Category: short devotions

Sin Tax

We are moving into an era of “Boutique Taxes” as I call them.   A better term is probably “Behavioral Taxes”.   This is not a new idea but it is quickly picking up popularity.  The idea started as “sin tax” and it was gladly put on alcohol, tobacco and gambling.  Conservative America didn’t fight them because it was a tax on “sin”.   The “sinners” didn’t object because they enjoyed their sin so much they didn’t care if it was taxed.  They admitted it was wrong and in some kind of weird thinking “they deserved the tax”.

Our governments are always looking for a new income stream to fund burgeoning budgets.  Instead of blanket taxes that make everyone mad they are turning to these focused taxes.  Here are a couple of examples:

Gasoline tax: a penny here and a penny there and no one is supposed to notice.  The money is supposed to go to road improvement but does it really?

Marijuana tax: can’t beat them….join them and tax it.  I mean really….who is going to object to this tax?  No one.

Soda tax: https://www.buzzfeed.com/venessawong/its-not-rocket-science?utm_term=.egqN7EQ8WW#.cmzMB4ePkk.  I believe this will take off like the space shuttle.  Add a little more fuel and this will be everywhere by 2018.  I don’t care about the other sin taxes but this one will hurt me when it comes to my neighborhood.  Or….will it help me to stop a nasty habit?

Our governments have got on to something.  They can raise taxes and be socially correct.  They can punish people for non accepted behavior and even make changes in said behaviors.   How many have stopped smoking because of the cost and attention?  Will the same happen with sugar?  On the other hand they can legalize illegal behavior, control it and earn income from it.  Sounds great doesn’t it?

Let’s take this concept to a broader scope (because you know the government will).  What if they tax divorce?  How about abortions? (oh, yes that could be another blog coming!)  Salt?  Obesity?  What if they take it farther – taxing churches that have certain views?  Bibles?  TV?  Twinkies? Ice Cream?  Is this an over stretch of our governing bodies or are they right in being the big brother and taxing “bad” behavior?  Should they be permitted to legalize behavior in the name of tax and control?  How about prostitution?  Gambling is already out of the box and will never go back.  Our states even promote it with their lotteries.

If a small potato chip bag goes from $1 to $2 because of a salt and oil tax will you stop eating them?  Will a poor person stop?  We’ll see.

Romans 13:7
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
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Left Over Spirituality

I had left over chicken cacciatore for lunch today.  I microwaved it for 2 minutes and took a bite – it seemed ok.  When I dug down to stir it up the bottom was still ice cold.  I nuked it another minute and stirred and then ran it for another minute.  It turned out pretty good but I’ve had microwaved leftovers that could frighten a dog’s pallet.

There are a couple rules about leftovers: 1) The food needs to start out great  and be appropriate for heating up later.  Ex.  A quick stop at McDonalds may seem like a good idea when in a hurry but don’t ever microwave a Big Mac and fries.  Just trust me.  2)  It needs to be fresh – a microwave is not going to help “dead” food with mold on it.  3)  Eat it fast before it starts to go downhill.  Microwaved foods seem to have a half life and can’t be heated a 3rd time.   4) When in doubt, throw it out.   If a fresh run to McDonalds is better than the leftover, don’t eat it.

So….One of the problems in Christiandome is people constantly feeding others old leftovers that are warmed up in the microwave.   For my generation, it was choir and quartets on Sunday nights.  I could see the mold growing from the back of the church!  Fresh food in that period was hippy Jesus music.  That sound was tough and spongy when I tried to serve it to my kids.

What are you eating now?  Leftover prosperity gospel?  Warmed up end times doctrine?  Stir fried house church?  Grilled King James only scripture?  Maybe you are one of the 30-40 somethings that would rather starve than eat another re-heated meal that gave so much nourishment to your parents.

Here’s an idea.  Grow a garden with the food you like.  Make something fresh and delicious that makes you healthy.  Just remember, that no carb diet or vegan diet or gluten free food that YOU love may not be good for your kids in ten years.

Mark 2:22 (NIV)

22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

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Want to be a millionaire?

The common line is….”I just wish I could win the lottery.”   Or….”I’ll be working until the day I die….I don’t know what retirement is.”   Some of us justify our poorness by saying “my treasure is in heaven” or “I’m richly blessed in other ways.”  All of those may be true statements.  Wealth is a tricky creature.  There are new get rich schemes started every day.

I made the decision at a young age to own a business.  Other than part time summer jobs while I was in school I have never worked for a company.   For me it was a passion.  Of course I thought I’d get rich along the way but that wasn’t my driving force.  But when my company bottomed out in 2009 I hit rock bottom with it.  Two things bothered me – 1) It was my baby and it was dying and I had to do something to save it; and 2) I immediately thought that I was too old in my 50’s to recoup the loss and rebuild it.   For the first time I wished that I had gone another path – school teacher, pastor, or anything that was paying a pension.    I won’t get into the depression topic but you know that was rough.

The crazy thing about wealth is that we all work to get it.  Some of us make it to “wealth”  but most of us get to the level of “getting by”.   “Getting by” is a very subjective term and worthy of a whole different article!

Here is the crazy point that I’m getting at:  I started my business in 1980.  I bought my first Apple Macintosh in 1985 (I still have it).  I sweated a lot of trials and frustrations over the last 36 years trying to make it.  I could have easily bought $10,000 of Apple stock, taught 6th grade and I would be worth almost $3 million dollars today plus a pension.   Did I miss the opportunity?   Yes but I could have bought $10,000 in stock in 2007 and I’d be worth $740,000 which is far better than my business did in that time period.

Opportunities don’t disappear.  Yes they change.  The hard part is knowing what will be an opportunity and what will be a failure.  Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started out close to the same time as me.  I don’t need to tell you who made more money.  Someone will come up with the new opportunity today.  I don’t care how many times you have failed in the past, you can be a part of the new thing today.  If not today, maybe tomorrow.

God doesn’t want you living in a shelter.  He has opportunities laid out before you every day.  Wake up tomorrow and look for them.  You might be surprised what you find.

Ephesians 5:16  Make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
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Don’t Believe the lies

It’s a brand new year…again.  Time to set goals and to reflect on the past year.  My encouragement for this year is “Don’t believe the lies”.  We all battle the attacks of the enemy in some way.  For some we may be too fat.  For some we may be too old (or too young).  For others we may be worthless or without talent.  I’ve said it before that I battle with “Failure”.   Here’s my example today:

I’ve been playing the stupid (I call it stupid because it is very addicting!) game of ‘2 Dots’ on my phone.  I hit a level that I couldn’t pass.  Immediately I began to believe that I wasn’t good at the game and that I was a failure because I couldn’t pass one level.  God pointed out to me (as a lesson) that I was battling over level 775.  “If you are not good at this game, how could you have won 774 games before this level?”  Good point I said.  “Remember when you got frustrated at level 50 and you quit and deleted the app only to download it again the next day start over?”  Yes I said and I now I’m at 776 because I finally won 775 as I began writing this.

How many times do we look at one failure and believe that our whole life is a failure?  How many times have you loved your children but you sulk when you lash out in frustration or weariness and believe that you are a bad parent?  How many times have you sinned and felt like God will never love you again?  How many times have you ended a project and say you will never try again?

Don’t believe the lies.  You are not called to failure and you are not called to quit.  If you do it wrong this time, throw it out and start over.  God doesn’t love you because you are successful.  He loves you because you are you.  Count the 775 things that you have done right and don’t worry about the one that has you frustrated at the moment.   You have way more successes than failures.  Remember that!

Luke 1:37
For no word from God will ever fail.
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Just go to sleep

I had the great pleasure of babysitting two of my grandaughters last night.  The youngest is three and recently had the earth shattering experience of losing her nuk AND her crib at the same time (she has very bad parents 🙂 ).  I had the challenge of getting her to sleep and for an hour while I laid on the floor beside her tiny little bed and she held my hand (finger).  Fortunately, the bed was the perfect height for me to rest my elbow on the floor and rest my arm against the bed without holding it up in the air.

It’s beautiful loving moments like these when the writing side of my brain takes over and I begin comparing this love to God.  Thoughts like – He is right beside us, there is nothing to fear; All God wants is for us to hold His hand and be loved; God’s love is so simple, we don’t need to do anything to win His approval; Don’t complicate God’s love, just reach out and take hold of Him; There is nothing we can do that will separate us from His love.

And then she sneezed all over my face!  You got it, those beautiful tender thoughts kind of vanished very fast and I had enough.  Those tender loving thoughts turned to “just go to sleep!”

Don’t get me wrong.  I was and I am still joyful about my grandkids (I’m babysitting again this weekend).  I do love those tender moments just like God loves tender moments with His children.  But there are times, I’m sure, when God is tired of hugging and rocking and just wants us to get on with what we are supposed to be doing.

“Just do what you are told to do”.  It might be getting some sleep.  It might be eating our food.  It might be cleaning our room.  Just do it.  Savor your love moments with God but when its time to get up and do something; get up and do it!  Don’t hang around and milk the love moments when it is clear that you have a job to do.

Exodus 14:15
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.
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Mennonites and Black Lives Matter

I have been processing the Mennonite support of BLM ever since I read an article by Ervin Stutzman and responded in a blog (https://mennonitemafia.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/judge-and-jury-folks/).

Today I learned that Mennonite Mission Network is giving money to Black Lives Matter.  To be fair, it is a ‘The Voices Project to offer nonviolent direct action training and organizing strategies to the movement.”  https://serve.mennonitemission.net/Stories/Pages/Mennonite-agency-agrees-BlackLivesMatter-too.aspx.

Let’s break this down and look at this issue from a “Mennonite” point of view:

Mennonites have historically rooted for the oppressed, downtrodden and poor.  It’s easy to see that the church would want to lift these folks up.  Mennonites also have strong connections cross culturally and have a large urban and non white membership.  It makes sense for the church to support a civil group that many white people don’t relate too.

The other side of this issue is where it can get messy.  Some will deny the anti-military and anti-police undertones in the Mennonite Church.  I don’t know anyone who claims this is preached from the pulpit, but most will say it is an unwritten sentiment in the faith.   I wasn’t “taught” by my Mennonite father (who was a pastor) that military and police professionals are evil but the fact that these professionals were not allowed to be Mennonites added up to the conclusion that they are not Christians or at least not Christians worthy of being Mennonites.   Professions that carry guns were not on my slate for employment – they weren’t jobs desirable by true Christians.  I didn’t know any military/police personally until I attended a Baptist Church with my wife.  That was the first time that I really gave thought that there could be God fearing people even if they were required to kill someone.  The thought of military/police service was so foreign that I wasn’t permitted to be a boy scout because the uniform and organization was too similar to the military.

So why would the Mennonite Church feel any need to support “Blue Lives Matter” when they are not given the same respect and support as the oppressed and downtrodden.  A poor black man is gunned down.  It can’t be his fault.  It has to be the non Christian policeman who is abusing his power.  When was the last time that you heard of a Mennonite Church supporting or ministering to police or military personnel?  Do we have any missionaries in that field?  Any chaplains in the military?  Why would we?  We don’t support them or agree with what they do.

Here is the danger.  We may admit that some good comes from the police and military but we keep our distance so our hands don’t get dirty.  We stress that our involvement in BLM is “nonviolent direct action training and organizing” but lets not forget that the reaction from protesters has also been very violent and causing social unrest.  How many innocent police officers have been gunned down and killed even though they had no involvement in shooting anyone?

The Mennonite Church is rushing into support one side while again judging police.  I would love to see MMN give $10,000 to an organization that is ministering to those called to serve while carrying a gun.  Or don’t they deserve that?

Exodus 2:14
The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
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Satisfied

I was once again feeling sorry for myself and the position that I’m in financially.  I pulled out the change in my pocket and threw the coins into my coin jar.  I didn’t bother to count the coins – they were just coins and I threw them in a jar.  I don’t know how much money is in the jar – it’s just a bunch of coins.

At that moment, God hit me on the head and said, “Do you realize that you have more money in that jar than most people in the world have to their name?  You throw your coins in there like they mean nothing to you (because they don’t) and yet that is more savings than most people have.  There is probably $300 plus in there.  That is more than many families live on in a year”.

I looked down in disgrace.  He was right.  That is A LOT OF MONEY to some people.  To me it is almost a nuisance.  Coins are heavy.  Coins aren’t worth much.  No one wants pennies.

I am not poor.  I am blessed.  I have never gone hungry.  I have never had a leaky roof.  I have never been without heat (or air conditioning for that matter).  I have always had clean clothes and shoes.  I have a car and a truck.  I don’t need to walk to the store.  I have clean running water.  I have hot water.  I have electricity that is on almost 100% of the time.

The list goes on and on.  There are 40 verses on “being satisfied”.  Here is just one:

Deuteronomy 8:10  (NIV)

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

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Progress

We were recently looking through a box of old photographs.  We marveled at the quality of pictures that our parents have from the 50’s and 60’s and the poor pictures that we have from the 70’s.  The reason – in the 1970’s the camera/film companies advanced technology to “instamatic” cameras.  The cameras were small and the film came in cartridges that were easy to load and unload.  It was a great idea.  Very cheap cameras and easy film.  The problem was that the pictures were lousy and the negatives were so small that blowing anything up in size only made them worse.  The other great innovation was the Polaroid which gave instant developed pictures.  The downsize was that these pictures were worse, there was no negative and they were expensive.

By the 1980’s photography buffs switched back to modern 35 mil cameras and the quality of pictures greatly improved.  I became interested in developing and thought that a dark room would be cool.  I never made it to that but now I’m glad I didn’t invest the money in it.  Who would have guessed that we’d all be walking around with cell phones that take great pictures.  Kodak sure didn’t.

Sometimes “progress” isn’t so good.  Sometimes the new “technology” isn’t as good as the old.  On the other hand, we need to move on, experiment, explore and work towards better technology.  One hundred years ago, people riding in horse drawn wagons were laughing at people who spent a lot of money for a new car that sputtered, broke down and couldn’t go through muddy streets.  Just imagine if we had spurned this progress and stayed with the horse and buggy.

Don’t be afraid to go backwards to go forward.  Most of the people who experimented with the new cars kept their horse and buggies for back up.  We should have done the same with cameras.  Oh well.

Anyone want to buy some 8 track tapes?

1 Timothy 4:15 NIV

15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

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I’m tired of going to church

I am 56 years old which means that I have lived through approximately 2,912 Sundays.  I have been in church on at least 2,000 of those (I’m guessing).  I am tired of going to church.  I have no major complaints.  I’m just tired of going.  Over the years there have been pro-church times and anti-church times.

High school was a plus time because I wanted to see my friends in youth group.

College was a down time because youth group is over and not really feeling a part of anything.

Marriage was a good time – building new relationships and having children.  You get a lot of support for child rearing at church.  Babysitters, advice, clothes, etc.

Disasters and crushing times are a good time to be at church – when we lost our son, the church was at it’s best.  I can’t say enough for how they cared for us.  I can’t imagine going through a natural disaster or difficult time in life without having the support of a church.

Empty Nest – This is my period of life.  When I was a child, my parents made me go.  When I was a parent I made my kids go (which then included me!).  Now there is no one to make me go and sometimes I just don’t want to.   I don’t have any major complaints.  No church is perfect.  If it was perfect I would ruin it as soon as I stepped in.

I’ve listened to over 2000 sermons and sang enough hymns and worship songs to last awhile.  I went from a conservative church to a contemporary one.  I’ve gone from an old congregation to a young one.  An old stone structure to meeting in a gym.  From Mennonite to Baptist to a cell based charismatic.  Pews and folding chairs.  I’ve been in just about every denomination at one point or other.  I’ve seen scandals, blow ups, deceit, back stabbing, crying, yelling, grace, forgiveness and mercy.   I’ve seen a lot of love and a little bit of hate.  I’ve been in churches that spoke in tongues and churches that said they are of the devil.

The point is, I’ve seen almost all that can be seen in a church and heard almost anything you might want to hear (or not hear).  Unless something radical comes along, I’m just a little bored with the whole thing.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad.  I’m just a little tired of it.  Sleeping in on Sundays at my age and going out for coffee with my wife is pretty nice and I may just do it again this Sunday!

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River

I’ve written before about our rivers (journeys) curving and taking longer to travel than necessary.

Here is another thought – did your river form the landscape by cutting into the rock and dirt or did the landscape dictate where you would flow?  Think about it.  It is thought that the Colorado River formed the Grand Canyon.  Other rivers like the Danube River in Hungary make a 90 degree turn when coming up against a mountain.

So, have you etched out your journey by cutting into rock to make the path you want or did you let the rock dictate where you would go?  Remember, there are not necessary wrong answers.

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

 

Stream by  Anton Nihtyanov

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