Category Archives: Editorial

Spiritual Stupor

“God gave them a spirit of stupor, 

eyes that would not see 

and ears that would not hear, 

down to this very day.”

The quotation is from Isaiah 29:10 as used by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:8. For those who have been around church and heard teaching from the Bible again and again, yet failed or refused to do anything about it, this verse is a stern and fearful warning. The more you hear and fail to respond, the harder your heart will become.

In Mark’s Gospel Jesus quotes from Isaiah (6:9-10), which has a similar meaning.

And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that “they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”‘”

This passage uses hyperbole. To quote FF Bruce, it demonstrates “the Hebrew tendency to express a consequence as though it were a purpose….” It means, in effect: “Go and deliver my message, but don’t expect them to pay any attention to it. The effect of your preaching will be their persistent refusal to accept what you say, to the point where they will have rendered themselves incapable of accepting it.”  (Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, p. 100)

In his foreknowledge God realizes who will reject his word when it is preached, which is why these prophetic expressions seem to be God’s purpose, rather than consequences of personal human response. While we rightly think of those in Christian lands as being blessed because of the many benefits afforded them by virtue of a historically dominant Christian ethic, there is also a downside. Those who hear the Gospel again and again but fail to believe it become calloused to the things of God. Jesus taught using parables for many reasons, but one was so that unbelievers wouldn’t understand. However, parables are memorable, and not just for the faithful who do understand. Even an unbeliever will remember the story, and if that person becomes interested in pursuing faith at a later time, the Holy Spirit, who is at work within their heart will give them understaning concerning the parable.

God doesn’t capriciously choose to make some people receptive and harden the hearts of others. Rather, it is the willingness or unwillingness on the part of each individual to pay attention and believe, or reject and disbelieve God’s Word that results in a harder or more receptive heart. Those who choose not to believe will become increasingly insensitive to God’s Word when it is preached. “They trip over the stumbling stone, as they were destined to do” (1 Peter 2:8). In other words, unbelievers will naturally stumble over the Gospel of Christ, because being offended by Jesus is the natural destiny of those refuse to believe God’s Word, and who disobey its plain teaching. We see this regularly in our world today.

The more you listen and fail to heed, the less you will be able to hear, understand and remember. Call this spiritual Alzheimers. Dementia and Alzheimers may be slowed by persistently exercising your brain: read and write regularly, solve puzzles, think! Physical exercise helps slow this process as well. Mental and physical inactivity allows the brain to die. The same may be said of the spiritual: we need to exercise by listening, studying, memorizing and above all obeying the Word of God.

Jesus said, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. (Mark 4:24-25).

The more attention you pay, the more that investment pays dividends of further revelation from God. The less attention you pay, the less you will understand, or care to. Eventually, your lack of faith will result in great loss. What you once knew will be in doubt to such a degree that you forget it. You will become spiritually insensitive and replace that with sensuality. “Having lost all sensitivity they have given themselves over to sensuality, so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19, NIV). Sensuality may take the form of sexual immorality, pleasure or thrill seeking, and drug or alcohol addiction. All this because you failed to pay attention to the Word of God and believe what you heard.

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The Wrath of God

God may still pour out his wrath on people who have rejected his Son and persist in doing evil.

Many times our first impulse is to think that God is punishing people by sending natural disasters such as tornado, hurricane or earthquake. It is never that simple. It was once the province of Christians to speak of God punishing or judging groups of people for their sin, but now we have celebrity prophets. The latest to offer an opinion is Jennifer Lawrence, who believes that hurricanes are hitting southern states because Mother Nature is angry with Trump voters. Apparently Ms. Lawrence is a priestess of the Great Mother.

There are many other reasons why disasters occur, and the primary purpose is to bring people to the point of hope in God and his promise of heaven. God may also use trouble to correct his people, and test our faith.

However, we cannot dismiss the possibility that God may still punish people by pouring out his wrath. Salvation is first and foremost salvation from God’s wrath. What happens when people continue to reject God’s solution for sin? What happens when they persist in doing evil? What happens when they call evil good and good evil? We see all of this happening in the USA today. Are we foolish enough to believe that the Judge of all humankind will fail to act? This is the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their perverse sexual evil. This is the God whose “soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5). This is the Righteous Judge who clearly states that he feels indignation every day because of violence and evil (Psalm 7:11). This is the God who inspired the Apostle Paul to write in his letter to the Romans:
“The wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (1:18, NRSV).
The wrath of God IS revealed.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to turn away God’s wrath from all who will believe. Since Christ’s resurrection we have been in an age of grace. That is why God’s wrath is not yet poured out in full strength on all evil and injustice. However, there are times when God acts. We must not automatically make the assumption, the oversimplified assumption, that God is angry with a community because they face a disastrous storm. However, we cannot automatically dismiss the possibility either. God is sovereign and just. He should be feared. The biggest problem today is that people do not fear God.

“a time to plant and a time to uproot what was planted…” (Ecc. 3:2)

Let’s look at the case of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It would be easy to assume that the debauchery of the Big Easy provoked God to pour out his wrath on the city. I am no prophet and am unwilling to state that that was God’s primary purpose for Katrina. However, neither am I willing to dismiss the possibility. I will say that many who were in extreme poverty in New Orleans were driven out of the city and have settled other places such as Garland Texas, where I live. Many of these folks were given new lives and fresh starts as the result of Katrina. Perhaps most would rather the storm never happened. It is likely many would have preferred staying in their city to being forcibly uprooted. God had a plan. Perhaps the Sovereign Lord disciplined the city. If so, did anybody learn? Have they turned away from sin and evil. Where is the fear of God?

God may also send or allow disaster or tragedy to bring us to our knees to repent and seek him. Jesus addressed this very issue, and it is recorded in the Gospel of Luke.

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. (Luke 13:1-5).

So, as America faces the second catastrophic hurricane within a week, as major wildfires burn in four western states, do people recognize a need to repent? I believe Jesus would say, “Do you think the people of Houston are worse sinners than other Americans? Do you think the residents of Montana are worse sinners than other Americans? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, this may happen to you.

The most powerful earthquake ever to hit Mexico struck a few days ago, killing 64 people. Do you think the people of Mexico, or the city of Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where 36 died and a third of the homes collapsed, are worse sinners than people in North America, or other nations in Central or South America? To this Jesus might well say, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

You and I live in a dark, dangerous, cursed world. Certainly we see the beauty and order of its origin. The weather in north Texas is beautiful today, Fall is coming, the air is cooler. A couple of weeks ago we saw the perfection of God’s original creation via the solar eclipse. However, two years ago a tornado swept through Garland and Rowlett, destroying hundreds of homes and taking half a dozen lives We’ve been hit with destructive hail and floods in recent years. Did we learn what God was trying to teach us? Have we had a change of heart and mind as a result of our own calamity?

Do you realize that although God’s original creation is perfect, this is a fallen world, which lies under God’s curse. Are you still seeking fulfillment here? Do you still love this world? “Do not love the world or the things in it! If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you!” (1 John 2:15, cf. James 4:4) We need to be saved, my friends. We need to become part of the new creation and the coming kingdom of God. And we need to live our lives as exiles and strangers here on earth (1 Peter 2:11). This old creation longs to be set free with the children of God.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, no willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:19-22, ESV)

Are you one of God’s children? Have you received the Lord Jesus?
“To as many as received him, those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be children of God” (John 1:12). One day there will come a great renewal of the earth and sky, and we who have been made new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), will live forever the presence of God in his new creation. This isn’t heaven, friends, but heaven is coming!

If you have faith in Jesus Christ, the suffering here is as close to hell as you’ll ever get. If you don’t believe, the beauty here is as close to heaven as you’ll ever get.

What about our nation? Is God saying something to America right now? I believe the Lord has always protected this great nation, because it was founded on faith in Christ. It has always been imperfect, but God has kept us safe because of the faith of his people. Today, America has moved further and further from her founding principles, fewer and fewer people have genuine faith in Jesus. God briefly lifted his hand of protection from America on September 11th, 2001, and evil came rushing in. Do we realize how often God turns evil away from our nation? Do we understand how blessed we’ve been? How often does God intervene and keep disaster, tragedy and evil from befalling us?
America, America!
God shed his grace on thee!
Why have you turned your back on your God? Get ready for more disasters, more tragedies, more evil.

What must believers do? We must pray. We must believe in a good, loving and just God, who is angry with wickedness, violence and injustice every day. We must all repent. Everybody needs to be saved! In an age of grace God’s goal is always for all people to turn to Jesus Christ. especially when he chooses to allow or send calamity upon a community,
“… not wishing for any to perish but that all come to repentance”
(2 Peter 3:9).
“There is therefore no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

To escape God’s wrath of God, fear Him, repent of your sins, run to our good and loving Father, receive Jesus Christ into your heart now. Put your hope in God who promises that you will never be separated from his love, no matter what (Romans 8:28-39).

Pray for our nation to repent, and hide yourself in Christ until the wrath of God passes by.

“Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer” (Isaiah 26:20-21).

Rule of Law

So, you don’t like the way things are going? You don’t like President Trump? You don’t like Confederate monuments? You don’t like illegal/undocumented immigrants? You want to smoke marijuana without being arrested? What to do? Impeach Trump? Get a mob and pull down a statue? Create “sanctuary cities” as safe zones? Pass a local or state ordinance that ignores federal law? There is a serious problem with all of these solutions. To one extent or another they abuse, ignore or circumvent the Rule of Law.

The President was duly elected. I didn’t vote for him. However, his opponents cannot just get rid of him. A member of congress recently posted that she wanted to see the president assasinated. She subsequently removed the post, but it betrays the lawlessness of some of our elected officials. Impeachment is a serious legal procedure against a sitting United States President, who must have clearly violated the law. Hatred, outrage or dislike for a President is not cause for impeachment.

You see, it actually doesn’t matter how full of rage you are about whatever it is you’re protesting. It is illegal to smash a window, loot a business, burn a car, or tear down a statue. It doesn’t matter how righteous you believe your cause to be. If you break the law, you should be punished accordingly. That the police stand by and watch riots like those in Charlottesville or Berkeley, that they do nothing when protestors stand in the middle of a busy highway, is sad commentary on a society that is ignoring the laws upon which t is founded. Our country, indeed Western Civilization, was founded on the Rule of Law.

Rule of Law was established in the Magna Carta in England in 1215. It is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America. Rule of Law, simply stated, is this: all citizens from the President, to the police, to the average person are responsible to obey the laws of the land. If you don’t like something, follow legitimate procedures for grievance, and make/change the law. Such a procedure begins by electing representatives who will be responsible and responsive to citizens.

Protest is a legitimate way to make a point, which may get the attention of elected representatives to remove, change or make a law. A protest, however, that turns into a riot is illegal. Individuals who assault other individuals or destroy property must be arrested, prosecuted and punished. It doesn’t matter which side they represent, how enraged or offended they feel, or what point they sought to make.

The problem is our nation is moving away from the principle of Rule of Law. In it’s place we value personal feelings and the opinion of our identity groups. The law doesn’t care about your feelings. Justice is blind to your political party, your self-righteous indignation, or the popularity of your cause. If a person doesn’t obey authority, if they break the law, they should be arrested, prosecuted and punished. If you don’t like the law, then work to change it peacefully.

Rule of Law is the basis for civilized society. The alternative is descent into chaos, mob rule, might makes right, and the consequences are already being seen.

Charlottesville

There are so many problems with the recent protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia that it is difficult to know what to address. I’ll begin by speaking to the supposed reason for the protest: removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. For the history-challenged, Lee was the military leader of the Confederate Army during the United States Civil War. Lee’s side was the South. They supported slavery. They lost the war. Robert E. Lee has been a hero among a significant number who identify themselves as southern and white. Two years after Lee’s death in 1870 Jbual A. Early, one of his ex-generals penned the following panegyric: “Our beloved Chief stands, like some lofty column which rears its head among the highest, in grandeur, simple, pure and sublime.” Frederick Douglas, perhaps the most prominent African-American who fought against the South, had a different perspective. “We can scarcely take up a newspaper . . . that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.”

Organizers of the protest gave as their reason, the Charlottesville city council’s decision to remove Robert E. Lee’s statue. The monument was erected in 1924, many years after the Civil War ended, and Lee’s Confederate States of America lost. Why is there a statue of this man? I’m certain that supporters will give impassioned rationale. it’s about Southern culture! It’s history! Lee was an honorable man! If you are the son or daughter of former slaves, you likely have a different perspective. Lee’s statue represents institutional racism in the South. It is offensive, not only to African-Americans, but to all people who reject slavery, racism and all vestiges of it.

Does removing the statue constitute an attempt at forgetting or revising history. Although there is plenty of historical revisionism going around in academia, I do not think we can jump to the same conclusion regarding removal of a statue that is offensive to some because of the way it honors a shameful cause. To bring this home, allow me to use an example from another war. Let us say that a German-American community erected a statue of Heinrich Himmler, the head of Hitler’s SS, also known as the Gestapo. A unit of the SS operated Germany’s concentration camps. Let us further say that a sizable Jewish community lived in the same vicinity as the statue. Himmler was a notorious anti-semite and a participant in the deaths of millions of Jews. Do you see how the statue would be offensive? Would removing a statue of Himmler be an attempt to erase history, or is it an effort to remove a monument to evil and shame?

You might assume that I support of the removal of Civil War monuments. You would be correct, so long as the monument being removed is of a person who fought to retain slavery. I understand (but do not agree with) the argument appealing to southern culture. Certainly symbols like Robert E. Lee and the Confederate flag are representative of southern culture to many. However, I do not understand why one would continue to value something that represents racial injustice and slavery to many millions. It is quite telling that white supremacists in the Charlottesville protest stood side by side holding both Confederate battle flags and banners with the Nazi swastika. If something in your culture represents evil, it is incumbent upon you to repudiate it. Be an agent of change. Demonstrate that you can uphold the positive values of southern culture and avoid all appearance of evil.

You might presume that I would support suppression of protests like the one in Charlottesville, but you would be wrong. I believe strongly in the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  Everyone has the right to speak out and assemble peaceably.  Charlottesville was obviously not a peaceful protest. Why not. Protesters fomented a violent reaction. They brandished clubs, guns and bladed weapons. They were angry, hostile and ready for a fight. Contrast the protest of white-supremacists at Charlottesville with the numerous marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Dr. Kings protests were honorable, peaceful and garnered respect from the nation, even though counter-protestors and police responded with violence.

There were the counter-protestors in Charlottesville too, and they were angry and confrontational. They are equally responsible for the violence, which has resulted in three dead and many more injured. This didn’t have to happen. Counter-protestors could have permitted white supremacists to have their day. They could have stood quietly with signs. They could have sung positive songs. The media also could have refused to give these people the coverage they coveted. Robert E. Lee’s statue will come down anyhow. The protest would have come to nothing. Now this group is emboldened. Additional protests and violence will likely follow. The perception perpetuated is that there is a large scale problem with racism in America. In my estimation the greater problem is that of extremist groups, which gain all of the media attention and are subsequently used by politicians to define and divide the rest of the country.

I sat with a small group of young teenagers last night and discussed racism. There were two boys, one of mixed African-American heritage and an Anglo, and there was a Hispanic girl. Earlier this summer they went to youth camp, together with an equally racially diverse group from our church. These young people treat each other as brothers and sister (yes, they argue too). They aren’t racist. In fact, it would seem they don’t see color or ethnicity as terribly important. I had to convince them of the relevance of our discussion. They attend three different schools. I asked each one if they saw racism at their school, and I heard nothing to indicate that this is a problem. Three teenagers aren’t a statistically significant sample of America’s population. However, this anecdote presents us with good news. There young people who are not racists and who have little or no experience with the issue. In fact, I’d be willing to bet there are far fewer problems than the current media spin would have us believe.

Our nation is very deeply divided, but I don’t believe this to be primarily along racial lines. The most significant segregation in the United States is idealogical: Leftist vs. Conservative, and alt. Right vs. Conservative. I believe the violence we saw at Charlottesville was fueled both by racism and idealogical opportunism. The neo-nazis, kkk, alt Right, white nationalists represent a fringe, which may well be growing.

In the wake of Charlottesville the Left immediately blamed Donald Trump for the protest. President Trump initially condemned “all sides” who support violence. The Left pounced. “There’s only one side here!” Actually, as I observed earlier, counter-protestors were equally involved in the violence. Additionally, recent protests by other organizations, representing other ethnic groups and causes have been violent. Nonetheless, President Trump amended his remark to make clear he included white supremacists.

I would call this idealogical opportunism. The Left is masterful at spin and controlling the narrative. At this moment Leftist pundits and politicians are hard at work associating Republicans and President Trump with white supremacists. Bernie Sanders was asked if Donald Trump is at fault. To which he responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I am not a Republican. However, I do not believe President Trump is responsible for white supremacists any more than I believed that President Obama was responsible for terrorist attacks.

What is the answer to all of this  idealogical, political, racial division? The Gospel. No, really. The good news of Jesus Christ is powerful, transformational truth. The Holy Spirit unifies all of those who believe and receive Christ. It is true that Christians are as divided as everyone else, but not all of those who name themselves “Christian” believe the Gospel and have received the Spirit of Jesus. Love is the product of a Gospel transformed heart. Love for God and love for all people, of all ethnicities, origins and orientations.

“For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Galatians 3:27–28.

So, rather than rally or protest, I will proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, according to the Scriptures (including racism), was buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, parenthesis added by me).

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1)

“To as many as received him he gave the right to be children of God, even those who called on his name” (John 1:12).

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Call on Jesus to forgive you and save you now! That is the good news I offer to everyone. In the end every tribe, nation and people will bow before Jesus. Choose to do so now and be saved from this corrupt generation! (Acts 2:40).

Are Christians Mean?

In reality people are people, some are mean, some are nice. Most of us have good days and bad days, and that affects how we treat others. However, people have higher expectations for Christians, as they should. To be a Christian means I follow Jesus, and that is what sets the expectation of others.

Was Jesus always nice? Not really. I know, I know, we all believe in “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” but Jesus was pretty harsh sometimes. Most of us can call to mind the story of Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple. That’s a good example of who and what made Jesus angry. Jesus had little tolerance for the self-righteous Pharisees of his day, and the Lord was often upset over the unbelief coming from people who would claim to belong to God.

Jesus was gentle, however, if you understand the term. It doesn’t simply mean “nice,” nor does it imply Jesus was soft concerning injustice and evil. It means he was genuinely understanding of those who were enslaved to sin, and was willing to love them and spend time to teach them the truth. The Pharisees just could not understand why Jesus “ate with tax-collectors and sinners.” Yet Jesus never advocated for excessive or fraudulent collection of taxes, nor did he participate  in or promote sinful lifestyles. Jesus taught those who would listen, and many believed in him and changed their minds and their lifestyles as a result.

Sometimes Jesus’ followers weren’t very nice. On one occasion two of his disciples, called the Brothers Thunder, (James and John were known by this name), wanted to bring fire down from heaven to consume their Lord’s opponents (cf. Luke 9:54). Jesus scolded them for this. “You don’t know what kind of spirit you are of.” When parents tried to bring their children to Jesus, so the Lord could bless the little ones, these same disciples tried to keep them away. Jesus said, “Don’t hinder them from coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

The Holy Spirit is gentle, and Christians who are full of the Spirit will be too. He is also called “the Spirit of Truth,” and he guides Christians into the truth  (John 16:13). As a result we will speak the truth in love when under the Holy Spirit’s influence (Ephesians 4:15). Not everyone responds favorably when they are told the truth, even when that is done in love. The perception by those who hear what they don’t believe or want to hear may be to accuse the messenger of being unkind.

Christians may be genuinely mean, though. In fact, some of the most difficult, self-righteous, unpleasant people with whom I’ve had to deal over the years were in church most every Sunday. This should not be true of those who claim the name of Jesus. The root problem behind this unkindness is self, or self-centeredness. I want things to go my way, and when they don’t I will mistreat you.

In Christ, though, I am a new creation with a new nature, which is focused on Christ, not self. It is not difficult to be unselfish when I simply turn my mind’s eye on Jesus, and allow him to fill me with the Holy Spirit.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”   The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Php 2:5–8.

I want to challenge my fellow Christians: Be kind! Pay attention to others. Smile at people. Love each other and treat everyone with respect, especially those with whom you disagree. Courtesy is a Christian virtue. Hold doors open for people. Give up your seat on public transportaion or at church, or scoot over so others can sit down easily. Give up the prime parking spot instead of cursing and fighting for it. Don’t cut people off  or flip people off because they aren’t driving the way you want. Refuse to gossip or speak unkindly about anyone. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And that includes social media! Pray for people you’re angry with, don’t post hateful things about them. Forgive those who’ve done you wrong; don’t hold grudges. Refuse the play the judge. Take the log out of your own eye before you go hunting for sawdust in someone else’s. Walk around in other people’s shoes for awhile before you snap to a judgment about who they are and why they’re doing what you don’t approve of.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Eph 4:32–5:2.

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.

President Trump

Never thought I’d write what I did in the title to this entry. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. In fact, I stridently opposed his nomination. When he received the Republican nod, I withdrew my lifelong identification with the party.

I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton either. I did vote.Honestly, I wanted a good reason to vote for Hillary, but her unbending loyalty to abortion on demand at any time during a prengancy, and her unwillingness to support religious freedom, as concerns those who disagree with the LGBT agenda, kept that from becoming a reality. More than that, I cannot support the Democrats in any area any longer. In my estmation Progressives have contributed significantly to the moral ruin of this great nation.

I am surprised that Trump won. I thought HRC would take the presidency in a landslide. There will be challenges to the Trump presidency, perhaps many, but there will also be benefits. Yes, benefits. I said it in 2008 and I say it again: the pendulum must swing. After eight years of GW Bush, I welcomed Obama, even though I voted for McCain. Now, after eight years of the Progressive agenda I believe it is time for the other side to be in power. Not that Trump is a true Conservative, but it is largely that constituancy (in spite of grave reservtions among many) that broght the billionaire to power. So, I expect that Conservative ideals will be at the fore of Trump’s policies.

The primary benefit from a Trump presidency could be in the judiciary (assuming the President-elect keeps his promises). Trump has listed a group of Conservatives as candidates. A Conservative judge will seek to apply the Constitution, as opposed to reinterpeting it in order to overthrow legitimate legislation that disagrees with Progressive ideals, or using it to legislate from the bench.

The potential damage from a Trump presidency could be in US international relations. I am opposed to building a wall between the US and Mexico. I am in favor of compassionate, yet strict, enforcement of immigration law. I am opposed to an anti-immigrant stance, even as I support vetting those who enter this country. Every citizen should be required to support the U.S. Constitution.

I support dissent. If you disagree, then make your voice heard. However, I am strongly opposed to protests that break the law and promote violence and disorder. Standing on a highway (or other public road) is illegal and dangerous. People have to get to work, get home, earn a living. Anger over the outcome of the election shouldn’t penalize everyone and infringe upon their rights and responsibilities. Beyond that, I doubt that these protesters are not winning any support for their cause. In fact, what is the cause? A legal election took place. So, since you don’t like the outcome you would do what? Overthrow the legal election of the President so that your candidate would win instead? If that’s the motive, then it is hypocritical and should be spurned by everyone.

For eight years I opposed the never ending ad-hominem attacks against President Obama. I read ridiculous, false, and, in some cases, offensive accusations. Now the tables are turned. Trump has offended many people. There is anger that he got into office. Understandable. However, calling him names and making incendiary (and often unproven) accusations is simply sour grapes, small minded and wrong. Oh, and hypocritical, since disrespect and name calling is exactly what these people would say Trump has done to offend them.

Respect the President. Provide good evidence as to where and why you disagree with his policies. President Obama modeled decorum in this area when he spoke yesterday. The present President vowed to work to make the transition smooth for the President-elect. Obama affirmed our democratic process. Follow his example.

We need to learn to respect one another, even (and especially) when we disagree. We need to focus on issues instead of personalities. Debate against a position; don’t seek to defeat or disrespect a person.

Learn to apologize. Don’t be implacable when someone apologizes to you. No one is always right, not even you. And doing the right thing the wrong way makes it wrong. Beating someone because they support racism only proves the perpetrators are  as bad (or worse) than the racists they assault. I watched a video (rarely do this) of several young men beating a woman who tried to keep them from removing her Trump/Pence candidate sign. They jumped into their car and laughed. They should be in jail. Protests are democratic. Assaulting those who disagree with you is criminal and invalidates your legitimate grievance.

Some are saying of Trump, “He’s not MY President!” I understand the sentiment, but that’s all it is. Are you a citizen of the United States of America? Do you plan on keeping your citizenship? Then Trump is your President. Respect the office. If you are a believer, pray for the President. Obey the law. If you want a different President, work to support someone who could defeat Donald Trump in four years. As a recent commentator put it, “T0 desire the defeat of the President is like a passenger on an airline desiring the death of the pilot.” We’re all on this plane together…