Thoughts on Passover and Easter

This weekend is significant in the Judeo-Christian world.  Passover began last night at sunset and runs through next Saturday at nightfall. Within the Jewish faith, Passover is an eight-day festival commemorating the liberation of the nation of Israel from slavery in ancient Egypt. Many probably already know this, but the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptian pharaohs for decades. God heard their cries and sent Moses to ask Pharaoh to release HIs people. Of course, Pharaoh refused and God reigned down devastating plagues on Egypt. The last of these plagues resulted in the death of the first-born man and beast in every home. To avoid this plague, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of slaughtered spring lamb. Upon seeing this blood on the doorpost, the Spirit of God passed over the home and spared the first-born inside. Thus, the holiday became known as Passover. With the devastation, Pharaoh finally let the people of Israel leave with Moses. See Exodus 12:1-32 for the Passover story.

As a Christian, Passover holds significance for me as well. Just like God’s Spirit passed over the Israelite homes that had the blood from a sacrificed lamb smeared on the doorpost, God spares those who accept the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, His Son Jesus, as payment for our sin. The Israelite families did not automatically get passed over that fateful night in Egypt. God gave them specific instructions to follow to avoid His judgment that night. They had to take a unblemished year-old lamb into the home until the day of sacrifice. They took the blood from this sacrificed lamb and put it on the doorposts of their home. They also ate the lamb that night, roasted on a fire, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This meal is known as the Passover seder. For us Christians, this event foretells of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a memorial of HIs death as the true Lamb of God. Christians partake of unleavened bread and wine (or grape juice for us Baptists) in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus’ beaten body and shed blood. We believe that it is this sacrifice that makes forgiveness of sin possible. Paul tells us in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” [ESV].

In my opinion, Easter is the most important day in human history. Christmas is obviously significant as God came to earth as a man to live among us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man all at the same time. He lived for 33 years and never sinned. That was important because the Levitical law called for the animals used for sacrifices to be “without blemish” {see Leviticus 1:3,10; 4:3, 23, 28, 32). The fact that Jesus lived a perfect life, He met the requirements of an unblemished sacrifice, which was necessary to fulfill God’s requirement in the law. Good Friday is also significant because Jesus died as a sacrifice on our behalf. As sinners, we owed a sin debt that we could never pay. God loved us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son so that we could have a chance to enter into a relationship with Him. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Obviously, Christmas and Good Friday are significant dates on the Christian calendar. However, it is what Jesus did after between the crucifixion and that first Easter morning is what gives us hope. With His death, Jesus took on the sin of mankind. In doing so, He paid the penalty for us. He took on the wrath of God against sin in our place. He also overcame death and hell as The Bible says in Revelation 1:18, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

You see, after dying as a sacrifice for us and defeating death, Jesus rose from the dead on that first Easter. It was His resurrection that fulfilled God’s plan to reconcile us to Him after Adam’s original sin in the Garden of Eden. That first sin created a rift between us, as flawed humans, and a perfect God. It was a rift that we are unable to repair on our own. That is why Jesus had to bridge the gap for us. His resurrection completed the process that makes reconciliation possible. Jesus did the hard part. All we have to do is accept His gift. He created man with a free will. Therefore, we all have to make the choice on our own. No one else can make the decision for us. We need to realize that refusing to accept this gift of grace means we are relying on our merits, which are woefully lacking.

The Bible is very clear that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Our sin creates a chasm between us and God that we cannot bridge on our own. Fortunately, God has shown mercy on us an provided a way to bridge that gap. In John 14:6 Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In very clear language, He is telling us we cannot reach God the Father without going through God the Son. The reason is because He knew what He had to do to make it possible for us to have a relationship with God again. He accomplished the task on that first Easter. All we have to do is accept His free gift. In fact, that is all we can do. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Did you catch that? It is not based on what we have done. It is solely based on what Jesus did. We just have to accept that free gift.

Some important things to know when making this decision are:

I think too often we go through Easter without really thinking about all that Jesus did for us. Just like God saved the Israelites whose homes were covered with the blood of a lamb, He will save those whose lives are covered by the blood of the Lamb of God. If you have not accepted God’s free gift of saving grace, I urge you to do so. There is not a more important decision you can make.

Advertisements

World Cup Dillusion

In case you live in a cave or have been stranded on a deserted island, the FIFA World Cup is currently going on in Brazil.  That is a big soccer tournament that happens every four years.  I can understand why other countries think this is a big deal.  Soccer is about the only sport played in those countries.  However, I do not understand why anyone in the United States gives a rip about it.  After all, you can watch ninety minutes (or more) of a game and chances are you will not see a single point scored.  Before you freak out — I know they are called goals, but I just do not care.

For some reason, there are a number of people (mostly in the media) that feel like those of us that do not care about soccer are somehow lesser people.  I keep hearing commentators make statements about how popular soccer is becoming in the United States.  It is either that kind of statement or they say something about how Americans are “evolving” or becoming more like the rest of the world by liking soccer more.  If only we would adopt soccer as our most popular sport and become like the rest of the world, that makes us better people.  That is simply a bunch of crap.

I have made no secret to my dislike for soccer.  I also do not like NASCAR racing or tennis.  Both of those sports are also fairly popular.  Like soccer, neither or anywhere near as popular as the major sports in the United States.  All three are nowhere near as popular as football, baseball and basketball.  I know that hurts the feelings of soccer fans, but it is simply the truth.  Even with the bump in interest with the World Cup, soccer is not a significant American sport.

As much I might dislike soccer, I have much more dislike for the propagandist that create the disillusion about soccer.  They are like the political spinsters that just cannot tell the truth.  They have to mislead (or lie) about the popularity of their sport to give the appearance that it is more popular than it really is.  They also present an argument that those of us that do not like soccer are somehow backwards or lesser people because we do not like their sport.  They just cannot accept the fact that the majority of Americans simply do not care about soccer or find soccer boring.  It really is that simple.

Boring-Soccer-copy

It is interesting when friends want to argue with me about soccer.  I know they are desperate in the discussion when they bring up wrestling.  Knowing that I was a high school wrestler and still have a love for the sport, they will make a comment that goes something like “more Americans are watching the World Cup than watch wrestling”.  I guess they think that is such a smart point to make.  However, it has absolutely nothing to do with my arguments against soccer.  As a wrestling fan, I look forward to watching the NCAA wrestling championships every March as well as wrestling in the Olympics every four years.  The difference is that I understand that wrestling has a relatively small following, especially when compared to the major sports.  I have no disillusion that wrestling is anywhere near as popular as those big sports.  Nor do I make negative judgments against those that do not enjoy wrestling the way I do.  Even though I think wrestling is one of the greatest sports on the planet, I understand that not everyone understands the sport the same way.  The difference between my view of wrestling and what seems to be the majority of soccer fans is that they feel like there is some kind of moral deficit in those that do not like their sport.  Of course, that is an utterly ridiculous notion but soccer fans do not see it that way.

The other funny thing to me about soccer fans is their complete lack of a sense of humor as it relates to soccer.  I have so much fun on Facebook harassing the soccer folks.  They get so worked up whenever someone points out that their sport is not as popular as they think or that their sport is simply boring.  They cannot see that I am just having funny yanking their chains.  They make it so easy and are so blinded by their disillusion that they cannot see that I am just having fun at their expense.

soccer_images_1

There’s no other way to say it but I love seeing the way they freak out when someone like Ann Coulter writes an article about hating soccer.  They are just unable to see the satire in her article.  The result is that they have fits over her comments.  I suspect Ann is like me in that she is saying what she believes but knows that the reaction from the soccer nuts will provide significant humor to make the outcry comical.

Soccer fans would feel much better about their sport if they just accepted the fact that there are more people watching soccer today in the U.S. than at any other time.  That should make them happy.  Unfortunately, that is not good enough for them.  They insist on overstating that popularity even though all the polls suggest otherwise.  The poll released recently by Reuters shows that two-thirds of Americans do not care about soccer and only 7% plan to follow the World Cup closely.  That is it.  It is true that the World Cup will draw more spectators because it only happens every four years.  However, soccer has no where near the same numbers for “regular” soccer.  Put in proper perspective, the numbers show that some Americans may love the World Cup but we still do not care about soccer.  This article shows that the U.S.-Ghana game had an audience of 11.1 million.  That compares to 33.6 million for the London Olympics, which is another every-four-year event.  Of course, those numbers are not even close to the 108.7 million audience generated by the NFL championship.  If you look at the “regular” events, MLS playoffs get an average of 0.32 million audience which is much less than the 0.69 million average for MLB, 1.4 million for the NBA or 17.4 million for the NFL.  Therefore, a soccer playoff game does not come close to a regular season game for the big sports.

l__soccerisboringtshirt

Who knows?  The World Cup may increase the popularity for soccer in America.  After all the U.S. did make it to the “knockout” round by winning one game, tying one game and losing one game.  At least now if they lose, they are coming home and we can get back to the sports that matter.

Perspective… Why Is It So Hard To Find?

[I apologize up front for the length of this post.  I hope that you will find it worth your time if you choose to read it.]

Those that know me know I am an avid fan of The University of Alabama football team.  I have been a fan of the Crimson Tide my entire life.  My Dad is a fan and it was just how it was in my house.  When I was a kid, Alabama did not play on television pretty much every week like now.  Before we had cable, we were only able to watch the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC).  That meant we only got one, maybe two, games a week on television.  The games came from around the country since they were nationally televised games.  As a result, Alabama games were only aired a couple of times a year.  That did not matter in my house.  We would listen to every game on the radio.  It did not matter if we were working in the yard or were out and about in the car.  The football game was on the radio.  I learned to yell at the radio and television from my Dad and I still do it to this day.  Somehow, I am convinced they can hear me.  As you can see, it is very easy for me to lose perspective when it comes to Alabama football.  As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that the players cannot hear me yell at the radio or television.  In fact, nothing I do actually impacts the outcome of the game.  Even though I would like to think otherwise, I know those players do not even know who I am.  So why do I get so worked up?  I think it is just in my blood.  Much like Fullback Tommy Lewis when he came off the bench to tackle Rice running back Dicky Moegle during the 1954 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, I may just be “so full of Alabama.”  After all, I am also an alum so I feel like I am entitled to feel that way.

Now that I have set the stage for my love of Alabama football, I want to share something I noticed last night while watching the Oklahoma Sooners beat my Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  Watching Facebook, my Alabama friends were on an emotional rollercoaster.  A large number of my Auburn friends were posting things that I found to be tasteless and classless.  In the interest of full disclosure, a lot of my Auburn friends were also posting things in support of Alabama.  Of course, those that were not were adding to the stress I was feeling as the game wore on and it was not going in Alabama’s favor.  When the game was over, I was watching the post-game celebration where Coach Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma football team were  celebrating their hard-earned and well-deserved victory.  While watching, it hit me that many of my Alabama friends (myself included) place way too much importance on a game played by 18-22 year olds where we have no real impact in the outcome.  Why do we let it affect us so much?  It made me think about how easily we can lose perspective, especially when what we are watching affects us emotionally.

People are rarely rational and emotional at the same time.  I watched some of the post-game press conferences with the players and coaches.  Obviously, the Oklahoma players were excited and giddy.  They deserved to be.  On the Alabama side, it was clear that the players were very disappointed and even somewhat despondent.  That too is understandable, especially for those key players that were playing their last game for Alabama.  No one wants to end their career on a loss.  Quarterback AJ McCarron was quick to take full responsibility for the loss.  Wide receiver Kevin Norwood was just as quick to let AJ know it was not all on him.  You could tell that, although they were full of disappointment, they seemed to have the right perspective that they were playing a game.  It made me think about a feature that ESPN aired before the game about a relationship AJ McCarron developed with AJ Starr, a fellow student with cerebral palsy.  You can watch the feature here and I promise you will not regret it.  This is just one of many examples of AJ McCarron using his standing as the Alabama quarterback to brighten someone else’s day.  Today someone shared the following picture on Facebook from after the game:

1535535_407440416026274_1416524515_n

 

Yes, that is AJ McCarron consoling AJ Starr after the game.  McCarron could have gone off to feel sorry for himself.  Instead, he took time for Starr.  How many of us would do that?  If you or I were aching after a heartbreaking loss, would we do that?  I would hope I would, but I honestly do not know.

I had more reminders last night and today about perspective.  Obviously, God could tell I needed an attitude adjustment and He kept giving me examples to review until it finally began to sink in.  First, I saw another outstanding video that is like hundreds I have seen before.  However, I never get tired of seeing videos like this one.  Do you think this 8th grade boy cares one bit about who won a football game while his dad was in Afghanistan.  I feel safe saying that his perspective is much different from most, especially when he got to see his dad in that surprise setting.

The next item that came across my path was something credited to comedian George Carlin shortly after his wife passed away.  I think it is worth sharing here:

SOMETHING TO PONDER by George Carlin
George Carlin’s wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin – comedian of the 70’s and 80’s – could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate. An observation by George Carlin:
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.
Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.
Remember, to say, ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.
Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.
And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.
There is a lot of good advice in that piece.  I do not know where it came from, but I suspect from his heart.  My guess is that losing his wife caused a change of perspective.
It is my belief that the things that happen in our life that are outside “our plan” have the best chance of helping us find the right perspective, if we let it.  I received an email this morning with a story that really hit me square in the face.  It reminded me that my plans are not always what is best for me.  You see, I do not have the same omniscient perspective that God has.  My perspective is severely lacking in many, many ways.  It is only when I allow God to use me how He wants to use me that I will find true fulfillment and find the right perspective.  I will end this lengthy post with the story of three trees.  I hope it speaks to you the way it spoke to me this morning.
THREE TREES
Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, ‘Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty.’
Then the second tree said, ‘Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull.’
Finally the third tree said, ‘I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill, look up to my branches and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me.’
After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, ‘This looks like a strong tree. I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter,’ and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.
At the second tree the woodsmen said, ‘This looks like a strong tree. I should be able to sell it to the shipyard.’ The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.
When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, ‘I don’t need anything special from my tree, I’ll take this one,’ and he cut it down.
When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for. The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces, and left alone in the dark.
The years went by and the trees forgot about their dreams. Then one day a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn’t think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man and he stood and said, ‘Peace’ and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.
Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of the hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.
The moral of this story is that when things don’t seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in him, God will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.
We don’t always know what God’s plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.
Please share this story… so God may inspire more people on the way. May your day be blessed and until we meet again, may God cradle you in the palm of His Hand.

Is Freedom of Speech a One-Way Street?

I’m always amazed at the reaction any time someone with a deep conviction based on Biblical faith makes a statement grounded in that faith.  The reality is that it should not surprise me anymore.  There’s been a huge uproar over Dan Cathy‘s comments about the principles on which Chick-fil-A is built.  It’s never been a secret that Chick-fil-A is one of the few, if not the only, fast food restaurant closed on Sunday for the stated purpose that “all franchised Chick-fil-A Operators and their Restaurant employees should have an opportunity to rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so.”  In fact, the Cathy family have been very outspoken Christians since Truett Cathy opened the first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia, in 1946.

Dan Cathy is the current President of Chick-fil-A and Truett’s son.  He created a firestorm in a recent interview where he had the nerve to go against the culture and speak out about his personal beliefs about gay marriage.  His comments hit a particularly delicate nerve in the media.  After all, it is not cool for anyone to speak out in favor of traditional family values.  When one does that, they are backwards in their thinking.  The intelligentsia in our media will go so far as to say those views are from the 19th Century.  If you read the media reports, EVERYONE is now ready to boycott Chick-fil-A over these “anti-gay” remarks.  I personally think the media is imputing meaning to Mr. Cathy’s statements that he, himself, did not say.  In the interview, he reiterated that Chick-fil-A is supportive of the traditional family, the Biblical definition of the family unit.  He even states that “We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.”  He went on to say “We intend to stay the course.  We know it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on Biblical principles.”  At no point that I read does Mr. Cathy ever mention gay marriage.  However, in our heterophobic society, the media took that leap as did basically all pro-gay groups.

The mistake Mr. Cathy made was believing that we have the right to express our opinion today.  That is only true if your opinion does not coincide with Biblical, Christian principles.  If you have the gumption to state an opinion based in Christian principles, somehow you are intolerant and ignorant.  People get up in arms about the fact that you are “pushing your religion” on them if you say something that goes against the current culture.  However, you are welcome to say anything you want, true or not, against Christians and others will praise you for being brave enough to exercise your freedom of speech.  It seems more and more that many in our society believe the First Amendment is now a one-way street.

For me personally, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Cathy’s comments.  The reality is that we do live in a free country, or at least still mostly free.  Words and actions have consequences.  Mr. Cathy stood up for his principles and the values on which Chick-fil-A was founded.  I’m certain there will be many people who will choose to not each there because they disagree and that is okay.  On the other hand, I believe there will be a lot of people like me that will be more apt to patronize Chick-fil-A because Mr. Cathy unapologetically stood up for his Christian principles.

Evil Abounds Everywhere

As I was driving to meet my running group this morning, I scanned the radio channels until I came to Fox News on Sirius radio.  It was a little after 4:30am and the show was consumed with the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado.  It made me think.  Here were a lot of people who just wanted to catch the very first showing of The Dark Knight Rises.  They just went to a movie.  A Batman movie!  How dangerous can that be?  With evil people on this earth, it can apparently be pretty dangerous.  Anything can be dangerous.  You never know when one of these wackos will strike.

We may never know what possessed James Holmes to do what he did.  One thing we do know is that he allowed Satan to influence him to perpetrate an act of pure evil.  It seems to me that this was something he planned.  What can go through someone’s mind that they would carry out something like this?  It is such a sad story about a senseless act of violence.

It did get me thinking.  Do you think any of the dozen people who died during the incident had any idea what lay ahead of them when they went to the theater?  Actually, none of them probably did or they would have stayed home.  You see, we don’t know when it will be our time.  Most of us probably live like we’ll be here forever.  I believe that’s a dangerous way to live.  I need to more aware of the fact that today is all I have.  Yesterday is over.  What happened then can’t be changed.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  If God gives me tomorrow, it is my responsibility to not squander it.  Really the only time I know I have is today.  Here and now.  What will I choose to do with the gift of today?

I hope that I can look back at the end of each day and realize that, more often than not, I lived that day in a way that points others to God.  When it’s all said and done, that is all that really matters.

Too many times, what we see is the evil in the world.  Why is that?  I believe it is because evil is everywhere in this earth.  For the time being, Satan is the ruler of the earth.  That is only for a limited time.  One day, Jesus will return.  The first time He came, about 2,000 years ago, He came as a humble servant to be the sacrifice for our sin.  Without His sacrifice, none of us could receive forgiveness for our sin and be reconciled with an Almighty God.  Because He came and lived among us without ever doing anything wrong, He was able to die a brutal death on a cross and pay the penalty for our sin.  His sacrifice paid a debt each of us owed but could never repay.  Although He died, He only spent three days in the grave overcoming death and hell.  On the third day, He rose from the grave and sits at the right hand of God to this day.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

Why is this important?  It’s important because it tells us that evil may appear to win when we see things like what happened in Aurora.  Because of the sin Adam committed in Genesis 3, we live in a flawed and fallen world.  The good news is that is only a temporary situation.  The day will come when Jesus returns as the reigning King.  He will toss Satan and his demons into hell.  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve read the last chapter and Satan loses even if it looks like he is winning far too much right now.  In the end, he loses and loses big time!

It may be sad and somewhat disheartening to see evil like what we saw last night, but we do have something to look forward to if we have placed our trust in Jesus Christ.  If you haven’t put your faith in the saving power of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, I encourage to do that today.  If you do, evil will not win the war even if it does appear to win the occasional battle.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(Romans 10:9-13 ESV)

Time To Declare Our Independence Again

Tomorrow is the 236th birthday of our great country.  On 4 July 1776, our founding fathers put their signatures on a document declaring independence from an oppressive monarchy in England.  Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence and changed the course of our history.  Without these brave men being willing to put their comfortable lives in jeopardy to stand up against the rule of King George III, the United States would have never become the great country that it is.  Once these men signed the document they became enemies of the king.  Why would anyone take that kind of chance?  After all, the British military was considered the strongest in the world.  There is no way a ragtag army of volunteers should have been able to defeat them.  Never underestimate the resolve of men fighting for what is right!

We are often told that the Boston Tea Party was the impetus that tipped the colonies to reach a breaking point.  They would no longer allow the British monarchy to oppress them.  They were willing to fight for their freedom, even against seemingly insurmountable odds.  What prompted such a willingness to fight under these conditions?  It was the Tea Act.  Colonists objected to the Tea Act for a number of reasons, but the primary reason was that they believed it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives.  Their displeasure led to the colonists protesting by destroying three shiploads of taxed tea in December 1773.

The protest of the Tea Act caused such a stir among the colonists that they knew they needed to take a stand or forever be under the monarchy’s thumb.  We have all read the following words from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,  — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

These men may or may not have understood the significance of what they were doing.  They signed and pledged their lives, their fortune and their honor.  Five of these men were captured and tortured before they died.  Twelve had their home ransacked and burned.  Nine fought and died from wounds or hardships from the Revolutionary War.  Their sacrifice led to us having a free and independent America.  We didn’t just fight the British.  We were part of the British empire which means we fought our own government.  Too many in our country today take our liberties for granted.  We owe a debt of gratitude to these patriots.  After all, freedom isn’t free.

I wonder what these gentlemen would think if they saw what the United States has become.  We have a national debt that has the potential to destroy our economy and it’s getting worse every day.  We have an out of control federal government that increasingly intrudes into more and more facets of our personal lives.  We have an oppressive tax system that punishes success and rewards mediocrity.  We now have a Supreme Court that feels like their job is to do everything possible to uphold a law rather than rule strictly on its constitutionality.  We have a president that will take the oath of office to ” execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” then use executive order to unilaterally decide to not enforce our laws.  Our founding fathers would not recognize the country they risked everything for.  I believe they would be very disappointed in what they see.

Our federal government is becoming more oppressive and power-hungry every day.  Where will it end?  Unless we do something, the United States that became the greatest nation in the history of the world will fade away into the history books.  Maybe it’s time that “we the people” take back our country and our government.  For the future of the United States, we must get back to a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  It’s been said, whether fact or legend, that John Hancock signed his name so large on the Declaration of Independence to make sure “fat old King George” could read it without his spectacles.

I think it’s time for us to all sign our name with extra-large letters and tell Washington that we’ve had enough.  We don’t need politicians telling us what we can eat, meddling in our healthcare, dictating education requirements, etc.  We seem to forget that there is a 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that simply states,

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Short and simple.  You would think any idiot could understand it.  Not so fast!  Although this amendment clearly states that the federal government only has those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  Somehow over the years, the power-hungry politicians in Washington have figured out how to usurp more and more of the powers reserved for the states.  It has to stop.  For the sake of the country, it had better stop soon.  If not, we need to seriously consider declaring our independence from another more oppressive government!

Attitudes

“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.”

~ Author Unknown

Have you ever heard someone say, “He makes me mad”?  Have you said it yourself?  I have.  It hit me one day several years ago that saying that shows I have given the other person (or situation) way too much control over me.  The reality is that no one (or nothing) can MAKE me mad.  I can choose to react by getting mad.  However, it is MY choice as to how I will respond to everything that happens to or around me.  I refuse to give someone else that much control over me.  I just can’t do it.  I choose how I will react to the things around me every day.  It is my choice to keep a positive outlook and realized that I can only control certain things.

“No power in society, no hardship in your condition can depress you, keep you down, in knowledge, power, virtue, influence, but by your own consent.”

~ William Ellery Channing

I had to go to Chicago this week for some training with one of the divisions in our group at EBSCO.  I flew up early on Wednesday and had no travel issues at all.  My meeting that morning went very well and we actually finished early enough so that I could catch the Chicago Cubs playing the New York Mets at Wrigley Field.  It was my first time to that historic ballpark.  Even though the Mets pounded the Cubs 17-1, it was still a lot of fun.  I did enjoy watching the Cubs fans around me really struggle with the game.  It’s like life itself was riding on the outcome.  People were yelling at the players and booing the pitchers like that would have any impact on the outcome of the game.  What was happening on that field was causing many of the fans to have a bad day.  The problem?  Not a single one of those fans had any influence on the game itself.  That didn’t seem to matter.  I’ll bet almost everyone left Wrigley Field believing that the Cubs losing MADE them have a bad day.  Truthfully, if they had a bad day a result of that game, it’s because they chose to let that game have such a high priority in their life.  That’s sad.

[Before someone jumps on me, the very same thing can be said about college football fans in Alabama.  I know an Alabama fan that cannot get out of bed on Monday if Alabama loses that weekend.  I know Auburn fans who won’t go to church on Sunday if Auburn loses.  All of us use phrases to describe our team like “we” played well, “we” shut down their offense, “we” ran the ball down their throat, etc.  I am just as guilty as the next person.  You would think I was wearing the crimson jersey sometimes.  At least until you saw how short I am.  I doubt Coach Saban would have someone with my size and slowness on his list of recruits.  Something I try to remind myself often is that I cannot let the outcome of a football game played by 18 to 22 years olds that I don’t even know determine whether or not I am going to have a good day or a bad day.  Don’t get me wrong, I am disappointed when Alabama loses and I will probably sulk around for 15 or 20 minutes.  I always come back to the fact that I had nothing at all to do with the outcome.]

“You’re not going to make me have a bad day.  If there’s oxygen on earth and I’m breathing, it’s going to be a good day.”

~ Cotton Fitzsimmons

Back to my Chicago trip…  Yesterday was the day that we would participate in a training session.  The training ended around 3:00pm so that the folks from Canton could get to O’Hare Airport to catch their flight home.  My boss and I had an 8:50pm direct flight back to Birmingham from Midway Airport.  We caught a cab around 4:30pm.  Our office in Chicago is actually in Skokie, which is north of the city.  Midway Airport is south of the city.  Needless to say, that cab ride took a while in rush hour traffic.  It was no big deal.  We had plenty of time to have dinner at the airport and catch our flight.  We did just that.  We had dinner at Harry Caray’s in Midway Airport.  We took our time to enjoy dinner before heading to our gate.  Southwest Airlines began loading the plane right on time.  We pulled away from the gate right at 8:50pm and taxied out to the runway.  Then we waited.  And waited.  And waited until the captain came over the intercom to tell us the issue was the lights were out on the runway.  Yep, Midway Airport’s runways were dark.  We sat on the runway for about an hour and a half before the pilot was told to return to the gate.  We thought it might be quick but the crew gave us the option to leave the plane if we wanted.  I stayed on the plane and tried to rest.  After another two and a half hours at the gate, all flights were canceled.  By this time, it is almost 1:00am and we’re tired.  As you might imagine, the lines at all of the customer service counters were amazing long since everyone’s flight was canceled.  We got in line but figured out quickly that there were no available options to come on today on Southwest.  We found a flight on United Airlines out of O’Hare Airport that left at 5:32am so we booked two tickets and took a cab right from Midway to O’Hare.  We arrived at O’Hare around 2:45am and realized our flight was less than 3 hours away.  We caught that flight and made it back to Birmingham around 12:00pm after going through Houston.  What an adventure!

I tell you all of that because I saw lots and lots of people pitching fits at Midway Airport when those flights were canceled.  They were yelling at Southwest employees and making quite a scene.  I thought to myself that it was a complete waste of time to yell at the airlines personnel.  They did not make the decision to cancel all remaining flights nor could they reverse that call.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t happy either.  I was ready to be home.  I haven’t seen Caroline in over a week and I miss my wife.  Watching those people act the way they did reminded me that there were aspects of this situation I could control (booking alternate arrangements, etc.) and things I could not (cancelling the flights, etc.).  My boss and I chose to address the areas we could affect rather than focus on the things we could not.  I understand why folks were upset but too many of us need to put our efforts toward those things we can influence and not dwell on the things we have no control over.

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”

~ Hugh Downs

Make the choice today to find the positive in every situation.  If you spend your time focusing on the good things, you won’t have time to dwell on the bad.  Remember, YOU control how YOU feel and no one else should ever have so much power over you that they dictate who and what you are.