Tag: politics

Fear and Loathing in 2017

As we enter 2017, I am astonished about the level of fear and loathing among us.

I guess I sfear_and_loathinghouldn’t be.  It has been the theme of 2016.

The angst is palpable.

Many people fear the future.  Fear based upon speculation and the unknown.

In an age where most media sources are proven to not be trusted, I cannot believe how many people base what they believe on biased information and on an agenda to be close minded… even though they claim to be open-minded and free thinkers. The internet is full of “fake news” sources, all designed to skew a person’s belief and perspective.  It is intentional and calculated. And most of all… it is effective. 

Many people base what they believe to be true based upon what they hear on a podcast or read on Facebook.  Their news sources and range of perspective is narrow. Meaning that they are all listening to the same biased podcast or source. They believe that they, themselves are the smartest person they know or at least the smartest in the same room as them. Anyone who disagrees with them are considered unintelligent and ignorant.

Do these people ever consider that all they are doing is adding to the fear and loathing?

An example of this is the latest news story of “voter fraud” in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  I cannot tell you how many people were convinced that this was a “true” story.  After Jill Stein raised over 7 million dollars (twice what she spent on her campaign) to do a recount in those states.  We know the results of those re-counts… Trump actually gained votes over Clinton.

I could go on and on about all the different aspects of this past election year and the fear and loathing that is out there.

People are having a hard time with accepting the truth.

All of us have trouble accepting a difficult truth. It’s human nature to see what we want to see, especially when the truth makes us uneasy. But acknowledging and exploring the truth can liberate us and lead to greater opportunities. 

One of the great challenges of life is just the simple task of living in this moment, living a “present tense life.” There are two great enemies of accepting truth. One is “the fantasy of what could have been,” and the other is “the fear of what might be.”

Let me address each one of these for a moment.

The fantasy of what could have been– We all live our lives looking back to the past or ahead to the future. It’s rare that we live in the present tense. One of our enemies is the “fantasy of what could have been.” We will often look with a longing for a change because of our present adversities…

“If only I had married the other person,” or “If only I had finished college,” or “If only I hadn’t made that horrible mistake” then life would be great.

Thoughts race to alternate present reality because of our dreams of “if only.” Dreaming about what could have been can be a wonderful diversion, but it’s ignorance of the reality of truth.

The truth is that there is no “if only.”

There is only what is.

Accepting truth’s that you don’t like is one of the hardest things to do.

Dreaming about an alternate life that would turn out different is a fantasy that brings nothing good to our present situation. It only makes the “now” harder because our fantasy solutions would have eliminated our real dilemmas and the need to trust the Lord with our real problems today.

When you are tempted to visit the land of “if only” make the decision not to go. It’s a trip that only brings disappointment to what is your life right now.

The fear of what might be– The other problem I see many struggle with is “the fear of what might be.” They are experts at worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet. As it pertains to Donald Trump, he hasn’t even been sworn into office and people are wailing and predicting doom.  It happened with Ronald Reagan too.

Those fears and impending doom never came to fruition.

If you are living in fear of Donald Trump… your faith is weak.  You knowledge of the Bible is soft, or at least became soft.  Do you really think that electing Trump as our President is a surprise to God?

There is no way any of us can see the future, so for us to worry about it before it ever gets here is a clear lack of faith in God to care for our tomorrows. It also shows that people have stopped reading their Bibles and have based their beliefs and perspectives on other sources. 

 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”   Matthew 6:34

Jesus clearly said, “don’t worry about tomorrow.” He knew we were tempted to do this, and warned us against it. Fear of what might be often keeps us from walking with God and trusting him RIGHT NOW. We miss the joy of a walk with God in the present tense.

We each must live a present tense life intentionally. The distractions of fantasy about the past and fear about the future will easily get our attention away from a walk with the living God right now. I mentioned the word “walk” intentionally. It’s the word that the Bible uses to talk about our lives of faith. The Bible calls it a walk because there are some wonderful present tense elements to a walk that will help us stay focused on the now.

A walk demands a destination, but it can only be done one step at a time, one foot on the path toward the goal, one decision at a time to reach the goal. A walk demands a present tense life. That word, walk, often helps me get back to “now.”

control-what-you-can-controlThat is why God implores us to keep our eye on and press towards the mark of following Christ.  If you are so worried about the future, you obviously do not want to accept what the Bible says about the future.  It’s in His hands.  I cannot worry over that which I cannot control… those are the things I need to trust God that He has it under control. 

As you go through each day of 2017, living your life and find yourself buying into the temptation toward fantasy or fear, stop for a moment.  Focus on things that really matter and what you can do to control them.  The balance is trust and dependence on God to take care of the rest.

It is then called having “Faith” and not fear and loathing.

I hope you truly have a great year and I hope that all of your fears are tempered by a loving God and that our faith grows deeper in Him each day.

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Under the Influence

It’s been a year.

One year since I received the call that shook me to the core. 

My best friend from my high school years took his own life. 

I was devastated.  I was confused.  I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret.  I was angry.  I was ashamed.  I was frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was all of these things and more. 

I had already been reeling from the loss of two of my best friends that had passed away in the previous two years.  I was now facing a third pillar of my life being taken from me.  

Bob Emrich, Brian Blakely and now Steve Schueren.

I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren.  My third pillar in my life.  Steve was my closest high school friend.  I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God. 

It has been a year… and I so wish I could hear him once again debate the political issues that we face today.  He would have had a field day and he was never at a loss for words when it came to politics or his faith.

All the memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered.  All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.

<To Read More About Steve Click Here>

Bryan Blakely was my childhood best friend.  The first pillar in my life.  The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life.  Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together.  Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio.   He died in June of 2009. 

  <To Read More About Brian Click Here>

About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen years.  My second pillar.  He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life.  Our father/son relationship lasted for years.  Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally.  God took him home after a battle with cancer.  He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday.   There is no doubt of his influence in my life.

<To Read More About Bob Click Here>

The pain and loss that is associated with the loss of these men is huge.  A mother shouldn’t have to bury a son, a wife should not have to lose her husband and children should not have bury their father before their time.  All three of these men were gone too soon from this life.  They are missed by many and I have to admit that over the course of the past year, I have felt sorry for myself.  I just could not understand why God chose to take those in my life.  I looked forward to growing old and having those pillars in my life for a long time.

For whatever reason, God sometimes allows people to be taken very quickly from us.  Many times, so fast that we never get the chance to say the things we needed to say.   I am still shocked and in some ways I am still not over their loss.

But this is one truth that I have come to appreciate.   I still find myself under their influence.  I can still hear the laughter and the voice of Bryan as I think of the memories of my childhood.  His humor and his perspective on not taking life too seriously will always be imbedded in my memory.

I find myself listening to music and hearing Bob’s voice encouraging me to be better man.  I can see him giving me the cheat signs that we had made up in order to win at our epic Rook battles or laughing so hard at times we couldn’t speak at the crazy stuff we did.  His influence on me as teenager trying to find his way in life has transcended into an influence that still makes want to be a better man.  He is still here with me… the signs are all around me.

It is no different with Steve.  His influence is still evident in my life.  I became a better student of God’s Word because of Steve.   I still do things that I learned from him from way back in my high school years.  Most importantly, he is part of my “Great Cloud of Witnesses” that is mentioned in Hebrews 12:1.

I am still under their influence.

This has caused me to think about what it means to influence others.

I looked up the word “influence” and the definition says:

“to affect or alter by indirect or intangible means; to have an effect on the condition or development of.”

To have an effect on the condition or development of.  That’s huge!!!  All three of these men had a profound effect my development.

I feel a bigger responsibility today as a result of my relationship with them.  As if I need to re-think decisions that I am making or things that I do as possibly having an effect on others, whether positive or negative.   I need to ask myself what kind of influence am I having on others.  What kind of influence do I have on my wife?  How am I influencing my children? my friends? my co-workers? Will they feel my influence after I am gone from this life?  It’s a little overwhelming to contemplate that I could have the same effect on someone’s condition or development, just like the influence of these men had in my life.  

I hope the Lord continues to teach me how to be a man of influence.  To be someone who is to be remembered.  My hope is to be that better man… that better friend to someone.  To be a voice of influence. To be a shoulder for someone to lean on. To be the one who encourages… to be one that spurs others on to greatness.

Until that happens…I am thankful to always be under the influence of Steve  Schueren… Bryan Blakely and Bob Emrich.

I thank them for the time that they shared with me of their life  and I am forever grateful for the legacy that they passed on into my life. 

For now… I am still here.  I look forward to re-uniting with all of them one day. I cannot help but smile when I think of it.   Steve will offer me the seat next to him… Bryan will be telling stories and Bob will be playing music and sitting at the table with a deck of Rook cards in his hand with a big smile on his face.

I look forward to that day…

Know Your Enemy

We are in a war, but it’s not the war we are trying to fight.  In most cases, we really do not know who our real enemy is.

It’s not a battle between Republicans and Democrats.

It’s not a battle between conservatives and liberals.

It’s not a battle between Christians and Muslims.

It’s not a battle between gay and straight.

It’s not a battle between “us” and “them”.

These are the battles we are fighting in the Christian world we live in, but they are the wrong wars, the wrong battlefields, attacks against the wrong enemies. 

This week we fought a battle that many made into a war.  I believe that it was the wrong war to fight but none-the-less,  Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A,  had stated his opposition of gay marriage.  This started a battle among those that agreed and those that opposed.  The outcry from those that disagreed, took the stand that as a CEO of a major company such as Chick-fil-A, he had no right to express his feeling nor was he allowed to spend his money to support groups and organizations that were against gay marriage. It became more about his beliefs as opposed to what the battle was really about.  It was, in my opinion, a battle about “free-speech” not gay marriage.

What followed was a call to support Chick-fil-A by standing up for your beliefs by purchasing a chicken sandwich.   Most critics said that we as Christians and as a church failed to show love to those we disagree with. While I agree we missed an opportunity to show love… wasn’t this really about free speech? The freedom to believe in what one wants to believe?  It just so happens that this event was based upon a comment about a belief about gay marriage. It could have been about anything but it became all about gay marriage and our chance to “show love”. I am not sure if it was a “failure” of the church as some stated.  I would say it was a missed opportunity to do something more than reduce the chicken population. There is a distinct difference between “failure” and a “missed opportunity”.

The Christian world I live in has chosen to fight the wrong war, focus on what is not the enemy,  oppose what isn’t the real problem at all.  All the while the real enemy prospers and smiles at our foolishness.  He has masterfully misdirected our attention at the wrong things. We are indeed in a war…I pray we realize who the real enemy is and focus our attacks in the right way, with the right weapons at the real enemy.

Our battle and our war is not against the gay community.  Jesus showed love to sinners and was “despised and rejected” by most. We could have done nothing except try to show love to the gay community and do you think that would have made it a victory for the church if that message would have been rejected by almost all of them? God’s dealings with the gay community over history has not been one that I would say is filled with tolerance but that is another discussion.

Maybe we should have a had a day of volunteer community service to show our support for free speech… because that is what this was really about. How long of a line of volunteers do you think that might have been? A lot shorter I presume…because people wouldn’t have got a chicken sandwich at the other end of the line.

God hasn’t changed his views.  He still says marriage is between a man and a woman only.  He still says that sex outside of marriage is wrong.  He still says that homosexuality is sin just as lying and stealing are sins.  Even as I type this I know I will be the subject of our inverted morality and be called a bigot, someone opposed to “marriage equality”, but I’m not.  I view the world right side up and refuse to agree with those that try to turn the world upside down around me.  

There is still evil and good,  dark and light, bitter and sweet and these things  do not change simply because the culture doesn’t like the way God describes right and wrong.  Yes, I realize I live in a culture and world inverted by sin, but I still have to declare to the world around me that all of this is upside down.  This is not the way God wants us to live.  Nor is it the war that God wants us to fight.  Even if the upside world around me doesn’t like to hear it said it’s still upside down and inverted from the way God designed it.

We are taking swings at the symptoms and not at the real enemies.  We find ourselves boxing shadows and completely missing the real enemies among us.  It is a war of the worlds, but not the one we fight now.  Here’s the real battlefield, here’s the real enemy.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”           -Ephesians 6

I’m sure our real enemies are thrilled with the shadow boxing we are doing….swinging at what is not the real enemy at all…and all the while our unseen enemy continues the fight.  

Our battle in never with people, let me repeat that….our battle is never with people…it’s always spiritual and with an enemy unseen.   If that enemy can get us to focus our attention on the wrong battle, the wrong enemy, the wrong battlefield all the better for him.

In this world of misplaced wars, I pray we see what the real war is about, who the real enemy really is and how we are to respond.  The real war is for the souls of men, the real enemy is the devil, and the proper response for us is love and prayer.  Those are the “weapons” that will change the culture around us and deal a death-blow to the enemy’s plans.

The real battlefield is spiritual.   The real war is spiritual.

And the real war is fought in prayer and with love for others, regardless of their sin.