Sweet Mary Jane, Some Facts On 420

The following conversation was overheard between a street preacher and a heckler. Evidently the street preacher had said something negative about marijuana, so you know somebody’s going to jump to the defense of their precious Mary Jane!

Heckler: Ok, who created marijuana?
Preacher: God did.
Heckler: Well, since God created it, there’s nothing wrong with me smoking it (Proceeds to high five his friends who all think he burned the preacher).
Preacher: God created poison ivy too. So why don’t you go take your clothes of and roll in it!

Today is 420, the chosen day for hedonists to celebrate their favorite weed. I don’t think it likely I’ll be able to convince anyone who smokes marijuana regularly that it is a bad idea. Weed is now considered by many to be not only safe, but healthy. This is not an objective conclusion. You can read studies that demonstrate marijuana’s destructiveness when used in a chronic way (pun intended), and studies that tout marijuana’s helpfulness in assisting cancer patients with nausea, for example. As is the case with many things, the truth about weed is likely found in the middle, not at the extremes of opinion.

The source of marijuana’s capacity to make someone feel “high” are cannabinoids that mimic brain chemicals. This is why young teenagers are particularly susceptible to the siren song of Mary Jane, since their brains are in development.

Here are some excerpts from neuroscientist Marc Lewis in his book Memoirs of an Addicted Brain:

“Cannabinoids are specialized neurotransmitters released by neurons that have only just fired… in some parts of the brain, cannabinoids increase the firing rate of the neuron that has just released them….By increasing the action of neurons that are already active, cannabinoids cause each thought, each response, each act of perception or imagination to magnify itself… The cannabinoid receptor system matures most rapidly…during adolescence…. teenage thinking bears an uncanny resemblance to the delusional profundity of a marijuana high…Even when they’re not stoned, adolescents live in a world of ideation of their own making and follow trains of thought to extreme conclusions, despite overwhelming evidence that they’re just plain wrong” (exerpted from pp. 51-53).

So, let’s relax all the “weed is safe” rhetoric here. Marijuana is a powerful drug because it changes the way your brain works. By the way, that’s exactly what prescribed psychotropic medications like Xanax, Zoloft, Celexa and Ativan do, not in the same way, but all of these drugs affect how your brain functions. In fact, so does alcohol (There’s an interesting chapter on this in Lewis’s book). Therefore, it would seem caution, perhaps extreme caution, is in order when deciding to put these chemicals into your body and brain.

It is quite ironic, in an insidious sort of way, that many who smoke marijuana and tout it’s positive medical benefits, vilify cigarette smoking. The irony comes in two forms: one, the idea that sucking smoke from one plant into your lungs is healthy while doing the same with another plant is not; and two, consider that the exact claim being made about marijuana’s health benefit was also made regarding cigarettes in the earlier part of the 20th century. The only healthy substance that belongs in your lungs is clean air, not smoke from a weed or the leaf of a tobacco plant.

What about the medical benefits of THC? Should it be administered to help, say, epileptics if it is shown to slow or stop seizures. Absolutely, yes. However, that’s a far cry from the majority of medical marijuana prescriptions being written. Quite frankly, the medical marijuana industry is largely just a cover up for those who want a legal way to get high. The reality is, some doctors write prescriptions to make more money. I have anecdotal evidence to illustrate. My sister, who is now deceased, saw a doctor for years who prescribed a long laundry list of drugs for her to take, many at her request. Taking a high quantity of so many different drugs was very destructive to her health, but this doctor didn’t care about my sister, just his bottom line. I mention this in the event that someone is tempted to leave decisions about their health to the judgment of just any doctor, especially a doctor who writes a large quantity of prescriptions for marijuana, or other psychotropic medications.

Now, you might assume that someone with opinions like mine would be opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I don’t think it is healthy, but neither do I think it is any more dangerous than alcohol. This country went through some violent times during prohibition, and there are parallels between the distribution of illegal liquor in the 1920s and the violent drug cartels that supply marijuana today. I am interested in seeing some hard data that demonstrates how legalization has impacted Colorado and other legalizaiton states, not just economically, but how it has impacted usage, especially among teenagers. I really don’t want to smell weed on every corner, but I don’t like the violence associated with it’s illegal sale, nor do I believe those who smoke it should go to jail.

What about you? Believe it or not, I didn’t write this to judge you or tell you what to do with your body. I write it as a counterpoint to the rhetoric you’re likely to read online. I will say this, if you are buying weed (or any other chemical) from a drug dealer, you are supporting organized crime and violent cartels. You share responsibility for the deaths of thousands in Mexico. If you want to smoke marijuana, move to a state where it’s legal and buy it from a store. Put these violent gangs out of business. Quit supporting organized crime with your habit.

Be informed. It has been proven that chronic marijuana usage, particularly in teenagers, lowers one’s IQ.  Marijuana Lowers IQ Smoking weed also lowers motivation, inhibits memory and learning.

Make an informed decision. As for me, I’ve never possessed marijuana and I’ve never smoked it. I don’t intend to start, not even if it becomes legal.

The Prince of Disappointment

We sing about being the king
of excuses….
Today I say that I am
the Prince of Disappointment.
Little has happened as I had hoped.
Every week I revive my expectations,
but find out at the end I’m still fettered.
It seems we’re stuck in the dark
of Good Friday night,
even though the promise is heard,
Sunday’s on the way!
I could stop believing and leave,
walk out into the musky dusk
of self-indulgent insanity,
which would only serve to prove
my faith to be little more than a wish
unfulfilled.
Sight or experience don’t produce faith.
Rather, those who truly believe see,
and somehow I believe
and somehow I see,
even if I’ve yet to experience.
So I wander around this graveyard
on a never-ending Friday night,
and I set my hope on the Savior who rose.
Sunday’s comin’; yes, I believe

Sunday’s on the way!

Love, Forgiveness, Justice, Wrath

“God is love” (1 Jn. 4:9).
Love is the determination to act for the best interest of the beloved. (CS Lewis)
What is in a person’s best interest: not merely what gives the beloved pleasure, not merely what they want, but what is best for them? Love is meaningless unless God knows and is committed to do what is just and right for human beings, and for each individual person.

Therefore, in order for God to be love, he must also be just and right.
Thankfully, the Scriptures affirm on more than one occasion that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice (Ps. 89:14 & 97:2). This means justice, not power, is the basis for God’s authority.
Forgiveness may be considered an act of love, assuming there is justice. Apart from justice and a standard of right and wrong, there is nothing to forgive. Further, in order for forgiveness to be a genuine act of love, there must be an appeal to God who will make all things, including the offender, right.
Therefore, we look forward to Judgment Day: some with trepidation, others with longing. The world is not just or right, but the God of justice will make everything right on that fateful Day (see Heb. 9:27 & 1 Cor. 5:10 among several passages).
Wrath is God’s response to injustice and unrighteousness. It is apropos for a personal Creator who loves deeply to be angry when injustice and evil is perpetrated against himself, his creation and those made in his image. This is not a temper tantrum, and it is not a merely emotional reaction to being offended. God’s wrath is a personal response of justice toward evil, injustice and unrighteousness. It is measured and pure. It is destructive where reconciliation and restoration are rejected, and when his love is scorned in favor of hatred or willful disbelief and disregard of his authority, plan, and design.
Forgiveness comes at a price: propitiation.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Propitiation means the God of love made a way for justice to be satisfied, sin expiated, and for his wrath to be turned aside. That way is Christ, who died on the cross for us and for our sins (Rom. 4:25, 5:8, 1 Cor. 15:3), and who rose to conquer death forever (1 Cor. 15:26, 54-55, Heb. 2:14-15).
Therefore, every Christian who understands what it means to be saved will affirm the words of the scorned hymn Christ Alone, which state:
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

And I write:

So, we go outside the city,
Where our Savior was led
To sanctify us with his blood,
And we bear the scorn
From civil and vulgar alike,
For in Christ alone we find salvation.

Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

Jesus looks up

21 Things Accomplished
by the Cross of Christ

  1. Substitution– Justice was accomplished when Christ paid the death penalty we owe for our sin (Rom. 3:25, Col. 2:14, 1 Pet. 3:18, 2 Cor. 5:21).
  2. Propitiation– Turning away God’s Wrath. God poured out all of His anger against human sin and rebellion on Christ, so that He is no longer angry at any who are in Christ (Rom. 5:9, 1 Thes. 1:10, 5:9, 1 Jn. 4:10).
  3. Expiation– Christ took our sins upon him and died, thereby removing sin from all who are in Christ (1 Peter 2:24, Heb. 9:28).
  4. Redemption/Ransom- The Death Penalty is the price for sin. Christ paid the penalty that gave Satan power over us (Rom. 3:24-26, Heb. 9:15, 1 Cor. 1:30, Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14).
  5. Rescue/Salvation- Another way of viewing redemption. We are saved from the power of sin and death, and from Satan and the destruction to which he and the world under him are destined (Hebrews 2:14-15).
  6. Reconciliation- Our sin made us God’s enemies, Christ’s cross makes it so we can be friends with God (Eph. 2:11-14, 16, Col. 1:20).
  7. Restoration of the Imago Dei- Christ’s death and resurrection result in the restoration of the image of God in a reborn human being (Rom. 8:29, 1 Cor. 15:49, 2 Cor. 3:18, Col. 3:10)
  8. Justification– We receive the righteous life Christ lived on earth when we put our faith in Him and His death for our sin. This is both positional (ie. judicial) and actual. God judges us right in spite of our weakness because He looks at Christ, who is our atonement, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit gives us rebirth and makes us like Christ continually in actual experience (Rom. 3:24-26, Rom. 8:2-16).
  9. Christ Became the Curse- Similar to propitiation, but focused on the curses that fall upon those who rebel against the Law. By becoming the cursed one, He frees us from every curse and makes the way for the righteousness that comes by the faith of Abraham (Gal. 3:13-14).
  10. New Covenant in His Blood- A covenant was established by the promise of the lives of those who enter into it. If broken, the oath taker’s life was forfeit. Christ shed his blood to guarantee the covenant for us. All we have to do is trust and receive (Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8 & 9, Luk. 22:20).
  11. Made the Old Covenant obsolete (Heb. 8:16, 10:9).
  12. Last Will and Testament- Christ wills to give the promises to those who believe in Him (Heb. 9:16-28).
  13. Imputed Death- Christ’s death is transferred to His followers with the result that they overcome sin in actuality, “I have been crucified with Christ…” (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 6, 1 Pet. 2:24)
  14. Victory over Death- Christ faced death faithfully and fearlessly and beat it, so He is the “firstfruits of those who are risen from the dead” with the result that His followers no longer have to fear death (1 Cor. 15:53-56, Heb. 2:15)
  15. Rendered Law of (Sin and) Death Powerless- “so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men.” Athanasius (On the Incarnation, ch. 2), see 2 Corinthians 5:14
  16. Established the Pattern of Obedience- “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22), ironically by sacrificing himself on the cross in obedience to God, Christ replaced the sacrificial system and the covenant of the Law by establishing a New Covenant based upon his own obedience unto death (Phil. 2: , Heb. 10:5-10). When we put faith in Christ we are seen as obedient children even before we are fully obedient, but we live in obedience to the Spirit’s leading (Rom. 8:2-4).
  17. Sanctified Us- We are made holy and acceptable by the cross of Christ (Heb. 10:
  18. Proof of God’s love- Christ’s death on the cross proves God’s love for humankind (Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 4:10).
  19. Pattern of Suffering- Christ suffered in this world to identify with us and leave us an example of how to deal with suffering (1st Pet. 4).
  20. Release of the Captives- Christ freed the captives in Sheol; that is, those who died before He came to earth (1 Pet. 3:18-20, Eph. 4:7-10).
  21. Fulfilled prophecy concerning Messiah (Psa. 22, Isa. 53).

Lent & Fasting

Today is Fat Tuesday. That’s the day before Lent starts. The season of Lent is a time many Christians choose to fast. In 2017 Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1st (Ash Wednesday) and extends until Easter Sunday, which is April 16th this year.

 The following are some reasons for fasting, and not just for Lent. Fasting may be beneficial at any time.

1. DEDICATION. Fast as an Act of Dedication-  After his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. He did this as preparation for entering into his ministry. Perhaps fasting gave him clarity as he intensely focused on the Father. This provided confirmation that He was the Son of God who had come to save the world. You may fast as an act of dedication to the Lord, and to seek confirmation about his calling in your life.

2. DISCIPLINE. Fast as an Exercise of Discipline-  Learn to say no to “me.” All of the temptations were for Jesus to act expediently and egotistically. If Jesus had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but, rather, the wildly alternating swings between self-doubt and presumption. Our consumer culture is about self-indulgence, not self-discipline. It is about pursuing pleasure and satisfying desire. This is why we’re overweight and in debt. It is important to set limits for our time, money, eating and drinking. Lent is a good time to discipline yourself in one or more of these areas.

3. DEPENDENCE. Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence upon God-  Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation demonstrates this. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3 as quoted in Matthew 4:4, also John 4:34). When I give up something I truly want, I will need God’s help to keep my commitment. The third affirmation of the AA 12 Steps recognizes our need to do this. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God…” This is essential if you’re to overcome a particularly stubborn habit or addiction.

4. DETERMINATION. Fast to Establish Determination-  Believing is not a feeling. It is an act of the will. Believing genuinely means I am willing to do something about it. Additionally, faith must endure or it’s worthless. Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. Jesus’ disciples encountered a boy whom they could not help. When Jesus cast out the spirit that afflicted the child, his disciples asked him why they were powerless. Jesus replied, “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21). Not everything happens instantly. In fact, most issues require determination and tenacity to overcome. Remember, although faith is an act of the will, it is not about willpower. It is about trust. I must be determined to continue to trust God, no matter the circumstances.

5. DESPERATION.  Fast as an Act of Desperation-  We must come to an end of ourselves if I want to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I must realize how truly sinful I am, and how depraved I will become without God’s help. I’ve got to take sin seriously. Cry out to God in repentance (Joel & Israel, Jonah and Ninevah). “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12 NIV). I need to hear from God at all costs (Daniel 10 & 21 days of prayer, David seeking the healing of his 1st child by Bathsheba).

6. DETOXIFICATION. Fast as a means of Detoxification- Because of constant exposure to an impure environment your body collects all sorts of toxic and destructive substances. Consider Daniel and his friends who would not eat the meat and rich food offered them by their Babylonian overlords. Instead they ate only vegetables and drank only water. They were healthier as the result. A vegan or even vegetarian diet that allows only organic foods can be a healthy way to rid your body of toxins. When you abstain from food altogether, drinking only water, especially for longer periods, the digestive system and liver and kidneys can be cleansed of accumulated poison. The same applies to your mind. When you remove TV, movies, video games, godless music, social media, you give your mind the opportunity to rest. Replace these things with worship and saturation in Scripture.

7. DIET. Fast regularly to Diet- Limiting the amount of food you eat is a means of controlling calorie intake. Most of us eat too much. We take in more calories than we burn off, so we gain unneeded fat. Periodic fasting if done in moderation and balanced with a healthy, calorie controlled diet, is an effective tool in losing fat and maintaining a lean body.

Whatever you decide to do, remember the following principles.

  • Choose something that will really require discipline to give up.
  • Be consistent. Discipline requires consistency to take hold and be effective.
  • Giving up what you shouldn’t be doing to begin with is not fasting, it’s obedience.
  • If you make a commitment to God, keep it. Better not to vow than to vow and not keep it.
  • It is not a good idea to make promises to God, better to rely on his promises for you. So, you aren’t fasting to get God to do something for you. Trust him to help you through.

Soon Enough You Will See

Soon enough, sons and daughters,

You will see with your own eyes

What the Lord has done.

The true will believe.

Mere seeing is not believing,

But believing is seeing,

And I see and say to you who have hears:

Listen!

When testing comes, the false scatter,

An invading nation takes captive,

those who long for the world.

Yet a remnant remains

True to the Truth,

And faithful to the faithful.

We have been weary:

Beaten down,

But not defeated.

Now, the time has come

to favor Zion!

Today is the day of salvation;

Now is the time of God’s favor,

For those who will believe.

Build the House!

Build up, build up,

the road my people!

Clear away the stones,

And fill in the pits.

Clear the way,

Then Shear-Jashub will come.

The called out are called together

To Be and Build the Temple.

And the desired of all nations will come,

Then the Desired of nations above them.

The latter glory of this House

will be far greater,

And the latter rain will come.

We will shout: Glory! Glory!

To the God of glory

Who will fill the House!

Soon enough you will see,

And believers will realize:

It is the Lord who has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes!

You Won’t Get It Until It Happens to You

Inspired by an incident 18 years ago today…

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

Shake your head at the perp being led

from the cop car in cuffs.

Just shrug off the one shot dead.

After all, he deserved it.

Validate the stereotypes of your set.

Identify with your race, your income, your politics.

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

It was cold that night back in ’99,

2AM when the police pulled us over,

four friends ironically

on the way back from a donut run.

Why? I asked the officer.

“For changing lanes and making u-turns.”

But I never got a ticket.

No, something worse went down.

The big cop was a bully

and I was incensed at the injustice,

What I said was,

(and under my breath):

“You’ll see me in court.”

The bully had good ears

and appeared at my window,

“What did you say?”

I should have said nothing more,

but my wounded pride repeated

my powerless threat.

The bully changed that.

Made me get out of my car,

searched me spread eagle on his hood,

then sat me like a criminal

in the back of the police car.

Then the big cop

gave me a long talk.

“We can pull over anybody we want,

whenever we want.”

I stayed quiet,

but it was too late.

They turned a deserted street

into a stage that night.

Pulled me from the cop car,

and marched me out but not far.

The rookie cop cuffs me in front of my friends,

while the bully who gave the speech pretends

to find something

in the back seat of his own cop car.

With a fast sweep of a long arm,

he reaches down and then,

like a magician produces

into the cold thin

air of a February night

a charred plastic baggy.

“Your youth minister’s a doper!”

he slandered loudly

to the gape-mouthed young men

in my car.

It sounded like a joke

or a B movie line,

but he waved his charred baggy

to prove the lie.

The cops made my passengers walk

in the middle of a cold night,

even though one offered to drive

my car.

The cops maced him

and took the two of us jail.

For what?

Possession of what the officer

actually had in his own possession.

My life changed after that night:

even though I was innocent,

even though my first and only drug screen

was clean,

even though I passed

a police polygraph,

even though the DA dismissed the case

without me having to plead.

For too many people an arrest is enough.

Innocent until proven guilty?

A reputation can be ruined by an accusation.

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

So don’t jump so fast

to those conclusions

Sometimes the “guilty” are not.

Sometimes the good guys are not.

But you won’t get it until it happens to you.