A1 Life

This site shares one definition of and paths to achieving a full, rich life.

A Life of Harmony

I recently posted one survey question on my Facebook page asking for responses to what readers thought would make the perfect life. From the over 200 readers, only two commented. I guess if I were running for political office or wanted to crunch the statistics to make it appear more successful, I could have said,”Out of over 200 surveyed, the responses ranged from ‘live at the beach’ to ‘live in harmony with Jesus.'” But, honestly, those were the two answers.

Speculating as to why more people didn’t answer is bordering on the foolish. But I do it anyway. My first response is that people don’t care for the question or that they find the question uninteresting. People really don’t like responding to every post, either. There are so many posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc. that you have to choose. Some people just don’t like to respond in writing. The response might have been too personal. Some people might have thought it was a trick question. Any of these might have been reasons why so few felt encouraged to respond.

If your like me, sometimes I don’t respond because I don’t have an answer or I’m not sure if the way I’d answer today is the way I’d answer under different circumstances.I’m still searching for the answer. This is the reason I write this blog. Specifically to share what my limited human experiences is teaching me about the good life – the full, rich life promised by Christ to come to those who follow Him.

I am always questioning, examining and or analyzing events in mine or my friends’, relatives’ and acquaintances’ lives. Then, comparing that to what I know of God and the Bible at that point in my life’s journey and then fitting the experiences and the God-knowledge into a definition of a life. Once I’ve made some kind of sense out of it all, I love writing and sharing it with others through tweets, posts and whatever books I might publish.  I guess for me, the sharing is the full, rich life.

If I could do that writing on the beach or in my comfortable beach house with the rush of the ocean waves in the background, it would even be more rich. I agree with the other response, too, that sharing my experiences and analysis in harmony with Jesus makes it fuller as well, because it means I am doing what I’m made to do.

The point I want to make is in full agreement with what Cheryl said. No matter what your life is physically, materially, emotionally, if your living in a harmonious, loving relationship with Jesus, your living the good life. It may not feel good all the time. In this world, you will have troubles, even at the beach, but Christ has overcome the world and can help you overcome the trouble and comfort you with that confidence during the troubles while your living the life designed for you (John 16:33 and 2 Corinthians 1:4).

Peter Wept

Answering Adam

This morning, my son posted a Facebook Live and asked this question, “What does Romans 6:23 mean to you?” He asked anyone and everyone who view his post to answer. So, I thought I’d respond.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23 NIV.

I chose to answer because of the Hollywood definition depicted, and often trusted to be accurate, is so wrong.  I believe the media explanation is shared by so many today, even Christians.  It basically says that one day you will be judged by the balance of good and bad one does on Earth. You will be paid accordingly, either with forever in Heaven or reincarnated to a higher form or something akin to those. If you don’t happen to believe in the afterlife, the good you do gets you good karma, etc. The truth behind Romans 6:23 is nearly the opposite and it is what distinguishes Christianity from all other forms of religions and beliefs.  I’ll try to break it down for you.

I think most people need no explanation of the word wages in “the wages of sin” part.  Just in case, I looked up other versions of the verse and found wages used most often, but also “pension,” pay,” “payment,” etc.  So, we get paid to sin, but the payment is death.  I think it’s the ideas that we have about “sin” and even “death” that causes misunderstanding and confusion.

I wish I knew Greek and Hebrew and then I could spout scholarly with this definition. Since I do not know Hebrew which is as Greek to me as Greek,  I will define sin comparing this verse with other verses in the Bible.

Sin in this verse is not sins. There are sins or wrongs that we, including me, are very capable of doing. For instance, just today, I found myself in my car following a car which was traveling in the passing lane under the speed limit of 55 MPH. I feel more comfortable driving at least 60 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, so I thought some very ugly thoughts about this slow driver. The ugly thoughts, the bad habit of driving above the speed limit is wrong.  If you choose to call them sin, then you could be right.  But wait, I wax worse.

When this driver and I stopped at the red light, I noticed his or her handicap license plate. I thought to myself, “I know what your handicap is; you cannot drive.” I almost didn’t write this, because I’m so ashamed of it. But from what I read in the Bible, that is not going to send me to Hell. Neither is lying, cheating, lust, murder, pedophilia or prostitution. Here’s a real shocker for some “Christians” who show up at military funerals – neither does homosexuality send you to Hell.

I don’t think what I did was right. I definitely don’t condone murder, pedophilia, lying, etc.  I do know I have just sinned against the brevity of this piece and will now return to the question at hand.

I hope I haven’t portrayed wrongs against others too lightly. I didn’t mean to do so. I hoped to clarify that the word sin is often treated too lightly.  I believe the word “sin” in Romans 6:23 means basically sin against God. By that, I mean placing anything else as utmost in our lives. In other words, I believe sin is treating God and especially his love for us too lightly. The account of Adam and Eve symbolizes to what I am referring.

Adam and Eve were privileged to walk and talk with God. They lived peacefully among all other creatures on the Earth. They could partake of all the vegetation and fruits perfectly grown without contamination in the Garden of Eden. They lived a life in Utopia. But it wasn’t enough.  God gave them everything, including perfect fellowship with him. He did ask them not to eat of one tree. Not out of meanness, but as protection.  If they ate of that one tree, he said they would die.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 NIV

Adam and Eve wanted more. They took the word of Satan, in the form of a serpent over the one who created them. Not only that, they mistrusted God. That was there sin. They believed the words of someone else and trusted their own instincts more than God.  They hid from God, because now they understood the difference between good and evil and with this newfound knowledge of good and evil, they knew they had chosen evil, they realized their nakedness. They had exposed themselves to evil.

If you know the account, you know that they did not die, at least not immediately.  They, of course, eventually did die and eventually we all die. If we continue to mistrust or dishonor God and take his words lightly, we, like Adam and Eve will lose fellowship with God.

This is the real wage for sin – a life of mediocre existence. We will understand a lot about evil and good, but always discontent and wanting more.

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wages are what you earn. Eternal life is a gift from God. I am going to assume you know the difference between a gift and wages. I will assume also that you can see by the use of the word gift that you do not have to or can earn eternal life.

To help us understand what this last part of the verse means to me, I’ll begin with this verse which may have some familiarity for you.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16-18, The Message

God gave his Son to be the sinless sacrifice we need so that an unholy being can relate to a Holy Creator. Jesus was not only God’s Son, but he was with God and He is God.  God gave his life, earthly, fleshly life, so that we could have a full, rich, wonderful life. Eternal life starts immediately when you begin to trust God over yourself or any philosophy, creed, religion or anyone or anything else. If you don’t have enough faith to face what life has to offer, it’s part of God’s gift. He gives you the faith.

9/11 was not God’s judgement on this nation. It is the natural product of a people responding to a lie and hurting others. Your troubles are not punishment for your sins. The world is getting farther and farther away from God and putting trust in something other than God. That something may look appealing and very satisfying and may even be very wonderful at this moment, but it is not eternal and cannot lead to an eternally abundant life. If you believe anything other than God can give you the life you always wanted, then you believe a lie.

I close with this version of Romans 6:23. This sums up very closely to what I have tried to share. This is what Romans 6:23 means to me.

But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master. The Message

Run or Defend

“What have I done?” John wondered as he stopped from running to catch his breath.

John is a big man, like his brother James and his father. John’s father taught him to never backed down from a good fight. He has a reputation to uphold as the son of thunder. But when the high priests’ soldiers came with swords to take Jesus, his friend and mentor, he ran. There were so many of them.

Apparently, the soldiers had followed Judas to our private spot and when he kissed Jesus, they knew he was the one they sought.  Everyone ran.

Stopping to catch his breath and certain that no soldiers followed, John stops to reflect. He realizes that Jesus warned them that this very night, they all would abandon him. This recollection causes John shame.

“What good would I be to Jesus if I, too, am captured and imprisoned?” John thought at that moment.

“The soldiers will be taking Jesus to the courtyard,” John decides.

Making his way to the courtyard, he catches his second wind and begins to run, again. He stays close to the buildings along the streets to remain somewhat hidden in their shadows. The sun has set and the sky is darkening more and more. John feels some comfort in that fact. It will be easier to remain hidden.

When he reaches the courtyard, a band of soldiers are assembled there still in formation. John is struck by a sudden chill when the light of a fire glistens off the swords. The swords remind him that Peter brandished a sword and struck one of the soldiers. Jesus stopped Peter, then, John recalls.

“What was it Jesus said to Peter?” John digs deep in thought to remember. “Oh, yes, he said, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’”

John remembers now why he did not fight or even challenge the soldiers. He recalls believing that Jesus would handle the situation with his smooth tongue or some magic. But he didn’t. He succumbed willingly.

“I guess Jesus figures he’ll take his chances in court,” John decides. “Maybe he’s right. After all, he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

He debates on whether he should stay or go and wait for Jesus to return. Just as he about to determine to leave, he sees Jesus standing, hands still bound and soldiers surrounding him. He watches for a moment to see what they will do with him. He’s not sure but he believes one of them strikes Jesus across the face. John lunges toward them as an automatic response. John believes Jesus notices him and he realizes he has leaped forward into the light. John jumps back into the shadows of the building and presses his back tight against the wall.

With his arms to his side at a 45-degree angle, he braces himself against that wall. He is overcome by fear and shame. In his young life, he has never known a man who loves him like Jesus does. He knows his father loves him, but his dad was often impatient with him and often became loud and angry when John failed to do what his father told him.

Jesus is not like that. Even when he did not always understand what Jesus taught them, Jesus seldom raised his voice, but took time to explain.

“But I can’t,” John cries inside himself, “I can’t help Jesus, now. I don’t know what to do.”

Fighting away tears, John decides to run and find his brother James or one of the older disciples. There is strength in numbers.  John thinks to himself that if he could find Peter, he’ll know what to do. Peter always seems to know what to do.

They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.  Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’”  Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked.  “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him” Mark 14: 53 – 65.

John and the disciples ran from the garden. Jesus stopped them from defending him with violence at that moment. The odds were in the soldiers’ favor and he didn’t want his disciples to be imprisoned or die. He had a better plan for them.

Jesus didn’t defend himself against the false accusers. He also knew what the High Priest’s response would be when he admitted that he was the Messiah and the Son of God. The silence and the testimony were part of God’s plan for Jesus. It was his time to die.

Jesus could have escaped or somehow avoided capture. He had at other times according to Gospel accounts.  He knew it was time for him to fulfill his purpose – God’s will for his life. Jesus had performed miracles. He had taught many truths. He changed the way the Jews had looked at the Law, the Commandments and the Scriptures. The good he did and the lessons he taught were not his purpose. He did this to prove that he was who he claimed to be when the High Priest asked.

People are still holding court against Jesus. Falsely accusing him of being just another good teacher or philosopher, comparing him to Mohammed, Confucius and other religious leaders.

What about us? Do we believe the evidence Jesus presents? Do we agree with the High Priest who calls Jesus’ claims blasphemy?

If you agree with Jesus, your purpose is like the disciples – to love God with all your being and to love others, friend or foe, as much as you love yourself. But it doesn’t stop there. He also told his disciples to go into the world and teach what he taught.

What did Jesus teach? He taught things like John 6:35. Speaking of himself, he said, “I am the bread of life…” and “I am the good shepherd…” and “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

To teach what Jesus taught and wants us to teach will offend many. It will sound religious and bigoted. Jesus did not teach religion, but a relationship (John 17:23) and he commanded his disciples to take the truth to all people (Matthew 28: 18-20), so all who believe can know their identity and purpose in life (John 10:10).

It is time to defend Jesus, but not militantly or with condemnation. We are to defend Jesus’ Truth with our lives because we love God with all our being and all others, no matter their lifestyle, religion, nationality, creed or race. Jesus’ purpose was to be the sinless sacrifice for all of us (John 3:16 – 18).

Greatest Love Ever

Another Excerpt

Marcy James leans against the railing of the terrace of her penthouse apartment. Her thoughts wonder from her decision to sleep in this Sunday morning which seems lazy to her, to whether she should have gone to church with her younger brother, Lee, whom she raises since their parents’ death, to how much she loves her balcony. One other thought keeps trying to grab a moment of attention, but she keeps dismissing it as she is not ready to wrestle with it this warm but gorgeous September Sunday morning.

Marcy stares out at the bend in the river and watches a barge lazily creep down and out of sight. Its wake is sprinkled by sunlight sparkling like diamonds. The sun glistening off the river mesmerizes her into vulnerability and the one thought she avoids grows too strong for her to ignore.

“Like a silly little school girl,” Marcy concludes, “I trusted my heart to Josh Crockett.”

She tries desperately to dismiss this thought, again, but just like her feelings for Josh, this thought is overpowering. She walks away from the railing and turns her back on the hypnotic view of this side of the bend in the river.

The thought persists, “Why do I think there could ever be a future with him?”

Tears begin to moisten her eyes and she bats them back with multiple quick blinks of her eyes. She fights the tears off with reason.

In the novel A River Bend, Marcy James and Josh Crockett develop a strong bond, but Josh is only visiting her city and returns to his home with the promise of his soon return. Waiting for Josh to return, Marcy struggles with her feelings for Josh Crockett, but this is the least of her challenges in Through the Valley of the Shadow. 

In this excerpt from Chapter 1, “Never My Love,” Marcy struggles with her trust for Josh who is far away even though she talks with Josh everyday. In one chapter of the book, Marcy shares her doubts with Josh and when he expresses his love for her, she is unable to reciprocate.

Later in the novel, she is attacked and her attackers get away. Shortly after, she is stalked by one of her attackers. Josh is still far away.

Will Josh come through for Marcy? Will Marcy resolve her doubts and what will that mean for Josh? Coming soon – Through the Valley of the Shadow.

Like Marcy to Josh, in my struggles, it seems sometimes that God is far away. It has been my experience that it is not God who drifts. I have not doubted God’s love, but have not spent intimate time with him or thought about how much He means to me until a challenge greater than my means to handle hits. Then, I turn to Him and realize he is distant, even though we talk everyday.

I am grateful that God’s love for me is not dependent or quenched by my apathy or complacency. I know through the experience of many trials that God has never left me or forsaken me. God is faithful. God is always near.

Excerpt # 2 – Chapter 3 “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”

I promised excerpts from my second novel which is soon to be published. Here is the second excerpt. The first was from Chapter 10. This one is from Chapter 3. Marcy James and Josh Crockett began a whirlwind romance in just a few days, then Josh had to leave, but promised to return. It has been weeks and Josh calls every day, yet Marcy is beginning to doubt their relationship.

From Chapter 3, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”

“Yes, your text has a ring of urgency in it,” Marcy admits. “Is everything alright?”

“I’m sorry, Marcy,” Josh apologizes, “I did not intend to stress you. Everything is great.”

“Great?” Marcy questions, “I sure misread that, then.”

“How about for you, Marcy?” Josh asks.

“I don’t feel so great,” Marcy confesses.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Josh responds to the discouragement he detects in Marcy’s voice.

“Maybe after you share your ‘great,’ I’ll share my ‘not-so-great,’” Marcy decides.

“Well, I’m getting things in order here and am leaving for Melo really soon, just weeks away, now” Josh declares.

“Oh,” Marcy realizes that is probably not the response Josh expects.

“Marcy,” Josh’s previously joyous tone devolves, “you seem disappointed.”

“I know and I’m sorry, Josh,” Marcy wishes she could take the few seconds back. “I have waited weeks to hear those words, but I guess I had prepared myself for never hearing them.”

Josh contemplates this over before responding. The silence is sickening to Marcy. She never intends to hurt Josh, but she always wants to be honest with him. Something about him and their brief relationship draws her to honesty with him.

“I should be there in a few days,” Josh states, “It sounds like we have something to talk about.”

“It’s just that you’ve been gone longer than we even knew each other,” Marcy acknowledges. “There is so little I know about you and you left so suddenly.”

“Is it alright that we talk when I arrive?” Josh grapples for understanding of what is happening.

“Yes, of course, Josh,” Marcy answers. “Don’t misunderstand. It will be wonderful to see you, again. Your news just came on one of those crazy days for me.”

“Tell me about it, then,” Josh requests hoping it will make some sense of this apparent change in their relationship.

“It can wait until you get here, I suppose,” Marcy delays.

Josh reacts, “Please, Marcy, I want to know. I need to know.”

“Josh,” Marcy asserts, “What happened today is only part of my confusion about our relationship.”

“So, you are having doubts about us,” Josh clarifies.

“I’m not sure I ever admitted it before until I just said it, now,” Marcy affirms.

“Wow,” Josh chokes on this before he can find strength to continue, “I am more curious to know what went down today that gave you such clarity.”

“Josh, please, it’s really not like that at all,” Marcy tries to help Josh understand, but struggles because of her own uncertainty.

“Whatever it was,” Josh pleads, “please share it. It might help me make sense of this.”

Marcy blurts it out, “Geoff is leaving his wife … for me.”

Josh thinks of a hundred things he wants to say, but none of them kind. He wants to warn, preach, curse and threaten. But somehow he doesn’t. He wants to retaliate by telling Marcy about the call from Denise. He believes he should have mentioned it, but now it seems to be the wrong time and the wrong motivation.

“Josh,” Marcy, not sure of what Josh’s thinking and wishes now she had lied to him, “are you going to be alright.”

“I don’t feel alright,” Josh musters these words. ”I love you, Marcy. I have no doubts about that, not even now.”

“How can you be that sure, Josh?” Marcy asks. “We spent only a few days together.”

“The best days of my life,” Josh says.

“How can that be, Josh. You’re not being honest with yourself,” Marcy scolds. “You were constantly under suspicion, whispered about, confronted and finally banned from doing what you came here to do.”

“But you were there, beside me,” Josh declares. “You believed me and trusted me.”

“I still do, Josh,” Marcy admits.

“Then, believe me when I say I love you, Marcy,” Josh persists.

“I believe you,” Marcy confesses, “I wish I could say the same.”

“Can we spend some time together when I return?” Josh asks.

“I think we should,” Marcy agrees, “if you decide to return.”

Excerpt From Upcoming New Novel

Through the Valley of the Shadow is now in editing stage and should be just weeks from publication. I thought I would take the opportunity to “tease” you with some excerpts from the book while the book is being edited.

Marcy James and Geoff Westin leave a restaurant where they had a chance meeting. While walking to their cars to leave separately for home, they are accosted by four strangers including a broad shouldered man (Shoulders) and a hooded man (Hoodie) Marcy and Geoff are drug into the shadows of the restaurant at knife point by the four attackers. The following is from Chapter 10, “Help.”

It’s late and Marcy and Geoff were one of the last patrons to leave the restaurant. The staff begins to turn out the outside lights of the building making it even darker and the parking lot is empty of all cars but Marcy’s, Geoff’s and the staffs’ who are pulling away one by one. Hope of salvation is now almost completely lost.

Geoff is pleading, trying to make Shoulders understand there was nothing more anyone could have done to help his brother. This only makes Shoulders more determined and angry. He strikes Geoff in the face with the full force of his fist. Geoff tries to free himself, but his attackers are too strong and too determined.  Marcy cannot struggle. She is frozen with fear, so frozen with fear she no longer feels anything else.

Hoodie wraps a huge, gloved hand around Marcy’s neck and slowly slides his knife blade under the snap to Marcy’s pants forcing the snap to open. The blade moves against her belly and as it slides downward the zipper slides open as well.

Hoodie drops the blade down against the crotch of Marcy’s pants and then stops and looks up at Shoulders. Shoulders’ ears perk up and his cohorts’ bodies stiffen in anticipation.

A New Design for Sharing and Reblogging

Interaction is integral to the blogging experience. We’ve just redesigned sharing and reblogging on to make joining the conversation even easier.

Source: A New Design for Sharing and Reblogging

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