Friday, July 28, 2006

Sign of the Apocalypse

I've been watching the signs with great interest these past two weeks. And today, I can say with certainty, the end times are near. The apocalypse is upon us. After 20+ years of being rejected, Jon Arbuckle finally lands his vet, Liz.

Repent! For The End is Near!

The storyline starts here. It's almost kinda sweet... but it's Garfield, so not really.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Answering a Question

A reader had this question for me: "Does sacrificing really how you fast through lunch? I'd just like more info on that for personal reasons. "

To answer the question, I don't think of it as sacrificing. While, the word sacrifice means "forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim," I prefer to think of it as disciplining. Replace the word "sacrificing" with "disciplining" in your question and the answer quickly reveals itself.

So, does disciplining really work? Absolutely. When faced with temptation, we have a choice to make. Giving in always leads to the pain of regret, while not giving in leads to the pain of discipline. That's really the choice we make when tempted; which pain will we choose: discipline or regret?

To look at a non-spiritual scenario, imagine trying to lose weight. To lose weight properly, you have be disciplined enough to stick to a diet and exercise a certain amount. Things are going well, when all of a sudden, maybe you have a bad day or something, but Mr. Oreo and Mrs. Ice Cream start calling your name. The pain of discipline here is not allowing yourself a treat for the greater good of losing unwanted pounds. The pain of regret here means that you scarf on the cookies and now have t0 work twice as hard to just to get back on track. Which is harder, more painful? Denying yourself a treat until the hunger pains go away (generally in 5-10 minutes) or making it so you have to exercise more, sweat more, be more disciplined, hate yourself for giving in, etc?

And that's the difference between discipline and regret. They both are painful to our human condition, but being disciplined is always, ALWAYS, the lesser pain of the two by a great amount.

Now, let's look at a more human scenario. Take sex, for instance. Sex is great, ain't it? There are so many wonderful, joyous things about sex. However, when we make bad choices with sex, it tends to bite us in the ass (literally if you're Richard Gere or get genital herpes). I mean, how many families are broken because someone had an affair. How many people have contracted deadly diseases because they made a bad choice in the heat of the moment. How many kids have single parents because in a moment of pleasure someone didn't think about the long-term consequences of that pleasure? Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of the pain of discipline vs. the pain of regret is that the pain of regret probably has repercussions to more than just the choicemaker, while through discipline, only the choicemaker is affected.

To get back to the question at hand, I have found that the more disciplined I become with my Christian faith and follow JC's teachings, the more God blesses me with his grace. Is that what you mean by "does sacrificing really work?" To be honest, the sacrificing, the disciplining is really about changing your attitudes, changing your life. If you would have met me five years ago, you would not believe I am the same person I am today. In the past two years, I have longed to be closer to God and changing myself, my attitude and my beliefs to that end. That means I have to be disciplined and give up alot of things that I take pleasure in. It's a daily struggle. But, the reward in the end is worth so much more than the pleasure I get out of ... well... choosing the pain of regret.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Trust: Part 2

You might want to read this post before continuing on. It'll provide some background that you may need to completely understand this post. This is part two in a series on Trust in God.

I'm just over a month into the 90-day trust challenge and weirdness is happening. I mean, overall good weird things. When I've gotten paid and sat down to do bills, the first thing I've done is write a check to The Crux for my tithe. Then, I did all my bills and I found that I had extra money left over. Keep in mind that this is the same month that living expenses changed from rent to mortgage with me paying more than $300 than I'm used to for a place to live. That right, all bills paid, including new bills, like water/sewer and garbage, and the higher price of owning a home, and we're not starving. Well, the kid might disagree, but he's a growing teenager and we're not eating McDonald's or pizza every other night. Therefore, he thinks we're starving.

In the beginning of the challenge, I was fasting from 8a-5p a few days a week, reading from the Bible during my lunch hour. I had some freelance camera gigs pop up brought in more money for us to live on. Tithing wasn't a problem. I wrote the first two checks with ease and had even less trouble putting them in the offering basket. All was going well.

Then, I don't know what happened. I reverted to an old habit I've been trying to break myself of. Not sure if it's a sin necessarily, but undoubtedly it leads to that path. And that's why I'm trying to break myself of this habit. I stopped fasting and reading the Bible if for no other reason than people at work wanted to go eat lunch. Over the past two weeks, I haven't been living the Christian life like I know I should.

Freelance gigs got cancelled. The kid and I were parent/teenager fighting more than usual. Work got overwhelming. I did bills the other day and it looks like we might be short for bills by over $125 dollars. And, I got a bill from the old apartment complex saying we owe them for June. A really large bill I cannot afford to pay by the deadline without borrowing money yet again from my folks. They seem to think we didn't give proper written notice and that's whole post for another day.

But, during this time that I haven't been living the way I should, all this kinda bad stuff is happening. Once I realized that I was fucking up, I asked God for forgiveness and prayed that he would continue to provide all that we need.

Since then, I've gotten back to fasting at work. The very first day back, after my lunch hour reading, I discovered I had been offered a freelance gig, with a few offers on the table I'm sorting through. I should find out tomorrow about a promotion I've been seeking at work. There's a very good chance I'll get it. Things are looking better suddenly.

I read from the book of James yesterday this verse stuck out. James 1:2-3 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perserverance." What I'm taking from that is that this tithe challenge is causing some hardships, but I need to have faith that God is going to take care of me. I'm continuing to let my faith in God grow and that's very important to me.

True, it's an interesting coincidence that the check I just wrote for my tithe is pretty close to the amount of money I seem short right now. And in truth, I haven't put that money in the offering yet. Couldn't get to church on Sunday because of a work function. Which leads to an interesting question: If I write the check and hold on to my tithe until I'm sure I can afford to part with it, then is that really trusting God to provide? I mean, the check is written and I've deducted it from my checking account. As far as the bottom line is concerned, the money's not there, But it is still in my checking account. And, I plan on dropping it off in the offering this Sunday. So, is that really trusting God? I'm not sure.

Regarding sin and temptation, James says in 1:13-14, "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." That's exactly the trap I've been falling into. The little temptation is both easy to ignore and easy to give into. When you practice the pain of discipline and ignore it, it leads to prosperity. When you give in, you commit a tiny sin that quickly turns into a bigger temptation and leads to bigger and worse sin. It's an easy road to start down, but through proper discipline, the sin can be avoided. And it's so very true that the pain of discipline is much less than the pain of regret.

This whole experiment isn't over, but it's really strange how my "luck" as some might put it ebbs and flows with my Christian (or lack there of) behavior. It'll be very interesting to see where I stand in the next 60 days or so.