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What is Marriage?

On a radio talk show the other day, I heard a gay activist saying “How can you prevent me my right to love another person?” in response to his support of Gay Marriage.

From a secular perspective Marriage is NOT the right to love.

Notice how these activists appeal to love, but from an evolutionary basis love is a chemical reaction that has evolved because it is beneficial to the passing along of genetic material. How does a court control a hormonal reaction? How is a court supposed to grant a right to love? Is pretending that a marriage exists between two gays going to create love or change the expression of love?

What they are seeking is something that they cannot be granted by the court. What they need is Real Love, the Living Water, and the Gospel – the Love that no court can grant. Jesus died for a gay person every bit as much as he died for me or any other sinner.  Ironically, it wasn’t a gay that the Bible uses to show how far the love of God extends to the lost – it was a tax collector. J

Every person on earth has a right to love and be loved – no one has a moral right to prevent love. The political left often changes the meaning of words in order to win debates and they have done this extensively in their effort to destroy marriage.

Marriage is a legal CONTRACT that your community, your church, your family, and you should want to have in place before engaging in sex with a member of the opposite sex.

Why should there be a contract in place before engaging in sex with a member of the opposite sex?  Answer: Sex may result in conception of a baby. A baby is, at minimum, an 18-year commitment to provide food, clothing, shelter, and education. In 2009 the USDA estimated it costs between $11,650 to $13,530 each year to raise a middle class child in the USA.[1]

When you loan money for a new $20,000 car – you sign a contract and documents that are often ¼” thick.  When buying a $200,000 home you sign contracts and documents that are at least ½” thick covering every detail of the home, property, and home loan.  In business virtually every transaction has a legal contract.

A baby being a significant financial and time commitment – requires a marriage contract that outlines the responsibility of the couple.

Gay “sex” cannot result in a baby, thus there is no need for a marriage contract.

It is really that simple.

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Marriage, the State, and the Church | Part 2

In the day of home automation women should have equal opportunity in the work place, but not careers that are fundamentally against the dignity and superiority of a women such as learning to kill enemy combatants.  In addition, women should have the special right and ability to fill the highest role of a mother in the context of marriage.

Policy: pregnant women and new mothers should be guaranteed time off, aggressive tax benefits for raising children in an intact home, corporate subsidies for hiring mothers who are returning to the work force, subsidies for education while raising her children and after her children leave the nest

Policy: All people on welfare programs for more than 1 year must be on a long-term birth control especially men.

The preference would be that government get out of social engineering entirely. Interference and subsidy from government eventually breeds dependence.  Given the existing interference, we need to start from a negotiation position of demanding our money back equal to the economic value of raising children in a good environment. We need to honor strong mothers instead of giving subsidies for destructive liberal values.

Today, with the Big State in ascendency the nation-states now seek to redefine and weaken marriage as a competitive institution pushed by God-hating socialists. Marxist, Communist, Socialist, Atheists, Fascists, yada yada are the same for all intents and purposes which means they love Big State and hate God. Yes, they are sort of like a Baskin Robbins 31 flavors of nefariousness with some even pretending to be religious.  For example, there was a Democrat Pro-life group in the US Congress ran by Rep. Stupak. The day came that President Obama wanted his health care plan to cover abortion. This fake Christian Democrat Pro-Life group sold out for nothing to ensure passage of Obamacare. Now, thanks to Stupak, the Big American State requires everyone to pay for the abomination of the personal choice of abortion. Those who support abortion call themselves pro-choice but they are not supportive of my choice to not pay for the killing of a child. You can never trust a believer in the Big State even when they pretend to be religious. Their religion is atheism and the Big State is their church and the growth of the Big State trumps all. The Big State wants our kids molded to their liking on their evil potter’s wheel instead of Potter God’s wheel.

Organizations and men will always seek more money and control – in a church, union, congress, or club. We are all quite pathetic in our desire for control. The framers of our US Constitution understood this pernicious human desire for ever greater money and power. After much debate these men of God designed a beautiful balanced document that managed to hold back the tyranny of the Big State for 150 years. Unfortunately, the Big State is now firmly in control in the US and it will not allow other institutions or individuals exercising their rights to threaten its voracious appetite for power and money.

A successful joyful marriage is one where a husband and wife have a loving supportive relationship in their unique roles while raising their children to appreciate the freedom to worship, speak, gather with friends, learning the joy of a job well done, studying God’s creation in a field of one’s own choosing, freely picking a mate, and living a life of healthy moderation.

A successful family is not the desired outcome of the Big State.  Who needs a Big State if kids are well adjusted, hard-working, free, independent, and living lives of moderation?  Answer: we don’t.  Thus the Big State subsidizes out-of-wedlock births, keeps kids trapped in poor schools, fills their heads with warped morality and history, weakens the marriage contract replacing Dad with Uncle Sam, and entraps young people with easy access to debt.

Still don’t believe the destruction of the family was planned. How about we listen to their own words —

Karl Marx from the Communist Manifesto:

“Abolition of the family! … On what foundation is the present family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie (business class). But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among proletarians (the working class), and in public prostitution. The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital. Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.”

From President Wilson to President Obama, most Democrat presidents range from stanch Marxist Fascists like Wilson and Obama to softer Socialists such as Clinton. President Obama has strong ties to Marxism, selects Marxists for political positions and often uses the vernacular of a Marxist.

The Democrat Party was greatly altered by President Woodrow Wilson. His extensive writing laid the ground work for the modern Democrat Party. To get a flavor of President Wilson, read what he wrote in 1890:

“The competent leader of men cares little for the internal niceties of other people’s characters: he cares much–everything–for the external uses to which they may be put…. He supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates…. It is the power which dictates, dominates; the materials yield. Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.”

The Big State has no place for love, the well-adjusted, and it despises freedom.  Have you ever wondered why some of the most joyless people in the world work for the Big State? God has designed us to find self-worth and joy in a meaningful job done well – self-worth and joy are in short supply when you get your paycheck from Big State Uncle Sam.

The Big USA State at all levels directly controls roughly 45% of the US economy, it dictates and regulates the spending on another 17% (health care, environmental regulations, etc.), and provides incentives for another 15% (mortgage deductions, student loans, farm insurance). Only 20% of the US Economy still runs on free market principles. Evidence for this is as simple as turning on CNBC: when the US Congress votes for increasing spending via debt, the stock market goes up – and talk of reducing spending tanks the market.

Most churches are afraid of the Big State. The Big State bribes the Weak Church into silence with tax deductions for their charitable contributions. In return the Weak Church is not allowed political speech or political literature to be distributed that might go against the state. It is nauseating to watch 50,000 people march for a pro-life cause in San Francisco knowing full-well that the majority of those marching will cast their next ignorant vote for a politician who is 100% opposed to everything they stand for. They are ignorant because the Weak Church will not tell them the complete story because of the fear of losing a tax deduction. Here’s to longing for the day of the free and independent Church.

A Free and Independent Church is one that embraces every part of the Gospel message without fear.

I’m a big supporter of the separation of Church and State. The State should not dictate that anyone has to go to a particular brand of Church or go to Church at all. The Church should never dictate to the State what the proper tax rates are, where the roads need to go, or what type of military equipment to purchase. However, the Church’s voice needs to be freed.

Policy: The deduction for charitable donations needs to end and the money returned in the form of lower tax rates. Happy result: Smaller state and a freer Church.

Now for one clarification; a government and a church are both necessary institutions that are critically important for a civil society. However, once they grow out of control and cease their proper function they become a cancer on civil society.

Marxism is the doctrine of the Big States today. In ancient times the Big State was an out-of-control monarchy. The Bible refers to the Big State in 1 Kings 12:10 and 2 Chronicles 10:10. King Rehoboam listens to the counsel of young government advisors who urge him to raise taxes.

“Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them,
My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke”

Rehoboam’s tough tax words resulted in his chief tax collector getting killed and his Kingdom divided in two. Here’s to longing for the day when tax collectors could be tarred and feathered … tarring and feathering my Turbo Tax CD just doesn’t have the same impact. Okay, I promise I’ll get back to marriage, but no guys will read this book if unless we can somehow connect marriage with the joy of tar and feathering Big State tax collectors – the point of all of this is Big States don’t like strong marriages.

There is only one true Marxist economy and that is complete state control over the economy and family. However, there are many Marxist-lite nation states of which the USA is one where the State directly controls much of the economy and is heavily involved in the regulation of the remaining private enterprise and the manipulation of family values.

Finally, Marxism is fundamentally atheistic because Marx said so but also because it devalues the individual in favor of the collective. A Theistic world view values the individual over the collective. The atheistic left views marriage and freely choosing individuals as competitive to State or collective control. As such the atheistic left has campaigns to weaken marriage and all inherent rights of the individual.

I’ve spent some time on this topic because it is important to understand how much Marxist ideology infects our Western thinking. By understanding Marxism we can more easily discover what has been broken and set about repairing the damage.

In Russia the atheistic Bolsheviks (aka Marxist aka Communists) overthrew the Czar and took full control in 1917. Lenin and Trotsky wasted no time making divorce easy.  At the same time they attempted to weaken the mother-child bond by requiring nursing mothers to randomly nurse other babies. These folks were sick. They prevented mothers from nursing their own children to enforce the idea of the collective.

The Left way back in 1917 used deceptive moral arguments to advanced their agenda of state control. For example: marriage is a repressive institution designed to keep women in “their place.” In the 1960’s and 1970’s the Left in America used similar terms.  Ironically, in 2013 as they try to further destroy marriage with “Gay marriage” they no longer say marriage is a repressive institution. If marriage is a repressive institution, then preventing gays from a repressive relationship would be a good thing.  Understand that the Left will use any argument to advance the cause of evil. God is constant and changes not – being the opposite of God means atheists feel no need of consistency so don’t expect it.

In the Free West, Marxism began to flourish in small communities in the US and Europe.  The divorce rate rose slowly in the 1910’s right along with the rise of Marxist ideology. World War 2 caused a very significant but brief spike in the USA divorce rate due to the rush marriages as young men headed off to war and the subsequent divorces due to the haste followed by a long absence. However, the WWII spike paled in comparison to rapid rise in the divorce rate as the Free West entered the Big State 1960’s and the Free Love Era.  The divorce rate has remained high ever since.

The economic, emotional, and physical damage to men, women and children has been staggering as the bedrock institution of marriage and the family is undermined. Even couples that are marginal church attenders have not been spared. This book reports on the social wreckage.

The massive social experiment to diminish the importance of marriage in American and Western society has been a dismal failure from a Christian perspective and a wild success from a Marxist perspective. As a result, your economic future, physical safety and personal liberty has been impacted and the consequences are growing worse each decade. Unfortunately, some political knuckleheads who are blissfully ignorant of the economic cost of fatherless families in various conservative movements tell us to “only focus on economic issues” and “government has no role in social issues.”

Social issues are economic issues. Social issues are liberty issues. Social Issues are personal safety issues.

Most people assume they understand marriage until they are asked basic questions and then they sound like those infamous man-on-the-street interviews where US citizens can’t name the Vice President.

No part of this book should be interpreted as being holier-than-thou or that divorce is never an option. We all fail, we all sin, and we all need forgiveness. True compassion is to speak the truth, seek to prevent failure, and help to restore when moral failure happens.

Once again, Jesus said “Him that is without sin, cast the first stone” … “and they all went out silent” unable to cast a stone at the women caught in adultery as the law demanded. Christ offers for forgiveness to all for example: a tax collector repented and then wrote the Gospel of Matthew; another man named Saul was responsible for persecuting Christians and was a participant in the martyrdom of Stephen but then repented and ended up writing the majority of the New Testament.

End of the history section and on to a secular view of marriage.

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Marriage, the State, and the Church | Part 1

For centuries, the West experienced little change in the institution of marriage. Divorce, while accepted, was extremely rare. That all changed in the early 1900’s.

The Progressive Era and the introduction of atheistic Marxism in the early 1900’s led to rapid changes in marriage in the countries under the influence of the atheist communist Soviet empire. The same changes started to occur in the USA and Western Europe – albeit much more slowly. “Make no mistake” (G. Bush and Pres. Obama like that statement) the weakening of the marriage contract was planned by atheistic socialists and sold to you as modern and moral. Many Christians, yes possibly you, have atheistic Marxists beliefs about marriage in your head as you live in a culture that feeds on a steady diet of liberal ideology in our schools, music, movies, politics and news.

Living the Madison Ave and Hollywood Blvd. life will result in unfulfilled expectations, a greater chance of divorce, and ultimately bitterness. Liberals should come with their own warning labels written by Bonnie Tyler.

It’s a heartache, nothing but a heartache
Hits you when it’s too late, hits you when you’re down
It’s a fool’s game, nothing but a fool’s game
Standing in the cold rain, feeling like a clown
It’s a heartache, nothing but a heartache
Love until your arms break, then he lets you down
It ain’t right with love to share, when you find he doesn’t care – for you
It ain’t wise to need someone, as much as I depended on – you

Bonnie Tyler – It’s Heartache

As it has been stated many times before, “Just because you have no interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics isn’t interested in you.” If you struggle to accept these statements, then this book will help any historically-challenged soul.

Now for the past 50 years and for the first time in recorded human history, major nation-states have more than 30% of their young men and women being raised in broken homes not from war, but from choice.

So anyone who predicts a positive outcome to all this social engineering is foolhardy.  Massive nation-states are travelling uncharted societal waters. There are no lessons from history to guide us.

Now before you think, “oh, this is going to be a pro-Church book,” hold on. In the Middle Ages, nation states were weakened through constant war and pestilence. Filling this power vacuum was the Big Church.  The Big Church came to dominate the institution of marriage. As any self-respecting power-hungry organization knows, he who controls the children controls the future. The Big Church’s control involved preaching sex for propagation only, forbidding contraceptives, equating holiness with celibacy, and forbidding marriage even among Christians of different sects. All of these ideas were uniquely terrible and non-Biblical. They really took the Romance out of Marriage.

A Frenchman, a sociologist, a historian, and the author of Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville travelled America in the 1830’s and noticed the contrast between American marriages and our women as compared to European marriages and their women. He writes:

“There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the sexes, would make man and woman into beings not only equal but alike. They would give to both the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights; they would mix them in all things–their occupations, their pleasures, their business. It may readily be conceived that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded, and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and dis-orderly women.

It is not thus that the Americans understand that species of democratic equality which may be established between the sexes. They admit that as nature has appointed such wide differences between the physical and moral constitution of man and woman, her manifest design was to give a distinct employment to their various faculties; and they hold that improvement does not consist in making beings so dissimilar do pretty nearly the same things, but in causing each of them to fulfill their respective tasks in the best possible manner. The Americans have applied to the sexes the great principle of political economy which governs the manufacturers of our age, by carefully dividing the duties of man from those of woman in order that the great work of society may be the better carried on.”

de Tocqueville concludes

“ and if I were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women.”

How far we have removed ourselves from the social structure that made America great! The change in social order sold as liberation, equality, and opportunity has led to the exact opposite. As evidence of this unhappiness middle-aged weak men and degraded women are committing suicide at higher rates. The rate of suicide of Americans in the prime of their life is up 30% since 1990!

Yet, we still parrot the liberal lie of identical sexes. We’ve allowed our women to be degraded. It is beyond disgusting that as of Jan 23, 2013 Sec. Leon Panetta under President Obama’s leadership formerly approved our women to be put in the front line of battle for liberal ideological reasons. While we honor heroes like Molly Pitcher and other strong women who threw themselves into battle in the hour of need – to institutionalize this practice finds the American male guilty of cowardice as a violation of one of our key roles as protector. You pathetic MEN! Do you expect your wife to defend your home? “Who hath bewitched you”, you ball-less wonders, you anti-heroes, you are worse than infidels. You Obama lovers – the quintessential androgynous male.

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Secular Section Intro | The Superior American Woman

This is the second of three sections in The Ring of Fire. It is called the “Secular Section” because it examines marriage through policy, stats, culture, and facts. The third section will look at marriage within the context of Christianity.

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I’m in Barcelona, Spain listening to some American music on the Sixt rental car radio – funny how I can listen to classic American songs in Spain and classic Spanish songs in California.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,
givin’ all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times –
doing things that you don’t understand
But if you love him you’ll forgive him,
even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him,
cause after all he’s just a man”

Tammy Wynette – Stand by your Man

Almost all the elements for a great marriage are wrapped up into this one little song. Unconditional Love, Commitment, Forgiveness, Respect, Romantic Love, and Acceptance.  Now for a famous quote from Hillary Clinton “I’m no Tammy Wynette”  — And we ask Wynotte?

“Ever since the world began its been that way for men,
and women were created to make love their destiny –
then why should true love be so complicated –
If you want him to be always by your side,
take his hand tonight and swallow your foolish pride –
tell him that you never gonna leave him,
tell him that you are always gonna love him –
tell him, tell him, tell him …”

The Exciters – Tell Him

There are more elements of a great relationship in this one – Uncomplicated, Unreserved, and Committed. My wife is awesome because she lives these words.

We hear about Gay marriage and re-defining marriage, Polygamy, and Traditional marriage. But what really is marriage? There are two more sections in this book on marriage – a Secular section and following, a Christian section.  The purpose of this section is to define what marriage is in a secular sense as opposed to so much nonsense coming from the media, politicians, and even many in the Church.

Some of the low spots in my marriage came after a few goofy marriage books were read. “You need to communicate more, you need to plan for this, and you need to do that.” Great! Set the expectations high and start judging all the actions in the marriage – let’s see how that works out when she’s PMSing and the boss is pushing him hard for project completion. While there are many questionable books there are a few I can recommend. The Bible and The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura are excellent.

Marriage is a natural inherent right. It’s just like the right to life, liberty and property.

A government or a church cannot redefine marriage or they delegitimize themselves – more on this later. In this section you’ll learn about what traditional marriage was prior to 1910 from a Western viewpoint.

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Tip 18 | Be Yourselves and Don’t Worry

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Let the Lord build your home. Together establish your new identity and guidelines.

Bringing our first daughter home from the hospital after Jennifer gave birth was one of the most amazing events of my life. Never before had I been entrusted so completely with the life of another human being  and they just let us take her home! Jen and I just stared into the crib for the longest time as the weight of our new responsibility bore down.

In the Socialist Republic of California, we can’t drive without a seat belt, can’t make a small fire without a permit, can’t start a business without a license, can’t own a chicken in my community, can’t build a structure over 8 feet without a permit, can’t have a glass of wine before 21, can’t buy a hand gun without a waiting period, can’t put in a laboratory fume hood without permits and inspections, and can’t be trusted with more than 50% of our income but they haven’t taken the right to parenting away yet.

Government is becoming more intrusive in the family and more suspicious of parents. It has becoming increasingly awkward to deal with a child’s bratty behavior in public. Doctors are offering pills for normal boy behavior. Many folks who have never raised children will offer condescending advice on how you should parent. As young parents we even had our oldest daughter’s first grade teacher tell us that she needed to be on Ritalin as all her children were. Later in the parent teacher conference we found out that one of her children was in prison. Remember it is always good to listen to everyone. Even so, taking advice from those that have been successful, and a grain of salt from those who have not is a better strategy.

Psalms 127 is a great chapter in the Bible about the family.

Psalms 127 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Only a home built by the Lord is safe. A strategy of posting “watchmen” which is the modern equivalent of censoring the internet and other poor influences, preventing bad relationships through home schooling, the right church, etc. or in other words sin prevention will fail unless the Lord builds the house. Your children need the Gospel, a purpose, and a reason for the faith that lies within them. The proper strategy is let the Lord build the house as expressed in Daniel and Nehemiah, Romans 12, Hebrews 11, I Corinthians 13, James 1.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

Now relax, when the Lord builds your home – sleep well. How can you say you have faith when you spend every night stressing out? We have four daughters and so I know kids can be stressful, but

“Your ticket to a better night’s sleep” might be a Sleep Train mattress but letting the Lord build your home is a better bet.

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Children are a reward and a purpose

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Children on fire for God speaking with the enemy in the gate is the surest sign of a successful marriage. Nothing makes my heart happier than to see my daughters fighting for pro-life and liberty causes, pushing back against socialist teaching and their re-writes of history, and rejecting the Hollywood and Madison Ave stereotypes, strong Proverbs 31 women starting God-centered families.

What is the vision for your marriage, your family?

Now sleep well.

End of First Section

Tip 17 | Church

Find, attend, and work in a quality church.

As previously stated Jen and I grew up in an extremely strict form of the Plymouth Brethren. The women wore dresses, we were expected to marry in the group, no TV, no organized sports, and no Christmas just to name a few of the more unusual rules. We have many family members that still attend this church group. I left at age 26. Here is the story as to why we left.

As a young man I’ve always desired to build. I wanted to build our church to have a positive impact so I worked hard with the youth group in my own goofy way. My huge light green Ford LTD car was a classic. Dozens upon dozens of the “young people” aka teenagers in our church were transported to camp, the beach, sings (gatherings to sing Christian hymns), Bible conferences, and Bible studies in that green car. Despite a lot of immaturity and zero training I wanted to see these kids appreciate God. However, nothing I did felt effective as teenager after teenager left the church. Many not only left the church but left God altogether. Still I was very dedicated to this group. For example, I typed out in a pre-PC computer more than 250 hymns and published the groups hymn book with my own money. Our group didn’t  believe in accepting other hymnals from outside Christian groups. A few years later I made another and expanded the hymn book to around 350 hymns. I also made Gospel door hangers and distributed them throughout the community. Only one person showed up.

Around age 19 and before engineering school, I started a company in CAD Drafting which resulted having a bit of money ~$4K/mo. Since I didn’t pay my taxes more out of sloppiness than real tax avoidance I was able to throw money around by funding various outings for the church kids. I also bought a new red sports car when my parents took a trip out of town. Later I move out of my parent’s home and into a nice apartment with one chair and a massive stereo system. I started to grow very pessimistic about church. Then I met my awesome wife and my life changed.

I shut down my little company to attend the University of Washington in Electrical engineering and working part time for my father. My life became engineering school, writing love letters, long phone calls, and then marriage. Jen and I quickly grew the family to two daughters much to the consternation of the engineer I worked for. He was a hard core environmentalist biking over 15 miles to work each morning. After our 2nd daughter he sat me down and asked how many kids we intended to have.

I was very busy and so I participated only lightly in church which was held in a dilapidated old building in Marysville, Washington. Most Plymouth Brethren assemblies have no set pastor and so men of the congregation speak and so I started to take advantage of this freedom – pessimism and all. I began to only see the failures in these simple Christians.

When one brother (a brother is a fellow Christian man) would say that God does not require us to give a 10% tithe, rather God wants are all  (which is true) I would follow by saying, “yes but, based on the estimated weekly donations in this assembly and our estimated personal income we appear to be giving less than 1% so apparently our all is less than 1% of our money.” Silence followed my inappropriate comment.

Through our political and charitable work on Pro-life issues I grew to appreciate other Christians and less tolerant of the “exclusive” attitude. I went to a Billy Graham crusade knowing full well it was looked down upon to attend other “church” events since this group claimed to be the only group the Lord “gathered” to.  Another brother took me to task in a special meeting for the crusade attendance – so I snapped back “Is Billy Graham of God or not?”

However, despite my increasingly and sinful pugnacious attitude mixed with hubris and inappropriate comments, I never seriously considered leaving. The end came surprisingly quickly.

Groups that are rigid tend to be brittle and fragment when faced with common problems and so it was with our little strict sect. There arose a debate about head coverings and church authority in two churches in Eastern Canada by people I barely knew.  Many debates are not fought based on the rightness or wrongness of an issue but rather on who has the authority to make the decision. So it was that not only were the original churches divided but other churches in our sect were forced to choose a side including our church. My family was kicked out by the conservative side in a special meeting. My father and I attended the final meeting where they announced our removal. In the grand scheme of things it was a nothing, but it felt massive at the time. So a word of advice is to keep God’s big picture in mind and small minded politics will be easier to handle.

It was very painful especially when family groups were split.  Even though my family was quite conservative we ended up with the liberals and were shunned by the family members on the other side – even by some of the most decent sweet people you could imagine of whom I have nothing but positive memories. Now I use the term liberal very loosely because we were still more conservative than 99% of Christian churches.

It seemed like only a few months had passed post-split when my liberal group decided that an evangelist in a different town needed to be kicked out of the church because they didn’t agree with his method of evangelization. Many of the people who took this position I loved and appreciated (still do) but I wondered had they lost their minds?  I’d finally had enough and believed that with this attitude nothing of value was going to be built. I highlighted the following verse.

Psalms 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

I wrote this new PB splintered church a letter reaffirming my belief that unity is not only a doctrine but a pretty important one at that. It’s critically important in marriage as well. The letter stated that if they kicked out the evangelist, I would leave with my family. They proceeded. We left and my sin of hubris started to turn into a sinful slow moral corrosion. I had to learn that it is possible to be both right and wrong at the same.

 Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Jen and I then went church shopping.

We first attended a little Missionary Alliance church near our home. The church was such a blessing as the young pastor Bryce and his wife were very kind and genuine people. Here is an example of the reality they brought to the church. The pastor started a series on marriage.  After two weeks he announced that his wife told him he needed to work on his marriage before preaching on it, so he promptly switched series. I was surprised and happy to see someone unafraid of the truth.

After moving to the Bay Area we found a church we started to call home. The teaching was good and the people were great. However, the church leadership was hyper focused on money.  They actually decided to do a complete financial analysis of their giving patterns. In their financial meeting they had giving broken out by age, location, and service. They determined that those between the ages of 45 and 55 gave the most in a particular neighborhood. Therefore, they decided to target that neighborhood advertising and programs that would be attractive to this age group. This church got so focused on money that my friend Mike and I spent time coming up with sarcastic funding ideas during the break. For example: A giving basket with integrated Square-style credit card reader, being the first church to have an initial public offering, living wills, the first internet church with on-line tithing (the internet was new back then).  Sadly, most of our hilarious ideas are now implemented somewhere in the USA.

Jen and I decided to search for another Missionary Alliance and  found another delightful church in the Almaden Valley pastored by Ted Swinburne.

A little off topic, but I really shouldn’t be too critical of money and church. It was Thanksgiving time around 1977 (age 9) and our Toledo Plymouth Brethren assembly was holding a Bible Conference at the University of Toledo. My buddy Ernie and I decided to sell the free coffee instead of walking around and serving it to the 1000 or more Brethren in attendance as we were required to do. Most of the locals laughed when we asked for a quarter and refused, but we scored on the out-of-towners. After an hour the crowd started to thin out so we could count our earnings. I’m pretty sure we split less than $20 but we felt filthy rich. That’s when the Cafeteria Boss, Scott, showed up and read us the riot act and told us to return the money. So we went back to the first couple of folks that paid and they laughed and refused to take the money back – so we stop trying and pocketed it all.

Back on topic, after our 2nd move to California we went to a great teaching church for about six months but it was so big and had so many services we weren’t able to connect with anyone. We eventually left because it was more like a seminar than a real church.

As we moved from one church home to another following my employment I left significant gaps in my Church attendance. I drifted away from God much to Jennifer’s dismay. Through the years I had drifted into two people at the same time – a straight up Christian and a morally deficient executive. It was clear I needed God back in my life and the support of his Church. I had to come to the realization that I was not a man of faith. In me, in you, and in everyone else there is an Old Man, a little socialist, trying to get something for nothing, unappreciative, and in constant rebellion.

During this low spot in my Christian walk, we found Hillview. A great church should teach the Word of God and have a first love for the Lord. It should feel and offer support like a family. A great church needs to have ample room for the gifts of a deficient high tech executive and the gifts of a high school dropout struggling with drugs. A great church has unity and a common purpose filled with hard workers. Finally, don’t seek the perfect church or a church you agree with on every point. Seek a Strong Church – more on that later.

Tip 16 | Indifference

Indifference is a quiet relationship killer. Indifference is the opposite of both love and hate. Indifference says you place no value on a person, a thing, or event and therefore are not willing to expend any emotion. An indifferent spouse will block attempts to have a serious discussion with a distracting movie, video games, extra time at work, or making the attempt at discussion a problem.  An indifferent spouse will block attempts for enjoyment by pointing out the cost, having no time, or pointing out problems until there is no chance for an enjoyable event.

Matthew 11:16-19 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying:

‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance;
We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Long ago I worked with a woman who appeared indifferent. She did little outside of work and didn’t take care of herself. Then came the divorce. A few months later she had her hair done, started going out the evenings, and worked on her attitude. I quietly thought – wow if she had made half of these positive changes while she was married I wonder if she’d have gotten divorced.

A lack of purpose breeds indifference.

A healthy marriage has purpose. When a couple is focused on working out the Will of God in their life there is no room for indifference. When you are serving others, helping the poor, making peace, working hard on a business, being an active member of Team God you have beautiful purpose.

The cure for indifference is suffering

Don’t complain about the indifference of your spouse. Start living the Will of God in your life and invite them to serve others with you.

God hates indifference. God’s counsel to the indifference of the Church of Laodicea was “to buy from God gold refined in the fire”. What does that mean? Gold is a symbol of things that have eternal value as Gold does not rust. Refined in the fire means suffering. If you want to regain a purpose, then be prepared to lose the things you falsely value and through suffering gain something of eternal value. When you are parents you’ll likely experience a child who takes their nice bed, their good food, and their allowance for granted. You’ll also experience the joy as they move out on their own and start to suffer but gain the eternal Gift of Thankfulness.

I recommend the movie “The Ultimate Gift”.

Revelation 3:15-18 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

Tip 15 | Women and Wine

One curse that especially affects us men is other women and wine, sometimes its wine and women. Many men lose their wife, their family, their job, their home, and their reputation on the issue of other women and wine (or any other illicit drug).

Being involved in international business for decades I know whereof I speak and, without overly dwelling on it, there were numerous times where women showed up at my hotel room door sometimes pre-paid sometimes not. There were parties with hostess woman as the norm, and where women seek marriage for a green card. Now add alcohol and weeks alone travelling into this mix, it quickly becomes immoral and dangerous. The more valuable your position, the more valuable the contracts you make decisions on, the more incentive for others to give opportunities for you to morally compromise and the more arrogant you may become leaving you blinded to the risk of moral compromise.

Now many jobs require extensive travel. I’ve found that it is helpful to establish Christian friends where ever you regularly travel.

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Tip 14 | Transformed not Conformed

In my travels, I see people who think of themselves as “non-conformist” spending a lot of time, money, and effort conforming.

Non-conformists are alike

Teenagers often conform by dressing in black, tattoos, piercings, etc. In our 30’s and 40’s we often conform by seeking luxury goods. We feel unique without realizing millions of others are doing the exact same thing. Seriously, do you really think carrying a YSL handbag that costs $2,400 makes you sophisticated, elegant, or unique?  A few over-weight middle-age marketing guys using models that look like death camp survivors to sell their products will disagree with my point.

Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Which brings us to proving what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Some folks think about the “The Will of God” in a magical sense. They ask God to show them if they should take one job or another, go on vacation to one place or another, etc. But before we get all magical let’s look at what Romans 12 says.

Verse 3 “to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly”

The Will of God is for you to not think so highly of yourself.

Verses 4-5 “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

The Will of God is for you to realize that you are part of the Family of God, that you have a unique purpose, that you have a unique gift.  So what’s your unique gift? Start by asking a few elder members of the Family of God. Verses 6-8 go into some of the gifts that are present in the Family of God.

Verse 9 Let love be without dissimulation (pretending). Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

The Will of God is for you to really love, do good, hate evil.

Verse 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

The Will of God is for you to be kind and preferring others before yourself.

Verse 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

The Will of God is for you to WORK HARD, be PASSIONATE, and serve the Lord where ever you are.

Verse 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

The Will of God is for you to rejoice in your salvation, don’t whine when trouble befalls you, and keep talking to God.

Verse 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

The Will of God is for you to help those in the Family of God who have needs, to have folks over to your home for dinner.

Verse 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

Now the Will of God gets harder. We are to bless those that treat us poorly.

Verse 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

The Will of God is to celebrate the victories of others and mourn their losses.

Verse 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

The Will of God is to seek agreement with others in your church. Don’t focus things that sound impressive. “Condescend to men of low estate” means focus on outreach to the poor, the addicted, those with problems and mission trips to countries in need. Don’t be caught up in your own amazing intelligence, position, status, or wealth.

Verse 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

The Will of God is to avoid payback. The Will of God is that you are honest and carry yourself in a way that other people view you as honest.

Verse 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

The Will of God is that you live in peace, except for the John McDonald exemption clause “as much as lieth in you.”

Verse 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

The Will of God is that you leave judgment up to God and don’t take matters into your own hands.

Verse 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

The Will of God is that you treat your enemies with kindness.

Verse 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Will of God is that you are transformed by overcoming evil with good and to not be conformed by allowing evil to overcome you.

So when you need to know what the Will of God is on any particular decision you can run through that list and know if you are acting within the Will of God.  Is your decision compatible with your God given gifts, are you able to be effective, are you passionate about the decision, etc.?

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Tip 13 | The Best Things in Life are (Almost) Free

I’ve travelled the world over, lived for 4.5 decades  – so I’ve learned a few things that are unassailably true.

You don’t need to have a lot of money in your marriage to enjoy great places, great food, and great relationships.

Most rare foods are gross and the more common a food is, the better tasting it usually is. The best locations on earth are generally national parks which even Bill Gates can’t buy. To illustrate the point, the following are a few items on “John’s Best of” list.

The best cheese: Tillamook Medium Cheddar
The best mac and cheese: Kraft and the perfect meal to come home to after a trip to Asia
The best potato: Idaho Russet
The best mash potatoes: Grandma Brown cause she cheats on the butter
The best national park: Yellowstone! Where else can you go visit an ancient cauldron with dozens of hot spots, boiling water, geysers, buffalo, etc.  Yosemite is a close 2nd
The best hiking spot: Mt. Zion National Park
The best mountain: Mt. Rainer! Jennifer and I went here when we were dating and discovered it is true that mosquitoes do have a preference. Sitting on a big rock in a beautiful flower strewn field we started to count how many mosquitoes would try to bite me vs. her.  The ratio was about 50:1 for my O+.
The best orange juice: Tropicana
The best diet soda: Diet Dr. Pepper
The best fast food chicken: El Pollo Loco
The best salad: Jennifer’s strawberry and spinach salad
The next best salad: Jennifer’s orange and almond salad
The best fast food salad: Jack in the Box – Southwest
The best fast food chili: Wendy’s
The best fast food coffee: McDonald’s
The best girl coffee: Caramel macchiato from Starbuck’s
The best homemade chili: Jennifer’s version of Wendy’s chili
The best chocolate cookies: Jennifer’s
The best soup and salad deal: Olive Garden
The best redneck activity: Build your own hot tub from scratch
The best dinner rolls: Texas Roadhouse
The best steak: Costco New York Steak
The best fast food ribs: Armadillo Willy’s with the hot BBQ sauce
The best ribs period: Too many great options
The best oyster deal: Pappaadeaux
The best spaghetti: Jennifer’s Bolognese
The best museums: Washington DC and a close second is London.
The best fish: fire roasted King Salmon
The best enchiladas: Jennifer’s Chicken enchiladas
The best black berry: Washington Armenian Blackberry
The best freedom movie: Braveheart
The best science movie: October Sky
The best marriage movie: Fireproof or the Taming of the Shrew
The best pet: Dog
The best sub: Togo’s Pastrami
Charity claims the best sub is: The MR. Pickle from Mr. Pickle’s
The best sub <$5: Subway
The best crab: King – pre-split
The best rendition of How Great Thou Art: Carrie Underwood
The best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner: Whitney Houston Super Bowl
The best animal: Honey Badger
The best chicken sandwich: Spicy Chic-fil-a
The best cereal: Post’s Blueberry Morning
The best fiber cereal: Fiber One
Aunt Julie’s best activity: Bubble bath
Aunt Jackie’s favorite thing: Kisses from the kids
The lowest cost fast food calorie: McDonald’s $1 menu The closest thing to heaven: Finding a McDonald’s next to your hotel in China
The best computer: Apple MacBook
The best Presidents: 1. Lincoln 2. Washington 3. Reagan
The worst steak: Almost any high end restaurant – too much salt
The worst steak again: Kobe beef is disgusting just go chew on fat if you want and save yourself the money – but after paying so much most people won’t admit it.
The worst tourist trap: Any wax museum
The worst investment: A big expensive boat
The worst car investment: A Shelby Cobra that breaks down every few miles. My brother calls me up one day and says do you want to go 50/50 on a Shelby Cobra. Why oh why did I ever agree to buy a convertible sports car in Western Washington were it rains 9 months of the year?
The other worst car investment: A Jaguar that breaks down every few hundred miles
The most overrated coffee: Starbuck’s
The best ice cream: Heated debate between Breyer’s Chocolate Chip Mint and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia
The worst movie: Pride and Prejudice for the 9th time. Charity strongly disagrees.
The worst movie: Anything with Twilight in it
The most uneventful pet: Guinea Pig
The worst Presidents: 1. Wilson, 2. Johnson, 3. Carter, 4. FDR with President Obama striving every day to make the list.

While this list is true :), feel free to add to it or make your own.