important things and opportunities.  Not as much as I used to, but I still need to improve.  I am angry at myself for missing things, for not taking time to talk about important things.  I am making changes to try to better use my time and my energy for building into my marriage and my kids.

I’ve started by looking more at the Plan. The time I spend in God’s Word has really opened my eyes to see things that I would have missed before.  I’m learning better tools for dealing with my shortcomings, and this will allow me to be a better Dad and Husband.  God wants me to build a family that honors Him and brings Him glory.  He wants me to raise His children and teach them to love and serve Him with the gifts that He has given them.  He wants me to teach them to seek Him in all aspects of their lives by showing them that He is in all aspects of mine! I have about 18 years to do this.  Am I wasting time?

I’m looking at other “builders” too.  It is good to have friends that are willing to talk about their struggle balancingcareer, marriage,and parenthood.  They will share their highs and lows.  They give tips on how to achieve similar good results and warnings on how to avoid their failures.  This is how God wants us to work! Look to those who have been there and seek the wisdom of those who have been through similar situations.

I only have two kids to work with. (That’s enough!) I have made some mistakes with them, and I won’t be able to fix all of that.  No parent can.  What I can do though is be honest with them and show them where I have been wrong.  I can work with them to repair some of that and give them ideas on how to avoid making that some mistake with their own kids one day.  The only waste is in not acknowledging that a mistake was made.  We can still learn!

I can’t allow the frustrations over my shortcomings to blind me to the grace God shows me every day.  Even when I miss an opportunity to do the right thing as a husband, God has been good to give me a sweet wife who forgives and allows me another opportunity to show her I love her and want to be God’s man for her.  My kids are forgiving and see that their Dad loves them in spite of the mistakes he makes, and that he is trying to get better.

I hate working for no reason.  God has given me purpose in my life.  He has given me a family to lead.  I want to lead them to a close relationship with Him.  I want God to be the lead builder in my home because I am working with very precious materials here.  The margin for error needs to be slim. I’m building with God and His people to build a legacy that honors Him through the family He has given me..