Contentment

Despite what the world tells you, material wealth will never bring you lasting happiness.

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Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.
1 Timothy 6:6‭-‬8 NLT

We live in a world that constantly tells us that we need more, the latest and greatest gadgets. Contentment seems like a thing of past. While this may seem normal to those entranced by this world, God warns against such pursuits through Paul’s letter to Timothy. Material wealth accumulated in this world will ultimately be of no use to us. We can’t take it with us. God will always provide what is necessary; often times, this does not coincide with what we believe to be necessary, but it’s important that we ask ourselves, “do I truly need this? Or do I simply want this?”

I’d be willing to bet that most of the items we purchase are bought in an attempt to acquire happiness, but we all know that the excitement we get from buying something new is a quickly fleeting happiness. It can, in many cases, become an addiction. The constant urge to get a hit of that excitement and happiness is always there, especially when we walk down the aisles lined wall to wall with stuff. Deep down, we know that feeling will only last so long, yet, time and time again, we act on that impulse. It would of benefit of us to take a few moment to ask ourselves why we are buying an item. There are things we need: food, clothing, etc., but, even within those necessary categories, we often times spend more than what is truly necessary, again chasing that ‘happiness’.

Finding true contentment is not an easy feat, given the constant temptation thrown at you by marketing and advertising. You don’t even need to leave the house now. The first step requires us to acknowledge that true happiness can only come from God. We could have everything we ever wanted in this world, yet we would still end up wanting. This is evident among the rich and famous. You’d think they’d be the happiest people on the planet; there is nothing they cannot buy, yet we continue to see celebrities struggle with depression and get themselves into trouble. Money cannot buy true happiness. Most people know this, but continue to pursue material wealth anyway.

I want to issue a challenge to you. Take a month and stick strictly to purchasing only items necessary to survive. Appreciate what you already have because it’s already more than enough. Spend more time with your friends and family. You don’t need to spend money, just enjoy each others company. Reflect on how God has blessed you already. Give thanks to Him. If we seek out happiness by our own means, we will always come up short.

The Ugly Side of Boxing is Still Alive and Well

The entire sport of boxing is at risk if something is not done to correct it’s dirty image.

This weekend, we saw two undefeated heavyweight boxers square off for the title. Deontay Wilder, the knockout artist from Alabama, and Tyson Fury, the ‘Gypsy King’, put on a great show that went the full 12 rounds. Fury looked to be in control for a majority of the rounds, although Wilder was able to knock Fury down in two of the rounds. The second knockdown, after a strong right hook from Wilder, appeared to be the winning blow as Fury fell hard to the ground. To the astonishment of the onlookers, Fury was able to shake it off and return to the fight with no sign of lingering effects from the hit. After the final bell, the match was left in the hands of the judges.

This is where the ugliness of boxing reminded us that it is still alive and well. Tyson Fury appeared fully in control in at least 9 of the 12 rounds, giving Wilder the two rounds in which he was able to knock down Fury, and possibly a third round. Although it appeared that Wilder had put the nail in the coffin after his hard, second knockdown of Fury, Fury was able to fully recover. The judges scores came in with one for Fury, one for Wilder, and one draw, resulting in draw for the match. A score of a draw was rather questionable on it’s own, but a decision for Wilder?! He may have come close to a knockout, but, after Fury was able to recover, the decision had to come down to rounds, which were overwhelmingly in Fury’s favor.

Here is former boxing trainer and legend, Teddy Atlas, reacting to a previous fight, marred by similar controversy:

Clearly there are issues with the decision. There are a couple of possible rationales. One such issue is that the judges simply don’t understand the sport or don’t care. To someone that doesn’t understand how boxing is scored, they may simply have decided to give it to Wilder since he was so close. If this is the case, that judge should never work in this field again. Both of these boxers put so much effort into preparing for the fight, and to have the result they seek, ripped away because of carelessness, is a grave injustice. For many boxers, this is their life, their career.

A second, potentially more sinister reason, involves money, of course. This is the ugliest side of boxing. The promoters, owners, networks, etc. all have vested interest in who wins. They want the fighter to win that will bring in the most revenue. Perhaps it was not in the cards for Wilder to lose since he is Americas best. There is the potential that viewers will lose interest if Wilder has been defeated. Of course, it’s even more shady given the fact that the fight took place in America. There is no doubt that money will be gained or lost depending on the victor, but to try and influence that is unbelievably dirty. It is not fair to the fighters and it’s not fair to the fans. Everyone wants pure competition, where only the best succeed. It appears, however, that if it is in the best interest of the shareholders, the fights may need some outside influence. Judges are always the best means to that end. Subjectiveness kills fair competition.

In the end, we, the fans, control the money flow. We have to get those at the top to realize that we will not stand for this sort of behavior. Saving $75 is an easy decision to make when you know the fights have the potential to be rigged. The boxing organizations need to take a long look in the mirror and do the right thing. There at least needs to be a reevaluation of the entire judging process. Better qualified judges, impartial judges, or perhaps larger panels of judges to ensure limited outside influence.

Is was a great fight. Both Wilder and Fury brought their best to the table. It is a shame that the fight is marred by controversy. Hopefully, the organizers will not sit back and continue to let this sort of thing happen time and time again. If they don’t, the entire sport could be at risk.

Evil Hates the Light

Often times, we are threatened by the light that seeks to expose our own darkness.

“20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:20-21 NLT

These are very important verses that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  They can be applied to the world we view around us, but also to ourselves.  It’s often times easier to point out other people’s flaws than our own; that type of self reflection requires us to swallow our pride, which is never an easy thing to do.

Often times, people go to great lengths to hide their own darkness, their flaws.  Some go so far as to avoid church altogether.  Nobody wants to be reminded that many aspects of their lives are controlled by sinful desires and motivations.  We often times find ourselves chasing after worldly passions that take away from God.  We are fully aware of this, but, foolishly, we think that, by avoiding the light, we can evade judgment.  We cannot hide from God, but we can certainly try to hide from people that hold us to a higher standard.  Hanging around with people we view as less virtuous may give us a false sense of self righteousness, but when we are met with someone who may exhibit a superior righteousness, we instantly jump on the defensive.  We seek out any and every possible sign of weakness in that person in order to paint ourselves in a better light.  Deep down, however, we know we are just trying to keep our own darkness or sin from being exposed.  We hate, and our envious, jealous of those who appear to be on a more Christ-like path because it exposes our own sinfulness.  Man is inherently prideful by nature.  Pride is the deadliest sin due to its ability to disguise itself so well.

Take these verses to heart this in your life.  Be on alert when observing others, but more importantly ourselves.  Our attempts to hide from the light will, often times, be most evident through our own gossip.  We time and time against find ourselves talking negatively about someone who is not present.  If we understand the motive, the truth or light will be revealed to us.  We gossip in order to deflect the light from being shed on ourselves, but we are really telegraphing that we are terrified of our own faults being exposed.  It is very difficult to admit this to ourselves.  That pride monster will fight you every step of the way.  We find any way possible to justify the gossip, but nothing truly holds water.  We will also, often times, find ourselves with feelings of animosity and resentment towards people that we are threatened by.  We can’t let pride and jealousy control our thoughts.  It is sick, the sort of way we get enjoyment out of seeing other people’s sin exposed.  “At least i’m not as bad as that person over there.” This kind of thinking is a deadly trap that threatens our own salvation.  It is our job to seek the light, what is right in God’s eyes, not what appears right in human eyes.  Each person has his own unique struggle with sin.  We must remember that we are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God.  The sooner we can stop comparing ourselves to others, the sooner we will be able to confidently walk into the light.  One must be truly humble to allow one’s own sins to be exposed, but it is necessary to pursue the righteousness that God desires of us.

Are Your Ideas Your Own?

Discussions turn hostile when we choose to argue a position that we have not fully developed ourselves.

If you aren’t willing to have a civil discussion about your ideas, chances are, they are not your own ideas, but someone else’s.  For some reason, we desperately cling to, and ardently defend, ideas that we have picked up from individuals that we hold in high regard, typically in the form of celebrities, news anchors, musicians, or authors.  We behave as though we are betraying said individual if we don’t come to their defense whenever they are criticized, almost as if they were standing right next to you, when, in reality, they have no idea who you are.  Arguments, such as these, often times devolve quickly because, since these are not our own arguments/ideas that we have developed ourselves, we’ve never taken the time to consider opposing viewpoints. It’s much easier to have someone else do the thinking for us.  Chances are, the individuals we look up to, have failed to fully consider their position as well.

If we want to better ourselves as individuals and as a society, it will be necessary to put forth a little more effort.  In order to develop our own ideas, it’s in our best interest to seek out information and opposing viewpoints.  Taking some initial time to develop an original line of thinking will be of benefit as well.  As new information comes to light, one can adjust ideas, lines of thinking.  it is important to seek out qualified individuals related to the topics we are seeking to develop.  For example, if we are developing our ideas surrounding the topic of economic policies, it would be of benefit to listen to various economics professors, rather than career politicians.  Taking it a step further, in this example, we can read those that had influenced said professors.  Emphasis must be placed on the importance of reading criticisms of ideas as well.  This is a step often refused by many, and, as a result, when we are confronted with opposition, we try and shut down the conversation as quickly as possible because we have failed to take the time to develop a true understanding of the topic.  Our defensiveness sheds light on our ignorance.

I understand that it would take a significant amount of time and effort to consider all the ins and outs of all the ideas we hold.  I am not suggesting that this should be done.  The ideas and beliefs that you are most passionate about should take precedence.  It is okay to share certain viewpoints with individuals that you hold in high regard simply because you agree with them in areas you have, in fact, taken the time to fully explore; however, you must be willing to admit this fact.  If you get into a discussion that is in conflict with what you have previously decided to take at face value, listen to what the other person has to say.  Admit that you have not fully looked into it.  If it is something you find important, some additional research may be necessary.  If it’s not worth your time, clearly you don’t care that much, so why get upset?  Meeting criticism and opposition should be looked at in a good light; it give both parties a chance to further develop thoughts and ideas,  You cannot take things personally, your ideas and beliefs should not control who you are.

The Push for Diversity

What prompted this post was a picture posted on social media comparing the Republican vs Democrat congress seats by displaying their portraits. The Republican side displayed a majority of ‘old white guys’ while the democratic side displayed mostly women of varying ethnic backgrounds. While it is no doubt interesting to see this sort of change, the post itself was clearly created to promote a divisiveness within our, already on edge, society.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the fact that we are seeing a more and more diverse group of individuals in Washington; however, it’s worth looking into the reason why. Historically, congress has indeed been comprised of ‘old white guys’, but the rationale behind why that is has often times been attributed to the ever-oppressive patriarchy, when in reality, it something far less menacing. If we turn the clock back a few decades, we will see a much different picture. Back then, it was common for women to stay at home to care for the household. Women pursuing their own careers were few and far between, no doubt. They would have of course met some resistance because it was far outside the norm, for the time. People don’t like change, however, due to persistence, women’s share of the workforce has increased over the years and it is no longer strange to see a woman pursue a career of her own. This is a good change. The same logic follows for race as well. We have improved society to the point that anyone, regardless of immutable characteristics, can pursue their dream.

My concern comes with the actual push for diversity. It’s one thing to say “hey, anyone can pursue any career they so choose”, but it is a completely different idea entirely to suggest that a certain level of diversity must be maintained. Diversity is not inherently good or bad, but rather an observation. When you see, for example, and entire field dominated by ‘old white guys’ it’s not bad to ask why because, if it is truly due to discrimination of some sort, then there’s an issue. It may have been in issue in the past, but I do not believe that same issue plagues us today. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of pushback on that, but show me evidence of people actively shutting people out of career fields. The idea that “everyone in the sector is an ‘old white guy’, therefore it must mean that racism, sexism, etc. Is the causes” suggests highly underdeveloped reasoning skills.

Another key point that I would like to make is the push, for example, to get more ‘diversity’ in the STEM fields. I have to ask why? Studies indicate that women are simply not as interested in STEM type jobs as men. So why should there be a push for more women? I believe the best society is one where you can choose any career path you wish, full stop. People of different genders, ethnic backgrounds, ages, etc. will tend to gravitate towards different fields. People need to realize that, as long discrimination is not blocking people from entering certain fields, it is by no means a problem. So as for the original congress example, it’s worth the time to investigate why ‘old white men’ make up the vast majority of the Republican party. It is certainly not some sinister plot to keep women out of politics, but rather that 1. Women aren’t big into politics to begin with and 2. Those that are, tend to gravitate towards the party that puts more emphasis on people rather than economics. This isn’t that big of a surprise.

In conclusion, it is a breath of fresh are to see some diversity making it’s way into Washington because it’s a nice change of pace. I don’t like the push for diversity itself, there’s no reason to dictate the career paths people should take. Immutable characteristics should play no role in who gets the job. There should be no question as to who gets a job…the best qualified candidate, regardless of age, sex, race, etc. Demanding that all fields have an identical ratio of diversity is absolutely insane, and the people pushing this ideal are causing society more harm than good. The original post painted the diversity of the democratic party as some sort of victory over white, Male oppression. This is a dangerous strawman of sorts that only sows further divisiveness. Again, it’s nice to see some variety, but to suggest that a certain level of diversity must be maintained in all aspects of society is a borderline dystopian ideology. Don’t give in to this toxic way of thinking.

-Jon

The Legacy of Stan Lee

The characters of the Marvel Universe will carry on Stan Lee’s legacy!

Today, the legend of the comic world, Stan Lee, passed away at the good old age of 95. It was a moment we all knew was coming, but refused to accept. Stan Lee was enthusiastic and full of energy all the way to the end. For many, work becomes a chore, even if it is something you’re passionate about, but, for Stan Lee, nothing could be further from the truth. I have never witnessed someone that had such love and devotion for his work, and it did not fade with age. I looked to Stan Lee with great admiration and respect for this very reason. He has encouraged me to pursue the things I love, and to take pride in my work. I guarantee the word mediocrity was not in his vocabulary. Not only was Stan Lee, himself, an excellent role model, the characters he created have inspired countless people of all ages and walks of life. He made a point to give his heroes character flaws so that people could truly relate to the them. His stories were never made just for the sake of being made. He always had great purpose behind everything he created. It is a bittersweet moment for everyone. We will all miss his fantastic cameos in the Marvel films, as well as, his creative spirit, but his legacy will stand the test of time. Each of his characters contain a part of him and we will always have his work to look back on.

Stan Lee was born December 28, 1922 in Manhattan, New York, to his Romanian-born Jewish parents of mild means. He spent his early years working several odd jobs such as delivering sandwiches, writing obituaries, ushering at Broadway plays, and selling newspaper subscriptions. Eventually, Stan Lee was able to get his foot in the door of the comics world. He got a job working for Timely Comics, a division of Pulp Magazine. Although his initial job was not glamorous, making sure the artists’ ink wells were full is not quite the dream job, he was able to work his way up to a position that gave him the power to create.

He got his big break in the late 1950’s. After some of the company’s big talent left due to some sort of dispute, Stan Lee was able to step into their shoes. DC Comics had managed to revitalize their super hero comics that had become rather stale, prior. Stan Lee was presented with the challenge of creating his own team of super heroes from the ground up to directly compete with DC. It was noted that he had taken advice from his wife to create characters that he preferred, not just use some cookie-cutter formula. This was the birth of Marvel. Stan Lee worked with artists such as Jack Kirby, Bill Everett, and Steve Ditko to create his super team with names like The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Thor: God of Thunder, The X-men, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, and the most successful of all, The Amazing Spiderman! As a team, the Avengers were set to take on the Justice League!

The Marvel universe is incredibly interesting, each character having his or her own unique back story. Everyone can find a character that they resonate with, whether it’s the scrawny Peter Parker, the intelligent Dr. Strange, or the brooding Wolverine! Seeing these characters interact with one another in the comics, as well as on the big screen now, is quite the spectacle to behold. The Marvel Cinematic Universe would not be as successful as it is today if it had not been for the continued support of the incomparable Stan Lee! It is with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye, but he his legacy will carry one!

RIP Stan Lee (1922-2018)

Freedom From the Law Through Christ

A brief overview of the Paul’s Letter to the Church at Galatia.

I’ll start with a brief background as to why Paul was writing this letter to the Galatians.  The church at Galatia was teaching that those who wished to follow Christ, both Jew and Gentile alike, must submit to the Old Law that was put in place under Moses.  Paul opposed this teaching as it was counter to the Gospel that was received from Jesus Christ.  Paul argues that Jesus died on the cross to fulfill the Law for all; mankind was overcome by sin, with no hope for salvation.  Man could not find salvation through mortal means.  Paul suggests that going back to following the Old Law would, in essence, be denying the power that Christ’s death and resurrection held.

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me…'” John 14:6 NLT

Man had no hope of finding his own way to salvation, he needed a divine intervention; Jesus Christ provided that intervention.  The letter to the Galatians provides insight into how we should treat the Old Law as well as what is required of us to achieve salvation.  This is a short book, having only 6 chapters, however, it’s message is of the utmost importance.

The Old Law Torn Down Through Jesus’ Death

“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Galatians 2:16 NLT

Paul spells it out plainly here.  The Galatians were teaching that, in order to be saved, one had to submit to the Old Law as well.  Paul, however, indicates that faith in Jesus Christ is the sole path to righteousness.

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” Galatians 2:21 NLT

“2Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Galatians 3:2-3 NLT

Jesus died for all sins so that we may have eternal life.  Christ tore down the Old Law, something that sinful man could never obey.  We are now saved through our faith in He who died for us.  Why would we then try and go back to the Law?  It is as if man says that he can find his own salvation, and thus, Christ’s death on the cross was meaningless.  Following the Old Law, after Christ’s death, was seemingly done as a way to make oneself look superior to his neighbor.  Paul knew the true motives and had to set the Church of Galatia back on the right track to salvation.

“6In the same way, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ 7The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.” Galatians 3:6-7 NLT

Paul looks back to Genesis for support.  The Law did not exist when Abraham found favor in God’s eyes, and was promised to be the father of many nations.  Abraham’s faith alone, as demonstrated by his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, was more than enough in God’s eyes.  The same goes for us, Jew and Gentile alike.  We are saved through our faith in Christ alone.  We often times overlook this and over complicate Christianity, getting tied up in all sorts of legalistic arguments.

“Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.” Galatians 3:19 NLT

“21Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. 22But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:21-22 NLT


With the Old Law Torn Down, How Should We Live?

“16So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.” Galatians 5:16-18 NLT

“24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.” Galatians 5:24-26 NLT

The second half of Galatians cannot be overlooked.  Some may view the abolishment of the Old Law as a free pass to do whatever the heart desires.  Paul made sure to set the record straight.  The Law was originally put into place to show man his sinful ways; however, now that Jesus has given Himself for us on the cross, we have received something far greater, the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is now our guide to walking in the light.  Every pursuit and desire we have in this sinful world will always be in direct opposition to what the Spirit desires.  Seeing the fleeting satisfaction of our worldly desires will leave us without question that we were meant for something far greater.  Everyone struggles with sin in many ways, shapes, and forms.  When you decide to walk in righteousness and follow the Spirit, the sinful desires of this world must take a back seat.  The sins of this world will do everything in their power to drown out the Spirit calling you.  We must being willing to act counter to our human nature if we wish to truly walk with God.
-Jon