Media Bias . . .

I have been hearing that quite often, but last week I saw it. Last night South Korean National Security Adviser, Chung Eui-yong, announced at the White House that Kim Jong Un of North Korea has requested that the President of the USA meet for talks. He stressed that Kim is interested in denuclearization and that sanctions would remain in place until an agreement is reached. “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze.

This is the first time in his six years in office that he has raised his head above the trees, and will certainly be his first meeting with a leader of another nation. Each morning I read a considerable amount of on-line news. One would think this was a major news story for a world at risk of nuclear war, but there is not much about it in print.

There are, however, several stories about Obama in negotiations with Netflix about directing some films. Go figure . . . 

Different Beliefs . . .

As I got in the pool, I spoke to my lovely friend, Pat. She introduced me to her friend Tracie. I inquired about the whereabouts of our sweet friend, Shirley. Pat told me that Shirley and family had traveled to the Houston area to attend funeral services for her niece. I inquired about the niece and was told that the young lady had been quite ill for several years.

I said that in my faith such a passing was something that I pretty much viewed as a blessing. I told the ladies that I believe that “absence from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5: 8) means that when a Believer passes from this life he or she immediately enters into Heaven. My friends are LDS and I wasn’t certain of their beliefs about the afterlife.

The ladies quickly replied that they do believe that “absence from the body is to be present with the Lord” does indeed mean that the person immediately enters into the presence of the Lord, but they did not view that presence as occurring in Heaven proper, but rather in “the spirit world” where the person “continues to improve until perfected.”  I found their comment and belief quite interesting, but still I prefer my own belief as I see it as being “that a Believer is made perfect in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

None of my rambling is meant to slight these dear ladies in any manner. I am extremely fond of each one of them and greatly enjoy their company in the Pool. I love their willingness to share their beliefs and openly discuss them with me. I always appreciate their kind, cordial willingness to listen to me as share my faith . . . and I genuinely believe they give me a fair hearing.

I chuckle and often think that typically LDS ladies and evangelical Baptist Sunday school teacher dudes don’t often become dear friends . . . but that sure has been our story. I don’t know that much will ever really change for any of us about any of our beliefs as we go forward in time, but I do think that our kindness and respectful regard to and for each other models the Master’s command to “Love you one another.”

I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that the Lord is not pleased when folks are rude and caustic with one another. I am glad . . . I really do like my sweet friends . . . I really do like their kindness and gentle nature. I know they love me . . . and I sincerely appreciate that.

Charley . . .

I met Charley in the pool this afternoon. He is an affable fellow with a midwestern accent. As we got acquainted during our water walking work-out, I learned that he is a farmer from Illinois visiting here for a couple of months. His farm lies alongside the Mississippi River and his crops of choice are corn and soy beans. He is a well-read, well-traveled fellow, and it was pretty obvious that he was well off financially . . . he just had that certain reserve about him that speaks of such.

As we talked, I told him that I had spent time and had traveled to Chicago many times over the years. I told him that I had done my seminars at the Ambassador West Hotel . . . he was well familiar with the grand old hotel that had been located on State street, just a couple of blocks south of Lake Michigan. We spoke of favorite dining places . . . with both of us particularly fond of Mike Ditka’s steakhouse.

I chuckled and told him about having once been bumped down a couple of floors because of Dennis Rodman renting the top two floors of the hotel. He was well familiar with the Bull’s and Rodman’s years there.

Charley told me that he had been studying the crime spree in Chicago for some 60 years. He educated me about notable crime figures from days gone by including Al Capone, Dean O’Banion, Bugs Moran, and Tony Accardo. He was quite knowledgeable about Chicago crime, the prohibition era, and the mafia. He spoke of the evils of that era and how the media and Hollywood had tried to make it seem romantically interesting and something of charming folk lore. He spoke of the evil democratic politics of the times and how poor people were exploited. He said that there wasn’t much difference in then and now . . . except that was organized crime back then . . . while today Chicago is tragically impacted by thugs, gang violence, murder, and drugs.

It was interesting hearing a fellow who had observed it all over a lifetime speak of his observations and opinions of it all.

Regardless of which era it occurs in, it is all sin and speaks of the evil and cruelty men inflict on others. Actually, quite a sad commentary of the human race.

Wisdom . . .

Paul wrote two letters to the new Believers in the ancient city of Corinth (a cosmopolitan city in Greece) . . . they were people who placed a high value on wisdom . . . and were proud of their wisdom and world view. In chapter 6 of the first letter (vs 6) he says, “I speak to your shame,” and then he asked them, “Isn’t there one wise man among you?”

What did Paul mean with that question? Did he simply want to shame them? Of course not . . . he was challenging them to put on their thinking caps and seriously consider who they now were “in Christ.”  He knew they needed to understand that things were significantly different within the Kingdom of God than they are on earth and in typical human reasoning.

He then described a variety of people and lifestyles in verses 9 and 10, and said that many of his readers had once been just like that and had lived in that lifestyle. But he declared that the Lord converts that sort of folks described in verses 9 and 10 into the kind of folks he described in verse 11. He declares that the Lord accomplishes that in a confessing sinner’s life by first “washing” that confessing sinner, then sanctifying him, and then by justifying him before the court of God. He isn’t just implying that a Believer is simply declared not guilty . . . but rather declared as “Just” . . . meaning just as if I had never sinned!

This morning as I study for the series I am teaching, I am struggling to get my mind around the troubling truth that the numbers used to measure cultural norms – actually the ways and more ways of our generation actually reflects little difference for those who are church member as opposed to those for non-church members . . . A new Barna Group survey says that areas such as divorce rates, folks admitting to viewing graphic sexual materials, treatment of others, and work ethics is not much different between the two groups.

It seems to me . . . that is true because many Believers today are just as ignorant as those confused Believers in Corinth all those years ago. I would argue that the Church has not been nearly as effective in teaching morals, doctrines, and sacrificial living as the culture needs to it to be.

What do you think?

Pray for Peace in Israel . . .

. . . the instruction in Palms 122:6.

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks on Monday, March 5, in Washington, D. C. that offer a chance to project a common front against Iran . . . one of several sworn enemies of Israel. Over the past couple of years, the corrupt and evil religious thugs of Iran have vowed to “blow Israel off the face of the earth.”  Moreover, Iran has invested itself heavily in Syria and its warring factions . . . simply because it provides a border with and easier access to Israel’s mainland.

You can rest assured that not everyone is in agreement with King David’s instruction in the Psalm cited above. But here are a few reasons why a Cristian should agree with King David’s call for pray for peace in Jerusalem:

  1. Because Jerusalem is the center of the universe from a Biblical perspective. It occupies much of the attention of the Bible as it zooms in on geography. It is the place where Jesus spent much of His time on earth . . . it was the place of His crucifixion, and according to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, it is the precise place where He will come at His Second Coming.
  2. Because the re-establishment of Israel is a testimony and sign of the faithfulness of God.
  3. Because many of the Jewish people are coming to the Messiah. Hebrew-speaking congregations are growing, and many younger Israelis are coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah!
  4. Because it was through the Jewish people that God gave the Bible and the Savior to the world. It seems to me that as Believers, we owe them a debt of loyalty and appreciation. Even further, the Jewish people’s history, hard-heartedness, and rebellion, has served as a model of ‘what not to do’ for some 2,000 years of Church history.
  5. Because Israel is by far our best ally in the Middle East and the only one upon on whom we can really depend in that area. Israel has for 70 years faithfully demonstrated that loyalty and friendship.
  6. And last, but certainly not least, is because the Jewish people are and have always been “The chosen people of God!”  You might say, “I don’t get that” . . . to which I would reply, “Nor, do I,” but I do accept it and acknowledge it. See Genesis 12:3 . . . I believe God never abandons a promise He has made. I don’t need to understand it all, but I believe I will do well to accept and believe . . . even when I can’t understand.

As they gathered in D.C to try to hammer out a path forward in this dangerous and troubled world, both of these great leaders were under dark clouds of suspicion and allegations created and promoted by their political enemies . . . which I fear testifies that the enemy does not want peace on earth and goodwill amongst men.

Pray for peace in Jerusalem . . .

Counter-Culture . . .

In the late 1960’s various sociologists, behaviorists, and leaders in academia took note of how my generation rejected many of our parent’s generation’s norms and traditions. Theodore Rozak introduced the term counter culture-in his book The Making of a Counter Culture. Major shifts in the American culture and attitudes occurred as those of my generation moved into places of authority and influence. Not everything that followed was good . . . but then again not all of it was bad either. As I look back on it, I realize that morals dipped to a new low for individuals, but collectively there were some gains on the moral front. The ‘free love’ thinking, the ‘If it feels good, do it mentality,’ Woodstock and war protests, and the lure of illegal drugs resulted in serious problems for many individuals and families, but that generation went to work on addressing the sinful treatment of Americans of color.

My generation had a large impact on the world in several regards . . . morals, policies, practices, norms, behaviors, culture, education, and music.

Do you know that the Church, in many ways, has always been called to a counter-culture movement? When Jesus prayed in John 17 that His followers would be In the world, but not Of the world, He set the Church on a counter-cultural course. He called for His followers to have holy attitudes and Godly lifestyles that run counter to the self-centered, selfish life styles prevalent in in worldly culture. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:24, “Now those who belong to Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

It is a sad commentary of the Church that many individuals and congregations do not strive to live up to this high calling. Sadly, rather than serving as a counter-cultural force in the world, we are looking like the world . . . more and more. Studies show that there is little difference in areas such as divorce and common-law cohabitation between Church members and non-Churched folks. There is unquestionably a steady increase in the acceptance by Church folks of premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, and pornography in entertainment. We surely have a higher tolerance, injustice . . . and we get caught up in the materialistic drive for wealth, fame, and power.

Last Sunday I started a new study of Paul’s two letters to the First Baptist Church at Corinth. The Church was young at the time Paul wrote his letters, and the members were immature. The city was a cosmopolitan area with serious moral problems . . . it was a prominent city in Greece in which the main religion in town had long been practiced in a sinful temple in which sex was openly accepted and prostitutes were openly offered to those who came to ‘worship.’  For the life of me, I always think of the City of New Orleans as I think about Corinth.

Our communities desperately need to see us, as the Church, living and behaving as if we are expecting Jesus to return any day . . .

The Second Amendment . . .

I support the Second Amendment (actually I pretty much support all of the amendments). I am a gun owner and own several dozen guns ….. hand guns, long guns and shotguns. In my 50 years of gun ownership I have never once used a gun in an unlawful manner, or in any way that endangered life, health or property ……. mine or others.

I support and appreciate the NRA.

Al of that being said, I want to add my two cents to the National debate about guns. I think:

….. There must be improvements in background checks process
….. there must be restrictions on gun ownership by the mental ill
….. automatic weapons sales should be limited to select individuals
….. schools should be made safe (more on this below)
….. the military should conduct self defense training for citizens
….. gun free zones are a joke and should be eliminated

The military could be instrumental in training the average citizen on how to be prepared to step in and help in troubled situations. Moreover, that process could help to identify, screen, and weed out the troubled amongst us who have an inclination toward weapons and things related to warfare.

I am confused over the struggle to make schools safer. It seems to me ….. that entry into a school ought to be limited to one entry point which is controlled and monitored by video surveillance. The use of bags and backpacks should be denied. It seems obvious that in implementing such a system, a potential danger could be spotted and confronted long before he reached the entry door. Israel took action after a school shooting 40 years ago and their system has worked well. We ought to study and that implement that model.

In spite of my support of the First Amendment, I would argue that so called celebrities ought to be instructed to shut up on this matter. They certainly ought not have any influence in the debate as they live with armed guards in their gated havens.

I am glad to get that off of my chest.

The Pool . . .

I meet the most interesting folks in the pool. I am unable to use my own unheated pool during the cooler months so I use the large, heated community pool . . . 75’ x 75’, in Rockport. When we are at the Burnet house, I go to the YMCA which has two large indoor, heated pools. There are a few lanes reserved for lap swimmers, but much of the pool is left open for water walkers and those just doing general work-outs such as Yoga and aerobics. I like the water walking. I usually walk within a group and use water weights. Sometimes there are only a couple of us but other times there are several . . . today, there was about 40 of us.

This time of the year there are folks here from all over the country. As I parked my car, I spotted a very large man and his wife getting out of their pickup truck. As we walked together from the parking lot to the pool, we got acquainted a bit. His name is Steve and her name is Cindy and they are from Minnesota. Steve, while a nice, friendly fellow is truly a giant. As we worked out, he told me that he was 7’ tall . . . I estimated his weight to be about 425! He wasn’t really a fat guy, he was just very large. As I watched him move, I could see that the load had taken a toll and slowed him down . . . his movement was both guarded and measured. He was not the largest fellow I have ever been around . . . but he is certainly the largest in many years.

I was reminded that when I was a high school kid, the Church I attended in El Paso brought in a fellow to meet with our large youth group. He was billed as the Christian Giant . . . and he was truly a giant . . . 7’8” and 465 lbs. He actually played in a number of monster movies in those years along with traveling the country visiting Churches and sharing his testimony. As I shook hands with my new friend Steve, I was reminded of that morning 50 years ago when several of us big strong football players went up to hang out with the Christian Giant. I remember him reaching out that huge hand . . . actually larger than a baseball glove. When I shook hands with him, I felt like an infant must feel when he places his little hand in an adult’s hand.

The Lord makes folks in all shape, sizes, and colors.

Tragic . . .

Sunday morning I closed out the study of the Bible book ‘The Acts of the Apostles’ which I have been teaching on Sunday mornings over the past few months. The title of the last lesson was “Always on Mission,” and focuses on the Apostle Paul and his always being prepared, alert, and willing to take the initiative in presenting the Gospel message . . . to one person . .. or to a group. In addition, the Rev Billy Graham passed away this past week. He was much like Paul in that he was always alert, prepared, and willing to present the Gospel.

Over recent weeks, my heart has been quite heavy over the pain that humans inflict upon each other . . . parents in California chaining 13 of their children to beds, school shootings, inner-city street violence, and wars around the world. All of which screams out that humanity has a serious problem . . . and it is a problem that only the Gospel can address, answer, and cure. That is of course the reason the both Paul and Dr. Graham were so focused on their God-given assignment.

As part of my lesson, I wanted to gather some stats on such pain and suffering humans do to one another. My research led me to an online site simply known as romans322, which is a running, real-time accounting of deaths in the USA. The numbers reported are from January 1 to this present date. The number one cause of death in the USA (by a wide margin) is abortion . . . mothers permitting someone to murder their babies in the womb! I asked Sandy if she might type the list for me since she is a much faster typist that I. As she spent about 20 minutes in the study working on the task, she was horrified as she watched the number of abortions click away by 7 or 8 every few minutes. As she called out her shock at the rate at which the tally increased, it spurred me to do some research. I was flabbergasted to discover there are some 3,000 abortions per day in the USA . . . that is 125 per hour . . . and 2.083 per minute. A group of bad people have been successful in altering this tragedy from being a moral issue into a political issue . . but that certainly doesn’t change the truth of it . . . it is sin and it must surely break God’s heart.

Equally tragic is that over $500 million tax dollars is being reported as given to Planned Parenthood annually. There have been reports of investigative reporting that claims Planned Parenthood is actually harvesting body parts from these aborted babies and selling them on the black market. Perhaps the saddest part of it all is the lack of outrage over it . . . we simply turn our heads and pretend it does not exist, and it does not affect us. What was it Dr. King said?  Oh yeah . . . it was “The tragedy is not so much that the children of darkness do this evil, but is that the children of Light remain silent!” We are truly living in a fallen world and there is matter of great urgency . . . sin . . . and the consequences of it . . . and that people need the Lord.

We ought to always be on mission . . . it is the Believer’s marching orders from the Master Himself.

Appreciating President Trump . . .

I have been catching a bit of flak from some folks over my appreciation of the President. I couldn’t care less about the negative feedback, but do think I ought to identify some of the things that I appreciate the President has been doing, so here is a partial list:

  1. He has been pretty effective in changing the direction of the Washington system from liberal to conservative . . . and that has been huge. Perhaps that has been the key to President Trump’s remarkably successful first year;
  2. He has been effective in changing the speed of government from the routine, slow, change-avoiding pace of bureaucracy to the high-tempo, innovative, constantly accelerating pace he has moved at . . . and it has been impressive. Continued improvement and adjustment to the fast-pace of technology will be the key to success in the next three years. This directional shift will unquestionably be an on-going challenge;
  3. He appointed and placed a conservative justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, seated a record number of appellate-court judges in his first year;
  4. He achieved an all-time record for repealing regulations. At the National Space Council meeting on Wednesday, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Director Neomi Rao said the Trump Administration has cut 22 regulations for each one it created;
  5. He worked with Republicans to deliver a dramatically pro-growth tax cut, which generated immediate proof of its power through the reaction of the business community: and
  6. Again and again, President Trump has managed to make gains in moving the Washington system away from a liberal direction and more toward a conservative direction. There is still a far distance to go, but the movement is in motion. An engineering principal is applicable here . . . that being that it requires greater stress and energy to set a stationary object into motion than it requires to maintain said motion once established.

Now comes the real test – changing the deeply entrenched traditional system of bureaucratic processes and procedures into one that is entrepreneurial, dynamic, adaptive, and flexible. Over the past 40 years, I have been amazed to see how lazy and unproductive career government employees can be.

Early into the Obama Administration, my group was awarded a large training contract by HUD (which was forced by the Inspector General’s office and problems revealed in the Agency audit). Our mission was to train the HUD staff (12,000 plus) over a 12-month period. Our training group was amazed at the resistance we encountered as we went into the HUD offices. We were reminded that the current vast system of government is inherently bureaucratic, change-resistant, and closed to new ideas. We were reminded that entrenched bureaucracies get used to what they are doing and the routine habits and rhythms at which they operate. They are process- rather than product-oriented. They are activity- rather than achievement-oriented. They measure inputs (although never enough) and rejects the concept of measuring outputs. They regard metrics as arbitrary measures that prove they are busy, rather than benchmarks that demonstrate their progress. Simply stated, the system is self-serving and hates change. Turning the tide will be a huge challenge . . . but Trump is a very successful businessman and his appointees are as well. They have run businesses that had to compete in the marketplace and perform at a high level, and continually cut dead wood out of the organizations.

One example of this struggle I have taken particular interest in has been Rex Tillerson, the former hard-driving, brilliant CEO of Exxon Mobile as he took over at the State Department. That huge Agency had been under John Kerry and Hilary Clinton for eight years. Here is a guy who successfully operated one of the largest, most successful businesses in the history of the world taking over a giant agency that has been under the direction of a couple of career politicians, neither of which have ever had a minute of success in the business world. Mr. Tillerson has set off a shockwave through the State Department . . . and some folks have been jumping ship. I am looking forward to seeing the talent he brings in to replace them with.

Change is in the air . . . and I am liking it!


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