He is Risen

images-1A little over 2000 years ago the Son of God, being in His very nature God, having all the power and authority of His Father, made Himself to be one of us to show us how to live and to give us the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. That is not what we celebrate.

During His life time, Jesus challenged the status-quot. He taught us to live out our beliefs in a way that honored our Creator through serving others. He showed us the path to Heaven. He taught us that we are loved and how to love. He taught about money, politics, sex and relationships. He showed us that faith, hope and love are the basis of everything and that love is the greatest of these… but this is not what we celebrate today.

Nearly 2000 years ago Jesus was betrayed, tried and convicted in a farce of a trial, and sentenced to die for crimes He did not commit. He was beaten and bled and died to pay the debt for our sins. This debt we could not pay because we cannot possibly cleanse ourselves of the sin we have covered ourselves in. His final word, “tetelestai” means “paid in full, completed, it is finished.” As a flawed and broken human, I am more grateful for the Grace afforded by this sacrifice than anything else I could ever imagine… but that’s not what we celebrate today.

Nearly 2000 years ago, today, Jesus Christ’s tomb was empty. The angel proclaimed; “why do you look for the living among the dead. He is risen.” No more powerful words have even been spoken. “He is risen.” Death has no hold on us. The gift of everlasting life has been give to man by God, Himself, through the person of His Son. This is what we celebrate today.

Not all believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Not all believe in God, at all. I read this week where someone said that God, nor Jesus, even exist at all. Truth be told, Jesus is an actual historical figure. He lived. He taught. He died. His tomb was empty three days later. Accept Him as your Savior, or not, but He was here and He did the things He said He would do. He continues to do the things He said He would do.

Celebrate today. Take time to enjoy what God has blessed you with. I hope and pray that you will know Him as I do.

Looking Forward Looking Back

At the turn of a year it is customary to reflect on the past and plan for the future. I am not a big fan of “resolutions” since, like most, I tend to forget about them and they fall, unnoticed and forgotten, to the wayside. I do, however, try to set some new goals and make some subtle changes that will, hopefully, make me a better person in some way.

This last year has been a year of firsts for me. I began by running my first 10k on New Years Day and since got very into trail running. I have completed 2 ten mile races, my first 1/2 marathon and my first marathon. I also climbed Half-Dome, which was both a physical and mental challenge, since I have a fear of heights. I guess I should also include the fact that I got my first tattoo, challenging my fear of needles and a general dislike of pain. My only “resolution” was running that 10k on the first day of the year.

This year started with running again, but the 10 mile course this time. I am signed up to run a 50k (31 miles) in March and the Tough Mudder obstacle course in Tahoe in September. I am considering another ascent to the top of Half Dome, but I would like to run it this time.

For the past several years, in lieu of a resolution, I have picked a word. One word to set a theme for the year. Honestly, I usually forget the word long before the year is over, but it sometimes comes back to me and I remember what my focus was to be and try to refocus and redirect. In recent years I have chosen ‘confidence,’ ‘peace,’ and ‘courage.’ This year, as I reflect on the tough year it has been in many areas of my life and the lives of those around me and on the way I have reacted to it at times, I have chosen ‘kindness’ as my word for 2013.

In choosing to be more kind, I spent time reflecting on the past, not just year, but several years. So many failures, missteps and poor choices have complicated my life. I often beat myself up about it. Maybe some of you do as well. I had an experience that may have been life-changing and was certainly perspective altering. In praying about my goals and my past, I heard an answer in my heart and mind. In that still, small voice God spoke to me and said:

“My Child, I never wanted you to sin, although I knew you would and I have already forgiven you. I wanted you to have those experiences. There were lessons you needed to learn and experiences you needed to have. You could only have them in those situations that seemed so difficult and even painful. I love you.”

Truth be told, I have already discovered that this may prove to be more challenging than I expected. ‘Sarcastic’ and ‘impatient’ are words that more aptly describe me than ‘kind.’ I usually choose words or goals that benefit me in some way. This year I want to benefit others and I hope my kindness will do that. In a conversation I had this past weekend, my friend made a sarcastic comment about my lack of compassion. I replied that I was working on being more kind and I have 300 more days to get it right.

Proposition Picks

Several of my friends and readers have asked about the whereabouts of my typical proposition recommendations. I have posted my thoughts about two of this year’s propositions (30 and 32) in my post from September 28 in detail. As usual, I have read the texts of the propositions and try to see past the ads that misrepresent to voters what they will really result in. My thoughts on the others, as far as I have them, are presented here.

Prop 30 – increases sales tax and income taxes on high income earners. The presented purpose is to support schools, however, the text of the law creates NO NEW ACCOUNT and, in fact places all of the increased revenue in the hands of the very politicians that have been mismanaging the state budget for years; in the general fund to be used as the legislators dictate. Recommendation – NO

Prop 31 – Increased accountability and forces a 2 year budget. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 32 – Stops unions from taking money from employees without consent to use for political support. CTA and other unions are trying to convince voters that this law prevents unions from supporting political causes while allowing private industry to continue to do so. The key fact is that a business owner uses his own money or money from his or her company to support what they choose, while the unions take money from employees and use it, in many cases, to support political causes contrary to the employees’ whose money they are taking. Recommendation – YES

Prop 33 – Allows consumers to change insurance providers and transfer their ‘good driver’ discount with them. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 34 – Repeals the death penalty in California. Recommendation – vote your conscience.

Prop 35 – Increases penalties for human trafficking convictions. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 36 – Modifies ‘3-Strikes Law’ to reflect the original intent. Currently, an individual with two violent convictions could get a life sentence for a non-violent conviction. The law would change to only give a life sentence to those with three violent convictions. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 37 – Requires labeling of genetically engineered food. In my opinion this is a waste of money. Recommendation – No

Prop 38 – Increases income taxes to provide funding for schools. This proposition is vague at best. It seems to be poorly written and gives more money to the politicians that have been mismanaging it. I don’t trust them. Recommendation – No

Prop 39 – Restructures corporate tax laws to require companies to pay taxes based on where their business is done, rather than where they have their corporate headquarters. Eliminates the advantage of placing the headquarters of a company outside California when their business is done in the State. Recommendation – Yes

I hope this helps you all make informed decisions. Happy voting!

Distractions

After running the 7 mile race last weekend I succumbed to the business of life and to some distractions that really interfered with my training this week. I didn’t run as much as I had hoped and my core work was severely lacking, as well. Today I ran 9 miles with the Folsom Trail Runners along Folsom Lake. I was able to keep up and ran the whole way. It looks like I am still on track with my training, despite my lax work ethic this week. Next week is a 10 mile run, as I continue to ratchet up towards my 26.2 in December, so I better step up my performance this week.

On the fundraising front, I have 4% of my goal. In the coming weeks I will have an chance to meet some of these children that I am running for. The important thing is to help these kids get the things they need and, hopefully, give them an opportunity to break the poverty cycle they are trapped in. You can help too… https://grouprev.com/kirkmcmorris

On Our Way…

I felt slow this week!

The Insanity workouts seem to be building up my wind, but the muscles are sore and I just can’t generate any speed while I am running. Then again, I ran 7 miles at Run On The Sly this morning and did it in only 4 minutes more than my 10K (6.2 miles) from the beginning of the year. I even ran the last mile in 7:36 while focusing more on form than speed (thanks Shaun T)… lift those knees, tighten those abs!

My training dilemma at this point is whether to work through the Insanity AND keep up with the running and hope (trust) that when the Insanity 60 days is over, I will have gained strength and endurance. Or, do I lay of the Insanity a bit so that I can make sure I complete the training for the marathon? Hmmm! Not sure yet, but I did end up skipping a couple of days of Insanity this week. For now I will continue to both as best I can.

I know I have several friends also training for the CIM… let me know how you are doing.

On the fundraising side, I see that a couple of friends have donated on my be change site (https://grouprev.com/kirkmcmorris). Thank you for supporting this great cause. Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but we can change this part of it and it won’t take very many of us to make a big change. I can’t wait to see what we can do together.

Chicken, Marriage, and Civil Rights or “How Marriage Equality Advocates Could Win The Debate”

I got sucked into a Facebook debate about Chik Fil A president Dan Cathy the other day. I probably should have just stayed out of it, but it’s been on my mind since then. Dan Cathy was called a bigot, a hate-monger, and intolerant. It also was suggested that the “one issue that separates the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys’ is their opinion on marriage equality.”

I’m not thrilled about being called a “bad guy” and I don’t really agree that I am an intolerant, bigoted, hate-monger. I was even told that I was “hurting people I care about” because of my beliefs and opinions. So I had to think about why this issue has become so huge in recent years and what we can do about it. I think it is necessary to divide the issues and discuss them individually.

First (because it’s easiest) – Dan Cathy, Chicken and The First Amendment…

Reasonable people agree that Dan Cathy has the right to say what he wants and to support causes he chooses with his money. People may choose to not patron his restaurants because they disagree with him. Fine. No one has said that any of this violates his rights or their rights in any way. The First Amendment comes into play only when government officials threaten to limit his ability to do business in their districts because they disagree with his moral views. This is a clearly bigoted and intolerant position on their part… not on Dan Cathy’s part.

This leads to a second issue – terms and definitions…

Bigotry is behavior. Intolerance is behavior. Hate is an attitude. Some have claimed that Dan Cathy (and others) are all three of these because of their beliefs and that the only reason he treats customers and employees the way he does is because it is required by law. This is a ridiculous argument. It is possible to make a conclusion based on someone’s behavior, but it is unreasonable to make a conclusion about their thoughts that is contrary to their behavior. Tolerance is, in fact, the very acceptance of those with whom we disagree. I would concede that Cathy may have been insensitive in the way he answered the question, but it is, at least unfair, to label him in the way that he has been.

Enough about Dan Cathy… he really is not that important to this debate and does nothing to further the discussion, other than perhaps shedding national spotlight on it.

The problem is that some have redefined bigotry and intolerance as anyone who disagrees with their opinion and if one should voice that opposing opinion that is labeled “hate.”

One more clarifying definition… Marriage is NOT a civil right. Marriage is a ceremony, originating with religion, in which a man and woman are joined according to their religious beliefs. This is the definition of the term. Marriage has been recognized by most governments as giving these couples certain rights and responsibilities, but it is not, in and of itself, a right.

This leads us to the question of civil rights. What rights should all people have? What rights are afforded to married couples that others should have and do not?

Finally, then, how can those who are currently arguing for “marriage equality” secure the actual rights they seek for those who are currently denied them. The question to ask is, “Why are these rights given only to married people?” Shouldn’t non-married people, regardless of sexual preference, be allowed to choose their beneficiary? Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to determine who can visit them in the hospital? Shouldn’t any person be able to assign any other person of their choosing to have power of attorney or any other rights of survivorship they choose?

Truth be told, I would never deny any rights to any one and I will fight for and support those who are denied rights for any reason. However, comparing gay marriage to slavery and women’s right to vote is an insult to those who fought so hard for so long for those rights. I don’t believe that opinion makes me bigoted or intolerant. It’s OK with me if you disagree and I don’t hate you if you do so. According to the definition, marriage is not a right. Let’s fight for the actual rights and stop all the name calling and the intolerance on both sides.

Why The World Hates Christians – Part 2

In a word, “Christianeze!”

Christians have a habit of creating words for things that no one else understands. I don’t think it is intentionally designed to push others away, but that is the result.

Here are some examples you may have heard:

“Rapture” – the term given for the time when Christ returns and believers are caught up to join Him. The term does not exist in the Bible and the meaning is completely different outside of Christianity.

“Oh, that will be fun” – a phrase used when discussing doing something one feels they should be doing. Ironically, it rarely refers to something most would consider fun.

“Discipling” – the term created to mean the active process of developing other followers of Christ. If the word were to actually exist, it might also be understood to mean “being a disciple.” The Bible uses the phrase “making disciples” and a correct term for this could also be “mentoring,” but it seems that existing words just aren’t quite good enough.

“Relational vs. Missional” – Current buzz word for the dilemma of whether a church should focus on reaching out to others (missional) or create an inviting atmosphere to draw people in through relationships and small groups (relational). Three problems that I see here… First, “missional” is not a word and there already exist other words with this definition. Second, “relational” has a definition already. Third, and most importantly, Jesus asked us all to GO and teach people, AND to meet together often. He did not tell us to make a different church for each purpose.

“Blessings” – used to convey well-wishes to others, similar to “go with God” or “God be with you” but used among Christians more like “have a nice day.” When used in a mixed environment it just sounds weird and makes non-believers scatter.

There are others, but the point is that by creating our own vocabulary, we isolate ourselves and cause others to be wary (at best).

Truth be told, we push away non-believers, which, obviously, goes against His divine purpose for us all.

Why So Much of the World Hates Christians – Part 1

It is no secret that much of the world dislikes (at least) Christians. Many Christians, on the other hand seem to take this as some sort of affirmation since they are “hated because of Jesus.” Unfortunately, that is not the only reason.

Gandhi said “I like your Christ, I just don’t like your Christians.” I believe this is because there is an air of arrogance among Christians that is all too common. It is ironic to me that the very thing that we should be most humbled by creates this attitude of being better than others. That is, the saving grace offered to all by Jesus Christ’s supreme sacrifice. We are all “saved by grace, and that not of your own selves, lest anyone should boast.” Yet, boast we do.

Christians are often judgmental. Jesus told us that only God will judge, but His would-be followers seem to take upon themselves to be His proxy in determining who is a Christian, what defines a Christian and whether or not they are adequate at being such. Not to get political (that is not my point today), but prominent, well-respected Christian leaders, Franklin Graham and Rick Warren have each taken it upon themselves to declare that presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not a Christian.

Franklin Graham stated that Newt Gingrich is, because he claims to be such, but Romney is not, despite that Romney also claims to follow Christ. Rick Warren says that “the sticking point” is that Mormons do not believe in the Trinity as three separate beings as the “majority of Protestant religions and Catholics do.” There are two major flaws with that statement. First is that Catholics do not believe in the Trinity as three separate beings, but rather as one being who appears in three different forms. His second error is that Mormons do actually believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three separate beings and state so in their first article of faith.

As an ex-mormon, I will gladly discuss my disagreements with that belief system and reasons that I chose to leave it, but the doctrine of the Trinity is pretty sound in that respect and Rick Warren simply does not have his facts straight. My concern here, however, is with Christ followers claiming that they are in a position to judge who is or is not a Christ follower. Isn’t that for Jesus Christ to determine?

Truth be told, it hurts all of us and diminishes our integrity as representatives of Jesus to claim from God what He says is only His… Judgement is The Lord’s.

Signs

Everybody keeps looking for a “sign.” We know it’s a “wicked and adulterous generation” that looks for a sign, but we keep doing it anyway. We all want more clear direction from God as to what we are supposed to do in our lives. The economy, unemployment, and general stress of the times makes us even more desperate for a light for our path.

I’ve always wanted to do one great thing in my life… to leave a mark… a legacy. On the other hand, I can’t quite seem to settle on just one thing to do. Most of the time I am just looking for the next thing. Not that I cannot be content where I am, I just haven’t been content for very long before I feel the pull to move on. So I look for a sign to show me where to go and what to do.

Others try to point out things that happen to me as “signs” in my life. I know God is all knowing and all powerful, but I just can’t accept that He micro-manages every detail of our lives. I know He protected me last week because I don’t know anyone who has blown out a front tire of a motorcycle and not crashed, and I know it was good for me to be back home to deal with the offer on our house, but I’m not prepared to say that He blew out my tire because He wanted me back home.

Truth be told, I think God wants me to make up my own mind about where I live and what I do and do it in a way that honors Him.

Osama Bin Laden and Paul – A Comparison

It has become somewhat trendy among more liberal Christians to make a comparison between Osama Bin Laden and Paul (as in wrote half the New Testament). The thinking is that, before he became Paul, Saul was a really bad guy and then God changed him and he became the most prolific evangelist of his time and, perhaps, since, and that by killing Bin Laden it may have cut short his opportunity to be converted to following Christ and thus change the world as Paul did.

Let me first say that I am not a war monger. I do not support killing and wish that we could all live together in peace. However, war has always been a part of this sin filled world and death has always been a part of war and, in particular, holy wars have always been especially bloody. This post, however, is about my objection to comparing Bin Laden with Paul. We can discuss what makes a war justifiable another time.

Saul was a religious zealot persecuting a specific religion because of their beliefs that threatened his own. Bin Laden was a terrorist using religion in order to destroy a culture and economic system that threatened his own. I’ll concede that he may have seen himself as a religious zealot, but that is where the comparison ends due to the fact that his target was not a specific religious group, but anyone who disagreed with him.  In this, he is much more similar to Hitler that he is to Saul.

Saul was corrected, by God, and shown the error of his ways. He changed his name to Paul and devoted the rest of his life to correcting his error and showing all that he could the truth that he had found. Some may argue that Bin Laden may have changed his ways had it not been for some Navy Seals, but I propose that if God had intended to use Bin Laden in the way He used Paul that God would have protected him from those Seals and he would still be alive.

Truth Be Told, to suppose that the US Government killing Bin Laden messed up God’s plan is to suppose that the US is somehow more powerful than God and diminishes His very essence.