Month: January 2017

How strongly should I cling to what is “mine”?

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  (Matthew 5:38-42)

“What? How dare they bill me! This test was supposed to be 100% paid by my medical plan!” Even though the bill was for only $45, I was furious. I spent hours trying to get that bill to disappear.  I wanted to cling to every penny that was mine.

Compare my reaction to what Jesus says in today’s scripture. Is Jesus telling us to be a doormat? Not necessarily. Indeed, in Acts 22, even Paul stood up for his rights as a Roman citizen.

But my question for today is, how aggressive should I be in standing up for my own interests? When does a legitimate reason to do so morph into an obsession with “mine! mine! mine!”

First, consider Philippians 2:4. I am asked to “Look not just to my own interest, but also to the interests of others.” This scripture is not saying that looking to my own interest is wrong in and of itself, but that it’s wrong when it consumes me so much that I stop looking to the interests of others.

Just think, what other, more worthwhile “noble, right, and admirable” (Phil. 4:8) things I could have done instead of stewing and fretting over the incorrectness of that $45 bill. Next time, by the grace of the Lord, I will think twice before getting so bent out of shape. By walking in the Spirit, I can learn to hold what is mine loosely in my hand, and be ready to let go if the Lord says to.

Not only does that attitude please God, it’s a less stressed out way to live.

 

Do I love Jesus for Jesus or for the good things He gives?

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.  Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.   (Matthew 4:23-25)

Are the large crowds due to who Jesus was and what his teaching was, or due only to the benefits they are getting?  Jesus ended up crucified as a criminal on the cross. Where were they when Jesus was crucified?

Should I worry about whether I love Jesus for Jesus and whether I will love him for himself when the going gets tough? There are many great things Jesus has given to me.  Having a good wife, a pleasant home, good times running, nice food and a pint of beer, fellowship meetings I love, and more. Yet he tells me that I should love him more than any of these good things.

Should I worry about whether my love for Jesus would fade out if I lost the good things in life that I enjoy?

ed-eggs

Did you ever mix colors to dye Easter eggs? Yellow dye for yellow eggs. Blue dye for blue eggs.   Now to get my green eggs I mix the yellow and blue dyes. But once I have the green egg dye, can I separate the blue and the yellow back out? No way.

In the same way, how much I am a Christian for my love of Jesus and how much for what I get from him is a mix that can’t be separated. But I don’t think I need to obsess over it. Because as I continue to seek Jesus, there is one thing I can hold onto as true with confidence.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1 :6)

What a relief! It’s not mainly up to me to complete it.  Since the Holy Spirit began a work in my heart, I know that He never gives up until it is completed. This is my confidence.

How come growing in Christ can take so long? Part 2

The Bible does not teach instant transformation into maturity in Christ. I am thankful for Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. This completion can sure take a long time!  I am glad that Christ has been so very patient in dealing with my unwillingness to be corrected.

I love how Hebrews 2:15 describes how Jesus helps me with this. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

When I refuse correction it really means I have an unsubmissive heart.

And the Hebrews scripture makes me ponder how Jesus would be tempted to be unsubmissive, yet without sinning in it.

As he grew up Jesus would need to be obedient to his parents. Since Jesus never sinned, that means he submitted and obeyed 100% of the time. I can imagine the teen aged Jesus may have been tempted to say to his parents “Excuse me, I am the Son of God. I don’t have to obey your house rules.”  Nope, he always obeyed.

I know that Jesus is personally interceding on behalf of my weaknesses, including my own temptation to be unsubmissive. And for whatever weaknesses he is dealing with in YOUR life.

Coming to Jesus did NOT mean that my resistance to correction was instantly killed. But here’s the beauty of life in Christ: God has been faithful and patient with me for decades even when I have been so slow to see things.  But over time, I am quicker to admit that I am wrong and quicker to stop being defensive when it is pointed out (you can ask my wife!) God IS faithful to complete the good work he started in me — and in you!

How come growing in Christ can take so long? Part 1

Think of the joy and excitement when we first knew that Jesus forgave our sins and invited us into the kingdom. A new life! What a joy! And to gain some wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ! But this honeymoon stage ends.

Why? The reality that we are not yet perfected in Christ starts to raise its ugly head.

I could talk about a variety of ways that this imperfection shows itself. But I will dwell in this post on just one of the ways this happens: Even when we belong to Jesus Christ, we don’t like to be corrected. More personally, even though I belong to Jesus Christ, I don’t like to be corrected.

Sure, as a new believer I came in rejoicing about how Jesus has forgiven my sins, BUT I did not see just how I am deeply flawed in the depths of my own being. In short, my sin problem was worse than I knew.

My own judgments about when I am right or wrong can’t be trusted. I like to justify myself even when I am full of baloney.

It is so easy for any of us to fall into the trap of not believing what Jeremiah 17:9 says about us.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?

It is great that someone CAN understand our heart! The answer is Jesus Christ!

Good news for Part 2 next week: I’ll write about how my sin problem with accepting correction was worse than I knew, but Christ’s grace to work in my life was much greater than I knew!


The Electoral College – Updated

With the 2016 electoral college having voted for Donald Trump, here are my updated thoughts on the electoral college. My updates are in blue in the middle of the post and at the end.

Before we had a United States of America, we were a loose confederation of states. So, as we moved towards getting a national constitution, there was much debate about how much power each individual state should surrender to the new national government. And people in states with small populations did not want to be swamped out in decision making power by the states with larger population. So, a compromise was reached: in the Senate, each state has equal power with two senators, and in the House the more populous states have more power with their representatives being allocated in proportion to their population.

Our founders considered whether to have the President elected by a direct popular vote, but decided against it. One of the reasons was that you might have Candidate A who was very popular in one region of the country, and ran up a huge plurality of the vote in just a few states. Candidate B might win in many states, each by a small margin. With direct popular vote, Candidate A wins. With electors, candidate B wins. The founders preferred a President who had support over as wide an area of the country as possible.

So instead of direct popular vote, we have electors. In the Constitution, Article 2 section 1 says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”

In deciding the number of electors, the same compromise used for the House and Senate was reached for states with small and large populations: For each state there is one electoral vote for each congressional district and 2 votes for each senator, thereby giving states with smaller population 2 more electoral votes than they would get based only on their population. In addition, as per the 23rd Amendment, Washington DC gets 3 votes.

Note that each state is free to decide how it allocates its electoral votes. Presently, in all but two states, the winner of the popular vote in that state gets all of the state’s electoral votes. This “winner take all” is a tradition that developed in the 1800’s and is NOT mentioned in the constitution. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have changed their laws to give the 2 electoral votes for their number of Senators to the winner of the popular vote in their state and each of the remaining electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district in the state. In 2012 President Obama got one electoral vote in Nebraska for winning one of the congressional districts there, and Mitt Romney got the other 4 for winning the statewide popular vote and each of the other 2 congressional districts. And in 2016, Donald Trump got one electoral vote in Maine for winning one of the congressional districts there, and Hillary Clinton got the other 3 for winning the statewide popular vote and the other congressional district.

What we call the “Electoral College” is the name we give to all of the electors for all of the states considered together. That name is NOT in the constitution. Each state has a meeting to allocate its electors following the election. On January 6, 2017, there will be a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes which have been submitted by the states.

I’d like to conclude by discussing 2000 since in that year George Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore but won the electoral college vote.

Al Gore had strong popularity on the 2 coasts and less in the middle of the country. He won California and New York together by over 3,000,000 votes. But in all the other states, Bush won by about 2.46 million votes, which gave Gore a popular vote victory of 540,000. If Gore’s popularity had been more evenly spread out, winning a few more states, he would have won the electoral college vote.

Many proposals to reform the electoral college system have been made over the years, but none have been enacted since the 12th amendment ins 1804. With the 2000 election in mind ,several Democrat controlled states have passed a law, the National Popular Vote Bill, saying that the winner of the national popular vote would get ALL the electoral votes in their state. The bill has been enacted by RI, VT, HI, DC, MD, MA, WA, NJ, IL, NY, CA. These states were won by Al Gore in 2000. But to prevent the bill from backfiring against them, these states have said the bill only becomes law in those states once the states passing it control a majority of all the electoral votes. That’s 270 electoral votes, and so far, states with 165 electoral votes have passed it. They are 105 short.

The latest polling data show that it is possible that Donald Trump’s performance in the battleground states could give him enough electoral votes to become president while still losing the popular vote to Hilary Clinton. If that happens I am sure we will hear once again about proposals to reform the electoral college.

My Post-Election Update on Popular versus Electoral votes

The possibility I mentioned in the last paragraph of my original post has come true.

Donald Trump’s performance in the battleground states did give him enough electoral votes to become president while still losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Indeed, if you compare it to 2000, the very things that happened to Al Gore were greatly magnified for Clinton. Her margin in New York and California skyrocketed from Gore’s 3,000,000 to just over 6,000,000. And Trump’s margin in the rest of the country expanded from Bush’s 2.46 million votes to 3.14 million.

Since the election, I have seen some articles about reforming the electoral college via the National Popular Vote Bill mentioned above. But which states that Trump won would have the political desire and will to pass a law that would have given all their electoral votes to Clinton and not to Trump?

As I mentioned in my first post, “The founders preferred a President who had support over as wide an area of the country as possible.” The same feature of the electoral college that doomed Gore also doomed Clinton.