Unsolicited Forgiveness

I read this passage during my morning Bible study yesterday, and it got me to thinking.

(Jesus’ words): For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sin. ~ Matthew 6:14-15

Boom! That first part sounds great. But Jesus tells us that we face a consequence if we withhold forgiveness and it’s a big one: we are not forgiven by Him. Have you ever considered that?

I wonder if we sometimes think that withholding forgiveness somehow punishes the person who wronged us. To the contrary, I have learned that withheld forgiveness unnecessarily places a burden upon me that I simply do not need. Withheld forgiveness makes me stew over things that happened in the past, sometimes long ago. Withholding forgiveness is like fastening shackles around my own ankles and then trying to run this marathon we call life. Withheld forgiveness is a source of stress, and who needs more stress?

Lance Morrow, author and writer for Time magazine said this about forgiveness:

“Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” (Lance Morrow – The Chief: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons)

I couldn’t agree more.

As a Christian, I am called to be Jesus to a world that largely does not know Him. This means that I am to strive to live a life that looks as much like Jesus as I possibly can. God will honor that, even when I stumble and fall. Among many things, Jesus is the Master of forgiveness. As he hung on the cross for our sins, enduring great pain and anguish as the crowd mocked Him, Jesus said,

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Even in His great pain and anguish, even as he suffered a punishment He didn’t deserve, even as He was mocked by the very creation He came to save, and even though they didn’t ask for it, Jesus offered forgiveness. This, my friends, is God’s grace at work!

What about you? Do you have somebody you need to forgive? Are you carrying that unnecessary burden? Are you wearing the shackles of bitterness and resentment? It’s time to free yourself. It’s time to be Jesus to your world. Unsolicited forgiveness. Try it. You will be freed and God will honor your action.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Immigration Debate: My Take & My Support for Marco Rubio

You were born in Mexico. You know that your chances of giving your family a better life than you’ve had to this date are far superior in the United States. You also know that the US government is extremely lax in enforcing their immigration laws. Knowing those things, do you stay in Mexico and begin the long and arduous process of immigrating legally? Or do you take your chances and swim the Rio Grande in search of that better life for your family?

Before you answer, consider this scenario:

You’re driving down the freeway. The speed limit is 70 miles per hour. You know that state troopers will allow 5 to 7 mph over the limit before they stop you and possibly issue a ticket. So, do you drive the speed limit or, knowing you won’t be stopped, do you drive 75? Or do you own a radar detector so that you can exceed the speed limit by an even greater margin, comfortable that the likelihood of being stopped is significantly mitigated?

If you are consistent, you would either (1) go through the legal immigration process in the first scenario and drive the speed limit in the second, or (2) disregard the law by swimming the Rio Grande in the first scenario and by exceeding the speed limit in the second.

So what’s your point, you ask? I’m betting that many of those who support a position on illegal immigration that all who entered this country illegally must be deported because they “didn’t respect our laws” are some of the same people that fly by me on the Interstate on a regular basis. I would opine that the habitual speeders, especially those who use technology to evade detection “don’t respect our laws.” Would it be unfair to call the people belonging to the “deport all illegals (because they don’t respect our laws) while I continue to speed down the freeway” group hypocrites? I don’t think so.

We have an immigration problem in the United States. The root cause of the problem is not a disrespect of our laws by some who want to live here. The root cause of the problem is a lax and negligent federal government who, for decades, has turned the other cheek as people flowed into this country illegally. Just like the state trooper who sits on the shoulder as speeders fly by is inviting the traveling public to exceed the speed limit, so also is our government’s failure to enforce our immigration laws an invitation to come on in. Yes. Our illegal immigrants were invited to be here. Many of them have had children here (legally US citizens) and raised their families here. I believe that the vast majority of them truly are here to improve their lives, not to do us harm. And now, many of my fellow Americans want to yank the rug out from under them, separate families, and build a symbolic wall to keep them out once and for all. Shame on us.

Here is what I propose:

  1. The federal government must develop and implement a plan to enforce immigration laws currently on the books to stop the flow into the country. Until this is done, the problem will not be solved.
  2. Get rid of the wall idea. Enforce the laws. Invest the money that would go towards building the wall (no way will Mexico pay for it) in enforcing the laws.
  3. People who have entered the country illegally would have a reasonable amount of time during which they would have the opportunity to identify themselves and apply for legal residency.
  4. Of those in number three above, any with felony or greater criminal convictions would be immediately deported.
  5. Any person in the country illegally that is affiliated with any gang, even if they have no criminal convictions, would be immediately deported.
  6. At the expiration of the registration period, any person in the country illegally would be subject to immediate deportation.
  7. Amend the law to provide that children born in the US to parents who are not US citizens are not granted automatic citizenship; their status would match that of their parents.

Our government created this problem. We citizens stood by and let it happen. There is a humane and reasonable way to address this issue that could benefit millions of people while showing the world that the United States is still the world’s brightest beacon of opportunity. Let’s not be hypocrites. Let’s be kind, caring, understanding, and compassionate.

I support Marco Rubio for president. His immigration views align more closely with my own than any other Republican candidate in the race. Rubio is the compassionate conservative America needs right now. He is pro life. He is a constitutionalist. He is fiscally conservative. I believe that he is best positioned and most desirous of working towards healing the divide that the current Administration has nurtured over the past 7 years.

Do You Have 30 Minutes for God?

“I don’t have time.”

“I’m too busy.”

At one time, these were my mantras whenever somebody would speak to me about investing time each day to read my Bible and go to God in prayer.  One day, it hit me. Am I really too busy for God? Can I not find 15 to 30 minutes for Him during my supposedly “too busy” day?

Here’s how I spent my time: I set a morning alarm that went off just in time to allow me a quick shower, wake the kids, skip breakfast and rush to work. After working all day I dodged traffic, talked a little bit with my wife, ate dinner, sometimes helped the kids with homework, watched TV, set my alarm and went to bed. All to repeat itself day after day, week after week. Nope, I clearly had no time for God. Or so I thought.

To be honest, I do not recall the exact circumstances under which God convicted me of my misuse of the time He gives me each day – but He did. So one night I set my alarm to wake me 15 minutes earlier than usual, and with that extra 15 minutes I would get up before anybody else and begin reading my Bible. The rule was no Facebook, no Twitter, no email and no news until I had completed my daily reading.

Studying Jeremiah

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

You know what? It didn’t take long for God to bless that investment of 15 minutes each morning. He blessed it by connecting me more closely with Him. I approached my day with a different attitude than I had before. And if, for some reason, I missed my morning Scripture time I felt it throughout the day.

You see, God created us to be in relationship with Him; Not just for one hour each Sunday morning, but always. He reveals Himself and He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. The Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is rich with words to us from God Himself. If we never open our Bible, if we never read His Word, we deny ourselves access to the deep relationship God wants with each of us.

Over the last two years I have read through the Bible in its entirety twice. I am more in tune with who God is and how I am to relate to Him than ever before. Through my (almost) daily Bible reading, God has given me a filter through which I can discern truth from fiction, sound teaching from false teaching. I believe I am a better husband, a better father, a better employee, a better boss, and a better friend. No, I’m not perfect – not even close. But God has used my daily investment of time to sanctify my life and help me become closer to the man that He wants me to be.

My daily time with God has grown to 30, sometimes 45 minutes. You know how time seems to fly when you’re engaged in conversation with your best friend? That investment of time is no longer a burden. On the contrary, I cannot imagine my day without Him.

Through technology, God has given us a wonderful tool to aid in our reading and study. I use The Bible App on my Kindle Fire and on my iPhone. The app offers access to Scripture in a variety of versions. It offers a plethora of Bible reading plans of various lengths. Even when traveling on business, I have God’s Word available to me in an easy and convenient format. It is through this app that I have read the entire Bible twice in two years time, and through it I have embarked on my third journey through Scripture in 2016.

“I’m too busy.” No, you’re not.

“I don’t have time.” Yes, you do.

Don’t let the devil keep you from your Lord. Today is the day; why not begin today?

My Theme for 2016

I abandoned the notion of the New Year’s Resolution several years ago, and 2016 is no exception. But as I sit here in the wee hours of the first morning of the new year, having been awakened by a squeaky dryer and a yearning for a good cup of coffee, two things come to mind that I choose to set as my theme for this year. One is a passage from Scripture and the other is a quote from a well known country & western singer.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8 NASB

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ~ Brad Paisley

What does a Micah 6:8 man look like? And how can I make Micah 6:8 the overriding theme of my 2016 book?

God says through the prophet Micah that He requires three things of me:

  1. IMG_3045

    Memorial Lutheran Church, Katy TX

    To do justice. When I think of justice, I think of fairness. I think of treating others as I would like them to treat me. While these things are true, justice is a far weightier concept than that. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23) As leaders in the synagogue, the Pharisees were often more concerned with how others perceived their practice of religion rather than leading their congregation to a broader understanding of God. They elevated themselves above those whom God had called them to minister. Justice here puts each of us on an even plane. Yes, I am to practice the disciplines of my faith, not to glorify myself but to align myself more closely with God. At the same time, I must seek to serve and minister to others in whatever way and by whatever means God calls me. The Bible says that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). A Micah 6:8 man never seeks to elevate himself above those around him – in church, in his family, at work – anywhere, any time.

  2. To love kindness. Jesus also said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) How do I want others to treat me? I bet we all want pretty much the same things: to be treated with dignity and respect under any and all situations and circumstances. What would this world look like if each of us put these words of our Lord into practice? What would it look like if each of us actively sought to help meet the needs of others as they seek to help us meet ours? If each of us sought to live our lives under this mandate of Jesus’, kindness would abound. Isn’t it worth a shot?
  3. To walk humbly with your God. The Pharisees, seeking to trap Jesus, asked Him what is the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Notice who these two greatest commandments are NOT about: they’re not about me. They are about Him and His creation. Even the Ten Commandments reflect this, as the first four address our relationship with God and the last six address our relationship with others – our neighbors. A lifestyle of walking humbly with my God demonstrates a focus on Him and the people He has placed into my life. It does not seek a position of superiority over either.

IMG_3046As I look back over the pathway of my life thus far, I am thankful that God has chosen to gift me with a vibrant and an ever-growing faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. I look forward to continuing that journey with Him during 2016 as He wills. For my part, I will seek to be in His Word daily, converse with Him through daily prayer and meditation, worship with fellow Christians each Sunday, and seek to live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of my life. 2016 is a leap year, thus we all have an extra page to write in this brand new, clean book we’ve been given. With God’s help, my 2016 book will be pleasing to Him and to those around me.

Happy New Year!

On Donald Trump, Terrorism, Divisiveness and Change

Trump

Photo credit: slate.com

Donald Trump sure has struck a nerve. Today I read a news article reporting that Trump now has a 20-point lead over his GOP rivals according to the latest CBS/NY Times poll. Here is a link to the story. Although I am not a Trump supporter, I get it. There is a perception by many of inaction by the current Administration. There is frustration and concern among many Americans that we have a government that is completely out of touch with mainstream America, as it appears to operate primarily for the personal benefit of those holding office. I share many of these perceptions. Donald Trump is challenging the status quo and the status quo doesn’t like it.

San Bernardino should have been a huge wake-up call to the nation, for San Bernardino proves that there are terrorists living among us. They have blended into society. They act and behave as you and I do, at least in public. They hold jobs. And they wait for their time to strike. In these trying times, Americans want strong leadership from Washington. We want a president who is clearly tuned in to what’s going on and who has a plan to address it. We want to be assured that our government has our safety and well being in front of mind. Unfortunately, many of us perceive just the opposite from President Obama. Trump’s proposals for dealing with terrorism, albeit controversial, are at least proposals of some sort of action. And, while I disagree with his proposals, I get it.

obama speech

Photo credit: foreignpolicyblogs.com

But let’s pause for a moment. Even among my doubts and concerns, I believe that our government is hard at work trying to address this problem. The United States has some of the best intelligence gathering forces in the world, and I believe our government has information that is probably quite rich. I trust that there is a plan, or at least a plan in the works. Is it realistic, or even prudent, to think that the president will call a press conference, take the lectern, and cite chapter and verse of all this work and our plans for defeating terrorism? Of course not! Setting my perceptions of governmental inaction and ineptitude aside, I really don’t believe that the president and his advisors are sitting on their hands on this issue. That just doesn’t make sense. I think it’s time for those of us who have been so critical of Mr. Obama to cut him a bit of slack. This is not an easy problem to solve.

I also think it is time for we Americans to take a collective deep breath. We are divided, and our divisiveness does not help matters; it makes them worse. My Facebook feed is replete with what I call “Facebook Pundits”: These are people who are self-declared experts on what the government should or should not do to address terrorism and other issues facing our great nation; People who refuse to listen and consider opinions and statements by those with whom they disagree; People who demonize the liberal or the conservative whose views and opinions differ from their own; People who post half truths, and even blatant lies, in sorry attempts to forward whatever agenda they’ve chosen to support. Mark my words: this divisiveness will bring down our country long before ISIS or any other enemy does. It must stop, and it must stop now.

vote

Credit: usvotefoundation.org

America was founded on several wonderful principles, one of them being the fact that we are not subjects of our government; our government works for us. We have a process of electing individuals to serve at our will from the President through Congress; from state governors through local town councils. Whether we voted for the individuals in office or not, we must unite around them. We must lift them in prayer. We must join together and present a united front against those who would threaten our national and personal security. When we disagree with our government or with one another, we must do so civilly and respectfully. And as we do so, we must hold those whom we have hired to represent us accountable for their actions or lack thereof by becoming informed, offering constructive feedback, and exercising our right to replace under performers via the power of our electoral process.

Which brings me full circle, back to Donald Trump. I’m glad he has the government establishment and the elitists in the mainstream media in a tizzy. I’m glad he’s calling them out and speaking his mind. But I cannot support him because Trump epitomizes the divisiveness and name-calling that I believe is very problematic for our country. I believe he could do considerable damage representing America to the world in his style and demeanor. Under the current Administration, our country has become more divided than ever. We need a leader at the helm who will set the tone I described above; one who will seek to unite our divided nation and lead us to a brighter and more prosperous future. Based on what I’ve seen from Mr. Trump to this point, he is not that man.

Right now things are looking rather grim. We need change. How about taking the lead? Let’s resolve together to be the change we seek. Let’s resolve not to continue to throw gasoline on a fire that is nearly out of control. Rather, let’s resolve to treat others – all others – with the dignity and respect each deserves as a child of our Creator. If each of us will do so, we won’t have to wait until January 2017 for change. The change can start right now.

Syrian Refugees – Where Do You Stand?

This is a tough one. On one side, we have those who believe ISIS is using the Syrian refugees as camouflage for smuggling operatives into the United States. On the other side we have those who dismiss that idea, citing similar fears in American history; think Nazi infiltrators blending with Jewish refugees and the rounding up of Japanese Americans into concentration camps to mitigate the threat that they supposedly presented – both of these during WW II and neither, as far as I know, actually posing a threat in hindsight. They also cite a lack of hard evidence that ISIS does, in fact, have operatives hiding amongst the Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

Sadly, in the middle, we have thousands of people who have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people pose no threat to anyone, yet because of a perceived threat to local and national security, many Americans including several candidates for president and 31 state governors oppose their entry into our country.

My Facebook feed is rife with strong positions on both sides of the issue. I get it. People are scared, and rightfully so given the tragic recent attacks on innocent people promulgated by ISIS. But are we too scared? Are we, in our fear, playing right into ISIS’ hands?

Personally, I don’t believe that ISIS needs the refugees to help them smuggle operatives into our country. They are already here and in touch with ISIS leadership. Don’t believe me?

Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson told CNN on February 8, 2015 that there are individuals living in the United States today who have contact with ISIS and other terrorist groups who have “a desire to conduct an attack” on U.S. soil.” http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/02/08/homeland-security-chief-terrorist-sleeper-cells-us-poised-attack

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, not normally a pundit I cite, reported on May 7, 2015 that “ISIS says it has sleeper cells in 15 states, ready to strike.”  http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/watch/is-isis-setting-up-cells-in-america–441764419625

CNN quoted Michael Steinburg, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division on February 3, 2015, “there are individuals that have been in communication with groups like ISIL who have a desire to conduct an attack.” He further said that those people are living in the U.S. right now, but the term “sleeper cells” is too simplistic, because the threat is much more complicated and diffuse. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/politics/fbi-isis-counterterrorism-michael-steinbach/

Google “United States Sleeper Cell” for a plethora of additional examples.

So what’s my point? Simply this. No one can dispute the fact that thousands of innocent people have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people need help. They need compassion. And I believe we Americans ought to offer it to them. I do not believe, based on what I have read and heard thus far, that accepting some of the refugees into our country presents a plausible threat to the point that it is reasonable to turn them away. ISIS does not need them to carry out its mission. In fact, I would venture to say that ISIS probably welcomes the distraction that this argument offers, given the news reports cited above.

As a Christian I am called to love my neighbor. When asked to define who is our neighbor, Jesus told a parable in which a Samaritan, loathed and despised by the Jews of that time, was the neighbor to the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead alongside the road. (See Luke 10:25-37).

I choose to honor Jesus by loving those who are in need, and I trust that God will protect us as we do so. For I know that the war is already won through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let us dispense with the fear. Let us look upon these people with the same level of compassion we would want if we were in their position. Let us be Jesus to those who need to see Him through us.

While we’re at it, let’s dispense with the personal verbal attacks on those with whom we disagree. I see both sides of this dilemma; I have chosen the side on which I stand. You are free to choose yours, too. Let’s not attack each other just because we happen to disagree. Never forget that we Americans are all in this together.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2015 Photo Some Days – Flu Shot Season

I am blessed to work for a company that provides flu shots for all employees who want them. They also offer shots to family members at a discount. I caught the flu several years ago. It came on really fast while I was at work. By the time I got home I could barely move, and it had me down for a week. Sadly, I know others whose lives were lost at the hands of the flu. Don’t be a victim. Doctor permitting, get your flu shot, too!

Thanks, IMA!

Did you get your flu shot?

Did you get your flu shot?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,253 other followers

%d bloggers like this: