Thirteen and Luck.

Not that long ago, I was boarding an airplane with my son, and I had explained to him that on the ticket it identified our seats as ‘17A’ and 17’C’.  So, while we were walking down the aisle, I had him view the aisle numbers and count.  “10….11….12….—14?,” he asked.

Since we were in a bit of a hurry to find our row, I shuffled him a few more rows and collapsed onto our seats in row 17.  After fastening seat-belts and securing our luggage, I began to explain that on planes there’s no 13.  And, then I reached the limit of my explanation, for there really is not reasonable explanation.

Jesus had 12 disciples, making Him either #13 or #1.  Either way, someone was #13.

To the Jews, 13 signifies the age at which a boy matures and becomes a ‘Bar Mitzvah,’ and, interestingly, and perhaps related, according to Rabbinic commentary on the Torah, God has 13 attributes of mercy.

Interestingly, the calendar year is broken up into 12 months, making the 13th the beginning of a new year.

This is an oil on canvas painting of George Washington receiving the first US flag from Betsy Ross, painted in 1950 by Walter Haskell Hinton.

Thirteen is also the first of the ‘teens,’ again, marking something new.  And, may I suggest it is also the beginning of repeated numbers, meaning “twelve” is unique, but “thirteen” is really just the combination of “three” and “ten.”  Again, marking something new.

Our country, America, declared its independence with 13 original colonies, and is also the number of guns in a gun salute to one of the US military.  Interestingly, while the original ‘American flag’ consisted of 13 stars (one for each original colony), the number of stars increased as the number of US States increased.  However, the original number of stripes–13–has remained the same.

Colgate University also considers 13 to be a lucky number. They were founded in 1819 by 13 men with 13 dollars, 13 prayers and 13 articles.  (To this day, members of the Colgate community consider the number 13 a good omen.) In fact, the campus address is 13 Oak Drive in Hamilton, New York, and the male a cappella group is called the Colgate 13.

However, trivia aside, I always felt it was a bit silly to pay so much attention to the number 13.  In fact, many times I find myself filling up at pump #13, and intentionally trying to end my dollar amount with $0.13 because I feel the number is left out!

In any event, I hope this letter finds you in good fortune (notice, I chose the word ‘fortune’ rather than ‘luck.’)  As luck would have it, though, I did find $20 in my pants this morning, which calls to mind that old adage, “luck is merely the intersection of preparation and opportunity.”  I prepared to surprise myself by forgetting the $20 bill, and therefore, gave myself the opportunity to be surprised when I reached into my pocket!

I used to work at a bar with a small casino attached to it.  So, often times I would find myself serving the gamblers as well.  Although, it was a rather easy job (bring a beer to a gambler, change a hundred, toss an empty bottle), it was a bit more difficult to me not being a gambler.  Some would enter and ask to know which machine has been paying out lately.

A typical Keno screen

Other’s would question their luck, or ask me if I’m lucky and then suggest picking their Keno numbers.  Again, this is an illusion that ‘luck’ is an essence that floats around like a butterfly, never knowing where it’s going to land, but lands, definitely, and then embracing this chosen individual with it’s blessing.  It’s rather silly, don’t you think?

Some will comment, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about your diet, you’re lucky.  You’re skinny and healthy.”  Could it be, perhaps, that I’m skinny and healthy because of my diet?  Could it be that because I chose to pursue a college education that I’m, therefore, more qualified for the job?  Ultimately, could it be because of the conscience decisions I made in the past that I have the celebrations and the sorrows I do today?

Now, I’m not trying to eliminate the avenue for God’s divine reach.  He certainly has the ability to reach into our lives, transform them, and work in us in a way we’d never expect.  How do I know?  Because he did to me!  While some would regard my intersection with Corylene as pure luck, I see it as nothing less than God’s divine working.  But, before I leave that, let’s consider the similarities of luck and God’s work.

1.  Both appear to be the work or result of an external force – one that supersedes our grasp or possibly even our understanding.

2.  Both require a level of faith.

3.  Both, often times, become apparent only after an event, in a way, post-result.

Now, if I may add a fourth, and perhaps most pertinent, reason; that, both, can result in either a positive or negative outcome.

Consider, for a minute, Roy Sullivan.  Ok, certainly not a household name, but maybe if I told you that he holds the record for being struck by lightening the most he becomes a bit more interesting.  Turns out, in his lifetime, Roy was struck seven times, and the interesting thing is that it wasn’t lightening that ended up taking his life.  Turns out he accidently shot himself in the stomach.  Poor guy.  What a way to go, especially after defeating lightening seven times!

Roy lived in Virginia and worked as a park ranger in the Shenandoah National Park.  Now, being amongst nature can certainly increase your chances of being struck by lightening, but being in Virginia, apparently, can significantly increase those chances, too.  Turns out, in the entire country, the South-East coast is the ‘hot-spot’ for lightening flashes.  So hot, that even Roy’s wife was stuck once!  Wow, out of all my friends on facebook, I don’t recall any of them updating their status claiming a personal experience with lightening!

Status Update: I wass strucckk by lighttteening today.  Kinnnda tinnggless.

Now, as you read more about Roy, and may I suggest for convenience, just plug his name in Wikipedia.com’s search engine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Sullivan), you’ll find that by the fourth strike, he began to feel a bit ‘[un]lucky.’  So much that he started to carry a jug of water around all the time.  In fact, after one lightening incident he was able to extinguish the flames on his head with his water jug in his truck.

I mention Roy, and his oddities, because here’s a man who would more than likely suggest he’s rather UNlucky.  However, consider the opposite: maybe it’s because he’s SO lucky that he was able to withstand seven strikes of lightening?  Really, who are we to say what is and isn’t good luck?  Or, perhaps, God’s divine reach?

I indicated three, actually four, similarities in luck and God’s working.  Roy would indicate that the lightening, in his life, was certainly the work of someone, or something, beyond his grasp, perhaps even his understanding.  It’s safe to assume that if he had any control over this situation at all, he would have elected to NOT be struck.

That being the case, he undoubtedly began to question God’s intention.  What’s the meaning of all this?  If, perhaps, he was not a believer in God, then certainly we could expect some type of divine rationalization (or even irrationalization) for this unique set of circumstances.  Therefore, the element of faith enters.  I’ll explain the element of faith a little later.  And, finally, it’s really only in the aftermath that we (and Roy) are able to put some of the evidence together in efforts to understand what just happened.

In 2001, I was a victim to a violent robbery at a pizza store in Wilmington, NC.  It was a friday night.  I was one of the last delivery drivers on duty, and it was near the end of my shift.  I was given the opportunity to go home early, but I decided to try and get a few more deliveries in before the end of my shift.  After all, it was a really good night for tips!

A little after 10:00 PM, I returned to the store, entered through the side-door (not visible to the carry-out customers, and therefore, utilized commonly by the delivery drivers), and approached my tip box.  Just as I was going for my keys to unlock my tip box and begin sorting my bills for check-out, three men entered the store, rather suddenly, too.  What caught my attention was that within seconds, they were behind the counter.  Before a thought as to why they were possibly behind the counter could begin in my head, I saw one man raise his hand to expose a gun, draw back the trigger and fire a bullet at another co-worker.

They just shot Nate!

As I panicked, I dropped to the floor, buried my head in my arms and closed my eyes.

Do you recall playing hide-n-seek with your friends, or brothers and sisters when you were younger?  Did you ever get the feeling that you weren’t visible to others if you, yourself, couldn’t see anything?  Many times, while playing, I’d hide in a cupboard, or under a table, and while sitting on my butt, I’d hug my legs, bury my head between my knees, and close my eyes.  It was as if supernaturally I acquired the ability to be invisible if I just closed my eyes.

Eventually, well, really, in a matter of seconds, one of the men made it to the back of the store.  He had the store manager in is control.  She was crying excessively.  Lisa may have been 25 or 26 at the time.  She had a young son and a husband, and worked at Domino’s as a store manager.  It was a good job for her and her husband.

I turned my head to see if she was injured just in time to see the assailant strike her face with the pistol.  I jolted.  He caught me, and immediately, I was staring at the barrel of a stub-nose revolver.

Get up!

I jumped to my feet.  He began asking about the camera tapes, and the hidden safe, and where all the money was.  As polite as I could reply, meanwhile getting beat in the back of the head by a pistol that I was increasingly becoming convinced was going to go off, I informed the man that we don’t utilize any security cameras, not do we have a hidden safe, or even a visible safe that we utilize.  Each night, after the store closes, the store manager, and the closing driver, drive to the bank and deposit the excess cash, leaving, at best, two hundred dollars in the store.  The intention, behind this thinking, is to deter theft.  A lot of good it was doing now!

The tragedy ended within minutes and I was left unconscious in a small pool of blood on the cold, concrete floor of the Ogden Domino’s Pizza, Store #8944, in Wilmington, North Carolina on March 16, 2001.

Now, what I learned about that night in the months to follow was evidence that, really, it’s God’s working, and not luck.

Verse to consider:

Romans 8:28..

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

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At The Top!

Take a look at this:

Lone Pine State Park, Kalispell, MT

Pictured left is (almost) the top of the city of Kalispell, Montana.  It’s taken from Lonepine State Park and it was just days after arriving to this beautiful Northwestern city with my brother in 2008.

It’s rather typical – at least for young men like us – to assess a new environment and immediately want to get to the top.  Think about it.  You’re on a hike.  The trail bends slightly to expose an overlook to the deep ravine and what do you do?  You approach the edge.  It’s natural to want to be on the top.  To reach the highest point.  To say, “I did it!”

As a child, I recall visiting New York City several times.  Each time with a desire to climb a new skyscraper.  I remember standing on the sidewalk outside of the Empire State Building and looking up!  The building is so tall you can’t see the top from the ground!  And, of course, what follows?

“Let’s go to the top!”

It’s an internal desire of mankind’s to want to reach a little further.  Consider this short list of man’s epic climbs:

In May of 1953, two climbers reach the top of Mt. Everest (the world’s tallest mountain peak),

In July of 1969, an American astronaut becomes the first to climb out onto the surface of the moon, and

In May of 1872, the first American woman climbs the political ladder and runs for the office of the US President!  (Most people tend to forget the achievement of Victoria Woodhull).

Granite Peak, Montana

Granite Peak, Montana

In Montana, the “top” is considered to be Granite Peak, measuring over 12,800 feet in elevation!  This unique mountain was the last to ever be conquered due to its unpredictable weather patterns and technical climbing.

For the vertically inclined, much of the above information may be helpful in accomplishing some new (and adventurous) goals.  And, while this may be the beginning of establishing some new “tops” in our lives, the important question is: where is Jesus in all of it?

 

Is He at the top?

 

Consider, for just a minute, how you began your day.  What was the first thing you noticed?  Your alarm clock?  Your child crawling in bed with you?  Your dog or cat?  The sound of an automatic coffee maker?

Chances are, as we are approaching the Summer season, no matter what your first activity was,  you woke up with the sunlight.

God begins His love-letter to us (the Bible) in Genesis with the following:

“Let there be light”, and there was light.  And God saw the light and called it good, and God divided the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day and the darkness Night.  So the evening and the morning were the first day.

(Genesis 1:3-5)

Three take-home truths about this passage in Genesis include:

1)  God created Heaven, Earth, Light and Time.

2)  The Earth had no form, prior – and, still, at this point in time.

3)  God simply SPOKE everything into existence.

Notice how there’s no mention of the sun, or the stars, or the moon.  Just light.  In fact, it’s not till the fourth day that God created the sun, stars, and moon!  So, LIGHT predates the sun!

Now, consider John’s record of the Gospel.  Turn to John 8:12.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.

(John 8:12)

What-truly-is the source of life?  The SUN or the SON?

Birth of the sun: Day 4.

Now, let’s take a break from science, and talk diction (yes, words).

Protoevangelism.  Do you fancy a guess to it’s definition?

PROTO means “first,” or “the earliest form of,” and,

EVANGELISM means “delivering the Gospel (the good news).”

So, it literally means, “the first occurrence of the Gospel.”

Many Christians tend to consider the absolute first occurrence of the Gospel to be as early as Genesis 3:15.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and your shall bruise His heel.”

(Genesis 3:15)

There is certainly much to say about this passage, but for now we’re just going to focus on the promise within.  This is God speaking to the serpent (Satan), who just lied and deceived Adam and Eve.  God is referring to the coming of The Messiah.  However, many Jewish scholars find “protoevangelism” even earlier!

Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light.

(Genesis 1:3)

In Aramaic, the word for light is ‘nahora.’  Nahora is considered to be one of the secret names of The Messiah by these early Rabbis.

Are they incorrect in applying the name Nahora (light) to Jesus?

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

In Him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men.

(John 1:4)

Arise, shine; For your light has come!  And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

(Isaiah 60:1)

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory.”

(Isaiah 60:19)

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.  The Lamb is its light.

(Revelation 21:23)

Remember, in Genesis, God divided the darkness from the light and called it the first day.  And, ever since we’ve had the same thing happen.  Each day is signified by the arrival of the sun’s light.  Therefore, everyday begins with “the Light.”  It’s part of God’s natural order!

How do your days begin?

Do you thank God for the LIGHT (LIFE) of your day?

Notice how God, in His creation of things, created light and not darkness.  There is no darkness, only the absence of light.  Death is not the opposite of life.  It is simply the absence of it which is why when Jesus tells us HE is the life (John 11:25), He is also reiterating that there is no life outside of Him.

To be absent Jesus, is to be absent life.

The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

(Job 33:4)

The word for “life” found in Job is also the same Hebrew word found in Genesis 2:7:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

“Khah-e,” is the Hebrew word for “life.”  And, interestingly, it is plural.

Yes, God gave us two lives:  1) Spiritual and 2) Physical.

When Adam sinned, he died spiritually.  This is clarified in Ephesians 2:1,

And you [He made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins.

Therefore, the light of day should be a reminder that Jesus is here!  He is sharing His light (life) with you!  Be thankful!

Just as a new day begins with sun light, new life begins with Son Light!

Now Go Tell At Least Three People

In my early twenties, I decided I’d try one of those “pyramid-deals.”  You know, one of those “this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, this is the real deal.”  Or, this one’s better, “I started as a stay-at-home mom in my part-time, today I make (insert lavish dollar amount) and I’m still a stay at home mom…working part-time!”

I recall the motivational orientation.  (Flashback begins)

Que the 90’s upbeat dance music (let me add “cheesy,” too).

Now, put yourself in a hotel banquet room, with about 100 others.  Clapping.

The lights dim.  Except for the make-shift stage.

Some guy in a Miami-vice suit jumps up front with one of those stupid wireless microphones attached to his ear.

His overly enthusiastic smile is enough to make you want to chew your own face off!  (Kinda makes you wonder how you ever got there, better yet, how ANYONE ever got there).

THIS CAN BE YOUR LIFE!

Anyway, after a 30 minute rags-to-riches testimonial, and an unparalleled changing of this man’s life, juxtaposed with picures of the Carribean, the big cruise ship, and the new Porche (you know, it’s always the same picture of the Carribean, isn’t it?), you begin to think, “I want that life.”

“I can do this.”

“I just need three friends.”

“Yeah, piece of cake.  I’ll be the next motivational speaker!”

Three months later, where are you?  Or, let me personalize it, where am I? I’m on the phone trying to get the auto-pay option discontinued.  I have boxes of materials stuffed away and a long list of friends needing apologies.

The truth is, none of that should have any real lasting appeal.  Be thankful that’s not your life.  Did you know that the overwhelming majority of lottery winners end up right back in debt within years?  (See this article, if interested).  It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?  Maybe that’s why it’s been said that if all the world’s wealth was divided up evenly amongst the population, within a few years, we’d all be back in the same spots.

Personalize it for a minute.  Do you receive a “refund” during the tax season?  Meaning, instead of paying into the tax coffers, do you receive a hypothetical “bonus check?”  I worked with this young woman once who told me she got an $8,000 tax refund one year!  The irony was, just earlier she was complaining about not having enough money to fix her car.  I told her that $8,000 divided up over 12 months is over $600 a month!  The truth is, if she had been a better planner, she would have set up a cushion for an unexpected expense.

I guess one of the positive impacts of the “pyramid-dream” (let’s forgo calling it a “pyramid-scheme,” shall we?), is the emphasis it puts on PLANNING.  Yes, to get the future you dream of, you need to PLAN.

What’s your plan?

No, not financially.  Because, as you are already aware, money doesn’t buy you happiness.  However, as a good friend of mine recently counter-argued, “no, it may not buy you happiness, but it can buy to access to happiness.”  Really?  Is money required for access?  As if happiness is a theme park and only those who can cover the cost of admission get to partake?

Hardly.

Just earlier this morning I was at the school yard watching my son run to the entrance door.  As usual, I drove up to the playground, walked him across the street, and lifted him over the fence.  Then, over the next minute, as he runs toward the door, we engage in a battle of who can shout “I love you” loudest.

“I love you, Dad!”

“I love you, Vince!”

And, this goes on until he reaches the door.

Today, he got to the door, and as he usually does, he got the last “Love You” before heading into the building.  However, anticipating his “Love You,” I shouted before he did.  He laughed and walked in, but then behind the door, through the window, I see him wave “I Love You” in sign-language!

He won!

This was happiness!

Purely, happy.

And, there was no financial figure involved.

As, I climbed back into the truck and turned toward home, I prayed.  I told God that I was happy and thankful for the happiness that was overwhelming every fiber of my body.  I told him that I am honored to be the dad of the beautiful children He gave me, and that I am amazed at how much He loves me!  You see, God loves me so much that He sent His beautiful son to endure a death I couldn’t so I can receive a life I don’t deserve.  His son was beaten, bruised, and bloodied for the sins that I committed.

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

I can’t imagine sending my own child to anywhere NEAR the persecution of the cross, let alone for the sins that another committed.  Yuk!

Yet, He did.

Because, He loves.

It’s because He loves, I write.

I speak.

And, I live.

It’s not because of he who is in the world, but because of He who is in me.

God has a plan, too.  And, like the “pyramid-dreams,” you should tell at least three people!  Jesus calls it “the great commission.”

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:18-20

Some Christians would be better calling it ‘The Great Omission,” however, as they can hardly muster up the energy to proclaim their King.

Again, what’s your plan?  Are you part of the Commission, or the Omission?

Let’s draw a metaphorical hypothetical and find out.

You awake in the middle of the night to a roaring fire across the street.  The lot next to your neighbor’s house lit up and in just the time you jumped to the window the flames have already begun crossing the fence.  Within minutes your neighbor’s house is going to be caught up in this fire!

Your mind races through your friendly neighbor, his hospitable and loving wife, and their beautiful children.

Do you:

1)  Run out immediately, kick down the door Chuck Norris style, run up the stairs and save them?  Or,

2)  Let someone else worry about it?

Think about it for a minute.

Jesus called us to be disciples.  To lead.  To be the light of the world.

Where are we leading people?  Into the light!  Into safety.

See, Hell is an all-consuming fire (and don’t even begin to dismiss that argument claiming God isn’t hateful and wouldn’t send anyone to Hell!  Because He’s not hateful.  And, He doesn’t send anyone to Hell.  They choose it).  If we don’t warn others of the encroaching FIRE, they’re likely to BURN.  Seriously.  And, it really IS that simple.  People have a tendency to complicate religion, but really, Jesus made things quite simple.  There’s life and there’s death.  No middle.

You don’t have to be a trained fire-fighter to warn people of fire.  And, if this doesn’t offer total reassurance, you don’t even have to fight the fire (although, if your profession actually is a firefighter, please continue to do the awesome work you do!)!

As Jesus warns in Matthew 25, be as the homeowner on the lookout for the thief.  That is, be prepared!  Get your soul protected with the armor of God, and let Him extinguish the flame.  Just be on the lookout for others, and show them the light!

You are the light of the world.

-Matthew 5:14

Why This Christian is a Libertarian.

My stepson and I went shopping the other day.  I appreciate time with him because, in a way, I’m inclined to re-live my teenage years.  He’s 16, and things are becoming drastically new to him.  Well, admittedly, I am one of those NEW things having just married his mom 7 months ago.

Anyway, as we were walking back to my truck he asked,

So, are you still voting for Ron Paul?

I was impressed that he was motivated to discuss anything relatively political!  Here’s a kid who for the first 15 years of his life was told NOT to become involved, even in the slightest, in anything political (see: Jehovah’s Witnesses and their perspectives on “world governments”), asking about Ron Paul!  Wow — high five!!

I looked at him and with hesitation only long enough to absorb the awesome moment, said, “ABSOLUTELY!”

Later, it dawned on me that I haven’t been very forthcoming about my political intentions, which is quite odd since just 6 years ago I hosted one of South Eastern North Carolina’s most dynamic political talk shows!  Perhaps-no, definitely-it’s due to my newfound fascination with Jesus, His might, His preeminence, and His desire for my life.

So, there you have it, in a nutshell.  I’ve returned to my rather-naive political aspirations and, instead, adopted a zeal for Christ’s teachings.  After all, more times than not, Jesus tells me to:

Be still and know that I am God

–Psalm 46:10, or:

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

–Matthew 6:34.

Yet, there’s still a portion of me that peeks every so often upon the front page of a newspaper.  Or, perhaps I’ll click over to drudgereport.com, or via StumbleUpon I’ll come across an impressive–and political–blog entry, enticing debate.  And, to satisfy this remnant of rampant revolutionary ramblings, I’ve decided to create a quick-list for the politically mused.  It’s title is a dead giveaway.

Why This Christian is a Libertarian.

First of all, in today’s partisan-led political platform, there’s actually very little tolerance for anything outside of the mainstream core.  If, for example, you were to tell someone you held rather Conservative beliefs, but advocated the legalization of marijuana, chances are you’d receive a confused look and may even be outcasted.  Similar is my undying support for the nomination for Presidential candidate, Congressional Representative Dr. Ron Paul–despite the fact I’ve received criticism from my friends on both the left and the right for “throwing my vote away.”  (I’ll have to write about that another day!).

In 2008, I was part of a very active youthful campaign in the Carolina’s for Dr. Ron Paul’s Presidental campaign.  In 2007, on the air, I declared my support for him and hosted numerous social meetups, not limited to traveling several hundred miles!  Early in 2008, I had the opportunity to shake his hand, congradulating him on his steadfast Constitutional stance.

My friend, Matthew, Dr. Paul, and Myself in Charleston, SC

Yet, I was viewed as a “part-of-the-problem,” by other Conservatives.

In 2008, the GOP nominated the decorated veteran, John McCain to run against the inexperienced Barack Obama.  I believe, overall, members of the GOP felt the election of their candidate was going to be a walk in the park, banking on the gap in experience.  However, what they failed to consider was the drastically growing amount of young voters and even seasoned voters who were sharing a similar theory: “perhaps, the more experience someone has in Washington politics, the worse off they are?”

Nonetheless, my support for what was a “third-party” candidate was viewed, by many, as working against the only likely candidate who could beat Barack Obama.  Even after considering the liklihood of the possibility, I neglected to switch my vote, stood on principle and maintained a strong support for the Doctor.  In fact, not only did I stand strong in defense of my vote, but I challenged anyone to prove to me how Barack Obama and John McCain had any substantial difference.

Well, enough backstory.  Here’s a small listing behind the reasoning.

Libertarian Party = Freedom.

Reason #1:  Libertarians are the minority.  So are Christians.  Beg to differ?  Even Jesus forewarned of a narrow road and small gate for those who find life (Matthew 7:14).  Yeah, but why is that cool?  Because, I prefer a small amount of righteousness to a large amount of error any day!

Reason #2:  Libertarians value life.  Of course, this implies that all other parties don’t, and, perhaps…they don’t.  I mean, after all, it’s by your fruit you are known.  Let’s see: generally speaking, Republicans favor endless, and costly wars, and Democrats favor inexcusable, and inhumane abortions.  Woah–back the truck up!  Libertarians favor abortions, too.  No, they don’t.  Not the abortions permitted by Roe Vs. Wade (1973).  Libertarians, (ok, not all, but generally speaking) are opposed to unconstitutional and illegitimate governmental rulings.  The Supreme Court decision in the Roe v. Wade case was in excess of the Court’s own Constitutional authority.  According to the US Constitution, the power to make laws is vested in Congress and retained by the State legislatures, not the Supreme Court.  It’s really common sense:  why let seven unelected dudes determine the laws of your land?  The Libertarian Party is the only US political party with a platform of strong opposition to encroaching and overwhelming power given to the federal government at large.
Oh, and Jesus, He favors life too.  In fact, unlike ANY OTHER “politically-charged” opinion, being “Pro-Choice” is one motive that I can find ABSOLUTELY NO evidence of support for in the Scriptures.
So, the “Jesus was a Democrat/Republican” bumpersticker–yeah, not so much.  But the “Jesus Votes Pro-Life” sticker-now that has some validity!

Reason #3: Libertarians believe in self-control.  This one expands into a lot of things:  gun control, marijuana (drugs), health care, and so on.  So, I’ll be brief, and focus more on the Scripture.  While many like to view God’s Word as a list of “don’ts,” and often times they’ll recall (and misrepresent) the 10 Commandments, really, the basis for a Christian belief stems in the victory of Jesus.  Jesus came and fulfilled all the law.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

–Matthew 22:37-40

Now, what does this have to do with self control?  Well, God installed free will in each one of us.  He gave us the opportunity to turn from our sinful, default behavior and embrace the life He offers through the new covenant established by His son, Jesus the Christ.  However, that means you have the FREEDOM to choose NOT to.  Similarly, I have the FREEDOM to defend my home with a firearm, but I also have the FREEDOM not to.  The outcome is in YOUR hands.  Just like your salvation.  The opportunity is only there if you cast yourself into the hands of God (your SELF).

Reason #4: The Libertarian Creed: “Libertarians believe the answer to America’s political problems is the same commitment to freedom that earned America its greatness: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings; a dedication to civil liberties and personal freedom that marks this country above all others; and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade as prescribed by America’s founders.”

Christians can adopt a similar creed: “Followers of Christ believe the answer to every man’s problems is the same commitment to love that Jesus displayed on Skull Hill: an unconditional love and adoration that overflows the righteous and spills onto the unrighteous.  A love that begins with loving God above all things, and, therefore, loving others as oneself.  In doing so, foreign policies become personal policies.  Peace becomes natural and inclusive in all actions.  And, trade requires no regulation because it would, without a doubt, be fair.”

Be peaceful, my friends.

1,979 Years and 1 Day Ago…But, Who’s Counting?

The past seven days I’ve had a lot of “religiousosity” thrown at me.

First, I was being told that “not all who wander are lost.

Then, I was inspired to believe that there are “many paths” to God, or, better yet, God varies to each one of us.

Let me pause here and insert the following:

Yes, I know Christians, too, who hold their noses high in the air and reject, immediately, notions of an “inward enlightenment.”

Um, no. Prayer is dialogue WITH the living God, not TO.

Personally, while I disagree with teachings that suggest such, I make a whole-hearted intention to never raise my nose, bite my thumb (oh, yeah…I just went all Shakespeare on ya), or even reject such notions.  Instead, I find it far more beneficial to become inquisitive and just listen.  Maybe, this explains why I often find myself in the middle of “religious-debates.”

However, yesterday’s experience (Thursday) takes the cake…or the blue ribbon if you’re like me and don’t care much for dessert.

I was at work and found myself in the middle of a “religious-head-butting” of two co-workers.  On one side was the raised-as-a-Catholic-now-doesn’t-care-for-anything guy, and on the other side was the active and devot Jehovah’s Witness girl.

I entered and we nearly had all bases covered!

He was remarking on what was apparently the Pope’s most recent acknowledgement stating that this was the day (Thursday) that Jesus first instituted ‘The Church.”  Obviously, the Pope is referring to “The Lord’s Supper,”

Depictions of the Last Supper in Christian art have been undertaken by artistic masters for centuries, Leonardo da Vinci's late 1490s mural painting in Milan, Italy, being perhaps the best known example.

which, according to God’s Word, occurred at the end of the week beginning with Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  In the Catholic teaching, this provides the basis for the teachings on the Eucharist.  In short, this is the last meal Jesus shared with His apostles.  He presented a meal which signified His body which was to be broken for them, and His blood which was to be shed for them.  It was also during this time where He washed their feet showing that He came not to be served, but to serve.

To the Christian, in short, this prefaces the ultimate gift of salvation given to us, not by anything we’ve done, but unconditionally from our Lord.

My former-Catholic co-worker shared his recollection of the Pope’s story in a mocking-manner, and then my Jehovah’s Witness friend offered her version of the same story:

“Well, actually, tonight is the observation of ‘Memorial’ that we, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ regard as the time Jesus was tortured on the stake.”

For the first time, I’ll admit to being proud of a Jehovah’s Witness testimony of the Holy Scriptures.  Not, that I’m fond of her acceptance of an altered version of Jesus, my King, but I was proud of her willingness to step up against a staunch atheist.  Let’s consider for a moment, my own response:

______________

That’s right.  Nothing.  I just listened.  So, the point goes to the JW.

Now, I’m not particularly proud of that, but at the time I felt it was more important to just listen.  Perhaps, by being still, she will become more inclined to share her pattern of faith with me, and then maybe in dialogue she can become more familiar with the true living God?  Perhaps.

Then, again, perhaps I’m still gaining enough confidence to speak passionately about my Lord.

Nonetheless, what I found interesting was that despite the religious preference, both agreed that this weekend was a weekend of significance.  And, rightly so.

For, it is a fact that Christ was sent to Golgotha (Skull Place) and was crucified.  While, in the Roman courts, He was merely a man claiming to be God, and therefore, was sentenced to capital punishment, to the follower, He is the fulfillment of prophecy, the establishment of a new covenant, and our King.

Some prefer to criticize the Christian who acknowledges Jesus Christ as “King.”  One of my favorites comes from a writer over at asktheatheists.com who calls followers “foolish” for professing allegiance to a non-existant king.  Yet,

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

(1 Corinthians 1:18)

Clearly, God already prepared a statement for those individuals.  And, His “blog” was written first.

These same atheists have a hard time accepting the notion that the risen Lord was witnessed by over 500 people and challenge the Christian’s authenticity.  While the Christian is inclined to point to Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth (“After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.” – 1 Corinthians 15:6), the non-believer quickly dismisses such a statement and points out the obvious:

You actually don’t have the eye-witness testimony of 500 people claiming to see the risen Lord.  What you have is the written testimony of ONE claiming that 500 also saw Him.

Admittedly, this is a good argument.  They’re right.  Paul is just one man, testifying to the account of 500 others.  What’s to stop me from claiming that I saw Elvis, and not only did I, but 500 of my facebook friends did too!?  However, they’re missing the obvious.

First of all, let’s not forget that the risen Lord not only presented Himself to believers, but to naysayers as well (a point conveniently forgotten).  But, aside from that, consider that Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth was written around 30 years AFTER Jesus’s resurrection, and he emphasized the validity of his statement by suggesting they go and ask them!  They’re alive still, go ask them!  Consider for a moment the likelihood of even 5 people agreeing on something, let alone, 30 years later!  I just got done sharing a story of dialogue between 3 who have strikingly different viewpoints on “Good Friday.”  Paul’s saying, not just me, or the twelve, or these other dudes, but by over 500 others, He has been presented!  

I’m brought to another argument, often the dialogue between a Jehovah’s Witness and a Christian, and that being the debate over Easter.  The JW will suggest Easter is of pagan origin, and therefore today’s ritual hijacks the intended (and true) story.  This is how they get your attention, because, for a moment, they’re right.  It’s true.  Easter is of pagan origin, and some over-sized rabbit dropping chocolate eggs in your front yard (kinda gross when you think about it) has nothing to do with the story of Christ and His gift of salvation.  However, this is just an act of deception, because from there they’ll begin to tell you that He didn’t die on a cross (which, is insulting), and finally, they’ll invite you to join them for their ‘observance of Memorial.’  This occasion will occur at night, and more than likely in the conference room of a well-known hotel in town.  At this occasion, they’ll ramble on about their belief pattern and eventually pass a cup and bread, but with a condition: you must be one of the 144,000 righteous to partake in the Lord’s cup and body.

Wait!  Only 144,000 are considered righteous?

I’ll admit to fantasizing about being in that setting, with my t-shirt, spiky hair, and tattoos, and standing as the cup and bread are passed to me proclaiming, “thank God I’m forgiven!  Thank you, Lord, for remembering me!”  After drinking the juice and chomping on the bread, I can only imagine the looks of horror I’d receive, for which, I would hope at that point I would have the opportunity to share with them how God’s kingdom is big enough for us all.  That it is, in fact, God’s desire that none shall perish!

I’d probably be inclined to bring up the indisputable testimony of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who simply (and humbly) asked that the Lord to remember him in His kingdom.  To which, Jesus replied, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

BAM!  Salvation!  Just like that!

He didn’t need an ample amount of time on the clock in service for Jesus.

He didn’t need to drink the cup, or eat the bread.

He didn’t even need to go to church.

BUT, he needed to SURRENDER IT ALL!  He casted ALL HIS TRUST upon the Lord, and the Lord saved him.

Have you?  Have you casted everything upon the cross of salvation?

What’s needed?  Just a willing heart.

Don’t know enough verses in the Bible?  That’s ok.  The thief didn’t recite one verse.  He simply asked.

Ask God this today:

Lord, I am a sinner.  I know I’ve done wrong, and therefore, I know I am not deserving of your mercy.  However, I know you died for me.  You took my place on the cross.  You stepped in and paid a price I couldn’t pay, and that was the payment for my sin.  It’s because of you that I can step into the presence of God, and I so appreciate you for doing so.  Lord, like the thief that hung next to you, I cast my trust and faith into your loving, pierced hands.  Lord, work in me so that you may be glorified all of my days and teach me how to live for you.  Remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Look, it’s not whether you know Biblical accuracy.  It’s not how well you can recite scripture.  It’s not whether you practice pagan traditions, or totally reject them.  It’s about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal King.  Your savior, and your redeemer.

And, the best part is, a life filled by the King, is life indeed!

May you find peace in the Lord, today!

Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

(Isaiah 12:3)