Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tax Day -- well, almost!

Today is April 14, the day before Tax Day!

It'll serve as tax day for me, though. I mean -- Why wait until the last minute? Right?
Later today, I'll send in my 2014 tax return with a little extra for my dear ol' Uncle Sam.

Although I hate that I have to send more than what was withheld, there is also the realization that our collective taxes provide for our way of life in the USA. I know that there is plenty of waste in our government. Believe me, as a federal employee I've seen plenty of it firsthand. I'd say the biggest waste of my tax dollars in recent years is paying the salary of my Congressman. He has done nothing that the party leadership hasn't instructed him to do. He is a party puppet without an original thought in his head.

Other than that and the wasted money over votes to repeal the ACA and investigations on Benghazi and other bureaucratic crap, we have a decent way of life in the US. Our military (even with its bureaucratic wastes) protects us and deters others from attacking us. We have decent roads, public transportation (in most cities) and a solid infrastructure.
And we have the means to fix the problems that government creates with the opportunity to vote in new leadership on a regular basis. (Why we choose to keep sending the same morons --from both parties-- back into office is beyond me!)

If you overpaid in your withholding for 2014 and are getting a refund -- Congratulations!
If you have to pay a little more -- I'm with you.

In either case, let's make our country the very best we can and put the people into office that will spend our money wisely (for a change).

John <><

Monday, April 13, 2015

Post Revival Report

It is good to be back at home!

Although 60 and breezy is a little cool for morning coffee on the deck, none-the-less I am sitting on the deck with laptop and coffee enjoying my Monday morning.

My trip to northern Missouri was a good one.

Breckenridge MO is a small rural town about 15 miles west of Chillicothe MO and may not appear on some maps. The sign entering the town says it has a population of 454. The entire school, K-12, showed up for the afternoon assembly -- all 55 students!

Several of them made it to the church on Friday night for the first of our revival services. SIX of them made professions of faith in Jesus and a couple of them are scheduling times to be baptized at the church! It was a pretty powerful evening.

Saturday also had a good turnout but the focus was more for the born-again believers to be about the task of telling their stories and sharing the message of "God loves you" and "Jesus died for you."

It was a bit of an oddity that the Sunday morning service was actually the smallest service in number of attendees. It was still a great weekend. We finished it up with lunch at the church and then I hit the road.

During the weekend, I discovered that I shared a few things in common with Pastor Tom. He is a bit of a coffee snob, likes baseball (although he roots for the other Missouri team) and is a lover of peanut butter! Before leaving, I was presented with a large jar of my favorite peanut butter (Smucker's All Natural, creamy) to take with me!

As is typical of my meetings, I challenged the members of the Breckenridge Baptist church to find somebody that needs to know about Jesus and tell them that God loves them and Jesus died for them.
If you are a believer, then I would offer the same challenge to you.

Sometime this week, talk to somebody that is lost and in need of a Savior and simply tell them, "God loves you," and "Jesus died for you."

It's simple and it's true.

John <><

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

I Surrender!

What does that mean?
When countries are at war with each other and one surrenders, what does it mean?
When a criminal is in a battle with law enforcement officers, gives up the fight, throws down his weapons and comes out with his hands up in the internationally recognized "I surrender" pose, what does it mean?

According to Dictionary.com it means:

1   to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police.

2   to give (oneself) up, as to the police.

3   to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship.

4   to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.).

5   to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

So why do I ask this question on this day?

I ask because of all of the media publicity about religious freedom and the rights that we have, particularly as Christians. Yes, religious freedoms should apply equally to all of us, but it seems that it is the Christian groups that are making the news these days.

When I think of religious freedom, I think of being able to worship the way I choose and to live life according to a set of principles in which I believe. If, according to my beliefs, stealing is wrong, then I shouldn't steal. If  being unfaithful in marriage is wrong, then I should remain faithful to my wife. If being gay is wrong, then I shouldn't live a gay lifestyle.

If I am a business person, I should conduct my business with honesty and the moral character that reflects my personal beliefs.

Serving somebody that has been convicted of stealing, doesn't make me a thief. Providing product to a person that is divorced due to an unfaithful marriage doesn't make me and adulterer; and doing business with an LGBT person doesn't make me gay. Denying services to these people is not a reflection of Christian beliefs; it is a reflection of self-centered "I don't like those people" thinking.

And perhaps, you have the right to do that -- but let's not call it religious freedom. Let's just call it what it is -- bigotry.

Most evangelical Christians believe that when we surrender to Jesus; we surrender our will to Him. We give up our ways and begin to imitate His ways.
We don't have to sin to serve sinners.
Jesus came to us while we were sinners!

Jesus travelled through Samaria and talked to a Samaritan woman that was of poor reputation.
She was a Samaritan.
She was a woman.
And she was divorced (several times) and living with a man.

Jesus did other crazy things that were considered unbecoming to the religious establishment. He had dinner with tax collectors. He touched lepers. He healed on the Sabbath. He showed compassion to the very least in society.
And then, He went willingly and innocently to the cross to pay for the sins of all of us -- while we were yet sinners.

It may be true that our grand country -- the US of A -- gives us certain religious freedoms, but our Savior does not.
As followers of Jesus, we have surrendered our will to Him. We have only His will.
Would Jesus serve those that are sinners?
He served me.
And if you are a Christian, He served you, too -- while you were a sinner. 
It didn't make Him a sinner.
He remained holy and pure and innocent so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for all of us that are sinners.

The only real task that Jesus gives us where others are concerned is to tell them the story; to tell them His story.
Tell them, "God loves you."
Tell them, "Jesus died for you."
Serve them with the compassion of Jesus.
Be Jesus to them.
We are the ambassadors of the kingdom to this lost and dying world.

If you are a follower of Jesus -- love Him by loving the ones that need to know Him, too.
If you are not a follower of Jesus -- know this:

God loves you.
And Jesus died for you.

John <><

Monday, April 06, 2015

Write. Something. Anything.

It's been a week since I've posted. I've felt in a bit of a writing funk lately.

Normally, writing is a way to express myself, in spite of being a bit of an introvert. I can write in the peace and quiet of my home and publish with relative anonymity. The few readers I have generally leave affirming comments and when I get dissenting opinions, it's not a big deal--just part of publishing on controversial topics.

However, lately I haven't felt up to putting in the effort to write. I went from posting something on one of my blogs pretty much every day, to not posting anything for a week...and this; this is just a little rant because I decided that I just needed to write...something, anything.

I probably won't even link this to my social media sights so even fewer people will read it. No worries, it's not much to read anyway.

I do have a short list of blog topics on which I can write, Maybe I'll start on that this month. This week will be spent getting ready for the upcoming Revival weekend and magic show. Then I have a week off before another revival trip. I'll work on writing something more significant in the coming days.

On the bright side of things...
It's baseball season and the Cardinals are off to a great start with their win over the Cubs on opening day!

Life is good!

John <><

Friday, March 27, 2015

Springfield MO's Anti-discrimination Repeal: What Am I Missing?

Last fall the Springfield City Council passed a local ordinance that made it illegal to deny housing or employment based on sexual orientation. There is a ballot question to repeal this law on the April 7th ballot and many Christian religious groups are in support of the repeal.

Even my neighbor has a sign supporting its repeal in his yard and we are miles outside of the city limits of Springfield and nobody that lives in my neighborhood is eligible to vote on it.

Last Sunday, my daughter visited a Baptist church in Springfield where the pastor preached his message urging those attending to vote to repeal the ordinance and the church gave away yard signs. I saw a video clip of one of the largest evangelical churches in the greater Springfield area in which the pastor also urged those members that live in Springfield to repeal the city law.

What am I missing?

Are we, as Christians, seeking to repeal a law that protects people from discrimination?

I get that we don't agree with their lifestyle. I get that we often want to be in a position of ignoring the beam in our own eye while pointing at the sins of others. But shouldn't we be spending our time (especially our pulpit time) telling people about Jesus rather than working to promote discrimination against those that differ from us?

And how does this repeal square with the teaching and lifestyle of the Jesus we claim to follow? What about that "Love your neighbor as yourself" or "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" teaching?
Can we just ignore that and teach something completely contrary to it?

For some reason I'm thinking of that tax-collecting sinner Zacchaeus. Do you remember that story?
Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming to town but was afraid he wouldn't get to see the famous teacher through the crowd so he climbs up in a tree to catch a glimpse. As Jesus passes, He looks up and sees Zacchaeus and invites himself to dinner at Zacchaeus' house!

Jesus went to the house of a known sinner and had a fellowship meal!

When the Pharisees and religious leaders would have nothing to do with Zacchaeus, Jesus went to his home.

Maybe it's just that we don't like the city telling us to do the things that the Bible already tells us to do. It is a little redundant, isn't it?
Yeah, right!

I know that I'm a little slow sometimes, but this has me completely baffled. I just don't understand why followers of Jesus would support discriminating against people that believe differently than they do. If I am to understand that this repeal of an anti-discrimination thing is a good thing--a Christian thing, then somebody way smarter than me (and way more spiritual) is going to have to explain it to me.

John <><

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Spring in the Ozarks!

Oh, I am sure that we will still have some cold days and frosty nights, but it is spring and I am rejoicing! It was warm and sunny yesterday and will be warm and cloudy today. There is rain in the forecast for the week, but it is spring and that is to be expected.

I haven't put in a garden for many years, but plan to this year. I know that many people already have their garden areas ready and I am going to be starting from nothing, but I am looking forward to the harvest! I am also looking forward to the work of getting my little (emphasis on little) garden going.

I have updated the Coming Events section in the right hand column (you'll need to view the web version if you are on your smart phone).
You can see that April will be another busy month. I do have events scattered through the summer months, but still have plenty of open dates. Please schedule as early as you can if you are planning an event or need Sunday supply for a vacation.

People have been asking me about retirement. I'm really still a novice at this and am not real sure of how I should respond.
I know that I don't miss work.
I know that I haven't been bored.
I know that I only set my alarm clock on Sunday mornings and am usually awake before it goes off.
I know that I see very few people during the week (and I like that).
I know that I have control of my schedule (and I like that, too).
I know that dealing with the government agencies on retirement is as messed up as working for the government (I expected that, but don't like it).
And I am looking forward to getting better at this retirement gig and finding more things to do and places to go.

I hope to make a trip to the DC area and take in a Nationals baseball game with my oldest brother and perhaps meet fellow blogger Bilbo.
I need to make the Central Illinois trip to visit my parents.
I'm looking forward to the Chicago UFC Fight Night this summer.
I know that there will be a sunny beach sometime this year.
Springfield Cardinals baseball begins in a few weeks.

Lots of things. Lots of thoughts.

Have a grand first week of spring. (And to my Australian cousins -- enjoy the fall!)

John <><

Friday, March 20, 2015

Winter to Spring; Despair to Hope

It somehow seems appropriate that the last day of winter is another overcast and dreary day here in the Ozarks.
Tomorrow, the first full day of spring will be partly sunny and warmer temperatures, but today is very representative of the gloom of winter.

Even while time passes and the sun makes its way into the northern hemisphere, for many people the gloom of winter will continue. For some reason, an awareness of the many people that are suffering from some kind of depression has come to me. I'm not sure why that is; only that it is.

Statistically, a significant number of the people that we relate to every day are clinically depressed. Most of them are undiagnosed and therefore untreated. I'm not sure what this says about our society today. I only know that there are far too many people living life under a dark and dreary cloud.

I wonder if this has always been the case and we are just getting better at recognizing and diagnosing depression, or if the stresses of life and our abilities to deal with them have grown at disproportionate rates.

There is no doubt that life can be stressful. And I think that the rules of competition have changed greatly as the gap between the haves and the have nots continues to grow. I also think that social rules have changed greatly with the advances in technology, perhaps at a rate that exceeds our ability to adapt. We are social creatures, but our social communities have less defined boundaries. We are, in many ways, less sure of who we can trust and more isolated than ever before. We have the world at our fingertips and yet we are alone. We are isolated and yet exposed.

Although we would often like to disconnect from the grand network, we also need it for the information and resources that it provides. We have come too far to go back and yet we are unsure if we are heading in the right direction. We move forward cautiously and with a certain amount of fear of the unknown.

It is my hope that as winter gives way to spring, despair can give way to hope; as the clouds give way to the sun and nature comes to life, we, too, can begin to grow a little.

And we can learn from the change in seasons--the clouds, the rain, the snow, the cold, the death of things are all necessary to bring about the abundant life of spring.

Plants die in the fall. Seeds fall to the ground. Some become food for the birds and other creatures and some are dormant throughout the winter. Snow covers them in the winter, and in the spring they burst forth in new life!

Seasons are for change.
It is the way of things.

Be well, my friends!

John <><

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sleeping In

Today is the first day that I've really slept late since retiring.
It felt pretty good.

I actually woke up at a little after 6 (6 hrs after going to bed), but decided that I should go back to sleep. I woke up again after one more sleep cycle (90 minutes) and decided that I could get up and make some coffee or stay in bed and see if I could drift off for one more cycle (which I did).

Nice, huh?

I know that some people are morning people; some are not. Some people will sleep late every chance they get; others are up with the sun whether they have something planned for the morning or not. Most mornings I'm not the sleep in kind of guy, but today it felt right.

Which is it for you? Sleep in when you can or get up and get going?

Well now I've had coffee, breakfast, yelled at a guy from the bank and am ready to get my day underway.

It's a little gloomy in the Ozarks; overcast skies and cool temperatures, but that's okay. It's not snowing, spring is only a couple of days away and baseball season is just around the corner!

Be well,

John <><

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

This Gift is Free!

God Loves You!
Jesus Died for You!

Those are the first two posts in this three part post. If you haven't read them, go read them now. Then come back for part 3.

* This gift is free!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--  Ephesians 2:8

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

* You could never deserve it

...know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.  Galatians 2:16

...he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit  Titus 3:5

* ...And just by accepting this gift...

If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God had raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

...for "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  Romans 10:13

*...Your sins will be forgiven and forgotten.

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

* You will be reconciled to God

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  2 Corinthians 5:18

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ  Romans 5:1

* ...And live with Him forever in heaven!

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ  Philippians 3:20

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus  Ephesians 2:6

And that is the expanded version of the 60 second gospel.
If you want a condensed version, here it is:

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.
Salvation is a free gift.
Receive it and be reconciled to God through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Any questions?

John <><

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Jesus Died for You

Yesterday's post ended with the hard truth that we are all sinners and our sin separates us from God...for all eternity.

* But there is Good News!

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." Luke 2:10

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

* A perfect life can be substituted for yours.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

* And God loves you so much that He gave up His Son

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

* that Jesus would be your substitute

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

* ...And through his death

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

* You can have eternal life

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 1Thessalonians 5:10

*...And by His resurrection, death is defeated.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. the one who believes in me will live, even though they die" John 11:25

That is the story of God's great love. His son,
Jesus, took our sin and took our punishment.
Jesus takes our sin and gives us His righteousness.
Jesus takes our guilt and gives us His glory.
Jesus takes our death and gives us eternal life.

It sounds like a pretty good trade to me.

Tomorrow, the rest of the Good News!

John <><