The Evil Among Us

Halloween is tomorrow! It is always a very interesting time of the year. Dressing up, candy, parties, and of course scary movies.

It used to be that I didn’t mind scary movies, in fact I found some to be enjoyable. Over the years my perspective has changed. I feel like I am a little more sensitive to horror movies. Maybe it is the increased goriness in the content of these movies, or maybe it’s what the Lord has done in me. I cringe when I see the previews on television.

As I assess things I see on the news and even in my work in the schools, it seems there is a lot of desensitization to horrific things. A teacher told me that as she discussed the terror attacks on September 11th 2001, her students were unemotional regarding the topic. “A plane ran into a building. So what?” As the discussion turned to general acts of terror one student said of suicide bombers, “Well, at least he doesn’t have to go to jail.”

These comments can probably be reasoned away and I by no means want to single out the response of this one kid. Instead, I would like to urge everyone to consider the evil around us. Now, when I say evil it always seems to elicit images of fantasy and sci-fi movies. Maybe we think of the most outrageous real-life acts of evil, like Hitler and the holocaust. Consider the evil that we might be around daily. Just taking the first definition of evil from Merriam-Webster.com you get: “1a :morally reprehensible”. So let’s break that down. What is moral? “1a :of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior” and what is reprehensible? (reprehend) “:to voice disapproval of “. With these definitions evil might be summarized as, behavior that violates principles of right and wrong. 

Right and wrong. Who defines that? Seems to me the world we live in has decided to loosen the parameters on right and wrong. Sitting in a meeting with some teachers last week and one teacher was appalled at the casual use of profane language from the kids. I read a post on nextdoor.com about some kids smoking at the bus stop. Now, I admittedly smoked in high school, but we did it in secret because we knew it was wrong. Those same principles of right and wrong are difficult to find. So, if we have redefined what is right and wrong, then there can be no violation of principles that no longer exists and evil also does not exist. Right?

Don’t be deceived friends. Do not discount or write-off the evil that exists in our world. Deceitfully evil operates under the guise of political correctness and equality. It is tearing apart the moral fiber of our communities, our country and the world. Evil seems such a harsh word, but that’s just what it is. It infiltrates our homes, our schools, our work places, politics, entertainment, social circles and even our churches. Yes, even in the church. We have representatives and leaders in the church that masquerade as honorable and upright people when in reality there are evil intentions.

If you have any agreement at all to the recognition of evil in our world, I urge you to consider the converse component, good. In moral principles there is right and wrong. Who defines that? Where do we get that? When someone does right and wrong, where do they get that from? Parents, environmental learning? Is it innate?

I have come to believe there is one and only ONE that is right and good. Jesus is the sole author of good and right. He sets the path, paves the way and guides us on the journey. There is none good but God. When we walk apart from God, we walk apart from truth and righteousness. If you can see the evil that is living among us. If you recognize the evil that is permeating in our world and becoming widely accepted as “normal” behavior, turn to the Word of God. Seek to hear the Lord through scripture and prayer and see the principles that have been set before us to live by. In love, always in love, stand firm in truth and against evil.

Like these horror movies that evolve into increasingly more gruesome and disturbing portrayals of life, reality also evolves in a way that evil has become normalized. We get desensitized. We get accepting. We tolerate the evil among us. Stand up against evil by seeking what is right and good. -jason

 

 

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Back to Basics

We were fortunate to celebrate our anniversary with our good friends on Kauai for a couple of days. We had an early morning flight on a Saturday and I needed to do some laundry the night before. There was a load of towels in the dryer so I stuck the clothes I wanted to take with me in the washer. When that was done I went to switch it out and the towels were still wet!

I realized it was probably a bad heating source, AGAIN. I had fixed it a year ago and it seemed to have gone out again. The sensor dry option wasn’t working and I was not interested in fixing this dryer again.

While out looking for a new dryer, I saw prices that ranged into the $1,000’s!  There was one Keurig dryer that made coffee for you while your clothes dried. Not really, BUT, I bet that is in the works somewhere in a Samsung workshop near you. Washers and dryers have so many functions now, it’s incredible! Then I came across Amana. Apparently it is Whirlpools generic model. Super basic, a couple dials, a couple settings and that’s it. Our washer was also acting up. It was starting to leak and I am just not a fan of the front loader washers. Now, I could get this very basic dryer AND washer for the same price as one of the “lower-end” modern dryers. I decided to take it back to basics. Perhaps a review on this washer and dryer will be coming soon and I’m hoping it will be positive. I just need clean and dry clothes.

On that trip to Kauai I was talking with my friend about some other things in our world that seem to have gotten a little too complicated and distracts us from the basics of it’s origins. Education is one area that we seem to have strayed far from it’s initial purpose. Parenting has become this complicated process. Relationships are befuddled with social media. Church has been one on the forefront of my mind.

I’m looking at churches and I am convinced more than ever that we are doing it all wrong. We’ve added so many “bells and whistles” on to what church is that we have made Jesus secondary without even knowing. Our churches are businesses, entertainment venues, community centers, social clubs and many other things. We are so distracted by all the extras stuff, we forget that it’s all about Jesus.

When you are focused on being the embodiment of Jesus in the world, people who want Jesus, want to come. When you make it about all those other things, people seeking that will find that many others do those things better than the church, and the church gets caught up in trying to compete. The study and implementation of God’s Word in our lives, this is the Church. By this we will be the embodiment of Jesus Christ in the world. I believe when we study and exercise God Word in our lives, all those other things fall into place. Back to basics.

So what else have we complicated? Marriage? How do we take our relationships back to basics? Happiness? How do we learn to find contentment in the simple things in life? Entertainment, lifestyles, meals, love, education, church, and so much more in life. It’s gotten complicated and it’s distracted us from the main thing. Progress is good, but somethings need to be taken back to basics. -jason

Tongues of Fire

Recently there has been so much to be concerned about in our country.

In California fires are burning across the state. We know of the devastation happening in Northern California. Thousands of acres burned, many dead and many more missing. Slightly overshadowed, the Southern California counties are threatened by fires that also destroyed thousands of acres.

Not too long ago I had a heavy heart for friends that lived in Texas and Florida and endured this deadly hurricane season. Intense flooding took it’s victims and destroyed and disrupted the lives of so many.

Fire and water.

When controlled, they are so critical to life. We rarely leave the house without a water bottle so we can always stay hydrated. Without water personal hygiene would be difficult. Water plays a big role in cooking and preparing foods. Of course, living in Hawaii water is a large part of our recreational time.

Similar with fire. I’m thinking specifically of camping in the cold California weather, I had never been so grateful for a campfire for warmth. We like to grill and without fire there would be no way to cook our food. For some, fire is a source of light in the darkness. In many ways fire sparked human civilization. It’s a worthy argument to say that controlled fire was one of man’s greatest achievements.

How can something so useful and essential to life, be so destructive?

There’s a similar fire and flood that is devastating out country now as well. It’s the very means that this message is being relayed. Words, thoughts, and the sharing of our opinions. From our erratic tweeting president to the teenager down the street, thoughts, opinions and advice are flying all over the internet and all over the world. There are so many issues that need to be addressed and need attention, but like fire and water, when it’s out of control it can be more destructive than helpful. From 140 character tweets to selfie video posts, words are shot off into the abyss of the internet like errant sparks of fire. They land in someone else computer or phone and spread like wild fire. Hate and division and intolerance burn in destruction toward fellow man and we have lost control.

James 3:5,6 says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.” (Read all of chapter 3 for some great insight!)

Being a person of many thoughts and with my finger on the trigger of social media outlets, I want to be cautious of what I send out. Not wanting to set a blaze something destructive, rather I want to see fires of productivity and life burning strong. I want to be aware of controlling my tongue when it comes to flames of destruction.

Please, use caution with your words and your thoughts. Know that your words can spark a flame that has the potential to burn out of control. Words are useful, speak them wisely. Opinions are helpful, share them intelligently. Let’s contain the fires being set ablaze in our society and burn bright the fires of life. -jason

 

UUUUGE Walls

Since returning to Hawaii with my wife, I have seen things through her eyes. It’s been enlightening.

When we moved back we wanted to buy a van. We went to dealerships on the weekends and the salespeople were very friendly and personable. When I would go to work, Emily would go and check out vans and while the salesperson was nice, they often didn’t engage beyond a greeting. That was early on. In time I would see it even more. If I was with her or if they saw that her kids were hapa haole, they reacted different. She says even in conversation she will mention that her husband is a local Asian and their demeanor softens.

I’ve noticed a similar dynamic. When I talk to people that have moved here from the mainland and I tell them my wife is a blonde hair, blue eyed California girl. I feel like there is a sigh of relief. Like I understand something deeper. We had our friend’s aunt over from the Big Island and she looked at me with apprehension when I first met her. After a while she warmed up and said, “Thank you! You look like the kind of guys I was scared of in Kona. You’ve help changed my view of big local guys.” After living on the Big Island for decades, she was still apprehensive about local men.

We all do it. We build walls out of our perceptions, out of past experiences and out of what we have been taught. Most often we don’t even realize it. We don’t see the walls and in fact we might deny there are walls there.

It’s not just a dynamic with ethnicity. We see it in religion. A religious person might see a tattooed man drinking a beer and our walls go up, but then he says he’s a Christian and we see him differently. The opposite can be true if someone finds out your are a Christian and assume you must be a closed-minded, self-righteous bigot.

Social classes are displayed in dress or cars or other external things. We build our walls around our perceptions of poverty or wealth. What goes through your head when you see a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk in front of you? Again, the opposite is true. People of affluence are commonly looked at as snooty and arrogant.

Speaking of UUUGE walls. Political views have been a major divide. Conservative versus liberal, Democrat versus Republican. When you are driving behind a car with a Hillary or Trump sticker, what do you conclude about the person inside?

Job position, athleticism, place of residence, education, lifestyle choices, and so much more. These are all things we see externally that build walls and create borders. We are nice to people, but behind the safety of our walls. Behind these invisible borders we limit our views and miss out on tremendous opportunities for relationships, personal growth and opportunities to be a blessing.

In Galatians 3:27-29 the Apostle Paul writes: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” God doesn’t judge people by what’s on the outside. For His people we are all one, no divisions. For those who don’t know Him, I believe He is equally grieved, He doesn’t grieve over one more than another, for He loves all His creation. 

Be aware of the walls and borders you are building and consider tearing them down. You might realize you have been missing out on something great. -jason

Move-in Ready

We have been in our home for more than three years now. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to build our home on my parents property. With a limited income we tried to keep it simple. When the bids came in we went with the lowest bid. Being that it was a simple build, and knowing that kids will probably not be gentle on the home, it made sense. It was the first time we have been through this process so for the most part we just trusted the experts.

Almost four years later I look around our house and I think, “We should have put the stairs here” or “we should have put a window there.” I continue to find all the imperfections that might be expected when you go with the lowest bid. I begin to plan all the wonderful renovation projects I want to tackle some day, maybe.

On one hand I could have regret and remorse of how “we should have” done it. We could have possibly spent more time planning and developing to get it perfect, but would it have been?

When I look around at our house I am grateful. We have a place to live. All these things that may have been better, I wouldn’t have noticed till we moved in anyway. Some times you just have to move in to see what it’s like before you can know what to change.

I understand the desire to have everything perfect. Who wouldn’t want everything to be just the way they want it. Let me save you the suspense, perfect is not a reality. The desire to have everything perfect causes delays or even brings a stop to moving forward with life. We can get so captivated by the fantasy of perfect we miss out on something great.

In the Christian faith, the power of God’s grace makes me overwhelmed with gratitude. Christ moves into our imperfect hearts and transforms us. We walk with Jesus, not because we are perfect and deserve it, but because we are move-in ready just the way we are. The Spirit does the renovation and often we don’t even see the imperfections till He moves in. Ephesians 2:8,9 speak clearly to this:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Could be a home, could be a job change, could be a relationship. You are uncertain, it’s not quite perfect, not quite the way you want it. Sometimes you have to just make the decision to move in and work with what you have in gratitude. This job, home, relationship, or whatever else it is, it may not seem move-in ready, but it may be time to be ready to move in. There are things we can work on that we won’t see till we get there.

Reflect on the love and grace of Jesus. He’s ready to begin renovations, He doesn’t wait for perfection. In that same love and grace, we move forward in life. With gratitude for what we have we realize that life is imperfect and as we move forward we realize we often only find growth when we are willing to move in first.  -jason