Planes, Bikes, and Automobiles

Godspeed, then and now

All day Monday we watched the news of Superstorm Stella. My son has a three day training session scheduled for Chicago he needs to run and I am coming along to assist. The media attention was on the Northeast, mostly Boston and New York, but off to the side, there is talk that Chicago was scheduled to get a few inches as well. We checked the web, called the airlines, and wondered whether or not to get on standby that night for a red eye flight, or just take our chances with the morning flight reservations we had for today, Tuesday. We didn’t want to scramble to do the red eye standby thing, and pay the extra money for the hassle, but with some of our trainees coming in on international flights,  and already  quite likely en route, we definitely didn’t want to cancel the training.

Continue reading “Planes, Bikes, and Automobiles”

Jesus’s big homecoming

I thought I’d offer a chapter on a little book I’m working on about the life of Jesus. I’ve read a couple little books about Jesus, and both profoundly affected my life. It has been a dream of mine to write a similar book in hopes it would bless others like these two blessed me.

The Kingdom of God comes to Galilee

Jesus’s public ministry really took hold in Galilee, a region of Israel 100 or so kilometers from Jerusalem. Following his first miraculous sign, the turning of water to wine, things really pick up, and the ministry of Jesus becomes the biggest thing going on in Israel since the days of Moses, David and the other heroes of the sacred history of the Jews. The Jewish people were used to reading and hearing about the great feats of Israel’s heroes: the collapse of the walls of Jericho, the feats of strength by Samson, the wonders and miracles of Elijah as he confronted the false prophets of Baal, calling down fire from heaven.

But for hundreds of years, since the original great temple was destroyed as a chastisement by an angry God, and then rebuilt by a chastened people, the great golden age of Yahweh’s people was pretty much a thing of the past. Determined to do better and remain faithful to Yahweh, the people of God dutifully studied their Torah and Prophets in the local meeting rooms called synagogues, and performed their temple rites with three yearly gatherings in Jerusalem to worship and sacrifice. Working hard to keep false gods out of their land, they doubled down their focus on obeying the laws Moses handed down from Mount Sinai, and studied the prophets. But it was hard to discern the hand of God on their land, as they watched the Greeks and then the Romans subdue their nation. They waited, as many Christians, Jews, and even Muslims do today, for the coming of their Messiah.  They also took matters into their own hands, as seen in the Maccabean Revolt roughly 200 years earlier, when a movement known as “Hellenization” took hold among the more well-to-do of Judea. Hellenization, or the process of adopting Greek culture, practices and religious mindsets, threatened to destroy the uniqueness of the Jewish people, culture, and devotion to Yahweh. A largely rural, pious lower class uprising against the post-Alexander the Great Seleucid Empire bravely resisted the occupying forces and the compromising element within Judaism.  Hopes that the Maccabean uprising would bring about the Messianic kingdom were dashed as the Roman Empire followed and established control over Judea.

When Messiah appeared, it was well understood he would be a great and mighty king, one who would put the Caesars and Alexander the Great to shame –  defeating the enemies of Yahweh, and thus ushering in an amazing period and Empire of their own. This would be an empire in which Israel would be the great nation over all the world, and the gentile nations would see the greatness of their one true God, and paying homage to Him through them. They were looking for this mighty political and military leader, and counting down the days as written in the book of Daniel, which prophesied 490 years earlier to expect the coming of the Messiah in 490 years.

It had indeed been roughly 490 years since the prophecy of Daniel began the timeclock, and thus an anticipation of something big happening.  John the Baptist’s message to repent and prepare lest you fall into the hands of an angry Messiah had people everywhere coming to be baptized to be made worthy of his appearance. Pharisees, scribes and priests were looking at their station in society and wondering whether and where they fit into God’s great plan. Did they look the part? They followed the laws of Moses scrupulously. Of that, no one watching them could doubt.

Herod the Great left three sons in charge of Israeli regions. No doubt they wondered about the Messiah and whether, like Herod, they would be replaced, or perhaps even fit the bill.  Zealots roamed the streets, perhaps like Islamic extremists of our day, discerning the times, believing they may have a role in a great apocalyptic end-times event, and wondering what their role might be in throwing off the unclean yoke of the Roman rulers and ushering in the Messianic Kingdom. In short, the Jewish world needed a hero. And however they believed this hero would come, and behave, and rule, it would be nothing like the Messiah would actually do.  Rather, those who were not fascinated, smitten and hooked were scandalized by this Jesus of Nazareth.

He created a buzz throughout Galilee with his works, signs, and teachings, and now came back to Nazareth. Local boy made good. Perhaps a parade would be in order.  There was to be a parade all right.

Like the Presidential candidate who goes to his home town of his humble beginnings to announce his candidacy, it was in Jesus’s own coming into Nazareth that the Kingdom of God was announced to the world. The townsfolk was pretty excited to see him, a prophet of God whom they heard was doing some pretty remarkable things.  Perhaps they would see something from him as well. They gave him the seat of honor in their synagogue, and handed him a scroll to read and teach from. This should be good, they thought. Still, they were a cynical lot.  We might even want to name Nazareth the “Show Me” town.

For Jesus, Son of the Living God, now clearing his throat to give his announcement address, it was probably as if this was some sort of talent audition, but that the judges for this Israel’s God Talent episode were replaced with Larry, Curly and Moe.

Jesus unrolled the scroll, search for and then read a Messianic verse from the great prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  With all eyes fashioned on him, Jesus made the announcement – the Messiah had indeed come. To Nazareth of all places:

“Today,” he said, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Cognitive dissonance swept in. For while all were impressed at the local boy, even amazed by his presentation. But this was a little much. A little like the neighborhood kid, a talented boy, played Yesterday and Hard Day’s Night for you, had done it quite well, and then suddenly announced he was better than the Beatles.

“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. It was going to take a lot more than a powerfully done reading on a Saturday at church to get buy in. Jesus sensed this, and found their faith lacking. Hands crossed against their breasts, people were looking for that miraculous sign. No one brought forward a sick child, or a blind man, which would have been the proper response after a reading and interpretation like this one. Rather, like the incident at the Temple, they wanted to see something. Show me. It was the big show temptation again (Jesus at the pinnacle of the Temple with the Devil during his 40 day fast).

For some reason, to this author at least, having his natural family around like this just seemed to bring out the worst in Jesus. The little town blues was getting to him here. He snapped back hard:

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ ”

Jesus then let them off easy, in a way: you are unworthy of me, but it’s not your fault. Rather, it’s a bit in your DNA. The bible study continued  – to illustrate:

“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

Here Jesus was challenging the hometown: You want to see the miracles of your scriptures, in this here scroll, don’t you? You gotta bring a little faith to the game. And the bible study continued, as Jesus explained that even unbelieving Gentiles in their blessed scriptures brought a little more faith to the table, citing 1) a widow from Lebanon and 2) a ruler from Syria.

The first story was likely in the forefront of Jesus’s mind. Elijah was chased out of his home country. Jesus was about to be chased out of his home town.

For Israel at that time was ruled by an evil and idol worshipping king and queen of Israel. Ahab and Jezebel refused Elijah’s command to end worship of Baal, even though obedience to the prophet might end the famine.  Elijah became a man marked by the king for death, and was sent by God out of Judea to the Sidon widow to be cared for until the time came to challenge the Baal prophets. When he met the widow, she had enough flour and oil to bake one small cake for her and her son. They would eat it and die, she told him. Elijah responded that she should bake the cake for him, and let him, the prophet of God, to eat it. If she did so, God would provide her with flour and oil for as long as he lived with them. The widow did so, and the flour and oil vats did not run out. Jesus would himself perform a similar miracle soon using a few loaves and fishes.

In the Namaan episode, the Syrian ruler was dying of leprosy, and his aide convinced him there was a great prophet in Israel named Elisha who could cure him of the incurable disease. Naaman was quite skeptical, but went along. When they came to Elisha, the prophet didn’t even meet Naaman, but merely sent word to tell him to bathe in the river Jordan. Naaman was furious, and replied to his aide that had he wanted a bath, he could have found a better spot in Syria than the Jordan. His aide replied that he might want to show a little humility here, and do what the prophet said. Had Elisha told him to perform some extravagant task, he said in a challenge to his boss, Naaman would have done so, sufficiently impressed. Obedience, not degree of difficulty, was the issue here. Naaman agreed with his aide’s logic, bathed in the Jordan, and was cleansed.

Jesus not only announced the arrival of the Messiah, but indicated here that if Israel would not show sufficient deference and respect for him, the Gentile world would.

The local townfolk were not impressed with the reply from this too-big-for-his-britches Jesus, who suddenly went from speaking well to insulting them. With Joseph no longer around, they had seen and heard enough and began the hometown hero parade, which was actually a mob, pushing Jesus to a cliff to throw him off.

But, as Jesus told his mother Mary earlier, his time had not yet come, and he passed through their midst, and went on his way – back to Capernaum. From that point forward, Jesus would bring the Kingdom of God to the region. But he was much more careful in letting people know who they were dealing with.

He would find that whereas the typical Galilean would have trouble discerning the man and the times, the spirit world had no confusion as to who Jesus was.

Have you still not found what you’re looking for?

In my last post, I ruminated on the incredible power to die, not to kill, but to die for one’s beliefs. I imagine much of it comes from being a walking dead man. When I read the letter from Paul to the Romans (I am currently working on a book on the letter), it occurs to me that this is exactly what Paul encourages his flock of fellow believers to do: become walking dead men.

I am reminded of the soldier in the HBO series Band of Brothers, who is suffering from battle shock. Overcome by fear, he is shaking and useless on the battle field. At the end of a firefight in which he acquitted himself terribly, a brave fellow soldier comes up to him. He doesn’t slap him like a General Patton as he stands there shaking. Rather, he encourages him in the most strange and unreal way.

Paraphrasing from memory here: Your problem, he says, is that you are trying to save your life. What you need to realize is that you are dead. You are a walking dead man, and once you accept this, you will be able to fight. Then he walks away, ephemerally, the soldier looks at him like he just witnessed a ghost.

Easy to say, I suppose. Easy to understand intellectually. Harder, and maybe even impossible for most of us, to incorporate it as a truth in our lives.

But incorporate it the young man does. In the next episode or two, he takes the message to heart, and becomes the most valuable soldier in the unit. He fearlessly takes on every task.

Now, Paul is not telling his fellow believers to go out there and die, the deadly persecution has not taken place yet. Nero hasn’t yet blamed the Christians for the great fire. But what he explains is the key to overcoming the sin that entangles each reader is to recognize that, as a believer, you are dead to it. When a Christian is baptized, he is baptized into Jesus’s death.

A Christian is dead to sin. That is what Paul says. He was once a slave to sin. Now he is dead to sin. We can understand that intellectually, receive it by faith. But incorporating it into our lives? That is a totally different story. How do we actually live this truth?

Jesus put it this way:

 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”

The book I am working on is an attempt to help the Christian who has been baptized, follows Jesus, yet continues to fall again and again into temptation, and unable to be released from that damned thing. We are all walking around with a dead carcass, and like a zombie, the sin nature refuses to die, no matter how many bullets and incantations we throw at it.

Anyway, if that is something you are dealing with, allow me to suggest a key I learned. This is, as Jesus said, a daily thing – to pick up your cross.  The soldier probably faced his fears daily, and overcame them daily. Perhaps even in the moment of truth, when it was time to charge that bunker, his life he was saving was staring right back at him again. He had to remind himself he was a dead man walking.

Here’s my suggestion when you face that temptation directly, be it a whiskey bottle, a lovely garment at the mall, a web site, or an illicit lover. When that temptation comes, vocalize the truth hidden in your heart and in your bible. Say it out loud:

“I am crucified with Christ. I am dead to sin. Sin has no hold over me.”

Say it every morning if you wish. But the key, I think, is to say it when that temptation is hitting you square in the face. And don’t just think it in your heart. Say it. I think it is important to vocalize those things you believe, as a witness to distinguish between a good thought and a truth.

Tell me what happens.

 

How to win friends and influence capitols

 

I am personally a fan of the primitive Judeo-christian church. The men and women who spread out from ancient Jerusalem and Galilee throughout the Roman world after the crucifixion of Jesus are among the most remarkable people in history. Those who followed in their footsteps and example did something absolutely extraordinary.

We are all pretty familiar with the story of Jesus. He came to ancient Israel as the promised Messiah. He was not received by the religious and political authorities of Israel and, it can be said with a great deal of truth, that the reason for this is because they were looking for a political messiah, a great king who would save the Jewish nation from the boot of Rome. The message and life of Jesus didn’t quite fit what folks had in mind. Rather, this Jesus’s primary purpose on earth was to save the Jewish people, and all mankind, from their sins.

But, I think there is an interesting aspect to this story that gets overlooked. I offer a little thought experiment. Consider it a Lenten exercise:

Imagine if Jesus had told the Jews of his day that he was,without question the Jewish Messiah, and was indeed the political messiah who would achieve the following, if all those who followed him would do as he commanded of them:

“I, Jesus, do not want you to fight great battles for me.  As great soldiers, you are willing to die for me. And indeed, we will win a great victory for our nation by your willingness to die for me. And this is how:

“I call on all of you to live good holy lives. Love your neighbors, give and care for them. Worship me but be good Roman citizens. Honor Caesar. Give Caesar what is his, and God what is God’s. Do this and Caesar will come to destroy you.

“You are willing to die for me and for the Kingdom of God, so do so. Allow yourselves, as my followers, to be arrested for worshiping me, and allow yourselves to be thrown to the lions. The Romans will make sport of you in their great arenas. Bless them who do this and do not curse them.  Do that for about 300 or so years, while caring for the poor and sick and I, Jesus the Messiah, will guarantee you of this: Rome the capital of a world, will fall down and worship their Jewish Messiah, and offer allegiance to me.”

Of course, Jesus pretty much said this, in his own way. One will notice that if one reads his Sermon on the Mount and others of his sayings and commands.

Detractors of Christianity like to point to the terrible job the Christian church did once it gained political and religious power and authority. They point to the crusades, the inquisitions, the bloody and terrible religious wars of the 1550-1700, etc. And much of that is fair game. Christianity was not ready to run things when Constantine turned the keys of his kingdom to those who worshiped the Jewish Messiah. But the Church Constantine turned the keys over to – that church was pretty remarkable.

That is the church to be.

 

 

 

Pass this now, and find out what’s in it later?

That appears to be the message from the Obamacare repeal and replace crowd. I haven’t looked over the details and need to hear more from people I trust. But, my immediate reaction is:  well, I’ll prefer a tax credit over a medicare subsidy, if we are talking about entitlements.  I prefer we give folks money and let them figure out how to buy what they need with it.  They will make mistakes that busybodies will want to regulate away, but in regulating away possiblities for abuse, we tend to codify things we need to keep fluid. That is what the market is good for.

For example, I think that if we are going to tax everyone $7,000 to educate each child, I prefer we just hand the money over to each parent, and let them know they are free to do whatever they need to do to educate their child with this. If they take the money and leave the kid home to play video games all day, well, believe me, the same kid is probably going to get as good an education if he is sent to school to disrupt others or daydream away. It may be worse, it may be better. I’ll bet it’s better – for that kid.

Now, if the parent takes the money and uses it to find a great school for the child, or buys some great books, hires a couple of tutors, that child may end up getting a fantastic education. It’s really up to the parents.

Some kids need religious instruction. Let the child go to whatever school the parents deem best. Suppose it’s a school of satanic witchcraft, you ask? Well, them’s the breaks. Freedom of religion and all.  I trust the parents, and willing to deal with some bad choices in return for less One Size Fits All. If the satanic witchcraft schools flourish, they must be doing some pretty good teaching, right?

Thing is, by and large, parents want what’s best for their children. Many don’t care, of course. That’s why we have prisons, I suppose.

But this post is about healthcare, not state sanctioned brainwashing. Sorry I got a tad distracted there. but the point is the same:

I never cared for the Obamacare top down regulations. If we are going to afford this then the key is cutting all the red tape and let the market work. Find innovation, encourage innovation, reward innovation. Some people, many in fact, will buy snake oil. It happens. Here’s the key folks: use Facebook to warn people about snake oil, instead of pushing socialized medicine. Let a thousand flowers bloom. There will be weeds.

I have always been interested in the Medishare model. Anybody out there have any information on it they’d like to share?

But, like they said on Jaws, regarding our economy and the need for 3-4% growth – yeah, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

 

Oh and by the way, no evidence of collusion

I am truly amazed at how easy it is to hide the true news lede for months: What we KNOW is this: There is no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians. That’s all we really know. Still. After all these months. No new evidence of collusion. Can you believe it?

Even Senator Coons admitted he knows of no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, after going on TV to strongly hint there was. He did this to a media gaggle so eager to believe it, breathlessly running story after story, discussion after discussion, about the Sessions non-story. (No, it was not perjury. No, he did not “lie” to Congress).

Over the weekend, Trump apparently had had enough after that Coons suggestion the intelligence community had evidence. You want to talk endlessly about stories with no proof about a President? I’ll give you a story about a President with no proof.

And suddenly, the press demands from the President a standard of proof it refuses to demand of itself: “We, the media, have a role to endlessly speculate about the worst of the President we despise. But you: Mr. President, must be held to a higher standard. That is our job, after all, to endlessly chatter on things we can only speculate on, and hide the one fact we must all agree on: there is no proof of what we chatter about.”

The press, occupied by left leaning folk, hated Nixon. But Watergate was driven by evidence. This current stuff is driven by hatred, and fueled by speculation.

Watergate had the benefit that it drove the press to up its game, to uncover true evidence of malfeasance and coverup. Whatever we want to call this scandal, it seems to have the opposite effect. Journalists spend more time covering each other and not the story. This is because the story is what people are saying about the story. It is not the “scandal.” There is no scandal. But we desperately want a scandal. So, to keep the scandal alive, we need to talk endlessly about the “scandal”.

It is not right to allow your side to speculate, and offer a lower bar of evidence (“Sessions met with the Russian ambassdor! He said he didn’t meet with the Russians.” Context, please. People in Government are supposed to meet with ambassadors. That’s why we have ambassadors.). Yet you are not fair to demand a higher standard of evidence and proof from your opponents than from the party you prefer.

Examples: Secretary Clinton faced two telling scandals. The media demanded irrefutable evidence before they intimated the guilt they so easily suggest with Trump. And they got it.

1) In Congressional testimony, Secretary Clinton and the world was presented by Representative Jim Jordan with the smoking gun: email evidence – in two separate instances -she knew from day one the Benghazi attack was a terror attack and not a demonstration gone bad. The media hid that lede as well, and made excuses it would never allow this current President, should it come to that.

2) FBI Director Comey presented the findings to The public that Secretary Clinton mishandled classified information, on multiple occasions. The FBI, in other words, uncovered real evidence.

In both cases, the argument from the mainstream, left leaning media went from: “Is it true?” (It was) to “Does it matter?” Something tells me Trump will not be given the same pass, because he doesn’t even get the benefit of there being no evidence. But that’s partly Trump’s fault.

Trump would do well to fight his instincts, shut up, and ignore the matter. But he is a fighter, a media brawler. This is not an impeachable offense, by the way. In fact, the people who elected him want him to fight for them and for America. They see it as an asset. I like it when people fight for me. Don’t you? Sure you do.

The Russians, meanwhile, demonstrate they play chess, while we play checkers.

If Russia wanted to insert itself to disrupt our government and our electoral process, they couldn’t have done a better job than how they did it: the media hates Trump and wants Hillary. So…hack Hillary (who proved in the scandal before this scandal that her apparatus is an easy target after all) and prefer Trump. Get them all worked up, and blame it on collusion. Then have the mainstream media play the role of what they use to call in the old Soviet days their “useful idiots”: get them all worked up to disrupt the work of the enemy government.

They did their job. Now the media, their useful idiots, can take it from there. Once again, as in the 60’s, there is a Russian under every bed. But this time, the hysteria is coming from the left. Not because they seek to harm America. But because their political party is jeopardized. The Russians know the media doesn’t fear or particularly care about them.

Meanwhile, let me know if and when there is actual evidence of collusion. Otherwise, we all have more important things to do.