Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 40 Year-Old Non-Virgin

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a guy when I was having dinner and listening to a friend sing in a restaurant/bar downtown.  There were two women uncomfortably sitting on the same bar stool at the bar, and so I got up and offered them my table with two chairs in exchange for their one seat.  I shortly struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me at the bar and apologized for running off the two beautiful women and blowing his chances.

It was interesting that what followed was a unique opportunity for me.  He started to share with me his life’s dating experiences.  Turns out, he unburdened himself about a lot of things about his doubts about what he wanted in life.  At age 40 he was fearful of losing out on sex someday, and wanted as much as he could get from the women he dated now.  He said he wasn’t looking for marriage, either.  He didn’t want kids (and his current squeeze had one) and yet he said he loved kids and doing “Dad” kind of things with them.  I felt an overwhelming need come over me to share what I had experienced in my life, my failures, and most of all my belief that God was the answer.  And, that I felt that following His plan and rules for living was the most rewarding way to live.

I can’t say that I had an impact on him (he told me he wasn’t religious, although he would want his kids to be if he had any!  Hmm…that interested me.)  I will probably never know if I had any real impact on this fellow, but what prompts me to write all this is that I have never been one to do “cold call evangelism” on strangers all the time.  It’s not my gift, but in this exchange it was the right time and the right place.  I had built a relationship with this man by sharing of my life and his, and our mutual ups and downs…and THEN told him about what mattered most to me.  That sharing of Christ with him was natural and logical because of that.  Like Jesus with the woman at the well, or Jesus healing and preaching, a relationship was built and then the message was delivered.  I once had a woman come in to my work and the first thing she did was march up to me and ask was I a Christian?  Then she launched into a fire-laden prayer for my soul when I told her I was.  It put ME off, and frankly if I had not been a believer I would not have been “evangelized,” I am sure!!  It just made me think, “people would think:  this woman was weird and crazy, why should I believe what she believes?”

Which brings me to the point of all this.  We need to establish a level of relationship with those who we seek to bring to Christ.  Don’t hide it.  Don’t just spend your religious life in Church, but take it to the world in all your activities.  It is not the healthy that need the doctor, but rather the sick, to paraphrase Jesus. Use the opportunities that arise out there in the real world…and remember, they will arise and be accepted when you show love and concern in relationship with your fellow man.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Apple A Day (or MacIntrash!)

Is Apple’s logo blasphemy?  The Russian Orthodox Church apparently thinks so. This is the kind of silliness that plagues religion and wastes everyone’s time, as well as turning people off to actual “faith.”  The difference between “religion” and “faith” is typified by this kind of nonsense.  People think “if this is what religion spends its time and energy on, I’m not interested in being part of it.”  It becomes laughable.  The designers at apple present a whole different explanation of what it meant to them…and besides, the “real apple” had not one but two bites out of it!!

If we are going to go along with this kind of reactionary thinking, then why not ban all apples from the grocery store?  Why not arrest people for taking a bite out of an apple.  To further waste time on this, it is important to note that the Bible doesn’t even say it is an apple that Eve gave to Adam.  Since we don’t even know if it was an apple, I guess we have to ban all fruit and fruit symbols just to make sure.  No more underwear by Fruit of the Loom, either. Good grief!  Many in the Christian world suggest the whole “apple” story is an allegory to represent man’s fall into self-centeredness from God-centeredness.  Whether we believe that or not doesn’t really matter overly much, as long as we understand that man chose to obtain the knowledge and power of God and become his equal which caused our downfall.

Instead of wasting time, energy and money trying to ban Apple products in Russia, why not spend some effort getting rid of genuine corruption and crime there?  Why not spend some time working on righting some of the “real” wrongs in society or serving the poor or spreading the faith instead. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if all this weren’t really designed as a plan to boost sales of some Russian knock-off computer company “Ipad” and get rid of American influence there.
To my friends reading this in Russia: Don’t waste your faith energy getting involved in this kind of thing.  And if you want to support the Russian economy by buying something made in Russia, then do that.  Just don’t make it about Religion.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Angel On A Pin

So, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (and are they doing the salsa?)  I remember hearing that philosopher’s question as a kid and thinking it was pretty silly, until I began to think more on what was meant by asking it.  What does God and the rest of his creation look like?

What do we know of God?  Did you ever consider that the one thing that appears to make us different from all the rest of earthly creation is that we have an in-built antenna that seeks out God? (By the way--why have a receiver antenna if there is no one sending a message--?) The world has been filled with different faiths virtually since time began.  Of course there are a few who have made atheism their creed  but the reception is bad on their receiver as far as I’m concerned.  (Remember, if you cry out to God during sex, on your deathbed, or when you feel he is convenient to damn something, then you lose your gold card membership in the “My God is No God” club!)

So then, what is the nature of God?  How many angels are there?  Are they very tiny and that’s why we don’t always see them?  Is any of that even important?  Hardly.

I think the important thing we need to think about in learning the nature of God is what he says about Himself in the Bible through those who have had contact with Him.  He appears to have been pretty serious about not appearing and being looked at physically.  Moses, had a few things to say about that and never really got a clear look because it would have killed him.  That’s a bit scary, isn’t it?  To think that looking at God would make us “surely die.”  How come is that?  My theory is our sinful nature would be so painfully obvious to us in God’s presence that we would literally die of shame…but that is all pre-Christ.  Now with His death on the cross, we can stand before God as a sinless creature…and live.

To me the big take-away from all this business of trying to picture and define God is that he is beyond all that…except to say that He is Love.  We've clearly been told that repeatedly in the Bible.  If we remember that, we simply don’t need to know what his physical looks are like…we’ll find out soon enough! 

And it will pay to be His and be ready.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I’ve worked for most of my life in law enforcement and firefighting/medical/rescue work.  One of the things we emphasize in the extreme is always being aware of what is going on around you and what your mission is at any given moment.  “Be Vigilant and Stay Focused” is one way I’ve heard it summarized.  Failing to do so can get you hurt, or can injure your crew or the people you are trying to help.  It is also a good guideline for life itself, no matter who you are or what you do.

There are always people out there who actively want to lead you astray into a lifestyle that is not productive or even may be dangerous, either in the now…or in the hereafter.  Often times it is because they feel guilty about who they are and how they live and want you to ratify their status as “OK” by becoming like them.  The old phrase “misery loves company” has some application here.  Recognizing those temptations and plotting a better path to the goal is constant battle.  Paul likens it to running a race and the focus that it takes to keep up the mission even as the runner approaches exhaustion before the finish line.

The Bible repeatedly encourages us all to be vigilant and stay focused.  If you let your guard down it is very easy to get off track in your life.  So much is tempting to the fleshly self-centered humans we are.  Sex, drugs, wealth, power.  Do I have the cool car?  Do I have the latest Iphone?  We measure our success as individuals often by these standards.  Am I wealthy enough?  Am I pretty enough?  Do people admire me enough? 

God admires me.  God loves me unconditionally just the way I am.  I need to be vigilant and stay focused on Him and not on those externals that would lead me astray.

Be Vigilant, Stay Focused!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It's Mine!!

Is Satan the ruler of this planet?  Luke 4:6 says that the Devil told Jesus that all this Domain and its glories have been handed over to me and I give it to whomever I wish. So are we truly foreigners in a land that is not ours…a land in which God has no power?

I rather think that the Devil is the father of lies and was being a bit boastful to make himself seem more powerful than God. I think that when Paul refers to Satan as being  “the prince of the power of the air” that maybe he meant “hot air.”  Frankly, I don’t believe anything the Devil would say.  He is often referred to correctly as the father of lies. In fact, the ONLY power Satan has over us is the lie. Yes, this is a broken world in which Satan holds influence.  He is able to have free reign to lead us into our natural man’s self-centered behaviors…but God is still in charge over all.  It really bothers me when people say that this world belongs to Satan. God is not a visiting ambassador and we as Christians are not aliens without a green card.

To me it seems more like the parts of the city that get written off during battles (whether they be against crime or political enemies.)  The city is under the control of one power group (the government) but they haven’t completely cleaned out pockets of resistance or crime.  The enemy is on the run.  He is defeated already, he just hasn’t bled out yet from his wounds.

This earth was not created to be Satan’s domain of action.  We pulled that stunt out of the bag when we disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.  But Christ defeated Satan’s grip on us by his crucifixion and resurrection.  The battle isn’t over in each of our daily lives, but the tide of that battle has changed, and Satan has no hope of winning in the end if we simply believe that the gift of salvation is ours through Christ’s atonement.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Search

You know it’s funny, my whole life I’ve been searching.  At thirteen I accepted Christ, but I still was in search mode.  The world offered so much in the way of fulfillment and success that even if I knew God, I still looked for identity, fulfillment, success and achievement outside of my relationship with Him.

It’s taken me this long to figure out that all I really need to do is recognize that God loves me for who I am, and that all I need to do is love him back.  How simple is that.  And what a model for our relationships in the world…especially with our significant others like wives, kids and other family and friends.  Maybe we should even think about extending that, since Christ said we were to love our enemies too, after all!  Wow, that’s a hard one, isn’t it?  Love people who hate us?  How do we do that?  How do we?  I know I sure don’t do it on my own power…and guess what…I sure don’t enjoy doing it, either. It’s a huge struggle.  I think God probably understands that struggle…he probably feels that way about most of us sometimes!

I remember in one of my seminar classes at work we all did an exercise called “Stranded on the Moon.”  We had a list of things we had available to us in our wrecked spaceship, and the group was supposed to figure out how to survive on the moon using those things only.  The idea was that as a group we would come to a better plan than as individuals.  But, in spite of that, once in a while, one person would figure out the best way to survive all by themsleves.

Faith is like that…it’s a one-person plan.  The world or your friends aren't going to do it for you.  You figure it out by yourself and make that decision on your own.  The group doesn’t save you.  You stand alone before God based on your decision.

What’s your plan?  Are you still searching…?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spiritual But Not Religious

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest.  If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children.  The Life Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost.” 

Lewis called it “wishful thinking.”  Today we cleverly call this being “spiritual but not religious.”  I’ve noticed it’s all the rage in the online dating circles, and to me it says nothing about what you believe…and speaks volumes about who you are.  It reminds me of Revelation 3:15 “So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  I’ve heard it called “generic spirituality.”  It is the kind of faith that you are in favor of because it doesn't cost you anything.  This generic spirituality has its shortcomings.  It is most often not “other” centered, but focuses on “self” and it seldom provides things of importance to mankind in general.  It certainly doesn’t focus clearly on eternal values.  And it lacks structured organizational power (how many orphanages in Kenya or Guatemala are caring for hungry children with a banner over the door that says we are “Spiritual But Not Religious.”)

Not that I’m trying to say that those who consider themselves “religious” are perfect.  We often go to church with what I’ve heard called a “transactional mindset.”  We think, if I go to church, I get brownie points and God will bless me.  Or we give money to the church not so things of value can be done for mankind, but because we will “earn” our way to a reward and please God (read about Cain in Genesis and see how well that turned out for him.)  Sometimes it is subtle and done unconsciously.  I am so glad my pastor usually makes a point to have people understand that giving is not to be done that way with a “I have to” or a “reward” attitude, but it has gone on that way for centuries in churches all over the world.

In America, the people who count themselves as not being a member of any religion has grown five percent in the last five years.  That’s a big jump.  It’s the fastest growing “religion” in America.  Almost one-third of all Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation at all in spite of all our upbeat efforts to make churches more entertaining with contemporary music, light shows, charismatic speakers, high tech media, and coffee cup holders in the pews.

As far as Western Civilization goes, we still do better than most at finding folks in church on Sunday.  Europe, on the other hand, shows a dreadful decline.  Here at least some continually care enough to fight battles over whether we can put up a cross or a manger in some community somewhere every Christmas.  We at least are willing to argue that it is OK to say Merry Christmas to a customer at Wal Mart when someone files a lawsuit about it.  But what about tomorrow?  I still don't like the trend.

Though most Americans claim a belief in God, that belief lacks the statements of faith of organized religion and often becomes whatever the individual wants.  Voltaire once said:  “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  It seems as though in America, we are on a course to do just that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Well, I hope you all watched the first in the U.S. Presidential Debate Series…it’s sort of politics’ version of the World Series in baseball.  Hopefully, one person hits it out of the park and wins, and the other loses.

As these candidates and the political action committees put out advertisements that are often filled with exaggeration, innuendo, and even outright falsehoods, remember, in a war of words it is the one whose actions have matched his words that should be chosen the winner.

In Romans, we are told by Paul that it is our duty to obey our government (except where it violates our Christian faith.)  I think it is also our duty as citizens to watch these debates and be informed.  It is the only opportunity to see the candidates discuss the issues of importance and challenge each other’s approaches and falsehoods directly.  It is a sad fact that almost 30% or more of the country’s citizen’s who can mail in ballots early, will have voted before these debates occur.  In a country where money usually makes the difference in election outcomes, we cannot overlook the only opportunity we have to level the playing field and have an honest debate by the candidates.  Frankly, I wish we could remove all the advertising and bar all spending except that provided by our taxes and by public service programming all divided equally between the candidates.

I believe our country is at a critical juncture, and the very survival of the United States as we know it is at stake.  This election will forever affect our economy, businesses, health care, education and likely our sovereignty and the very basic freedoms of speech and religion we cherish in ways we cannot even predict at this point.

Make your voice heard…but be informed before you do it!