Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals

My Uncle Told Me bad company corrupts good morals.

I didn't believe it when I was young. Other people weren't going to change me.

Yeah, they can, and yes, they did.

I got through college and hardly ever swore. I rarely said "D***" and never used the F word. Ever.

That was something else he told me. Cursing is for the lazy and weak-minded who don't know how to express themselves.

After a few years working in the chemical plant alongside some very rough characters, I changed.

One day I was in an office in the main building and vehemently gave my opinion about some software we used.

I was called in to Personnel, where they told me someone complained about my language. They reprimanded me for it. Rightly so, and shame overwhelmed me.

I thought how disappointed my Mother would be.

I thought how right my Uncle was.

Learning NOT to swear was hard.

Once you learn to do something bad, it is really hard to get back to the straight and narrow. The old story about the nails in the board comes to mind.

You know what else? It's biblical. Joshua is about to die and gives the Israelites the same warning about bad company and the punishments. (They ignore him, eventually.)

A shorter version is 1 Corinthians 15:33 - "Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character."

My Uncle was a smart guy.

I had a favorite Uncle, which seems odd since neither my father or mother had brothers.
He was really my Mother's Uncle - and he told me a lot of good things.
Even if he didn't, I'll attribute the good to him, since that was the kind of man he was. More on him later.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 7

BA glared at Vic as they were pushed into a square stone hut at the base of the cliff, the thick wooden door closed tightly behind them. Frenzied dust motes danced in the slanted light from the barred windows. "Well," muttered BA, "this is a load of crap."

It took little time to study the room, which was only ten or twelve feet on each side. A raised stone circle sat in the floor in the middle of the room, square holes spaced evenly at two feet from the center. A small stone stopper at the end of a pipe fed cold, clean water into a narrow trough beneath the window. Another stopper allowed the water to flow into an open drain in the floor near the corner, too small for anything except insects and rodents to use. The room smelled faintly of old sweat and hot stones, though the interior was chilly. The walls echoed slightly when they spoke.

"Indoor plumbing with a sink and toilet, probably fed from the glacier above the city, if Haggard was accurate." Vic was seated on the floor in his underwear, diligently cleaning the stain from his cargo pants with the plant extract. "You know, this stuff works really well."

BA sat in the center of the room on the round platform, staring at the door. "Glad you're pleased, brother, because I'm not. The first guy who pokes his head through that door is going to lose it, and we're out of here." BA's jaw muscles were clenched.

Vic stopped cleaning his pants and looked at BA. "Too many in the city, even for you, BA. We'll think of something else." He scrutinized his pant leg. "There." Vic rinsed the pant leg in the running water and examined it in the fading light. "BA, I think that plant extract worked perfectly." He held the small flask and shook it. "And it only took a few drops."

BA still stared at the door. "Toss it here so I can take a look," he growled. Vic gave the vial an underhanded toss toward BA, who deftly snatched it from the air without moving his eyes from the door. Vic finished putting his pants on while BA smelled the liquid. "Not much of a smell, either." The vial disappeared into a leg pocket of BA's pants.

The door opened and Kobo stood there, unarmed. "Gentlemen!" His deep voice boomed. "We will send food, and furs to sleep on. We were not expecting company." He leaned against the doorway casually. "Of course, we never expect company here. We are isolated, as we prefer it."

Vic moved a step closer to Kobo. "So the issue is isolation, I take it?" He surreptitiously tried to wave BA into a calmer state. BA simply ground his teeth and didn't move.

Kobo's grin widened. "Precisely. We like our lifestyle. We would not have others speak of our city."

"We understand that."

"And yet you are Adventurers, so no doubt feel you must tell others of this place." Kobo's grin was not as broad.

"As you pointed out earlier, Haggard already advertised your existence, so anything we say would add little to the original narrative."

Kobo pondered Vic's statement. "Ah, but Haggard is considered fiction. You two most certainly are not."

BA glanced at Vic and shrugged. "Go ahead," he said. "It doesn't matter at this point. I'll either kill them all or they let us go."

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Friday, May 19, 2017

What I Ought, I Don't

It's an age-old struggle. You make a promise to yourself to do better, to do more ... maybe just to do - and you don't.

I've heard people I admire say "I must not be a very good Christian." I guess they think Christians are immune to failure, like Jesus is some shot you get that protects you from doing wrong.

Let's get some perspective on that, shall we?

Can we all agree that the apostle Paul, admittedly a late-comer to the apostle group, was a pretty good Christian?

He was quite likely a pretty good fellow, too. Well-educated, well-traveled, a great speaker - I imagine he had a story for almost any occasion, and was probably pretty great to listen to. There was this one time he spoke for so long that a young fellow hanging out in a window fell asleep, dropped three stories and died. It's okay. Paul raised him back to life (Acts 20:9-10).

So let's agree that Paul had it all together. I can't raise people from sleep who listen to me and Paul raised one from the dead!

Wait a second! When writing to the Romans, Paul says "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Rom 7:15 NIV)

Why does this happen? Here's my thoughts on that.

Natural Inclination
It is instinct to do certain things and avoid certain things. We want to have fun. We don't want to work hard (suffer). We like sweets. We don't like salad (maybe that's just me).A dog loves to chase squirrels. Walk a dog down the street, he sees a squirrel and wham! It's off to the races.Maybe you have a well-trained dog. You're walking down the street, he sees the squirrel and you feel a bit of a tug, but he doesn't bolt. He wants to. He almost does. But he catches himself.Maybe you have a dog that is trained to lead the blind. That dog won't bolt. He won't even tug on the leash. But his eyes follow that squirrel just a little bit.You know he wants to run.Yeah, we're dogs.

Sometimes it's less instinct and more habit.You have done it for so long and so often that it becomes natural to do it again.I chew ice. I shouldn't. My teeth can't take the abuse any more and are starting to crack.I still chew ice.Or that one cookie that just calls out to you - along with all its companions. One becomes many.You're bored. You turn on the television instead of reading something worthwhile. You eat some candy instead of get a glass of water.Yeah, those hit some nerves. You get the idea.

You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.Over and over again.Your buddies are having a drink or two, so you indulge.I just happened to wander down the cookie aisle at the grocery store (again) and cookies jumped in the cart.Or I go grocery shopping when I'm hungry.Or hang around the wrong people when I'm lonely.Or find the wrong pages on the internet.
Combine more than one of those and you're just asking to fail.

And you wonder why?

You can change the environment. Don't hang out in the wrong places, with the wrong people, down the wrong grocery aisle.

You can change bad habits to good - but that's hard work and whoops - that's one of those things we don't do when we know we should, so it's part of our natural inclination.

Oh, there are solutions. I have a few thoughts on those, too, but they aren't comprehensive. 

Vigilance helps - spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.

Forgiveness helps - when you fail, remember that Paul himself failed also, and I doubt many of  us are better than Paul.

Does it mean you aren't a Christian? Does it mean that somehow when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He didn't hear you and passed you by?

By no means! That is one of the BIG lies Satan will toss at you when you fail, so don't buy into that one.

I don't have a lot of other thoughts on this, but this guy does. It's a long sermon, but worth every sentence.

Here's where he ends up. After Romans 7 comes Romans 8.

After our failures comes Jesus and His forgiveness, mercy and strength.

And if you don't know the Jesus I'm talking about, here's His plan of salvation.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who do men say that I am

"Who do men say that I am?"

Jesus asked this question of his disciples, yet it echoes down to us through the centuries. The question remains relevant to this day.

If you ask most people that are not Christian, they will tell you they think Jesus was a good man, a great teacher - perhaps even a prophet.

Would a good man concoct a lie which ensnared generations of people? Only a devious man would do such a thing.

Would a great teacher tell his followers, and the Jewish people, that He now fulfilled the law and was God incarnate? Only a lunatic would do so.

So, Liar or Lunatic - those are your only options, but certainly not that He was a good man and a great teacher.

There is a third option.

Jesus is exactly who He said He was, the bodily personification of God.

Accept the third option and you're faced with two choices - accept Him as God or not.

Peter answered the question of Jesus with "You are the Christ, the son of the Living God."

I'm studying Josh Mcdowell's book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. I'll be writing some posts based on the book over the next few weeks.

Safari in the Mist - Part 6

A group of children tried to rush past the guards and failed. One of the children threw a handful of black, sticky material through the air, barely missing one of the guards. Vic wasn't so fast.

A black splotch of sticky residue hit him directly in the thigh, dripping down the length of his leg.

Vic stopped. The guard behind him ran into him and stepped back, leveling his spear. "NO!" shouted Vic. He searched through the pockets of his pants, pulling one small package after another out, finally stopping when he pulled out a blue bandanna. "AND it smells like crap!" He knelt down and scrubbed furiously at the spot. The stain spread.

"So, dirt RESISTANT, but not crap resistant, is that what I'm seeing?" BA tried hard to keep from laughing. The guards and most of the people of the city simply stared as Vic poured water on the stain, trying futilely to scrub it off with the cloth.

"I formulated that stain repelling chemical myself, BA, so don't give me grief. I was SURE I had it."

"Ah, finally. A matter of pride. I understand now." BA patted Vic on the shoulder. "It just doesn't seem to work in the wilds, brother."

A tiny shriveled old woman with short, wiry white hair walked up to Kobo, speaking quickly and gesturing. She handed him a small clay vial and crossed her arms, tapping her foot.

Kobo laughed, deep and reverberating, the guards joining him and most of the people nearby smiled. "My esteemed Mother says that she is also greatly disturbed that your garment is soiled. She dislikes dirt as greatly as Vic von Crapp." He handed the small vial to Vic and pulled him to his feet. "My esteemed Mother says you should wash the stain with this juice. Do not drink it, unless you wish to soil your garments even more!" He laughed again.

Vic slipped the liquid into the pocket at his thigh. "Thanks. I really appreciate this." He smiled at BA. "See? Why would they want to help me keep our clothes clean if they were going to hurt us?"

BA growled back quietly. "So they don't have to clean your clothes after you're dead? I'm just guessing."

Vic shrugged. "You are in a pessimistic frame of mind, BA."

"Surrounded by ten foot tall warriors, on a march to be fattened up for sacrifice. No, Vic, it's just a picnic."

Vic looked up at one of the warriors. "They aren't ten feet tall, BA. At most they are…" BA punched Vic in the shoulder and he shut up.

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)