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"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."  Hebrews 12:1-3

I was complaining to God about the load He had saddled me with, and He asked me the question, after referring to verse 2 here, "Whose joy was it that was set before Me?"  He went on, before I could answer, and asked me if He felt joy on the cross.  God then explained that it was our joy that was set before Him, helping to compel Him to do what was necessary, what was ordained, before the world began even, by going to the cross for us.
Are you being flayed alive?  Has your journey lost its joy; do you wonder where the gooey feelings come in, when you follow Christ?
The joy set before you was never yours.  The joy that comes through obedience, many times, is the joy of others, the joy they will have when you finish your course, when you continue on the path to your destiny, when you obey God and serve Him in the little things.  There was nothing simple nor fun for Jesus when He died on that cross, when He endured the shame heaped upon Him by others.
We gloss over the reality of scripture, at times, glamorizing the sacrifices we make, the hardships we endure, on the way to being Christians in this world.  It's not about you.  It's about others.  It's not about your ministry.  It's about those you minister to.
For the joy set before...you:  put yourself in His shoes, since we were crucified with Him (Romans 6:6), and realize that the Body of Christ is a functioning Body.  This is a corporate thing.  It's not easy serving God, in whatever manner you understand that service to be in this life.  The joy set before Him was our joy.  The joy set before you is for, well...just look around you.

Loving the Unlovely

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

Sounds great.  Really.  How about loving your enemies?  Family? The in-laws?  What about your online contacts, friends and family who may have stayed in their ideological neighborhood while you moved to a new address?

I find that loving people is easy.  I have told many people that I love them, and I meant it.  And not that rock star "I love you, too" platitude that enlives the audience but makes the knowledgeable want to puke in the aisle, or...in front of the television, on the carpet.  And my love for others is spiritual, because there is NO way I could love people I hardly know unless God had pointed my heart and mind towards them.

Please don't feel bad.  It's not as if I am lovey to y'all, all the time.  I can lose my patience.  I can feel the need to leave your presence, just as you enjoy leaving mine.

No man hateth his own flesh...this is so true.  But I want you to consider that, if we truly are the Body of Christ, then the Body is one unit.  If you poke me in the arm, you poke me.  By extension, if we are the Body, you are poking the Body, when you speak against another, or do something against them.  So loving works in the same way:  we love ourselves...so the reality is we must therefore love each other, since we are the Body of Christ.

This kind of talk drives me up the wall, because it puts the issue right in my face.  I can't turn away from the truth, however, that we are all connected, and that if God so loved the world, then it is possible for us to love one another, in Him.

TWI.  It means "time without incident".  I know that in the midst of all our commenting, liking, and friending, there are friends of friends who don't know us, don't know how we joke, how we talk, how we interact with others, and so there is always the possibility to get hurt by comments made.  In these instances, TWI is a great way to establish walls, without severing relationships (hopefully), in order to be respected and to help others learn how to interact with you successfully, and in a healthy way.  You cross a line, I set a fence up, and let you know.  Time goes by, and it happens again.  So another fence is set up, until you learn boundaries.  Eventually, you will either leave or learn how to respect me (and yourself, really).  It's easy here.  Just delete their comment.  They will know.  They can ask.

Sometimes you have to go further; some folks just think they are right.  I have severed relationships on Facebook, for instance; two people there, people I love and have loved and known most of my life.  Overall, however, I rarely have ever deleted a comment Ihave posted because I know my audience.  When I go on someone's page, I know how far I can go with them.  It's not my responsibility if their friends don't know me.  I just learn to...finesse my comments.  Eating crow isn't always bad, when you add gravy.

Loving the unlovely means that even those closest to you can hurt you.  We all carry secrets, and secret hurts, and even some wounds we aren't even aware of, but linger deep beneath the surface of our lives.  God closed Rachel's womb, but He didn't tell Jacob.  He didn't tell Leah, or even Rachel herself.  You do not know what drives the people who cross your path.  Sometimes your husband or wife, your fathers and mothers, or your friends have issues that are unresolved. Maybe you are the solution.  Perhaps you are to be God's instrument to save them, to help them, to heal them.  You may be His hands extended.

Just so you know...loving the unlovely doesn't always mean you will be loved back.  They are, after all (to you), the unlovely.  That can mean unloving, unwilling to love, and downright mean until the coffin lid closes over them or you.  Sometimes, most times, it is about you, how loving changes you.

The greatest love you can give?  Laying down your life for your friends.  It takes dying to your own flesh, to your own feelings, at times.  Then God added to this by telling us to love our enemies.  I think that covers the "unlovelies" pretty well.

I can go on and on...lol...because God always turns the apple a bit more to show me how little I do love others.  Here on Livejournal, loving the unlovely can mean scripting who sees your posts, your pics, and notes.  Some people get too religious, some people get too liberal, some people just...say crazy things.  Some people sent me a friend request on Facebook because they heard I posted nice pics.  Then I stopped posting pics.  I never hear from them.  lol

Loving the unlovely isn't easy.  It's hard.  It's a divine attribute, since God is love.  So aspire for greater things, a higher calling, and see where it takes you.  When you choose to love, you connect with God, and that is never a bad thing.

Finally...love is NOT a feeling.  It's a choice.  It takes will, it takes fortitude, it takes a mindset to truly love someone.  How do I know this?  Because we have the "unlovelies" in our lives!  It's easy to love someone who loves you back, who is there for you, who goes to bat for you, who sticks with you through thick and thin.  Try loving the one who doesn't love you back, who attacks what you say, who sets his or her will against you at work, in your neighborhood, at school, and even at church.  Love is a choice.  When times are hard, when relationships go into the depths of hell, and your love is tried by fire, choice is what keeps it there.  Anyone can bail.  It takes a choice to stay where you are, to battle through your adversity, to love beyond capability, and to love the unlovely.

There are times in my life where I have had to set barriers between my loved ones and I, where they crossed a line, and I needed to remind them.  Sometimes it gets messy.  You can feel like a hypocrite, and everyone views you as the perpetrator, and not the victim.  But love never fails, even when it is expressed by a temporary wall.

Most of us grow up not understanding love.  We throw the word around, but we don't really understand it.  It is God, really.  God is love.  You want a taste of the Divine?  Love, and strive to love.  Let it take you beyond your comfort zone, and you will go places you have never known before.

hopscotch box

From God's View

Have you ever wondered what God thinks of us?  We are His creation, we were created for His pleasure (which is more than some generic 'lifting His name up in the Earth").  When He watches us, what does He think? 

To be more specific, what does God think about our terminology, when we use words such as my "religion", my "faith", my "beliefs".  Not too long ago, politicians pushed away from the topic of telling the nation what they believed, wanting to use the limp excuse of "separation of church and state", and that it was a private thing.  Then, after a couple decades of avoiding the subject, they turned and embraced it in our last election.
What I want to explore has nothing to do with politics, but with God's view on religion.  To Him, He is life, He is the impetus behind our faith, our religion, our beliefs.  It isn't a separate topic to Him.  It is life, since He created all life.  I say I am a Christian, but it goes much deeper than that for me.  Christ is life to me.  I don't separate Sundays from the other days of the week, in terms of connecting with God.  God is an everyday relationship for me.  I don't visit Him like I would the in-laws, or have Him over for dinner once a week, or a month, or on religious holidays.
I believe God wants us to view Him as our life, not a small part of it.  I also believe that we would benefit greatly in adopting this mindset, myself included.  God isn't a part of my religion, He is a part of my life, and not in some segregated box I keep around to ward off zealous folks who like to poke around.

The Demise of Christianity, and The Rise of God

If we are to believe the April 13, 2009 edition of Newsweek, with it's cover spread entitled, "The Decline and Fall of Christian America", our way of life is about to change here in America.  We are on the brink of the end of religious freedom in America, a right given us in our Constitution, given to us by God, and therefore near the end of free expression of our faith as believers. (I still find it odd that non-Christians can disagree with us, but we will not be able to disagree with them)

I am told there is now legislation in place, ready to be passed, unable to be opposed, that will label the denouncement of homosexual practices and ideology as a hate crime.  So we will see shortly how long believers will be able to speak their minds before being sent to whatever form modern-day society chooses to be our lions.  What else will I no longer be free to say in our new, post-Christian society?

As I think about it, those early believers lived in a society dominated by a country where homosexuality, promiscuity, and the persecution of Christians were commonplace.  They saw the debauchery that thrived around them every day.  So I should not be shocked, and I am not, in the coming obliteration of my rights as a U.S. citizen.

So as we see the demise of Christianity looming on our near horizon, I have this to offer those who would still believe, and those who would like nothing better than liberal chaos to reign:  the only real signs of Christianity are love, forgiveness, and power.  The early Christians lived in an atmosphere of power, and miracles were commonplace, everyday fare for them.  Do you want to bloom where you were planted, in these United States of America?

I am not promising you a long life, or even a life free of the bars of prison.  If you believe, I promise you power, if you seek it, if you love your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.  If you place Him above your family and your freedom and opinion, I promise you power.  I can do this, because He already has.  I am just repeating what His Word says.  It is a promise of God I want to live in, to express in this world.

Our society has long lambasted Christians, particularly pentecostals, because their message never lined up with their lives, for the most part.  But overall, it was the absence of power, of miracles, in our daily lives, that created the climate we live in.  Do you want to see God rise in our nation again?  Do you want to see His name lifted up for all to see, to experience His presence in a mighty way?

Power is your path.  Not for earthly gain, not for revenge, but for love.  For love of our country, our countrymen, our world, for God to receive His just glory, power is necessary.  As Christians all over our nation get ready to either shut up or glut the jails and prisons to overflowing, ask for power.  Leave all your denominational dogma behind, hold to the basic truths of love, forgiveness, and the law of liberty, which keeps us pure, and reach for Christ, and Christ alone.

"Greater works than these..."  This is the promise of our Lord, and yet in our world today there are no reports of miracles breaking out, nothing that can be shown to the world as the undeniable imprint of a sovereign Creator on humanity.  We have power, but we do not use it, we do not believe in it, we have settled for a "sinner, saved by grace" mentality that only helps to keep us afloat, instead of swimming in the deep waters of God's immense ability.

I, for one, want to swim in deeper waters.  I want power, not to dominate, but to love, and to show the world who the real God of this world is:  Jesus Christ.

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Writer's Block: The Meaning of Freedom

I see freedom as being able to speak what I believe, whatever I believe, and not having it reduced to a simplistic form of hate speech by liberals.  I see freedom as being able to worship as I believe, as long as I am not physically impacting others by my beliefs.  Our forefathers laid down laws protecting these freedoms, with religious freedom and expression being at the top of the list.

To have the liberal sector of our society manipulate public opinion through the media is unconscionable; they white-wash all conservative interpretations of our nation's constitution as being biased and narrow.  With the notable exception of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, the authors of our constitution wanted a clear-cut message about religious worship not being controlled by the government.
Today we are being bullied by liberal forces bent on trying to separate individual morality from public service and expression.  Up until this election, the religious views of political candidates were squelched and avoided, mistakenly being labeled as a violation of church and state.  Oddly enough, because Democratic candidates are trying to woo conservative Christians to align with them, they suddenly have done an 'about-face', wanting to express their religious views in a public manner.
The truth is that no one can govern outside their personal views.  It is impossible.  You are what you believe.  Any view otherwise is ludicrous.
My view of freedom will always be framed by what I am allowed to believe and espouse publicly, without fear of reprisal.  This means being able to say others are wrong, and I am right, when our views mix in the public arena.

Freedom means I can say I disagree without being labeled as a hater, or 'phobic'.
What does freedom mean to you?

Our Journey

   There is a war raging around us.  Two forces vie for the hearts and minds of people, young and old, across our world.  Words fly back and forth, and those who battle with words are good at what they do, and very aware of what is at stake in this global conflict. 
   The principals in these public debates are scientists and theologians, and both parties are armed to the teeth.  There is a tacit, stubborn respect for each other, but the lines are drawn, even etched deep between them.  Atheists have joined with evolution to argue that there is no God, and theologians are fighting back to show that God does, indeed, exist.
   So great is the importance of this war, it has spilled out into the pages of our nation's more prominent, albeit liberal magazines.  I even watched a debate between a religious apologist and an atheist, and the mutual admiration between the two was palpable.  They disagreed with each other, for sure, but still were very polite in their debate.
   For myself, there is no argument.  God is real, and I have experienced and witnessed verifiable miracles that cannot be explained away by the unknown powers of the human body that lay still undiscovered by science.  But I do understand why there are those, intelligent though they may be, who question the validity of God when no one has seen Him nor known of a supernatural, verifiable proof He exists that can transcend human doubt and logic.
   The religious community has failed in communicating the power of God that makes all doubt disappear.  I include myself in their number, even though I now stand at the side and discuss our failings.  It is easy to disbelieve in the existence of God when most Christians do not believe in the deity of Christ nor believe that we, ourselves, are capable of supernatural acts and living.  
   We use terms such as "dispensationalism" to explain why certain ages of our existence since the life of Christ are different from each other, and why the apostles saw and performed great miracles when we see hardly any (and when we do, it is in some dark corner where it never becomes public as a witness to the power of God in us).  But Christ Himself asserted that we would do greater works than He did, and He did quite a lot of miracles.
  I want to live this life, and I want others to live it with me.  Power silences critics, and pure, loving power that changes lives really shuts their mouths or makes us martyrs.  Either way, the Truth is brought to light, and people see that.

More later. 
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The Separation of Church and State

The elections are coming around again, the primaries in full bloom, and once again the topic of the separation of church and state has come up in magazines and conversations.  There is not much patter about it, at least not as much as in the past, but it does weigh on people's thoughts.  As usual, the liberals and their media want to control the definition of this idea, moving it far from its authors' intentions and hopes for our country.

Religion is part of who each of us is.  This goes for the atheist as well.  What we believe shapes our decisions, our ideas, our way of thinking.  You cannot separate what you believe about life and how you go about it.  Eventually the two merge.  The idea that a person can live a portion of his or her life making decisions and acting outside the lines of what they believe is ludicrous.  And this goes for a Muslim, a Jew, a Mormon, and yes, even an atheist.  If a person does not believe in God, they obviously have a different moral compass than a person who does believe in God.

If I feel it is murder to kill an unborn child based on the fact that the Bible says that life begins in the blood, and science tells us that our dna contains our blood, then that is going to rightly influence my decision to ban abortions as murder.  If I do not believe that an unborn child is a living person until after birth, then it will make it easier for me to kill the child and not think it wrong.

We here politicians tell us they are going to legislate based on how they feel they need to, but how they "feel" is based on what they believe about life.  And what they believe about life stems from how they believe we arrived here on this planet.

It's interesting to note that the Democrats have learned this, to a degree, and are trying to assuage the fears of conservative Christians by talking about their individual faiths.  But faith, or lack thereof, is so integrated into our thinking that it is a part of our normal conversation.  Manufacturing sound bites to calm the fears of the people comes across as a bit antiseptic, and comical, instead of sincere.  The candidates can talk now, but four years ago they were against such ideas?

You are what you believe.  You act by what you believe.  Any notion otherwise is foolish.  The real intent behind such accusations lies in the liberal fear of control:  "I want to live my life the way I want to, regardless the outcome to others, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to control me".  Whatever feels good, do it.  

Do you want to live promiscously and not pay the price of an unwanted pregnancy?  Kill the kid and move on with your life.  Do you want to use these same unwanted children to further research and help the sick?  Take stem-cell tissues from the child as you kill it, and then move on.  Let your lack of conscience be your guide.

The hypocrisy is not in thinking that Christians want to force others to live their way of life.  The hypocrisy is thinking that liberals aren't doing that very thing, and have been for years.
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 Any person remotely aware of religious history knows that idol worship has played a major role in cultures for thousands of years.  Even today, statues of the virgin Mary and Catholic saints adorn churches and village squares all throughout the world.  In India there are thousands of gods worshipped, their stone or wood images prevalent throughout that country.  Buddha and Mary might be the world's most popular images, their likeness being seen in stores as well as religious institutions across our globe.

Mainstream Christianity has another idol it has been worshipping for years.  It is Jesus, God incarnate in the flesh.  Like an idol, we have given Him eyes, but do not believe He sees.  We fashion ears for Him, but do not believe He hears our prayers or other, more fleshly words out of our  mouths.  He has a mouth, but we do not believe He can speak to us.  We believe He only can communicate through obscure, poignant moments in our lives.  "Oh, God's trying to tell us something!"

We read of healing in the Bible, but do not believe God can reach out and touch us in a physical, tangible way.  We give Him feet, but do not believe He truly walks with us.  We have made Him into an idol, no better than any of these statues littering our lawns and dashboards and churches and towns.

Who is God to you?  Have you made Him into an idol?  How have you limited Him in your life?

Happy New Year!

Since I have found that this blog of mine doesn't attract a crowd, I do not have much to say as this New Year begins.  So I wil dutifully post some goals I have for this year.  They haven't changed much over the past few years:

I just finished a query letter to an agent that I will be sending out in another day or so.  I need to keep at this part of the writing business if I am to see my book in print.  To be blunt and real, only God will provide the agent, or the publisher.  I do not meet the criteria desired by many agents and publishers in regards to my background.  I am a non-graduate from college, I am not an established speaker or known in any realm of my book's category of topic.
I am no one to everyone but God, and I believe He gave me this task to do, this message to speak on, and He will have to open the next door.  But I have to do the paperwork, and to keep knocking.

So continuing, more aggressively, at this project is very important this year.

I buy books, and do not read them.  I need to turn off the television and read.  If I am not writing, and not attending to my family's needs or desires, I need to fill in the time better with reading and writing and getting projects done around the house.

I need to do both of these to move on in my life.  Both will bring me closer to my objective.

The only other goal I consider important enough to list would be to get a website designed and up and running to compliment my writing.  Since I am not an established personality in any regards, I do not raise a blip on the Internet radar.

Have a Happy New Year, and a blessed one at that! 
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It's a birthday today

Today is my eldest son's birthday.  Micah is seventeen, and will be driving us to my sister-in-law's house an hour away.  It will be the second time he has slid behind the wheel of a car to drive, the first time having been yesterday after he first received his permit.  I will be attentive.  For everyone's health and overall sanity, my wife will be tucked away in the back seat and hopefully engaged in a medical book of some kind on the way.

Micah is a future force to be reckoned with in this world.  He is a junior in high school, and all of the courses he takes are college-equivalent, which means they will apply to his college credits.  He will be at least a year ahead of many of his college classmates when he attends whatever university gives him a full scholarship, or something close.  He has a wide array of interests, but his goal is to be involved in aerospace engineering.  Math is simple to him, he grasps complex problems easier than most folk.

It has been a good holiday week for me.  The boys and I put another coat of paint on the downstairs room, and I have sent off another book query to a literary agent.  It would be good if I could send one more out before I head back to work on Wednesday.

Enough of the update.  Cody is playing with a new game he was given for Christmas that allows him to train a show dog.  He can actually input voice commands on his game, and has trained his dog to do simple tricks.  The dog's name morphed from a game-given Maxwell to Cody's more simple Bob.  I do not recall Bob's breed.

Off to her sister's for a second round of Christmas.  Go LSU Tigers!
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