Sunday, November 23, 2014

Facing Reality

     It has been some time since I have written here. I don't know why, really. I think, like many people I have trouble keeping interest in things for too long. A personal flaw, probably. Honestly, as I sit here writing this I have no real recollection of what post precedes this. I suppose it doesn't really matter. Some of my renewed interest in this blog is someone showing some interest in it. I am flattered that there are people out there reading it, and my thoughts of those (probably few) readers has inspired me to take up the pen, or rather the keyboard, again.
     I have thought much lately of practical faith. It is well and good to speak of abstract concepts about God and how He impacts us, and the world we live in; it is a much different thing to take these concepts out into the world and actually live them. See, I think that is the most difficult part of our faith in Christ-the command to, "go forth and make disciples." The concepts Christ speaks of and demonstrates in His earthly ministry are really really, well, difficult.
     For example, I was blessed, recently, to be able to take the Core Module of RZIM Academy, an online course hosted by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to help laymen learn some of Dr. Zacharias' discipleship and apologetic techniques. It was an excellent course and I highly recommend it if you have the chance to take it. However, several of the exercises in the class were geared towards showing us that the best apologetic in this fallen world is living the apologetic we so often laud as right and true. On of these was an exercise in which we had to interview a person with a worldview different than our own and only ask them questions without defending our own worldview. Then, to make the assignment more difficult we had to defend their point of view in a short essay. Naturally, this was a very eye opening experience. It revealed biases and knee-jerk reactions that I did not know I had.
     A few days ago I was speaking in my office with a dear friend and brother in Christ about a matter he had been studying in the scriptures.  The subject of the Pharisees came up and we both noted that the biggest issue our Savior took with the Pharisees was that they appeared righteous while neglecting the true righteousness that Christ called people to. It's easy to get caught up in the routine and ritual of going to church. Many times I have found myself mindlessly sitting through a sermon or church event without any real thought or conscious participation. It is easy, when getting stuck in the rut of church attendance and routine to become a Pharisee of mindset and think less of non-believers. Moreover, we tend often, when in our careless, thoughtless rut, to be very unkind and coarse to those without Christ. We must remember that those not yet in the fold of God desperately need our example, not our holy ideals and lofty turns of phrase. Just my thoughts of late....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Exceptionally Average

     I have a fear. No, not spider or snakes, although I'm not a fan of either of those. I have a deep and terrible fear of being average. I have never wanted to be just another face in the crowd. Mediocrity revolts me to my core.
     The only problem with my feeling that way is that I am so very average. I made good grades in school, not outstanding but not bad. I have a decent job, not one that leads to riches, nor am I in danger of debtors prison.  I live my life in the thin shadow of my dreams of grander things, and then wake up to the unyielding reality of average. I have always dreamed of being a great leader, or great businessman, or prominent Christian author or speaker. Yet, I live in the land of average, as most of us do.  I have always sought after a college degree and a different job. I'd love to move to a larger community with more opportunities, and have often found myself despondent and unhappy due to my inability to reach the goals that would, I perceived, fulfill me.
     Then, recently, my pastor preached a sermon from 2 Corinthians 4:7 (HCSB), which reads, "Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us." 
     This verse is profound, and I must say that it cut me to my very core. It also reminded me of an essay I heard once. It is a short essay by F.W. Boreham called, The Poppies and the Corn. In it Boreham had this to say:

"There is a very lovable thing about poppies in the corn that I can never sufficiently admire. The poppies never belittle the corn, they glorify it. You'd think not the less but the more of the corn because of the poppies. At a rose show, one particularly radiant blossom puts all the surrounding roses to shame. They are beggared by comparison. That is because a show is all artificiality and affectation. Nature never humiliates her more modest children in that ridiculous way. As you watch the blood red poppies tossing in a sea of golden corn, it never occurs to you to institute a comparison. The poppies and the corn seem equally lovely. That is the glory of true greatness. Others are never humiliated in its presence. It elevates the mass. If a field were all poppies, the glory would have departed. The poppies need the corn. God makes nothing commonplace. Here is a gospel for those to whom the days seem grey because they have given up dreaming of poppies."

     My pastor's message has reminded me that not everyone can be famous or extraordinary, or is it that we are all extraordinary. We are all men and women made in God's image. Also, it has reminded me that so often things that may seem drudgery or trifling to me, are just what God has for me to do right now. I think of Moses' forty years in Midian as a shepherd. 
      I do not know what God has in store for me. I, also, do not know where He may send me in the journey of following His will for my life. What I do know is that I am going to try harder to surrender my way to His, to remember that my days here are a gift, and to enjoy and make the most of what and where I am, for His glory.  
     You and I need to always remember that we are made by a loving God in His image, and that we are all exceptional. I have no idea if anyone else feels this way, but if you are struggling with the idea of being, not what you want, but what God wants you to be, and often find yourself disappointed in thing not turning out according to your plan,  I will leave you with this poem that has helped me have more perspective.

A commonplace life, we say and we sigh,
But why should we sigh as we say?
The commonplace sun and the commonplace sky
Makes up the commonplace day.
The moon and the stars are commonplace things,
And the flower that blooms and the bird that sings;
But dark were the world and sad our lot,
If the flowers failed and the sun shone not.
And God who studies each separate soul
Out of the commonplace lives makes His beautiful whole.” 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who's In Charge Here?

     Recently, I've been reading a book, or rather listening to an audiobook by George R. Stewart titled Earth Abides. It has, thus far been an excellent book. I dislike how the author seems to label any belief in the supernatural as, "superstition", but, nevertheless, it is an excellent and well written story.
     In the book the main character, "Ish"- short for Isherwood- is sitting in the home of his friend and noticing all of the very nice lamps, clocks, televisions, and radios that adorn the home. Ish considers that all these things are nice, but non functional due to a loss of electricity. He further considers that his friend clearly obtained the items as status symbols rather than for their functionality. 
     In this story, I saw an almost disturbing parallel in my own life, and in our culture. I thought about how many things I own simply because they were popular at the moment. I thought about how much money is spent every year upgrading cell phones. (Yeah, says the guy who typed part of this post on his brand new iPhone.)
     We see new technology, new cars, and bigger, more luxurious homes as the panacea for the void in our lives. We live in a culture built on images that lie. We see advertisements and pictures that make us feel that our worth as a person is based on what we own, rather than the truth. Do we wear the right makeup, or the right clothes? Do we have the right phone, the right car, or the right television set? If not, we feel, somehow, less than others. Are we skinny enough? Do we have enough muscles? Even our musicians and artists can see the shallowness of this way of viewing the world. They see that we have a major problem in our society with material things.  A song called Ain't No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant has lyrics that are telling:

      There ain't no rest for the wicked
Money don't grow on trees
I got bills to pay
I got mouths to feed
Ain't nothing in this world for free
No I can't slow down
I can't hold back
Though you know I wish I could
No there ain't no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good 
     You see, even the writers of this song can see the serious and flawed level of commitment in acquiring. We often can't slow down, and can't hold back any sacrifice of time, effort, or relationship with family to gain more money, more stuff, and more perceived security. 
     It doesn't take long going down this road to find that it leads to nowhere.
     That is why Christ does not call us to seek our "thrills" in possessions money. He calls us to be in relationship with him, to place him first in our lives. So often we spend our time coveting that new mobile device or car so much that our attention, even our hearts, are stolen by that new, better thing. In the end, our stuff ends owning us, rather than the other way around. This is nothing less than idolatry.
     I am often guilty of this, putting God second on third on the list, when there ought not even be a list. In those moments when we find ourselves allowing "stuff" or money to steal our hearts, perhaps, we should ask," Who's in charge here?"


Friday, September 13, 2013

Stepping in the Light

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light"
     -- Ephesians 5:8 (KJV)

     I am still considering the last post I wrote. There have been some tough, personal conversations happening between my family and I lately. I grew up in a very traditional church environment. Recently, my wife and I changed churches. The church we currently attend is more contemporary. My very traditional family is not taking this development well. I understand why. I had attended that church my entire life.
     Recently I have been thinking more and more that, just maybe, the Lord God has more for us than a traditional church experience. No, I'm not against traditional churches or the traditional style of worship. I do feel, though, that God has so much more for His people than sitting in a pew a couple of hours a week, listening to that good Christian radio station I know you listen to (you do right?), and going on that yearly mission trip to Africa/South America. Yes, that stuff is all good! Although, there's more to being a follower of Christ than that. I know, you felt that there had to be more. You're right, there is. 
     There is so much more to your life as a follower of Christ than just a few good deeds. We are to be the world's light, as the verse above suggests. I am discovering more and more Christ had called us to more than doing things. He has called us to live as light, to be light. Not do the things light does. Not to act like light acts when we find it convenient or satisfying. We have not been called to put on an act or pretend to be the light of the world. We have been called to live it.
     We have been called to live it even in the face of adversity. In fact, I would argue that Believers should shine most under difficult circumstances. In fact, I am quickly learning that we are called to be light in this dark world even at the cost of what we most desire. What are we willing to let go of for Christ? Are we willing to let go of these things that weigh us down and dim our light for Christ? I have learned recently that it's not what I achieve for myself or for Christ that matters most. It's what I let go of and let Christ do through me that matters most.
      To the Hebrew of biblical times light was representative of the highest, purest good. It represented God. How are we representing Him?


Thursday, September 5, 2013


      This week, I spoke with a gentleman in my community that is firmly convinced that the world will end in about three months. Now, most of the guys I work with think he is, "as crazy as a bed bug", as the old saying goes. I don't think the man is crazy, I think he is just wrong and cannot be convinced otherwise. This man holds his belief in the world's imminent doom so strongly that he has prepared underground shelters to protect himself and his family. He has invested his time, energy, mind, talents, and money into his firm belief that we are all doomed very soon.
     Now, I am not here to discuss eschatology (the subject dealing with end times and prophecy). Honestly, I have not studied bible prophecy extensively enough to have a truly informed opinion of the subject. Although, I have read through the book of Revelation many times and, to borrow a line from the film Princess Bride, "I don't think that means what you think it means". 
     I am more concerned about what you and I believe. No, I mean what we really, believe. It is easy for us to label ourselves as Christians, or followers of Christ. It is very easy for us to claim that affiliation- but do we believe it?
     This gentleman goes around our little town and tells everyone who will listen that doom is upon us. Do we go around and share the Good News of Christ in the same way? I am ashamed to say that I do not. Do we invest our time, energy, talent, mind, and money into the cause of Christ? Or are we just happy dropping a twenty in the plate as it passes by, thinking of how good we are?
     In the early church the followers of Christ were willing to die for the message of the Gospel. Are we ready to believe anything that strongly?
     Now, I'm sure someone reading this may think, "I am a Christian  but I have so much doubt in my heart. I feel like Thomas when I see how overwhelmed the church seems to be with hypocrites and judgmental people ". You are right, the church is full of those people. I will even go so far as to say that many of us are those people.
     However, doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt drives us to seek answers to our questions. Without doubt, apologetics, would not even be necessary. Many great men and women of God had great doubts and fears. I read once that Charles Spurgeon, that "Prince of Preachers", was often so overcome with doubt about his life's calling and the truth of the Gospel that he would fall into fits of severe depression. I think, also, of John the Baptist who, while imprisoned, sent messengers to Christ to make sure He was, indeed the Messiah.
      Faith and true belief is not the absence of doubt. It is the striving onward, the acting on, what you know is true and real even in the face of your doubts and misgivings.
      How much striving are we doing? Are we acting on our faith and belief in a risen Lord, or are we just playing Christian? The Gospel is true. Do we believe it? 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

God's Wonders to Behold

"Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?"
        -- Job 3:11 KJV

Special thanks to my friend P.J. for showing me this video series!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Assenting Dissention

     "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
                                                                        - Romans 12:2(ESV)

     It has been a long time since I have posted here. I hope I haven't lost my already meager readership to more interesting reading. (You know like how to arrange your sock drawer more efficiently or how to keep your PB&J from getting soggy.) During my posting hiatus I have had a lot going on. Some of it very good, some of it no so good. I have done a whole bunch of reading and praying as well. I've also done a lot of thinking. Then, more recently, I began thinking about thinking. Yeah, I'm THAT weird.
     I have been a Christian most of my life. I don't have the riveting, dramatic conversion story of so many saints. I came to Christ at the tender age of seven. Having been a Christian that long I have, begun to realize- more in the last two years- that I am a long way from where I need to be. I realized that for a long time in my walk with Christ I was agreeing with the facts given in the bible. I acknowledged what God's Word said. I agreed. However, I never really acted on what I was agreeing with. More recently I have realized that what I was doing was called mental assent.
     I was mentally agreeing with what God said about me and how I should live and act in my daily life, but I wasn't taking it to heart. When we begin allowing God's Word to really soak in and allow Him to change us, we transition from religious person to Believer. Its a subtle but important difference. That transition is what Paul is speaking of in the verse above. It is a transformation from worldly ideas with religious trappings to true discipleship and Christ-following. I think it was Andy Stanley that wrote that the most important measure of a person's walk with Christ is how they act at home, not in the church. That truth has resonated deeply with me.
     As a law enforcement officer we are often asked moral questions during job interviews. I was once asked to give my own definition of character. I responded that character is who you are when no one else is around.
      So today, are we the Believers we are perceived to be by our peers at church and at work? Or are we just putting on a show to convince others? I am very sorry to say that for a long time I put on an elaborate and convincing show.

     Are you?