Lesson Learned

I learned my lesson today. I had some textbooks that I don’t need, so I listed them for sale on Amazon.com. Two of the books sold, and we shipped the first one via USPS on September 25th. They didn’t pay for tracking, so I didn’t ask for it. They didn’t pay for delivery confirmation so I didn’t ask for it. And I didn’t save the receipt.

I think you know the rest of the story. I started getting e-mails a few weeks ago: Where is my book? I paid you but still have not received it. Etc. Etc. I reassured the buyer it was in the mail, but according to her, she never got it.

This means logically that one of two things happened:
1. The United States Post Office lost my package, or is taking their own sweet time (almost a month now) to deliver it
2. She received the book, and is lying so she can get her money back and have a free book.

While both of these are possible, in the interests of good will I assumed the first to be true, and refunded her money. If I had gotten delivery confirmation, then number 2 would be impossible, since I could prove she received it. If I had saved the receipt, I would have the tracking information so I would be able to tell where it is (hopefully). A month ago I had a $20 book. Then I had $20, and she had the promise of a book. Now she has her $20 back, and I have no book.

Next time I will get delivery confirmation and save the receipt with the tracking information. Because those are for me, not for the buyer.

Live and learn.

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City of Houston Rejects Freedom of Speech and Religion.

I have said before that the gay rights activists do not want to be left alone. They want acceptance of their lifestyle. They want approval that their sexual choices are not only “not-wrong” but that they are actually morally correct. I even alluded to the civil prosecution of those businesses who declined to participate in the homosexual agenda. But it has gone beyond that now. I have referred to the gay rights lobby as the “gaystapo” (which is a portmanteau of “gay” and “Gestapo,” the Nazi secret police). I refer to them as such because they are acting like the Gestapo, forcing people to “toe the party line” so to speak.  And amid the many examples of this today we have the worst case so far, from the Lone Star State.

In Houston, Texas, it is now illegal to speak out against homosexuality. Those of you who think that this isn’t a bad thing, let me remind you about a thing called the “First Amendment.” Here is the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What Houston did goes directly against two of the six clauses in this amendment: Freedom of religion and freedom of speech. And then they even rejected the sixth: the right to petition for redress of grievances. Let me give you a timeline of the events surrounding this case, and how it led to this unconstitutional act by the city of Houston.

May 28, 2014: The Houston City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (aka, the “Bathroom bill”), or HERO, in an 11-6 vote, whereupon it was promptly signed into law by Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian. Why do I bring up her sexual orientation? Because she has stated that the HERO is, “all about me.”

July 3, 2014: Opponents of the HERO turned in a petition with over 55,000 signatures from residents of Houston who want to repeal the bill. The opponents only needed 17,269 signatures. The petition would move the issue to a city-wide referendum to be added to the ballot in November.

August 4th, 2014: Mayor Annise Parker (lesbian) and other city officials stated that there were “too many irregularities among the signatures,” thereby rejecting the repeal request. They threw out whole pages of signatures, bringing the total down to 15,249, a mere 2,020 signatures short. This means they threw out about 40,000 signatures.

August 5th, 2014: The opponents of the HERO filed suit in state court to have the signature verification process reviewed.

August 6th, 2014: The City of Houston removed the suit from state court and sent it to federal court, a move that could affect the outcome in their favor, since the state of Texas is more conservative than the federal courts.

August 7th, 2014: US District Judge Gray Miller remanded the suit from federal court back to state court.

September 10th: The City of Houston issued subpoenas to a number of Houston-area pastors, in which the pastors are required by law to turn in any communications they have regarding the HERO, including, “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” In other words, if pastors have spoken out from the pulpit against homosexuality, these pastors must turn those sermons in. (Full text of one of the subpoenas here.)

So you see, we’ve come to the point where churches are being forced by the government to surrender any and all materials in which they spoke out against homosexuality. I don’t know how this situation is going to be resolved, but I will say that it is merely a symptom of the future in this country. I foresee a time in which churches that openly affirm biblical morality (including the proscription against homosexuality) will be forced to close. We’re not there yet, but this situation in Houston tells me that the people who want us to get to that point are here already, and they are gaining strength.

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Arguing With Heathens

Arguing with people on the internet, especially unbelievers gets frustrating because I make a statement, and then five people respond with their arguments that prove I’m an idiot. It’s difficult to respond to all of them, and sometimes the arguments they bring are simplistic, showing they have almost zero Bible knowledge. Sometimes their arguments are old and worn out. But what happens without fail is that while I am formulating my response to one of them, another bunch of people chime in. And if you don’t respond to their comment, they think they have “won” by stumping you.

It’s a struggle to know when to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3) and “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15), and when to stop “casting pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).

But there is one argument that I encounter over and over. I know that if I mention the Bible in any public forum, someone will drag this thing out like Exhibit A at a trial and thrust it in my face with a look of triumph on their face, saying, “Oh yeah? What do you have to say about THIS?”

What is the argument? It can be summed up in this statement: If you say you follow the Bible, then why don’t you keep the Mosaic Law?

This argument is always foreshadowed with a seemingly innocent question like, “Do you eat bacon?” “Do you wear cotton-polyester blends?” These are questions that, if the person being questioned was unfamiliar with the Law of Moses, could really trip him up.

Just today on a Facebook forum a man asked me, “Why don’t you have a full beard like the Bible dictates?” I actually laughed as I responded, “But I DO have a full beard.” Another person on the same thread pointed me to a buzzfeed article (note: if you are using buzzfeed to defend your position, you’ve already lost) which details 19 things the Bible forbids other than homosexuality. It goes on to list a bunch of Levitical restrictions that don’t apply to Christians. Burrrrrrn!

Finally, after enduring these theological mistakes all day, I read a comment from a girl who asked me,

“Steve do you work on Sundays? Leviticus speaks about death for this. Do you eat shrimp, lobster, or other seafood? This is an abomination…same wording as man lying with another man, yet nobody is so vehemently against that. Women that lose their virginity before marriage should be taken to the door of her father’s house and stoned to death. I have a feeling you don’t agree with the things I have mentioned above, so you’re picking and choosing from the bible to suit your own opinions. Don’t claim to only be listening to the word of God if you’re going to decide one part matters, but we can ignore the rest.”

Here is my response to her:

I see where you’re going, and let me help you out.
1. Yes, I work on Sundays sometimes, because I’m a nurse, and sick people don’t suddenly get better at midnight on Saturday night. I know what you are trying to say, that Leviticus says I shouldn’t work on the Sabbath, but you should know first of all that Sunday is NOT the Sabbath. The Sabbath is Saturday.
2. No, actually, I don’t eat shrimp, lobster, crab, or other seafood. But it’s not because of Leviticus. I just find them all disgusting. I eat fish (whitefish like cod, halibut, etc; tuna, and a few other types).

Basically what you are saying is that since I believe the Bible is the Word of God, that I should obey everything in it at face value with no kind of interpretation. This is asinine. God had rules for Adam and Eve that He didn’t have for Abraham (“Don’t eat that fruit!”). He had rules for Methuselah that He didn’t have for Abraham (“Don’t eat meat!”). He had rules for Abraham that He didn’t have for Moses (“It’s ok to marry your sister”). And of course, my point is that He had rules for the Hebrews that He doesn’t have for me (“no lobster, no working on sabbath”). You see, if you bothered to READ the Bible and attempt to understand it in context, you would see that the things in the Old Testament were written for an example for us. There are many places in the New Testament where it states that followers of Christ do not have to keep the Mosaic Law. However, there are parts of the Mosaic law that reveal to us God’s morals. For instance, even though the NT says I don’t have to follow the Mosaic Law, this does not allow me to break the command in Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.” I think we can both agree that murder is still wrong. As a matter of fact, there are places in the New Testament that state murder is wrong. And so it is with lying, coveting, adultery, idolatry, and yes, homosexual behavior. The prohibition against all of these is repeated in the New Testament, no matter how much Matthew Vines wishes it weren’t so.

I am not “picking and choosing” as you say, I am interpreting the Bible with a dispensational hermeneutic, to use the theological terminology. I’m sorry if that is beyond your grasp, but it is the best wording for my beliefs about the Bible which I have attempted to explain.

See, the problem here is that people treat the Bible as if it is a theological “how-to” manual that is 100% applicable to me in a literal sense. In other words, I should do everything it says. But if that were true, I would have to (at the same time) present a sacrifice of animals at the Temple in Jerusalem (kind of hard because it’s not there anymore but hey…) AND trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a complete covering for my sins. In Leviticus chapter 4 God outlines the sin offerings. In verse 35 He states that by sacrificing an animal on the altar, a Hebrew could be forgiven. However, in Hebrews 10:4 it says “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Which is correct? Does the Bible contradict itself?

No. As I stated above to the woman Facebook poster, God had different rules for different people throughout the history of the world that don’t apply to people in other times. But the way to salvation has always been the same from Adam all the way to the last person born in the Millennial kingdom in the future: trusting in the death of the Son of God as the perfect Sacrifice to take away the penalty of your own personal sins. If Adam is in heaven, it’s not because he sacrificed animals. It’s because he was trusting in God’s future sacrifice of His own Son. When God allows me into heaven, it will be because I am trusting in God’s past sacrifice of His own Son. If my great grandchildren go to heaven, it will be for exactly the same reason.

Dispensationalism simply means that God has certain rules for certain groups of people at certain times. Evidently Noah wasn’t supposed to eat meat before the flood, but in Genesis 9:3 Noah is told it’s ok. Interestingly enough, God tells Noah in that verse “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you as I gave the green plant.” So Noah was allowed to eat pork, a non-kosher food (tip: Noah wasn’t Hebrew). And yet later on God said “Don’t eat pork” to Moses and the Hebrews. And yet later on God told Peter in Acts 10 that pork was ok again.

So the next time someone trots out this old dirty sock of an argument, you will know that they are misinterpreting the Bible, and perhaps you can enlighten them that just because God told the Israelites that bacon was not ok, this doesn’t mean God thinks bacon is bad, He just had different rules for them. And though He had different ceremonial laws, His moral law is unchanging: lying is sin. Murder is sin. Idolatry is sin. Disrespecting one’s parents is sin. Adultery is sin. Fornication is sin. Homosexuality is sin.

The biggest error that people make in these debates is in thinking that they are the arbiters of morality: THEY are the ones who decide what is right and what is wrong. This is the lie of Satan from Genesis chapter 3: you will be as gods, knowing good and evil. Humans tend to think that we get a say in deciding what is right and what is wrong. Well, we don’t. God says what is right and wrong, and He tells us so in His Word. So if God says don’t do it: don’t do it.

Finally, the Bible is not a to-do list where you can read a random passage and simply apply whatever it says to your life without understanding who the passage was written to, the meaning of the passage, etc.  In other words, you have to interpret what you read.  Otherwise you end up like the guy who decided he was going to open his Bible to a random verse and do whatever it said.  He closed his eyes, let his Bible fall open, put his finger on the page, and looked at the verse. It was Matthew 27:12 “…he departed and he went and hanged himself.”  The man thought, “Maybe I’d better double check to make sure this is God’s will.” So he did the procedure again, and when he opened his eyes, his finger was on John 13:27, “…Therefore Jesus *said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

Don’t cherry-pick verses.  Read the Bible in context and interpret it to determine the meaning.  If you are saved, then the Holy Spirit will illuminate it for you.

And don’t worry if it seems like nobody is listening.  The act of standing up for God is worth it all on it’s own, but God also promises that His Word does not return empty, but always accomplishes the purpose for which He sent it.

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Postal Comedy

I got three pieces of mail this week that made me laugh.  The first (and least funny) was from Ben and Jerry’s.  As I recently posted, I had two bad experiences with their ice cream.  They sent me a letter which states (in part):

The problem you encountered in that pint of Vanilla Toffee Bar Crunch ice cream suggests that the product was mishandled during the distribution process or at the retail outlet.

In other words, as Lando would say, “It’s not my fault! They told me they fixed it!” They DID include a coupon for a free pint of ice cream, and a coupon for $1 off two pints of ice cream. So that was nice of them.  I’ll use the free coupon, but if, as I suspect, the texture problem is due to their new ingredients, that will be my last pint.

Mail number two was a letter from the power company telling me that if I sign up for their “FixedBill” plan I can have the privilege of paying approximately $320 more for my electricity this year.  No, seriously.  Here’s the chart showing me my options:

Such a deal!!

Such a deal!!

As you can see, I could keep doing what I’m doing and pay approximately $230 per month (give or take), OR I could pay MORE……    What to do? What to do?

The third and final piece of mail that made me laugh was from AT&T. The outside of the envelope said something about “High Speed Internet” and I wondered, “Is UVerse finally going to be available in my neighborhood?”

Nope.

It is a letter which states, “Enjoy high speed internet!” How fast is this “high speed internet”?  3 mbps.  That’s right, boys and girls. They want me to give up my 50mbps (That’s fifty) connection for 3mbps.  If it had been around 10mbps I would have considered it. But it’s not even 3mbps, it’s “UP TO 3mbps” which means that most times it will be less than 3mbps.  For reference, you NEED a 3mbps connection to use Netflix.

And their price is $15 per month, but it’s only a promotional rate. I’m sure it doubles after the promotional period ends, but that’s not the worst part.  This promotional price only covers 150 GB of data per month.  My current service has NO cap on data.

“High speed.”  Snort.

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My Weekend Trip

This weekend my nephew married his high school sweetheart. I drove to Iowa to see the wedding, as well as go to a conference at Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis. When those things were finished, I had some free time. I went to church Sunday morning, and then spent the rest of the day visiting with family. Sunday night my best friend Mike and I made plans to go fishing this morning.

The wedding was NOT in Hawaii, which the palm trees may lead you to believe.

The wedding was NOT in Hawaii, which the palm trees may lead you to believe.

I had planned to spend Friday in Minneapolis, Saturday and Sunday with my family (wedding included), and then Monday with Mike and his family before driving home Tuesday. Mike said that he had plans for Monday afternoon, but we could go fishing in the morning, and then I could go home early and surprise my wife and kids.

So we fished. I paid $10.50 for a nonresident one day fishing license. I asked the guy, “Do you have a three hour license that’s cheaper?” No dice. Oh well.

Getting ready to cross the big bridge at Lake Red Rock.

Getting ready to cross the big bridge at Lake Red Rock.

We went to some body of water near Lake Red Rock. Mike had his canoe, which was funny, because the idea was for us to spend time together fishing and talking, but he spent the entire three hours staring at my back. At least we are guys, so we don’t need eye contact to communicate.

After drowning a worm for three hours and annoying a bunch of flies, we pulled the canoe out of the water. We didn’t get a single bite. But we did get to spend three hours talking, catching up, and reconnecting.

We parted ways there after loading up the supplies in his truck. I let him keep the rest of the worms, because hey, what am I going to do with them? I drove to Pella, Iowa, and spent some time at Jaarsma Bakery. This place is amazing. They have traditional Dutch pastries, as well as other bakery stuff. You could get fat going there regularly. I think they should have insulin available on request.

Jaarsma Bakery.  An Iowa institution.

Jaarsma Bakery. An Iowa institution.

Yum.

Yum.

More Yum.  Note the Dutch letters on the bottom left.

More Yum. Note the Dutch letters on the bottom left.

I need ten units of Novolog just from looking at this case, and I'm not even diabetic!

I need ten units of Novolog just from looking at this case, and I’m not even diabetic!

While I was there I bought some Dutch Letters, some chocolate and peanut butter covered pretzels, and an apple fritter.  Now, I like apple fritters, but this one was the best apple fritter I’ve ever had.  It had real pieces of apple in it, and had maple frosting on top.

IMG_2712

Simply amazing! I put the bite there, because I couldn’t wait.

I left there and drove out of Iowa on a road I’ve never used to get out of Iowa: Highway 34. Funny story:  usually as we enter or leave Iowa on I-80 we encounter a pig truck, along with its smell.  But on this road, I encountered something I’ve never seen before:  a turkey truck.

Not pigs.

Not pigs.

The bridge at Burlington is very nice, but the 45 miles of Highway 34 in Illinois between Burlington and Galesburg is not very nice. Add in the lane painter I sat behind for a good ten minutes, and yet again Illinois takes the prize for “Worst State to Drive Through.”

IMG_2728

Goodbye, Iowa.

I made it through Illinois and Indiana without my wife finding out that I was on the way home. Remember, she was expecting me to get home Tuesday night. I got home around 9:30pm and called her from the driveway.

“Are the girls in bed?” (Nathan usually stays up later, in case you are wondering)
“Not yet,” she said.
“Did you give them a hug from me?”
“Not per se…”
“Well,” I said. “How about I just come inside and hug them myself.”
“Whaaaaaat???”

It was a successful surprise with laughs and hugs all around. We prayed together and the kids went to bed.

Tomorrow they get to see the gifts from Grandma and the goodies I got from Jaarsma (Dutch Letters!!).

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I Scream for Ice Cream

I, like many of you, have a favorite ice cream. Unfortunately, my favorite ice cream doesn’t exist anymore.

My favorite ice cream was Ben and Jerry’s “Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch.” The vanilla ice cream was creamy, and the toffee pieces were varied in size, from small fragments that flavored bites of the ice cream, to large chunks that could be eaten separately. And the toffee was Heath, which is one of my favorite candy bars.

vanilla-heath-bar-crunch

Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dodo. Vanilla Health Bar Crunch.

Last month I noticed that my favorite ice cream had disappeared in my grocery store. I assumed they were just out of stock every time I looked. Then this “Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch” showed up, and I wondered what was going on. Did they replace my favorite with this coffee-flavored ice cream? The answer is no, they did not.

Ben and Jerry’s has always advertised their desire to be natural, wholesome, and not use synthetic or artificial ingredients in their products. I have always supported this because it’s nice to know you’re eating “the real thing.” But evidently their quest to be even more natural than before has led them to only use “certified non-GMO and Fairtrade ingredients” in their products now. I don’t mind this. They can use whatever milk and toffee they want, so long as the taste doesn’t suffer.

It suffered.

I bought a pint of their “Cherry Garcia” two weeks ago, and I thought the ice cream was freezer-burnt. That stinks, when you pay $5 for a pint of ice cream, and it’s freezer burnt. But I bought it at a gas station, so caveat emptor, right? Fast forward to last week, when I saw their replacement flavor for my favorite. It’s called “Vanilla Toffee Bar Crunch.” Evidently Heath bars aren’t “Certified non-GMO” or something. The outside of the containter has a promise from Ben and Jerry that they tried tons of different kinds of non-GMO toffee and found the best kind for their ice cream.

It is not good. Not good at all.

It is not good. Not good at all.

I beg to differ.

The new ice cream is, just like the Cherry Garcia, less creamy to the point of seeming almost freezer-burnt. Also, toffee is supposed to be crunchy. The toffee they picked is soft, even when frozen. It is grainy, and does not taste good. I don’t know what they’ve done to their ice cream except for replacing the Heath with some other toffee, but whatever they’ve done, it’s made the ice cream not taste good.  As a result, I will no longer be buying Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. This should be good for my waistline, but now I’m looking for a new favorite ice cream.

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Michael Sam Cut By Rams

I haven’t said anything about Michael Sam here until now. For those of you who don’t know anything about him, here are the basics. Michael Sam was an All-American linebacker for the University of Missouri who was also the SEC defensive player of the year in 2013. This means that he played extremely well at Missouri, and he declared himself eligible for the NFL draft this spring. He was drafted in the 7th round (pick #249 of the draft) by the St Louis Rams. He played for the Rams during their football camp, and their four preseason games, until he was cut on August 30th.

So why is this a big deal? People are making a big deal about it because Michael Sam is gay. He announced his status as a gay person in February 2014, making him the first openly gay football player to be drafted by an NFL team. The LGBT community rallied around him, and the media seemingly fell over each other in their rush to praise his “courage” for being an openly gay football player. Me? I think it’s all silly. Why, you ask? Because when I watch football, I don’t gauge the players based on their sexual orientation, their bedroom habits, or any other criteria other than: can they play football well?

So Sam was cut two days ago. Some people got upset, and some people made a big deal about it. It seems to me that half of Adam Schefter’s tweets lately (and the NFL’s for that matter) have been about Michael Sam.

Let’s look at the numbers. Every year there are approximately 3500 college seniors who play Division I and II football. Out of these, only about 255 are drafted by NFL teams. Being drafted doesn’t mean you’re on the team, however. See, NFL teams are limited to 53 active players per team. There are 32 NFL teams. That means that for any year, there are 1696 professional football players on NFL teams. That number never changes. What does this mean? It means that, for every rookie drafted in the 2014 NFL draft that was signed by his team (i.e. survived the cutting process this past month), there is another player that no longer plays for that team.

The teams end their year with 53 players. In the months after the Super Bowl, they sign, trade for, or draft enough players so that when they hit training camp in July they have way more than 53 players. The Indianapolis Colts, for instance, had 92 players on their roster this past July. They had to cut 39 players by August 30th to comply with league rules. Of those 39, some may find positions with other teams, some may get signed to the 10 man “practice squad.” Players on the practice squad still get to practice with the team, increases their chance of playing in the NFL at some point (usually if a NFL player gets injured, teams look to practice squads to replace him), and helps the team have more guys to practice with.

What does this mean? It means that for Michael Sam’s dream of playing in the NFL to come true, some other player’s dream of playing in the NFL doesn’t come true. These teams are looking for the absolute best players out there. This year the St. Louis Rams drafted 11 players (Sam was #10). They signed the top six. None of the bottom five were signed, nor have they been added to the Rams’ practice squad. So the three guys who the Rams thought were better than Sam didn’t get signed either, but nobody’s talking about them. Not every drafted player gets to play. 

Is Michael Sam a better football player than me? Yes. Is he better than most of the linebackers at the college level? Yes. Is he good enough to be a linebacker in the NFL? Evidently the St. Louis Rams say no. And I’m ok with that, because in the end, to the NFL, it doesn’t matter if you are in a monogamous heterosexual marriage relationship for 13 years (like Peyton Manning), if you like to sleep around and have children by multiple women (like Travis Henry, who has fathered at least 11 children by ten different women), or if you are a virgin (Tim Tebow). Your personal bedroom proclivity doesn’t matter to the NFL, they only care if you can play football.

And Michael Sam evidently isn’t up to snuff. Some other team may sign him.  He may work hard to improve so that he can play at this level.  If he were to work hard enough to be good enough to play, then I would salute his talent and ability to play in the NFL.  But right now he’s not good enough. So can we please stop talking about him?

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